Oct 15, 2012

NYFF 2012: The Ones That Got Away

Yesterday was my last day at the 50th New York Film Festival and I was invigorated and not at all tired after 22 movies, perhaps because I saw mostly extraordinary films.
But, as is to be expected, there were some clunkers, all of which my instincts had correctly warned me against. There were no truly offensive movies, but the three French movies I saw (not counting Amour) were very disappointing.
Camille Rewinds by Noemie Lvovsky is a French remake of Peggy Sue Got Married that does not improve on the original. It is rambling and not very disciplined, although it has some funny moments.
About my violent impatience with You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, the latest outing by Alain Resnais, you can read here. It was the worst movie I saw in the festival.
Also disappointing was Olivier Assayas' Something In The Air, an autobiographical account of his radical high school days. Assayas is an energetic, exciting filmmaker, as he amply demonstrated with Carlos, but here he chooses to use sulking non-actors for the main roles and all the energy he puts into the staging, his untalented cast saps from the film, making it extremely tedious. They look the part of French students in the seventies but they are morose, and unintelligible young people without personalities. It's hard to care for their conundrums. Assayas has a great sense of atmosphere and has much to criticize of idiotic student politics, drug use and bad French taste in pop music. As in Carlos, a vastly superior film, he continues coldly skewering dogmatic ideologues with his refreshing lack of patience for antiquated leftist clichés. I'm glad I stayed until the end because the best scene in the film comes late in the movie and involves the shoot of a movie starring Nazis, a prehistoric bimbo and a dinosaur. But it takes Assayas way too long to get to the point; namely, that art and creativity and even working on the cheesiest film on Earth are a better, more genuine calling than being an aimless young French bourgeois toying with ideas of revolution.
Sally Potter, whose films I have never liked, did not disappoint with Ginger and Rosa, which is pretty bad. The only reason I bought tickets was the cast, which promised the great Timothy Spall, Annette Bening, and Oliver Platt, only to waste them in puny roles. The main roles are mostly miscast, with a truly awful Christina Hendricks playing Ginger's mom, Alessandro Nivola, misdirected, playing her dad and a good, lovely Elle Fanning playing Ginger. Why Potter couldn't find actual British actors to play these roles is beyond me, but you could feel the strain in the actors grappling with the accents (with Fanning faring best of all). The movie is an obvious and labored melodrama with artistic pretentions, whose beautiful cinematography reminds one of expensive TV commercials. Potter lets her actors flounder, can't direct her way out of a paper bag, can't stage a scene for the life of her, her scenes are mostly vignettes that end nowhere, and her thesis about a British teenager coming of age in the sixties while obsessed with nuclear annihilation is obvious and strained. The festival's organizers don't do Potter any favors by including such a mediocre, bumbling film amongst such quality company. There were first films by directors from Mexico, China and Israel that showed much more discipline and rigor than this half-baked exercise in melodrama. Ginger and Rosa is like a Mexican soap with fake British accents. Dreadful.
The Dead Man and Being Happy, an Argentinian film by Spanish filmmaker Javier Rebollo, is an interesting concept marred by way too much cleverness. It's a road movie starring an old hit man and a younger woman, who drive around Argentina as he waits to die from three inoperable tumors. There is fun observation of some of Argentina's most endearing quirks, like sheltering Nazis and being always on the verge of development or disaster, usually both at once, but it's all marred by a really annoying, mostly unfunny and unnecessary voiceover narration that aims for drollness but is redundant and pretentious. Still, there is something oddly appealing about the adventure, even if it is contrived. I guess it's the travelogue aspect of it. Nothing that Lucrecia Martel hasn't done a million times better.
Here are our favorite NYFF films top down:

Amour Michael Haneke
Caesar Must Die!  Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
Like Someone in Love Abbas Kiarostami
Beyond The Hills Christian Mungiu
The Gatekeepers Dror Moreh

Barbara Christian Petzold
Tabu Miguel Gomez
Fill The Void Rama Burshtein

Very Good
Frances Ha  Noah Baumbach
Our Children Joachim Lafosse
No Pablo Larrain

Final Cut Gyorgy Palfi
Here and There Antonio Méndez Esparza
Memories, Look at Me Song Fang
Bwakaw Jun Robles Lana

Something in The Air Olivier Assayas
Camille Rewinds Noemi Lvovsky

Annoying, but Interesting
The Dead Man and Being Happy Javier Rebollo
Room 237 Rodney Ascher
Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out, Marina Zenovich

Ginger and Rosa Sally Potter
You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet  Alain Resnais

Stay tuned for more reviews of the Festival coming soon.

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