Sunday, October 6, 2013

NYFF Day 10: After 'Abuse of Weakness' and 'Bastards,' Gloria!!!'

HEAD’S UP: The 51st New York Film Festival is off to the races, and so are we. This year, we borrow a page from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York coverage, which borrowed a page from Twitter ( To that end, all film reviews / comments will be 100 words or less. Yes, 100. Or less. Ready? Lights. Camera. ACTION! ...

WHAT a day for film! Today, Day 10 of The 51st New York Film Festival, may go down as one of the strongest of this session.

Four films, either making a North American or U.S. premiere, deserve notice. First is James Gray’s very personal “The Immigrant.” The film starring, Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard, harkens to 1920s New York.

Intrigue and mendacity are omnipresent backdrops in this telling of the newcomer’s struggle to plant roots in the United States of America. (See video of interview with JG and JP a top).

Carrying more intrigue and mendacity than the law allows are two French films – with female directors. A slow, steamy burn to the end, is “Bastards” (“Les Saluds”). Director Claire Denis noted in a post-screening press conference that she and her team built the film brick by brick. What an engaging process to witness in this noirish film based on some recent French sex scandals.

CD employs numerous in her stable of actors, including protagonist Vincent Lindon, to birth this sad, salacious saga. The title is apt, for in this affair there are only two innocents – the young lady who has had unspeakable horrors visited upon her person and the boy of a woman (Chiara Mastroianni) who has made a Faustian deal.

“Bastards” is at once not predictable and not surprising. The ending, shot as a grainy video, is haunting and beautiful – a tasteful coup de grace.

Isabelle Huppert and Kool Shen rely on each other a little too much in “Abuse of Weakeness” (“Abus de Faiblesse”). Photo from "Abuse of Weakness" Facebook page.

“It was me, but it was not me,” Isabelle Huppert’s character emphatically states during an “intervention” in the closing minutes of “Abuse of Weakeness” (“Abus de Faiblesse”). She is referring to the destructive, co-dependent, symbiotic post-stroke relationship that she’s recently ended with a swindler of the stars portrayed by French-Polish rapper Kool Shen. The prolific check-writer was separated from more than 500,000 euros.

The leads give riveting performances in this part-thriller, part multi-layered black comedy based on an experience of director Catherine Breillat.

On a welcome, lighter note is the glorious “Gloria” from Chilean director Sebastian Lelio. This lovable coming-of-middle-age tale was written specifically for 50-something actor, director and playwright Paulina Garcia. “She was Gloria before we had a script,” SL disclosed in a post-screening press conference.

PG’s title character is heartwarmingly bumbling her way – with colossal eyeglasses perched on nose – in a world where her nest is empty of two kids and a husband. One cheers her on through every club dance, drag on a cigarette, phone call and pull of that trigger!

Visit to learn more about The 51st New York Film Festival, including tickets and showtimes.

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