Review: ‘You Mean Everything To Me’ is the personification of relationship red flags.

YOU MEAN EVERYTHING TO ME

Synopsis:

Still reeling from getting kicked out of her sister’s apartment, Cassandra (Morgan Saylor of HomelandWhite Girl and Blow the Man Down) falls hard and fast for Nathan, a local DJ (Ben Rosenfield of 6 Years, Boardwalk Empire, Mrs. America, Twin Peaks).  After a whirlwind romance, he convinces her to quit her job and enlists her to dance at his club. As his coercive control increases and his demands grow darker, Nathan soon isolates her from her friends and family. Confused and desperate, she must figure out how to save another from the same fate and decide what her own freedom is worth.


You Mean Everything to Me is a whirlwind of scary energy. Lost soul Cassandra gets quickly reeled into a relationship with a master manipulator named Nathan. Writer-director Bryan Wizemann brings to the screen a story that most women would categorize as their worst nightmare. Some of us might even say it’s less of a drama and more of a horror.  It’s a film that will take your breathe away.

Ben Rosenfield plays the opposite of his last role in Mark, Mary, and Some Other People. As Nathan, he pours on the charm. Rosenfield is also keenly aggressive in a way that is so slick, the more experienced viewers take notice. What might seem like confidence is a divisive and dark power dynamic from the first breath. All of this further proves Rosenfield is a top-notch talent.

Morgan Saylor, as Cassandra, gives us a beautiful balance of naive and bold. I adored her in Blow The Man Down. I, You Mean Everything to Me, Saylor’s Cassandra is under Nathan’s spell. He sniffed out her insecurities in a heartbeat and pounced. You can see the wheels turning as she battles her instincts with immediate emotional gratification. It’s a heartbreaking performance and one you will not soon forget.

The writing is sharp and nuanced. The initially sly gaslighting is infuriating because it’s so familiar. You could throw a rock and hit any other woman who has experienced similar behavior. When the rush of oxytocin kicks in, all logic goes out the door. The plot moves like a freight train, and because of this, you feel just as trapped as Cassandra. You’ll want to rescue her. You’re on a rollercoaster ride of emotional terror. You Mean Everything to Me is challenging to sit through, but Rosenfield and Saylor compel you to keep going. The final third of the film is nothing short of heart pounding. I was shaking. You Mean Everything to Me is a must-watch.


The film is opening in NYC on December 17th at Cinema Village (with an in-person and virtual theatrical rollout in other cities)


Written and Directed by Bryan Wizemann
Produced by Matt Grady
Cinematography by Mark Schwartzbard
Edited by Michael Taylor

Cast: Morgan Saylor, Ben Rosenfield, Lindsay Burge, Tom Riis Farrell, Jacinto Taras Riddick, and Nicholas Webber


HBO original documentary review: ‘ADRIENNE’ lets us peek inside the life of the immensely talented Adrienne Shelley.

ADRIENNE

As the muse of Hal Hartley’s indie classics and as writer/director of the critically acclaimed Waitress, Adrienne Shelly was a shining star in the indie film firmament.


Indie film darling, writer, and director Adrienne Shelley‘s tragic death in 2006 sparked immediate action by her husband, Andrew Ostray. His new documentary explores Shelley’s childhood, her artistic talents, and her legacy. What happened that fateful day? How would he explain everything to their then 2-year-old daughter? Andy sets out to let people into Adrienne’s world, her career, and to help his own family navigate their grief.

Adrienne’s rise to fame seemed written in the stars. Certainly in her diary entries. Her daughter Sophie, who bears a striking resemblance to her mother, reads passages from the diaries through the years. Andy talks to Adrienne’s childhood friends, co-stars, and former directors as they recall her talents and loyal friendship. He documented conversations he had with Sophie about Adrienne. Richard O’Connor creates beautiful line-drawn animation with Sophie and Andy’s voiceovers that become great transition moments. 

Adrienne was so self-aware. It’s inspiring to watch the interviews where she expresses her values. Her uniqueness and vision allowed her to make a space for herself in the entertainment industry and quickly. She was also making a doc herself about happiness. There is so much insightful footage of Adrienne being Adrienne. A repeating theme is a sadness that she carried with her for a great deal of her life. It’s a heaviness that hovers over the entirety of the film. But she and Andy’s love story is never diminished. It’s the reason we have Waitress; this glorious celebration of a woman breaking free and understanding unconditional love. 

The doc swells to the gut-wrenching moment when Andy confronts the man who murdered Adrienne. It is a powerful interaction that had me trembling. But, most likely, you’ve already wept while watching ADRIENNE. You cannot sit through Jessie Mueller’s rendition of “She Used To Be Mine” from Waitress: The Musical and not be a complete emotional wreck. It’s not physically possible. This film is partly a gift to his daughter and Adrienne’s fans. It’s undoubtedly a physical catharsis, leaving the human experience of how one single person can impact everyone around them. It’s a legacy of an extraordinary woman and her story. ADRIENNE will touch your soul. 



Director: Andy Ostroy
Executive Producer: Marc Levin, Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller
Producer: Andy Ostroy; Co-Producer: Jillian A. Goldstein; Supervising Producer: Daphne Pinkerson
Cinematographer: Trish Govoni
Editor: Angela Gandini, Co-Editor: Kristen Nutile
Music: Andrew Hollander
Language: English, Spanish
Country: USA

Year: 2021


So many stories left to tell. Adrienne, an HBO original documentary about the life and legacy of actress, director, and screenwriter Adrienne Shelly, premieres December 1 at 8 pm on HBOMax.


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘Come Back Anytime’ is a Visual Feast with Charisma to Spare

Come Back Anytime

For more than forty years, ramen master Masamoto Ueda has been serving his legendary Tokyo-style ramen to a community of regulars who are not only his customers, but true friends.


Sometimes the simple pleasures are the best: good food, great friends, and a cold glass of sake. “Come Back Anytime” is a lovely tribute to Bizentei, a cozy ramen noodle restaurant located on a quiet corner of suburban Tokyo. Within this neighborhood gem, ramen master Masamoto Ueda has served comforting bowls of noodles for over thirty years while cultivating a cast of charming regulars that return week after week. While the lush cooking scenes bring to mind the much-heralded “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” Bizentei has a relaxed communal atmosphere much more akin to “Cheers.” Serving a ramen style considered somewhat old-fashioned but with seriously upgraded ingredients, the regulars cherish the nostalgic qualities of the food as much as Master Ueda’s company. Through first-person interviews with the patrons, viewers gain privileged access to a cozy hub, and it quickly becomes apparent why it holds such a special place in the community. 

The film opens with the subtle ASMR of Chef Ueda opening his shop for the day. Beautiful cinematography captures both art and skill as Chef prepares delicate broths that simmer gently in the background forming swirls of quiet steam, then sharpens glistening knives on a dark stone before chopping picture-perfect vegetables into neat symmetrical rows. I was captivated less than five minutes in. 

“Come Back Anytime” grabs your attention with a stunning presentation of traditional Japanese cuisine, but it is the intimate portraits of friendship forged over crispy fried gyoza or melt in your mouth chashu that will capture your heart.


For more info on DOC NYC 2021 click here!


DOC NYC (2021) short film reviews: ‘Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker ‘ & ‘Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma’

Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker  

This is what most short films aspire to be– a brief 30 minutes that conveys a story so completely it feels like a much longer narrative. An exposition on the homoerotic imagery within the art of J.C. Leyendecker, Coded excels at blending what is essentially an art history lesson with its present-day significance and with a deeply romantic love story to boot. As someone who is always here for a story about true love, this one left an impression that is unlikely to fade.


Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma

Overflowing with cool-kid energy, this short film dazzles and delights. A tribute to the Black ABCs and growing up in New Jersey, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma excels in quickly establishing a sense of place. This is a film about black people that is made for black people, i.e. Art that deeply respects its subject. The colors and angles of the shots are gripping, trippy, and mesmerizing. Viewing was akin to walking through an art exhibit: what do all the disparate clips mean? You get the sense of it but it’s mostly vibes.


For more info on DOC NYC 2021 click here!


DOC NYC (2021) review: Questlove Flawlessly Mixes Music + History in ‘SUMMER PF SOUL’

SUMMER OF SOUL

In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was largely forgotten–until now. SUMMER OF SOUL shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The feature includes concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more.


Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s directorial debut is simply brilliant. It might almost be a given that as a world-famous and beloved D.J., every musical and visual choice in Summer of Soul masterfully cultivates a vibe and maintains that dazzling energy for the length of the entire film. In addition to showcasing a great party, Summer of Soul provides viewers with the essential historical and cultural context to fully appreciate what they are witnessing. Through passionate first-person narratives from attendees, the film balances what in less experienced hands might have become merely a history lesson with one hell of a show. 

