Thursday, October 11, 2012

Catching Up With Some New York Film Festival Reviews

NEW YORK—I've been in a flurry of review-writing as a whole bunch of New York Film Festival assignments have converged in the past few days. Now, I have three more pieces at The House Next Door to show for it.

First up, here's my review of Like Someone in Love. Set not in his native Iran but in Japan, Abbas Kiarostami's latest film plays like a more downbeat companion piece to his last film, Certified Copy; in some ways, this might be an even richer achievement, though one that is admittedly more difficult to warm to on first blush compared to its airy, lovely predecessor. Nevertheless, this has a strong possibility of ending up being my favorite film of the festival so far.

A strong runner-up for favorite film of NYFF comes in the form of the melancholy blast that is Léos Carax's  Holy Motors, his first feature in 13 years. Many have pegged this truly singular work as a kind of middle finger to the digital era. Maybe, maybe not. I'm inclined to look at it less as a grand, pessimistic statement about the future of cinema as it is simply about an actor snatching personal victories from the jaws of a larger defeat. "In the midst of life, we are in death," as the famous Biblical saying goes—but boy, what life does Carax and his usual leading man Denis Lavant bring to the table! My review is here.

And then there's Michael Haneke's Amour and David Chase's Not Fade Away. The first feature from the creator of The Sopranos strikes me as a mostly negligible, if pleasant and genial, nostalgia trip. Haneke's film, however, is a trickier case. I don't necessarily see the "humanism" the film's many partisans see; especially with some of the late-breaking developments in the film's last half-hour, the Austrian director still strikes me as icy and finger-wagging as ever. And yet, when it comes to the kind of unflinching depiction of mortality that he's attempting here, maybe some emotional detachment isn't a negative attribute. Besides, I think Amour is ultimately less about death than it is about the struggles of the living to deal with an awareness of it, especially when they see it every day in a loved one. If nothing else, it's undeniably effective at what it sets out to achieve; what you, the individual viewer, get out of it is entirely up to you. You can read my reviews of both here.

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