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The Playlist

NYFF '11 Review: 'Policeman' A Strong, Haneke-Inspired Rumination On Israeli Society

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 14, 2011 3:03 AM
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  • 1 Comment
While it's absolutely an important issue that deserves coverage, we've already heard nearly every angle of the Israel-Palestine conflict seventy times over -- so much so that we barely have a clue about their other dilemmas. One of these issues starting to come to light is the large economic disparity that exists among the Israelis themselves, resulting in many protests against the abnormally high cost of living. In his assured debut "Policeman," journalist/novelist Nadav Lapid tackles this very problem with a reserved strength rarely seen in a filmmaker so green.

NYFF '11: Pedro Almodóvar Talks The Identity And Gender Themes Of ‘The Skin I Live In’

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • October 13, 2011 5:16 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Director Discusses Finding Humor In Tragedy, Differences Between Men And Women, And MoreWhen we first laid our eyes upon Pedro Almodóvar's "The Skin I Live In" at Cannes, we called it a film that "snaps between bright glittering glamour and dark, doomed horror," and emerges largely triumphant, "uniquely beautiful and distinctively imperfect." The reception for Almodóvar's latest in the Big Apple has been similarly apprehensive and appreciative; the audience's reaction at last Tuesday's press screening was a testament to the polarizing nature of the film. Almodóvar and stars Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya were present with a translator in tow, and the conversation was by turns amusing and laid-back, touching on themes and concepts native to the story. While our own Jen Vineyard turned in an excellent piece digging deep into the specifics of the production, this time most of the questions were addressed to Almodóvar, who fielded them with ease, occasionally utilizing the translator for particularly verbose answers.

NYFF: Pedro Almodóvar Told Antonio Banderas To Watch Cary Grant Movies To Prep For 'Skin I Live In'

  • By Jen Vineyard
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  • October 12, 2011 3:26 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The Director Reveals He's Not Doing A Biopic On Mina; Tension, Twists & More From The Team Behind The FilmPedro Almodóvar crafts a creepy Frankenstein-esque tale of rape, revenge, and survival in "The Skin I Live In" – a polarizing film which is one of his most ambitious yet. Because the movie features an unexpected twist halfway through the film, discussing it becomes difficult – how do you debate the themes, the issues and the meaning without giving it all away? We leave that task to the esteemed director and his cast that includes Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, who hit NYFF this week to present this latest concoction, a tale unlike anything Almodóvar has put on the big screen before. Covering everything from the twist in the movie (don't worry, we won't reveal it here), the reason why Antonio Banderas had to watch Cary Grant movies to prepare for the film, and the themes of identity that run through the story, the trio were happy to discuss in detail the quirky, provocative and unforgettable film.

Bong Joon-ho's 'The Host' Gets Converted Into 3D, Sequel Still In The Works

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 11, 2011 8:33 AM
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  • 0 Comments
While it's never been a better time for the crossover of Asian cinema to audiences on this side of the ocean, none have been quite as big as Bong Joon-ho's "The Host." The 2006 film became a sensation, not only smashing box office records at home in South Korea, but becoming a must see film stateside, breaking out of its genre niche and finding a larger audience than this kind of flick normally would. It seems that producers around the world all share the common trait of milking a hit movie for all it's worth, as not only is there a long gestating sequel to the movie still on the table, until that arrives, "The Host" has gotten a brand new 3D makeover.

Béla Tarr Confirms At NYFF That He's Retired From Filmmaking

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 10, 2011 6:47 AM
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  • 1 Comment
We can't claim to be massive fans of everything that Béla Tarr's made; his work can be fascinating, but somewhat trying. But when he's firing on all cylinders, as in "Werckmeister Harmonies," the Hungarian director is an incredibly vital voice in cinema, and even when he's not, his films find a way of indelibly printing themselves on your mind. As such, we were disappointed to learn back in 2008, on the announcement of Tarr's latest project, that it was intended to be his last.

