NYFF08: Che Guevara and Debussy to a Disco Beat

As the 46th New York Film Festival slouches towards its final weekend — one more movie, one more party, and Catherine Deneuve in the flesh — it’s time for a little roundup. I’ve mainly posted capsules to Worldfilm, with the exception of Che, which is on track for my favorite of the year and required something lengthier.

Here’s an overview of what I’ve seen, with a few movies that still deserve reviews, including The Wrestler, Agnes Jaoui’s wonderful Let It Rain, and — not at the fest — Charlie Kaufman’s absolutely wretched Synecdoche, New York. In order of preference:

Che. Steven Soderbergh, 2008. ****
Let It Rain. Agnes Jaoui, 2008. ****
Tony Manero. Pablo Larrain, 2008. ****
Waltz with Bashir. Ari Folman, 2008. ****
Summer Hours. Olivier Assays. 2008. ***
The Wrestler. Darren Aronofsky, 2008. ***
Serbis. Brillante Mendoza, 2008. ***
24 City. Jia Zhangke, 2008. ***
The Headless Woman. Lucrecia Martel, 2008. ***
Chouga. Darezhan Omirbaev, 2007. ***
Gomorrah. Matteo Garrone, 2008. ***
Wendy and Lucy. Kelly Reichardt, 2008. **
Ashes of Time Redux. Wong Kar-Wei, 2008. **
Bullet in the Head. Jaime Rosales, 2008. **
Four Nights with Anna. Jerzy Skolimowski, 2008. *
Synecdoche, New York. Charlie Kaufman, 2008. *

Marcy also saw Changeling (*), The Class (***), and Happy-Go-Lucky (****). Photos soon.

I was faced with a choice at a difficult age…


The Fountain

A trippy comic book about the search for eternal life. The go-to adjective for Darren Aronofsky’s first film since Requiem for a Dream is “ambitious,” but Métal Hurlant has been churning out stuff like this for decades. In three overlapping stories, Hugh Jackman is a meditating spaceman traveling to a dying star, a conquistador unearthing secrets of the Maya, and a doctor trying to save his wife (Rachel Weisz) from a brain tumor. Weisz also appears as Isabella, queen of Spain. The spiritual mumbo-jumbo never adds up to more than the old saw about death bearing the kernel of life, but the pull of the grief-stricken moments between present-tense Jackman and Weisz is difficult to resist.

The psychedelic visuals are tasty, but when it’s all said and done, I was disappointed with the way the three stories finally hook up. We have to take it on good faith that the low-rent Ken Wilber in the space bubble, the poorly lit Apocalypto outtakes, and the melodrama about the doctor and his dying wife are related in a meaningful way, and The Fountain doesn’t reward that faith very well. It’s a comic book that mistakes itself for something much more profound.

Made me want to watch Solaris again.

The Fountain. Darren Aronofsky, 2006. **

Bonus audio: In honor of Izzy, here’s Phish covering Jimi Hendrix’ Izabella, Madison Square Garden 12/30/97. Totally legal audience recording, which is to say the sound isn’t great.

[audio:Isabella – Phish.mp3]

[tags]film, 2 stars, darren aronofsky, hugh jackman, rachel weisz, space, maya, eternal life, scifi, trippy, spain, inquisition, metal hurlant, audio, phish[/tags]