Saturday, October 9, 2010

The 48th New York Film Festival closes with OLD CATS, REVOLUCIÓN and HEREAFTER

Another year, another fest, another prime line-up of films from around the world -- only eight of which TrustMovies managed to see (though he did a lot better this year than last).  The festival closes tomorrow with Clint Eastwood's HEREAFTER -- which is perhaps the only Eastwood movie I have liked without caveat (well, maybe a few small ones).  I'll have much more to say about this film when it opens next week.  Meanwhile you can catch the 10pm showing tomorrow, to which there are still some tickets remaining.

OLD CATS is the new film co-written and -directed by Sebastián Silva, director of last year's success The Maid, and Pedro Peirano. This is an equally fine film -- funny, pointed and moving about old age, family and unhealed wounds -- which plays at 2:45 this afternoon, but will, I am told, be released theatrically early next year. At that time I'll have a lengthy review, coupled with an excellent Q&A that the two filmmakers offered, post-press screening. You can check out the ticket situation here.

More important, by far -- because there may not be other opportunities to see it -- is the new film from and about Mexico, REVOLUCIÓN, which, for me, proved the highlight of this year's festival. A ten-part/ten-director omnibus commissioned to commemorate the centenary of the Mexican Revolution, it's about exactly what its title proclaims: revolution (in its many meanings) and what this has meant and continues to signify for the country of origin. The film -- the sections of which have been ordered in a perfect fashion so that our understanding of and appreciation for the concept burgeons as the movie progresses -- is thought-provoking and greatly moving, particularly for those who have acquaintance with Mexico's history.

Each episode works surprisingly well, though some are stronger than others.  But because each makes it point with feeling and economy, and sometimes wit, as well, the film grows into a wonderful comment on Mexico and its history -- as well as, in a couple of episodes, on the USA's relationship with its southern sister.  The film opens with a sweet but dark piece, The Welcome Ceremony (above), by Fernando Eimbcke (of Lake Tahoe), in which a local band from a hinterland village rehearses a song in honor of an upcoming arrival. While we get a slice-of-life of the band's tuba player (shown at center) and his family, this opening piece shows us just what revolution has resulted in, historically, for Mexico.

Patricia Riggen (La Misma Luna) provides via Beautiful and Beloved (above), a pointed story of a Mexican-American woman, her father, relatives, a lawyer and a funeral director -- and their relationship to both the US and Mexico. Funny, smart, sentimental and moving, Riggens' film speaks volumes in few minutes. With Lucio, Gael Garcia Bernal tackles the relationship of religion and revolution, as well as how revolutionaries are made. Tightly focused and beauti-fully filmed, this is a strong little movie and, along with his earlier Déficit, indicates that Bernal may yet become a director of note.

The Hanging Priest (above), from Amat Escalante and filmed in black-and-white, takes us to what appears to be a historical time, as two children on a donkey come upon a very odd sight in the desert. Well-played, the little film works as symbolism -- about the church and Mexico's next generation -- even as it suddenly brings us face to face with now, and what is next.

The most brilliant piece in the bunch comes from a filmmaker about whose work I've been rather "iffy" till now: Carlos Reygadas (Silent Light). His This Is My Kingdom section of Revolución, however, is so stunning that I'm in awe. The filmmaker simply shoots, documentary-style, the gathering of a horde of people from what looks like upper-middle class to lower, on some sort of holiday (Day of the Dead, maybe?) and catches snippets of their conversation. As day goes to night, activities grow crazier and the talk turns ugly. By the end, you may have quite a different notion of what revolution could bring.

In The Estate Store by Mariana Chenillo, whose award-winning Nora's Will open theatrically in NYC this coming week), we get (along with Ms Riggens' film) the most plot-heavy tale, and it's a good one. A love story blossoms in what looks like a fairly typical supermarket (think Gigante), but which, if the title is any indication, is actually owned in such a manner that its workers exert less control over their lives than the owners. Initially full of promise, joy and budding love, by the end, the tale has tuned into something darkly socio-economic in which the personal is political in a pointed, nasty way. Revolución, indeed.

R-100, which I guess is a particular Mexican highway (which probably will have its own immediate ramifications for Mexican viewers, but which escape this gringo), by Gerardo Naranjo (I'm Gonna Explode), is a short tale in which one member/level of society uses another, uses another, uses another. It's ugly, and the fact that we know almost nothing about any of the characters shown may be the point.  Faceless, useless, and users all, they prey -- out of necessity. The graffiti on the wall of the bridge maybe be a bit unsubtle but it makes its point.

The title of 30-30 evidently comes from a revolutionary song which has found its way onto beer and other commercialized uses, and this is the point of the film by Rodrigo Plá (La Zona), one of the richest and perhaps the longest of these short films. Here, the now-aged grandson of a revolutionary (I think it was Pancho Villa -- or maybe Emiliano Zapata) has been asked by the government to take part in ceremonies all around the nation. He does, and what he observes is a not-unexpected media circus. But given the history and continuing downward trend of this country, it's particularly depressing. Real estate, con artists, emigration and family unite in Pacifico, the fine contribution of Diego Luna (actor, producer, director and now writer) to this collection, in which a man trying to find a paradise for his family, comes to a sad but important realization. 

In 7th and Alvarado, directed by Rodrigo Garcia (Mother and Child), we are back in Los Angeles again, in the film that closes Revolución on a note of exquisite beauty and sadness. With no dialog, and using some stunning visuals, Garcia joins the Mexican-born population of this particular area of L.A. to its own past in a manner that, as this very short and elegiac movie draws on, is heartbreaking in its refusal to say more than simply this:
Watch, remember, and understand.

I hope that Revolución will find distribution in the USA, at the very least on DVD.  It plays at the NY Film Fest one time only, this evening, October 9, at 5:30 in Alice Tully Hall.  Check for tickets here.

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