Monday, October 08, 2007

Today is Columbus Day, and there's only one press screening at the New York Film Festival: Masayuki Suo's "I Just Didn't Do It", which i saw during the first week of press screenings. So today is a day to relax, and possibly start to get some perspective on this year's festival.

Right off the bat, i think that the festival shows so many people "in transition". Filmmakers are trying on new styles, going to new locations, working on a new scale. There's also a sense of a kind of retrogression: some people seem to be stuck, trying to recreate the excitement of their youth. Sometimes it proved charming (at least to me: i was one of the ones who found Rohmer's "The Romance of Astree and Celadon" to be lulling in a sweet, faux-naif way), sometimes exasperating (Sidney Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" was like another installment of his NYC crime dramas, cf. "Serpico", "Dog Day Afternoon", "Prince of the City", "Q & A", only with an attempt at a fractured structure and some sexual frankness that wouldn't have been possible in the 1970s).

Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" certainly showed that Schnabel has become a technically proficient filmmaker, with an ability to work very well with an expert crew and a talented group of actors. Plus he has nerve: this time, he's working in France, with French actors.

But Schnabel divides people, simply because his bombastic personality has been such a fixture in the downtown art scene here in New York for over two decades.

Masayuki Suo's "I Just Didn't Do It" is a very precise, seemingly minutely detailed procedural. It takes a case (a young man accused of groping a young girl on the Tokyo subway) and slowly unfolds until it encompasses an entire view of the constrictions of Japanese society.

Wes Anderson's "Hotel Chevalier" and "The Darjeeling Limited" continue his odd, eccentric, petit-point deadpan. Yes, his movies show a greater visual control, and visually it's a very lovely movie. But are his films simply twee conceits, or are there deeper meanings (specifically, deeper emotions) behind the deadpan? It's like Anderson still won't commit (one way or another) because he wants (nonchalantly) to maintain his cool. Certainly, "Hotel Chevalier" (the short) is a cool little movie.

Chabrol's "A Girl Cut in Two" shows the "Gallic Hitchcock" (or should it be Fritz Lang?) up to his old tricks. This one seems to run smoother than some of his other recent vehicles.

Both Robert Beavers's "Pitcher of Colored Light" and Peter Hutton's "At Sea" deserve extended commentary. Both were quite lovely.

I got to Ira Sachs's "Married Life" late: delay on the subway. But it grabbed me from the moment i came in, which was about 5 minutes late. It's a meticulous film, with very careful camerwork, deliberate compositions, and exceptional set and costume design, all geared to mimic big studio melodramas of the late 1940s-early 1950s. It seems like a genre film, but with a difference: gradually, the perspective grows and the movie encompasses both a highly wrought noir melodrama and a satirical slant which allows for a more reflective approach to this story of marriage and (attempted) murder. I know that Lisa Schwarzbaum was very enthusiastic about this film when she filed her Toronto Film Festival report for Entertainment Weekly. (She's on the NYFF selection committee.) Ok, so i agree: i really thought "Married Life" was exceptional, and i'm very pleased with Ira's progress from film to film. I thought "The Delta" was insightful and evocative, but it didn't really flow; "40 Shades of Blue" was more powerful, but also had some problems of pacing. This time, Ira has really concentrated on the technical aspects of narrative filmmaking, and the result is a precisely tuned genre piece, with great subtlety and terrific irony.

Well, that was the first week....


Post a Comment

<< Home