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It Is What It Is

Yes (I'm Not There !), NYFF 45 (Blade Runner?) plays to its base (Don Rickles!), but what's so bad about that? (Redacted.)

The amazing thing about Todd Haynes's ceaselessly amazing I'm Not There is how little nostalgia has to do with it. Just as Haynes used an obsolete style of melodrama to stir contemporary hearts with Far From Heaven, he now deploys the life and legend of Bob Dylan to mediate a huge complex of ideas and feelings about the soul of the artist (or any feeling person) right now. Biography is only the vehicle; hagiography is the last thing on his mind. Haynes says more about the impact of Iraq on his psyche by reflecting it through Vietnam than Brian De Palma manages to say by confronting Iraq directly in his misbegotten Redacted.

De Palma's stumble is the exception to the rule of American movies this year. The festival opens with the bittersweet pleasures of Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited, bristles to the acerbic domestic meltdown of Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding, and highlights an even more astringent family crisis in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, a wildly contrived but ruthlessly tough-minded thriller from Sidney Lumet. Didn't know he had it in him, though I'm not surprised to find Gus Van Sant further refine the emotional precision of his abstract, experimental youth movies with Paranoid Park. As for the presence of Mr. Warmth, the Don Rickles Project on the program, my initial reaction went something like: a Tom Petty doc, a Dylan doc, and a friggin' Don Rickles doc? Way to lure the under-70 crowd, NYFF! And yet two different committee members have assured me it's one of the best of the fest, and legend has already spread through the halls of the Film Society of the unprecedented volume of laughter howling from the Rickles preview session. From Robert Beavers to Don Rickles: What else do you want?

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