This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

NYFF55 SPOTLIGHT ON DOCUMENTARY: VOYEUR

Voyeur

Gerald Foos and Gay Talese discuss voyeurism and journalistic ethics in eye-opening documentary

VOYEUR (Myles Kane & Josh Koury, 2017)
New York Film Festival, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Sunday, October 15, Francesca Beale Theater, $15, 9:00
Festival runs September 28 - October 15
212-875-5601
www.filmlinc.org
www.netflix.com

“I’m a natural person to write about a voyeur because I’m a voyeur myself,” award-winning, bestselling journalist Gay Talese says in Myles Kane and Josh Koury’s Voyeur, which is getting a bonus screening at the New York Film Festival on October 15 prior to debuting on Netflix on December 1. The documentary makes a voyeur of the viewer as well as it follows the thirty-five-year journalistic relationship and offbeat friendship between Talese, longtime New York Times and Esquire writer and author of such books as Honor Thy Father and Thy Neighbor’s Wife, and Gerald Foos, the owner of a Colorado motel who claims he spent decades spying on people from a special crawl space he built above the rooms. In January 1980, Foos, owner of the Manor House Motel, wrote a letter to Talese, offering him a story about what he was doing; Foos considered himself a researcher, not a pervert or a peeping Tom. Using archival footage, news reports, and new interviews, Kane and Koury follow Foos, his second wife, Anita, and Talese as the journalist prepares to write a major piece for the New Yorker in advance of the release of his latest book, The Voyeur’s Motel. New Yorker articles editor Susan Morrison considers Foos a disturbed sociopath in need of attention, while Grove/Atlantic senior editor Jamison Stoltz and publisher Morgan Entrekin have their doubts about the veracity of Foos’s eerily specific tale. So as questions arise about key facts and Talese’s professional ethics, Foos wonders if he should have remained silent — “I’m used to private spaces, places that nobody could see me and I could see them,” he explains — and an angry Talese faces a potentially tarnished legacy.

Voyeur

Gerald Foos turned the Manor House Motel in Colorado into a research facility where he spied on couples having sex

Kane and Koury, who previously collaborated on such documentaries as Journey to Planet X, We Are Wizards, and We Will Live Again, often use a model of the Manor House to depict certain events while also re-creating scenes of Foos watching couples having sex — including one time when Talese joins him in the snooping and experiences a wardrobe malfunction. (Kane and Koury also let the camera lovingly follow Talese as he impeccably dresses himself, every detail crucial to his overall appearance, much like a journalist getting every single fact right.) Over the years, Talese and the Fooses developed a unique kind of bond that is unusual for a writer and his subject, but the erudite Talese, now eighty-five, defends his actions. “My life has pretty much been living through other people’s experiences and to be a very accurate chronicle, an observer, watching other people, listening,” he says. “I take my time, and I am genuinely interested in the people I am writing about because there’s something about them that I feel I can identify with.” It is fascinating to watch the reactions of Foos and Talese as the article comes out, the book is published, and all hell breaks loose. Voyeur raises significant issues about truth in journalism, the writer’s ethical responsibilities, and the lure of salaciousness. Early on, Talese, in his writing bunker filled with decades and decades of carefully organized files — in a way similar to the collections of baseball cards and other objects Foos keeps in his basement — says, “The story never ends. Stories never die. A lot of reporters think when they leave a story, it’s all over. Sometimes it’s just beginning.” Kane and Koury stick with the story and end up with quite a tale, something that is not about to die anytime soon.

NYFF55 SPOTLIGHT ON DOCUMENTARY: THE VENERABLE W.

The Venerable W.

Megalomaniacal monk spouts his extremist views in Barbet Schroeder’s The Venerable W.

THE VENERABLE W. (Barbet Schroeder, 2017)
New York Film Festival, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Friday, October 13, Walter Reade Theater, $25, 6:00
Saturday, October 14, Francesca Beale Theater, $25, 1:00
Festival runs September 28 - October 15
212-875-5601
www.filmlinc.org
www.filmsdulosange.fr/en

