Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CMJ Fest: A Few Films and a Ton of Music


Saul Williams plays the Blender Theater tonight during the 2009 CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival. Photo by Evan Cohen.

WILL Saul Williams stir things up tonight at the Blender Theater using a dash of electro hip hop with undertones of David Bowie? Who will win the all-metal battle of the bands tribute Saturday night at Le Poisson Rouge? In this corner is Tragedy giving props to the Bee Gees. Their opponent is the also aptly named Dangerous, paying respects to the King of Pop. Sounds like one of those see-it-to-believe-affairs.

And you will if you channel your body and energy into the 2009 CMJ Music Marathon & Film Fesitival, where through Saturday (24 Oct.), fans can have their fill of panels, showcases, more than 1,200 bands and a few films, too, in venues around Lower Manhattan and God’s country, Brooklyn.

Catch George Clooney, Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey tonight in “The Men Who Stare at Goats” about the convergence of a reporter, a special forces agent and a secret, psychic military unit. There’s a Q&A after. Stick around for “I Am A Man: From Memphis, A Lesson In Life,” a documentary about the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike in 1968. Some surviving members talk about the way it was. Closing out the film festival on Friday (23 Oct.) is “The Messenger” starring Woody Harrelson as an Army officer straight out of Iraq with lots of bad news to bear. Also closing the film component is Milla Jovovich in the fact-based thriller, “The Fourth Kind,” set in Alaska where people have gone missing under dubious circumstances.

The folks at CMJ claim that their music festival is the oldest music event in the country (film was added much later), and perhaps it is. For sure it is a five-day showcase for rising talent. And while it ain’t free, it’s cheap. Has a good pedigree, too. U2 played it long before Bono could get heads of state on the phone and before he could shame rich Western nations for their usury toward their poorer neighbors.

Saul Williams' show at the Blender Theater (127 E 23rd St./Gramercy) starts at 9 pm. Tickets: $22. “The Men Who Stare at Goats” starts at 7 p.m. “I Am A Man: From Memphis, A Lesson In Life” starts at 9:30 p.m. Both are showing at the Clearview Cinemas, 260 W. 23rd St./Chelsea.

Visit http://cmj.com/marathon/ for the complete 2009 CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival schedule, including: venues, times, admission and so forth.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wild Thing(s), I Think You Move Me


A scene from “Where the Wild Things Are.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Today begins a wilder than normal work week in New York, folks.

Kid folks (today) can make a Wild Thing mask and experience an interactive reading of “Where the Wild Things Are” at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan or tomorrow (13 Oct.) give vent to their already active imaginations by sculpting their own wild thing at the Staten Island Children’s Museum.

Grown folks can cast admiring glances at Maurice Sendak's original artwork at the pleasure of the Morgan Library & Museum.

Adventurers, regardless of their age, can have themselves superimposed into the action in the “Where the Wild Things Are” Kodak photo booth open beginning tomorrow at the New York Public Library Children’s Center and Official NYC Information Center.

What would little Max make of all the hoopla? ‘Tis all part of the five-day activityfest to celebrate the long-awaited/much anticipated release of the film, “Where the Wild Things Are,” based on Sendak’s beloved children’s book.

“New York City is an urban jungle in which its residents and visitors can let their imaginations run wild, so it is fitting that we celebrate the big-screen release of Maurice Sendak’s treasured childhood story here in his hometown where he found the inspiration to write the book,” said George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company, which along with Warner Bros. Pictures is hosting the party. “‘Wild Things Week in NYC’ is a great event for the City, as the film’s new and inventive adaptation of this timeless book is sure to bring together a diverse collection of people all celebrating the same classic tale.”

For sure, two major events tomorrow have the potential to draw a crowd. First, Forest Whitaker and others from the “Where the Wild Things Are” cast will read from the book at the main branch of the New York Public Library. Then tomorrow evening, stars and stargazers descend/ascend on Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall for the red-carpet premiere of the film, which was directed by Spike Jonze and adapted for the big screen by Jonze and Dave Eggers.

