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Monday, August 15, 2016

 

Preview: CONVERGENCE - AT THE 54TH NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL - 2016


THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER
54th NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

CONVERGENCE

October 1-4, 2016

Nine new works include: two World Premieres, audience-directed narrative films, large-scale installations, virtual and augmented reality projects, and more immersive storytelling innovations

Talks featuring ILMxLAB’s Hilmar Koch & Nick Rasmussen, StoryCode’s Mike Knowlton,
Producer Lindsay Doran on the psychology of storytelling

& a sneak peek of Traveling While Black



The Convergence section of the 54th New York Film Festival will take place October 1–4, 2016  (with one project running through the 16th).
(Note that the NY Film Festival, as it often does, has insensitively scheduled events, including some of these, on Rosh Hashanah, an important Jewish Holiday which begins on the evening of Oct 2 and continues with services and celebrations through October 3 and for many celebrants through the 4th as well.)
The fifth edition of the annual program delves into the world of immersive storytelling via nine interactive experiences, featuring virtual reality, augmented reality, installations, and more—including two World Premieres and one U.S. Premiere.
"The art of immersive storytelling is continually evolving," said NYFF Convergence programmer Matt Bolish. "Our mission has been consistent from our first year to this, our fifth: bringing the best survey of interactive work to the NYFF audience. The core of the program remains an exciting slate of participatory pieces augmented by talks on a wide range of topics related to immersive and interactive art."
Over the course of the weekend, audiences can explore a multitude of non-traditional film experiences, including immersive storytelling experiences Sound Hunters, where users record the sounds of their world via an app, mixing and remixing their own electronic music compositions; thrilling audience-directed heist film Late Shift in its U.S. premiere; and, back by popular demand for a second year, the hyper-collaborative Sherlock Holmes & The Internet of Things, in which participants assume the role of the famed detective to solve mysterious crimes across Lincoln Center.

Virtual reality highlights are the World Premiere of acclaimed Indian work Priya’s Mirror, which fuses comic books and augmented reality to shatter taboos around the subject of violence against women; Giant, which transports the viewer into a family’s bomb shelter in an active war zone; Ricerca VR, which incorporates 2D and stop-motion artistry to create a visually stunning world; and Cardboard City, where participants become artists by adding buildings, memories, and stories to an ever-evolving cityscape. Also featured are two interactive video installations: EKO, a trio of interactive shorts that masterfully balance technical achievement and quality storytelling, and the World Premiere of large-scale Lives in Transit, which chronicles 24 hours in the lives of 10 transportation workers across the globe, and which will run from October 1-16.
Complementing these nine experiential works are various talks and panels. Presentations include
·        ILMxLAB visionaries Hilmar Koch and Nick Rasmussen on collaborative innovations in immersive entertainment;
·        Positive Psychology expert Lindsay Doran on the psychology of storytelling;
·        The State of the (Interactive) Art, a panel for StoryCode’s fifth anniversary, with cofounder Mike Knowlton and special guests;
·        And a special preview event for the much-anticipated project Traveling While Black, highlighted by a sneak peek at its first VR piece and a panel discussion with Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams.
The complete schedule will be announced at a later date.
NYFF filmmaker conversations and panels, including a series of “Meet the Makers” conversations with featured Convergence storytellers, will be announced in the coming weeks.

TICKETS
Convergence experiences and installations are free and open to the public. Special Talks are $15; $10 for Film Society Members and Students. See more and save with a 3+ ticket discount package. Learn more at filmlinc.org/NYFF.
Tickets for the 54th New York Film Festival will go on sale September 11. Becoming a Film Society Member at the Film Buff Level or above provides early ticket access to festival screenings and events ahead of the general public, along with the exclusive member ticket discount. Learn more at filmlinc.org/membership.
For even more access, VIP passes and subscription packages offer the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival’s biggest events including Opening and Closing Nights, and Centerpiece. VIP passes also provide access to many exciting events, including the invitation-only Opening Night party, “An Evening With…” dinners, Filmmaker Brunch, and VIP Lounge. Benefits vary based on the pass or package type purchased. VIP passes and subscription packages are on sale now. Learn more at filmlinc.org/NYFF.