 Piecing together recently discovered footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, Summer of Soul is a celebration of black culture as it transitioned from the tumult of the 1960s into the black liberation movement of the 1970s. In a time of great uncertainty and political unrest, the concert series set in Mt. Morris Park was a time for black pride and celebration. The film includes never before seen live performances by a young Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, and many more. Every shot is colorful, powerful, and tells a story. The music is phenomenal. The costumes are dazzling– maybe men should reconsider brightly colored ruffle shirts?– the Black Panthers provided security in full regalia, including the berets. Each shot is a wonder and a visual feast. 

 Summer of Soul is a vital inclusion to narratives around the Summer of Love and essential addition to understanding the complete history of the era.


SUMMER OF SOUL premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. It is streaming on Hulu in conjunction with Disney General Entertainment’s Onyx Collective; Searchlight Pictures released it theatrically.


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘GO HEAL YOURSELF’ takes a deep dive into alternative medicine.

GO HEAL YOURSELF

Against the wishes of her family, Yasmin sets out to find a treatment for her
epilepsy via alternative medicine. Meeting inspiring people all around the
world, she learns that this route is not as easy as simply taking a pill.


My aunt has always used homeopathic remedies. She’s beaten breast cancer twice. As someone with chronic pain from a neck injury caused by a car accident, anxiety since childhood, severe dance injuries, and phantom pain and diastasis recti from two C-sections, I would love to find ways to heal myself. You hear testimonials constantly on the internet or get messages on social media from women in health and wellness, aka the newest pyramid scheme. In Go Heal Yourself, filmmaker Yasmin C. Rams goes on a mission to explore alternative medicine for her epilepsy and her father’s Parkinson’s. It is a journey fraught with emotion. 

The argument of western vs. eastern medicine will never fade. Alternative medicine is a rare topic in my house. We believe in science, but that never discounts the science we aren’t familiar with yet. Although, my neck injury was so painful that I did my first and only session of acupuncture. It did not move the needle (pun intended) on my pain scale. I’ve since watched two aunts go through breast cancer treatments. Neither of their stories is the norm. While one used homeopathic medicine, the other did chemotherapy but never got sick. I’ve never heard of that before. 

In Go Heal Yourself, Yasmin’s father is skeptical. Her attempts to change his diet or convince him that his medication isn’t helping fall of deaf ears. Her epilepsy seems to reach a point of no return as CBD and herbal supplements become too expensive. In her search for answers, Rams reaches out to those individuals across the globe who claim their sickness wained due to a drastic lifestyle change and not medication. You cannot help but become emotionally attached to the people featured in Go Heal Yourself. You’d be hardpressed not to know someone in your life that isn’t afflicted similarly. While some of them heal, others struggle. Each believes that holistic medicine will lessen their ailments in the end. It’s the mental aspect that seems the most powerful. With mindfulness becoming more mainstream, those who practice may feel vindication from this doc.

We are fully invested in Yasmin’s journey. It’s a personal, oftentimes dark, diary of sorts. Undoubtedly, we’re hoping to find our miracle cure as we watch. Go Heal Yourself is going to rattle people, and there’s no getting around it. But if it causes us to stop and think for a moment about what our health means in our souls, then it has succeeded wholeheartedly. At the very least it opens up the dialogue.


Online Dates

Sunday, November 14 – Sunday, November 28, 2021


Director: Yasmin C. Rams
Producer: Yasmin C. Rams, Rodney Charles
Cinematographer: Vita Spiess, Nic Smith
Editor: Kirsten Kieninger
Music: Patrick Puszko
Language: English, German, Spanish, Mandarin
Country: Germany
Year: 2021


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘The Business of Birth Control’

The Business of Birth Control

Sixty years after the pill revolutionized women’s emancipation, THE BUSINESS OF BIRTH CONTROL examines the complex relationship between hormonal birth control and women’s health and liberation. The documentary traces the feminist movement to investigate and expose the pill’s risks alongside the racist legacy of hormonal contraception and its ongoing weaponization against communities of color.  Weaving together the stories of bereaved parents, body literacy activists and femtech innovators, the film reveals a new generation seeking holistic and ecological alternatives to the pill while redefining the meaning of reproductive justice.


Is “the Pill” killing us? Perhaps not, according to the innumerable doctors who prescribe it to 11 million women. 35% of which are for reasons other than preventing pregnancy. Anytime I heard about my girlfriends going on birth control in high school or college, it was the same complaints; weight gain, mood swings, depression, and suicidal ideation. I never went on the pill because I was terrified by the side effects. In The Business of Birth Control, get ready to have your mind blown because everything you think you know about contraceptives and The Pill is about to change. The entire FDA approval study was based on only 132 women in Puerto Rico. What?! Under the auspices of body autonomy, the side effects were hidden or swept under the rug by the medical industry. Not a damn thing has changed. Profit and politics and old white men making decisions for women. Follow the money. Why fix a $17 billion industry? 

The Business of Birth Control utilizes doctors, educators, activists, and people passionate about giving you as much information as possible. We also hear about the fatal links to products like Yaz and NuvaRing. Director Abby Epstein introduces us to a group of parents who lost their daughters to the side effects of these hormonal contraceptives. They have become activists and not by choice. They wonder why there aren’t clear visual warnings on the front of contraception packages, much like cigarettes. I always pause when I watch drug commercials, and they rattle off the giant list of potential side effects.

I struggled to get pregnant for eight months. Every month I cried when the pregnancy test was negative. Then someone turned me onto an app very similar to the method discussed in the doc. I tracked my temperature each morning and some other information because you cannot get pregnant every day of your cycle, but that’s not what has been drilled into our heads since Sex Ed class in 5th grade. Within three months, I was pregnant, and I knew because of my spike in temperature. I knew before taking a test because I had learned the natural cycle of my body. 

Abby Epstein and Executive Producer Ricki Lake (The Business of Being Born) have given us so much to consider with this doc. There are more ways to maintain reproductive autonomy than I ever imagined. The fight continues to bring these options to every corner of the country, and much like the battle to keep abortion safe and legal, we cannot slow down in educating the masses. This film is not strictly for cis-gendered women who menstruate. The Business of Birth Control is knowledge every person should consume. Let’s keep talking to each other because that is empowerment. 


November 10th – November 18th

For tickets to watch The Business of Birth Control click here!


Directed by: Abby Epstein (The Business of Being BornWeed The People)

Executive produced by: Ricki Lake (Hairspray)

Producers: Abby Epstein, James Costa (Lunch HourWelcome to Chechnya), Holly Grigg-Spall, Anna Kolber (Chasing the Present)


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘The Bengali’ breaks cultural and physical barriers.

THE BENGALI

Fatima Shaik, an African-American author (Economy Hall) from New Orleans, and whose family has lived in Louisiana for four generations, embarks upon an unlikely quest from The Big Easy to a part of India where no African-American (or American) has ever gone. Her search for the past is fraught with uncertainty as she looks for her late grandfather Shaik Mohamed Musa’s descendants, the land he claimed to own, and the truth behind the stories she grew up with. Her incredible journey is told in New York City-based award-winning filmmaker Kavery Kaul’s (Cuban Canvas, Long Way From Home) new feature documentary THE BENGALI.


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, people lost homes, heirlooms, family, and stories. In The Bengali, African American writer Fatima Shaik leaves her birthplace of New Orleans to follow the path of her grandfather, Shaik Muhamed Musa. His history becomes the mystery Fatima seeks to unravel. Director Kavery Kaul was born in Kolkata. These two women travel to India on a mission of recovery and emotional enlightenment.

I lived in India from the end of 2008 into the beginning of 2009. In many cases, I was the first Westerner many of the locals in Hyderabad had ever seen. Most certainly, the first white woman. I was fascinated by the lush history of my surroundings. I watched as the landscape changed around me, sometimes quite literally. I witnessed the erection of modern malls and office buildings, as tent cities surrounding the community we initially lived in were simultaneously bulldozed over. The difference in culture was overwhelming. But unlike Fatima Shaik, I had no familial connection to the country. In The Bengali, Fatima and Kavery are there to seek answers and validate the stories passed down from Fatima’s grandfather. The greater the roadblocks, the more she questions. The locals are suspicious, and rumors begin to fly about her presence. Is her entire family history a lie?

Watching The Bengali is like a time warp for me. Fatima is just as lost and overwhelmed in the country’s bureaucratic ridiculousness. It’s a palpable frustration I know all too well. Merely attempting to travel from point A to point B is a challenge. Never mind the daunting sense of direction within street signs and, in many cases, house numbers. The handheld camera work immerses you into the chaos. In most cities, the people speak at least a few English words. In a small village, that was always less likely. Thankfully, Fatima had Kavery to assist in translation. Attempting this journey without her aid would be near impossible. But, like my own experiences, the most intriguing conversations occur between her and the village women. Discussions of gender roles, education, arranged marriage vs. love marriage give us insight into rural Indian culture. Religion becomes a point of contention, but that should not be of any surprise. But it is the often forgotten story of immigrants that rings the loudest. There is an entire history of Indian and African American culture in America that I had never heard of. The documentary became a new page in our history. 

