Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pictures from the New York Film Festival 2015 screening of De Palma

A review of the film is coming but right now I wanted to post some pictures of Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow and Brian De Palma at the New York Film Festival screening of the documentary on the great director. I've always been a fan of the director and he's one of the few directors who's work I search out because even if I don't like the film there is something interesting in it.

Baumbach, De Palma and Paltrow in the filmmaker's box at Alice Tully Hall

Paltrow, De Palma, Baumbach and Kent Jones who asked the questions
De Palma giving an animated answer
Baumbach answers while everyone listens
De Palma and Baumbach listen to an audience question
De Palma

New York Film Festival 2015 Projections Program 10

This was one of the best collections in all of the Projections programs go see this one.

SANTA TESTA AND OTHER STORIES-  Docu-fiction is based on a chapter in an unfinished book by Roberto Bolano about killings along the Mexican border has a hypnotic quality. While uneven in some ways  the film never fails to grasp you and force you to look at things in a new way. I need to see this film again on it's own and not in the midst of 53 other films in the series.

BUNTE KUH- A flickering mix of found footage and found postcards mixes with a narrator explanation of a trip. An intriguing trifle

THE EVERYDAY RITUAL OF SOLITUDE HATCHING MONKEYS- very cool film about a man afraid of water who moves... and well its a story told through subtitles over seeming random images which take on new meaning with the words. Awesome just completely awesome. One of the best films in the whole Projections and probably all of this year's NYFF.

The collection screens once on October 4. For tickets and more information go here.

Why you should see RAN at the New York Film Festival 10/2

Because of the way the screenings fell together with this year's New York Film Festival I haven't had time to get to coverage of all of the revivals the way I have in years past. I simply don't have time to write full reviews of all of the films. However there are a couple of films I have to mention even if it's just to tell you to go and see it.

Akira Kurosawa's RAN is Shakespeare's King Lear set in medieval Japan. The story tinkers with things in that instead of daughters the king has sons, and instead of just greed and lust for power the motives are more complex involving revenge. One character is more Lady Macbeth than anything in Lear.

Its an awesome film that proved that despite what some people may have thought, the old master hadn't lost a step.

If you've never seen the film you have to go. Its just one of the greatest works of cinema you'll ever see. Seriously you have to go see this.

If you've only seen the film on TV you also must go, I say this because if you've only see it on TV you've never seen it. This is a gorgeous widescreen film that was made to be seen big. Its a film that changes and becomes richer the bigger that you see it. The fact that this is a new restoration makes this even more a must see.

Go see this (and it's a Friday night so there is no reason not to go)

The film plays October 2. For tickets go here


The Projections programming at the New York Film Festival can be hit or miss.  Formally focusing on avant garde films section now casts it's net wider.  The films are rarely for all tastes but they are an indication of what is happening on the fringes of cinema. The collections are very up and down depending on what is programmed and some can be a chore to get throuh while other's open your eyes to some really cool stuff.

Ben River's THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS  is going to try the patience of a good number of people who wander into it. Nominally an adaption of a Paul Bowles novel the film is also several other things at the same time including a documentary on the making of the film. Its a strange cinematic hybrid that is very much the work of an artist (Actually the film originally screened in a London museum as part of an installation).

That doesn't mean its good or for most audiences.

A great looking film, the film remains largely obtuse and the sort of thing that long shots of nothing much in particular are tied to a sound track where no one says much of import. Twenty minutes in my eyes had glazed over and I was trying to fall asleep.

I really was bored by the film but I remained in the theater hoping that the film would some how pull it all together. It never did.

When the film ended I went digging for my press notes and it was then that I discovered that the director of the film also made one of my least favorite films A SPELL TO WARD OFF DARKNESS, which has nothing happen for 90 minutes as a man wanders around the countryside.  Realizing the press notes  for THE SKY TREMBLED... were probably like those of SPELL... I promptly deleted them because all of the clues about the film that should have been on screen were probably going to be in the notes which only the critics see. I want to see films as regular Joes do.

If you're a fan of the director by all means go see this. All others are advised to skip it.

