Director: Mike Leigh
Screenwriter: Mike Leigh
Producer: Simon Channing-Williams
Editor: Jim Clark
Music: Gary Yershon
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman, Samuel Roukin
U.K., 2008, 118 minutes
Mike Leigh is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers and I recently had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. I mentioned in a brief conversation just prior to a press conference for the 2008 New York Film Festival screening of Happy-Go-Lucky, that I had been obsessively watching his BBC “television plays” from the 1970s (Abigail’s Party, Nuts in May). While he expressed his appreciation, he also expressed some rancor. He was very frustrated with the quality of those tele-plays we have over here, complaining that they were unauthorized and of terrible quality. Attempting to be as upbeat as possible, I exhorted how the impact of the dramas shown through and, really, who cared about the quality. He thanked me tersely, and I could tell that he was somewhat less impressed. When moments later I asked if I could take a quick photo of him and his star, Sally Hawkins, they politely looked my way and I could hear him mutter to her, “he writes for a web site.”
Continue reading NYFF 08- Review: Happy Go Lucky
So it’s that time again. It snuck up on me because I was unable to make it up to Toronto this year which is in and of itself, a minor tragedy. I love the Toronto International Film Festival and all its attendant studio pomp and circumstance. But that’s no matter. What’s passed is past. It’s New York Film Festival time and for pure film geek glee, it’s right up there. Sure, some films suck and the program is often lacking in real surprises, but honestly, that’s not what I really look for in the festival. Should it take more chances? I think so, yeah. For example, the omission of Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York has ruffled a few feathers this year and the the overall predictability of the selection from year to year has been bemoaned on the circuit for years. That said, it’s not an industry event. It’s for the public and none of these films have played in New York. All in all, it’s one of my favorite film events of the year and not just because I love the opening night party/after party.
I don’t always go to Cannes or Toronto and as a result, the NYFF often has 15-20 films I haven’t seen and this year, it’s got more than that. Not only that, but almost every film in the main selection has a full press conference following the press screening, something which only a handful of festivals provide. It has also provided me with one of the more surreal moments of my life in the form of John Ritter in 1996.
Continue reading NYFF 08: Che, Cantet, Rourke And….David Bowie!
Persepolis (Reviewed at the 44th New York Film Festival)
Directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
Written by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
Based on the Original Graphic Novels by Marjane Satrapi
Released by Sony Pictures Classics
The Film Society of Lincoln Center wisely chose Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s Persepolis to close its 45th Season. The French language animated film, mostly in black & white, opens in theaters in both NYC and LA today. The film feels at once nostalgic and freshly new. Even for those who don’t primarily identify themselves as political, the story, adapted from a series of autobiographical graphic novels of the same name, is a universal one; that of a young woman’s journey from innocence to maturity. It just so happens that the back drop of her story includes the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the country’s turn from a socially progressive society to one of fundamentalism and fear.
Marjane (the voice of Chirara Mastroianni, Marcello’s daughter), our young heroine, is growing up in Tehran during a most tumultuous time. When we are first introduced to her, she is your average precocious nine year old but it’s not long before she experiences the loss of her beloved uncle who is executed as a war criminal. By the time she is 14, her parents, concerned for her safety, send her off to boarding school in Vienna. The scenes that follow, where young Marjane is so homesick for her parents (the voices of Catherine Deneuve and Simon Akbarian) and her grandmother (France’s legendary actress Danielle Darrieux) are among the film’s most gripping, where for all intents and purposes, you forget you are watching a cartoon.
Continue reading Theatrical Review: Persepolis
The following is an excerpt of a review that originally ran in full On September 30th, as part of our New York Film Festival coverage.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Miramax, December, 2007)
directed by: Julian Schnabel, written by: Jean-Dominique Bauby (novel), Ronald Harwood (screenplay)
The life of Jean-Dominique Bauby is at once tragic and inspirational and in the very capable hands of director Julian Schnabel, his story comes to the screen in a most moving and artful way. We learn through early dialogue and flashback that Bauby has suffered a major stroke and that coming out of a coma he awakens in a state referred to as “locked in syndrome.” Actor Mathieu Amalric (Munich) plays Bauby, editor of Elle magazine and a major player in 1990s Paris social circles. After his stroke, Bauby becomes all but incapable of communication, as he is unable to speak or move, with the exception of his left eyelid.
While he is naturally bitter and desperate at first, Bauby eventually learns – in some of the more beautiful moments of the film – how his imagination can set him free. In an ingenious sequence, he learns to communicate using only his one working eye. As his speech therapist reads the alphabet in the order of their frequency of use in French, Bauby blinks when she reaches the letter he wants to use, thus freeing his mind to create. Over time, Bauby receives visits from assorted friends including his young children Theophile (Theo Sampaio) and Celeste (Fiorella Campanella) and his ex-wife Celine (Emmanuelle Seigner), most of whom learn the system. The visits with his kids at the seaside hospital provide the film with a tremendous humanity, as do the flashbacks with his dying father (Max Von Sydow). Those relationships are provided as complex and rich, something many sentimental “affliction” films neglect.
Read the complete review here.