On this edition of the podcast, we report on the recent New York Film Festival.
0:00 Intro: Correction and Preview of the Speed Round
4:22 New York Film Festival '07
5:02 - Silent Light (Reygadas)
9:06 - Paranoid Park (Van Sant)
15:08 - The Man From London (Tarr)
18:42 - Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou)
25.18 - Go Go Tales (Ferrara)
28:19 - In the City of Sylvia (Guerín)
33:47 - avant-garde, celebs, and recap
36:17 DVD Pick
Next Time: A year-end speed round, with reviews of I'm Not There, The Savages, My Kid Could Paint That, and quick reviews of nearly a dozen other new films that are in theaters now or will be soon.
• our earlier podcast about Hou Hsiao-hsien.
• observations and questions from Girish about the film by Jose Luis Guerín.
• Balance, by Wolfgang & Christoph Lauenstein, the German animated short that I kept thinking of while watching Béla Tarr's The Man From London:
Another enoyable 'cast, guys. I'm surprised neither of you had seen Lamorisse's the Red Balloon; it must have been foisted on me in elementary school at least once a year, and it definitely qualified as my favorite 'filmstrip' at least until I was shown a version of Shirley Jackson's the Lottery as a buddingly cynical middle schooler. Other than that, I don't think I've seen any of the films you mentioned besides Balance and, from the NYFF slate, Silent Light. I got to speak to Reygadas about the final shot, and though he didn't divulge much, he did confirm my suspicion that there was some kind of compositing going on there.
Looking forward to the next discussion...
I wish I'd seen The Red Balloon when I was a kid, but if I did, I don't remember it.
I mentioned to Acquarello when I was in New York that the opening and closing of Silent Light reminded me of Michael Snow's Wavelength in the sense that there are two (or more) timelines overlapping to create the illusion of one timeline. The slow dolly-in and the realistic movement of the grass in Silent Light are at odds with the speed of the rising and setting sun, in the same way that the actors in Wavelength, moving at normal speed, are at odds with the slow zoom and day-night cycle.
Man, I'd have been into The Lottery in middle school -- I was just discovering Ray Bradbury's short story "The Veldt" -- but that's another one I haven't seen. Wonder what else I've missed.
Among the movies that I didn't mention seeing at NYFF was a beautiful 60-minute film by Peter Hutton called At Sea which is now showing up on the year-end lists of discriminating film watchers. I didn't mention it because I was only able to see the first half; a frustrating scheduling conflict put this film up against In the City of Sylvia. A tough call, and I took a strategy that allowed me to see the most minutes total of these two films while seeing one of them in full and the beginning of both.
That is, I came ashore and raced to the city of Sylvia.
The half that I saw reminded me very much of Nathaniel Dorsky's films, a series of static shots assembled with a visual rhythm. Hutton's rhythm is simpler, built around perfect framing and repetitions, where Dorsky is always striving to keep his films from "collapsing into meaning."
See Darren Hughes' thoughts on At Sea, and note that our exchange in the comments on his site is what drove me to this tortured schedule.
Errors of commerce:
Or, what's in a name:
1) In Nicole Brenez's article about Go Go Tales to which I linked above — and which compares the movie to two other films that connect a man's worth to his economic status, The Shop Around the Corner and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie — she says this:
The threat here is property, the transformation of the club into a cosmetics boutique — which is a kind of summary of Manhattan’s transformation, under Rudolph Giuliani, into a commercial centre.
Her interpretation seems correct to me, but it's culturally a tad imprecise, since Bed Bath and Beyond is not a "cosmetics boutique" but a kind of home super store, like Wal-Mart, slightly nicer, slightly narrower, but just as flavorless. The transformation is starker than Brenez thinks. BB&B is the face of corporate commerce in America, as difficult to wedge into a pedestrian-centered neighborhood as a store could be, and once a pedestrian is inside, she could be anywhere in the US, any town with more than 50,000 people. Spin her around in that land of plastic, plush bedding, and excellent bargains and she'd forget she's in Manhattan.
2) There's a scene in The Flight of the Red Balloon where Juliette Binoche comes home late and explains where she's been. Working, etc. And according to the English subtitles she "stopped to see Richard," some character we've never heard of. But really she stopped at a chocolate store called Richart, and she has the bag to prove it. It's a slight error in the subtitles (by Kent Jones?), but it alters the development of the character a bit: she's late, but at least she brought chocolates vs. she's late, and she stopped to see some dude nobody cares about.
Ergo) Cultural literacy fine-tunes a movie, and corporate trademarks are our cultural touchstones.