This screens twice on October 4 for details and tickets go here

New York FIlm Festival 2015 Projections: Program 9

mixed collection of technology themed films has some winners and some meh ones

RADIO AT NIGHT - very beautiful marriage of image to music

ALL THAT IS SOLID- an examination of the electronic recycling, the internet and other stuff made up of bits from the internet. Not my cup of tea.

MAD LADDERS- The words of a prophet mixed to clouds, electronic music and altered performance footage. I could have done without the prophet speaking

ERYSICHTHON- I was given a link to the film but no password to access it.

SLOW ZOOM LONG PAUSE-A female voice speaks as we see random images. It lost me after about five minutes

HYPERLINKS OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN- real cool, often quite stunning look at the lives of digital agents or something. I'm not sure, but it is head trip and worth catching.

This collections screens twice on October 4. For tickets and more information go here

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why you should see HEAVEN CAN WAIT at the New York Film Festival 10/1

Because of the way the screenings fell together with this year's New York Film Festival I haven't had time to get to coverage of all of the revivals the way I have in years past. I simply don't have time to write full reviews of all of the films. However there are a couple of films I have to mention even if it's just to tell you to go and see it.

HEAVEN CAN WAIT is a really good film. Ernst Lubitsch's comedy of manners is a wicked little confection. The film opens as Don Ameche arrives in Hell with such an awful reputation that Satan himself has to do the entry interview. While it may not be Lubitsch's best (I like some of his early musicals), it's damn close.

The film was just restored and you really have to go.

Why? Two reasons-

First Martin Scorsese is going to do a Q&A. If you need another reason I'm going to come to your house and smack the crap out of you. Martin Scorsese talking classic film that's enough.

The second reason to see it is that the film is the only revival playing at Alice Tully Hall. Whats the big deal? It means that the film is going to play on one of the biggest non-IMAX screens in the world. It means that the film will be projected larger than you will ever have a chance to see it again. It will be huge and perfectly projected.

You really have to go or else you're going to have to turn in you're movie lovers card. Trust me it will be one of the truly great movie going experiences of your life. (sadly I'm not going , I'm going to see Charlie Chaplin's grandson perform live)

The film plays October 1st. For tickets go here.

The Mountains May Depart (2015) New York Film Festival 2015

Before last night's screening Jia Zhangke's THE MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART was hailed by Film Society of Lincoln Center Programmer Dennis Lim as being possibly the greatest work by one of the most important filmmakers in the world today. No offence but someone needs to check Mr Lim's meds since I think he is wildly over stating the case on both accounts. MOUNTAINS is most assuredly a very good film, but I would argue it's not great, and while I think Zhangke is a really good filmmaker I think it's too soon to know if he's on the list of most important.

You will forgive me the hyperbole but it was an evening full of it as everyone over sold everything, especially actress Zhao Tao who kept saying that the role required her to play an old lady- of 50- something that's only ten years ahead of her. Everyone kept correcting her.

MOUNTAINS is nominally the story of a woman named Tao. Beginning in 1999 she is wooed by two men. One a poor man who runs the helmet concession at the local mine. The other a rich friend who owns a gas station, makes lots of money and is looking to buy the mine. When the two men get into a tiff over Tao she is forced to choose- setting in motion the rest of their lives.

The film next jumps ahead to 2014. Tao is now divorced. Her son, Dollar, lives with her rich ex and his new wife. When her father dies her son is sent home for the funeral and we watch the ice between them.

The film next jumps ahead to 2025 and is focused on the now college aged Dollar as he tries to find a place to belong.

MOUNTAINS is for 2/3rds of it's story a compelling story of the choices we all must make in life and how they come back to haunt us and our children. The film is also an interesting look at the changes with in Chinese society.

While the time frame jump from 1999 to 2014 is confusing because the birth of Dollar would seem to take place a short time after the wedding-not some 8 years later so his young appearance at the funeral is confusing (I could hear several people around me comment on the seeming age problem and I was confused to), The real with the film is in the 2025 portion of the film.

The problems with this last portion are all related to not having enough information about the characters to completely understand who they are.  For example how did Dollar's dad go off the deep end? Why won't he speak English? What happened to his new wife? there are no clues and the result is it's confusing.

