NYFF57: ‘Parasite’ is a wild and exciting ride – new screenings added at Film at Lincoln Center

The hype started to build for Bong Joon Ho’s latest film when it won the Palme D’or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. I missed it during the festival, and when it was sold out at IFC Center, I was worried I’d have to wait for streaming. Luckily Film at Lincoln Center added more screenings and I attended the 6pm Friday showing in the crowded Walter Reade Theater. 

Going in with zero knowledge of even the plot, it was such a fun experience not having any idea what was going to happen next. Showing a short clip before the film from an interview with the director, someone asks something like, “how do you come up with such original stories?” His answer, “It’s my job.” How perfect is that?

I’m not going to spoil anything for you, I’ll just say it’s beautifully shot and you’ll gasp and laugh out loud within the same scene.

Tickets for Film at Lincoln Center

NYFF57 review: ‘Zombi Child’

ZOMBIE CHILD

  • Bertrand Bonello
  • 2019
  • France
  • 103 minutes
  • Subtitled
  • Opens January 24, 2020

Bertrand Bonello injects urgency and history into the well-worn walking-dead genre with this unconventional plunge into horror-fantasy, moving fluidly between 1962 Haiti, where a young man known as Clairvius Narcisse is made into a zombie by his resentful brother, and a contemporary Paris girls’ boarding school attended by Clairvius’s direct descendant.

This film has a unique narrative style. Long takes establishing backstory are a stark contrast to the teen angst-driven by voice-over lover letters. Weaving strange but true history about zombification and a young girl’s adolescent heartbreak, Zombi Child presents a story about the lengths we’ll go for love. Cinematically beautiful natural light adds to the atmosphere. Performances are everywhere from subtly grounded to flamboyant and frightening. The script is unexpected but the end result is a bit of a fever dream that will hypnotize audiences.

NYFF57 review: ‘Pain and Glory’ is one of the year’s best films.

PAIN AND GLORY

  • Pedro Almodóvar
  • 2019
  • Spain
  • 113 minutes
  • Subtitled

New York Premiere · 

Pedro Almodóvar taps into new reservoirs of introspection and emotional warmth with this miraculous, internalized portrayal of Salvador Mallo, a director not too subtly modeled on Almodóvar himself and played by Antonio Banderas, who deservedly won Best Actor at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

 

Auto-fiction at its finest, Pain and Glory is one of this year’s most beautiful and compelling films. Addressing addiction, depression, redemption, physical and emotional health, this story weaves a tale that is all at once meta and whimsical in presentation. It’s a profoundly important example of LGBTQ representation in film. Antonio Banderas is Oscar-worthy. Breathtakingly nuanced from every angle, he proves yet again how great acting can move an audience. Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, his heart and art are on the screen at all times. It is so visually lush you can almost taste the colors on screen. With a gorgeous supporting performance by Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory should easily walk away with top foreign language awards this year. Rightly deserved for a film that combines sensuality, art, and memories for audiences to immerse themselves in. It is a timeless story of love and loss, experience and pain. Pain and Glory is unforgettable in this year’s strong line up at the New York Film Festival.

Sony

NYFF57 review: ’45 Seconds on Laughter’ Tim Robbins’ doc brings levity to the lives of those who need it most.

45 SECONDS OF LAUGHTER

  • Tim Robbins
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 95 minutes

North American Premiere

In his contemplative, pared-down, and wildly engaging documentary, Tim Robbins captures a series of extraordinary sessions in which a group of inmates at the Calipatria State maximum-security facility take part in acting exercises that enhance bonding and emotional connection.

Zip. Zap. Zop. This is one of the most familiar improv games for theater nerds all over the country. In the first 20 minutes of Tim Robbins‘ new doc we watch a group of maximum security prisoners experience their very first acting class with The Actor’s Gang Prison Project. Ordinarily divided by race and gang affliction out in the yard, these men from all different backgrounds allow themselves to be free. They allow happiness, vulnerability, doubt, fear, and reflection into their normally regimented day and existence. The human connections and breakthroughs made in an acting class can change the very way you think and process information. It is an outlet that is unique and to see the effect it has on this particular group of people is profound. As the classes progress, they are challenged to emote, not just feign happy or sad, but truly feel anguish, rage, glee. To see men who are oftentimes not allowed to express themselves because of toxic masculinity and their specific surrounding, finally, feel safe enough to do so is truly breathtaking. Robbins and his teaching team, which includes an ex-prisoner, give us a masterclass in this documentary. 45 Seconds of Laughter (which is also how they end each class) is more than a film, it is a brilliant human experience. You will see transformations right in front of your eyes. Destroying boundaries through art, building friendships through mask play, and repairing relationships with loved ones by taking a chance on something completely outside of their comfort zone is nothing short of extraordinary. 45 Seconds of Laughter is a joyous film. Bravo to all.

 

New York Film Festival Review: ‘Sybil’ is chaotic and anything but predictable

What I really enjoyed about Justine Triet’s ‘Sybil’ is the layered stories that are told in real-time alongside flashbacks. The result leaves you with a feeling of unease. Was it happening now or was she remembering? I got a feeling of confusion that was intriguing and captivating.

Past and present collide in an increasingly complicated and highly entertaining fashion in Justine Triet’s intricate study of the professional and personal masks we wear as we perform our daily lives. Psychotherapist Sibyl (Virginie Efira) abruptly decides to leave her practice to restart her writing career—only to find herself increasingly embroiled in the life of a desperate new patient: Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a movie star dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic affair with her costar, Igor (Gaspard Ulliel), while trying to finish a film shoot under the watchful eye of a demanding director (Toni Erdmann’s Sandra Hüller, splendidly high-strung), who happens to be Igor’s wife. Sybil, negotiating her own past demons, makes the fateful decision to use Margot’s experiences as inspiration for her book, as boundaries of propriety fall one after another. As she proved in her previous film In Bed with Victoria, which also starred the magnificently expressive Efira, Triet is a master at creating heroines of intense complexity, and of maintaining a tricky balance between volatile drama and sly comedy. A Music Box Films release.

There’s nothing simple about this dark comedy/drama, which is what gives it such rich complexity. It’s disorienting at first to figure out what is going on, which seems to mimic Sybil’s current status. Just when you think you know where it’s going, life happens. It’s unpredictable and fascinating.

There are a few tickets left for Saturday at noon, so if you’re looking for something to see that’s worth the ticket, this would be highly recommended. Being in French adds another level of fantastic. https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2019/films/sibyl/

I just didn’t like this poster because I still think Sally Field when I hear Sybil, so it makes me think she has multiple personalities.