Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 10 NYFF: Beauty of Monotony in ‘The Turin Horse’

Janos Derzsi and Erika Bok in "The Turin Horse." Photo from Cinema Guild.

FOR nearly 2½ hours, viewers will watch as a man and his daughter, saying next to nothing, repeat the same ritual day after day after day in a very confined space.

Welcome to the world of “The Turin Horse,” Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky’s captivating meditation on the outcome of a chance encounter between Friedrich Nietzsche and the titular horse.

At the beginning of the film, making its U.S. debut today at the 49th New York Film Festival, the narrator gives the viewer to know that FN comforted the horse, which was being whipped by its driver. The philosopher subsequently collapsed and spent the final years of his life in silence in the care of his mother and siblings. But what of the horse? (See trailer below).

It seems the horse, too, was affected by either the beating or the meeting or both. The animal won’t eat, drink or lead the carriage that holds the goods the family trades for its survival.

The carriage driver (Janos Derzsi) is the horse’s owner. He lives on the harsh, barren, windy plains of Eastern Europe with his daughter (Erika Bok). Theirs is a life of ascetic sameness.

Each day the daughter rises, collects water for washing and cooking, boils potatoes, dresses her father, sets the table, plates the potatoes, clears the table. Afterward, father and daughter repair to the barn where the daughter feeds and waters the horse who does not eat or drink before hitching it and it goes nowhere. Father and daughter unhitch the horse, close the barn doors, return to their spare hut where daughter undresses father. They go to bed.The camera records it all in b&w, accompanied by a funereal one-movement soundtrack.

“The Turin Horse," which won the Silver Bear at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival, is a beautiful piece of filmmaking and storytelling. BT’s camera doesn’t have much in the way of scenery to work with but makes much of the images at its disposal in the hut, yard and barn. The viewer's eye never tires of the scenery, for the director presents the environs from different and unexpected angles. Where the soundtrack should grate, it ingratiates itself, coaxing the viewer into this sad, strange place.

BT has said eight (films) is enough. “The Turin Horse” is to be his last. One can only hope he will reverse himself.

“The Turin Horse,” is in Hungarian with English subtitles.

Michelle Williams Is an Icon in 'My Week with Marilyn'

“MY Week with Marilyn” is based on two works by Colin Clark. The writer and filmmaker met the famous actress in 1957 when she journeyed to the United Kingdom to star in “The Prince and the Showgirl” opposite Laurence Olivier. The film chronicles a week that CC spent with MM spent when her third husband, Arthur Miller, left the country on personal business.

Eddie Redmayne, Dougray Scott and Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn.” Photo by Laurence Cendrowicz for The Weinstein Company.

“My Week with Marilyn” has its world premiere today at NYFF. It opens wide in the United States on 4 Nov. and on 18 Nov. in the United Kingdom. A review will be published to coincide with the U.S. release. Meanwhile, enjoy the interview above with Michelle Williams at an actor’s roundtable with Annette Benning, Natalie Portman, Colin Firth and others. She plays MM in the film.

'Twenty Cigarettes' & Smokers in Director's Latest Time Travel
JAMES Benning’s “Twenty Cigarettes” has been compared widely with Andy Warhol’s “Screen Tests,” but the film may have more in common with a previous work by JB.

AW shot his subjects in "Screen Tests" – many of them celebrities or those he believed to have star potential; many of them members of his Factory – for several unbroken, silent minutes. The photographer's aim was to create film portraits. In “Twenty Cigarettes,” which makes its U.S. debut tonight in “NYFF Views from the Avant-Garde,” JB films a score of individuals making no sound except what escapes from them while they smoke a cigarette. The film lasts as long (99 minutes ) as it takes this diverse group to finish their smoke. Similarly, in JB’s “RR” (2007), each shot lasts as long as it takes each in a series of trains to cross the frame. (See trailer below in which the director talks about casting the film).

Watching 20 different people – most of them unfamiliar – smoke a cigarette might potentially hold the same amount of interest one might have in watching paint dry. The director’s latest exploration of time also takes place in a single frame. The lone frame holds subject, cigarette and simple background. The eyes don’t have much to work with or do they?

The act of inhaling and exhaling smoke from a cigarette, as well as extinguishing a cigarette butt is quite involved. A smoker may squint or move a shoulder just so; smokers exhibit different degrees of head-tilt when they take a pull. She may replace an errant or imaginary lock of hair. His eyes may dance or look anywhere except at the camera; a smoker may stare frankly or blankly at the camera – unaware of it to varying degrees.

A smoker in "Twenty Cigarettes." Photo from 49th New York Film Festival.

While “Twenty Cigarettes” is not addictive, it slowly breaks down the viewer's resistance, overcoming any objection one draw at a time.

Other screenings and events today at NYFF include “Shame,” “Till We Meet Again,” “The Pettifogger,” “Take Aim at the Police Van,” and a talk with Béla Tarr, (director of “The Turin Horse”),

Visit to learn more about the 49th New York Film Festival: including schedule, repeat screenings, ticket and venue information.

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