The biggest problem is we know nothing about Dollar as an adult or even before. Largely quiet in the 2014 portion we know nothing about him other then he loves his stepmom but doesn't know his real one. He does come to connect with Tao when she gives him the keys to her house - "his home"  but then the epsiode is over. That makes the his refusal to admit he has a mother all the more confusing.  As we find out he does love her underneath it all but he refuses to remember her. Why?  Not sure. Its also clear that his attraction to his teacher is purely Oedipal a fact that scares him when its pointed out by a travel agent. On a larger scale we really don't know why he's so messed up. Yes we know his dad is nuts and his mom is absent  but there is more to it than that. There are lots of  other little bits floating around the character that are supposed to get together to form a statement about society and how we don't connect but they all remain just hanging out there.

I can see what Zhangke is doing and why, but all of it feels hollow as if he sacrificed the story in the final third for the intellectual point. Why couldn't he have moved the characters around more naturally instead of forcing square pegs in round holes? I don't know.

In fairness I think this film may play differently if you are a Chinese native. There were a couple of times when the large number of Chinese speaking people around me laughed at lines that were not funny in the English subtitles. There was also a discussion after the film between several people behind me where a Chinese woman was explaining to her husband and friends certain nuances that you wouldn't get unless you came from China.

I don't hate the film, I actually like it a great deal. I just have real problems with the final third which keep it from being truly great. To be honest I love chunks of the film. I love the use of image size, I love the use of music in the film especially the Pet Shop Boys Go West which results in an opening sequence that had me deeply moved  and an ending that almost had me tearing up (I should have teared up damn it- if that last bit had been better I would have had a proper catharsis). I love characters and what the film is trying to do. I just wish it had reached the star instead of falling short.

The film is do for a release in 2016 and should be on your list of films to see.

The film gets one more screening tonight at the New York Film Festival. For more information and tickets go here.
After the film Jia Zhangke and Zhao Tao took part in a Q&A. It was much too brief and to my mind didn't add a great deal owing to Tao's long discussion of her make up and performance.

Zhangke did talk about where the film came from  and how after the troubles with A TOUCH OF SIN he almost gave up filmmaking. He also explained how bits of the film came about from his life such as his mother giving him a set of keys to his home.

After seeing incredible JIA ZHANGKE A GUY FROM FENYANG I had hoped there would have been more time to have him really talk about his film.

Nathaniel Dorsky at NYFF 2015- Too much of one thing (Warning:This is a very narky piece)

The new York Film Festival is doing a complete retrospective of the work of Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler, though even the members of the press who are fans of theirs are hard pressed to know why it's being done at NYFF and not Anthology Film Archives. Even with the Projections sidebar (Formerly the View From the Avant Garde) this is a bit extreme.

They screened four films by Dorsky (I did not go to the Hiler one) and I only made it through three of the films

Before the screening someone from the Film Society came out and told us that the films would have a minute of blackness between them. I suspect that was because with out it the films would look like one long mish mash, The films (TRISTE, VARIATIONS and 17 REASONS WHY) are series of single shots, often beautiful framed, a couple of seconds each with absolutely no sound. I know that the images are supposed to line up thematically and echo and rhyme with each other but a little goes a long way. 17 REASONS complicates things by having four similar images on screen at the same time with each slightly out of sink.

I was fine on TRISTE, but grew weary during VARIATIONS and near apoplectic during 17 REASONS. This wasn't experimental film, this was mind control and torture and a violation of most of Geneva Conventions rules against human rights violations.

Walking out I spoke to two Film Society staff members(who shall remain nameless) and they were shocked I  didn't like the films. I replied one film would have been fine but four in row was too much. Pausing to think both of them remarked I might have been right since while they were fans of the director they had never seen more than one film at a time.

As we talked another member of the press wandered out and started to talk about how much she hated it as well. She also said by her count 17 people had walked out before her.

Walking across the street ran into a member of the press who was at the screening and had left early because he had a call he had to make. He was a big fan of the director and is going to be doing a big piece on the sidebar. He was shocked that I hated the films. As I explained one film was fine, but more than that was pushing it. He started to tell me how much he liked the films and what they meant... and then he stopped dead and looked at me and said that he suddenly understood my problem "You know, I've never seen more than 2 of his films back to back ever. I don't think you really can..."

No you can't.