Finding roots changes a person, no matter the outcome of information. The Bengali is a candid and revelatory dive into past and present, and thus the future. It breaks social and physical barriers, showing the viewer we’re all part of a much larger community than we could imagine.


Director: Kavery Kaul
Executive Producer: Deborah Shaffer
Producer: Kavery Kaul, Lucas Groth
Writer: Kavery Kaul
Cinematographer: John Russell Foster
Editor: Lucas Groth
Music: Nainita Desai
Language: English, Bengali
Country: USA
Year: 2021

Winner of the Special Jury Award at Roxbury Film Festival and the International Humanitarian Award at Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival, The Bengali will make its New York Premiere at DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival. The film will screen in person on Saturday, Nov. 13th at 4:45 pm at IFC Center with additional virtual screenings from Nov. 14-28. For tickets, visit https://www.docnyc.net/film/the-bengali/.


 

DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘MR BACHMANN AND HIS CLASS’ is a lesson in compassion and kindness.

MR BACHMANN AND HIS CLASS

Where does one feel at home? In Stadtallendorf, a German city with a complex history of both excluding and integrating foreigners, genial teacher Dieter Bachmann offers his pupils the key to at least feeling as if they are at home.


When children get caught in the crosshairs of sociopolitical complexities, it’s rarely a good thing. In one specialized German school, an extraordinary teacher treats his students like his own children. Through language, history, German, and music, Dieter Bachmann breaks down the walls of his classroom and the industrial landscape in which they reside. Their families mostly hail from Turkey, having left to find work at the local factories. They must learn to adapt to new languages and ideas, thus breaking a cycle for their generation.

Director Maria Speth immerses the audience in the cinema verite style, and the choice is perfection. As a former teacher, placing the camera inside the action gives the viewer a real sense of the minute-to-minute chaos of a classroom. Kids are laughing, rolling their eyes, struggling, learning, expressing opinions all at once. Their anxiety is palpable as we watch parent-teacher conferences. The heart of Bachmann is the purest. You are invested in these children as they navigate challenges in and outside of school. You get to experience the aha moments that are some of the most rewarding times as a teacher. The kids are bright and thoughtful. Their opinions often differ, but the conversations sparked from those differences are brilliant. Mr. Bachmann and His Class reminds us that the human spirit needs encouragement. We cannot do it alone. While it does take a village to raise a child, Stadtallendorf is lucky to have Dieter Bachmann. 


For Tickets to Mr. Bachmann and His Class click here!


Director: Maria Speth

Producer: Maria Speth
Cinematographer: Reinhold Vorschneider
Editor: Maria Speth
Music: Oliver Göbel
Language: German
Country: Germany

Year: 2021


DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, runs in-person November 10-18 at IFC Center, SVA Theatre, and Cinépolis Chelsea and continues online until November 28.


DOC NYC (2021) review: Don’t you dare roll your eyes because ‘Listening To Kenny G.’ is freaking cool.

LISTENING TO KENNY G.

LISTENING TO KENNY G (December 2nd), directed by Penny Lane, takes a humorous but incisive look at the saxophonist Kenny G., the best-selling instrumental artist of all time, and quite possibly the one of the most reviled musicians today. The film investigates the artist formerly known as Kenneth Gorelick, unravelling the allure of the man who played jazz so smoothly that a whole new genre formed around him, and questioning fundamental assumptions about art and excellence in the process. In his own words, Kenny G speaks candidly about his musical background, his stringent work ethic and his controversial standing in the jazz canon.


Are you ready for a doc to charm the pants off of you? I don’t think you are. Listening to Kenny G. is no joke. It’s the name of a new HBO music documentary. Push aside any cliché you have in your brain when you hear the name Kenny G. because director Penny Lane wants to introduce you to the man and his music in an intimate fashion.

He’s so aware of his abilities, is self-deprecating, and undeniably talented. You’ll be blown away by his work ethic. He’s one of the most genuine guys. You cannot help but fall in love with him as you hear him talk about his history, his goals, and his astoundingly gracious aura. Watching him create music is nothing short of fascinating. You’ll find yourself transfixed by the melodies, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Lane includes sitdowns with critics and scholars, forcing them to confront their own biases. The film isn’t all sunshine and roses. Besides the eye rolls, critics seize on race and the history of jazz. None of that delegitimizes the massive fandom that Kenny G. maintains today. The evolution of his career is shocking. Clive Davis’ marketing ideas for Kenny’s music in the early 80s were wacky. But to both of their credit, Davis stuck with Kenny and vice versa. 

Listening To Kenny G., as a film, is undeniably enjoyable. Much like his music, it goes down easy. If you’re not smiling from ear to ear while watching, your cynicism has gotten the better of you.


For tickets to Listening To Kenny G. click here!


Director: Penny Lane
Executive Producer: Bill Simmons, Jody Gerson, Marc Cimino; Co-Executive Producer: Geoff Chow, Sean Fennessy, Noah Malale
Producer: Gabriel Sedgwick, Co-Producer: Nick Hasse
Cinematographer: Naiti Gamez
Editor: Cindy Lee, Adam Bolt
Music: Charlie Rosen
Language: English
Country: USA
Year: 2021
“Listening to Kenny G” debuts on HBO December 2nd

DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, runs in-person November 10-18 at IFC Center, SVA Theatre, and Cinépolis Chelsea and continues online until November 28.


Review: ‘That Cold Dead Look In Your Eyes’ is genre-destroying madness.

Synopsis

Leonard is about to lose his girlfriend, home, and job. Upon that, he’s having strange hallucinations. Is it stress or an after effect of new technology installed all over the city? He must figure it out or he’ll be trapped in this nightmare forever.


I got the email and all I saw was the director’s name. You had me at Onur Tukel, send me the film. If you aren’t familiar with the genre of weird and wonderful that Tukel has put forth into the world of cinema, you’re seriously missing out. From titles like Applesauce to Black Magic for White Boys, if you ever think you know where one of his scripts is headed, you’re sorely mistaken. Enter his newest creation, That Cold Dead Look In Your Eyes.

Leonard blew up his life by cheating on his girlfriend. She is kicking him out. In the meantime, her photographer father that she so clearly adores is visiting at an inopportune time, leaving Leonard to play an awkward host. Dennis is loathsome. He regards himself very highly and cares little for the opinion of others. He’s brash and his attitude seems to be contagious. Leonard is spiraling in every aspect of life. His cooking skills are garbage, he’s running out of money, what’s left of his personal space has been invaded. The entire film seems to be one bashing extravaganza of Leonard, or is it? There is a sadness that consumes him. Maybe it’s the strange new technology that begins appearing around the city. There’s a 5G joke in here, perhaps, and it isn’t subtle. 

Franck Raharinosy as Leonard is just as helpless as you need him to be. Put this man out of his misery in some form or fashion. That’s probably the oddest compliment I could give him. He plays such a convincing sad sack of a man, you feel bad for him. Alan Ceppos is magnificent in his ability to make you cringe. He just doesn’t give a f*ck, for lack of eloquence. This is a performance akin to watching a car crash. You want to look away but you cannot. You are transfixed by Ceppos’ nonchalance. He’s unreal.

The decision to use color for the past and black and white for the present threw me. It became a revelatory choice. Unsurprising for Tukel, whose films tend to center on relationships. You’ll always be taken aback by whatever comes out of his brain next. Tukel can make the mundane hilarious. In Cold Dead Look, we get everything from gaslighting to buffoonery, cruelty to madness, and depression with a side of hideous hallucinations. The film feels like one lengthy Twilight Zone episode in French. Do I have any inkling of what the hell happened once the credits rolled? No, I do not. But, That Cold Dead Look In Your Eyes is unlike anything you’ve seen before, while simultaneously, very obviously being an Onur Tukel film.


The newest film from acclaimed director Onur Tukel (Catfight, Summer of Blood), and featuring Nora Arnezeder (Army of the DeadUpcoming series “The Offer”) and Max Casella (“The Sopranos”, The Tender Bar), THAT COLD DEAD LOOK IN YOUR EYES will release On Demand 11/9.


Soho International Film Festival short review: ‘KLUTZ.’ is a creative and thought-provoking meditation on grief.

Zowie lost her sister and is falling down on the job of life. Can’t love. Won’t go out. Refuses to work properly. But she stumbles upon an accidental superpower: when she falls, when she feels pain — gravity bends so that she can see her sister again. However, the space-time-continuum giveth, the space-time-continuum taketh away, and the next time she hurts, her sister is gone. Frustrated and depleted, Zowie is torn between moving on or withering on the vine. So, in a whiskey-fueled dream-state, she makes a choice: to fall one last time. On purpose.