NYFF ’11 Review: ‘Pina’ Is A Gorgeously Photographed, Three-Dimensional Sleeping Pill

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 9, 2011 5:30 AM
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  • 5 Comments
It’s strange to be truly startled and taken aback by the powerful effects of properly utilized 3D not in some Hollywood blockbuster where half of a major Midwestern American city is blown to smithereens by giant transforming robots, but during a quiet, understated, impressionistic documentary/tribute to influential German choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch (directed by Wim Wenders, no less). In fact, this might be the most amazingly you-are-there use of the technology since James Cameron landed us on Pandora. It’s just that, along with the fantastical visas and bounding, leaping, protruding dancers, you wish that the movie were more than just pretty. Sadly, it’s not. And boring is boring, even while wearing silly plastic specs.

NYFF '11 Review: Bela Tarr's Swan Song 'The Turin Horse' Is Despairing But Unforgettable

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 9, 2011 3:00 AM
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  • 2 Comments
If the name Béla Tarr rings any sort of bell in your head, chances are you've already formed an unwavering opinion of his work. He hasn't exactly shaken up his approach since 1988's "Damnation" (that said, this writer -- probably like most -- isn't familiar with his crop of '90s short films), and if despairing (yet deeply moving) minimalist films composed of stark black-and-white single takes doesn't tickle your fancy, this film won't change your mind.

VIFF '11: Thai Existentialist Hitman Film 'Headshot' Proves The Genre Still Has A Pulse

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 8, 2011 3:00 AM
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  • 4 Comments
The hitman genre has been done to death. If cinema can be a reflection of the times we live in, and a recorded piece of history of what the filmmakers are concerned with at the time of inception and production, then it’s amazing any of us are still alive. When done well, the genre can be a lot of fun – as well as dramatic, escapist, cool and artful – but there’s just too many professional killers running amok in the movies.

NYFF '11 Review: 'Sleeping Sickness' A Morality Tale That Doesn't Fulfill Its Promise

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 8, 2011 2:10 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Poor Ulrich Köhler. His first feature "Bungalow" was a quiet, very reserved tale about a young soldier going AWOL. Instead of finishing his service, he gives into lethargy, laying around and doing nothing while hoping the military doesn't catch up with him. Once he's introduced to his brother's sweetheart, he finally finds his purpose: get in her pants at all costs. No, it wasn't terribly ambitious, but it was a relatively solid debut and was interesting enough to make those who actually saw it keep an eye on the new German filmmaker. Four years passed and finally his sophomore picture "Windows On Monday" was unleashed with a whimper. This film -- about a wife rejecting her routine middle-class life and responsibilities -- saw the director slightly refining his style, but also failing to make a truly deep impression in its festival run. Neither of these films were bad (in fact, this writer quite liked 'Windows'), but their meandering nature and unattractive simplicity didn't do them any favors when pitted against things like "The Free Will" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" at Berlinale. The ante had to be upped. Sensing this, Köhler uprooted and went to Africa for his latest endeavor. Would a fresh landscape invigorate his sauntering aesthetic? Now that his German brethren are stirring conversation and acclaim with their "Dreileben" trilogy series, it's an even greater chance to finally catch the attention of festival goers. Unfortunately, "Sleeping Sickness" is a lot like his previous films, much to its own detriment.

VIFF '11 Review: 'I Wish' The Rare Example Of A Great Kids Film That Actually Understands Kids

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 7, 2011 6:02 AM
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  • 3 Comments
The frustrating thing about most modern "kids films" is that many filmmakers seem like lost balls in tall grass when it comes to portraying what makes children tick. Perhaps it's tougher than we imagine to capture the youth/kid experience, but is it just us or does it seem like nearly all child characters in movies exist in some bizarro world where they're smarter than the all the adults, know just the right thing to say at every moment and hardly ever act like, you know, kids? (See every American indie and Hollywood rom-com from the last 10 years for examples of this annoying, ridiculous trend). That's why, when a thoughtful, intelligent director takes the reins of such a film, one that actually remembers and respects what it was like to be a kid, the result can be so refreshing. In the best examples of the genre from recent memory -- "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Super 8" (which, this writer only found to be half a great movie, the great half being the portion involving kids being kids, making movies; it's impossible to deny the skill of those actors and their characterizations) -- the filmmakers decided from the outset to make a proper film first and foremost. The fact that the story is played out with children as our main characters is almost a moot point. Almost.

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