Had it been one film or two in a series with other films I would say give it a go for the adventurous but for the thought of an hour or more of repetion of style and image is too much for the human mind to bear. The series is currently running at NYFF and should be avoided.

For more information go here.

A Plague so Pleasant (2015) Two takes

Hitting DVD today A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT is a mixed bag zombie film. Its a film I can applaud more for trying something different as opposed to it actually succeeding at doing it.

The film opens with our hero talking to his landlord. His landlord wants to date our guy's sister. He's okay with that but he has to get to work. Walking past a bunch of zombies he tells of the one time zombie apocalypse that lasted 12 hours until someone realized that if you don't attack them they won't attack the living. A law was passed to prevent anyone harming a zombie and restarting the war- but our hero hates not being able to kill zombies so he does and starts things up again.

There are ideas floating around in this film and some nice dry humor that make this kind of worth a look for zombie fans who have suffered through mountains of shitty films. I mean that last part sincerely there are hundreds of shit zombie films out there brought on by the laziness of filmmakers who do something that's cheap and easy to get them noticed instead of doing something good. Its a result of WALKING DEAD being so popular that a certain portion of the population clambers for more and more zombie films. The fact that most of the ideas and plot threads make almost no sense doesn't stop people from loving the undead. I hate the genre for the most part and dread any new addition. On the other hand I'm happy when something that shakes things up comes along.

A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT almost is that new thing.  As I said the film has some good ideas- such as the need not to kill the undead and the questions of what happens if you love a zombie that make this a breath of fresh air in the genre. There are somethings that could actually drive a film for more than this films 75 minutes.

Unfortunately this films micro-budget works against the film. The film periodically lapses into looking like a home movie the result of budget limitations or a poor performance by one of the living actors. Had they been able to get a better actor for some of the smaller parts or shot it so it didn't feel like we were seeing the director's home movie this would have played better.

I don't hate the film, I just wish it had more of a budget so I could really decide if its worth bothering with

If you're a hardcore zombie fan give it ago- all others proceed with caution.
I  don't normally do this  but I watched the screener for this film with my brother who is a big horror and zombie film fan. He HATED the film. When the film was done and we both were both in our own homes we ended up exchanging emails about the film.

Since his take is decidedly  much stronger than mine- and because some of what he wrote to me is funny, I'm including his take as a counter point to my own. It should be noted that I'm only posting his side of the conversation.

I hope that didn't infect your  computer.

Some one is trying way too hard to be popular by attempting to be clever.
Trying to go for high contrast B&W fail.
Sound, fail
Acting, Fail.

The main character is always mumbling.
He's mumbling something I can only guess is supposed to be deep and philosophical.

If this was in a flaming bag on the porch I wouldn't put it out.

I feel dumber having watched this. I may just spend the weekend banging my head against the wall it would be more productive than watching this film.

Maybe I am missing something. Maybe this director is the next Ingmar Bergman and I am wrong.
And maybe, with any hope, the aliens will come and give me an anal probe the erase my memory although if they try to scan my memories this may be responsible for annihilating an entire race we don't yet know about or damage their evolution.

Are there any Far Out Space Nuts marathons on to help me forget and raise my IQ?

Pictures from the screening of MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART at the New York FIlm Festival 2015

I went to see THE MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART at the New York Film Festival tonight and I took some pictures which I thought I'd share before I scribble a review.

Zhao Tao speaks before the screening. Jia Zhangke is to the right. To the left its Denis Lim next to Tao and the Translator
Jia Zhangke speaks before the movie
The couple in the filmmaker's box at the end of the film (sorry I shot from the hip)
Post film Q&A
Zhao Tao, translator, Jia Zhangke and Dennis Lim

New York Film Festival 2015 Projections: Program 8: 88:88

Feature length film whose title presents the broken read out of a digital clock,

The film is narrative of life cut together with multiple images, an occasional disjointed soundtrack, home movies and other images. There is frequent use of mirrors.

While I'm not a huge fan of the film, I do think it's one of the most interesting of the films in the Projections sidebar. There is a real attempt at making a film that expresses a point of view and at making the audience engage on more than just a knee jerk level.

I know I have been kind of snarky in regard to a bunch of the sorts in the series that use similar techniques, but they all seemed to be aiming to make an experimental film that simply got noticed or used the off beat form because they couldn't do a film that was good  so they made one strange.

