Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Time (2020) NYFF 2020

 


Twenty one years ago Fox Rich dropped her husband off to commit a robbery. He was caught and sentenced to 60 years with out the possibility of parole. Over the next to plus decades Fox fought to get him released.

This is a really good documentary. Blending footage shot by Fox for her husband documenting her and their children's lives, with new material directo Garrett Bradley has fashioned an amazing film. A lovely and loving portrait of one woman and her struggle to free the person she loves this is a film that will move you on many different levels.

What I love about the film is that it brings home the problems with sentencing  people to insanely long terms.  We see the cost levied by those terms on people who had nothing to do with the crime. Should this family be forced to have a to survive with out it's patriarch for six decades? No. Its a sobering and humanizing story.

Best of all this film that hung with me. Days after seeing the film it is still haunting me.

Recommended.

TIME is playing the NYFF and hits theaters October 9th before hitting Amazon Prime

Her Socialst Smile (2020) NYFF 2020

This is an examination of Helen Keller and her thoughts on socialist matters. It focuses largely on the speeches she gave on the subject.

This is a more a pointer than a full on review. I’m doing this because how you react to the film is going to be tied entirely to the presentation. The presentation is a combination of narration and some related images combined with a great deal of the text of Keller’s speeches put on screen for us to read. The text is mostly white text on a black background.

Personally I am intrigued with the film and it’s subject, but I’m not a fan of the presentation. I honestly turned the film off about half way in thinking that this is something I need to revisit another time- though what I really am hoping for is a better presentation of the subject.

If you feel like reading a film for 90 minutes this is worth a shot, all others are going to find this to be a noble miss.

In The Mood For Love (2000) NYFF 2020

Wong Kar Wai's visually stunning romance follows two people as they grow closer and closer as they hash out whether their spouses are having an affair.

Forget it, the film doesn't do what you expect. It doesn't act like you expect, its a film that is ultimately unique and unto itself...its a love story where the lovers really never do anything but talk.

I really like this film. It was my first trip into the realm of Wong Kar Wai and it came at the insistence of Eden who really liked the film. She was right to insist that I see the film since its a film that really helped me break down my expectations about what films should do. I should mention that I had to try to watch this film for the first time on DVD and was annoyed by it's refusal to do anything other than what it was doing.Why aren't these people getting together, why is the film framed the way it is , why is there an occasional insistence on form over content? I didn't know and was fighting it at every turn. Then I talked to Eden who told be to let all my expectations go and just watch the film. Let it be and I would be surprised.

I did and I was.

In it's way this is one of the most romantic films you'll ever see. Why is it that the unrequited or unacted upon romances are the sexiest? My guess would be is that you get to have all of the slow burn and chances to show interest with out all of the smarmy kissy kissy stuff.

For me this is one of those movies where I keep thinking this is the sort of emotion I'd want to feel in my relationship. Its a damn near perfect romance.

In the special features of the Criterion DVD are several deleted scenes, one of which is a sequence which was set many years after the fact where our two near lovers meet again. Its a great sequence, but when it's done you'll be very happy that they left it out of the film. It's not that the sequence is bad, its quite good, it's just that the sequence radically alters everything that happened before and makes a great film an okay one.

As it stands now this is a great film. If you want a real romance with real people give this film a shot, it will amaze you.

Stay AT Home Fest Bonus FIlm: Swords and and Sandals Double Feature

Monday, September 21, 2020

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announces the lineup of films, honorees, and special events for this year’s Virtual/Drive-In hybrid edition of the film festival (October 9-17)

 Mary Wharton’s JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT is the Opening Night selection, Laura Gabbert’s OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES is the Centerpiece and Julia Reichart and Steve Bognar’s 9-TO-5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT gets the Closing Night nod

HSDFF Career Achievement honors will be presented to Alex Gibney and Dawn Porter, while Diana Quon and Iyabo Boyd will receive the festival’s Impact Awards

Hot Springs, AR (September 18, 2020) – The critically acclaimed Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announced the complete lineup of films, honorees, and special events for its 29th edition, a virtual/drive-in presentation taking place October 9-17. Screenings will be led by drive-in screenings of Mary Wharton’s JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT on Opening Night, Laura Gabbert’s OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES with the Centerpiece slot, and Julia Reichart and Steve Bognar’s 9-TO-5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT on Closing Night. HSDFF will present a total of 110 films (40 feature-length, and 60 shorts) representing 30 countries. 