NYFF54 CONVERGENCE EVENTS AND DESCRIPTIONS

Experiences and Installations

"Red Coaster CU VR"
CARDBOARD CITY
Courtesy New York Film Festival

Cardboard City
Kiira Benzing, Stina Hamlin
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality, 2016, USA, 3m
Cities are in a constant state of flux, waxing and waning along with their populations. Many consider these cycles of growth and decline part of the appeal of urban living, but change has consequences for those not able to keep up. Such is the case with the subjects of Cardboard City, a community of artists forced out of their Gowanus studios due to skyrocketing rents and runaway development. Blending virtual reality, augmented reality, and user-generated content, the piece is a hands-on interactive installation that uses these artists’ stories as a jumping-off point, before inviting viewers to become creators and add buildings, memories, and stories to an ever evolving cityscape.
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, October 1 & 2
EKO
Interlude, Sandeep Parikh, Casey Donahue, Daniel Scheinert, Billy Chew
Interactive Video Installation, 2016, USA
Interactive video projects often weigh mechanics against storytelling, creating an unbalanced final product: it’s a technical achievement or a quality story, but rarely both. EKO, a new video platform that responds to the viewer’s input, may finally have balanced the scales. Audiences are invited to experience a trio of interactive shorts built on this new platform: The Gleam, an interactive documentary about a small town paper; That Moment When, a comedy that asks the viewer to navigate a battery of awkward conversations; and Now/Then, a Rashomon-inspired story focused on the various perspectives swirling around a relationship on the rocks.
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, October 1 & 2
Giant
Milica Zec, Winslow Turner Porter III
Virtual Reality, 2016, USA, 10m
Virtual reality has been so central to recent discussions of interactive storytelling that it’s easy to forget that the form is still relatively new. With the ability to drop the viewer into an immersive environment, it’s no wonder that early conversations about VR stories focus on the empathy between audiences and subjects. This is used to startling effect in Giant. Transported to a basement shelter in an active war zone, we watch—and listen—as parents try to distract their daughter from the thunder of bombs. This is more than a film rendered in 360 degrees; it’s a testament to the power of this nascent form of storytelling.
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, October 1 & 2
Late Shift
Baptiste Planche, Tobias Weber
Audience-Directed Narrative Feature, 2016, Switzerland, 80m
Are games and films on a collision course? It’s a question asked every time emergent technologies broaden what’s possible with a little code, a story, and the will to blend the two. Yet while cinematic games are commonplace, game-like films are not. The high-octane thriller Late Shift aims to change that. A parking attendant’s world is turned upside down when he’s forced to take part in a brazen heist, and the audience makes choices to shape the story via an app. The branching narrative is flawlessly executed, creating an in-theater experience as enjoyable for the casual viewer as the hardcore “player.” U.S. Premiere
Howard Gilman Theater, Sunday October 2, 5:30pm
Lives in Transit
Global Lives Project
Video Installation, 2015/2016, USA
The San Francisco–based Global Lives Project produces long-form documentaries that capture the rich diversity of human experience and engender cross-cultural dialogue and understanding.  Each 24-hour film provides a window onto a single day in the life of its subject. This latest iteration of the project, Lives in Transit, focuses on ten individuals who in their own ways are responsible for moving people and products throughout the world. Presented as a large-scale video installation, Lives in Transit is more than an exploration of ten unique people—it is a dynamic ground-level examination of our hyper-connected world. World Premiere
Walter Reade Theater’s Furman Gallery, October 1-16
Priya’s Mirror
Ram Devineni, Dan Goldman, Paromita Vohra, Shubra Prakash, Vikas Menon
Augmented Reality Installation, 2016, USA/India
Launched in 2014, Priya’s Shakti was a first-of-its-kind fusion of augmented reality, comic books, and social engagement. The story of Priya, a rape survivor and modern-day superhero, shattered taboos that exist in India on the subject of violence against women. The second volume of this ongoing series, Priya’s Mirror sees the heroine joining forces with acid attack survivors to take on the demon king Ahankar. As with its predecessor, Priya’s Mirror makes use of augmented reality to bring the 2D world of the comic to vivid life and unlock a number of interactive story elements. World Premiere
Walter Reade Theater’s Furman Gallery, October 1-16
Ricerca VR
Yo-Yo Lin, Will Cherry, Steve Dabal, Elle Callahan, Michael Matchen
Virtual Reality, 2016, USA, 15m
It’s no coincidence that we are so moved by stories about quests. The search—for love, for forgiveness, for meaning—is an essential aspect of our humanity. In Ricerca (Italian for “search”), a man scours his memories for something lost, traversing a lush world rendered with a vibrant mix of 2D and stop-motion animation. Originally presented as a large-scale video installation, the reimagined piece employs virtual reality to extend its life beyond the gallery space, raising a compelling question: what will the relationship be between VR and the world of fine art?
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, October 1 & 2