According to long-standing traditions and beliefs, Buddhists have empathy and compassion for all sentient beings. For example, in the recently released documentary The Last Dalai Lama?, His Holiness expressed such feelings even for the Chinese military and government that have waged war on the Tibetan people for more than fifty years and have decided that they will select the next Dalai Lama. So when Iranian-born Swiss-French director Barbet Schroeder heard about Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist monk in Myanmar advocating violence against a Muslim minority known as the Rohingyas, he headed to the country, formerly known as Burma, where he was so shocked and disturbed by what he saw that he can still barely say the monk’s name in interviews. Nor could he bring himself to use it in the title of his film about the controversial figure, The Venerable W., which is screening at the New York Film Festival on October 13 and 14, followed by Q&As with the director. With the documentary, Schroeder, who is best known for such works as Barfly, Reversal of Fortune, and Single White Female, concludes his Trilogy of Evil, which began with General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait in 1974, about the Ugandan dictator, and continued in 2007 with Terror’s Advocate, about lawyer Jacques Vergès, who has defended such clients as a former Nazi, a Khmer Rouge leader, and a Holocaust denier. The Venerable W. consists of archival footage and new interviews with Wirathu, as Schroeder essentially lets the leader speak his mind, in sermons to his rabid followers, at public events, and in his monastery, where he espouses his beliefs to the filmmaker. “The main features of the African catfish are that: They grow very fast. They breed very fast too. And they’re violent. They eat their own species and destroy their natural resources. The Muslims are exactly like these fish,” Wirathu, who was born in Kyaukse near Mandalay in 1968, says with a sly smile. He regularly boasts of his accomplishments in subduing the Rohingyas, whom he often refers to using a slur that is the equivalent of the N-word in America.

The Venerable W.

The Venerable Wirathu walks among his faithful minions in shocking documentary

A megalomaniacal nationalist with extremist positions on patriotism, protectionism, and border crossings and a clever manipulator of social media, Wirathu, inspired by the 1997 book In Fear of Our Race Disappearing, also makes extravagant, debunked claims using false statistics, from declaring that he started the 2007 Saffron Revolution to arguing that the Rohingyas are burning down their own villages so they can blame the Buddhists. Much of what he is saying sounds eerily familiar, evoking racist, nationalist sentiments that are gaining ground around the world, particularly in France, England, and America. “In the USA, if the people want to maintain peace and security, they have to choose Donald Trump,” Wirathu says. Schroeder also speaks with seven men who share their views about Wirathu: W.’s master, U. Zanitar; investigative magazine editor Kyaw Zayar Htun; Saffron Revolution monk U. Kaylar Sa; Fortify Rights creator Matthew Smith; Muslim political candidate Abdul Rasheed; Spanish journalist Carlos Sardiña Galache; and highly revered monk U. Galonni. Together they paint a portrait of a dangerous fanatic who is fomenting bitter hatred that has led to extensive episodes of rape, violence, and murder while the military and the government, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, either support what Wirathu’s doing or merely look the other way. In numerous voiceovers, Portuguese actress Maria de Medeiros recites quotations from Buddhist texts, including the Metta Sutta, and states various sociopolitical facts. “The Buddha is often above good and evil, but his words should help us limit the mechanics of evil,” she narrates. Meanwhile, Wirathu, who was declared “the Face of Buddhist Terror” in a June 2013 Time magazine cover story, insists he is doing the right thing for his country. “I help people who have been persecuted by Muslims,” he says. “The threat against Buddhism has reached alert level.” It’s a brutal film to watch, infuriating and frightening, as Schroeder and editor Nelly Quettier clearly and concisely present the facts, without judgment, including scenes of people on fire and being viciously beaten; the director might not make any grand statements against what Wirathu and his flock are doing — he lets the monk take care of that by himself — but the film is a clarion call for us all to be aware of what is happening around the world, as well as in our own backyard. Both screenings of The Venerable W. will be preceded by the short film What Are You Up to, Barbet Schroeder?, which goes behind the scenes of his decision to tell Wirathu’s story.

NYFF55: CLAUDE LANZMANN’S FOUR SISTERS

Holocaust survivor Ruth Elias tells her amazing story to Claude Lanzmann — and sings — in The Hippocratic Oath

Holocaust survivor Ruth Elias tells her amazing story to Claude Lanzmann — and sings — in The Hippocratic Oath

CLAUDE LANZMANN’S FOUR SISTERS (Claude Lanzmann, 2017)
New York Film Festival, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Sunday, October 8, The Hippocratic Oath, Walter Reade Theater, $25, 11:30 am, introduced by Claude Lanzmann
Sunday, October 8, Baluty, Walter Reade Theater, $25, 2:00
Tuesday, October 10, The Merry Flea and Noah’s Ark, Francesca Beale Theater, $25, 6:00
Festival runs September 28 - October 14
212-875-5601
www.filmlinc.org

“You are very well informed,” Holocaust survivor Ruth Elias tells filmmaker Claude Lanzmann in The Four Sisters: The Hippocratic Oath. Thanks to the Paris-born Lanzmann, a French resistance fighter during WWII, we are all very well informed about so many of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis, told to him in moving, powerful stories by “living witnesses” for decades. In The Four Sisters, making its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 8 and 10, the Shoah director focuses on the extraordinary experiences of four strong women who survived concentration camps, each one originally interviewed for Shoah. “The more I thought about these four women, the more the necessity to bring the spotlight on these female faces of the Shoah seemed important,” Lanzmann explains in his director’s note about deciding to turn them into four separate portraits. “Each of them deals with a little-known chapter of the Holocaust, each from a unique point of view. . . . The incredible strength in each of them has to exist in its own right, and yet the exceptional quality they all share also had to come through — that searingly sharp, almost physical intelligence, and an irrepressible survival instinct which could not be extinguished, despite an apparently certain death awaiting them.”