Grief is a personal journey. When your person gets ripped from your orbit, all bets are off. “Coping” can mean destructive behavior in the form of alcohol, binge eating, even self-harm. Or, grief can manifest itself into the most creative outlets. In Zowie’s case, pain and darkness are where she’s become comfortable. It’s also where her sister appears to her, bringing her momentary joy. In Klutz, Zowie must learn to evolve within her preconceived notions of sadness.

Grief has no timeline. No one can tell you how to process it. It’s not their place. Klutz manages to pull you into Zowie’s emotional orbit. The dialogue is dynamic and thoughtful, at times mired in anguish, while others were playfully silly. I was lucky enough to watch Klutz three times, catching more and more cleverly repeated images each viewing. I adored this short on a personal level. As someone who has lost one of my people, I lived inside this narrative. Klutz is relatable and poetic. It’s a beautifully insightful little film.


Showings – select to order tickets:
  • Runtime:
    14 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
    United States
  • Premiere:
    NEW YORK Premiere
  • Note:
    Death
  • Director:
    Michelle Bossy
  • Screenwriter:
    Elizabeth Narciso
  • Producer:
    Malka Wallick, Mara Kassin, Howard Wallick & Freda Rosenfeld, David Selden & Julie Wallick, Elizabeth Narciso, Scott & Susan Shay
  • Cast:
    Malka Wallick, Mara Kassin, Sanjit De Silva, Geneva Carr, Angel Desai, Wai Ching Ho, Florencia Lozano, Geoffrey Owens



Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent’ is a family-friend monster mash.

NELLY RAPP- MONSTER AGENT

Director Amanda Adolfsson takes on the feature film adaptation of the Swedish children’s book series Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent. Nelly is a middle school outcast due to her love of monsters and mayhem. She spends her autumn break with her eccentric uncle Hannibal only to discover a family history filled with spooky surprises. Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences were treated to this sweet horror- comedy’s North American Premiere. 

This cast is a delight. Matilda Gross plays Nelly with joyful innocence. Her curiosity and enthusiasm leap off the screen. She’s a wonderfully unique heroine joining the likes of Pippi Longstocking and Coraline. I could easily see Nelly Rapp costumes popping up for Halloween. 

The cinematography is gorgeous. The setting, the costumes, everything pops. The main set is magical. The walls adorned with landscape paintings, the massive rooms filled with antique furnishings, and the ceilings boast curious murals. The score is perfectly whimsical. The stunning fx makeup is never too terrifying for its intended audience. 

Nelly Rapp is a family-friendly monster mash. The script is bursting with charm and genuine giggles. A kid-friendly homage to the classic movie monsters Nelly Rapp introduces youngsters to the horror genre in a thoughtful and adventurous way. 

I wish I had this movie when I was younger. I was always fascinated by all things spooky, sometimes that made me feel like an outcast. Nelly Rapp addresses bullying, family tradition, and prejudice in a way that is digestible for children. It teaches them they don’t need to change themselves to fit it. It is their quirkiness that makes them special. Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent is now available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video. It’s the perfect combination of trick and treat. 


Nelly Rapp: Monster Agent (Official English Trailer) from Janson Media on Vimeo.


Stream on Amazon: amazon.com/Nelly-Rapp-Monster-Matilda-Gross/dp/B09HPM87N6/


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘What Josiah Saw’ is a familial collision course.

 

WHAT JOSIAH SAW


What Josiah Saw the new indie feature from Vincent Grashaw, is one twisted picture. In some ways, I wish the feature had been split up into a 3 episode limited series to slowly spoon-feed the viewer its multiple moments of trauma and dread. Instead, it hits you in a 1 hour 56-minute wallop –  I left the film feeling dispirited and numb, my emotions frayed. This reaction is also a testament to many of the film’s characters, and my desire to spend more time learning about them before they are plunged into terrifying and tragic circumstances.

The film is roughly divided into 3 parts, each following one of the Graham children. The troubled youngest child, Thomas (Scott Haze) still lives on the family farm with his father, Josiah (a sickly-looking but still magnificently creepy Robert Patrick). Part 2 follows older brother Eli (Nick Stahl) is an addict who has been forced into a criminal style. In the final chapter, we meet sister Mary (Kelli Garner), who has married and moved away but still bears obvious trauma and scars from her childhood. When a group of developers tries to buy the farm, the film inevitably sets these 3 siblings and their father on a dramatic collision course.

Each segment of the film has a very different tone. The early scenes on the farm (where, years earlier, Josiah’s wife mysteriously committed suicide) are filled with eerie unease. Josiah and Thomas’ relationship is tense and cold. It feels very much like a haunted house film. I feel like Robert Patrick has been playing supremely creepy characters for my whole lifetime – he slips into these roles without even trying. There’s a scene where Josiah gives Thomas some fatherly advice that is some of Patrick’s most squirm-inducing work to date.

This tone drastically shifts in the second segment, which focuses on Eli trying to steal a trunk of gold from a traveling group of Romani. You read that right. This section works even though it represents a drastic tonal departure from the early plot. It’s the lightest section of the narrative and the only part of the film where the audience gets to have a little fun. Stahl gives an incredibly versatile performance in this film, imbuing Eli with equal parts charisma and self-doubt. They could have made a whole movie focusing on this segment alone.

Mary’s introduction is rushed, and the film’s final chapter is mostly concerned with reuniting the siblings on the family farm. And that’s when things really get weird. The film’s finale is powerful and brutal. It left my head spinning. I can’t say I want to watch this film again, but I know I’ll be thinking about its implications for a long time.


You can read Liz’s #BHFF2021 review of What Josiah Saw here


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘What Josiah Saw’ reigns holy terror on your nerves.

WHAT JOSIAH SAW

After two decades, a damaged family reunite at their remote farmhouse, where they confront long-buried secrets and sins of the past.


As a child forced to attend Catholic school for eight years, I know a little something about the trauma religion imprints on a young mind. Irrational guilt dwells in my brain to this day. Director Vincent Grashaw’s staggering third feature, What Josiah Saw, delves into how zealous behavior and extreme dysfunction go hand in hand. A portrait of a family’s unspeakable darkness and how it haunts them forever. It is a film that will consume your soul.

Kelli Garner‘s vulnerability as Mary is a stunning turn. With a palpable fear, Garner leaves it all on-screen in an unapologetic performance. Her arc is astonishing. Nick Stahl scared the Jesus out of me most recently in Hunter Hunter. As Eli, Stahl maneuvers past sins with an anxious undercurrent. Like Garner, the emotional journey of Eli will leave you blindsided.

Robert Patrick plays Graham family patriarch, Josiah. His monstrous behavior appears superficially enabled by newfound holy retribution that looks a whole hell of a lot like dogmatic abuse. Patrick’s innate ability to intimidate with as little as a whisper is terrifying. This performance drips with brutal vitriol.

Scott Haze hit the ground running in James Franco‘s Child of God. That part was a brilliant warm-up to playing the role of a traumatized, devoted son. Haze’s character is the final human whipping post on that farm. He breathes life into the part of Thomas, as every beat is a complete journey. The chemistry between Patrick and Haze is electric. 

Carlos Ritter‘s cinematography reflects an ominous mood. He takes advantage of shadows and natural light to create a visual eerieness. Robert Pycior‘s score makes your skin crawl. Writer Robert Alan Dilts‘ screenplay unfolds in chapters. What Josiah Saw could have been developed into a series. Dilts created fully fleshed-out characters. There is that much life in this story. The script’s structure also allows the audience to focus on each Graham family member and their demons. Everyone teetering on the edge of a potential psychotic break. The repeated visual of each character gazing out the farmhouse window is striking. Its cyclical pattern is sheer brilliance.

Each of these elements creates a visceral disquiet that is unshakable for the nearly two-hour run. What Josiah Saw was relentlessly unnerving. The stakes get higher and higher. I had to remind myself to breathe. It is impossible to think Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences saw this story coming. The final act is so twisted it will blow your mind, again and again. What Josiah Saw is an unexpected, complex, and shocking watch. It is hands down, the best horror film of the year.


Director:
Vincent Grashaw
Screenwriter:
Robert Alan Dilts
Producer:
Ran Namerode, Vincent Grashaw, Bernie Stern, Angelia Adzic
Cast:
Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Scott Haze, Kelli Garner, Tony Hale, Jake Weber


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘AFTER BLUE (Dirty Paradise)’ is intoxicating genre weirdness .

AFTER BLUE

A chimeric future on After Blue, a planet from another galaxy, a virgin planet where only women can survive in the midst of harmless flora and fauna. The story is of a punitive expedition.


On a planet filled exclusively with women, a mother and daughter are charged with catching the killer daughter Roxy inadvertently set free. What occurs over the next two-plus hours is a retelling of events, unlike anything we ever experienced before on film.