However in this case director Isiah Medina has made a film that use the experimental/Avant Garde forms to force you to engage with the film- what is it he is getting at? The answers are not that simple, especially since the film runs 65 minutes. This is a film that builds themes and rhythms and creates a head space.  While at first I fought the film because the other films in the series colored my view, I found that about 10 or 15 minutes in I began to click with the film on some levels.  I began to see the depth of themes and the intelligence behind the films construction.

While I'm not a huge fan of the film I will say that it's one of the best film in the sidebar.  It's a film that I need, and more importantly want to see again down the road where I can  see it for what it is on it's own terms and not something that was affected by seeing 50 other experimental films around it.

If you want to see one film that perhaps best sums up Projections see this film.

The film has one screening on October 4. For tickets and more information go here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bashing the awful SWAT:UNIT 887 (2015)

THE HORROR! THE HORROR! THE HORROR! I saw another  film by Timothy  Woodward Jr and my mind reels....

Timothy Woodward Jr must never be allowed to direct another film. People say Uwe Boll is the worst director ever but Woodward Jr is much worse. I've only seen a couple of the 10 films he's directed but none of them have been pleasurable experiences. While many of Boll's films have problems, at least there is a level of fun and competency, hell he actually made one near great film (TUNNEL RATS) Woodward on the other hand is incapable of making an action film with real action or a thriller with thrills. Yes I'm being snarky but not as snarky as you would be if you've seen the film.(Calling Mike, Kevin and Bill)

The plot of the film has the police trying to track down Tom Sizemore as a big ass terrorist.

I don't know what to say except this movie is beyond bad.

The script by Lauren De Normandie is howlingly awful with dialog that isn't remotely realistic. Every line begs an audience response. An early exchange between Chris Cutter (played by director Woodward Jr) and his girlfriend about how she fears every time he goes out the door is loopy in the extreme- I mean he's clearly been a cop for years and its only now is bothering you?

The direction is text book on what not to do. Scenes that should be still have a rapidly moving camera. Action sequences that could use rapid cutting instead are shot in a single shot. As an police officer wrestles with a kidnapper, struggling for a dropped gun, the camera remains still draining all the tension out of the scene- and revealing that its two guys just laying together casually reaching for a gun just out of reach.  One chase scene is so badly put together that it appears as though the bad guy is actually chasing the hero for several shots... The very few fight scenes have no intensity what so ever and look like they are still being worked out by the fight choreographer. Where there should be insert shots there are none and where we should have single takes we have rapid cutting. Many dialog scenes are shot so as to give the impression that each person in the scene was filmed all alone and it was cut together later. I won't get into how some sequences, say Michael Pare talking to his boss about the party attack, seemed to have been filmed by different people since each character seems to have been shot by a completely different cameraman.

Whomever the cinematographer is needs to have his cameras taken away or at least he needs a new guide dog since often this shots are frequently not really of anything. The party siege for example has moving shots aimed away from the action. Other sequences look like an eight year-old's home movie.

I know a filmmaker should find his own voice but this voice is shrill, painful and unpleasant.  While Woodward is a decent enough actor, he is no director. I know we should all follow are dreams but when people are the cinematic equivalent to a serial killer they really need to be told to stop with the dreams and take up basket weaving or landscape painting, anything that doesn't involve inflicting pain and suffering on the rest of humanity.

I had hoped that the director's CHECKMATE was going to be the last word on bad independent films for the year, but that was not to be.  SWAT UNIT 887 is ten time worse.

I hope never to see it again unless Rifftrax gets a hold of it....

This film is released on home video and VOD tomorrow- a void it like the plague.

Mia Madre (2015) New York FIlm Festival (2015)

Nanni Moretti's MIA MADRE is the rarest of rare birds, a film that will have you doubled over with laughter one minute and sobbing genuine tears the next. It made it's US premiere at the New York FIlm Festival yesterday and instantly jumped to top, or damn close, to being the best film at the festival and one of my great treasures of 2015.

Moretti's film is based on his experience with the death of his own mother. While editing WE HAVE A POPE his mother passed away. He knew he had to do something with the story and he turned it into a film.

