Category Archives: New York Film Festival 2011

“On Cinema: Alexander Payne” at New York Film Festival

Director Alexander Payne

On October 15 the New York Film Festival presented “On Cinema: Alexander Payne,” in which the director (“Election,” “About Schmidt,” “Sideways” and the soon to be released “The Descendants”) talked about influential films in his life.  The event was sponsored by HBO, moderated by NYFF Selection Committee Chairman Richard Pena and took place in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.

Payne proved to be an affable, frank and intelligent subject who frequently turned Pena’s questions around, playfully shooting them back at his interviewer.  Interspersed throughout the talk, Payne showed clips from four influential films: Anthony Mann’s “The Naked Spur,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s “La Notte,” Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” and Akira Kurosawa’s “Red Beard.”  Payne also brought a 16m print of an early film by director Carroll Ballard, “The Perils of Priscilla,” a lively, imaginative short which showed the world from the point of view of an abandoned house cat.  Payne said it was one of the best movies ever made. Read the rest of this entry

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“The Gold Rush” at New York Film Festival

The Little Tramp eats his shoe in "The Gold Rush."

On Monday October 10, the New York Film Festival showed a restored print of Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 silent feature “The Gold Rush,” with musical accompaniment provided by members of the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of conductor and composer Timothy Brock.  The event took place at Alice Tully Hall.

I had not seen “The Gold Rush” in many years and did not consider it to be one of Chaplin’s stronger films.  However, seeing the film in such a sparkling print, on a huge screen and accompanied by members of a world class orchestra made all the difference.  The magical thing about seeing a silent movie with great musical accompaniment, is that moment when image and music become one and, for a while, you forget that there are even musicians playing a score.  By the way, “silent” movies were never silent.  At best they were accompanied by an orchestra and, at the lower end, by a single pianist. Read the rest of this entry

“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” at New York Film Festival

(from left to right) director Bruce Sinofsky, subject Damien Echols and director Joe Berlinger.

On Monday October 10, the New York Film Festival hosted the world premiere of “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,” the new documentary directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. The event took place at Alice Tully Hall.

Richard Pena, Chairman of the Selection Committee, for the festival, introduced the film by saying that this was going to be an extraordinary evening that we would not forget.  He was right.   Not only did “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” prove to be an incredible finish to the “Paradise Lost” films, but the evening featured the first public appearance by the Memphis Three: Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin.  They were just released from prison this past August after having served nearly 20 years for a crime they did not commit.  It was mind boggling to think that just two months ago Echols was on death row, while Misskelley and Baldwin were serving life sentences, and now they were all here at Lincoln Center.  Sheila Nevins, head of HBO Documentaries, who stuck with the project for nearly 20 years, believing in the innocence of the three men said, “It was our job to keep going and going until one day they could be at the film festival at Lincoln Center.”  Following the screening, the three men, along with the filmmakers and Nevins, received a well deserved, sustained, standing ovation. Read the rest of this entry

“Pina” at New York Film Festival

I am not going to claim to have been able to understand and appreciate  everything that was going on in German director Wim Wendors’ new 3-D documentary “Pina,” which will be shown at the New York Film Festival on Saturday, October 15.  Perhaps being concerned with “understanding” is not the point of this colorful, vibrant, thrilling and wonderfully confusing film about the late German choreographer, dancer, teacher and director, Pina Bausch.

Yes, I know many readers may groan when I mention “3-D,” a term which has, by now, become a cliché as well as a negative, pop-cultural punch line.  In its defense I must point out that “Pina” uses 3-D in a manner that is intelligent, justified and brilliantly artistic.  In fact the only other recent 3-D film to which “Pina” can be compared, for its innovative use of the format, is Werner Herzog’s documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”  Granted the two films, in terms of their respective subject matters and techniques, are wildly different.

Dancers recreate the choreography of Pina Bausch in Wim Wenders' new documentary "Pina."

As I know next to nothing about dance, or choreographers, the best I could do was watch the highly original dance pieces as presented by the dancers who worked with Pina.  Her work, to me, seemed to be a cross between ballet and modern dance with interesting innovations thrown in. For example, in “Café Muller” the dancers interact with chairs and tables.  In “Rite of Spring” the stage floor is covered completely in earth.  The dance pieces have been beautifully staged for this film.  Many of them take place outdoors, in parks and, in one case, even on a moving tram.  They have been gorgeously shot, employing deep focus cinematography, which compliments the 3-D technology. Read the rest of this entry

“Carnage” Opens New York Film Festival

Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet, in "Carnage."

The opening night film for the 49th New York Film Festival, on Friday, September 30 was director Roman Polanski’s “Carnage.”  The event took place at Alice Tully Hall.  Cast members Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly were in attendance, as was playwright Yasmina Reza.

“Carnage” is the movie version of the hit Broadway play “God of Carnage,” by French playwright Reza.  I was fortunate enough to catch one of the last performances of “God of Carnage” with its original Broadway cast still in tact: James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden and Hope Davis.   Read the rest of this entry

“Ben-Hur” restored at New York Film Festival

Charlton Heston in "Ben-Hur."

The most exciting film that I have seen, so far, at the 49th New York Film Festival, is 52 years old.  On Saturday, October 1 the New York Film Festival presented a stunning, digitally restored and projected screening of director William Wyler’s 1959 wide screen epic “Ben-Hur,” starring Charlton Heston. The screening was at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center.   Read the rest of this entry

49th New York Film Festival (Part I)

Life is rough in "The Turin Horse."

The 49th New York Film Festival opens on September 30, at Lincoln Center, and runs through October 16.  As of press time I had attended three press screenings of festival offerings.  While I think it unfair to judge an entire film festival by such a small sampling, I can only report, in my two articles posted today (Parts I and II), on what I have seen.  Two of the three films were “Two Years at Sea” and “The Turin Horse.” Read the rest of this entry

49th New York Film Festival (Part II)

Oy, such drama! Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh in "4:44: Last Day on Earth"

The third movie I attended at the press screening for the upcoming New York Film Festival, which runs from September 30 through October 16, at Lincoln Center, is director Abel Ferrara’s “4:44: Last Day on Earth.”  Now, since this is the New York Film Festival, and since they have selected this film to be screened in advance, for the press, one would think they would bring their “A” game, right?  In addition, when one also considers that the festival arranged for a post screening press conference with Ferrara, and lead actress Shanyn Leigh, that this must be a film of which the festival thinks very highly, right?  Well the emperor is not wearing any clothes…and, at points, neither are the film’s protagonists. Read the rest of this entry