Tuesday, March 04, 2008

ny film festival by goldy moldavsky

Art house films, as opposed to regular films, are kind of a big thing at film festivals. In fact it wouldn’t be a festival without at least some sampling of foreign language, abstract or experimental fare. And the New York Film Festival, now in its 45th year, has been known to pluck out the most art house of films to showcase. This year’s crop, however, features some big movies with distributors and buzz and just a touch of artsy cred get to come and show off how shiny they are.

Honored as an opening night selection, The Darjeeling Limited, dazzlingly filmed by dazzling film maker Wes Anderson, stars Adrian Brody, Owen Wilson, and the always winsome Jason Schwartzman as brothers on a trip to find themselves (and their wayward mother) while riding across India on the richly-colored titular train. Like the rest of Anderson’s pictures, the movie relies on quirk- an abundance of which is equally distributed to all parts of the production from character personalities to set design- but with a surprisingly sweet and heartwarming filling at its core. Hotel Chevalier, a short film meant to accompany the movie, gives a glimpse into Schwartzman’s character’s backstory involving a Parisian tryst with a deep-talking and scantily clad Natalie Portman.I’m Not There, Todd Hayne’s multiple personality take on the life and times of Bob Dylan is truer art house fair; meaning it’ll confuse the hell out of you and probably bore you all the while if you’re not big on the thoughtful, avant garde brand of film making. The movie follows six different actors (Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Richard Gere among them) as they portray Dylan in different epochs of his life. It’s the kind of movie you sort of have to read up on before seeing since there’s hardly any effort made to have the actors resemble Dylan at all- one part of the movie even imagines the iconic troubadour as Billy the Kid in an out-of-left-field Western. The movie’s gotten a lot of buzz and will probably get even more award trophies but any attention or praise should all be directed to Cate Blanchett in her stunning portrayal as the only true Dylan pantomime. Her being a woman probably makes her the least likely candidate to take on the elusive folk man but upon one viewing it’s clear that any and all movies about Bob Dylan should be played only be her.

Foreign films are also a film festival staple and this year I Just Didnt Do It, a Japanese film about a man fighting a claim that he’d groped a young girl on one of Japan’s overly crowded trains seemed to get a lot of attention. Too bad fighting to declare a man’s innocence apparently means stretching out the paragraph-long premise into a two and a half hour-long drab fest. Better procedural dramas could be found on network TV, with welcoming commercial breaks to boot.

Also featuring films such as Margot at the Wedding and Married Life in their collection of 28 movies this year the NY film festival did a good job of garnering buzz for itself. They’re still art house, just a little more mainstream.

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