Sherlock Holmes & The Internet of Things
Lance Weiler, Nick Fortugno
Immersive Storytelling Experience, 2016, USA
While one imagines that real criminal investigators hope for the shortest distance between crime and conviction, readers of detective fiction care more about the journey: the more twists the better. The same could be said for this ever-evolving storytelling experiment. Since its launch, participants from 20 countries have taken part in a project that uses the emergent web of connected digital devices to investigate mysteries with the world’s favorite consulting detective. For the second year, NYFF invites audiences to step into Holmes’s shoes to solve a string of crimes across Lincoln Center’s campus.
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, October 1 (1:00pm, 2:30pm, 4:00pm)
Sound Hunters
François Le Gall, Nicolas Blies
Immersive Storytelling Experience, 2015, France
Long before Lawrence Lessig, Austin Kleon, and Malcolm Gladwell each dubbed this the Age of the Remix, T. S. Eliot wrote, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” With Sound Hunters, the audience makes music by recording and remixing the sounds of the world around them. Created by François Le Gall and Nicolas Blies, this multifaceted project does more than make music from the audio of everyday life; each uploaded sound is a window onto its author’s world, and every song created by the Sound Hunter community is as much a remix of distinctive life experiences as of unique audio elements.
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, October 1 & 2
SPECIAL TALKS
ILMxLAB
Hilmar Koch and Nick Rasmussen, ILMxLAB
Founded in 2015, ILMxLAB fuses the talents of Lucasfilm, Industrial Light and Magic, and Skywalker Sound to create a new, collaborative space to experiment with stories across all visual media platforms—those we know well and those just being established. The lab encourages exploration, and, yes, even failure as a means for discovering new ways to tell and experience stories. Discovery is at the very heart of the lab’s work. Hilmar Koch and Nick Rasmussen will share some of their personal discoveries from their journey so far and reflect on the promise and perils of working at the frontiers of storytelling.
Saturday, October 1, 4:00pm
The Psychology of Storytelling: Lindsay Doran
Oscar-nominated producer and studio executive Lindsay Doran brings more than 30 years of experience in the movie business to bear on this examination of what the field of Positive Psychology can teach us about the secrets of writing a satisfying movie—and how our “deep-seated fear of the saber-tooth tiger” keeps them secret. Doran has served as the President of United Artists and as the President of Sydney Pollack’s Mirage Productions.  Doran’s first film credit was on the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. As a producer, her credits include Dead Again, Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee, and Stranger Than Fiction.
Monday October 3, 2016, 6:30pm
The State of the (Interactive) Art
StoryCode’s Mike Knowlton, interactive theater director Michael Rau, filmmaker Ram Devineni, and more
The NYC Transmedia Meetup was founded as a monthly gathering of creative professionals looking to discuss the emerging field of multi-platform storytelling. By 2011, the group had evolved from a loose confederation of storytellers into a community that would become known as StoryCode. That same year, NYFF launched its Convergence section. On the fifth anniversary of both programs, StoryCode cofounder Mike Knowlton and a panel of key players from the New York interactive scene— Convergence veterans, game designers, immersive theater directors, virtual reality producers, and interactive filmmakers—reflect on where we’ve been and imagine where we’re headed.
Saturday October 1, 2:30pm
Traveling While Black: Special Preview Event
Roger Ross Williams, Bonnie Nelson Schwartz, Lina Srivastava, Yasmin Elayat

Published in 1936, the Green Book became an essential tool for African American travelers. The book consisted of a coast-to-coast listing of bars, hotels, and other businesses that were black-friendly in the age of Jim Crow. Traveling While Black presents a contemporary exploration of the issues related to restricted movement in modern-day America with a suite of experiences including a traveling museum exhibit, virtual reality films, and live events. Academy Award–winning director Roger Ross Williams will present a sneak peek of this compelling project, including a live performance, a teaser of the project’s first VR piece, and a panel discussion. 
Tuesday, October 4, 6:30 pm


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Friday, August 12, 2016

 

Preview: MAIN SLATE, 54TH NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL - 2016


54th NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL
MAIN SLATE

SEPTEMBER 30 – OCTOBER 16
2016

25 features include new films from
Maren Ade, Pedro Almodóvar, Olivier Assayas, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Alain Guiraudie, Eugène Green, Mia Hansen-Løve, Hong Sangsoo, Jim Jarmusch, Barry Jenkins, Pablo Larraín, Ken Loach, Kenneth Lonergan, Alison Maclean, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Cristian Mungiu, Matías Piñeiro, Cristi Puiu, Kelly Reichardt, Gianfranco Rosi, Dash Shaw, and Paul Verhoeven

25 important new films comprise the The Main Slate of the 54th New York Film Festival , September 30 – October 16, 2016.
Three World Premieres anchor the gala slots: Ava DuVernay’s The 13th (Opening Night), Mike Mills’s 20th Century Women (Centerpiece), and James Gray’s The Lost City of Z (Closing Night).

In addition to the Main Slate, which includes Opening Night, Closing Night, and Centerpiece Gala screenings, the 17 day 54th New York Film Festival includes
·        Special Events
·        Spotlight on Documentary, Retrospective, Convergence, and Projections sections and
·        Filmmaker conversations and panels.


This year’s Main Slate showcases award-winning films from international festivals, presented to New York audiences for the first time:
·        Selections from Cannes include Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning I, Daniel Blake;
·        Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper
·         and Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation, which tied for Best Director;
·        and Maren Ade’s highly acclaimed Toni Erdmann, awarded the Cannes Critics’ Prize.
·        From Berlin, Gianfranco Rosi’s Golden Bear winner, Fire at Sea, will mark the director’s NYFF debut, and
·        Mia Hansen-Løve returns to the festival with Things to Come, which won her Berlin’s Best Director award.