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences certainly got more than they bargained for with After Blue. The cast gives it their all from start to finish. This speaks volumes about the trust between writer-director Bertrand Mandico and these actors. An ambitious work, Mandico’s most rewarding aspect is the creation of an entirely new world. Every inch of the set is adorned with eye candy, glitter, and sci-fi western weirdness. It’s a visual feast. The costumes drip with a mix of 70s witch, barbarian, mermaid aesthetics. It’s like watching a really expensive, new wave music video at times. The entire film feels like softcore porn for hardcore genre nerds. In all seriousness, sexual urges motivate each character’s every moment. While the plot is flimsy, the psychosexual energy and gender dismantling make After Blue an intriguing watch. The commentary on class, consumerism, and privilege is, quite literally, written on objects. There’s an Android named Louis Vuitton, guns named Gucci and Chanel. You have to let go of any preconceived notions about After Blue and ride the hypersexual, demented wave of the bizarre.



Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) capsule review: ‘The Feast’ is deliciously gory folklore.

SYNOPSIS

IFC Midnight’s THE FEAST follows a young woman serving privileged guests at a dinner party in a remote house in rural Wales. The assembled guests do not realize they are about to eat their last supper.


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences were in for some magic with The Feast. Meticulous sound editing and sharp cinematography create a tense and frightening environment right off the bat. Strikingly framed shots envelop the audience as this house filled with extremely flawed residents prepares for an important dinner. Cadi’s assistance is requested. Her awe and anxiety resonate immediately. But as the day progresses, Cadi has a mysterious connection to the land this family is mining. Superstition, tradition, greed, and revenge clash in The Feast, making for a jarring watch. Performances across the board are outstanding from overtly creepy, pathetic, nouveau riche, prideful, eccentric, gluttonous, and entitled. The Feast is a delicious mix of excellent storytelling and sharp visual composition. It should not be missed.


Nationwide audiences can experience the film when IFCMidnight brings it to theaters on November 19th


DIRECTED BY
Lee Haven Jones
WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY
Roger Williams

CAST Annes Elwy, Lisa Palfrey, and Caroline Berry


#thefeast #ifcmidnight

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) shorts program review: ‘HEAD TRIP’- 9 drastically different shorts #BHFF21

HEAD TRIP shorts program

Head Trip” is a series of 9 ingenious shorts featured at this week’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. They range from deeply dark to laugh-out-loud funny.


Lips, dir. Nicole Tegelaar (Netherlands, Belgium)

Talk about body horror. This short is laser-focused on a particular body part. A young woman awakens in a mysterious clinic. She’s been injured and requires surgery. This one kept me guessing as to who was the bigger danger: the staff or the other patients.


The Departure, dir. Nico van den Brink (Netherlands)

A melancholy, beautiful piece from the Netherlands. The principal characters create immediate rapport despite the short run time, and the cinematography was top-notch. A tragic and thoughtful journey into loss and longing that had me wishing for more.


A Tale Best Forgotten, dir. Tomas Stark (Sweden)

Adapted from a Helen Adam ballade, this is one killer tune.


Sudden Light, dir. Sophie Littman (UK)

My favorite short of the group is a dreamlike countryside odyssey into doubt and fear. Mia (Esme Creed-Miles) and Squeeze (Millie) are walking their dog home, and take a fateful shortcut through a field. I loved the way this short fully harnesses its countryside setting – mud, branches, and smoke all combine into an overwhelming rush. The caliber of talent involved makes you wish for a feature-length narrative.


Tropaion, dir. Kjersti Helen Rasmussen (Norway)

A testament to the power of the wilderness, this short contains barely any dialogue. Stark images are the sole driver of the narrative. The child performers, in particular, are excellent.


The Faraway Man, dir. Megan Gilbert, Jill Hogan (USA)

A powerful narrative on the way evil can manifest itself. A young woman is haunted by the figure of a man, dressed in black, watching from distance. A great example of how blurred the line can be between horror and tragedy. Another short that could easily be stretched to a feature.


Man or Tree, dir. Varun Raman, Tom Hancock (UK)

A breath of fresh air. Imagine you partied too hard and woke up transformed into a tree. I guess you could say this is the rare short that focuses on the trees instead of the whole forest.


Playing With Spiders, dir. Rylan Rafferty (USA)

A disturbing glance behind the curtain of a small cult that worships, you guessed it, spiders. The night before a fateful ritual, Lydia (Kelly Curran) begins to ask some big questions of her peers and leaders. Is she a skeptic, or the only true believer? Even though this had a comedic tone at times, it got the biggest jump scare of the night.


A Puff Before Dying, dir. Mike Pinkney, Michael Reich (USA)

An absolute gut-buster of a short. Like “Team America: World Police” on acid. When 3 teen girls (who are also marionettes) hit the road for a night out, the devil’s lettuce quickly rears its tempestuous head. Will they have the willpower to resist, or will the night end in tragedy?


Today is the final day of BHFF 2021. You can still get tickets to the CLOSING NIGHT film

THE SADNESS

by clicking this LINK.

Fair warning, it is not for the faint of heart.


NYFF59 Announces Spotlight section and if you’re not freaking out, you should be.

FILM AT LINCOLN CENTER ANNOUNCES SPOTLIGHT FOR THE
59th NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

Film at Lincoln Center just announced Spotlight for the 59th New York Film Festival. The Spotlight section is NYFF’s showcase of the season’s most anticipated and significant films. We’re pretty excited to see what’s on the schedule, including a double dose of Timothée Chalamet in DUNE and THE FRENCH DISPATCH. Sean Baker’s newest film RED ROCKET starring Simon Rex will sure to have sparks flying. Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s directorial debut THE LOST DAUGHTER and Mike Mills’ C’MON C’MON. 20th Century Women was my favorite title from NYFF54, so I’m eager to see what story he has for audiences this year.  You can find the entire Spotlight lineup listed below.


“Our Spotlight section is a new part of our reshaped New York Film Festival, a place that this year encompasses a range of cinema, new and old,” said Eugene Hernandez, Director of the New York Film Festival. “Of the new work, we’re showcasing a selection of anticipated films (and talent) from recent festivals (Wes & company! Olivia! Timmy! Jane & Charlotte! Joaquin! and more), while also looking back at our roots, celebrating the history of NYFF and New York City’s film culture by shining a special light on Amos Vogel. We hope that our Spotlight section, in year two, will again engage, enlighten, and entertain!”

Among the highlights are Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated adaptation of Dune; Academy Award–nominated director Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle, a visually extraordinary tale about a shy teenager who becomes an online sensation as a pop star; Mike Mills’s C’mon C’mon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a warmhearted radio journalist; Wes Anderson’s latest, The French Dispatch, showcasing his unmistakable cinematic style with a cast of familiar collaborators; directorial debuts from Charlotte Gainsbourg, profiling her legendary mother Jane Birkin in Jane By Charlotte, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, adapting Elena Ferrante’s novel The Lost Daughter, with a brilliant performance by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman; veteran Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio’s Marx Can Wait, a heart-wrenching examination of the legacy of his twin brother’s suicide, on the occasion of a family reunion in his hometown of Piacenza; and Red Rocket, Sean Baker’s newest depiction of contemporary America as a playground for hustlers and con men, set against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election.

NYFF59 also pays tribute to the centenary of late film programmer and festival co-founder Amos Vogel—who offered the city “films you cannot see elsewhere,” and whose uncompromising dedication to the medium’s radical possibilities inspired NYC film culture as it exists today—with a special Spotlight sidebar. Vogel’s wide-ranging curatorial career spanned his many years running Cinema 16, America’s most influential film society; his foundational work at Lincoln Center; his time at Grove Press; and his classic study Film as a Subversive Art, which will soon be reissued by The Film Desk. FLC’s tribute focuses on the NYFF period, bookended by screenings devoted to his work before and after his involvement with the festival, including films from Glauber Rocha, John Huston, and trailblazers of the Czech New Wave; a program from NYFF5 sidebar The Social Cinema in America, featuring Lebert Bethune’s Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, Santiago Álvarez’s dispatch from post-revolutionary Cuba, Now, and David Neuman and Ed Pincus’s snapshot of Civil Rights-era Mississippi, Black Natchez; and works from the era’s burgeoning avant-garde scene, such as Tony Conrad’s The Flicker and a world premiere restoration of Robert Frerck’s Nebula II.


FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS

Belle
Mamoru Hosoda, 2021, Japan, 121m
Japanese with English subtitles
In his densely beautiful, eye-popping animated spectacle, Academy Award–nominated director Mamoru Hosoda (Mirai) tells the exhilarating story of a shy teenager who becomes an online sensation as a princess of pop. Still grieving over a childhood tragedy, Suzu has a difficult time singing in public or talking to her crush at school, yet when she takes on the persona of her glittering, pink-haired avatar, Belle, in the parallel virtual universe known as the “U,” her insecurities magically disappear. As her star begins to rise, Belle/Suzu finds herself drawn to another “U” fan favorite—a scary but soulful monster whose “real” identity, like Belle’s, becomes a source of fascination for legions. Both a knowing riff on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and a moving commentary on the duality of contemporary living, Belle is a thrilling journey into the matrix and a deeply human coming-of-age story, packed with unforgettable images and dazzlingly styled characters. A GKIDS release.