And that’s pretty much a wrap Friday (16 Oct.) when the “Where the Wild Things Are” opens nationwide.

Visit nycgo.com/wildthingsweek to see a complete schedule for “Wild Things Week in NYC," including event times, venues and addresses.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

NYFF: 'Bluebeard's' Kindness Is His Undoing

Lola Creton as Marie-Catherine in "Bluebeard." Photo courtesy of The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Pyramide Films


ONE wonders why the French director, Catherine Breillat waited so long to offer her version of the French fairy tale, “Bluebeard ("La Barbe bleue”), for it contains three themes she visits often: sibling rivalry, gender conflict and sexuality. It, too, was a childhood favorite, with which she tormented her own older sibling.

“ I was five or six; she was a year older,” she said in director’s notes about the film. “I used to read ‘Bluebeard’ out loud to her, terrified in advance myself but invigorated by the fact that I knew (and hoped) that she, the older one, would break down and beg me, in tears, to stop.”

Breillat’s engaging, witty and somewhat disturbing take on the tale of the undesirable aristrocrat with the ugly beard and several missing wives opens with two modern-day sisters reading the story in an attic, a place the director says is fertile “for dreaming and for playing hide and seek with one’s childhood fears.” The young actresses give performance that are both tender and hilarious as feuding siblings. They are far more childlike than their counterparts in the story who have serious things on their mind after their father dies, leaving them and their mother penniless and consigned to a life of crushing poverty. True to the tale, the younger of the two sisters, Marie-Catherine – played with great maturity and self-possession by Lola Creton – marries Breillat’s kindly orge, a restrained Dominique Thomas.

Referencing her three themes, Breillat (“Romance”/“Anatomy of Hell”) does have something interesting – if not so out of the ordinary – to say here and she does it often enough with an offbeat sense of humor. In the fairy tale, the sisters are often fighting but when the younger one is ready to leave for her new home, the heartbreak for both is palpable and rather adult. Their modern-day counterparts are often needling each other with some rather mature banter, but in the end the younger sibling expresses very childlike horror at the fate of her older sister.

I could not imagine that even Breillat would dare film sex scenes between Thomas’ behemoth Bluebeard and Creton’s tiny Marie-Cahtherine, though it’s implied in a chaste way. Instead, she makes a statement about the crucial role that desirability plays in determining whether a dowryless female and her family can escape poverty’s grip. Bluebeard’s surrogate extends Marie-Catherine and Anne an offer of a lifetime. Sexuality is strongly implied, too, in the barbaric way Bluebeard eats – hands grabbing at body parts, his devouring food so much so that some spills out of his mouth. Breillat’s camera captures it in closeups of Bluebeard’s bejeweled vestements and fingers and in Marie-Catherine's purity. Slightly pornographic is the scene showing the duck running around with its head cut off.

In the battle of the sexes, the child bride clearly has the upperhand over her groom, despite their David and Goliath size differential. No sooner than she arrives at the chateau after her wedding, she’s making demands. She doesn’t want a small bed at the foot of Bluebeard’s in their bed chamber. “Am I a dog that I should sleep at your feet,” she asks, insisting on her own bedroom. The hovel she chooses for herself is off limits. No one must enter, she informs Bluebeard who is too large to do so anyway. “Never,” she says with gravity. She wins the ultimate battle, however, when she outwits him to save her life. They are two gladiators locked in a very civilized exchange. It's bloodless, until the end.

It is clear that Breillat enjoyed herself with this one.

For a complete list of 2009 New York Film Festival entries and ticket/general information, visit: http://www.filmlinc.com

Food Fest: Where’s the Beef? At DeBragga.


The interior of Ganesvoort 69. Photo courtesy of Ganesvoort 69.

IT was moist. Super succulent, so tender it almost melted in my mouth. Smooth and velvety. Felt like liquid on my palate. The best steak I’d had in my life.