Other festival veterans returning to NYFF include
·        Pedro Almodóvar,
·        Kelly Reichardt,
·        Hong Sangsoo,
·        Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne,
·        Matías Piñeiro,
·        Paul Verhoeven,
·        Alain Guiraudie,
·        Cristi Puiu, and
·        Eugène Green.

A number of celebrated filmmakers will make their NYFF debuts, such as
·        Kenneth Lonergan with his third feature Manchester by the Sea;
·        Kleber Mendonça Filho, presenting Aquarius, his anticipated follow-up to Neighboring Sounds;
·        Alison Maclean with her coming-of-age story The Rehearsal;
·        Dash Shaw, whose animated My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is his first feature; and
·        Barry Jenkins, with his three-part portrait of a young gay African-American man, Moonlight.

Strong female performances are a prominent focus this year, with standout turns from
·        Isabelle Huppert in Verhoeven’s Elle and Hansen-Løve’s Things to Come;
·        Brazilian legend Sônia Braga in Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius;
·        Piñeiro favorite Agustina Muñoz in Hermia and Helena; and
·        Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, and Laura Dern in Reichardt’s triptych Certain Women, among others.

The Main Slate also features two films that bring poetry to the screen:
·        Pablo Larraín’s Neruda, a portrait of the beloved Chilean poet, and
·        Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, which carries the spirit of William Carlos Williams through the story of a city bus driver (Adam Driver) who also writes poetry.




TICKETS


Tickets for the 54th New York Film Festival will go on sale September 11. Becoming a Film Society Member at the Film Buff Level or above provides early ticket access to festival screenings and events ahead of the general public, along with the exclusive member ticket discount.

For even more access, VIP passes and subscription packages offer the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival's biggest events including Opening and Closing Nights, and Centerpiece. VIP passes also provide access to many exciting events, including the invitation-only Opening Night party, “An Evening With…” dinner, Filmmaker Brunch, and VIP Lounge. Benefits vary based on the pass or package type purchased. VIP passes and subscription packages are on sale now.

www.filmlinc.org/NYFF


The 54th New York Film Festival Main Slate


Opening Night
The 13th
Directed by Ava DuVernay
USA, 2016
World Premiere
The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis. A Netflix original documentary.

Centerpiece
20th Century Women
Directed by Mike Mills
USA, 2016
World Premiere
Mike Mills’s texturally and behaviorally rich new comedy seems to keep redefining itself as it goes along, creating a moving group portrait of particular people in a particular place (Santa Barbara) at a particular moment in the 20th century (1979), one lovingly attended detail at a time. The great Annette Bening, in one of her very best performances, is Dorothea, a single mother raising her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), in a sprawling bohemian house, which is shared by an itinerant carpenter (Billy Crudup) and a punk artist with a Bowie haircut (Greta Gerwig) and frequented by Jamie’s rebellious friend Julie (Elle Fanning). 20th Century Women is warm, funny, and a work of passionate artistry. An A24 Release.

Closing Night
The Lost City of Z
Directed by James Gray
USA, 2016
World Premiere
James Gray’s emotionally and visually resplendent epic tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel Percy Fawcett (a remarkable Charlie Hunnam), the British military-man-turned-explorer whose search for a lost city deep in the Amazon grows into an increasingly feverish, decades-long magnificent obsession that takes a toll on his reputation, his home life with his wife (Sienna Miller) and children, and his very existence. Gray and cinematographer Darius Khondji cast quite a spell, exquisitely pitched between rapture and dizzying terror. Also starring Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland, The Lost City of Z represents a form of epic storytelling that has all but vanished from the landscape of modern cinema, and a rare level of artistry.

Aquarius
Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho
Brazil/France, 2016, 142m
Portuguese with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
A highlight of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s follow-up to his acclaimed Neighboring Sounds revolves around the leisurely days of a 65-year-old widow, transcendently played by the great Brazilian actress Sônia Braga. Clara is a retired music critic and the only remaining resident of the titular apartment building in Recife. Trouble starts when an ambitious real estate promoter who has bought up all of Aquarius’s other units comes knocking on Clara’s door. She has no intention of leaving, and a protracted struggle ensues. Braga’s transfixing, multilayered performance and the film’s deliberate pacing and stylistic flourishes yield a sophisticated, political, and humane work.

Certain Women
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
USA, 2016, 107m
The seventh feature by Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff), a lean triptych of subtly intersecting lives in Montana, is a work of no-nonsense eloquence. Adapting short stories by Maile Meloy, Certain Women follows a lawyer (Laura Dern) navigating an increasingly volatile relationship with a disgruntled client; a couple (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) in a marriage laden with micro-aggression and doubt, trying to persuade an old man (Rene Auberjonois) to sell his unused sandstone; and a young ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) fixated on a new-in-town night school teacher (Kristen Stewart). Shooting on 16mm, Reichardt creates understated, uncannily intimate dramas nestled within a clear-eyed depiction of the modern American West. An IFC Films release.


