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cinemadaily | NYFF: Critics React at Fest’s Mid-Point

cinemadaily | NYFF: Critics React at Fest's Mid-Point

As the New York Film Festival heads into its second week, a look at what critics have been saying about this year’s festival and what you can look forward to in the week ahead:

Describing Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” the New York Times’ Stephen Holden notes that the film “catches the grim mood of a festival in which relentless depictions of hell on earth (psychological, physical and spiritual) are more prolific than in any year I can remember. Other second-week festival films that drift into sulfurous climes include the Israeli war movie ‘Lebanon’; the French religious film ‘Hadewijch’; the festival’s official centerpiece, ‘Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire’; and Harmony Korine’s Dadaist vaudeville show, ‘Trash Humpers.'”

Holden concludes that “Without such provocations this wouldn’t be the New York Film Festival. And this year they exist on every level. From the grand, apocalyptic pretensions of ‘Antichrist’ to the nihilistic pranks of ‘Trash Humpers,’ there is something for every cineaste; for the mainstream moviegoer, maybe not.”

Indeed, indieWIRE’s Eugene Hernandez writes that “Over the years [NYFF has] earned the reputation of being an event more for insiders than the everyday New Yorker. Its annual lineup of typically challenging international cinema can narrow its appeal even more… The Film Society of Lincoln Center survived considerable change over the past year and still seems to be solidly engaging finicky crowds and continuing a reputation for showcasing arty, often quite challenging new cinema.”

Marshall Fine takes a hard stance at his blog, calling NYFF “the oat bran of film festivals, full of fiber and boasting little real flavor… With its contrarian, over-intellectualized approach, the NYFF has become the ‘we know best’ festival, full of films that no one – except the selection committee and the people who actually made the movies – will ever care about.”

Meanwhile, Howard Feinstein at Filmmaker Magazine has an overview of the films being showcased in the festival’s second half, noting that “nearly every one deals with families, traditional or alternative, and these families are not fun: They are disrupted and/or disruptive. What drives the dramas are the underlying causes of the dysfunction, and how they are manifest. Not that this is a minus in my book, but these movies are depressing.”

Feinstein also writes that “The best are European: Frenchman Bruno Dumont’s ‘Hadewijch’; Austrian Michael Haneke’s ‘The White Ribbon,’ a German production; Maren Ade’s ‘Everyone Else,’ also from Germany; and, from Great Britain, the ‘Red Riding’ trilogy, its separate sections directed by Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, and Anand Tucker.”

Also coming up in the festival’s second half is the annual showcase Views From the Avant-Garde. Among the offerings for this year, The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis highlights legendary Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Rage by Pasolini,” which Dargis describes as a “passionate tour of the frenzied spectacles of the 20th century — with stops in Italy and France, as well as in Hungary and Korea — that Pasolini characterized as ‘an act of indignation against the unreality of the bourgeois world and the historical irresponsibility to which it gives rise.’ Using existing documentary and newsreel images shot by anonymous others, Pasolini rewrote history through montage.”

“‘Rage by Pasolini’ is just one of some 60 films and videos stuffed into the avant-garde series, which was programmed by Gavin Smith, editor of Film Comment, and Mark McElhatten,” Dargis notes. “Among the offerings is a tribute to Chick Strand, the West Coast experimental filmmaker who died in July; ‘a three-projector performance’ by Bruce McClure; and works from the avant-garde stars Ken Jacobs, Leslie Thornton, Ernie Gehr, Abigail Child, Lewis Klahr and Peggy Ahwesh.”

If you’re looking to catch up on the reviews coming out of this year’s NYFF, refer to the archives at Reverse Shot, Slant Magazine, The L Magazine, and indieWIRE. You can also check out indieWIRE’s critics poll.

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