“Now more than ever it is important that HSDFF is a place where everyone feels welcome, where we honor our tradition of gathering around documentaries, and where storytellers take centerstage,” says Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival’s Director of Programming, Jessie Fairbanks. “We are thrilled to present some of the strongest titles of 2020 to the Hot Springs audience. I am especially pleased to present a program where filmmakers of color represent 47% of our feature films and over 50% of the total films presented are directed by women. We are also proud to showcase several regional titles, elevating local directors and the idiosyncratic culture of the South. The films in our 2020 program will inspire viewers, challenge perceptions, and illuminate the urgent realities of this turbulent year,” says Fairbanks. 

The 2020 HSDFF Career Achievement Award will be presented to legendary filmmakers Alex Gibney and Dawn Porter. The 2020 HSDFF Impact Award will be presented to Iyabo Boyd, (Filmmaker and Founder of the collective Brown Girls Doc Mafia) and Oscar nominated producer, Diane Quon. 

The opportunity to present our festival on a both a virtual platform and with drive-in screenings creates an opportunity to reach more viewers right in their living rooms, along with a fun throwback necessitated by these times where audiences can enjoy movies in their cars,” says HSDFF Executive Director, Karina Nagin. “We are delighted to showcase one of our most exciting programs ever, while honoring an all-star lineup of award recipients who have given us great films and have contributed to the filmmaking community by nurturing emerging talent. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s how important it is to look beyond ourselves and invest in our community by lending a helpful hand,” says Nagin. 

GALA DRIVE-IN SCREENINGS

Previously announced, HSDFF will screen it’s three “gala” selections at a pop-up drive-in located at Hot Springs Mall (4501 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR). Produced in partnership with Visit Hot Springs, The Hot Springs Mall, Low Key Arts, and KUHS, the drive-in film presentations will follow a successful drive-in screening that HSDFF offered last May. “Despite all the curveballs the pandemic threw at us this year, we are proud to continue our long-standing tradition of creating a festive environment to showcase incredible films, says Artistic Director, Jen Gerber. “Our drive-in gala events will provide a safe place for our community to unite around the shared belief that film has the power to connect people and transform our world. While the festival looks a little different this year, our legacy remains firmly intact as a cultural institution within this region,” says Gerber. Each screening will be accompanied by live music and concessions provided by local food trucks and vendors – with social distancing, and all safety measures strictly enforced. 

Friday, October 9 will feature the Opening Night presentation of Wharton’s JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT. The film focuses on the surprisingly significant role that music played throughout Carter’s life and in his work, including the vital support he and his campaign received from popular artists to give him a crucial boost during the Democratic primaries. HSDFF’s Centerpiece presentation of Gabbert’s OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES will take place on Tuesday, October 13. The visually stunning masterpiece documents the collaboration between world renowned chef Yotan Ottolnghi (Jerusalem Plenty) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as five visionary pastry makers endeavor to construct an extravagant food gala. The Closing Night screening will take place on Friday, October 16 with the presentation of Reichart and Bognar’s 9-TO-5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT. The film looks at the group of fearless women who employed outrageous humor to attract the press and shame their bosses into change. The movement, taking the name “9 to 5”, became a national sensation and inspired Dolly Parton’s iconic song and the hit film that followed.

HSDFF Career Achievement Award honoree Alex Gibney is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker whose body of work spans four decades, including TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE (2007), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Documentary and ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM (2005), for which he received a nomination in the same category. He is the founder of Jigsaw Productions, an award-winning production company with a prolific slate of projects. Gibney has proven to be an unstoppable force whose films have helped push documentaries into the cultural zeitgeist. HSDFF will be screening his latest, CRAZY NOT INSANE, which examines the research by forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis who investigated the psychology of murderers. Additionally, a special retrospective of his work, CLIENT 9: THE RISE AND FALL OF ELIOT SPITZER (2010), ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM, FINDING FELA! (2014), GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY & THE PRISON OF BELIEF (2015), NO STONE UNTURNED (2017), and TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE will be screened throughout the festival.   

