Lessons from the NY Film Festival
Each year the New York Film Festival showcases the magic that movies create on screen. This year’s 53rd edition offers important lessons about six ingredients that moviemakers should include in their recipes. Take a look.
#1: A movie needs a director’s vision: Carol
From its opening moments, Todd Haynes’ sublime movie Carol whisks us away to a different New York City than we know today. As Haynes beautifully reveals, the Manhattan of 1952 still reels from the tension of World War II before the prosperity of the decade kicks in. That tension reaches anyone who dares to pursue an unconventional relationship, such as the two women perfectly portrayed by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Haynes slowly reveals what it takes for people to accept a truth that others may not be ready to handle.
#2: A movie needs a daring approach: Steve Jobs
Someday, someone will write a movie about how Aaron Sorkin tells stories in imaginative ways. On television, he invented the “walk and talk” conversation in The West Wing and, on film, looked behind the curtain of Facebook in the Oscar-winning The Social Network. Sorkin sets a new creative standard with his approach to the story of Apple’s legendary leader. Rather than follow traditional biopic patterns, Sorkin breaks the rules to focus on three essential chapters in Jobs’ life. And, in Michael Fassbender, he finds an actor who can grasp the subtleties of nuance.
#3: A movie needs a strong story: Brooklyn
The rich narrative of this adaptation of Colm Tóibín's novel reminds us of a time when movies consistently told complex stories with efficiency and restraint. Anyone looking for exaggerated situations, computer-generated effects or tasteless humor will be disappointed to discover a simple, credible and tasteful film that simply tells a story about people who want find their way home. Saoirse Ronan is radiant as a young woman from Ireland who, in the early 1950s, finds her way to a new country, neighborhood and life. Hopefully, this quiet movie will not get lost when released in theaters in early November.
#4: A movie needs a dream: Miles Ahead
As astonishing as Don Cheadle’s recreation of a chapter of Miles Davis’ life – also bypassing a traditional approach to a biopic – what the actor/director/writer achieved over eight years to get the movie made is just as impressive. At a question-and-answer session at the festival, Cheadle described how, at one point, he used crowdsourcing to ask people to help finance the film. Because so many believed in his project, Cheadle secured the funds to complete the movie. And anyone who sees it when it opens in 2016 will be grateful.
#5: A movie needs surprise: Where to Invade Next
Over the years, we have learned to expect the outrageous from documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. He first gained attention for taking General Motors to task in Roger & Me, after which he examined senseless school killings in the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine and controversial military action in Fahrenheit 9/11. But Moore is rather jolly in his new film, Where to Invade Next, a light-hearted look at the ideas America should borrow from other countries. Suddenly the man who use film to argue seems satisfied to simply make us think.
Even though this year’s New York Film Festival has ended, the work of the Film Society at Lincoln Center continues throughout the year. Go to filmlinc.org for details about ongoing programming.
Todd Haynes Tribute
With his breathtaking work in Carol, director Todd Haynes reminds us what a truly independent filmmaker can accomplish on screen. This November, the Film Society of Lincoln Center in Manhattan pays tribute to the director with a comprehensive look at the wide range of work he has created in just six films. In addition to showcasing Haynes’ films, the director pairs his titles with some of his favorite films. Take a look.
Far From Heaven (2002)
With Carol, Haynes returns to the 1950s, a decade he beautifully explores in this meticulous look at the morales and movies of the period. Using the films of director Douglas Sirk as his contextual reference, Haynes creates an original story about what happens when people lose their ability to sustain impossible illusions. Julianne Moore delivers a lovely portrayal of a sheltered woman who quickly learns how chilly the world can be when others fail to understand. At the Lincoln Center retrospective, this film will be paired with The Reckless Moment on November 27 and 29.
I’m Not There (2007)
Carol reunites Haynes with Cate Blanchett who immerses herself into the persona of Bob Dylan in this unconventional look at the songwriter’s life. Rather than follow the traditions of the musical biopic, Haynes uses six actors to look at the myth and the man through several lenses. The result is an unforgettable tribute to the director’s imagination as well as the subject’s endurance. Most impressive is the natural consistency between the various interpretations the actors bring to the role. The film will be paired with the documentary Eat the Document on November 27 and 29.
Before Far From Heaven, Haynes and Julianne Moore teamed to explore the power of denial in this unflinching look at the toxicity of a suburban lifestyle. Under Haynes’ direction, the actress naturally submerges her personality to pursue the deep layers of a woman’s challenge to accept her realities. Through her eyes, Haynes creates a frightening world where the need to be accepted becomes a reason to get out of bed every day. And, because Haynes refuses to tie up all the loose ends, he leaves us realizing that some truth can’t be resolved. Joining the film at Lincoln Center will be Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life on November 20.
Mildred Pierce (2011)
Without any concern that audiences might object, Haynes departs from the memories of the 1945 film version of the James Cain novel to create this piercing tale of a woman’s obsession with material gain. While Joan Crawford turned the lead character into a cartoon view of ambition, Haynes directs Kate Winslett to pursue a more thoughtful approach, as they focus on the tragedy of Mildred rather than the victims in her path. The result is a heartbreaking take on the cost of success and the impact of parenthood. Alan J. Pakula’s Klute will pair with Mildred Pierce on November 26.
For details and tickets about the Todd Haynes series, go to filmlinc.org. Showings will be at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.