Monday, October 03, 2016

New York Film Festival screenings 1

Only thematic spoilers

Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, 2016)
Lonergan's latest confirms my theory that our tears flow while watching melodramas not when communication becomes impossible, forever too late, but when it does happen, when after (or, more precisely, in between) all the confrontations and horrible coincidences, the characters care for one another, when they capitulate to forces they cannot control and make something less melodramatic of their lives. There are many Oscar moments throughout Manchester by the Sea, especially when the pain in Casey Affleck's introvert manifests itself in rage, all scored to airless classical music. And these are the moments that will define the film if not in Best Actor clips then in historical record. But we should seize on those interconnecting scenes away from the staircase that recall Lloyd Richard's deathless "There are very few moments in life as good as this. Let's remember it" in All About Eve or when Joan gives Christina the necklace in Mommie Dearest for they lend the film its weight in history. Margaret remains his masterpiece (Manchester lacks a finale to match that film's knockout one) but I adored every minute.

Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
Toni Erdmann defines "unpredictable" so you'll read nothing here of its many hilarious outrages. But these were enough to carry the film's 162 minutes without any sort of narrative or even thematic casing. Unfortunately, casing is what we get and it sours the story of a Kris Kringley father who (rather smugly, I say) tries to get his pushing-forty daughter to realize that her high-powered consulting career has turned her into a robot eternally attached to her smart phone. I wonder how well the film would be received if the sex roles were reversed (or did Albert Brooks do this already with Mother?). And Ade leaves no room for a meditation on unalienated labor. Still, the set pieces are incredible and I'll bow out now because I'm dying to discuss the petit fours scene.

Here are star Peter Simonischek and Maren Ade discussing the film with Dennis Lim, Director of Programming. 

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