It was DeBragga, which bills itself as “New York’s Butcher and purveyor to the very best in the restaurant industry.” This is meat from happy cows, and these cows are from Iowa and Nebraska. They lived on a diet of pure grain — no meat products. That’s just how DeBragga (www.debragga.com) rolls with its meat and poultry from around the globe.

All the better for me who could not get enough. I lost count of the number of times that I returned to the trough, only stopping for propriety’s sake. After all, I was not feeding alone.

Earlier this evening, hundreds of New Yorkers put boots on the cobblestoned streets of the Meatpacking District to sip and/or taste the offerings of DeBragga and some 50 other merchants participating in Meatpacking Uncorked (MU), a street festival that is part of the Second Annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival. Being a street fair, it also attracted bands, performance artists, caberet acts, tap dancers and other sundry entertainment. Being the 21st century, there was also an interactive lounge.

Remember Florent? Well, Gansevoort 69 (69 Gansevoort) has sprung up in the place of the former Meatpacking District fixture and has been doing business for a few weeks. Florent devotees will probably turn up their noses at the spruced up décor, but the spirit of the old place is still alive in the glass-tiled ceiling with wood beams. The counter stools remain, too, which complement a menu of American comfort food i.e., mac&cheese, meatloaf, burgers/fries, pancakes, chicken/waffles and, butterscotch whiskey cookies, which G69staff generously served to the MU crowd and assorted passersby.

At Trina Turk, next door to Gansevoort 69 at No. 67, the sparkling wine was mundane but the boutique's eponymous citrus-scented candle ($38) was sublime.

Speaking of sparkling wine, the Lunetta Prosecco (www.cavitcollection.com) being poured at Diane von Furstenberg was everything the p.r. claimed: “Refreshing, dry and harmonious, with crisp fruit flavors and a clean finish.”

Took the words right out of my mouth.

Proceeds from the Second Annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival will benefit Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength, which also serve as the festival hosts. To purchase tickets and for more information about the festival, visit http://www.nycwineandfoodfestival.com. For Food Bank for New York City: foodbanknyc.org; for Share Our Strength: Strength.org.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

N.Y. Food Fest: A Little Pleasure for Palate

Photo courtesy of the New York City Wine & Food Festival.

EVER wondered about the proper way to roll sushi? How hard can it be to produce a California roll, right? Looks easy enough. Well, that’s part of the art. See how they roll during a class at Morimoto. As a bonus, one can lift a glass of wine with the Iron Chef himself.

And after an hour with wine expert and educator Kevin Zraly sushi lovers will likely have a better handle on what to drink with that perfect roll.

These are but two of the many morsels to savor at the Second Annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival. It opens shop today in the Meatpacking District and a few other city neighborhoods and will serve the last on Sunday (11 Oct).

Morimoto will be on the bill with a galaxy of other Food Network stars, as well as other big names from the world of food doing culinary demonstrations, tastings, panel discussions, interviews and signing books. Folks, Paul Deen will be there. So will Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay. And, and, and the favorite of Yours Truly, The Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten. I'll have my say about select portions.

Expect four days of stargazing, eating and drinking for two very worthy causes: the Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength, which also serve as the hosts.

To purchase tickets and for more information about the Second Annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, visit http://www.nycwineandfoodfestival.com. For Food Bank for New York City: foodbanknyc.org; for Share Our Strength: Strength.org.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Conventional Wisdom on Creating a New You

FORMER First Lady Laura Bush shares interesting anecdotes about life after the White House. For one, when she and her husband returned to the ranch, there was no one to handle the bags – well there was the Secret Service, but there wasn’t a retinue of fetchers and carriers.

BET founding partner Sheila C. Johnson once again discovers the importance of creating “a culture of commitment, a culture of not only doing things right, but of doing the right thing” as the president and managing partner of the once lowly WNBA Washington Mystics.
Mika Brzezinski and former First Lady Laura Bush at the More Magazine Reinvention Convention. Photo courtesy of More Magazine.

WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control and founding chair of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Nancy Goodman Brinker, quoting her father: “Always do the hardest job because no one else wants it and there will be less competition for it.”

Delia Ephron “can’t think and wear heels at the same time.” While her sibling and collaborator, Nora Ephron muses that it’s easier to shop for a bathing suit than a purse.

All day yesterday at the More Magazine Third Annual Reinvention Convention at Pier 60 the stories kept coming from women (and a lone male) who have had to switch gears in life/career and survived to tell the tale with wit, poignancy and true grit. Could there be a better time for such a summit – in an economy where many, regardless of whether they are part of More’s 40 and older demographic, have had to begin a new chapter – in other words reinvent themselves.

Like just about everything in life worth pursuing, reinvention is tough business. And some of the essentials, judging by some of the convention sponsors and exhibitors, are a new wardrobe (Talbots), makeup (Giorgio Armani Cosmetics), self-help/inspirational books (Barnes & Noble), over-the-counter drugs/sundry items (Drugstore.com) and financial perspective (Wells Fargo.)

Reinvention is an issue close to the heart of Yours Truly, seeing that I am currently under reconstruction. Imagine my glee at some of the panel discussions, the counter-programming notwithstanding: “Taking a Chance on Change,” “Reinventing Your Body: The 10 Steps Every Woman Needs to Know,” “The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper Even in Tough Times,” “How Social Media Can Help You Get Ahead,” “Sex and a Healthier You.”

A “reinvention board.” There’s general agreement among the minds discussing “Taking a Chance on Change” that everyone needs this advisory committee of family, friends, colleagues, mentors. “A reinvention board member can see you in a way you can’t,” said Dawn Lepore, who is five years into her makeover as the CEO and board chairman of Drugstore.com, which was hemorrhaging money in 2004 but turned a modest profit in a distressed fourth quarter 2008 market.

Lepore and the others cite a few things that go without saying such as identifying a niche and having self-confidence, which serves us well when we encounter the inevitable naysayers. Said moderator Pamela Mitchell, who’s reinvented herself a few times, more recently as a wife and founder/CEO of The Reinvention Institute: “If you get only one thing out of the panel, remember to take it one step at time” because reinvention is a mother.

To that end, do bring attention to yourself on the Internet using a social media tool, like a Website or blog. By the way, if you don’t like what you read about yourself on Google, don’t sue or get mad – get ahead. Create your own profile on say, LinkedIn, and Google will gladly display it prominently. “It’s a way to get your story out above the story that other people are writing about you,” says Julia Angwin, a Wall Street Journal technology editor and author of “Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America.” Join Twitter and Facebook, too, she advises.

Incidentally, those who want to maximize employment or business opportunities must use discretion/sound judgment/ common sense about what they post on a Facebook, because Big Brother and Big Business are watching, warns Lauren M. Doliva, a senior executive at the headhunting concern, Heidrick & Struggles. “More and more people are beginning to look on those Web sites. And there are people who they’ve offered a job to and they have rescinded jobs” based on what they have seen/read on profiles.

Words to the wise: if you want a gig as a financial planner or if you’re looking for investors/partners for your solar energy startup, bikini photos or photos of you tossing back Tequila shots on your Facebook page just won’t do. Take them down. Now!

Get more reinvention tips at http://www.more.com/reinvent_yourself

Saturday, October 3, 2009

NYFF: Two Very Remarkable Mothers

Kim Hye-Ja and Bin Won in "Mother." Photo courtesy of The Film Society of Lincoln Center/CJ Entertainment.


MOTHERHOOD, that most difficult of jobs, has a prominent place in two of the strongest films Yours Truly has seen thus far at the 47th New York Film Festival.

