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October 2007
45th Annual New York Film Festival

45th Annual New York Film Festival

Films from Sidney Lumet, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers highlight this year's festival

September 28th – October 14th 

by Blackfilm.com Special Correspondent

Leslie (Hoban) Blake


September 28, 2007

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As it officially reaches middle age, the 45th Annual New York Film Festival features more American, not to mention New York, directors than in any of its previous 44 years.  1996 offered a mere three Amer-indies - “Suburbia,” “The People vs Larry Flynt” and the ill fated “Ill Town,” and that number dwindled down to two - “Pollock” and “George Washington’”- in 2000.  But 2007 offers 11 (count ‘em) 11 films out of 28 by a variety of homegrown, as well as hometown, directors representing myriad generations.  

At 83, Sidney Lumet (“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”) returning to the NYFF for the first time since “Fail Safe”(1964), is the Festival’s hometown eminence grise, joined by such middle-aged returnees as the Coen Brothers (“No Country for Old Men”), Gus Van Sant (“Paranoid Park”), Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) and Abel Ferrara (“Gogo Tales”) plus first timer Brian DePalma (“Redacted”)

And of course, there are the youngsters, age-wise anyway: Wes Anderson (“The Darjeeling Limited”) and Noah Baumbach (“Margot at the Wedding”), each of whom is returning for the third time, second timer Todd Haynes (“I’m Not Here”) and NYFF debutant Ira Sachs (“Married Life”).  Rounding out the American contingent are two documentaries: John Landis’s “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project” and Ed Pincus’s “The Axe in the Attic” 

Although the NYFF offers no prizes, two of its three ‘places of honor’ also fall to the good old U. S. of A. Opening Night belongs to Anderson while the centerpiece features the Coens.  Closing Night presents the French animated feature, “Persopolis,” based on Marjane Satrapi’s eponymous graphic novel. 

Among the remaining 17 films are works by a couple of other octogenarian NYFF faves, including Bela Tarr’s “The Man from London,” and Eric Rohmer’s “The Romance of Astree and Celadon” plus septuagenarian Claude Chabrol’s “A Girl Cut in Two” But 60 year old Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien beats them all with "Flight of the Red Balloon," his 10th film at the festival. 

And for the 25th Anniversary of “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott offers his final, final cut in a restoration screening with a one week limited run to follow in certain cities pre the DVD release.  


A Few Thumbnail Reviews (*indicates film has a distributor):


Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead* may not be a masterpiece, but it’s certainly the work of a master at the top of his game.  Lumet presents two brothers, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke, both in love with the same woman (Marisa Tomei) and both broke, so they plan a heist that goes horribly wrong at the suburban jewelry store owned by their parents, Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris.





The Darjeeling Limited* is a real passenger train in India but for quixotic director Anderson, it’s a metaphor for the journey that three brothers, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson must take to reconnect with each other after their father’s death.  Each carries far too much literal as well as figurative baggage, while Anjelika Huston portrays their Auntie Mame-like mother-cum-nun. 






Redacted* mines similar territory to Brian DePalma’s Viet Nam film, “Casualties of War,” but “Redacted” feels as up-to-the minute as the nightly news.  Shot in HD (as were BTDKYD and TDL) and presented as if pieced together from various videos and snapshots by the soldiers themselves, it’s stunning in its reenactment of the brutal rape of a young girl and murder of her whole family by American soldiers in Iraq.





Married Life, presents Ira Sachs’ jaded view of sex and marriage in the late ‘40’s, directed with a sure hand, a good eye and an excellent cast headed up by Chris Cooper as a married man who tells his womanizing friend, Pierce Brosnan. that he’d rather murder his wife, Patricia Clarkson, than have her suffer the indignity and loneliness of a divorce.  Surprises and humor abound in this beautifully acted film.





A Girl Cut in Two was inspired by the true story of the 1906 murder of New York architect, Stanford White.  Claude Chabrol sets his adaptation in contemporary Paris with a famous older novelist (Francois Berleand), and the beautiful young woman (Ludovine Sagnier) who inexplicably adores him.  She is loved in turn by a wealthy but unstable younger man (Chabrol regular, Benoit Magimel) who becomes nuttier by the minute. 




GoGo Tales brings Abel Ferrara back to the NYFF with a film set in a NY strip club owned by Willem Dafoe who’s too broke to pay the night’s receipts to his bevy of dancers led by Asia Argento, much less pay his back rent to his avaricious land lady, Sylvia Miles.  He has bet all his cash on the lottery but he can’t find the ticket!







The Man From London, Bela Tarr’s beautiful, but oh so slow, black and white take on a George Simenon thriller, starts on a dark and stormy night.  A stationmaster witnesses a murder but he doesn’t report it, since he picks up the dead man’s briefcase full of money!  Tilda Swinton appears speaking in dubbed Hungarian.  Strictly for the connoisseur of esoterica.






I’m Not Here* is about as esoteric as it gets with everyone from Richard Gere and Christian Bale to Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett (yes, Cate Blanchett!) playing different aspects of Bob Dylan’s life, legends and music in Todd Haynes non-linear homage to the singer who has been re-inventing himself regularly since the 60’s.


The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan - Live at the Newport Folk Festival (1963-65) is an NYFF special event (as well as the Fest's longest title) and it's pure gold for hardcore Dylan fans. A perfect companion piece to the Todd Haynes film, the b&w footage not only features duets with Joan Baez, but reveals the earliest changes in the gravel throated singer's persona!


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