The film follows Margherita (Margherita Buy) as she is hard at work on her next film. As she deals with the film and life her mother, a once mighty classics teacher, begins to decline. As she and her brother  (played by Moretti) deal with the illness she tries to finish her movie and a crazy American actor played by John Turturro.

Designed to give you the head space of Margherita the film nails what its like to deal with a declining parent slipping toward death perfectly. I could see the conversations I had with my mom in several scenes. The audience around me sobbed at times, and the woman seated to my right bolted toward the end with a loud moan of "I can't deal with this any more" (an earlier comment suggested it was too close to home). Despite how it may sounds its not a depressing film, it is a glorious representation of life and when it ends you will feel really good.

While the entire cast, especially Margherita Bay, are outstanding the one you'll remember is John Turturro who shines as a crazy actor who tells the story, repeatedly, of going to work with Kubrick for a week and staying 3 months. Its a role that produces two scenes of absolute howling tears rolling down your cheeks, falling out of your seat laughter. The first involves shooting a scene in a car, the other a dance that he himself devised. This last bit will put him in the running for an Oscar and brand his career for better or ill as the role that he is best known for.

This is a great film from top to bottom. It is a glorious cinematic representation of life and it moved me deeply.  I don't know what to say except put this near the top of your must see list.

The film has one more screening tonight (Information here) and is do to be released to theaters in a couple of weeks.

Cemetery of Splendour (2015) New York Film Festival 2015

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR is going to be a film that will divide it's audience after a certain point. The point is after a scene in a movie theater where we see a trailer for IRON COFFIN KILLER (yes it's a real film) Just as you're pondering what in the hell the cinematic weirdness is doing in an otherwise sedate film, the film gets really really weird. The characters are kind of the same and things don't change much but you'll wonder if you're suddenly in Kansas instead of Thailand.

Up until things get weird this is the story of a woman who is volunteering in a hospital where soldier afflicted with a kind of narcolepsy are being treated. As she gets close to one of them she learns, from godesses,that the soldiers are being used to fight a war for long dead kings in the spirit world. It sounds weird but it makes sense in context. It is for two thirds of it's running time a really good examine of life, death and the after life.

The problem is that there's this part where the film loses much of the audience. Talking with a couple of people after the film everyone, even those of us who liked it, said that what happens after the movie theater changed how they saw it.  I can't explain what exactly happens other than the film becomes something else with themes that seem different than the first part. What is happening between characters changes and there are several sequences that just hang there or require too much suspension of disbelief. You could argue that some that is what the film really is about, but honestly there is no build up to it. the film doesn't earn it.

To me this is Weerasethakul's best movie, and its an almost great one. Unfortunately its also this movie where you see it going down the wrong road and its such a seemingly glaring mistake that all you remember is the moment where great became good.

The film screens September 30 and October 1 for tickets and more information go here.

Deathgasm (2015)

Bored and put upon teenage heavy metal fans open a portal allowing a demon to cross over. They now have to fight the hordes of hell and find away to end the undead onslaught.

This is an incredibly gory, occasionally funny horror comedy that largely hits all of the right notes while traveling over well traveled ground.

If that sounds like a mixed recommendation it is. I'm very torn about this film. This is a very good film that should have been a truly great one.

Don't get me wrong, this is a very well made and well acted film. The gore effects are first rate. The cast is spot on (even if they all seen 5 to 10 years too old), the problem is that outside of the better special effects, the film doesn't do anything new here. There is a whole subgenre of horror films where heavy metal and demons are linked (BLACK ROSES anyone?). Additionally  coming into play is the genre of people opening demonic doors- we've seen this before.

I would forgive it the cliche plot if the jokes and some of the killings didn't seem like retreads. How many times are we going to see some one bludgeoned to death by his own arms, or have someone complain that his underlings just ruined an expensive rug? If you're a fan of the genre you've seen this before. Admittedly they raided the best jokes from earlier films, but they didn't come up with enough new stuff. (Though I do like the closer)

The one thing that the film gets right is Medina played by Kimberly Crossman. A blonde object of lust for everyone in the film she turns out to be sympathetic to the head bangers. More importantly she turns into one absolute kick ass killer of the undead. Here at last is the next female horror movie character that girls and women can really look up to. She is no shrinking violet and the world and the film is better for it. Frankly she's enough of a reason for me to forget any reservations and tell you to see DEATHGASM.