Ada Lichtman details her time in Sobibór in The Merry Flea

Ada Lichtman details her time in Sobibór in The Merry Flea

In The Hippocratic Oath, which the ninety-one-year-old Lanzmann (The Last of the Unjust) will introduce at the Walter Reade Theater on October 8 at 11:30 am, Elias tells her remarkable story from the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 to her deportation in April 1942 to Theresienstadt, where she was reunited with and married her boyfriend, to her pregnancy in the winter of 1943, which led to her being sent to Ravensbrück and Auschwitz, where she met Dr. Josef Mengele, who chose to use her baby in an inhuman experiment. Filmed in a little garden, Elias, an accordion player, is firm and direct as she shares the details of precisely what happened, her dark eyes seemingly sent back to Eastern Europe as her words bring it all to vivid life; one can visualize each location, each movement, each glance. The camera occasionally turns to Lanzmann, smoking a cigarette as he listens to her, mesmerized, just as the audience is. Lanzmann is more active in Baluty, walking along the shore in Panama City, Florida, with Paula Biren, whose story begins in Lodz, Poland. An elegant woman, Biren needs a little more prodding to speak, which she does very carefully, with a brutally cold honesty. She describes how Lodz was turned into a ghetto, how she became a police officer there, and then was sent to Auschwitz, where her younger sister and mother were killed, followed by her father’s death shortly thereafter. Lanzmann supplements the film with archival photographs of Lodz. Throughout The Merry Flea, Ada Lichtman is cleaning and mending dolls; it is eerie as viewers eventually find out why. Lichtman, from the Polish town of Wieliczka, relates her story of being captured by the Germans and sent to Sobibór, speaking at a determined, almost eager pace, sometimes skipping around so that Lanzmann has to interject to get her back on track or to go into more specifics, particularly regarding her treatment at the hands of a Nazi officer named Wagner and her description of cattle cars where naked men, women, and children were forced to dance with one another. The camera occasionally shifts to her husband, who she met in the camps; he stares ahead almost blankly, with hollow, haunted eyes, then hides his head in his hands. The sound of traffic outside can be heard, as if coming from another time and place.

Hanna Marton has a frightening tale to tell Claude Lanzmann in Noah’s Ark

Hanna Marton has a frightening tale to tell Claude Lanzmann in Noah’s Ark

Finally, in Noah’s Ark, Lanzmann introduces Hungarian native Hanna Marton, who sits calmly in a chair, holding a small notebook as she speaks in Hebrew, the director sitting right in front of her, nearly knocking knees; in the film’s production notes, Lanzmann explains, “I’ve never heard an account that is as constantly, relentlessly painful as the one that Hanna Marton gave me when I filmed her during the shoot for Shoah in her Jerusalem apartment.” Her eyes sometimes tearing up, Marton, continually on edge and at times defensive, talks about the early Zionist movement in her hometown of Cluj, the capital of Transylvania; discusses how Jews were used by the Hungarian army, which supported Germany and Italy, as living mine detectors; details the creation of the Kolozsvár ghetto in May 1944 as a way to quickly exterminate Jews; and delves into her involvement with the Kastner train, a deal made between Jewish-Hungarian lawyer Rudolf Kastner and Nazi Obersturmbannführer Adolph Eichmann. The Four Sisters is no mere addendum to Shoah, nor is it a footnote to Lanzmann’s long, important career; together, the four films make a powerful statement about hatred and bigotry, about violence and war, and about the indomitable strength and spirit of women, especially during the war and its aftermath. They are also a terrifying reminder that given the state of the world today, it’s not impossible that something like this could happen again, even right here in America, as there are fewer and fewer concentration-camp eyewitnesses, Holocaust deniers litter the internet, nations build walls and fences to keep out refugees, and a sitting president insists that some white supremacists are “very fine people.”