HSDFF’s second Career Achievement Award honoree, Dawn Porter is an award-winning documentarian renowned for her powerful social justice films. She is a tireless advocate for collaboration in documentary production and is known for her willingness to mentor filmmakers, while helming several projects herself. She is currently directing and executive producing an Apple TV multi-part documentary series with Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry, which focuses on both mental illness and mental well-being. HSDFF will screen her recent film, JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE as part of the celebration of her work. Both Gibney and Porter will participate in special conversations on their careers. 

Two more powerhouse women will be the recipients of the 2020 HSDFF Impact Award. Iyabo Boyd is an industry maven whose organization, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, supports 4000 women and non-binary people of color in every phase of filmmaking. A successful filmmaker herself (producer on ME TIME, and SUN BELT EXPRESS), Iyabo continuously gives back to the filmmaking community, providing connections and platforms to BGDM members and colleagues. Diane Quon has followed a prolific career at NBC and Paramount Pictures, with independent productions which included Academy Award nominated MINDING THE GAP (2018), which she produced with Bing Liu. With a focus on emerging filmmakers, Diane brings her extensive skills to nascent projects, ensuring unknown stories shine.

While it continues its respected tradition of screening some of the best documentaries on the film festival circuit, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival will also present the world premieres of three feature films. Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss’ MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY focuses on an oftentimes overlooked aspect of the country’s immigration issues, the remains of missing people. The documentary profiles two families as they try to find their loved ones in Brooks County, Texas. Also making its world premiere will be Nathan Willis’ RAP SQUAD. The film profiles Arkansas students at Helena West-Helena’s Central High School who turn to hip-hop and spoken word as an outlet for their civic frustration and a means to heal their local community.

Larry Foley’s INDIANS, OUTLAWS, MARSHALS AND THE HANGIN’ JUDGE looks at gun violence, racial strife, police brutality and American Indian rights through the eyes of a charismatic federal judge in the 19th Century who sentenced scores of felons.

Additional highlights include an updated cut of Diedre Fishel's WOMEN IN BLUE, which follows three female police officers in Minneapolis and their efforts to transform the police department there. The updated version will include recent events following the murder of George Floyd. Daniel Lombroso’s WHITE NOISE, produced by The Atlantic, is an exposé of the alt-right movement that intimately profiles three infamous personalities—Richard B. Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and Lauren Southern. The film displays hypocrisy and dysfunction within the movement and alt-right ideology seeping into American mainstream politics. Jessica Earnshaw’s JACINTA, a Tribeca Film Festival Albert Maysles Award winner, follows a young woman in and out of prison as she attempts to break free from an inherited cycle of addiction, incarceration, and crime. Alice Gu’s THE DONUT KING has won awards at multiple film festivals including SXSW, Bentonville, and Sun Valley. The film tells an engrossing story of Cambodian refugee Ted Ngoy, who reshaped the Donut Industry as we know it. 

HSDFF will also present a sneak peek/work-in-progress screening of Lucas Sabean and Peter Hutchison’s DEVIL PUT THE COAL IN THE GROUND, a meditation on the suffering and devastation brought on by the coal industry and its decline. 

Tickets and passes will be on-sale September 22nd, 2020. For more information on purchasing and additional details on the Hot Springs Documentary Film festival, please visit: hsdfi.org.

 The 2020 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival official selections:

 

The Riverside Drive-in's Fall 2020 Drive-in Super Monster-rama


 As sign of the apocalypse I went with my brother to the Riverside Drive-in in Vandergrift  near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for their fall Drive-in Super Monster-rama. What this means is that they run four classic drive-in style films with trailers, commercials and intermission clocks in the style of old time-ins. 

Going involved a seven dive hour car ride from Long Island to the far western side of Pennsylvania.  There is nothing wrong with it, but it cut short the first night since by the time we arrived we had just enough time to  check into the hotel, drop our stuff, clean up and head off to the drive in which was a half an hour away from the hotel.


