Well, my writing couldn’t keep pace, I guess, but I was able to attend most of the 2008 New York Film Festival. It was another great year, in my opinion; I really enjoyed the vast majority of the films I saw. I am hoping to roll out my thoughts on the films as many of them are released theatrically, which is a change, but I think the more time I have to marinate on some of thes emovies, maybe see them again, it will help me get my thoughts together. I have already made some strides in my thinking about The Wrestler, A Christmas Tale (lots more on this one in November), Tulpan, Summer Hours, The Headless Woman, Four NIghts With Anna, Che and Wendy and Lucy, so I look forward to taking my time and getting my shit together soon.
There have been some revelations for me this year in terms of the inside baseball of these screenings; I had some fun watching the physical (literally) formation of critical consensus (and dissent) as critics and bloggers (what’s the difference anymore?) gathered in the lobby, gallery and entryway of the theater after the screenings to offer immediate reactions to the films. I also learned how important a filmmaker’s press conference can be to establishing a critical corrective for their film. Take the case of Lucrecia Martel, whose generous, revelatory Q&A after the second screening of The Headless Woman made critical news for discussing her unique use of sound in the creation of her films. During Martel’s discussion of sound, I watched Kent Jones’ face gather in intensity as he prepared to ask a follow-up question about the way in which sound inspires Martel’s visiual strategy; I was watching her craft a new set of critical responses right before my eyes. It was a really great discussion, and afterward, I think many writers began warming up to the film as Martel offered a way into her etherial (and beautifully told) story. Interesting to see how her answers permeate so many responses to the film now…
Even though my writing was slack, I was there with my iPhone in tow (and sometimes my actual camera) and was able to grab a picture here and there. So, in lieu of any grand summary of the proceedings, here is the festival that was…
Ana Moreira, star of The Northern Land, has her picture taken after the screening.
One of the festival’s biggest press conferences was for Clint Eastwood and his film Changeling. Big ups to STV for getting Clint on the record as a Libertarian. Oy.
One of the NYFF’s charms is the intimate nature of the Press and Industry environment. Here, Darren Aronofsky answers some questions in the Furman Gallery after a screening of The Wrestler.
Jia Zhang Ke and NYFF Selection Committee Member Kent Jones after the conference for 24 City.
Selection Committee Member Lisa Schwarzbaum and Director Matteo Garrone discuss Gomorrah.
Selection Committee Member Kent Jones looks on as Lucrecia Martel answers questions about her great new film The Headless Woman.
Mickey Rouke pauses for the cause after the screening of Darren Aronofsky’s amazing new film, The Wrestler. I can’t wait to write about this; I have a LOT of experience as a mark for the professional wrestling…
The absolute highlight of the entire press conference experience was Mike Leigh’s introduction after the screening of Happy Go Lucky. Dripping with sarcasm, he said, and I’m paraphrasing here, how excited he was to be at the conference because he looks forward to the New York Film Festival Press Conferences every time, as this is the place where he is always asked the best questions. Truer sarcasm has never been spoken; I sometimes think it is ironic that the people running the press conferences are on a “Selection Committee”: they always choose the same five people who sit in the front rows and ask the same questions over and over. Sometimes, these folks just stick a hand in the air, knowing that when they’re called on, they have a good 2-3 minutes of ass kissing at their disposal in order to talk their way into an improvised question. This experience can be deeply embarassing, actually. This is the best we can do, New York? Mike Leigh threw down a “no bullshit” gauntlet, and from where I was sitting, laughs of recognition were very audible (okay, I’m guilty!).
I had a chance to chat one on one with Olivier Assayas for a minute after the conference for the lovely Summer Hours and was able to talk with him about the film’s relationship to Les Destinees Sentimental and L’eau Froide. I’ll include his thoughts in my write up of the film later this year, but it was great to have a chance to meet him.
The very generous Richard Peña, Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Richard’s vision has guided the New York Film Festival for, what, twenty years now, is it? I really admire the programming staff of the Film Society, but I’m sort of eager to see how their new theaters allow them to mix up the structure at the NYFF in coming years… Changes brewing?
Press conference highlight 1a: Sergei Dvortsevoy’s “ruminations” on comedy in his great film Tulpan.
Questioner: Blah blah blah…(improvising yet another non-question)… What are your thoughts on comedy in this film?
Dvortsevoy: What are you asking?
Questioner: blah blah blah… that scene with the camels…
Dvortsevoy: Did you find that funny?
Dvortsevoy: Me too.
Me(to self): Victory!!!!
Catherine Deneuve and Arnaud Desplechin at the conference for A Christmas Tale. I have seen the film three times this autumn and it grows deeper with each viewing. I had a chance to talk with Arnaud this past week for an interview that will appear in a few places on-line this November. Again, I am smitten with this film; As I’ve said so many times before, Desplechin is my favorite working filmmaker and it was a huge thrill to talk with him (looks like I need to read up on my Talmud… more on that in the interview…). That said, Catherine Deneuve doesn’t seem too happy with me here. Is that… scorn? Ouch.
Finally, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jeanne Berney, Steve Grenyo and the entire Press and Industry staff at the Film Society of Lincoln Center for all of their hard work and generosity in once again having me as a guest at the festival. Also, I can’t say enough good things about the staff at the Walter Reade Theater who made the experience so professional the entire month (yes, month) that I was shuffling up to Lincoln Center.