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The BRM’s 2008 Fall Film Festival Preview

The BRM's 2008 Fall Film Festival Preview

Autumn is the best time of year, and as we head toward the fall film festival season, a few thoughts on the movies I can’t wait to see…

The Toronto Film Festival is almost upon us, and I can’t wait to make my way up to the city for a week’s worth of cinematic indulgence. I seem to write the same post every year when we get to this moment; I praise the coming of the autumn (my favorite season by some distance), I mark the passing of another year and I try to somehow articulate my excitement about the great unknown that stands before me. It’s dèja-vu all over again.

I am about to embark on seven straight weeks of cinematic discovery, an incredibly condensed period of time when I will sit through more films than most people see in a year. Toronto ends just as Independent Film Week begins, which overlaps with my beloved New York Film Festival, an event that ends just before The Hamptons International Film Festival kicks-off. By the time it’s all over, shirts will be replaced by sweaters and jackets, leaves will have fallen off of the trees, the days will grow ever-shorter and I will inevitably be a little heartbroken, wishing I could live in the cinema forever.

Of course, that’s not possible. As I often say to myself when I get too comfortable in the darkness of movie theaters, life intervenes. This year, with a newborn son bringing a constant sense of discovery to each day, will be easier than most, I suspect, easier to give myself back to the world, to re-engage at the end of what can only be described as a purely luxurious escape into the community of movie madness. This is what the festival experience is all about, this community; the conversations, the partisanship among defenders and detractors of this film and that, the long view of movie history informing each cinematic experience, the way that exhaustion and a mistimed hangover can cloud your perception, making a great film almost intolerable under the circumstances. How can you watch 100 films in seven weeks without going a little bit crazy? I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Here is a list documenting my own path to Cinemania, the films I am most looking forward to seeing (some for a second time) and writing about during my festival season.

A Christmas Tale by Arnaud Desplechin
My favorite filmmaker has made another amazing movie. I was lucky enough to catch a press screening of A ChristmasTale a month ago, and I am still thinking about it. I promised myself I wouldn’t write about the movie until I had seen it again, but rest assured, with screenings at New York and Toronto, I will be seeing it every chance I get.
(Seeing It Again [and again]: New York, Toronto)

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Desplechin Delivers: A Christmas Tale

The Class by Laurent Cantet
Laurent Cantet is another of my favorite filmmakers; I consider Time Out to be one of the most important movies of the last ten years, a near-perfect distillation of the anxiety that is produced when the individual runs smack into the bourgeois expectations of the working world. The Class has some serious pedigree (Palme D’Or anyone?), and thematically, it seems like a combination of something like To Be And To Have meets Season 4 Of The Wire. Who doesn’t want to see that?!?
(Seeing It: New York)

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Cantet’s Lesson: The Class

Disgrace by Steve Jacobs
Strangely, I haven’t heard very much about Disgrace in the run up to Toronto, but if the movie does the book even a little bit of justice, this could be a great film. J.M. Coetzee’s 1999 Booker Prize winning novel about an urban college professor whose affair with a student sends him on a journey to the countryside to reunite with his daughter in post-apartheid South Africa is a book that still haunts me; this is a story about race, sexuality, justice and violence that pulls no punches. Let’s hope Steve Jacobs doesn’t flinch when telling this amazing story. Fingers crossed…
(Seeing It: Toronto)

The Headless Woman by Lucretia Martel
Lucretia Martel is one hell of a filmmaker; both La Cienega and The Holy Girl were knock outs, and advanced word on The Headless Woman promises more of the same. Looking up and down the board at many of the films in these fall festivals, I am really proud to see MY generation of auteurs finally getting their due; Martel, Desplechin, Ceylan, Assayas, Makhmalbaf, Cantet—This is an amazing time to be a cinephile, and I am lucky and proud to have these artists be the voice of my time. This one promises to be special.
(Seeing It: New York)

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Haunted Martel: The Headless Woman

Plages d’Agnès by Agnès Varda
I love Agnès Varda. A unique artist, a personal essayist with the movie camera, her career has gone from Clèo From 5 To 7 all the way to Plages, which looks to be another in a long line of playful, thoughtful essays on both the artist and her muse. Someone should program a retrosepctive of her work and juxtapose it with Chris Marker; I wouldn’t miss a frame of that! (note to self…) Anyway, who doesn’t love watching her play, watching her mind work with such lovely images? Can’t miss.
(Seeing It: Toronto)

Religulous by Larry Charles and Bill Maher
I am an unrepentant atheist. I have been waiting the majority of my adult life for a movie like this, a takedown of the polite reverence that is typically afforded to articles of faith. I have long-admired Bill Maher’s commentaries on his HBO program Real Time, and this film, directed by Borat director Larry Charles, promises to finally give our side a chance to confront those who dismiss us. Atheists remain one of the most despised “groups” in America, and I hope that Maher and Charles show everyone what we’re made of.
(Seeing It: Toronto)

