Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nightcap 9/29/13 How the volume of what you see affects the quality and style of what you write or how A Single Shot got lost at Tribeca and why our NYFF is as it is this year

Hubert Vigilla contemplates how many movies he's seeing and wonders how he'll ever write them up

A couple weeks back when I was doing some prep work for the New York Film Festival I was watching the film A Single Shot for a second time on VOD. I had seen the film back in April at Tribeca and was kind of mixed on it. In the crush of films it just seemed to be part of a very good pack, but part of the pack none the less.

Seeing the film on its own, away from the crush of films- I think at Tribeca it was the third or fourth film I had seen that particular day, the film played better. The performances stood out and the plot, which seemed derivative of other things actually had shading that made it stand out. It was and is a better film than I gave it credit for early on.

I mention this because as we go head in to the crush of the New York Film Festival you should be aware that any press reporting at any festival is going to be affected by the crush of what the reporter is seeing. While NYFF is not Tribeca or some of the other massive film festivals it’s still a huge festival screening sixty plus films. Press screenings at festivals are largely conducted as never ending of daisy chains. Film follows film with only enough time to go to the bathroom and maybe scribble a note in between. You have to hope to have good notes so you can really remember what you’ve seen.

In a massive festival such as Tribeca or Toronto or Fantasia or New York  the films blur together and go grey with only the very good and the very bad standing out. Anything that is in the middle gets blotted out or marginalized often unfairly- A Single Shot for example.

After four years of this I completely understand the rhythms of the festivals. I know it’s going to happen but I press on anyway. If you notice how my detailed reporting gets less and less as say Tribeca goes on you now know why. I will be detailed when I can, but mostly I triage and let you know what’s good or bad. I suspect I could see less films and give more thought, but at the same time, I do want to see as much as I can simply because in many cases I may never get another shot- besides I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anything completely wrong. And while in the case of A Single Shot I may have missed the nuances that make it better than good, I am able to go back and re-review the film, I can and will admit that I’ve not given it a fair shake.

With the New York Film Festival we’re going to be reporting on roughly half the films (less the Convergence series and only a couple of  Avant-Garde films). The reason for this is twofold, first our schedules won’t allow for more than we are doing. We all work day jobs and covering things are press screenings require that we take time off to see the films and even in the case of public screenings there is only so much we can afford to do. Secondly this year in an effort to get better coverage I’ve told John and Chocko, let’s just concentrate on the films we want to see. Normally at a festival I try to make Unseen a website of record since you don’t know where films will appear again-however with this year’s NYFF so many films are getting later releases I’ve decided to just try and have a good time. I want pieces that are good writing and not by rote (And that is directed at me rather than my compatriots)

Looking over what I've written so far about the NYFF films I find I'm happy with what I've done. Some of the pieces are quite short- the review for Richard Curtis's ABOUT TIME is a single line (after a couple of paragraphs of explanation) some are a bit more wordy- and in the case of THE WIND RISES its spawned a second piece that may not show up until the festival is done on the state of animation.

However I already see that the crush of what I've seen at the festival and outside it (there are three or four additional new release reviews hitting this week as well) has affected my view of films since AFTERNOON OF THE FAUN and LE WEEK-END got lost in my memory. With FAUN it's not a great loss (a review runs on the 3rd)  but with LE WEEK-END its near catastrophic in that it's a small scale charmer that is best taken on its own terms and not part of a daisy chain or 30 films. In writing the review (which will appear on the 5th) I had to sit quietly and try to clear out the films I had seen following it, the weighty  LAST OF THE UNJUST and THE WIND RISES, before I could write about the film. I hope that an explanation of the wonders of the film will be found in my words when they are finally posted.

Ultimately the point I'm trying to make here is that be aware when reading critics that not only are they human, but that what and how they are seeing very much affects how they feel and write about their experiences.

(A big thank you to Hubert Vigilla of Flixist not only for the company at the screenings but also for letting me use the picture at the top)

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