In "Mother" the South Korean director, Bong Joon-Ho, again deftly weaves various genres into one film. Here, is murder mystery, comedy and thriller. An acupuncturist’s mentally challenged son is imprisoned for the murder of a promiscuous school girl. She and the son’s best friend are the only ones who believe he’s innocent. Familiar mystery fare, but Joon-Ho adds a number of flourishes that lifts it above the run-of-the mill.

The evidence against the son is overwhelming, but the captivating Kim Hye-Ja as the mother is steadfast and unrelenting in her quest to prove his (Bin Won) innocence despite police indifference, a flighty attorney, as well as ridicule and violence that is visited upon her by some women in her circle. Alone, she takes matters into her owns hands, becoming a detective in the spirit of “Miss Marple.”

She believes she has a break after the forgetful son remembers something about the night the girl was killed. Acting on his tip, she is persuaded that she has found the murder weapon in the apartment of his best friend. Incidentally, she enters uninvited and unexpected. While she’s still there his girlfriend drops by, then he returns home, forcing her to stay hidden in the closet where she’s just found the smoking gun: a “blood-smeared” golf club.” Soon enough the couple is having sex, and Joon-Ho allows the camera to linger as much on the mother’s anguished eye as the actual love-making. Indeed, Hye-Ja wears a wide-eyed, anguished countenance throughout the film, lending it much of its urgency.

Watching the young lovers, she seems more impatient than anything else. It’s as if she’s saying, “Will you guys hurry up and finish so I can sneak out of here and turn this golf club over to the police so this bum can be put behind bars where he belongs.” They take their sweet time, forcing her to wait until they fall asleep. Now, the lovers and bottles and assorted discarded wrappers litter the floor and bar a stealthy path to the door. Comedy and drama reside side by side as Joon-Ho’s camera toggles from — taking its own sweet time — spilled, rushing water, to the best friend’s fingertips to Hye-Ja’s frightened expression. It makes you squirm. She escapes undetected, and we let out a huge sigh of relief along with her.

The aggrieved friend later demands satisfaction, but he also imparts some wisdom: People kill for three reasons, he says. The dead girl has no money, so either passion or vengeance is the motive, he deduces, encouraging her to talk to the people who knew the girl, certain the killer is among them. Could be one of men whom she has hooked up with and photographed in various embarrassing stages of undress. "Don't trust anyone; don’t even trust me … you go out and find the real killer yourself," the friend warns.

Hye-Ja’s performance as a mother whose loves knows no bounds is the motor that drives the film, but Joon-Ho, who delighted Cannes in 2006 with “The Host” and again earlier this year with “Mother,” is a meticulous storyteller. He switches from comedy and drama but also fuses them in the same scene as easily as he would trip a light switch. The scene in the police precinct when Hye-Ja’s characer shows up with the golf club is Keystone copish. Detectives are sitting around doing nothing, or more precisely, not doing their work. One is asleep. The detective, a family friend, who’d earlier advised her to abandon her fruitless effort, is leering at mobile phone photos of a girl.

Dejected after learning that the golf club is not the murder weapon, the mother walks out into a heavy downpour. The detective follows with an umbrella. She refuses, but the umbrella doesn’t work anyway, much like the police. Some minutes later she fishes an umbrella off the top of a junk collector’s heap: It works, just like the junk collector. Smile. Remember him.

Another staple of the murder mystery genre that the director uses to good effect is the flashback. Commonly, in murder mysteries the flashback comes at the end when the detective has solved the case. But Joon-Ho’s use of it throughout the film provides welcome insight, without giving anything much away – until near the end. It’s as if he left the best for last. There are many touches that make “Mother” riveting, the exaggerated ticks of Bin Won as the dimwit, being one of the few missteps.

None of these devices, however, prepares us for the shocking ending. The mother’s anguish is not relieved. Rather it is exacerbated. So much so that to forget her troubles, she gives herself the very acupuncture she’d offered to others.

