New York Film Festival encore highlights

My Journey Through French Cinema, Fire At Sea, Julieta and Neruda.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Fire At Sea (Fuocoammare) director Gianfranco Rosi
Fire At Sea (Fuocoammare) director Gianfranco Rosi Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Bertrand Tavernier's loving My Journey Through French Cinema dedicated to Jacques Becker and Claude Sautet; Pedro Almodóvar's Julieta, sparked by Alice Munro short stories, starring Emma Suárez with Michelle Jenner, Adriana Ugarte, and Daniel Grao; Pablo Larraín's Neruda with Luis Gnecco as Pablo Neruda, Gael García Bernal and Alfredo Castro; and Gianfranco Rosi's Fire At Sea (Fuocoammare) with Samuele (a winning, completely natural combination of Bruno Dumont's Li'l Quinquin, a Wes Anderson boy scout in Moonrise Kingdom, and the scientist in Rosi's Sacro GRA) are four more highlights of the 54th New York Film Festival.

Ava DuVernay’s The 13th; Mike Mills' 20th Century Women starring Annette Bening with Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, Lucas Jade Zumann and Greta Gerwig; and James Gray's The Lost City Of Z with Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland and Charlie Hunnam are the Opening Night, Centerpiece and Closing Night Gala selections respectively of the 54th New York Film Festival.

Julieta is Spain's and Neruda is Chile's Best Foreign Language Film submission to the 89th Academy Awards.

As Samuele insists in Fire at Sea: "You gotta have passion."

My Journey Through French Cinema

My Journey Through French Cinema
My Journey Through French Cinema

Bertrand Tavernier's personal journey into cinema begins at a spot in Lyon, where the house stood in which he grew up and where his father hid Louis Aragon during the Second World War. While in a sanatorium, where little Bertrand was treated for tuberculosis, the 6-year-old was first deeply impressed by a film - by Jacques Becker, it turns out. Tavernier in informative clips explains the mastery and allure of Becker's work - how in Casque d'Or, for example, Simone Signoret enters the dance hall differently than everybody else or how the structure of Touchez Pas au Grisbi, following Jean Gabin, can only be described as "organic and simple." A young Tavernier religiously goes to the Cinémathèque in Paris and ends up rescuing together with his friends, two films by Edmond T. Gréville, his first glimpse into the importance of film preservation. Tavernier brought Samuel Fuller to Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou, and we learn that Claude Sautet, who was also a great script doctor, got to view Tavernier's own films for a pre-release critique.

Public screenings: Saturday, October 1 at 3:00pm - Walter Reade Theater; Sunday, October 2 at 2:45pm - Francesca Beale Theater - Expected to attend: Bertrand Tavernier

Fire At Sea (Fuocoammare)

Fire At Sea
Fire At Sea

Whereas Sacro GRA was structured as a brilliant patchwork quilt of the people living around the Grande Raccordo Anulare of Rome, Rosi's latest film shows us Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, south of Sicily, in the Mediterranean Sea, where waves of migrants from Africa arrive in boats often under inhumane conditions. The death toll is rising and rising. News reports can have the effect of shocking and desensitizing - the opposite is happening here. It's a confrontation with what we want to see and what we don't. The filmmaker/cinematographer is a master of light, bathing each image with meaning. The symbolism in Fire at Sea is so organic that it might dawn on you hours or days after seeing the film. What eye should we start to train? When metaphors aren't artificial, they take your breath away. Will the diver in the reefs find more than sea urchins?

Public screenings: Friday, October 7 at 8:45pm - Walter Reade Theater; Saturday, October 8 at 3:15pm - Bruno Walter Auditorium - Expected to attend: Gianfranco Rosi

Julieta

Julieta
Julieta

With Julieta, Pedro Almodóvar probes at precise moments of painful consequence that can ail deeply and may never even be put into words. When Julieta (Emma Suárez) runs into her estranged daughter's childhood friend Bea (Michelle Jenner) on the street in Madrid, an old wound is opened that refuses to close again. Life and death are at stake during an all important train ride where Julieta (played by Adriana Ugarte in her younger years) not only meets her husband Xoan (Daniel Grao) but has a traumatic experience that she will never forget. Parents protecting their children from bad news can leave life-long scars. Parental betrayals don't stop hurting when childhood is over. Betrayals big and small, red walls, red nails, red birthday cakes, and Rossy de Palma as Mrs. Danvers - what more is there to wish for? "Your absence fills my entire life and destroys it," says Julieta about her daughter. Almodóvar has a knack for cutting to the bone of any given situation.

Public screenings: Friday, October 7 at 6:00pm - Alice Tully Hall; Sunday, October 8 at 12:30pm - Alice Tully Hall - Expected to attend: Pedro Almodóvar, Adriana Ugarte, and Emma Suarez

Neruda

Neruda
Neruda

Buñuel obviously incited the party at the beginning of Pablo Larraín's artful take on history, Neruda, which merges an elegant bar with a men's room according to the motto: liquids go in and liquids come out. The puzzle of tones and moods has begun. The Second World War just ended and a mysterious hambone detective named Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal at his most hambone) follows the famous senator, poet, "most important communist of Chile" around to arrest him. Larraín takes risks. If you have seen his magnificent film No, you will realize that the pulpy overacting by Bernal and the blandness Luis Gnecco bestows upon Neruda, the attested chick magnet, are there for a purpose. Chilean President Gabriel González Videla (Alfredo Castro), so we hear, "sleeps every night. Only when he eats escargots, he dreams of Neruda." This is not a biopic and it could be one of his dreams or maybe that of a character dreaming of his conception.

Public screenings: Wednesday, October 5 at 6:00pm - Alice Tully Hall; Thursday, October 6 at 9:00pm - Alice Tully Hall - Expected to attend: Pablo Larraín and Gael García Bernal

The 54th New York Film Festival will run from September 30 through October 16.

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