40th Annual “New Directors/New Films” Series

Jeremy Irons in "Margin Call," part of "New Directors/New Films" at MOMA and the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center

From March 23 – April 3 the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 40th annual “New Directors/New Films” series.  The series will screen 28 feature length films (24 narrative, four documentary) and seven shorts.  The films will represent 24 countries.  The screening venues will be MOMA and the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center.

Of the “New Directors/New Films” selections that I was able to screen, my favorite, as of press time, was “Margin Call,” directed by first time feature film director J.C. Chandor.  “Margin Call” will be the series’ opening night film.

“Oh Jesus, you know I can’t read these things. Just tell me.”  “Speak as you would to a young child.”  These two quotes from “Margin Call” encapsulate what make it a unique and fascinating film.  The story is about the start of the 2008 financial collapse told from the point of view of a fictional Wall Street investment firm.  As the two quotes illustrate, “Margin Call” does not deluge us with jargon, figures and financial “speak,” things which even the firm’s head, John Tuld, played by Jeremy Irons, admits he does not understand.

“Margin Call” concerns the human toll taken on a company that realizes it is on the verge of ruin and spends a night figuring out how to survive and apportion blame.  The story is about the moral choices that its characters make, or do not make.  As the night goes on the tension is ratcheted up as the enormity of what the company is up against becomes more and more apparent.

Chandor has written and directed what could have become, in lesser hands, a photographed play.  Films like “Margin Call” are difficult to pull off.  They take place in a limited number of locations and are dialogue heavy.  Part of what makes the difference here is that Chandor, whose father worked for Merrill Lynch for nearly 40 years, has an intimate knowledge and deep understanding of the inhabitants of the world of finance.  As a result, Chandor is able to get beyond the jargon, feeding us just enough to stay with the story, while placing his emphasis on the human element.  “Margin Call” also has a first rate cast that, in addition to Irons, includes Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore and Paul Bettany.

Although fiction, “Margin Call” may do for our current financial crises what “The Social Network” did for facebook.  Each film presents the human element behind something which has become part of our culture, for better or worse.

For more information on “New Directors/New Films” visit www.filmlinc.com or http://www.moma.org.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on March 13, 2011, in Feature Articles, New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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