C’mon C’mon
Mike Mills, 2021, USA, 108m
After gracing audiences with Beginners and 20th Century Women (NYFF54), writer-director Mike Mills returns with another warm, insightful, and gratifyingly askew portrait of American family life. A soulful Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a kindhearted radio journalist deep into a project in which he interviews children across the U.S. about our world’s uncertain future. His sister, Viv (a marvelously intuitive Gaby Hoffmann), asks him to watch her 9-year-old son, Jesse (Woody Norman, in one of the most affecting breakout child performances in years), while she tends to the child’s father, who’s suffering from mental health issues. After agreeing, Johnny finds himself connecting with his nephew in ways he hadn’t expected, ultimately taking Jesse with him on a journey from Los Angeles to New York to New Orleans. Anchored by three remarkable actors, C’mon C’mon is a gentle yet impeccably crafted drama about coming to terms with personal trauma and historical legacies. An A24 release.

Dune
Denis Villeneuve, 2021, USA, 155m
A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive. Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem lead the all-star ensemble in visionary filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal novel. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.

​​The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson, 2021, USA, 107m
English and French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Wes Anderson’s unmistakable cinematic style proves delightfully suited to periodical format in this missive from the eponymous expatriate journal, published on behalf of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun from the picturesque French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. Brought to press by a corps of idiosyncratic correspondents, the issue includes reports on a criminal artist and his prison guard muse, student revolutionaries, and a memorable dinner with a police commissioner and his personal chef. As brimming with finely tuned texture as a juicy issue of a certain New York–based magazine to which the film pays homage, The French Dispatch features precision work from a full masthead of collaborators (including Bill Murray, Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton,  Benicio del Toro, Frances McDormand, and Jeffrey Wright), each propagating inventive dedication to detail. Anderson’s deadpan whimsy is complemented by the film’s palpable sense of nostalgia. A Searchlight Pictures release.

Jane by Charlotte
Charlotte Gainsbourg, 2021, France, 86m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In creating a documentary portrait of a parent, as actor Charlotte Gainsbourg does in her directorial debut, one could overly flatter the subject or iron out the tough creases. Gainsbourg avoids these traps in her wise and wondrous film about her legendary mother, the singer and actress Jane Birkin. Consisting of several intimate conversations between parent and child, as well as footage of Birkin performing onstage, the result is a spare, loving window into the emotional lives of two women as they talk about subject matter that ranges from the delightful to the difficult: aging, dying, insomnia, celebrity, and their differing memories of their shared past, which includes Charlotte’s father and Jane’s husband, Serge Gainsbourg. Jane by Charlotte is an unexpected, imaginatively visualized work that affords intimate access to someone whom many of us only think we know.

The Lost Daughter
Maggie Gyllenhaal, 2021, USA/Greece, 121m
In her striking feature directorial debut, Maggie Gyllenhaal adapts the 2006 novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante, a potent work of psychological interiority that follows Leda, a divorced professor on a solitary summer vacation who becomes intrigued and then oddly involved in the lives of another family she meets there. Oscar-winner Olivia Colman brilliantly embodies this quietly tempestuous character, finely shading in the enigmatic relationships she creates with strangers. A moving, sometimes unsettling inquiry into motherhood and personal freedom, Gyllenhaal’s adaptation maintains Ferrante’s signature ambiguity and matter-of-fact style, and features an outstanding supporting cast, including Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, Dakota Johnson, Paul Mescal, Alba Rohrwacher, and Peter Sarsgaard. A Netflix release.

Marx Can Wait
Marco Bellocchio, 2021, Italy, 95m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In his most achingly personal film to date, legendary Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio—an NYFF mainstay from the very beginning, from Fists in the Pocket (NYFF3) to The Traitor (NYFF57)—uses the occasion of a family reunion in his hometown of Piacenza to excavate and discuss a traumatic event: the death his twin brother Camillo, who committed suicide in the late ’60s at age 29. Through detailed conversations with his siblings, archival footage providing context about 20th-century Italian leftist politics, and occasional clips from his films, many of which were in some way imbued with this defining family tragedy, Bellocchio conducts a personal and historical exorcism. Reckoning with the push-pull the director has long felt between the twin poles of family and politics, Marx Can Wait is an attempt at reconciliation and understanding from a filmmaker in his eighties whose work has never shied away from the challenging or the provocative.

Red Rocket
Sean Baker, 2021, USA, 128m
Adding to his gallery of jet-fueled portraits of economic hardship within marginalized pockets of the U.S., director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, NYFF55) trains his restless camera on an unforgettable protagonist. Mikey, a wildly narcissistic former porn star fallen on hard times, has returned from L.A. to his depressed, postindustrial hometown of Texas City, reconnecting with his skeptical, drug-dependent estranged wife and mother-in-law, and using his wily charms to ingratiate himself into a community of people he couldn’t care less about. As played by a brilliantly cast Simon Rex (a star MTV VJ in the ’90s), Mikey is a charismatic force of nature—and destruction—who exploits the innocence and goodwill of everyone around him. Pointedly set against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election, Red Rocket is an aptly steamed-up depiction of contemporary America as a playground for hustlers and con men. An A24 release.

The Souvenir
Joanna Hogg, 2019, UK/USA, 119m
The follow-up to her 2013 feature Exhibition finds Joanna Hogg mining her own autobiography to craft a portrait of the artist as a young woman in early 1980s London. Caught between her dreams of becoming a filmmaker and her commitment to a toxic romance, 24-year-old Julie (an excellent Honor Swinton Byrne) comes home each night from film school to the Knightsbridge apartment owned by her mother (Tilda Swinton) only to discover some new, unpleasant surprise proffered by her boyfriend, Anthony (Tom Burke), a dandyish junkie whose sophisticated aura masks an abyss of selfishness and desperation. An eminently refined and moving bildungsroman about the ties that inexplicably bind, The Souvenir—as its title suggests—is also an absorbing evocation of a time, place, and national mood. An A24 release.  The Souvenir Part II is an NYFF59 Main Slate selection.


AMOS VOGEL CENTENARY RESTROSPECTIVE

Program 1, 113m
Cinema 16
At a time when moviegoing in New York was dominated by Hollywood offerings, Amos Vogel, a young Austrian émigré, and his wife Marcia saw the need for a new kind of venue. In the fall of 1947, they founded Cinema 16, inspired by European film societies as well as the daily screenings at the Museum of Modern Art, the shows Maya Deren organized of her own work at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village, and Frank Stauffacher’s Art in Cinema series in San Francisco. The organization, named after the gauge of the independent filmmaker, would become the most important film society of its era. Unlike a typical movie theater, Cinema 16 was based on a subscription model, with members paying a fee for a season of programs—an approach that allowed for financial stability, and a means by which to thwart the local censorship board. By the 1950s, 7,000 adventurous cinephiles had joined.

It was through Vogel that many of the period’s most vital auteurs were introduced to New York audiences. As historian Scott MacDonald has noted, Cinema 16 “was one of the first, if not the first, American exhibitor to present the work of Robert Breer, John Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner, Joseph Cornell, Brian DePalma, Georges Franju, Robert Gardner, John Hubley, Alexander Kluge, Jan Lenica, Richard Lester, Norman McLaren, Jonas Mekas, Nagisa Oshima, Yasujiro Ozu, Sidney Peterson, Roman Polanski, Alain Resnais, Tony Richardson, Jacques Rivette, Lionel Rogosin, Carlos Saura, Arne Sucksdorff, François Truffaut, Stan Vanderbeek, Melvin Van Peebles, Agnes Varda, and Peter Weiss.”

The significance of Cinema 16, however, lies not simply in what was shown, but how. Vogel would routinely bring together strikingly different works—pairing, for instance, an abstract animation with a science film, allowing both to be understood, contrapuntally, in a new light. For this screening, we’ve recreated the May 1950 program, with Vogel’s original notes.

The Lead Shoes
Sidney Peterson, 1949, USA, 16mm, 18m
A surrealist exploration of two ballads, “Edward” and “The Three Ravens,” scrambled in jam session style and interwoven with a boogie-woogie score. Produced by Workshop 20 at California Institute of Fine Arts.

