The 39th New York Film Festival

Saturday, September 25

Rien sur Robert (Pascal Bonnitzer) [C, with a caveat]
First, the caveat. I saw Rien sur Robert in what has got to be the single worst seat in Alice Tully Hall, Box Seat B021, where I had the "privilege" of paying $14 to see Robert in approximately Academy ratio, as I had to strain my neck in an attempt to catch enough subtitles so I could get a rough idea of what was going on.[1] (Yes, I'm just a wee bit bitter.) What was going on was a bad French imitation of a Woody Allen comedy; one where an immensely attractive (if highly neurotic) French brunette throws herself at the feet of the shy, hangdog, and equally neurotic film critic who's the film's "hero". This, I'm certain, happens all the time in real life.

Sunday, September 26

License to Live (Kiyoshi "Not-Akira" Kurosawa) [C+]
A film that plays far better in the mind than on the screen, since its thematic thrust only becomes apparent near the end culminating in a low-key but surprisingly poignant final scene. Until then, most of the film is a crashing bore as our Rip Van Winkle's behavior is just as somnolent out of a coma as in it. Of course, that may be part of Kurosawa's point; only when he decides to stop recreating his past and go into the bold unknown future does our protagonist show signs of life.

Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki) [B]
"The greatest animated film of all time?" Um, no. Don't get me wrong; despite a lot of flaws, Mononoke is a good film. But I get the strong suspicion that a lot of ludicrous claims are going to be made for it by zealous anime fans; any claims about its "adult" nature, in particular, are nuts since the film is only marginally more sophisticated than Star Wars. Like that film, Mononoke is rich in spectacle and setting; the opening scene where our hero, Prince Ashitaka, saves his village from a rampaging boar demon covered in writhing worms is a stunner, and the other action set pieces that follow are equally thrilling. However, its characterization (with one exception) is bland and generic and not helped in the Americanized version by generally terrible voice acting (Billy Bob Thornton, in particular, is atrocious). The exception is Lady Eboshi, the boss of Irontown, whose aims seems more misguided than evil, and oddly enough, strikes me as the most sympathetic character in the movie.

Saturday, October 2

Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze) [A-]
Arguably the weirdest American film ever made featuring major actors. Unlike many wannabe cult films (such as the awful Buckaroo Banzai), however, there's an actual point to its weirdness besides hipsterism. I found the last reel weak as the film tries to provide an explanation (lunacy needs no explanation) for its strange goings-on, but I'll save further thoughts for when I see it again.

Sunday, October 3

Rosetta (Jean and Luc-Pierre Dardenne) [C+]

Saturday, October 9

The Woman Chaser (Robinson Devor) [B]

[1]Judging from the rest of my tickets, my seat for Holy Smoke looks equally bad. I may wait for theatrical release on that one.