Actually if you're a horror fan, especially of the truly blood soaked variety and don't mind lots of laughs I think you should give this film a shot. Its a really good film, and while I'm deeply disappointed that it's not a great film, I do think there is enough here for you to see the film when it hit theaters and VOD on Friday.

Labor of Finding Love: The Lobster @ NYFF

I just saw the first New York Film Festival screening of Yorgos Lanthimos’ feature, The Lobster, which will be shown again tomorrow at 9 pm. This makes the director 2 and 1 for me, with his latest work getting me all tingly with provoked thoughts and emotions, much in the way that his first feature Dogtooth did. Alps, which fell in between, made less of an impression but now I am determined to revisit it.

The film is set in a dystopian future based around a fantastical premise – single individuals must enter into binding relationships with another or face dire consequences, such as being transformed into animals – rendered in entirely un-fantastic fashion. There is no effect on the setting making it appear futuristic, and the only hint of how humans are changed into various creatures in the bestiary is a closed door, above which is hung a sign that says something like ‘animal changing room.’  Along with details such as this, much of the narrative is also left up to the imagination. Lanthimos has an intriguing way of progressing the story, narrated from a point of view of particular poignancy down the line, that reveals the workings of its world little by little. Right up to the end, the viewer finds herself constructing the reality onscreen based on a modest sprinkling of clues. It’s an act of reverence, not disregard, for the audience.

The Lobster has a dry sense of humor that sneaks up with such uncanny deadpan and in the midst of laying out such peculiar scenarios, one often is not certain whether they should laugh or not. Much of this humor stems from the abovementioned narrator drolly accounting for the absurdities that befall the protagonist (played by Collin Farrell) as he maneuvers the strange as he tries to maneuver the bizarre landscape of a hotel meant to engender the coupling of its unattached inhabitants. Meanwhile Farrell’s pained sincerity, showing a complete ineptitude at manipulation or disingenuousness toward potential mates, is both endearing and painfully funny.  The script is also filled with lines that paint pictures of awkward hilarity in viewers’ minds, such as a rebel leader’s explanation that they ‘even dance alone. That’s why (we) only dance to electronic music.’

Lanthimos along with cowriter Efthymus Filippou tell a story filled with incongruities. Great expenditures of energy can go into acts of inconsequential pettiness, while other times characters casually commit acts of unthinkable cruelty. Even the kitsch paradise of the first act’s hotel, populated by naturally funny figures like a lisping fellow guest (John C. Reilly) and robotically enthusiastic master of ceremonies (Olivia Colman, whose filmography includes The Office, Look Around You, and Hot Fuzz), can stun audiences with sudden moments of sadism. Those who have experienced Dogtooth will know to beware the seemingly innocuous appearance of a toaster oven.

The subtext is filled with distrust for organizations, both those that are established and created to fight the establishment. It also teases apart the ridiculously complex and agonizing ritual our modern society have made of finding mates, without pointing any fingers. The social landscape here is beset with extreme inanities, for instance compatibility is based on individuals' shared physical impairments. Yet then we are dared to say that we really have it any better off. 

As for a few personal touchstones: I am reminded of The Double, Richard Aoyade’s equally dry dystopian future yarn filled with gallows humor galore, even if more for the dim fate of both films’ sad-sack protagonists than their visions of the future. Structurally there is something about The Lobster that keeps bringing to mind Sion Sono. Even if Lanthimos’ aesthetic is far more subdued, the way they allow their stories to meander off the tracks into epic or at least seemingly epic lengths shows Lanthimos is something of a kindred spirit to the Japanese provocateur, giving audiences a bit of an endurance test. All the better to bring about empathy for their protagonists’ pained positions.

There is no official release date for the film in the US but in the UK, The Lobster will claw its way onto screens October 16th. When it makes its way to this area, I would gladly see the film again if it plays one of the area’s cozier repertoire theaters, such as IFC or The Alamo. Not the least of which to see the film with one particular scene with French dialogue subtitled, which was unintentionally left without captions according to Lanthimos during the post screening Q & A.

Below are pictures of Lanthimos and actresses Rachel Weisz and Ariane Labed from the Q & A afer the screening.