Isabelle Hupert
ELLE - NYFF 2016
Photo by Guy Ferrandis_
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Elle
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
France/Germany/Belgium, 2016, 131m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Paul Verhoeven’s first feature in a decade—and his first in French—ranks among his most incendiary, improbable concoctions: a wry, almost-screwball comedy of manners about a woman who responds to a rape by refusing the mantle of victimhood. As the film opens, Parisian heroine Michèle (a brilliant Isabelle Huppert) is brutally violated in her kitchen by a hooded intruder. Rather than report the crime, Michèle, the CEO of a video game company and daughter of a notorious mass murderer, calmly sweeps up the mess and proceeds to engage her assailant in a dangerous game of domination and submission in which her motivations remain a constant source of mystery, humor, and tension. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

Fire at Sea / Fuocoammare
Directed by Gianfranco Rosi
Italy/France, 2016, 108m
English and Italian with English subtitles
Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary observes Europe’s migrant crisis from the vantage point of a Mediterranean island where hundreds of thousands of refugees, fleeing war and poverty, have landed in recent decades. Rosi shows the harrowing work of rescue operations but devotes most of the film to the daily rhythms of Lampedusa, seen through the eyes of a doctor who treats casualties and performs autopsies, and a feisty but anxious pre-teen from a family of fishermen for whom it is simply a peripheral fact of life. With its emphasis on the quotidian, the film reclaims an ongoing tragedy from the abstract sensationalism of media headlines. A Kino Lorber release.

Graduation / Bacalaureat
Directed by Cristian Mungiu
Romania, 2016, 127m
Romanian with English subtitles
Cristian Mungiu’s expertly constructed drama concerns a doctor desperate for his daughter to escape corruption-plagued Romania by accepting a scholarship offer from a British university (after-the-fact layer of irony courtesy of Brexit), contingent on her high school final exams. But after she’s assaulted, perhaps for past sins of her father, the doctor must decide whether he will take advantage of his position to ensure that she receives high marks, despite her trauma. Parents anxious about their children’s education will appreciate the moral dilemma the film poses. Like Mungiu’s superb 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (NYFF ’07), Graduation resonates beyond national boundaries. A Sundance Selects release.

Hermia and Helena
Directed by Matías Piñeiro
Argentina/USA, 2016, 87m
English and Spanish with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Shooting outside his native Argentina for the first time, New York–based Matías Piñeiro fashions a bittersweet comedy of coupling and uncoupling that doubles as a love letter to his adopted city. Working on a Spanish translation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on an artist residency, Camila (Agustina Muñoz) finds herself within a constellation of shifting relationships (an old flame, a new one, a long-lost relative). Mingling actors from the director’s Buenos Aires repertory with stalwarts of New York’s independent film scene (Keith Poulson, Dustin Guy Defa, Dan Sallitt), Hermia and Helena offers the precise gestures, mercurial moods, and youthful energies of all Piñeiro’s cinema, with an emotional depth and directness that make this his most mature work yet.

I, Daniel Blake
Directed by Ken Loach
UK, 2016, 100m
U.S. Premiere
Unable to work after suffering a heart attack, Daniel (Dave Johns) must apply to the government for benefits. But with the seemingly endless documentation he has to provide, his lack of familiarity with computers, and the condescending attitudes of the functionaries to whom he must repeat the same information in one soul-killing encounter after another, he is all but defeated from the beginning, as is his new comrade in misery, Katie (Hayley Squires). English director Ken Loach’s thoroughly shattering film, which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, will strike a chord with anyone who has ever tried to negotiate their way through the labyrinth of bureaucracy. A Sundance Selects release.

Julieta
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Spain, 2016, 99m
Spanish with English subtitles
Pedro Almodóvar explores his favorite themes of love, sexuality, guilt, and destiny through the poignant story of Julieta, played to perfection by Emma Suárez (younger) and Adriana Ugarte (middle-aged), over the course of a 30-year timespan. Just as she is about to leave Madrid forever, the seemingly content Julieta has a chance encounter that stirs up sorrowful memories of the daughter who brutally abandoned her when she turned eighteen. Drawing on numerous film historical references, from Hitchcock to the director’s own earlier Movida era work, Almodóvar’s twentieth feature, adapted from three short stories by Alice Munro (“Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence”), is a haunting drama that oscillates between disenchanted darkness and visual opulence. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

Manchester by the Sea
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
USA, 2016, 137m
Casey Affleck is formidable as the volatile, deeply troubled Lee Chandler, a Boston-based handyman called back to his hometown on the Massachusetts North Shore after the sudden death of his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), who has left behind a teenage son (Lucas Hedges). This loss and the return to his old stomping grounds summon Lee’s memories of an earlier, even more devastating tragedy. In his third film as a director, following You Can Count on Me (2000) and Margaret (2011), Kenneth Lonergan, with the help of a remarkable cast, unflinchingly explores grief, hope, and love, giving us a film that is funny, sharply observed, intimately detailed yet grand in emotional scale. An Amazon Studios Release.