The hotel was literally at the Monroeville Mall which many of you know was the location where Dawn of the Dead was filmed.


To be honest we didn't absolutely have to rush to the drive in as early as we did but we wanted to get there early enough to get a good spot, get the lay of the land and get dinner. The food at the theater was supposed to be great and it was. We ate there both nights meals that included burgers, fries, vegetable beef soup, Chilly Dillys, popcorn and other goodies. We did not have the pizza, which looked awesome or the monstrously huge funnel cakes, but we had most other things. (Diet? What diet?)


There were tables of DVDs, magazines and collectables  set up in and outside the snackbar. We picked up some pins, t-shirts and magazines as well as kibitzed with anyone we ran into.


The first night's selection were the Blood Island films.  The order that the fest ran them was to run the "first" film, TERROR IS A MAN last. And it's understandable since I'm guessing it's the least interesting of the quartet. (It's actually only connected since it is just set on the island)


I made it through BRIDES OF BLOOD and MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND before nudging Joe awake, he fell asleep early in MAD DOCTOR, and saying let's head off. The problem was not only were we tired, but there is so much good stuff before and between the movies that everything goes runs long...not that there is a real scheduled start time. We were heading off after 12 and we were shot.

The next day we were up early for breakfast and shopping before we had lunch with our cousins who we played miniature golf with. 


We arrived back at the theater early we found a line to get in and the place already packed. It seemed everyone wanted to see KING KONG VS GODZILLA on the big screen. (And it was true because a .lot of people left when the film ended). Somehow we managed to get the same spot as the night before.


Bigfoot was running amok in the parking lot.


Joe and I run into Jake and Mike and spent a lot of time talking.Joe talked photography with Jake and Mike told me about the history of the area, clueing me into a lot of stuff I never would have known. It was a blast.

The snack


bar was hopping and we didn't get to eat until the movie started. Joe stayed behind at one point to get the made to order stuff and ended up missing the Bug Bunny cartoon they ran before everything started.


Saturday night was great. We only stayed for two films because the addition of a Mr Magoo Cartoon before the first film and Three Stooges short before the second everything ran really long.  We left around 1230 just as KING KONG ESCAPES ended. We would have stayed for more but we wanted to leave early Sunday to get back home.


We had a blast and a half.  Fun movies, good food and great people made the trip not only worth it but something we have to do again next year- though the plan is to go a day early and leave a day late next year.

What a blast.

For more information go to www.riversidedrivein.com or DVD Drive-in  which is how I discovered it.

Thoughts on MLK/FBI (2020) NYFF 2020

 


Nominally a look at the FBI's monitoring of and dirty tricks against Martin Luther King during the 1960's, the film also attempts to cover other ground as well. It is a good, but unremarkable documentary that is much too scattershot and unfocused to really score many points. 

There are a couple of problems with MLK/FBI which prevent it from really going anywhere. The first problem is that despite being sold as having new material in it, we have been here before. While some pieces are slightly more detailed than in previous films or presentations, if you ave any knowledge of King and the FBI you've run into these stories. There was nothing here I really hadn't been aware of before, the only thing different was what was highlighted.

The other, much bigger problem is the film simply doesn't give s a real sense of anyone or anything. Yes we are given lots of details about what was done to King at certain times, but at the same time we don't get basic details. A lot of talk is about King's associate a Mr Levison, who was a New York attorney who helped King and had ties to the Communist Party. We hear a lot about him but we have no idea who he is. Other people around King are introduced but we are never clued in as to who they are- for example who was the man whose hose was bugged that clued the FBI in to kings affairs? We also don't know what Levison did for King other than he was trusted advisor. Additionally we get no sense of King or Hoover, there simply is an assumption you know who they are.

Worse yet for a film that is supposed to be about the FBI's treatment of King, it seems limited.  Other than bugging the phone and their watching his hotel room trysts and being frustrated hen their dirt is ignored they don't really tell us much. I would have liked to know more than Hoover hated him and bugged his phones and rooms. More was going on. I'm not selling it short but the details are so minimal you wonder why there is a film about it. I mean if you know the basics of King's life, which the film seems to assume you do, you know this already. The details are so lacking that the film keeps dropping the bits to go off to other things before coming back.

