Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Eric Kohn
October 1, 2012 10:52 AM
2 Comments
  • |

19 Reviews (And Counting) From the New York Film Festival

"Caesar Must Die."
The 50th edition of the New York Film Festival opened on Friday with the world premiere of "Life of Pi," but Indiewire had already covered many of the films in the program at other festivals earlier this year. Here's a rundown of the 18 movies from this year's NYFF lineup we've reviewed so far; expect the list to grow as the festival continues through October 14.

"Amour"

Few directors focus on dark, existentially dreadful scenarios with the consistency of the great Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. Less consistent in terms of style than theme, in movies like "Funny Games," "Caché" and the Palme d'Or-winning "The White Ribbon," Haneke lingers in situations that find people trapped by circumstance and mystery. His latest, "Amour," is an incredibly focused and emotionally charged look at an elderly woman's gradual demise and her husband's attempts to cope with it. Although not exactly heartwarming, "Amour" has a more contained vision of human relationships than Haneke's previous films without sacrificing its bleak foundation. It's his most conventional movie about death, and the most poignant. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Beyond the Hills"

Romanian director Cristian Mungiu seemingly came out of nowhere in 2007 to snatch the Palme d'Or for his last feature, the tightly constructed abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days," a distinctly powerful work. With so much pressure on the filmmaker from this early stage, Mungiu faced an impossible task, as his less appealing follow-up clearly demonstrates. While technically impressive and occasionally quite provocative, Mungiu's latest feature-length effort, "Beyond the Hills," is at once more ambitious and flawed -- in other words, only 50 percent post-Palme slump. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Caesar Must Die"

The prospect of criminals performing Shakespeare has been explored in conventional terms by the 2005 documentary "Shakespeare Behind Bars"; sibling directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's "Caesar Must Die" takes a far more provocative approach. Following a beautifully shot introductory sequence that captures the finale of the "Julius Caesar" production in glorious, dazzlingly colorful detail, "Caesar Must Die" flashes back to six months earlier, at which point the imagery shifts to expressive black-and-white, appropriately evoking the drab interiors. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"First Cousin Once Removed"

Documentarian Alan Berliner is frequently the star of his movies, but his focus extends beyond his neuroses. Rather than the star of the show, he's a vessel for bigger ideas and evades the perils of self-indulgence that could result from putting himself in front of the camera. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Frances Ha"

A slight and largely charming portrait of post-college woes, Noah Baumbach's deceptively simple "Frances Ha" is breezier than any of his previous ventures and indeed features considerably less ambition than his earlier work. However, that's hardly an indictment for a movie so eager to please and thoroughly in tune with the themes percolating throughout Baumbach's career. Shot in black-and-white video that lends this New York odyssey a scrappy feel, "Frances Ha" foregrounds a characteristically endearing Greta Gerwig performance defined by her usual onscreen combination of high energy wit and awkward self-effacement. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"The Gatekeepers"

"The Gatekeepers," a startling exposé of Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet, delivers an unequivocal indictment. The handful of former Shin Bet heads who deliver candid accounts of their reasoning for various destructive assaults in the constant horn-locking with their Palestinian neighbors initially come across as unsympathetic war-mongerers. However, director Dror Moreh allows the movie to exclusively unfold through their voices, humanizing them to the point where their logic and humanity fall into distinct categories. For every shocking justification of murder, there's another moment where they confess frustration and regret, resulting in a refreshingly even-handed portrait. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Ginger and Rosa"

The fundamental coming-of-age conflict facing the troubled teen played by Elle Fanning in Sally Potter's "Ginger and Rosa" may look familiar, but the director brings a raw energy to the material that deepens its possibilities. Set at the height of nuclear paranoia in early-'60s London, Potter's script has a lot to say about the progressive attitudes of its chosen era by cleverly analogizing them to the expanding horizons of a restless adolescent mind. A viscerally charged movie that foregrounds surface tensions and gripping performances, "Ginger and Rosa" is the filmmaker's most accessible and technically surefooted work to date. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Here and There"

The plot of "Here and There" is so slight it barely exists. But the first feature from director Antonio Mendez Esparza balances out that limitation with a richly layered mood that steadily accumulates emotion from one scene to the next. Esparza constructs a family drama with supreme restraint while fleshing out his characters to the point where their problems take root in a fully realized environment where socio-economic conditions pull them apart. It's incredibly uneventful and devastating all at once. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Holy Motors"

"Holy Motors" is balls-to-the-wall crazy, beautiful and unbelievably strange. Leos Carax has always been a bit nutty, but here he finally flies off the rails with supremely perplexing, occasionally miraculous, always memorable results. This is a movie about movies, life, death, the human condition, monkeys, music, chaos, suicide, whatever. It's something else. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

You might also like:

2 Comments

  • davey | October 1, 2012 1:12 PMReply

    It's absolutely ridiculous that Life of Pi and Passion get the same grade. Life of Pi is so much better than Passion, and to put them in the same category is insane.

  • Eric | October 1, 2012 1:42 PM

    The grades are not meant to be viewed in objective terms but rather in relation to the movies in question. A "B" grade for PI is hardly the same thing as a "B" grade for PASSION. Of course, any grading scale is bound to invite this kind of gripe, but our hope is that the grades are always seen within the context of the reviews.