Manhattan Rocks: New York Film Festival |


Manhattan Rocks: New York Film Festival

Want skiing? Go to Sundance. Want starlets? Hit Cannes. Want politeness? Try Toronto. But for a select blend of prestige cinema, drink in the New York Film Festival.

The New York Film Festival, which concluded its 35th run on Oct. 12, isn’t the biggest assembly of jury-selected titles on the international circuit. It isn’t the most glamorous or the most international. And it isn’t the most ”I [heart] NY” neighborly, either, since mere movie-loving mortals who wake up of a morning thinking ”Gee, that little Iranian film about a guy who wants to commit suicide sounds cool, maybe I’ll check it out” are plumb out of luck; most everything is officially sold out before opening night, period.

But this is New York, and the festival is under the aegis of the prestigious Film Society of Lincoln Center. And so, even though many of the titles this year opened shortly following their NYFF screening (The Ice Storm; Washington Square; Boogie Nights; Fast, Cheap & Out of Control) and others — many others — premiered at other festivals (among them Taste of Cherry, Hana-Bi, Ma Vie en Rose, Love and Death on Long Island, Voyage to the Beginning of the World, La Vie de Jésus, Happy Together, The Sweet Hereafter), the cachet of the address, coupled with the idiosyncratic purity of the menu, lends a special interest to everything on the Lincoln Center screen.

Among the NYFF offerings not previously covered in EW’s Cannes and Toronto reports, the sexiest and chicest was undoubtedly Post-Coïtum, Animal Triste, an extravagantly emotional yet soigné French story about a sophisticated wife and mother who blows it all for crazy love with a beautiful young man; Brigitte Roüan directed — and also weeps and purrs in the lead role. Australian writer-director Bill Bennett eschews purring in his Kiss or Kill; he prefers to startle with an artfully chopped-up visual style for this lightweight story of a couple of skinny-cool young killers (and lovers) on the run.

Joe Eszterhas takes a break from writing mammocentric stuff like Basic Instinct and Showgirls and reveals a sentimental center as sweet as a Hungarian pastry in his script for Telling Lies in America. The semiautobiographical drama, directed by Guy Ferland (The Babysitter), was inspired by little Joe’s Hungarian-immigrant childhood in 1961 Cleveland and stars a charismatic Kevin Bacon as a slick disc jockey swivel-hip deep in payola (Brad Renfro has the little Joe role). Egyptian director Youssef Chahine sets his sprawling Destiny in 12th-century Muslim Andalusia and has made a long, grand historical drama — a musical, no less — in favor of religious tolerance.

And then there’s Pedro Almodóvar. The freewheeling Spanish director (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) has produced his least campy, least high-strung, most satisfying movie in recent memory with Live Flesh, an adaptation of a classically twining Ruth Rendell novel about sex, betrayal, and revenge. Of course, since the film (which closed the festival) is from Almodóvar, there’s also a lot of really fantastic interior decoration. Which is, in the end, just the thing to inspire lucky NYFF ticket holders when they return to the tiny cubicles they call home.