Moonlight
Directed by Barry Jenkins
USA, 2016, 110m
Barry Jenkins more than fulfills the promise of his 2008 romantic two-hander Medicine for Melancholy in this three-part narrative spanning the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of a gay African-American man who survives Miami’s drug-plagued inner city, finding love in unexpected places and the possibility of change within himself. Moonlight offers a powerful sense of place and a wealth of unpredictable characters, featuring a fantastic ensemble cast including André Holland, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali—delivering performances filled with inner conflict and aching desires that cut straight to the heart. An A24 release.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
Directed by Dash Shaw
USA, 2016, 75m
U.S. Premiere
No matter your age, part of you never outgrows high school, for better or worse. Dash Shaw, known for such celebrated graphic novels as Bottomless Belly Button and New School, brings his subjective, dreamlike sense of narrative; his empathy for outsiders and their desire to connect; and his rich, expressive drawing style to his first animated feature. Packed with action but seen from the inside out, My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is about friends overcoming their differences and having each other’s backs in times of crisis, and its marvelously complex characters are voiced by Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, and John Cameron Mitchell.

Neruda
Directed by Pablo Larraín
Chile/Argentina/France/Spain, 2016, 107m
Spanish and French with English subtitles
Pablo Larraín’s exciting, surprising, and colorful new film is not a biopic but, as the director himself puts it, a “Nerudean” portrait of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s years of flight and exile after his 1948 denunciation of his government’s leadership. Larraín’s heady blend of fact and fancy (the latter embodied in an invented character, straight out of detective fiction, played by Gael García Bernal) is many things at once: a loving, kaleidoscopic recreation of a particular historical moment; a comical cat-and-mouse game; and a pocket epic. Featuring Luis Gnecco, a dead ringer for the poet and a formidable actor, alongside a terrific cast. A release of The Orchard.

Paterson
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
USA, 2016, 118m
U.S. Premiere
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver who writes poetry drawn from the world around him. Paterson is also the name of the New Jersey city where he works and lives with his effervescent and energetic girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani). And Paterson is the title of the great epic poem by William Carlos Williams, whose spirit animates Jim Jarmusch’s exquisite new film. This is a rare movie experience, set to the rhythm of an individual consciousness absorbing the beauties and mysteries and paradoxes and joys and surprises of everyday life, at home and at work, and making them into art. An Amazon Studios release.

Personal Shopper
Directed by Olivier Assayas
France, 2016, 105m
French and English with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Kristen Stewart is the medium, in more ways than one, for this sophisticated genre exploration from director Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria). As a fashion assistant whose twin brother has died, leaving her bereft and longing for messages from the other side, Stewart is fragile and enigmatic—and nearly always on-screen. From an opening sequence in a haunted house with an intricately constructed soundtrack to a high-tension, cat-and-mouse game on a trip from Paris to London and back set entirely to text messaging, Personal Shopper brings the psychological and supernatural thriller into the digital age.  An IFC Films release.

The Rehearsal
Directed by Alison Maclean
New Zealand, 2016, 75m
U.S. Premiere
Alison Maclean (Jesus’ Son) returns to her New Zealand filmmaking roots with a multilayered coming-of-age story about a young actor (James Rolleston) searching for the truth of a character he’s playing onstage and the resulting moral dilemma in his personal life. Set largely in a drama school, featuring Kerry Fox as a diva-like teacher who tries to shape her student’s raw talent, The Rehearsal, adapted from the novel by Eleanor Catton, demystifies actors and acting in order to reveal the moments where craft becomes art. The same happens with Maclean’s understated but penetrating filmmaking. Her concentration on the quotidian yields a finale that borders on the sublime.    

Sieranevada
Directed by Cristi Puiu
Romania, 2016, 173m
Romanian with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
A decade after jumpstarting the Romanian New Wave with The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu returns with a virtuosic chamber drama set largely within a labyrinthine Bucharest apartment where a cantankerous extended family has gathered forty days after its patriarch’s death (and three days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris). Rituals and meals are anticipated and delayed, doors open and close, and the camera hovers at thresholds and in corridors. As claustrophobia mounts, heated, humorous exchanges—about the old Communist days and the present age of terror—coalesce into a brilliantly staged and observed portrait of personal and social disquiet.

