Sunday, October 11, 2020

New York FIlm Festival : Footnotes from the Couch

  The New York Film Festival 2020 is effectively done. The only thing left is for the people who purchased tickets for some screenings to finish up (some films could be viewed until the 14th.) 

I have no idea how many NYFF I've attended. I do know that this was my 11th as a member of the press. As things go this was a middle of the pack fest. Not being able to talk to people and hang out diminished it. Blame that on Covid and not the festival.

As things go I've seen some great films (the Steve McQueen offerings, THE HUMAN VOICE and NIGHT OF THE KINGS), a lot of good ones and a few stinkers. It happens.

Right now I am looking forward to next year when I hope I can get to see lts f films with lots of people.

I do have to say that because the fest was virtual I could literally try every film that played the festival and was offered to writers to review. And I did just that. However while some films provoked reviews some provoked scribbles or footnotes. What follows, and what ends the Unseen Films coverage of this year's fest are the footnotes

SMOOTH TALK was never a film that clicked with me. While the performances are great I always felt it as liked more for what it was trying to do and pushing down doors rather than actually being good.

THE INHERITANCE was not my cup of tea. A very mannered  and deliberate film it is a film where it was too much noticing the man behind the curtain.

What I saw of ISABELLA I liked but not much more. Before you take that as a bad sign, it’s not. It’s more that as I watching it I had the same reaction to it that I had to everyone of director's other films, which is that it’s very good, but unremarkable. I got to a certain point in the film and found myself wanting to cross over to one of the other films I had access to. Suspecting I was going to continue to do so, I just jumped over. 

 DAYS is only for a small audience. Intolerably long takes of the director going through his days. If you are rapturous during the open ten minutes take of the director sitting in a chair staring at a storm outside then this film is for you. If not this is going to be a glorious sleep aid. This is the sort of film I dread walking into at NYFF. a pretentious art film that is ultimately for a very small audience. Yea it looks good but it’s like watching paint dry.

I made a stab at THE DISCIPLE and walked away about a third of the way in.  Please understand that my doing so had nothing to do with a lack of quality, rather it was because I had a great deal of respect for the film. Watching the film I could tell that the film was really good (with some fantastic music), however try as I might I couldn’t make an emotional connection to the film. I could appreciate what was on screen, but I simply connect. Rather than write something that led you astray about quality I stepped away. Additionally I stopped watching the film because NYFF gave me access to so many films I would rather reached out to a film that I truly connect to. Besides I will be able t circle back at a later date. (addendum 2024-I have gone back to the film and enjoyed the hell out of it-recommending it to friends and family. This is a case of some films needing to be seen away from a festival crush)

I have a mixed relationship with the films of Phillippe Garrel. I tend to either love them or think they just miss. THE SALT OF THE TEARS missed for me.  To be honest I didn’t get too far into it since Luc, the man character came across as the wrong sort of creepy. To me this drama about a guy and his roving eye came off as skidding close to horror film. I know it’s simply because Garrel remains so focused on him, but it kind of unnerved me and made me wonder why Djemila was even remotely attracted to him.

SLOW MACHINE was more interesting for the cast (including Chloe Sevigny) than for the film itself. It has a young woman hiding from a relationship gone bad and I never really cared. 

It played with HARD, CRACKED THE WIND  looked wonderfully monochromatic  but  It didn’t  really work for me, It has something to do with an unfinished poem which a ghost wants finished. 

AUTOFICCION had some interesting images but I never really picked up on the nuances of it being about a woman’s daily life.

SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS is a good if slightly over long on director Shun Ikezoe’s grandmother. I loved the marriage of grainy black and white imagery and the narration which created a glorious dreamlike experience.

Program 6 of the shorts called HERE AND ELSEWHERE didn’t work for me.  Where films like EXTRACTIONS had great images they never were more than that and fully came alive for me.

Program 7  CODE UNKNOWN was a mixed bag.  POINT AND LINE TO A PLANE seemed to echo some of the early Peter Greeenaway’s  films where he looked at various images with a narration. I liked  THE UNSEEN RIVER even if the formality of some of the love stories kept me distant. Honestly all of the films had moments, though HUMONGOUS! Didn’t really work for me at all.

Long ago I watched FLOWERS OF SHANGHI on some sort of DVD I picked up in Chinatown. It was a film whose look stayed with me but which otherwise completely disappeared from my brain. Trying it again for the NYFF I was instantly struck by it’s beauty to the point where I shouted “That’s the film!”. I then hunkered down to watch the film again for the first time in a couple of decades…. And then the film started to do what it did the last time and I found I was loving everything about it but I simply wasn’t connecting and Turned it off. 

OUVERTURES is a film about Toussaint L’Ouverture a general and leader in the Haitian revolution, as well as a theater group working on putting together a theater piece based upon his life. It’s the cinematic equivalent of an artistic Off Broadway show that wants you to know it is about something. I absolutely loved portions of this film but there was a point where I just had to raise my hand and say enough as the meaning over took my enjoyment.

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