Twitter: @mondocurry

New York Film Festival Projections: Program 7

Politics collides with experimental to mixed effect

HELLO- the mash up of the life of a trash picker in Mexico and a computer animator in Germany come wonderfully together.

F IS FOR FIBONACCI - kaleidoscope animation, Minecraft and other style images crash together to mixed results in a trippy film. The problem here is the herky jerky animation in places and a narrator who is too flat. Still it has some interesting bits

BLACK CODE-BLACK NOIR- a look at the killings of Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell by police officers.Its too experimental to really work

LESSONS OF WAR- five stories of the war in Gaza. I get what it's going for but the animation style completely works against it.

SCALES IN THE SPECTRUM OF SPACE- I think this is a woman pondering existence-or not

MANY THOUSANDS GONE-Live in Harlem and Salvador Brazil are intercut.

The program screens October 3&4. For more information and tickets go here.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A last minute nightcap on NYFF and few links from Randi

If you didn’t know the New York Film Festival has started. It began Friday with lots of free events and last night with the big premiere of THE WALK.

I’m hip deep in the hoopla running to all sorts of screenings.

I know the coverage here at Unseen has been a little weird with mostly coverage of the shorts and the Projections series taking center stage before the features kicked in yesterday. I'm sorry about that. I know in the past we’ve given you reviews of early features and the revival screenings before the festival started, but this year they’ve kind of cut back on the revivals. As for the early features, we’ve seen a few and the reviews are slotted, but the truth of the matter is that this year we’re seeing a good number of the films at public screenings so the reviews are coming a little later.

While I know we are going to have a little less coverage, number wise, than in years past we are going to actually nail most of the films that seem to be the important films. As for the ones we miss, we’ll catch them down the road. I’m also talking to a good friend (Liz) of Unseen who is seeing everything and she is steering me as to what I should catch and when. Actually outside of the Convergence sidebar we're on track to get you a high percentage of everything.

The point of this is keep reading because lots of reviews are coming between now and the 11th.

(And don't worry there's a lot of stuff we like so there will be less cranky reviews)
As many of you know my great friend Lou died a couple months back. I knew Lou for about 30 yers before he died. Every year we'd talk the New York Film Festival choices and ponder when we'd get to see them. Lou was the guy who first got me to the festival to see Peter Greenaway. Over the last few years I'd take him to see one film or the other.

I can not think of NYFF without Lou....and so it was that today I went to my first NYFF without him. To say it was a weird day is putting it mildly.

The day began with seeing Marcel Ophuls introduce his sequel to the SORROW AND THE PITY. Lou was much in my mind since SORROW is reference in  a gag in ANNIE HALL that Lou and I would riff on endlessly.

After the film I waited outside Alice Tully Hall where he and I would sit between movies. I'd always snap his picture  on the steps. This year I took one because I knew he was there...

And then I saw MIA MADRE which has a graying John Turturro looking like Lou, and being just as crazy- Turturro's third act dance had me tearing up as I laughed since many of the moves could have been Lou's in a silly mood.

It was a sad day and many ways not having my friend there- but at the same time he was...

Lou you are missed my friend- its not the same without you.
And because Randi never rests here are a few links:

Beautiful Libraries
Phineas and Ferb Star Wars Transcript
Phineas and Ferb Marvel Transcript
Re-imagining Broadway classics
How cats won the internet
A bo expert on BLACK MASS
A Broadway star defends a parents right to bring an autistic child to the KING AND I

Nanni Moretti and John Turturro talk MIA MADRE at the New York Film Festival 2015

After the screening of great MIA MADRE director Nanni Moretti and John Turturro came out and did an audience Q&A. Here are pictures----

Nanni Moretti and John Turturro take the stage for the Q&A
Moretti and Turturro

Pictures of Marcel Ophuls introducing the restoration of his THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE at the New York Film Festival 2015

I saw half of Marcel Ophuls' THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE (it's way too much to take in a single sitting). Ophuls was in the house for an introduction and a Q&A. A review of the film is coming- but here are photos of the great man introducing his film.

Head of NYFF Kent Jones applauds as Marcel Ophuls gets a standing ovation

Ken Jones and Marcel Ophuls