Unconscious Motivation
Lester F. Beck, USA, 1949, 16mm, 40m
Produced by Dr. Lester F. Beck of the University of Oregon, this astonishing 40-minute motion picture is an unrehearsed, authentic clinical record, showing the inducement of an artificial neurosis by hypnotic suggestion in a young man and a young woman. Upon reawakening, the subjects, by means of dream analysis, ink blot and word association tests, gradually realize first the existence of a traumatic experience and then its content by slowly reconstructing the bogus events which caused it. Their reactions, discussion and self-analysis were spontaneous, unrehearsed and unpredictable: the result is a most unusual motion picture. Print courtesy of Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive.

The Battle of San Pietro
John Huston, USA, 1945, 35mm, 38m
A master of the cinema, John Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) portrays the horror of battle and the cruelty of its aftermath in unforgettable images that make this one of the great anti-war films of all time. Print preserved by the Academy Film Archive.

The Work of Oskar Fischinger
Study No. 11, Germany, 1932, 16mm, 4m
Allegretto, USA, 1936-43, 35mm, 2.5m
Motion Painting No. 1, USA, 1947, 35mm, 11m
The father of the “absolute film” and internationally famous film experimentalist is here represented by three films: Absolute Film Study No. 11 is an abstraction set to Mozart’s “Divertissement;” Allegretto, a non-objective color film accompanied by jazz; Motion Painting No. 1—hand-painted in oil on glass—won the Grand Prix 1949 at the International Experimental Film Festival in Belgium. [NB: “Absolute Film” was not part of Fischinger’s title for this film, and its accompaniment is Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” not “Divertissement.”] All Fischinger prints courtesy of Center for Visual Music, Allegretto preserved by CVM.

The New York Film Festival, 1963-1968
Cinema 16 came to a close in 1963. That same year Vogel co-founded the New York Film Festival with Richard Roud, and, as the head of Lincoln Center’s film department, laid the groundwork for the FLC of today. For our tribute, we’ll be highlighting a number of works that were presented during Vogel’s tenure at the festival, each of which reflects, in different ways, his long-standing preoccupations as a programmer.

Program 2
Barravento
Glauber Rocha, 1962, Brazil, 16mm, 78m
Portuguese with English subtitles
The first edition of NYFF included in its main slate Barravento, a seminal work of Cinema Novo and the debut feature of Glauber Rocha, whose work Vogel would champion for decades thereafter. The film—shot on location in sensuous black and white, and deeply attuned to the rhythms of collective labor and religious ritual—centers upon a Bahian fishing village. The community finds itself caught in the net of capitalist exploitation and likewise bound by mystical belief, a situation that one man, returning to his hometown after years spent in the city, seeks to change. Though Rocha’s visual style would continue evolving with later works like Antonio das Mortes, his insurrectionary imperatives, aesthetic as well as political, were already evident in Barravento. “The Tricontinental cinema,” he would famously declare, “must infiltrate the conventional cinema and blow it up.” Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Program 3
Pearls of the Deep / Perličky na dně
Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová, and Jaromil Jireš, Czechoslovakia, 1965, 107m
Czech with English subtitles
Among Vogel’s many contributions to film culture in America, especially notable is the platform he gave to work coming out of Eastern Europe during the 1960s and ’70s, a particularly rich moment for filmmaking in the region. Emblematic of this era is the omnibus Pearls of the Deep, which played at the New York Film Festival in 1966. Each of its five sections, from the wonderfully morbid opening chapter, set against the backdrop of a motorcycle race, to its closer, a tender study of young love, is directed by a different filmmaker and based on a short story by Bohumil Hrabal; the work as a whole, with its forays into the absurd, is now regarded as a kind of manifesto for the Czech New Wave. “This astonishing, tightly knit group of young filmmakers represented the values of the first post-Stalinist generation,” Vogel would go on to remark. “It was striking to note how similar their views were to those of the West’s rebellious youth, which, from a different starting point, had also become engaged in a search, without illusions, for possible ideals and provisional truths. It seemed that the world was perversely backing into an enforced brotherhood, which would universalize such problems as individual freedom in a bureaucratic society, estrangement between generations, the failure of dogmatic ideologies, and eternal confrontations of imperfect innocence as against the corruption of so-called maturity.”

Program 4, 105m
The New American Cinema, 1966
The Fourth New York Film Festival featured a sampling of the New American Cinema, bringing the underground uptown. Two of the works screened that year, Tony Conrad’s The Flicker and Peter Emmanuel Goldman’s Echoes of Silence, reflect the range of avant-garde activity flourishing at the time: the former, a landmark of structural filmmaking, reduces the cinema to its most fundamental elements, while the latter suggested alternative paths for the narrative feature.

The Flicker
Tony Conrad, 1966, USA, 16mm, 30m
“This film contains no images at all,” wrote Vogel of The Flicker. “Its subject is light and its absence. It consists of combinations of alternating white and black frames, flashing by in constantly changing patterns and causing a continuous stroboscopic flicker effect of great complexity. Whether its frequency is momentarily static or changeable (it ranges from 24 flashes down to 4 flashes per second throughout its 30 minute duration), the effect is literally hypnotic. This concerted ‘overload’ of the retina and nervous system provokes an endless variety of changing shapes, patterns and, most surprisingly, colors, whose nature differs with each viewer (even varying from performance to performance). The electronic soundtrack was generated by relays and components carrying different types of information; the various frequencies are orchestrated by the director. This ‘pure’ film deals with perception itself; its hallucinatory effect—despite absence of image, content, or meaning—reveals an unsuspected congruity with deep emotional needs.” Please note: This film may affect viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy and other photosensitivities.

Echoes of Silence
Peter Emmanuel Goldman, 1965, USA, 16mm, 75m
Echoes of Silence, by contrast, chronicles the lives of twentysomethings adrift in New York City, locating tremendous feeling in the smallest moments: a furtive glance across a museum gallery, women putting on makeup, a stroll beneath the gleaming lights of Times Square marquees. Unencumbered by diegetic sound, its shadowy images of youthful flaneurs are paired with evocatively hand-painted title cards and a dynamic soundtrack drawn from the artist’s LPs that, when combined, produce an unforgettable ballad of sexual dependency. Though little remembered today, Goldman was hailed by Vogel (along with Godard, Mekas, and Sontag) as a major new talent.

Program 5, 92m
The Social Cinema in America, 1967
The Fifth New York Film Festival featured a sidebar on “The Social Cinema in America,” which surveyed the new directions of documentary filmmaking, with an emphasis on cinema verité and the possibilities opened up by more portable recording equipment (the program introduced New York audiences to now-classic works like Peter Adair’s Holy Ghost People, Allan King’s Warrendale, and Frederick Wiseman’s Titticut Follies). One screening, reprised here, brought together Lebert Bethune’s Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, Santiago Álvarez’s Now, and David Neuman and Ed Pincus’s Black Natchez.

Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom
Lebert Bethune, 1964, France, 22m
Bethune, a Jamaican filmmaker who had become a notable figure within Paris’s Black expatriate milieu, created a remarkable portrait of a political icon, and his film features some of the very last interviews with Malcolm X, recorded during his travels in Europe and Africa mere months prior to his assassination.

Now
Santiago Álvarez, 1965, Cuba, 35mm, 6m
A brief but incendiary dispatch from postrevolutionary Cuba, Now blasts forth as a machine-gun montage of violent imagery from the American civil rights era while Lena Horne provides a soaring soundtrack with her titular protest anthem, sung to the tune of “Hava Nagila.”

Black Natchez
David Neuman and Ed Pincus, 1967, USA, 64m
In Black Natchez, we encounter the struggle for freedom again, though articulated in a different form. “The advent of portable sync-sound equipment in the early ’60s meant, for the first time in the sound era, that filmmakers could go to the subject as opposed to bringing the subject to the camera,” Pincus would later explain. “The ability to take a camera out into the world created the desire to ‘get it right,’ to film the world independent of the act of filmmaking. In the U.S., all sorts of rules were being created in documentary film—no script, no narration, no interviews, no lighting, no mic boom, no collusion between subject and filmmaker.

In 1965, the second year of intense voter registration drives in Mississippi, we decided to make a film in the southwest corner of the state. Little civil rights work had been done there because of the danger in the region. Our approach was to seek out several story lines and then continue with the most interesting. A car bombing of a civil rights leader while we were there changed everything. The event emphasized the rifts in the Black community around the demands for equality. Rifts between teenagers and women on one hand and the Black business community on the other. Rifts between Black males forming armed protection groups and the call for nonviolence by the major civil rights groups. And rifts between grassroots organizations and more traditional leadership organizations such as the FDP (Freedom Democratic Party) and the NAACP.”