Son of Joseph / Le fils de Joseph
Directed by Eugène Green
France/Belgium, 2016, 113m
French with English Subtitles
U.S. Premiere
The American-born expatriate filmmaker Eugène Green exists in his own special artistic orbit. All Green’s films share a formal rigor and an increasingly refined modulation between the playfully comic, the urgently human, and the transcendent, and they are each as exquisitely balanced as the baroque music and architecture that he cherishes. His latest movie, Son of Joseph, is perhaps his most buoyant. A nativity story reboot that gently skewers French cultural pretensions, it features newcomer Victor Ezenfis as a discontented Parisian teenager in search of a father, Mathieu Amalric and Fabrizio Rongione as his, respectively, callous and gentle alternative paternal options, and Natacha Régnier as his single mother. A Kino Lorber Films release.

Staying Vertical / Rester vertical
Directed by Alain Guiraudie
France, 2016, 100m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Léo (Damien Bonnard), a blocked filmmaker seeking inspiration in the French countryside for an overdue script, begins an affair with a shepherdess (India Hair), with whom he almost immediately has a child. Combining the formal control of his 2013 breakthrough Stranger by the Lake with the shapeshifting fabulism of his earlier work, Alain Guiraudie’s new film is a sidelong look at the human cycle of birth, procreation, and death, as well as his boldest riff yet on his signature subjects of freedom and desire. The title has the ring of both a rallying cry and a dirty joke—fitting for a film that is, above all else, a rumination on what it means to be a human being, a vertical animal. A Strand Releasing release.

Things to Come / L’Avenir
Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve
France/Germany, 2016, 100m
French with English subtitles
In the new film from Mia Hansen-Løve (Eden), Isabelle Huppert is Nathalie, a Parisian professor of philosophy who comes to realize that the tectonic plates of her existence are slowly but inexorably shifting: her husband (André Marcon) leaves her, her mother (Edith Scob) comes apart, her favorite former student decides to live off the grid, and her first grandchild is born. Hansen-Løve carefully builds Things to Come around her extraordinary star: her verve and energy, her beauty, her perpetual motion. Huppert’s remarkable performance is counterpointed by the quietly accumulating force of the action, and the result is an exquisite expression of time’s passing. A Sundance Selects release.

Toni Erdmann
Directed by Maren Ade
Germany, 2016, 162m
German with English subtitles
An audacious twist on the screwball comedy—here, the twosome is an aging-hippie prankster father and his corporate-ladder-climbing daughter—Toni Erdmann delivers art and entertainment in equal measure and charmed just about everyone who saw it at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Maren Ade's dazzling script has just enough of a classical comedic structure to support 162 minutes of surprises big and small. Meanwhile, her direction is designed to liberate the actors as much as possible while the camera rolls, resulting in sublime performances by Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek, who leave the audience suspended between laughter and tears. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

The Unknown Girl
Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Belgium, 2016, 106m
It’s a few minutes after closing time in a medical clinic in Seraing, Belgium. The buzzer rings. Doctor Jenny (Adèle Haenel) tells her assistant (Olivier Bonnaud) to ignore it. She is later informed that the girl she turned away was soon found dead on the riverside. From that moment, Jenny becomes a different kind of doctor, diagnosing not just her dispossessed patients’ illnesses but also the greater malady afflicting her community. And this is a different kind of movie for Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, in which the urgency pulses beneath the seemingly placid surface, and it is all keyed to Haenel’s extraordinary performance. A Sundance Selects release.

Yourself and Yours
Directed by Hong Sangsoo
South Korea, 2016, 86m
Korean with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Prolific NYFF favorite Hong Sangsoo boldly and wittily continues his ongoing exploration of the painful caprices of modern romance. Painter Youngsoo (Kim Joo-hyuk) hears secondhand that his girlfriend, Minjung (Lee Yoo-young), has recently had (many) drinks with an unknown man. This leads to a quarrel that seems to end their relationship. The next day, Youngsoo sets out in search of her, at the same time that Minjung—or a woman who looks exactly like her and may or may not be her twin—has a series of encounters with strange men, some of whom claim to have met her before . . .  Yourself and Yours is a break-up/make-up comedy unlike any other, suffused with sophisticated modernist mystery.




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Thursday, August 11, 2016

 

Review: TROILUS AND CRESSIDA - SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK


SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
TROILUS & CRESSIDA

The characters in Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida behave very strangely.

Shakespeare's play is based on the fictional story of Troilus and Cressida, set during the seventh year of the Trojan War. But the story was written long after Homer wrote the Iliad (and long before Shakespeare adapted the story for his play). Homer's tale describes the war between Greece and Troy over the abduction and seduction of the Grecian Helen, Menelaus’ wife, by the Trojan, Paris.

Cressida, a Trojan, stayed behind when her father defected to Greece. She falls in love with Troilus in Troy, assisted by the efforts of her Uncle Pandarus (whose name, he says himself, will become the word for pandering). But Cressida’s father convinces the Greeks to bring her to the Grecian camp, by trading her for an important Trojan captured by Greece.

