Sunday, March 13, 2016
New Directors New Films starts this week some suggestions of what to see and one to avoid
New Directors New Film the annual tag team death match pitting the Museum of Modern Art and The Film Society of Lincoln Center against all comers starts this week with the New York Premiere of UNDER THE SHADOW. It will then move on for the next 11 days highlighting some notable films from filmmakers in the early part of the careers.
NDNF is a prestigious festival that has highlighted some truly great films over the year. In the past Oscar contenders like THEEB and GOODNIGHT MOMMY as well as A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, BABADOOK, THE ACT OF KILLING, UPSTREAM COLOR and STORIES WE TELL all started here. That said the festival is highly eclectic and more times than not you get whiplash trying to see how the films fit together as a festival. Its also a festival that is very hit or miss with some years being one gem after another while other years you’ll want to forget most of the films that have screened. (I know that will not win me friends with the programmers but it’s absolutely true)
This year is a good year. I’ve seen about fourteen of the features and several of the shorts and for the most part all of the films are good. While I like the films to differing degrees I found that there is only one I would say avoid at all costs. This is a year that you really will want to wade into and try some of the offerings because they are worth your time.
NAKOM is one of the best films I've ever seen at New Directors. I've been going for eight or nine years and it's one of the few ones that I've seen at the festival has ever really blown me away. My luck tends to be see the truly great stuff after the festival. Not this time, this time I've found the gem. See this film.
UNDER THE SHADOW is the opening film and it's an okay horror film. A review is coming but I'm mentioning it now because despite my reservations it has three scares that left me tingling in ways that few horror films ever have.
I highly recommend the documentary WEINER about Anthony Weiner's run for Mayor of New York. It was a run that ended when the media decided to destroy the man because he wouldn't name names in a scandal two years dead and because it could. It will not resurrect the man's career but it will make you realize just how bad the news outlets are
Also recommended is DEMON a poorly named film from Poland about a spirit who takes over a groom at a wedding. More thriller than horror film, its a film filled with humor, romance and real character. It has one of the truly great performances of by an actor you'll ever see and is a wonderful piece of filmmaking.
I would like to suggest that if you have any interest in the five hour and seventeen minute HAPPY HOUR you make an effort to see it at the festival (and at Lincoln Center which has more comfortable seats). Yes I know the film is a butt buster but at the same time this is a film that plays best when you can get lost in it. It’s a film that’s all conversation and your reaction will be more positive if you can focus on it and it’s nuances and not get distracted
And at the risk of annoying the powers that run New Directors I now give you a word of warning about ELDORADO XXI. This gorgeous looking documentary about life in the highest settlement in the world is told through a series of long static takes. Normally I wouldn’t say anything until the review runs except that 50 of the films first 60 minutes is a single unmoving long take of men walking in and out of a mine with some occasional voice over. I know some of you will find it hypnotic, but I guess most are going to have a hard time with its nailed to the floor, static nature. I had a hard time remaining awake and it poisoned the rest of the film, which is very good, for me. I can argue why it was done, but I at the same time I would argue that it's a gamble that comes up empty since it’s going to turn off a large chunk of the audience. If you found Warhols’s Empire State Building or Sleep films rapturous go for it. Everyone else may want to stay away. (This should have been in the Art of the Real or the New York Film Festival's experimental section where it would have kicked ass with it's proper audience)
Lastly I did see PLEASE KILL ME and I am not going to review the film. I am going to say that I agree with a friend who said his thought during most of the film was to chant the name of the film in the hope that the gods would take pity and end the pain. I also agree that the films final shot is fantastic, but it belongs in a film that it at least watchable. Where NAKOM is one of the best films I've ever seen at New Directors, PLEASE KILL ME is one of the worst.
Do yourself a favor and go see a film (Just not PLEASE KILL ME) because snide remarks aside this is one of the best years at New Directors in a long while.
For tickets and more information go here.