ENJOY THE MOVIES
Philippe Lacôte's Night of the Kings follows a young pickpocket in his first night at the "MACA", one of the main prisons in Abidjan, the largest city in the Ivory Coast. As the Ivory Coast's entry for International Feature Film at this upcoming Academy Awards, Night of the Kings has the power and storytelling to inject its reality into the category. First-time actor Koné Bakary plays wide-eyed, unassured Roman, the name of the selected storyteller during the red moon, a real-life tradition still enacted at the MACA. Picked by the prison's de facto leader, "Blackbeard" (Steve Tientcheu), Roman must tell a story for the duration of the night, with failure resulting in the price of his life. In a film with high stakes and visible violence, Night of the Kings unfurls like a ballad, an ode to the weight and humanity of storytelling, and the need for tradition.
The first shot of Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili's debut feature Beginning settles into the back of a small chapel. Patrons waft in and sit on either side of the aisle, with men taking up the majority of the right side, and women and children on the left of the frame. The pastor, or church leader, begins talking about Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, and the sacrifices we all must make in reverence to God. The back door opens and an unseen person throws in a Molotov cocktail of sorts, lighting the back of the chapel on fire, barricading the doors so the churchgoers can't escape. The screams and general panic sets in, though the camera remains unflinched, an objective observer staying just far enough away from the action.
Just when I think we've seen every story about World War II that could be told, every story about the horrors of the holocaust, every story about all the different participants in that war, along comes a film that proves that once again how unbelievable it all was and how many stories there are still to tell. Son of Saul is one of this year's films set during WWII, specifically set at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp near the end of the war. It follows, literally, a Hungarian Jewish man named Saul around the camp as he works as a "Sonderkommando", an insider who helps the Germans at the camp carrying out their mass murdering in exchange for an extended life at the camp. This film is harrowing, hard to watch at times, but a masterpiece - and I'm talking about this being a best of the decade kind of film, not just best of the year.
This is Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' best film yet. Maybe it's because it's his first film in English, but also because the film is an insanely ingenious indictment of modern romance and relationships told in an utterly fascinating way. The Lobster is a drama starring Colin Farrell set in a very odd sort of reality, one where those who are single and not in a relationship are turned into an animal after 45 days (if they don't find someone else in that time). The concept, which is fun to describe, is brilliantly executed by Yorgos Lanthimos and his ensemble of actors. It's the kind of film that if taken seriously, won't be liked, but as long as you don't forget to laugh at every little thing that they're poking fun at, it is so easy to caught up in this.
It's that time of year again, already. The fall festivals are gearing up for their season, and one of the big ones is the New York Film Festival - about to celebrate its 53rd year. The festival has revealed their official poster for the NYFF53, designed by artist Laurie Anderson. The design features a striking piece of art contained within red borders, along with all the other text and info for this year's fest. Anderson joins a long list of prestigious NYFF poster artists including the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Julian Schnabel, Cindy Sherman, and, last year's artist, Laurie Simmons. Take a closer look in full below.
It's official. The New York Film Festival has announced the film that will be playing as the Closing Night Feature at this year's 53rd festival, beginning this fall. The film is Don Cheadle's directorial debut, Miles Ahead, in which Cheadle plays legendary musician Miles Davis. We posted a first look photo last year, and have been waiting for an update ever since. The opening night film was selected as Robert Zemeckis' The Walk, and the rest of the line-up will be revealed closer to the opening on September 25th. Don Cheadle stated: "I am happy that the selection committee saw fit to invite us to the dance. It's very gratifying that all the hard work that went into the making of this film, from every person on the team, has brought us here."
Along comes a documentary that may change your life by showing humanity in its most honest form. That documentary is called Citizenfour, with that title coming from the username Edward Snowden used to initially contact reporter/filmmaker Laura Poitras, who put this together over the last year. The footage she shows, the story she tells, it's as if they have captured lightning in a bottle. Citizenfour is like watching history unfold in front of your eyes, showing Snowden before and after he was revealed to the public as the whistleblower behind the NSA's mass surveillance conspiracy. Except it's not a conspiracy. It's out there, it exists, it's real. This documentary captures what happens when one person tries to tell the world the truth.
Is this what happens when you get too high? Perhaps. Over the weekend, the New York Film Festival hosted the world premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, Inherent Vice, starring Joaquin Phoenix as "Doc" Sportello, the stoner private detective character from Thomas Pynchon's novel of the same name. A very faithful adaptation, the film is a smoke-filled mystery that unfurls like Chinatown if Jake kept getting stoned every five minutes. Set in Los Angeles in the 1970s, the look and feel is spot on – it's like they made this in the 70s and time traveled forward to 2014 just to premiere it. But does it make any sense? Not really.
Over this past weekend, filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson showed up in New York City for the premiere of his latest film Inherent Vice at the 52nd New York Film Festival. In addition to participating in a rather lackluster press conference afterwards, PTA also participated in a discussion event the next day where he spoke for over an hour about all kinds of different subjects. One topic that kept coming up was the film vs. digital battle, as PTA is one of the few still advocating and using film, and Inherent Vice was one of the only films at this year's NYFF showing (once) in 35mm. "That should just be how it is, nothing should go away" he explained, advocating that we should embrace digital AND 35mm, and not phase one out for the other.
To live. To fly. To be free. Why is it that the people who live on the edge seem to be the most inspiring? Because they are thrill-seekers, they are the ones who know that the best life is one lived without worry, without fear, without the concerns that society forces upon us. They live with an open mind, a big heart, an appreciation for this planet. They know that genuine thrills make the heart beat faster; thrills remind us that we are still alive, we're still breathing, and that we should make the most of it. I love films that capture this feeling in ways that can't be easily described. Marah Strauch's Sunshine Superman is one of those films that is exciting, moving, heartfelt, but above all it's inspiring to watch. Because it's about inspiring people.
"There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job." It's very refreshing, and admittedly exciting, to watch a young filmmaker's career take off over the course of a year. At the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014, the very first film I screened was Whiplash from writer/director Damien Chazelle. It blew me away. Now, almost 10 months later, the film is still playing strong at the New York Film Festival where I caught it for a second time. Over the last year it has also played at Cannes, Toronto, Deauville, Helsinki, Busan, and plenty of other films festivals/events/premieres all over the world earning rave reviews wherever it shows up. It deserves that praise because it truly is an outstanding, inspiring film.
The evil genius returns. David Fincher has thrown the doors to the bedroom of modern society wide open, showing us how deceptive and twisted some people in this world can be - the "ugly truth" has been revealed. His latest film is Gone Girl, an adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel about a married couple: Nick and Amy Dunne. Closer to Zodiac or Fight Club in tone and style rather than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher's Gone Girl starts out as a mystery, evolves into a dark comedy, and twists itself around a self-reflective look at the follies and fallacies of the American dream.