Speaking of character development in Hou's film, I really enjoyed the article by Kent Jones in Cinema Scope in which he says this:
Many of the people who disliked Hou’s film spoke admiringly of Binoche’s performance, as if it existed in some kind of vacuum. On the contrary, it’s the precise emotional and physical layout, coupled with Hou’s subtle, seemingly discreet yet attentive long takes, that allows her presence to register with such force. If the cinematic syntax and grammar had been any less fluid, Binoche’s performance would have come off like a jewel in a rough setting. Conversely, if the action had been less precisely mapped, she would have been nothing more than the most dramatic in an array of flavors. As it is, director and actress have collaborated to create something extraordinary.
Darn! Spared the Ferrara anecdote, huh? It seemed as though everyone we ran into at NYFF had one. :)
Good call on the cultural connotation of BB&B, Rob. Exactly, instead of a strip club, they're getting a strip mall anchor, a ubiquitous, one size fits all megawarehouse that can be found in any suburb. Having grown up in NYC, I'm pretty shocked to see stores like K-mart, Home Depot, and Target sprout up just in the last decade in New York. That, the proliferation of Starbucks (as if you couldn't get good coffee in the city before), along with the Disneyfication of Times Square under Giuliani represents a kind of blanding of the city that was probably in the back of Ferrara's mind when he made the film.
All I know is that I've never seen a director shushed so much at his own screening. And I loved the way he heckled the promo reel for the Film Society of Lincoln Center: "Too many pitchers of Scorsese!"
And the way he took the stage before the screening, paced back and forth, and muttered something about Barack Obama. Willem Dafoe raised his eyebrows and said, I'm just here to support Abel, as if to say, don't ask me to control him.
Yeah, I loved the stories of the pre-pre-show antics, too, and the cell phone photos to prove they were true. My favorite bit, if I remember correctly, went something like this:
- Abel: "Start the movie! This is my movie! Yo, Tony, start the movie!"
- Walter Reade employee: "First of all, who the hell is Tony?"
- Acquarello: "Probably the projectionist ... in 1973."
Oh, and I have to say that despite my snotty attitude toward BB&B above, even though I'm an urbanite who rarely drives I've made more trips to Target and BB&B in recent months (for baby items) than I can count on two hands. I love/hate 'em.
Ha! There was also: "She doesn't need a ticket, she's Grace Jones!" :)
Yup, guilty here too. For all my griping, I never seem to be able to leave Target empty handed. And as a tinkerer, Home Depot has been a godsend over the local hardware store where everything is on pegboards from floor to ceiling, so you couldn't reach about 2/3 of the merchandise, you couldn't rummage through fastener drawers and would have to ask for every nut and bolt, and if you needed anything in metric, you were basically out of luck.
Oh dear! Endorsements of big box retailers from respected cinephiles! What's next, a paean to stadium seating?
(I fear an upcoming turn to the dark side myself; my new housemate has a Costco membership!)
Thanks for linking to the Lottery, Rob. Nice to see it again after all these years! It would be interesting if someone could do the some research on EBEC and figure out the name of the person who directed the short, uncredited. Not me though, at least not right now.
Based on some recent Googling, I believe the short was directed by Larry Yust.
I'm actually persuaded by Peter Calthorpe that there are reasonable ways to integrate the large, cheap, convenient stores that people seem to like with urban, human-scale environments. He wrote a book called The Next American Metropolis that has lots of real-world examples. Unfortunately, even here, smack in the middle of San Francisco, the nearby Best Buy is surrounded by acres of parking lot, just like the Best Buys in Springfield, Missouri.
But I've always wondered: does the term "big box retailer" refer to the building or to the items people are buying there?
Oh, and I like stadium seating, too. Unless they decide to put it in the Castro or something (yikes).
Désolée, but no: she says she has been to Richard, i.e. a big wine store chain, in order to get her guest's (and lawyer's) favourite wine (as shown).
Actually, if you're familiar with the Richart chain of chocolate stores, you'll recognize the bag she's carrying right away -- the gray square logo on white -- but if you're not, you have to wait until she repositions the bag late in the scene to see the word "Richart" clearly. Once I get my hands on the DVD, I'll post a screen grab. It looks like this bag that I have.
However, my French is so poor that I can't tell the difference between "chez Richard" and "chez Richart" -- I had to rely on familiar visual cues -- so you may be right about what she says, even though it's obvious that she's been to Richart as well.
So the point remains: she came bearing treats for the guests and did not stop to see Richard as the subtitles say.
Not a big deal. Just a fun detail.