New digitization courtesy of Ed Pincus Film Collection, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. Digitization was supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Program 6, 69m
Personal Cinema, 1968
1968 marked Vogel’s final year of overseeing the NYFF, and, as with the festival’s previous iterations, many remarkable (and even today underappreciated) works were selected. One program in particular from that edition stands out. Dubbed “Personal Cinema,” it included several key examples of how the medium was being democratized, with the camera made accessible to those who had previously enjoyed limited or no access to the tools of production. In The Jungle, members of North Philadelphia’s 12th & Oxford Street gang dramatize the internal workings of their group, and, in so doing, put forward a vivid, unvarnished image of urban life in America, while Jaime Barrios’s Film Club showcases the activities of a storefront workshop that allowed Puerto Rican teenagers living on the Lower East Side to make their own movies. In The Spirit of the Navajo, Mary J. and Maxine Tsosie likewise drew from their own community, here focusing on their grandfather, a well-known medicine man, as a way to document the traditions of their tribe in their own style, on their own terms.

The Jungle
12th and Oxford Street Film Makers, 1967, USA, 35mm, 22m
35mm preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Film Club
Jaime Barrios, 1968, USA, 16mm, 26m

The Spirit of the Navajo
Maxine Tsosie and Mary J. Tsosie, 1966, USA, 16mm, 21m
Print courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art.

Program 7, 90m
Film as a Subversive Art
Long a source of inspiration for film programmers, Film as a Subversive Art is a guidebook to cinema’s outer limits, replete with tantalizing descriptions of some of the most radical movies ever made. First published in 1974, this lavishly illustrated volume can be seen as a culmination of Vogel’s work over the previous decades, chronicling as it does the taboo-busting potential of cinema, at the level of form as well as content. For this program, we foreground one of the book’s most iconic titles, WR: Mysteries of the Organism (a still featuring its star, Milena Dravić, with clenched fist raised, graces Vogel’s cover), alongside an altogether different piece: Nebula II, one of its most obscure entries. The precise abstraction of the latter stands in contradistinction to the messy fantasies, sexual and political, of the former, yet they emerge from a similar moment—and, in true Vogelian style, complement one another, suggesting unexpected affinities. His notes on the films are below.

WR: Mysteries of the Organism
Dušan Makavejev, 1971, Yugoslavia/West Germany, 35mm, 85m
English, German, Russian, and Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles
Banned in Yugoslavia, hailed at international film festivals, this is unquestionably one of the most important subversive masterpieces of the 1970s: a hilarious, highly erotic political comedy which quite seriously proposes sex as the ideological imperative for revolution and advances a plea for Erotic Socialism. Only the revolutionary Cubist Makavejev—clearly one of the most significant new directors now working in world cinema—could have pulled together this hallucinatory melange of Wilhelm Reich; excerpts from a monstrous Soviet film, The Vow (1946), starring Stalin; a transvestite of the Warhol factory; A.S. Neill of Summerhill; several beautiful young Yugoslavs fucking merrily throughout; the editor of America’s sex magazine Screw having his most important private part lovingly plaster-cast in erection; not to speak of a Soviet figure-skating champion, Honored Artist of the People (named Vladimir Ilyich!), who cuts off his girlfriend’s head with one of his skates after a particularly bountiful ejaculation, to save his Communist virginity from Revisionist Yugoslav Contamination. It is an outrageous, exuberant, marvelous work of a new breed of international revolutionary, strangely spawned by cross-fertilization between the original radical ideologies of the East, Consciousness III in America, and the sexual-politics radicalism of the early Wilhelm Reich, who equated sexual with political liberation and denied the possibility of one without the other…

Preceded by:
Nebula II
Robert Frerck, 1971, USA, 16mm, 5m
World premiere of restoration
After Jordan Belson, one might have thought no further mandala films could be fruitfully made; Nebula II quickly dispels this notion. As the ever-changing circular patterns become more complex and change in increasingly rapid fashion, the incessant bombardment of our senses with flicker effects, visual transmogrifications, pulsating color, and enforced forward movement via zoom, finally set up a sensory overload both hypnotic and overpowering in its beauty and mystical revelation. Print restored by Anthology Film Archives with support from Cinema Conservancy.


The NYFF59 Spotlight retrospective will be followed by tributes at repertory cinemas across New York City—Anthology Film Archives, Film Forum, Light Industry, Metrograph, MoMA, and the Museum of the Moving Image—in an unprecedented collaboration.

The Spotlight section is programmed by Eugene Hernandez and Dennis Lim. NYFF’s Amos Vogel centenary celebration is organized by Thomas Beard, Dennis Lim, and Tyler Wilson.

NYFF59 will feature in-person screenings, as well as select outdoor and virtual events. In response to distributor and filmmaker partners and in light of festivals returning and theaters reopening across the country, NYFF will not offer virtual screenings for this year’s edition.

Proof of vaccination will be required for all staff, audiences, and filmmakers at NYFF59 venues. Additionally, NYFF59 will adhere to a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and state and city medical experts, while adapting as necessary to the current health crisis. Visit filmlinc.org for more information.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema and takes place September 24 – October 10, 2021. An annual bellwether of the state of cinema that has shaped film culture since 1963, the festival continues an enduring tradition of introducing audiences to bold and remarkable works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent.

Festival Passes are now on sale through this Sunday, August 22 only. NYFF59 tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, September 7 at noon ET, with early-access opportunities for FLC members and pass holders prior to this date. Learn more here. Support of the New York Film Festival benefits Film at Lincoln Center in its nonprofit mission to promote the art and craft of cinema


Tribeca Festival 2021 capsule reviews: ‘Settlers’, ‘Glob Lessons’, and ‘7 Days’

Settlers

Mankind’s earliest settlers on the Martian frontier do what they must to survive the cosmic elements and each other.

Undeniably riveting, Settlers pits one family unit against another. Brooklynn Prince, who burst onto the scene in The Florida Project, captivates as a child whose survival depends on the lies she’s been fed by adults. Sofia Boutella skillfully plays her mother and ardent protector. As the reality of the situation of humanity is slowly revealed, the peril grows for everyone involved. Settlers is a film about trust, through and through. As time passes, Remmy’s role is taken over by Nell Tiger Free. She must navigate loneliness, and more importantly, the advances of the man who keeps her both alive and captive. Settlers’ unique script by director Wyatt Rockefeller allows us to question what we would do when faced with extreme circumstances. The landscape beautifully mimics the surface of Mars. Its desolate surroundings create palpable isolation and ceaseless desperation. The addition of a robotic character is the only thing that brings levity. Ismael Cruz Córdova as Jesses walks a precarious line between savior and villain. His beliefs steer the story into the darkest regions of human nature. Settlers is worth the watch for extraordinary performances and one hell of a feature debut from Rockefeller.

DIRECTOR
Wyatt Rockefeller
CAST

Sofia Boutella, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brooklynn Prince, Nell Tiger Free, Jonny Lee Miller


Glob Lessons

Two mismatched strangers confront their fears of intimacy and inadequacy as they tour low-budget children’s theatre out of a minivan across the frozen Upper Midwest.

Nicole Rodenburg and Colin Froeber give us every emotion on screen. As a theater major, I know Jesse and Alan. But as a human being, everyone will know them. The concept of pouring your soul into your passion with little in return is universal, be it children’s theatre or any other occupation. There is a fine line between love and loathing. The laughs are plenty lying within awkward non-conversation and road movie tropes. Tension and tolerance levels eventually come to a head with creativity as their savior. In Glob Lessons, the moments of genuine intimacy between Froeber and Rodenburg grab hold of the viewer. Jesse and Alan are fleshed-out characters. At times they are pathetic, other times endearing. The chemistry between Froeber and Rodenburg is the stuff of movie magic. Glob Lessons isn’t flashy and that’s the point. Life is messy. Let’s own it. I am excited to see what comes next from a voice like Rodenburg’s. If Glob Lessons is any indication, we’ll be seeing more very soon.

 

DIRECTOR
Nicole Rodenburg
SCREENWRITER

Colin Froeber, Nicole Rodenburg


7 Days

As if their pre-arranged date, organized by their traditional Indian parents, wasn’t uncomfortable enough, Ravi and Rita are forced to shelter in place together as COVID-19’s reach intensifies.

This film snuck up on me. Filmed during lockdown and using COVID as a major plot point, 7 Days turns the concept of traditional arranged marriage on its head. Geraldine Viswanathan brings the laughs as Rita. Breaking the mold of the dutiful would-be bride, she begrudgingly comes to Ravi’s rescue with little to no hope of being his match. Karan Soni, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Roshan Sethi, plays straight-laced, Ravi.  As boredom sets in and guards are let down, a genuine connection slowly develops. The chemistry between Viswanathan and Karan feels grounded and made for some incredibly memorable moments. 7 Days is funny and heartfelt. I was not expecting the darker turn in the script. It was a bold move that paid off in spades. Filmed mostly in one room created the tension and awkwardness we needed to experience alongside Rita and Ravi. It takes the idea of close quarters to the extreme. 7 Days is a true gem from this year’s festival.

DIRECTOR
Roshan Sethi
SCREENWRITER
Karan Soni, Roshan Sethi
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Roshan Sethi, Karan Soni, Geraldine Viswanathan