See It Now

Geopolitickin' and an East Asian invasion highlight the 43rd New York Film Festival

I Am
[September 27 and 29]
Tracing the rough footprints of both Mouchette and The 400 Blows, Dorota Kedzierzawska's adroitly executed ballade follows an elfin Polish boy with a gimlet stare and quick reflexes (the remarkably confident Piotr Jagielski) who, after being rejected by his deranged-party-animal mother, escapes from an orphanage, returns to his barren hometown, and exists scrounging on the edges of others' lives and property. The details are exact and dire, but the romantic Michael Nyman score and swooningly lovely autumnal cinematography—peach-misted mornings, sulfurous leaf-strewn forests—muddle the thrust. Childhood suffering shot like a Hallmark card is difficult to take seriously. No distributor. M.A.

Capote
[September 27 and 28]
Dust off the Oscar—it's the Philip Seymour Hoffman show. The star and co-producer of Bennett Miller's account of how Truman Capote came to write (or perhaps be written by) In Cold Blood and thus achieve the status of America's most famous author, Hoffman nails Capote's querulous drawl and pudgy hauteur. He plays the writer as a vain and peevish monster of self-absorption—accurate perhaps, but a performance that uses up the oxygen for the rest of the cast. Rare is the movie in which Catherine Keener, as Harper Lee, is the warmest presence. Sony Pictures Classics, opening September 30. J.H.

Something Like Happiness
[September 29 and October 1]
The equivocal title is instructive: Czech director Bohdan Sláma's minor-key slice of life is so muted and oblique it takes a while to suss out its tangled relationships and its abiding faith in the basic decency of ordinary people. In a hideous industrialized suburb, a young man and the unavailable young woman he not so secretly loves find themselves serving as proxy parents; the role-play, needless to say, leaves its mark in subtle, indelible ways. The movie's studious modesty makes its last-minute melancholic surge all the more surprising. No distributor. DENNIS LIM

L'enfant
photo: Christine Plenus/Sony Pictures Classics
L'enfant

Details

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
[September 30 and October 2]
Park Chanwook keeps his singular ball in the air with this capstone to his so-called vengeance trilogy, in which a ravishing convict (Lee Yeong-ae) is released after 13 years for killing a child and reveals (slowly, to us) an elaborate payback plot for the real murderer. Essentially a mirror image of the far superior Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance that lifts its story philosophy from The Shawshank Redemption, the movie's a vicious and entertaining entry in the Korean New Wave's pulp grinder—that is, until the moral bomb drop of the last third, when the Parkian questions of guilt, grief, and justice surface with inexorable anxiety. Tartan, opens early 2006. M.A.

Manderlay
[September 30 and October 1]
Lars von Trier's disappointing Dogville sequel follows Grace, now played by a flustered Bryce Dallas Howard, to an Alabama plantation where slavery is still in effect. The road to hell is paved with good intentions: Grace sets out to right a wrong, using her father's gangsters for muscle. The movie has something (but not too much) to say about race; more resonant, although soon dropped from the schema, is the parallel between Grace's enforced lessons in democracy and George Bush's Iraq adventure. Stunt-meister that he is, von Trier shouldn't repeat himself. The filmmaker uses Dogville's formal devices to lesser effect and his boredom is contagious. IFC, opens winter 2006. J.H.

Blue Movie
[October 1]
A/k/a Fuck, this once notorious, banned-in–New York late–Andy Warhol opus—showing, for the first time in years, as part of the festival's "Views From the Avant-Garde" sidebar—preserves an October 1968 afternoon in all its hipster glory. Factory superstar Viva and her straight man Louis Waldron hang out, talk about the war in Vietnam, eat lunch, take a shower, and have sexual intercourse—not necessarily in that order. The camera is static; the affection seems genuine. The couple may be too self-conscious to suggest Adam and Eve, but as Warhol movies go, Blue Movie is transcendently good-natured. J.H.


Haze
[October 1]
The quasi-snuff DV equivalent of a Poe poem, Shinya Tsukamoto's 50-minute featurette—screening once, at midnight—largely consists of a terrified man (the director himself) writhing around in a dark and extremely confined space. He doesn't remember how he got there and has no clue how to get out. Visceral and merciless, Tsukamoto's film painstakingly details a convincing psychosomatic response to a claustrophobe's worst nightmare. Fake blood is freely spilled, but the most terrifying moments are when there's nothing to see. No distributor. D.L.

Breakfast on Pluto
[October 1 and 2] J.H. Neil Jordan waxes literary in this overwrought confection—a mélange of sentimental magic realism, political blather, and painfully bad pop music based on a novel by Patrick McCabe (author of The Butcher Boy). Cillian Murphy's one-note performance amplifies the movie's excruciating longueurs. As the flirtatious androgyne Kitten, he peaks way too early with an eye-batting turn as a glam-rock squaw. Sony Pictures Classics, opens November 18. J.H.

Tale of Cinema
[October 1 and 2]
NYFF regular Hong Sang-soo returns for the third time with another melancholy comedy about an ineffectual, clueless, good-looking lout. In this case, Hong's protag is a former film student who believes that his hapless love life has been appropriated as material by a more successful classmate. Tale of Cinema is at once more structurally rigorous and more relaxed than its immediate precursor, Woman Is the Future of Man. No distributor. J.H.

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