Mo’Nique is a mother who tries to forget her troubles by smoking and watching TV day and night in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” She’s is a big fan of “$100,000 Pyramid.” And she is a bad mother who abuses teenage daughter, “Precious,” the title character.

Precious embodies just about every clichéd downwardly mobile urban pathology one can conjure up: black (literally), overweight, unattractive, poor, pregnant (for the second time), semi-illiterate, criminally inclined, abused. The only major pathology that does not apply here in late 1980s Harlem is drugs. Usually, TV and film treats such tales with kid-gloves sympathy. Many directors use every trick in the book to gain the audience’s sympathy and yank at its heartstrings. After all, society owes these people big. Part of the payment is excusing far too many of their peccadilloes because their every misdeed is informed by their horrible living conditions. I steeled myself, so sure that “Precious” would be the latest tale of woe (and perhaps “Push” is, too). Get out the violins and the nose wipes, etc. etc.

How refreshing it was to be proved wrong. Lee Daniels would be the director to think outside of that pitiable box as he did in “Monster’s Ball” and in particular the critically acclaimed but poorly received (at the box office), “The Woodsman.”

Let’s be clear, Precious’ life is hell. She lives with a mother who daily heaps physical and emotional abuse on her, someone who constantly informs her that she’s ugly, dumb and stupid, and actually encourages her to forget school and “go down to the welfare.” (Why not, look at what it’s done for her!) At even the slightest imagined insolence from Precious, she thinks nothing of throwing any object within reach at her. She hates her daughter because in her warped mind she believes that the girl took her man, this man would be Precious’ father who raped his daughter, giving her two children, one a daughter with Down Syndrome, by the age of 16. LD seems to be drawn to material that deals with sexual dysfunction, the kind that Viagra won’t correct.

Despite her troubles, Precious perseveres. One survival tactic is fantasy. In her fantasty world, she is a famous, beloved entertainer with a handsome (and light-skinned) boyfriend by her side. Daniels said during a Q&A after the screening that these scenes are not in “Push;” he inserted them for levity’s sake and a more practical reason.

“I felt that if we stayed in the reality, as the book does, it would be X-rated. There’s no way we could show the deplorable acts that this mother does and get a rating,” he said. “And I felt, too, though when bad things happened to me I always used to pretend I was someplace else.”

Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe as Precious. Photo courtesy of The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Lionsgate.

The fantasy scenes are a welcome relief from the disturbing events we are witnessing and they are a wise addition. One wishes, though, LD would have taken similar liberties with Mo’Nique’s character. Granted, he said she’s meaner in the book, but why not tamp her down even more? Her meanness borders on caricature, and does not ring true. But this is what LD wanted from the actress whom he directed in “Shadowboxers.” “We were one,” he said of their work in "Precious." Another shortcoming in an otherwise potent story is that it doesn't reveal what made the mother into the kind of person who would permit and commit the abuse visited upon her child.

Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe, above, is to be commended for bringing great humanity and dignity to this character, which could be hard to miss buried under 300 pounds and skin so ebony that one cannot see the whites of her eyes. This is her film, and she carries it.

Precious’ life begins to take a turn for the better when she joins an alternative school. After reluctantly introducing herself to the small class, she says it’s the first time she’s said anything in a class. The no-nonsense teacher played by Paula Patton, in what is not the typical saintly educator role, asks Precious how it makes her feel. “It makes me feel here.”

This is one of the scenes that may provoke some to reach for the Kleenex, not because we feel sorry for Precious, but because we are celebrating with her. Throughout the film, we’re celebrating with her. All she needs is some love, intensive therapy, and God, some good breaks, please. A tender and ironic scene is the one in the hospital after Precious has given birth to her second child, a boy. She’s done a very adult thing, but she and her visiting classmates are acting very much like what they are – teenagers: giggling, gossiping, teasing and flirting with the handsome male nurse played by Lenny Kravitz in a commendable supporting performance; so, too, is Mariah Carey as the sympathetic social worker to whom Precious tells all of the family secrets in a humorous meltdown moment.

