Her films might not blare “it’s the economy, stupid,” but make no bones about it – Kelly Reichardt’s cinema frequently obsesses over how the mechanics of commercial arrangements affect interpersonal relationships. Though micro in scale, her films are macro in mindset. Her latest look at the subject, First Cow, goes all the way back to the fledgling days of American capitalism. The film finds an effective and ultimately touching contrast between the friendships born of enterprising businessmen and the ruthlessness of competing with entrenched elites.
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The New York Film Festival has always played host to a multitude of perspectives, from its globe-spanning Main Slate, to its experimental Projections programme, to the more recent, virtual reality-centric Convergence. The 57th iteration of city’s premiere film event unfolded across two weeks at Lincoln Center, with this year’s proceedings dedicated to the late Agnès Varda, an NYFF mainstay (her final film, Varda by Agnès, was also featured).
The crown jewel of the fest was undoubtedly its Opening Night selection, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. The ludicrously expensive Netflix production was so in-demand that even its press screening had to be moved from the usual location — the 268-seat Walter Reade Theatre — to Lincoln Center’s prestigious, 1086-capacity Alice Tully Hall. Netflix also held the New York premiere for Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (this year’s Centerpiece film) and Warner Bros.’ Joker even made its final festival stop after Venice and TIFF. However, lesser-known, unconventional works also found their way into the spotlight, like Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra’s sexually-charged Liberté and Minh Quý Truong’s experimental Vietnamese sci-fi doc The Treehouse.
As usual, the programmers — among them, retiring festival director Kent Jones — scoured every corner of the globe for unique points of view, and the results were astounding. Here are five films from around the world that exemplify the best of NYFF 2019. Read More »
Edward Norton’s adaptation of Jonathan Lethem‘s novel took over twenty years to bring to the screen. But while delays like this are traditionally to a film’s detriment, it actually works in favor of Motherless Brooklyn. The distance allowed by this time in development leads to a movie that is likely significantly more mature and thematically rich than what Norton would have made in 1999. Read More »
I’ve heard from many a festival-goer that it’s possible to work through the entire New York Film Festival lineup – or at least its premier section, the Main Slate – given how the event spreads out manageably over the course of seventeen days all at Lincoln Center. But with schedule conflicts or lack of interest in certain titles, it’s a feat seldom seen or accomplished. Or, maybe given how gluttonous I feel after having done this myself, people choose not to brag about it if they do manage to pull it off.
While battling fatigue as well as exhaustion, plus countless instances of doubting if this was something I actually wanted to do, I managed to see all 29 films programmed in this year’s NYFF Main Slate. (If you’re the ranking type, I did just that over on Letterboxd.) I learned plenty about myself and some masochistic moviegoing habits after subjecting myself to this marathon of viewing contemporary cinema, but that’s a subject for another piece. It’s impossible to watch this incredible selection of films from across the globe and not have some larger takeaways about trends, patterns and parallels. Here are ten lessons from surveying the Main Slate in its entirety. Read More »
French maestro Olivier Assayas did not cement his status as a cinephile favorite over the last quarter-century through the mechanics of his film’s plots. Rather, he’s become a festival darling because of the singular sensation left lingering from watching his work. What happens in an Assayas film is never as important as how it happens – the technique, the intellection, the panache.
Assayas must have had his reasons for taking on a project like Wasp Network, a tale of espionage and counterterrorism. Whatever they were, however, do not come through clearly. The film offers few pleasures beyond the crossing of wires in its tale of tangled alliances in post-Cold War Cuba. Assayas becomes so subservient to the sheer volume of events and information he must bring to life that the film completely subsumes any sense of personal style or voice. The producers could have put any workman studio director’s name over the closing credits, and I would not have bat an eyelid.
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If you’re going to open your film with a sequence straight out of the Bible, you had better not come to play. That’s the gambit Uruguayan director Federico Veiroj lays out at the beginning of The Moneychanger as the film’s titular financier, Daniel Hendler’s Humberto Brause, connects himself to the very profession that Jesus singled out for criticism at the temple. Connecting his story to such weighty history sets up a story with big stakes, and yet those are largely absent in the film.
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Science fiction elucidates, though it rarely does so with such precision. Minh Quý Truong’s Nhà Cây (The Treehouse) began as a documentary on indigenous tribes, but it morphed toward abstraction during its lengthy edit. What Truong wanted to say with his film — about the ways in which we remember, and about the ethics and brutality of the moving image — could not be contained within the literal, or within the traditionally cinematic. So, he chose a new narrative framework: human colonies on Mars in the year 2045.
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The 57th annual New York Film Festival started off strong, with Martin Scorsese’s interrogation of time in his mob masterpiece The Irishman. So it is perhaps rather fitting that the whirlwind two weeks of prestige films will end with a movie displaced out of time. Edward Norton’s noir passion project Motherless Brooklyn was a somewhat baffling capper to this year’s New York Film Festival, which was filled with its share of hits and misses. One of those misses is the impenetrable Lou Ye black-and-white romance drama Saturday Fiction. But a few of the gems were unmissable, including Agnes Varda’s final film Varda by Agnes.
Dive into our New York Film Festival 2019 Week 2 recap.
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Inspiration, creation, sharing. As the late Agnès Varda put it herself, these are the three key tenets of her filmmaking process. Varda’s final film, an encapsulation of her decades-spanning career through the lens of her masterclass seminars, brilliantly distills her ethos into a documentary. Despite being made with clear knowledge of her own mortality, Varda by Agnès never feels like a somber mausoleum for her talents. It’s a living, breathing document that keeps her spirit and creativity accessible as well as present.
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Oliver Laxe fixates on the arresting mystery, darkness, and light of nature and humanity in Fire Will Come, which opens on the damning majesty of slender eucalyptus trees. The eucalyptus trees stand tranquil, until they tumble down as if swallowed by a beast of mythical size. Said beast is revealed to be a rolling bulldozer, a mechanical yet sentient-seeming metallic force. It halts before a mighty tree, staring down a new match.
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