Watching the this film, one of my musts of the festival, all I cold think was "This is a NYFF Main Slate film?" Don't get me wrong, it's not bad but it is not something to be held out as exceptional at the New York Film Festival. 

I was disappointed. Despite the promotional material, there isn't much here that anyone who has seen other films on King, or read any books on him hasn't seen before.

NYFF Shorts Section 1: Remains to Be Seen

Hidden
Wading into what is marked as the first section of short films after doing two others I was struck by the notion that whoever collected the films into sections must have been on drugs. While the selection of films may link up thematically they really didn’t work together as a whole. I know it’s difficult to program films that work together but it takes a lot of work to get it right. The arrangement of the films here doesn't work with the result the films in the early films in the section are wiped from your memory once we get to the final film.

After the visually interesting but not adding up to much APPARITION there are three films that marry and repurpose images to a narrative track to explore various ideas. They are very much of a theme and while REVOLT WITHOUT IMAGES, UNTITLED SEQUENCE GAPS and THIS DAY ON'T LAST have moments they kind of blend together. I am not writing on them because the way they were programmed resulted in them being a big blur.

It’s a fact made worse when the final film, Jafar Panahi’s HIDDEN, starts and blows them away. Panahi’s small masterpiece is about the filmmaker and his family going to see a young Kurdish woman who has an incredible singing voice but is not allowed to use it. Traveling to a far off town they get the young woman to sing off camera. It’s an amazing piece of filmmaking that involves for most of it’s running time people sitting in a car talking. It’s a wonderful conversation that just makes everything truly magical. Frankly it’s a small gem and one of the early highlights of this year’s NYFF

Brief thoughts on The Artist's Wife (2020)

Lena Olin stars as the titled character. She is the long time wife of artist Bruce Dern. as the film opens Dern is beginning to show signs of dementia. Olin has to navigate the changing landscape of their relationship, and decide if she should return to the world of art, which she gave up when she married her husband.

Good drama is buoyed by the performances of the two leads. The film begins and ends with Olin and Dern and it is because of their stellar work that we keep watching.  That may sound like a knock against the rest of the film, but it's not really. It is simply that the pair is incredibly good it is hard to talk about, much less notice anything else.

If you want to see two titans of acting at the top of their game then see THE ARTIST'S WIFE when it hits theaters tomorrow.

Stay AT Home Fest Bonus FIlm: League OF Frightened Men

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Hey Jake and Mike- A report on the Riverside Drive-in's All Night Super Monster-rama is coming

 


Hey Jake and Mike- 

It was great to meet you this weekend at the Drive-In Super Monster-rama show. Joe and I had a blast and getting to talk to great people like you are one of the reasons.

I will have a report on what we saw and did just as soon as I am feeling less tired and can sit don to write it all up.

Hopefully we will meet up in the spring.

-Steve



The Calming (2020) NYFF 2020


Lin is a director travels to Japan, China and Hong Kong to present her work. She meets some friends and rides a bunch of trains. 

This mannered and formal film is exactly the sort of artsy fartsy film that the New York Film Festival has programmed since it’s inception. Full of gorgeous cinematography and perfectly composed images this is a film where the deeper meaning of everything can be found in the silences, things unsaid and the loving shots of majestic landscapes rather than in anything our heroine says or does. It’s the lack of any real emotional reaction that kills the film since Lin is little more than a cypher. There is nothing more to her other than a longing for something more which is indicated by her constant staring at snow, mountains, friends. A half an hour in and I was muttering at the screen since very little had happened except lots of traveling and a few moments of meaningless small talk. 

 To be honest I am not now, or have I ever been a fan of this sort of art house film. Clearly the festival organizers are, which is why we keep getting these small beautiful rocks year after year, but at the same time outside of the festival screenings these films are kind of doomed to disappear except in the minds of a few. 

