I arrived at the Walter Reade this morning at 9:45am, and left just a few short hours ago at 10pm. I feel really weird right now. Five features, preceded by five shorts. I only left the building once, for a sprint-walk to a newsstand to buy a Snickers and a Dr. Pepper before the one o'clock screening. Other than that, I was stuck inside the theatre, sitting next to Tom Hall and Holly Herrick, experiencing an impossibly wide range of cinematic offerings. Highlights, in no particular order...
1) OFFSIDE -- Jafar Panahi's film is the most urgent, electrifying work I've seen at the festival so far this year. It's being released by Sony Pictures Classics early next year, but I highly recommend you check it out now. Get your tickets asap--if the screenings aren't already sold out, that is.
2) PAN'S LABRYINTH -- Guillermo del Toro combines a nightmare fantasy tale with a historical battle epic to deliver an ultra-gruesome, and genuinely creepy, spectacle. My next homework assignment for Tom Hall is to deliver an essay comparing and contrasting the mythic storytelling of del Toro (PAN'S) and M. Night Shymalan (LADY IN THE WATER). Gee, I wonder who's gonna win.
3) WOMAN ON THE BEACH -- If Hong Sang-soo had delivered a 115-minute film (not 127), I would have absolutely no complaints whatsoever. But I definitely felt the strain of its running time towards the end. That said, WOMAN ON THE BEACH is an absolute delight, even when it turns bitter. Ko Hyun-joung might just be my Best Actress for 2006.
4) Short Film Surprises -- After an opening week of short films that were downright embarrassing (is this the New York Film Festival or the CUNY Undergrad Showcase?), today brought some striking works. The always extraordinary Mathieu Amalric is a wonder to behold in A LITTLE BIT UNDER THE WEATHER (screening before WOMAN ON THE BEACH). Arnaud Gautier's INNOCENCE feels like if Bela Tarr had directed COME AND SEE (screening before BAMAKO). But for me, the most pleasant surprise was seeing the name "Lara Belmont" in front of the final short of the night, LUMP (screening before PAN'S LABRYINTH). For those of you who don't remember, Lara Belmont was the star of Tim Roth's suicidally depressing THE WAR ZONE, and I've been wondering about her ever since. After seeing LUMP, I'm still wondering about her. Someone cast her in a comedy and cut her some slack.
6) Before tonight's fifth and final screening, we were informed that a "press only" screening of INLAND EMPIRE had been added to the lineup. This Sunday at 9am, I will be seeing the new David Lynch film. Life, you are oh-so-very good to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!