Whistlers interview

When I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with Corneliu Porumboiu, writer and director of the delightful film The Whistlers, it was the first time in my writing career I ever felt I shouldn’t come too heavily prepared with questions. I didn’t want answers from the filmmaker at the vanguard of the Romanian New Wave about his new work. Since The Whistlers is all about dualities, paradoxes and contradictions, what I really wanted was to simply engage in dialogue around all that the film raises. Luckily, Porumboiu indulged my odd request rather than scoffing at it.

Some quick background on this off-kilter crime caper before jumping into our conversation: The Whistlers follows the exploits of Vlad Ivanov’s crooked Romanian police inspector Cristi as he sets off to claim a bounty of drug money in the far-off Canary Islands. In order to get his hands on this coveted prize, he’ll have to learn a coded language of whistles that’s both simple and secretive. Along his winding path, Porumboiu has his protagonist confront any number of deceptive double agents, absurd situations, and self-serious archetypes from movie genres. It’s an uncategorizable delight, and it was an honor to dive deeper into the rich text with the filmmaker himself. Read More »

Fewer trailers

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?

This week we whistle while we work, develop a habit with Josh Hartnett, say hi to the Gorillaz, and hunt down a kitten killer.

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New York Film Festival Main Slate 2019

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 »

New York Film Festival 2019

In my six years of attending the New York Film Festival, I’ve grown increasingly appreciative of the unique position its organizers have carved out in the fall festival landscape. Ideally timed between the premiere frenzy of late August/early September and the mad dash for awards of November and December, NYFF keeps its focus solely on the films and their creators. For 17 days, the newly-branded Film at Lincoln Center invites New Yorkers to partake in a manageable, curated slate of favorites from across the global festival circuit. The 2019 edition of NYFF casts a particularly wide net, too — apart from the festival’s three big Friday night galas, the Main Slate features only one English-language feature.

But if you’re not going to be in New York to see these films, why not use the time to catch up on the back catalogues of the directors in the NYFF selection? This year’s Main Slate features both emerging international voices and widely recognized masters alike, presenting a unique opportunity to broaden your cinematic horizons. Below are ten films playing at the festival (some of which I’ve been fortunate enough to see prior to NYFF’s official kickoff) and ten films you can watch to prepare yourself from the comfort of your own home. Read More »

The Whistlers Review

When even fans of contemporary Romanian cinema describe the films that achieved global appreciation from a wide swath of cineastes, “funny”, “action packed”, and “plot heavy” are not usual talking points. It’s a country that for decades has generated films that are precisely constructed by often being narratively spare, reveling in character beats and the ennui of boredom in works that stretch hours and hours. This “new wave” was embraced by the same fickle arthouse crowd that now just might find themselves thrilled by Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Whistlers, a movie that dares to pander to audiences with such proletarian incorporations like a conventional story line, echoes to Hitchcock and other trappings of genre cinema.

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