 To be completely fair and honest Song Fang’s film isn’t bad, it is much better than her previous NYFF film Memories Look At Me, however too much is unsaid, too much is in the director’s head to the point the film remains a stunningly beautiful puzzle that we glance at and then walk away from, forgetting what we’ve seen. As much as I am bitching about the film I wouldn’t call it a failure so much as noble miss. I know it is splitting hairs but had we had character who was more than a blank slate this film would have been something more than a film we’ll quickly forget.

Fauna (2020) NYFF 2020

I am going to keep this brief. It’s not that FAUNA is a bad film rather there is a flip or trick in the film and I can’t really discuss the film without going into what happens. I know some of you are screaming at your screens that I’m giving something away- but I’m not. The NYFF write up mentions something about it and how it’s done makes knowing that its there kind of irrelevant. I mean it’s not going to change how you react to the film.

The film begins with a Fauna, her brother and her boyfriend going to her parents home in the country. Once they get there they talk and things happen… and the rest would be telling.

Honestly my reaction to the film was kind of meh for the early going, it was okay but nothing special. Then once we get to a certain point suddenly things get shaken up and what was film I was falling asleep to woke me up and had my attention. I was intrigued and wanted to watch it again just to see it knowing what the ah ha moment was at the start.

A small neat film Fauna is worth a look who look for films that are more than the same old stuff and mess with your perceptions of reality.

Oliver Sachs: His Own Life (2019)Hits Virtual Theaters Wednesday

Ric Burns portrait of the great Oliver Sachs left me both sad and happy. sad that he was gone and happy knowing that I could always revisit the film and hear him talk about his life, life in general and everything in between.

Made for American Masters and opening in theaters in May, OLIVER SACHS: HIS OWN LIFE is a true wonder and the Reelabilities Film Festival is happily previewing the film. It is a portrait of the doctor, teacher and writer largely in his own words. It is a beautiful explanation of the man, his work and all of the things he found interesting.

If you are wondering who Oliver Sachs was he was the person Robin Williams played in the film AWAKENINGS. It was Sach's book of the same name that put him into the public consciousness and the film which shot him into super stardom.

Ric Burn's film is an arc of a life,made in part, in Sach's final days and it affords him a chance to leave behind a record of who he was and what he did. It is his own final statement on what he did and why. His final monologue about his life wrecked me in a good way and it has haunted me in the weeks since I heard it, never leaving me.

I loved this film a great deal. Sue me I am an admirer of the man and this chance to go round the block one more time delighted me. I am even happier that thanks to this film I can revisit the man any time I want to. Apologies if that isn't much of a review but Oliver Sachs as someone who simply was beyond words.

Highly recommended.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus FIlm: The Westland Case

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Malmkrog (2020) NYFF 2020

I've spent a lot of time trying to sort out what to say about MALMKROG.  This is a three and a half hour historical drama where five members of the upper crust talk about god, war and philosophy. When my brother walked by when I was done with the film he asked me what I was thinking and I said mostly that I wish I had seen the film at an actual NYFF press screening with other people because I wanted to hear the whole audience snoring.

Static and incredibly dry, the film is a series of long discussions shot very often in long takes. The camera barely moves. The cast arranged in tableaus. It looks like a frozen stage play written by the driest textbook writer in the world.

I was bored.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the arguments and the discussions, this is in my bread and butter, but they are so painfully written that it's like listening to volumes of a history of philosophy arguing. this isn't people this is ideas. There is no life anywhere in this. 

And I know the hyper intellectual nature of it all is part of the idea- but not for three and a half hours. That's intolerable. You want something like MY DINNER WITH ANDRE or, closer to this film, MINDWALK. Bothe of those films discussed ideas with passion and humanity.

This is great discussions dully told.

Recommended only for those needing a long sound sleep.

RESISTERHOOD (2020) hits VOD on Tuesday

Excellent profile of a half a dozen women who decided in the wake of the current President’s ongoing bad behavior to march in support of women, minorities and repressed groups.

As America fractures more and more thanks to a president who knows he can only rule by telling blatant lies and dividing the country along deeply held hatreds, it’s nice to see a film about people not buying the bullshit. The film is a nice portrait of people who actually care about their fellow human beings. It’s a nice reminder that there are people who are out there fighting the darkness.

