The New York Film Festival is a marathon, not a sprint, and I hit the wall somewhere around week 3 (sorry, Alexander Sokurov and In the City of Sylvia) but recovered for the final stretch. It’s been a heady month: from the dizzying heights of Blade Runner: The Final Cut and Secret Sunshine, the joyful surprise that is The Darjeeling Limited to the horrors of Redacted, dog-on-girl action of Go Go Tales and Bela Tarr’s elegant snoozefest The Man From London. I also got to shake David Cronenberg’s hand, engage in epic debates over I’m Not There, take candids of Nicole Kidman and Sam Elliott, and meet fellow critics and bloggers who were just names and URLs to me before. Some of my suitcases from Berlin are still not unpacked.

Here are a few gut reactions to the last stray movies; we’ll have thorough reviews for all of them on before long.

No Country for Old Men
The Coen’s Cormac McCarthy adaption is certainly accomplished, and the word “masterpiece” has been bandied about. Maybe so. But especially after seeing Joel and Ethan hem, haw, and shrug their way through the post-screening press conference I can’t help but wonder what this tough-minded, sun-beaten blood letting is all about. Nobody I know ever found a suitcase — or satchel — full of money, and no matter how many significant dreams Tommy Lee Jones narrates in high-falutin’ prose, all of this stuff is nothing but macho artifice. It’s like they made a movie about the “Stranger” character played by Sam Elliott in The Big Lebowski but forgot not to take it too seriously. Ethan and Joel Coen, 2007. ***

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Munich, 5×2) directs and stars in a long hard look at the fears and insecurities of the artist’s life, specifically that of an aging actress, harangued by her mother, warned by her gynocologist, terrorized by her director, but always lonely and unfulfilled. Moving but overlong, Actresses reminded me of the Ellen Fanshaw character played by Martha Burns in the outstanding Canadian TV show Slings & Arrows, which handled the same topic with sharper wit. Actresses also stars Louis Garrel and Mathieu Amalric. Actrices. Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, 2007. **


Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Forget about the Redacted brouhaha: this was the real scandal of NYFF45. Only the hardiest of us turned out for this four-hour-twenty-minute rock’n roll documentary directed by Peter Bogdanovich, which lays out Petty’s career in meticulous album-by-album fashion, spiced up by the occasional drug binge and band member flame-out. Mostly narrated by a warm and winning Petty himself, the film is studded with hit songs and quality collaborators including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Stevie Nicks, Dave Steward, Eddie Vedder, and George Harrison. Even at its exhaustive length, the film doesn’t drag.

Still, something seemed off to me. Neither live nor on MTV, Tom Petty has ever transported me quite like my favorite rock bands do, but as a veteran of the deafening Walter Reade screening of The Kids Are Alright, I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong. When Bogdanovich took the stage for the Q&A, he immediatley cleared this up: we were shown the movie in mono.

No wonder I felt underwhelmed; now I was livid. Apparently, there’s a “spectacular” 5.1 mix that would have “lifted [us] right of our seats,” but somebody somewhere fucked up good. I’m sorry, Film Society at Lincoln Center, I dearly love what you do, but if you’d told me I was going to waste an entire day on an epic rock’n roll documentary and only see it in mono, I would have caught up on some desperately needed sleep. Peter Bodanovich, 2007. ***

Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical comic books are marvels of deceptively simple storytelling and clear black lines that carry surprising emotional weight. The movie adaptation does a fantastic job of setting the images I loved to linger over into motion. One of the best of the year. Much more very soon. Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, 2007. ****

Here’s a list of all the films I saw at the festival, ranked by how much I liked them. Movies I most regret missing include Silent Light, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, and the repeat screening of The Darjeeling Limited.

See all posts about the New York Film Festival.

And finally, here’s the video for “Into the Great Wide Open,” starring Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway — because somehow Bogdanovich couldn’t spare the 6 1/2 minutes of his 253 to show us the entire thing. You’ll find that the YouTube clip actually sounds better than what we saw at the Walter Reade.