Sunday, September 25, 2011

NYFF 2011:Miyazaki,Chaplin, Tenenbaums, Kurasowa, Stone and Nikkatsu

Tomorrow Unseen Films begins coverage of the New York Film Festivl with two solid weeks of films from the Film Festival. All this week coming up will be a reviews we've seen at some of the press screenings (There are ten reviews Monday to Friday, two a day). The week after that will be a mixture of stuff from both press and public screenings.

However before all of that I'm going to give you a teaser of a few titles that are screening as special events. These are films that we've seen already because they are older titles and are available on home videoor we were lucky enough to see in theaters the first time around.

Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush is funny movie. A classic of screen comedy the New York Film Festival is running the film with a new orchestral score performed live. If you’ve never seen a film with live orchestra I urge you to go see the screening. There is something about a live orchestra playing with a movie that is really special. I’ve seen several films with a live score and it’s altered the way I’ve seen the films. For example I saw Fantasia 2000 with a live orchestra and the experience was so over whelming that I can’t really watch it with the recorded music. If you can spare the ducats and you have the time I suggest you go and give yourself a treat. (On the other hand if you don’t like the Gold Rush, don’t feel obligated to go. I know several people who don’t like the film.)

Speaking of films with a love hate reputation, Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums is screening in an anniversary event. The director and several members of the cast will be appearing with the film to do a panel discussion after the film. I’m really not a fan of the film. I’ve seen it several times at the insistence of friends who tell me that the film is better with each viewing. I find it the same bland experience each time. I’m mentioning the film because the fan base for it is incredibly loyal and the theater will probably be hopping.

Two other anniversary screenings taking place are the ones for Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky. I recommend seeing both films on the big screen since they are visual delights that look even better HUGE.

Spirited Away tells the story of Sen who ends up crossing over into the spirit realm with her parents. When her parents eat spirit food they are transformed into pigs and Sen must navigate through the world and find a way to not only turn her parents back into humans but also get home. It’s a marvelous tale that is just great story telling. I prefer the English dub (supervised by Disney’s John Lassiter) to the original Japanese voice track, but anyway you can see it do so.

Castle in the Sky is another grand adventure about a magic crystal hunted by some not very bright air pirates and a floating island in the sky. Its marvelous and a really joy on the big screen. Though I have to be perfectly honest I prefer the French dub of the film which is on the DVD, which I find goes wonderfully with the films European feel. This is another one that you really should see on the big screen.

As you know Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States has been withdrawn from the Festival and replaced by Stone’s Salvador. This is the based on fact story of a journalist, played by James Woods, moving through and covering the events going on in El Salvador in the mid 1980's.

The film came out several months before the much heralded and Oscar winning Platoon and it’s gotten lost to some degree over time. For me, as for many others, Salvador is infinitely better than Platoon. For me it was a the point where I really sat up and took notice of Oliver Stone as a director. The film is gritty, raw, and wonderfully imperfect to the point it feels way more real than almost all of Stone’s later films. I think this is one of the best films that Oliver Stone ever made. I’ve seen the film many many times over the 25 years since it’s release, so as much as I would love to hear what Oliver Stone has to say, I’m taking a pass. On the other hand if you’ve never seen Salvador I highly recommend that you take the time and go see it, especially with the director on hand to discuss the film.

There are a bunch of films running in connection with the Nikkatsu Centennial that are definitely worth seeing. This week I’ll be talking about two films that were screened for the press, and next weekend I’ll be reviewing two films that can be found in the Criterion Eclipse box set of Nikkatsu Noir. However there are a few other films that are worth point out since they are worth seeing on the big screen.

The Burmese Harp is one of the greatest, most moving films you’re ever likely to see. It’s the story of a Japanese soldier and POW who is asked to try and convince some fellow soldiers hiding in a cave that the war is over. They refuse to accept what he has to say and insist on continuing the fight. When a bomb goes off everyone is believed killed. Our hero is not, and though left for dead, he tries to find his way back home. Along the way he becomes horrified that all of the dead bodies that are not being cared for and buried. He then takes it as his mission to bury all of the fallen. Despite a too formal beginning this film is one of the great humanist films ever made. Its been on the short list for review here at Unseen since it’s start, however I have been continually flummoxed when I try to write anything of any length on the film since it puts me somewhere past words. It's one of my most favorite films. Do yourself a favor and just see the film.

Tokyo Drifter is a slam bang action film that influenced dozens of films that followed. It’s a blast. I won’t say more since as it stand s now Mr C is planning on seeing and reviewing the film. Don’t wait for his words, just see it.

Charisma is a billed as a thriller when it's actually something else entirely. Credit director Kurosawa Kiyoshi for making a film about a detective and a tree (don't ask just go with it) that is engrossing and very different then you expect. It’s a good little that's worth seeing. I’m not going into more detail then that because there is a good chance one of us here at Unseen will be doing a full review either closer to the screening or soon afterward.

Cold Fish is Siono Sono’s serial killer tale that we reviewed back in February. It’s a mean and nasty story about a tropical fish salesman who meets and falls under the thrall of a bigger mover and shaker in the fish business. Unfortunately for our “hero”, his buddy also happens to be a serial killer. It’s a nasty little confection that is the last film in the Nikkatsu series and is worth seeing if you like serial killer films. (My only real complaint is I don’t know why its two and a half hours long even after a second viewing on DVD).

For now thats it. Time for bed. The festival coverage starts tomorrow and I have many movies to see. Keep reading because we'll be reporting all along the way.

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