Just as Precious is about to pull herself up by her boot straps she receives another blow. For the first time in the film, she descends – or tries to – into self-pity: nobody loves her, they beat her, they rape her, make her feel worthless and so on. At this point, we are willing to allow her this one indulgence. But PP’s teacher will not brook it. “Write,” she admonishes Precious. “Write.”

“I didn’t want people to feel that we were feeling sorry for Precious,” LD explained. “I could have lingered, but I stepped out of it.”

Pass the Kleenex, please.

For a complete list of 2009 New York Film Festival entries and ticket/general information, visit: http://www.filmlinc.com

Friday, October 2, 2009

NYFF: Where is It? Where is IT!

A scene from "Ne Change Rien." Photo courtesy of The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Red Star Cinema


YESTERDAY concluded Day 6 of the 47th New York Film Festival, and so far Yours Truly has a hyphenated word on the brain: low-key.

Before the film festival, I’d just come off Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which was a swirl. By comparison the film festival is whimpering: If one listens close enough, s/he will hear a faint sound. While this is not a fashion week, it is a platform for people in a particular industry to showcase their work for industry people, media, movers and shakers and the moneybags. I haven't had the sense when I've been at the brand-new and state-of-the-art Alice Tully Hall and Walter Reade Theater that anything out of the ordinary is going on. The nerve-endings in the “center” are anestheticized. At Bryant Park, one feel It, one gets It. Not here. Not yet.

Again, this is my first film festival. The little investigating I’ve done, though, has revealed that it is on the quiet side, a bit more opaque than, say, Sundance, Cannes, Toronto and certainly Tribeca. And it’s not just the absence of stars and blockbusters-in-waiting. Yet I have my ear to the ground, my eyes open, my antennae up – in my pursuit of It. The It I’m missing.

Meanwhile, the films. At this juncture, I am not going to pass too much judgment despite the couple of words I have in mind. But I will disclose that I have not yet seen a film that has moved me. Today, I will see ”Mother” and “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” Maybe one or both will do some moving.

Yesterday, I saw Portuguese director, Pedro Costa’s “Ne Change Rien.” Costa leaves the familiar territory of the slums of Libson for a recording studio that can be anywhere in the world for the making of the album, Ne Change Rien, by French actress and singer, Jeanne Balibar. As is most of his work, it’s shot in a darkened space in black and white, which gives it the look of a noir film.

It’s a good album and witnessing the process of album production is engrossing. Balibar has a strong, seductive voice. I was especially taken by how the musicians broke down the melodies note by note and repeatedly sang verses to get the sound just right. However, this is not the film – if that is the correct term for it – for most of the arthouse set. And make no mistake, this is for that segment of the population. It will not see the darkness of the screening room in the 16-screen cineplex, at least not one in the United Sates. It’s too inaccessible, and almost flaunts it, as if it is saying to us – the moviegoers – “f_ _ _ you.” It’s rude; we don’t expect it.

What we do expect is a narrative with protagonists/antagonists, conflict, dialogue, plot devices and so on. In this piece of narcissism are several people in a recording studio, albeit with good mood lighting, laying down tracks. Here, too, is a sprinkling of chatter: “I worked as a waitress for a year”/“Oh that’s a good bottle of wine.” Scintillating dialogue, no? And what of the cutaways that are so tightly framed that one can feel the pressure from his chair. Are these concerts/videos/dream sequences? I didn’t work that out. They could have been left on the cutting-room floor and the film would have suffered nothing by their absence. I didn’t leave only because I wanted to see the end. Frankly I was hoping for something – something – to happen.

I endeavor. I endeavor. Again, this is a good experience. Yet, I hope today or tomorrow, certainly before the festival shuts down on the eleventh of October, that I will be moved by a film. And that I find It. I think I will. I hope so.

For a complete list of 2009 New York Film Festival entries and ticket/general information, visit: http://www.filmlinc.com
 
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