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  •  FESTIVAL: NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

    An image from Henri-Georges Clouzot's unfinished 1960s film L'Enfer/Inferno. in New York Film Festival
    An image from Henri-Georges Clouzot's unfinished 1960s film "L'Enfer"/"Inferno."

    Some things old, some things new

    The 2009 New York Film Festival pits new directors against the Old Masters. (What do you mean, it isn't a competition?)

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    My colleague Leslie and I enjoy a surprising harmony as we divvy up the offerings before a festival like the New York Film Festival every year. She grabs the Old Masters, with a few of the latest buzz-worthy titles for spice, and leaves me with the bad boys and the young unpredictables, and that's how we both like it.

      
    NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

    Related links: Official site
     RELATED ARTICLES
    New York Film Festival, 2009
    • Overview
    • Antichrist
    • The Art of the Steal
    • Broken Embraces
      • Police, Adjective
    • Precious
    • Wild Grass
    We're in the middle of press screenings now, so we'll see how it ultimately pans out, but I feel like I got the better of the deal. What I'm thinking is, if you are, for example, French elder statesman Alain Resnais (then: "Hiroshima Mon Amour," now: "Wild Grass"), you're going to get an invite and an ovation for your latest film, whether it's truly up to par or not. If you're a total newcomer, like Israeli director Samuel Maoz, you've had to knock people on their ass for your film to get into big-name festivals. It's what have you done for us lately.

    Of the films I've seen, my two favorites are Maoz's in-your-face war story "Lebanon" and Bong Joon-ho's "Mother." "Lebanon" is as simple a premise as you could think of — five guys in an Israeli tank, rumbling through Lebanon in the 1980s and sometimes firing a cannon. Within that minimalist setting, stunning things happen.

    A tank crew in Samuel Maoz's Lebanon. in New York Film Festival  
    A tank crew in Samuel Maoz's "Lebanon."
      
    And "Mother" follows Bong Joon-ho's hit monster movie "The Host" with a film that's really in the spirit of the darkly funny crime thriller "Memories of Murder." As in Bong's dismayingly brilliant 2004 film, it's a movie not only about an inscrutable crime, but also about mood and texture. You might say, art.

    The festival's other highlights (or whatever you want to call them) include two of the most miserable visions possible on film. Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe as an allegorical couple doing excruciatingly realistic damage to each other, in an adult twist on the teen horror genre. And Lee Daniels' "Precious," based on a novel by Sapphire, places its 300-pound heroine in a personal hell about as bad as any you could imagine, challenging her to find a way to the light.

    We'll be adding more as the festival continues. For individual film reviews, see below.

    Festival articles


    Reviews:



      

    Antichrist

    Lars Von Trier transforms the teen-horror genre for adults, creating a grown-up scarefest so severe you might not want to watch it.



      

    The Art of the Steal

    A documentary makes the controversy over moving a bunch of paintings surprisingly interesting — whether you ultimately agree with the outrage or not.



      

    Broken Embraces

    In spite of ever-fabulous leading lady Penelope Cruz, Pedro Almodovar's self-referential movie about a sightless filmmaker is his dullest work ever.



      

    Police, Adjective

    This Romanian cop movie is a two-hour bore, concealing evidence of the clever psychological drama it probably could have been.



      

    Precious

    "Precious," about a teenage mother growing up in the worst extremes of poverty and abuse, is a feelbad movie — with just the tiniest amount of feelgood worked in.



      

    Wild Grass

    Alain Resnais' "Wild Grass" is a could-have-been-hilarious screwball comedy that fizzles as it nears its non-conclusion.

    OCTOBER 1, 2009
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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