If there is any problem with the film it is that is coming just as there are a glut of political films. Everyone is putting out political films in the hope of winning hearts and minds. While this is a hopeful sign because it shows that there is a light in the darkness, it can make small gems like this difficult to see because either they aren’t being pushed or more likely people are too burned out by all the other films.

Do yourself a favor, even if you are burned out on political films, give this film a try. It is not only good time with good people but it will remind you that there is light amid the darkness and hope for tomorrow.

Damnation (1987) NYFF 2020

This film is one that is full of potential meaning, whether the director feels that way or not. To me this is a film where taking the film as the director intended, as a straight forward film, is not the best way to see this film. To me this is one of the few times when the creator 's work is not as he has intended but has instead become something else.

Bela Tarr's mediation on interpersonal relationships (and perhaps, the end of the world) is a simple tale of a man in a small town who is obsessed with a singer in a night club. She's married but doesn't completely deflect his advances. Where it goes is the story as the man pursues what his heart desires.

Dark brooding tale filled with Tarr's patented long takes seems to be set in another world or another time (perhaps it's an after life). It's a hypnotic trip about the nature of obsession and how we view ourselves. If you click with it and its possibilities this is a great rumination on a variety of things, if not it's a pretentious and tedious exercise.

I've read that director Bela Tarr insists that the film (as he insists about all his films) is a portrait of life "as it is" but I would be hard pressed to say that this is any sort of reality except perhaps a reality of the internal. The film's stark and beautiful black and white photography creates a world that seems forever in a mist or rain. It is a place like our own and yet different.

People speak in ways that don't seem wholly normal. Verse is quoted as is the bible. No one speaks that way. Musicians play music but how they play doesn't quite match up with the music we hear. The mine carts that we see over head seem to be moving the damned to and from this place and not ore (indeed we never see either end of the line). Tarr says there is nothing allegorical or metaphoric implied or intended but I would argue that the film doesn't function as a straight narrative. Too much is off kilter, too much fails to connect for this to be real life.

I'm not saying that the story of obsession, of a man doing what he feels he must to obtain the object of his desire doesn't work if it's taken as straight tale, it does, but at the same time the film becomes a battle with tedium. There becomes no reason for the film to run two hours, for the odd passages of dialog or the long takes. Frankly if the film is taken as the director intends it to be, then the film is a crashing bore and a failure on anything but a basic level. The film only works on some other level that isn't straight reporting, certainly the much used term 'apocalyptic' that I've read and heard connected to the film is appropriate in some sense.

Having been a creator of various things I know that sometimes the works we create change or become not what we intend. I understand that the creator of say a film is the one to ask what he intended but at the same time that doesn't mean what he intends is what is there on the screen. I think Tarr thinks he made one thing however I think he ended up with something else instead. I think as a film that is open to our own interpretation, being real world or not, the film is a masterpiece and a trip ripe with possibilities. I think as a straight tale of people locked in a straight forward battle of possession of each other it's a crashing bore filled with WTF moments. As something else, of souls elsewhere or even inside of themselves, it's a trip.

See the film, take it for what it is, or take it however you wish to take it, but see it and be carried away.

Stay AT Home Fest Bonus Films: Weird Coasters and mysterious Disney videos



Friday, September 18, 2020

The Monopoly Of Violence (2020) NYFF 2020

An examination of the use of violence against the police in France (and by extension any "free" country) mixes interviews with police, scholars, protesters and victims with footage of the protests in France.

A horrifying look at how the free societies are becoming more totalitarian is a real gut punch. The heady mix of theory and reality keeps us on edge and off balance, with the result that those watching the film will want to go out and slap some sense into our leaders....

...at least for a while.

As much as I like this film and as important as I know it is, there was a point where I just kind of shut off. Say what you will the film makes it's point and then then some, but on a certain level the film makes it's point early and then just kind of repeats itself...repeatedly.

I'm not saying that the film is bad or wrong only that the film kind of has its say fifteen minutes in and then doesn't go anywhere with it. The film stays the same from start to finish making me wonder why this needed to be 90 minutes.

Definitely an important film and a must see, don't feel bad if you feel the film is repeating itself and you trn it off.