At the New York Film Festival, delicate films that go crazy | ET REALITY


Bradley Cooper may still be on strike (solidarity!), but there’s nothing that can stop the New York Film Festival. Over the course of 61 exciting, galvanic and sometimes strange and conflicted years, this institutional stalwart has overcome financial problems, regime changes and unfortunate opening night selections, so there was never any doubt that he would outlast stars of MIA as Cooper and Natalie Portman. As the festival’s longevity and reputation demonstrate, films are about much more than packed red carpets and photo ops.

The festival opens on Friday with “May December,” a Cannes standout that explores what happens when an actress (Portman) meets the woman (Julianne Moore) she is about to play in a biopic. The New York Film Festival invariably takes the cream of previous events, but what matters here is less the premieres than the programming. There are bigger, more prominent and certainly more glamorous festivals, but New York remains a standard-bearer for the arts. It is a necessary response to the grotesqueness of the word “content.”

One of the great satisfactions is its overwhelming and dizzying diversity. There are shorts and features, personal films and historical epics, austere dramas and wide-ranging documentaries, as well as works like Paul B. Preciado’s “Orlando, My Political Biography,” that resist easy categorization. Narrated by Preciado, this sui generis work uses Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel, “Orlando: A Biography,” as a launching pad for a confusing, often funny, intellectually provocative, and ultimately deeply moving investigation of trans identity. It’s one of the essential titles of the festival and I’m looking forward to revisiting it when it premieres in November.

I’m also looking forward to rewatching “Menus-Plaisirs — les Troisgros,” the latest from Frederick Wiseman, a fascinating four-hour portrait of a family, a company, a world. It focuses on the Troisgros, a dynasty of chefs best known for the titular three-Michelin-starred restaurant in central France. Intimate and expansive, the film takes you from the kitchen to the farm fields and back again as it charts the everyday triumphs and frustrations along with the aesthetic and ethical sensibilities of people whose love for their vocation is inscribed in every bite with tweezers. It is a dedication that recalls that of the genius behind the camera, who was born in 1930, the same year that the Troisgros family opened their first restaurant.

Other festival must-sees include “Here,” Bas Devos’ delicate, elegant story about two strangers (a construction worker and a botanist who studies moss) as they first enter each other’s orbit on a bad day. humor in Brussels. Not much happens except everything happens: life, work, maybe love. With an eye for beauty and little talk, Devos makes his characters appear expressively as he follows them separately and then together during their chance meeting in some green woods. Every moment has meaning in this beautiful and unexpected film, starting with the opening image of a tall building framed by lush greenery.

“Pictures of Ghosts,” the latest from Brazilian writer-director Kleber Mendonça Filho (“Bacurau”), is a deeply personal and intricately constructed meditation on, well, everything, though mostly movies or rather his life in and with movies. Divided into three fluid chapters and set at the intersection of documentary and fiction, it focuses in a melancholic but fun way on the department, the city (Recife) and the movie theaters that Mendonça Filho inhabited and that, in turn, sustained him and inspired. There is an elegiac cast in “Pictures of Ghosts” (most of the once-bustling movie theaters are now abandoned, as are their former homes), but the vigor of the filmmaking is a testament to how our loved ones They never really abandon us.

For her estimable feature debut, “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” director Raven Jackson has stripped down to its bones the story of a girl and the woman she becomes. Beautifully shot and staged, the film elliptically charts the coming of age of a young man from Mississippi whose life slowly comes into focus over the years. Jackson can test your patience, particularly with her penchant for retaining images well beyond her maturity. But this is a film that is very much worth seeing, as is “Don’t Expect Too Much from the End of the World,” an infuriating tour de force by Radu Jude that begins with the awakening of a young girl and transforms into a hilarious character, sometimes furious. , exploration of Romania’s past and present. You never know where she’s going or why, and while she also tests your patience (albeit in a more teasing way), she also rewards it.

Among this year’s least surprising attractions is “Teacher”, an intimate, energetic, largely politics-free and scrupulously educated look at the different lives, both on and off the podium, of Leonard Bernstein (1919-90). The film, starring and directed by Bradley Cooper, will be screened for the first time at David Geffen Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic. In 1943, the 25-year-old Bernstein made headlines with his sensational directorial debut for the Philharmonic, which he later conducted while teaching generations of Americans that it was okay to love both Mahler and Broadway musicals.

One of the most interesting things about “Maestro” is how it reframes the familiar Big Man narrative by lavishing attention on Bernstein’s marriage to Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan, who gets lead billing) while he continued to sleep with men. Bernstein remains the main attraction, without a doubt. However, because the film constantly returns to Felicia as Lenny catapults into American public life, from Carnegie Hall to “West Side Story,” honey! -Her character is more richly imagined than that of the classic cinema wife. It’s an admirable feminist intervention, but partly because of the pantomime quality of Cooper’s performance (prosthetic nose and all), Felicia’s pain registers more deeply than Lenny’s genius.

Michael Mann has also updated the Big Man template for “Ferrari,” an intensely focused look at the many lives of the famous Italian automobile master, played by the grizzled, uptight and perfectly named Adam Driver. Set largely in 1957, when Ferrari was on the brink of bankruptcy, the film is a psychological portrait of another visionary, both on and off the race track, of whom one biographer said: “In Italy, there was the Pope and Then there was Enzo.” Here, the great man’s inner life emerges largely through his strained relationships with his wife, Laura (Penelope Cruz), and his lover, Lina (Shailene Woodley), women whose dueling, dual dominance over Enzo is so permeated of love and death like his mania for ever faster racing cars.

One of the biggest reasons for concern about the festival is that the latest from Martin Scorsese, producer of “Maestro”, will not be at the event. It would be “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which premiered in May at Cannes and will be released in theaters on October 20. “We loved the film and invited her immediately after seeing it in Cannes,” Dennis Lim, artistic director of the New York Film Festival, told me. However, days before the festival announced its main lineup in August, Apple, which will release the film, said it would not participate. As Lim noted, “Flower Moon” was not at any of the other major fall festivals, which help usher films into the new season and the long road to the Oscars. (Apple could not be reached for comment.) Whatever the reason, its absence is a shame, especially since this is the event at which 50 years ago a small film titled “Mean Streets” was presented.

The role festivals play in the film biosphere extends far beyond the Academy Awards, of course (hallelujah!), and has become more vital since the event was established in New York. In 1962, when Lincoln Center announced that it would begin presenting films alongside the performing arts (after nearly seven years of wrangling and despite the objections of its board of directors), it was big news. Among those who advocated for its inclusion was director Elia Kazan. Art was held hostage by “merchants,” he lamented to William Schuman, then president of Lincoln Center. “It’s a big, big business that, by its nature, should please everyone and offend no one,” Kazan continued. “No art can emerge from such a basic position.”

Kazan’s insistence on film as art may seem strange, but I find it moving. This is especially true given the stranglehold of entertainment conglomerates, who not only try to please everyone, but also please fans by giving them exactly what they expect. I’ve seen most of the movies on this year’s lineup, and while I like many of them, I don’t love them all. For example, I’m still waiting for Bertrand Bonello, who returns to the festival with the confusing romance “The beast”—to make a movie that doesn’t inspire tears of boredom and laughter. But at least the newest has ideas (however laughable) and a pulse (however sleepy). It’s not for me, but let’s see if it is for you. Consensus can be boring and fan service is not art.

For more information about the New York Film Festival, visit

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