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 Week in Music

Dylan in Prospect Park, Wilco at McCarren Pool, Trey Anastasio‘s triumphant return to full-on electric shredding with Classic TAB at All Points West and the Music Hall of Williamsburg — and that’s just the stuff I missed.

The shows I managed to catch weren’t too shabby either: Animal Collective driving a sun-blitzed afternoon crowd wild, Kings of Leon, a heavy Roots throwdown with Immigrant Song tease just across from Ellis Island, Radiohead’s stunning second night at APW, Bob Weir‘s Masters of War, a blissful seaside evening with the Allman Brothers, and perhaps best of all, the U.S. premiere of Manuel Göttsching‘s seminal electronic piece E2-E4, accompanied by the mesmerizing Joshua Light Show at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Wordless Music event. Rhys Chatham‘s A Crimson Grail — a piece for 200 electric guitars — had to be canceled due to the rain, but Beata Viscera‘s performance of the music of Pérotin was gorgeous.

A few clips of varying quality:

Animal Collective: Fireworks

The Roots: Next Movement

Trey Anastasio Band: Gotta Jibboo (part II)

Ratdog: Masters of War

Radiohead: 15 Step

Radiohead: Ideoteque

Radiohead: Reckoner

E2-E4 with the Joshua Lights

Go Go Tales


Ray Ruby (Willem Dafoe with slicked back hair and a lucky leisure suit) runs a New York strip club where girls wearing g-strings and glitter gyrate to Grace Jones, but beneath the sleazy exterior beats the heart of a romantic. Ray Ruby’s got a dream: he wants his club to be a place where every kid gets a chance, where people take care of each other, and everybody has a good time. Between strip acts, he croons syrupy ballads. No wonder the place is called Ray Ruby’s Paradise.

But Paradise is in a spot of trouble. Ray has to contend with “shifting demographics,” the rent is in arrears, the dancers haven’t been paid, the obnoxious landlady (Sylvia Miles) wants to let Bed Bath & Beyond take over. During one hectic night, girls confess they’re pregnant, the tanning machine in the basement goes up in flames, and the gourmet cook feels under-appreciated. Owner Johnie Ruby (Matthew Modine), a “big shot hair dresser,” threatens to pull the plug but takes a minute for a quick back room dalliance with Monroe (Asia Argento), who specializes in on-stage acts with her Rottweiler. On top of it all, Ray has a gambling problem. It looks like he may have won the lottery, but he lost the damn ticket. No wonder he’s oozing desperation, no matter how radiant his sweaty smile.

With Go Go Tales, Abel Ferrara has made his first “intentional comedy,” telling stories of a bygone New York he recalled with relish at the NYFF post-screening press conference. Go Go Tales is a joyful mess. Not every gag works, not every character convinces, and most shots of the near-naked dancers are entirely gratuitous, but the film’s sensory overload and exploitative mood seem entirely appropriate for the subject matter, and Ferrara’s evident love for the world shines through even the most haphazardly improvised scenes. Like Ray Ruby’s Paradise, Go Go Tales is far from perfect, but it’s a hell of a sleazy good time anyway.

Go Go Tales. Abel Ferrara, 2007. ***

Here’s my video in three parts of the press conference with Abel Ferrara, Willem Dafoe, Sylvia Miles, Shanyn Leigh, and Frankie Cee. Richard Peña leads the discussion.

Bong Joon-ho

With The Host about to be released in the US, I finally uploaded my footage of the NYFF press conference from October. With the help of a very enthusiastic translator, Bong talks about designing the monster, balancing satire, humor, and horror, and having made the highest-grossing movie in Korean film history. Just off-screen, Richard Peña asks the questions.

More from the NYFF: