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New York Film Festival 2017 | Feature | Slant Magazine

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New York Film Festival 2017
New York Film Festival 2017

Ismael’s Ghosts

As in the later films of Alain Resnais and Raúl Ruiz (especially You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet and Night Across the Street), Ismael’s Ghosts finds French writer-director Arnaud Desplechin simultaneously collapsing and expanding his body of work, reflexively revealing its many layers, like a pop-up book. Desplechin liberally borrows character names and plot points from many of his previous films, playing fast and loose with the narrative connections that exist between many of them, resulting in a nesting-doll narrative that’s far removed from 2013’s formally and dramatically disciplined Jimmy P. Desplechin builds instead from 2015’s My Golden Days, which positioned itself as a loose prequel to 1996’s My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument. >>

New York Film Festival 2017

Lady Bird

Lady Bird’s broader shift in perspective is its most impressive, as its sympathies gradually tilt from Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), a teen desperate to transcend her upbringing, to Marion (Laurie Metcalf), a mother who sacrifices her time and her body for her family without reward. Ronan, who seems to grow into her lanky frame over the course of the film, nails the sense that the life of a teenager is a tendentious war between one’s ego and their increasing sense of the world around them, while Metcalf masters Marion’s inability to erase her frustration at her inability to be selfish or impulsive. Both performances are remarkable, brittle and diffident in wholly original ways that distinguish Gerwg’s film from The Edge of Seventeen, Pretty in Pink, and other canonical coming-of-age works that attempt to honestly reckon with issues of privilege. A uniquely American comedy, Lady Bird is testy, humane, and firmly rooted in its time and place. >>

New York Film Festival 2017

Last Flag Flying

Last Flag Flying, co-written by Linklater and Ponicsan, is colored by how time reshapes our sense of self, embracing some memories while occluding others, and it ingeniously folds us into a similar state of reflection and uncertainty about previous eras of false optimism about national values. It takes place in 2003, nearly two years into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a nebulous war on terrorism; the fog of 9/11 has cleared, and many Americans and most other Western democracies are increasingly rattled by domestic surveillance and military bellicosity. One long, hilarious scene of cellphone humor conjures the major cultural shift of the era, but the enduring historical markers of the moment pass by on televisions in the background of many scenes: Saddam Hussein, filthy and just snatched out of an underground bunker; George W. Bush, smirking through consolations and expansionist bravado. Within the film’s intricate generational schema, these images become almost painfully mundane, just a few notes in a lifetime’s steady drumbeat of disillusionments. Like Before Midnight, Last Flag Flying is both gimlet-eyed and philosophical enough to question the lasting worth of youthful romanticism. >>

New York Film Festival 2017

Let the Sunshine In

Claire Denis’s latest film, Let the Sunshine In, is, as its name suggests, less despondent than Bastards, concerned as it is with the fragility, and perseverance, of the heart. Its modesty and intimacy runs the risk of being erroneously labelled slight. It’s a 95-minute reconciliation with love, which has always been something of an unmitigable poison for Denis’s characters. The self-destructive nature of searching for meaning, for a partner, has long fascinated the filmmaker, and here she strips bare that hopeless pursuit. In those diurnal moments, the mundane, unexceptional motions that make up a relationship, Denis disinters the pleasures (however brief) and pain of love. >>

New York Film Festival 2017

Lover for a Day

Like In the Shadow of Women, Lover for a Day is shot in widescreen black and white by Renato Berta, staged in a prosaic suite of bedrooms, cafés, and side streets, and narrated in a terse short-form prose style. But in contrast to Garrel’s last film, which diligently plucked away at the morose self-importance of its male lead, the wise French dramatist’s latest foregrounds the malleable spirits of its young female characters, leaving Gilles something of an implicit gravitational force rather than a subject of sustained consideration. In doing so, the film adopts an unbiased lucidity. Instead of the wry, pitch-perfect assessments of human behavior contained within In the Shadow of Women, we get a hushed sense of awe and empathy as Garrel ruminates on the burgeoning womanhood of his daughter, here cast for the first time in a lead role under his direction, by way of the character she inhabits. >>

New York Film Festival 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories

Noah Baumbach has always been a writer-director of no formal distinction, but he’s possessed with a keen eye and ear for the intricacies of pettiness, humiliation, and schadenfreude. His new film, The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected), concerning a family of neurotic middle-aged New Yorkers attempting to come to grips with the imminent demise of their sculptor father, Harold (Dustin Hoffman), duly feels like a retread of past works (and not just Baumbach’s), if better structured and finer-grained than most. It appreciates life’s vastness and maddening repetition; its screenplay is emotionally sprawling but peripatetic in the telling. Baumbach makes a lived-in milieu feel instantly familiar as Danny Meyerowitz (Adam Sandler) and his teenage daughter, Eliza (Grace Van Patten), pause in the middle of their search for a parking spot to enjoy Fine Young Cannibals’s “She Drives Me Crazy” on the radio, before the inevitable New York City honking and screaming resumes. >>

New York Film Festival 2017

Mrs. Hyde

Serge Bozon’s monster story is imbued with his idiosyncratic visual and comedic style. Shot by his longtime collaborator and sister, Céline Bozon, Mrs. Hyde is tinged even in daylight with crepuscular tones, and the quick-cutting, lean editing gives the film a peculiarly frenetic energy, putting the audience in a position of feeling like they’re chasing after the constantly evolving narrative. But as Mrs. Géquil (Isabelle Huppert), a science teacher who goes about her daily life with a spastic nervousness, transforms into a competent instructor, and her alter-ego grows in strength in the wake of a freak lab accident, Mrs. Hyde becomes increasingly more sinister—a tone that rubs jarringly against the madcap satire of the film’s first half. >>

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