New York Film Festival Reviews: Tar, Aftersun, Women Talking
Are movies back? Finally? The signs are yes at this year’s New York Film Festival, which is packed with hot films that will keep people hooked throughout the movie season. Below is a look at some of what’s coming and what’s already here – both exquisite tar and the… less exquisite triangle of sadness come out in cinemas today.
There are great performances and then there’s the kind of possession that Cate Blanchett shows tarTodd Field’s first film since 2006 Small children. Blanchett plays Lydia Tár, the kind of superstar conductor who can command an audience by sitting down New Yorker Interview at Lincoln Center. Early scenes demonstrate Lydia’s wealth and power – during a lecture at the Juilliard School, she attracts a black student who says he can’t take Bach’s music seriously because of the composer’s misogyny. The quiet virtuosity displayed in the scene – probably around 20 minutes, all captured in one take as the camera glides through the lecture hall in a leisurely and tangential 180-degree rotation – lets us know we’re in the are in the hands of masters.
for a good while tar lets Lydia (and Blanchett) be the virtuoso she is as she prepares to record a Mahler symphony in Berlin and controls her orchestra’s politics with her harsh and austere approach to music. The film refuses to condemn or extol her arrogance and interpersonal brusqueness – it’s as much a product of her high status as perhaps necessary to uphold it. (In the interview scene referenced above, she brushes aside any hint that she struggles with gender bias in the male-dominated field of conducting.) But then the past returns to haunt Lydia. Field makes sure we only see her cancellation from her perspective, and she only gets a glimpse of those who object to her or provide feedback. Does she deserve what is happening to her? Are the allegations of “care” tinged with homophobia? (Lydia’s sober oddity is rare not only in films in general, but specifically for a character of this age.) What exactly is she entitled to?
Talking about abandonment culture so often puts things in extreme terms to get those substack subscriptions and twitter likes; They tell people exactly how to be outraged. But Field conducts the discourse like a symphony. Blanchett’s playful portrayal of Lydia, who puts her heart and soul into directing her orchestra, is stunning. It’s just another day at the office for her, but if she doesn’t win an Oscar for it, a robbery will have taken place.
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Charlotte Wells’ “emotionally autobiographical” debut was so hailed at Cannes that looking back at that press makes me feel like I saw a different film. I found After sun an inanimate two-handed swordsman representing father Calum (Paul Mescal) and daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) on vacation in Turkey. Sophie is on the verge of puberty and certain references to her learning by example through encounters with slightly older children who are also vacationing at the resort are perceptive and well observed. I thought the film was a collection of nice touches at best. But nothing happens in it for a really long time as Calum and Sophie sit by the pool, eat dinner, sit more, and have polite conversations with strangers. I mean Nothing. Nothing happens! When that nothingness happened, it occurred to me that given all the praise this film received, the film needed to build itself into something that would, in hindsight, make all the banality poignant. For a film so obsessed with the details of everyday life, it was all the more disappointing when it ended up taking a swipe at only hinting at tragedy rather than actually showing it. Scenes depicting adult Sophie’s grief processing or whatever taking place in a strobing club conjure up much better sequences bpm and Morvern Callar. Don’t take my word for it, but what other people see in this film about white people existing only until they (maybe) no longer exist baffles me.
Finally a film that lives up to its title! The women, they talk. A lot of. Sarah Polley’s 2018 adaptation of the Miriam Toews novel is set in an isolated religious community that eschews modern conventions like technology, poly-blends, and girls’ education. When the men leave the village for some time to defend someone who has attacked one of the women, the women come together to decide what to do with their cultural plight: stay and fight the men for power, or walk. The caucus allows for long philosophizing about power and keeps the action in one place to give women talk the feel of a filmed play. This is a broad film about a literal rape culture (the men defending a rapist whose drugging and assaulting a local woman is a common practice) in which a character literally says the words, “Not all men.” The performances are strong – especially the lively ones by Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley – and the desaturated image gives the impression of a directed film vision. This is a film that sets its stakes and finds tension in its characters’ determination for a solution, an unusually articulate statement whose ending is consistent with what was suggested in Celine Sciammas Portrait of a lady on fire: Utopia can only be achieved without men. The justification is iron.
In Ruben Ostlund’s satire, top/bottom politics goes over deck and blows deck while the rich rub elbows with those who serve them on a cruise (plus some influencers invited to the reveal). triangle of sadnesswho won the top Cannes prize, the Palme d’Or, earlier this year. sadness is a good 45 minutes too long (it comes to a deluged two-and-a-half hours) and is thanks to Luis Buñuel (a scatalogue scene with wealthy patrons losing the gastronomic oddities they’ve been serving shit everywhere bourgeoisie in a decidedly Buñuelian vein) and Lina Wertmüller . Even if someone just summarized the plot of swept away For you, in the second half of the film, you could see the power dynamics switch after a handful of cruise attendees got washed up on an island with some help. With a fraction of the charm, Östlund comes to the same exact conclusions as the filmmakers he borrows from: Rich people are too absorbed in their own grotesqueness to have any practical survival skills. Yet so superfluous and dependent on the far-fetched stupidity of its own characters for its premise (no one bothers to look around the island they’re stranded on), I oddly enjoyed this popcorn art-house film set in its Art is just specific enough to render his personalities to make his politics absorbing.
And then there was bones and all, an elegant film about cannibalism that you can’t look away from; Read the full review here.
https://jezebel.com/2022-film-festival-movie-reviews-1849630656 New York Film Festival Reviews: Tar, Aftersun, Women Talking