Summer Hours by Olivier Assayas
A visitor to my home, one not familiar with cinema, might be prompted to ask the question “Who is this Assayas fellow?” That’s because my house features a few posters from his films (Irma Vep, Une Nouvelle Vie for example), and I have been a huge fan of his work ever since I saw Irma Vep a dozen years ago (already?!? man, oh man…). Advanced word on Summer Hours promises a return to his Late August/ Early September-era work and a step away from the industrial espionage thrillers he’s produced of late. Fine by me; the movie looks great.
(Seeing It: New York)

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Assayas Returns: Summer Hours

Synecdoche, New York by Charlie Kaufman
I joined a friend for an advanced screening of Charlie Kaufman’s debut film last week, and I sat down and tried to write about it. I am still writing about it, which would probably make Charlie Kaufman smile. I plan on seeing this one again, a brilliant film, full of ideas and messier than most of Kaufman’s scripts because it is so full of personal feeling. Not sure how it will fare in the marketplace or among audiences, but when has that ever mattered? A great movie of ideas (go read Schopenhauer before you see it,…seriously!), and one that needs a few repeat viewings. My schedule will happily oblige.
(Seeing It Again: Toronto)

Three Monkeys by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Climates is another film I would rate as one of the finest in recent years, and now, having seen Distant on DVD (Thanks, Netflix!) I have to confess that Nuri Bilge Ceylan is moving up the ranks of my cinematic pantheon. I love his wry humor, his refusal to take anything too seriously, and his patient, gorgeous camera work. I was happy to see him win the Best Director at Cannes this year, but it comes as no surprise; He is, quite simply, one of the finest living filmmakers today. Three Monkeys looks awesome (look at that picture below!) and the stylistic choices seem to lean toward his incredible work as a still photographer. I’m sold.
(Seeing It: Toronto)

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Ceylan’s Fools: Three Monkeys

Of Time And The City by Terrence Davies
As I wrote on Thom Powers’ DocBlog (Thanks for the invite, Thom!):
A “lovesong and a eulogy” to the city of Liverpool, England, Terence Davies’ Of Time and the City looks like a gorgeous meditation on the decline of this once-vital industrial epicenter. As a supporter of Liverpool Football Club myself, and hailing from Flint, MI (for me, the American parallel to rusting ship yards of Liverpool), I have a lot of interest in seeing how Davies’ expresses the soul of a place I have long idealized and never seen with my own eyes.
(Seeing It: Toronto)

Treeless Mountain by So Yong Kim
One of America’s most promising talents, So Yong Kim is a filmmaker I’d like to get to know better. Her In Between Days was a tender story of teenage heartbreak (you had me at hello) and now that she is moving to Korea for her latest film, I wonder how her style will translate to the story of abandoned siblings… well… I won’t say too much more. Either way, when a filmmaker this good is bringing a new film into the world, you know I’ll be there.
(Seeing It: Toronto)

Two-Legged Horse by Samira Makhmalbaf
Here we go again with the superlatives, but I think Samira Makhmalbaf’s The Apple (which, for some reason or another, I can’t find anywhere on DVD in this country) is one of the most amazing and underappreciated movies of the last ten years. Her work as cinema’s most socially conscious advocate for an expansive humanism is never given its due, probably because of her father’s status as a founder of Iran’s auteur class. Fuck that; Samira is the one to watch, and her movies are always must-see cinema. Two-Legged Horse is one of those films I’ve been waiting for for a loooong time; Has it been five years since At Five In The Afternoon already? No wonder I’ve never blogged about her before!! Either way, this is near the top of my list. Dying for it.
(Seeing It: Toronto)

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Makhmalbaf’s Back!: Two-Legged Horse

Wendy and Lucy by Kelly Reichardt
I am proud to say that Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy won the Grand Jury Prize at my very own Sarasota Film Festival back in 2006 and when she and Jonathan Raymond (author of the stories upon which Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy are based and co-writer of both films) came to town with the movie, I got to meet them both and talk politics, movies and Sleater-Kinney laser tag (don’t ask… you’ll be as jealous as I was). I am more than excited for Wendy and Lucy (which, full disclosure, my friends and I can’t help calling Wendy and Lisa) and I am really, REALLY excited that the film will be featured in the New York Film Festival. Maybe Kelly will finally get the notoriety she so richly deserves; here’s hoping!
(Seeing It: New York)

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Reichardt’s Forest: Wendy and Lucy

The Wrestler by Darren Aronofsky
Ok, ever since I’ve been reading about this film I’ve been dying to see it. The reasons are many; I know a thing or two about professional wrestling (Shakespeare on steroids!) and I am a long-time admirer of Darren Aronofsky’s filmmaking. I got to interview Darren at the Apple Store for indieWIRE back when The Fountain came out, and he was a great guy. We talked a little bit about his use of close-up, and lord knows that Mickey Rourke’s face is a story in and of itself. I expect this movie to shatter everyone’s expectations and to be the talk of the town when it closes the New York Film Festival this October.
(Seeing It: New York)

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Aronofsky’s Hero: The Wrestler (P.S.- Love Love LOVE the ‘Necrobutcher Sucks a Fat Dick’ sign in the background! Can’t wait to see who runs this press still…)

I will do my best to keep up with the screening schedule on the blog… I can’t wait to write about these films and all of the surprises and heartbreaks that lay ahead. More from Toronto…I’m off to pack my bags.

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