Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. Last week I had the wonderful experience of being in New York and attending the New York Film Festival (NYFF) for the 3rd year in a row. It’s a long festival and I was only able to attend for 5 days (I could have planned better with the Columbus Day holiday but I did what I could.)
The most exciting part of the trip for me is finding the HI NYC Hostel which has private rooms and dorm-like bunks for incredible deals. I stayed for 5 nights for $417, which is unbelievable for New York! I highly recommend it
Anyway, I was able to see 5 films at the festival and here are my thoughts:
First up we have The Delinquents which was a big hit out of the recent Cannes and I left feeling mixed about that film. It’s a long film at over 3 hours and is divided into 2 parts- the first part being a small bank robbery scheme and the second a love story involving both men being in love with the same woman. I vastly preferred the first part over the second.
This is a very cerebral movie to be called a ‘heist movie.’ In fact, all of the films I saw at the festival were what is coined as ‘slow cinema’ but the beginning focusing on the 2 men and the after-effects of their scheme was compelling. It shows the impact of money and the pressure of keeping a secret.
The romance, unfortunately, was so bland and uninteresting that the movie really lost me in the long second part. I really didn’t care about this manic pixie dream girl woman that both men become infatuated with and felt like I was watching them vacation with her for no reason. My friend Conrado enjoyed it way more than I did so maybe you will too but it in the end was a disappointment despite the strong first part.
5 out of 10
Like I said, all the films I saw at NYFF were on the slow-burn side of things and Janet Planet was certainly no exception but I do think it is overall successful in what it’s trying to do. Playwright Annie Baker has made a simple yet compelling film that follows an 11-year old and her Mother through the a summer in 1991.
There isn’t much plot here but newcomer Zoe Ziegler is charming as the little girl and her relationship with her mother Janet played by Julianne Nicholson feels authentic and real. It will try the patience of some viewers who need more story but I enjoyed following them around for a summer especially with how cute Ziegler is.
7 out of 10
Sometimes all we need in a ‘slow cinema’ film is a captivating lead performance and that’s what we get with Kōji Yakusho in the film Perfect Days. He literally plays a toilet cleaner in Tokyo and for the first part of the film we see him go through his routine of work and other activities including cleaning a lot of toilets. I know you are thinking what could be worse than watching someone clean toilets but we get to know the character Hirayama so well through these mundane actions and it turns out he is a deep thinker and poet who loves classic rock he plays on his cassette tapes.
There are strong homages to the Japanese filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu especially his film Tokyo Story which I recently reviewed for my blind spot series. Particularly in the dream sections it can feel almost too similar and more an imitation rather than a subtle tribute. However, we learn quite a bit about this simple man especially once his niece pays him a visit. So, if it sounds like a film you could tolerate I recommend Perfect Days if only for the lovely lead performance by Yakusho.
7 out of 10
I hate being too tough on small films but there are times when a film at a festival is just not on my wavelength and that was the case with Eureka. It tells 3 stories and I particularly found the middle story to be a painful watch that felt like anything but short.
It starts out with a black and white western starring Viggo Mortensen which was alright. I also liked how the director Lisandro Alonso merges the shorts together despite them being different times and filming techniques but the second short about a female police officer on a reservation was dull to the extreme and then the 3rd short involving Native Amazons fighting over a female tribe member did nothing for me. It all felt self-indulgent and annoying. I get what Alonso is trying to say about colonialism but it has to be done in a more interesting way than watching a woman make routine traffic stops. No thanks!
3 out of 10
The Taste of Things-
My last film of the festival turned out to be my favorite and one of my favorite movies of the year: The Taste of Things. This is an sumptuous and tender film about two people who express their passion for life and each other through food.
Juliette Binoche is warm and sexy as chef Eugenie who is courted by her colleague in the kitchen Dodin played by Benoît Magimel. They have smoldering chemistry together and the film is so well made. You definitely have to love food, particularly French food and this is not a vegan-friendly film! They will hate it but I loved it.
If you have seen the classic Danish film Babette’s Feast you will have an idea of what to expect with The Taste of Thing. It also reminded me of Mostly Martha in that they all involve characters who express their love through the service of preparing food for their loved ones. I like the fact that both Eugenie and Dodin don’t seem to have much of an employer and seem to mostly cook for themselves. It adds to the escapism of the film and makes their efforts feel more personal than if they were doing it for an employer.
I hope they remember The Taste of Things come awards season because it is truly special and if it comes to a theater near you I highly recommend it.
10 out of 10
If you attended the festival I’d love to hear about your favorites and what you have enjoyed most at the theater in 2023!
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