Ismenia Mendes as Cressida, Andrew Burnap as Troilus, and John Glover as Pandarus
TROILUS & CRESSIDA
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Courtesy of The Public Theater

The play contains humor, farce, love, lust, practical and ethical debates, and tragedy, all together, and is not easy reading.

The director, Daniel Sullivan, and the cast of the new Shakespeare in the Park production, do a brilliant job of making sense of the moment-to-moment action of the play, finding a way, often through physicality, of justifying, finding meaning, and interpreting the most perplexing passages in the script.

But that alone does not explain the characters’ behavior.

Commentators have suggested that the play, in part, is a comment (or parody or satire) on political events contemporary to Shakespeare. Perhaps Shakespeare was inspired by “MacBird!”, the sixties commentary on the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination structured on Macbeth, to create a commentary (with crude humor and potentially potent political satire) on his own contemporary politics, based on the Homeric legends (salted with an extra romance).

Something like that might help explain the strange behavior of the characters (and the minor mystery that the play seems never to have actually been performed publicly during Shakespeare’s life despite at least one claim that the play was to be produced).

Sullivan stages the play with minimal sets and costumes, and suggests some more or less modern war. Indeed much of the fighting is with guns. It is costumed in mostly drab colors, also more or less modern, and certainly not ancient Greek. For the most part, I suspect that this modern staging and acting was critical to help make the play understandable for a modern audience.

Zach Appelman as Diomedes and Sanjit De Silva as Aeneus (center), and the company
TROILUS & CRESSIDA
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Courtesy of The Public Theater

Two caveats, however. It seems to me, that in any play about the Trojan war, one necessary element is that Helen be so beautiful, so well dressed, and have such great hair (“hair” is important in the text) that there is no question about why her abduction “launch’d above a thousand ships” and sparked such a long and costly war.

Also, a commentator in one review noted that at one performance, when guns are shot in the general direction of the audience, someone screamed in terror. With movie-audience mass-shootings raw in our memory, it is not comforting to have a gang of men suddenly emerge from behind a barricade and start shooting at you. (Hopefully, it is in fact safe.  But I did actually know someone, a young and rising actor, who accidently killed himself with a gun he thought was a safe prop.)


SPOILER (?) ALERT
The remainder of this article contains some possible spoilers, although in such a problematic play, they might actually be “enhancers” rather than spoilers.

The greatest puzzle in the play for me, which makes it hard to understand, is the behavior of the combatants.

Sometimes, they are strangely casual about fighting, as if they are playing a game: friendly competitors, not people trying to destroy each other’s army. The Grecian leaders invite the Trojan leaders to dinner.  They verbally bait each other, but no-one is hurt. It is a truly mysterious temporary truce.  The next day they will go back to killing.

Then Hector spares the lives of soldiers he has bested – and lets them go back to trying to kill him.

More interestingly, major decisions of war and policy are debated… but much depends on personality and whim and secret agendas.

Troilus strongly opposes returning Helen to the Greeks, even though it means continued war, but lets his own lover Cressida be sent to the Greeks with some grousing, but no real attempt to prevent her leaving.

He does suggest he will sneak into the Greek Camp at night to see her.  (In the middle of a war???)

And there’s more...


Much of the play is funny. It seems to me, perhaps, if the point of the play is the illogical, whimsical way the war (or any war) is conducted, then there might be a way to also present much of the warriors’ behavior satirically, as actually funny jokes.


CONCLUSION

This is a rare opportunity to see a strong, clear production of a play that is seldom staged, yet deals with the human issues -- some profound, some petty -- that can change the course of civilization. 

To see this play requires quick and courageous action. (It takes courage to wait in heat or rain for tickets, not even knowing if the weather will permit an evening show.) After an injury forcing a cast change, the play just had its “official” opening, and it closes in a few days (Aug 14) with some bad weather planned between now and then.

Tickets are free, by standing in line early, or by lottery. Reserved seat admissions may also be possible by means of contributions to the Public Theater.

TROILUS AND CRESSIDA

CAST
Zach Appelman - Diomedes, 
Tala Ashe - Helen, Andromache, 
Alex Breaux - Ajax, 
Andrew Burnap - Troilus,
Louis Cancelmi - Achilles, 
Max Casella - Thersites, 
Sanjit De Silva - Aeneas, 
John Glover - Pandarus, 
Bill Heck - Hector,
Edward James Hyland - Nestor, 
Maurice Jones - Paris,
Ismenia Mendes - Cressida, 
Forrest Malloy - Menelaus, 
Nneka Okafor - Cassandra, 
Tom Pecinka - Patroclus, 
Miguel Perez - Priam, Calchas, 
Corey Stoll - Ulysses and 
John Douglas Thompson - Agamemnon.


THE PUBLIC THEATER

TROILUS AND CRESSIDA – FULL TEXT
http://shakespeare.mit.edu/troilus_cressida/full.html

TROILUS AND CRESSIDA – WIKIPEDIA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troilus_and_Cressida


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