NYFF55: ROBERT MITCHUM RETROSPECTIVE

Robert Mitchum is subject of twenty-four-film retrospective at the New York Film Festival, honoring the centennial of his birth

Robert Mitchum is subject of twenty-four-film retrospective at the New York Film Festival, honoring the centennial of his birth

New York Film Festival
Film Society of Lincoln Center
October 2-14
www.filmlinc.org/nyff2017

Bridgeport-born actor Robert Mitchum was a man’s man and an actor’s actor, a devilishly handsome and hunky machine operator from a working-class family who turned to acting following a nervous breakdown in the early 1940s. He went on to appear in more than 125 films, from noir thrillers and military dramas to sweeping romances and Westerns, establishing himself as a rough, rugged tough guy who was almost always cool, calm, and collected, with a deceptive easygoing manner. Mitchum, who passed away in 1997 at the age of seventy-nine, was also a recording artist and a poet. The Film Society of Lincoln Center is honoring the centenary of Mitchum’s birth with a twenty-four-movie salute at the fifty-fifth annual New York Film Festival, beginning October 2 with The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Track of the Cat, and River of No Return and including The Story of G.I. Joe, for which Mitchum received his only Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actor. Below is a look at several of the films being shown at this special event.

Robert Mitchum and his oldest son, James, play brothers in Thunder Road

Robert Mitchum and his oldest son, James, play brothers in Thunder Road

THUNDER ROAD (Arthur Ripley, 1958)
Francesca Beale Theater
Wednesday, October 4, 3:30
www.filmlinc.org

The film that gave Bruce Springsteen the title for one of his greatest songs is not one of Robert Mitchum’s best, although it was one of his most personal. The story of moonshining families in the backwoods of Tennessee was cowritten and produced by Mitchum, who also wrote the theme song, “The Ballad of Thunder Road,” and his sixteen-year-old son, James, plays his brother, Robin, a part originally meant for Elvis Presley. Robert Mitchum is Lucas Doolin, a daring transporter of illegal whiskey. Robin soups up his cars, giving them extra juice and an escape hatch for the moonshine in case the treasury agents, led by the determined and dedicated Troy Barrett (Gene Barry), catch him. When gangster Carl Kogan (Jacques Aubuchon) decides to take over the local trade, the whiskey runners are caught in more jeopardy, from both sides of the law. Meanwhile, Luke is in love with singer Francie Wymore (Keely Smith) but is being chased by Roxanna Ledbetter (Sandra Knight), who fellow transporter Jed Moultrie (Mitchell Ryan) is sweet on. With its opening authoritative voiceover about taxation and “the wild and reckless men” who work in the moonshine trade, the movie makes its message clear; these transporters are not heroes, and they must pay for their crimes. Director Arthur Ripley, who specialized in short films and television episodes, cannot maintain the story even for its ninety minutes, and although Mitchum is strong and sturdy in his role, James and Smith are not up to the task. There are some fine driving scenes, but the film plays too much like government propaganda, although that didn’t stop it from becoming a drive-in favorite over the years.

Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Young star in Oscar-nominated social noir, Crossfire

Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Young star in Oscar-nominated social noir, Crossfire

CROSSFIRE (Edward Dmytryk, 1947)
Howard Gilman Theater
Friday, October 6, 3:30
www.filmlinc.org

Edward Dmytryk’s 1947 socially conscious noir classic, Crossfire, has one of the great opening scenes of the genre, a fight that begins in shadows, plunges into darkness as a lamp is knocked over, and finally, in a sliver of light as shadows dominate the screen, J. Roy Hunt’s camera focuses on a man lying on the floor, dead. The rest of the film traces what happened that night, from the discovery of the perpetrator to how to catch the killer. There’s a fascinating twist to the story involving bigotry and hatred that is timely and relevant, involving anti-Semitism; in fact, the film was adapted by John Paxton based on screenwriter and director Richard Brooks’s novel, The Brick Foxhole, in which the victim was gay, but that had to be changed because of the Hays Code. World War II is over, and a group of recently discharged soldiers are in Washington, DC, trying to redefine their purpose in the aftermath of four years of battle. A night of drinking ends in the death of Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene), and police investigator Finlay (Robert Young) is on the case, speaking with the calm and disciplined Sgt. Keeley (Robert Mitchum) and the defensive and shifty Montgomery (Robert Ryan). The initial evidence points to Corporal Arthur Mitchell (George Cooper), who can’t remember all of the details of the night of the murder. After leaving Samuels’s apartment — also there were Monty and soldier Floyd Bowers (Steve Brodie) — the drunk and confused “Mitch” met up with tough-talking taxi dancer Ginny (Gloria Grahame), but she wants to stay out of the investigation completely. While Keeley tries to get to the bottom of everything without the police, Captain Finlay is not about to let them handle this by themselves.

Crossfire came out in 1947, the same year another, more famous film about anti-Semitism, Gentleman’s Agreement, was released. Both were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, which Gentleman’s Agreement won a mere two months before the establishment of the State of Israel. But whereas Elia Kazan’s film, about a journalist, played by Gregory Peck, posing as a Jew for a story, is a more intellectual movie about the inherent anti-Semitism in society, Dmytryk’s (The Caine Mutiny; Murder, My Sweet) film looks much deeper at hatred and the violence it can lead to, without becoming pedantic and preachy. An Oscar-nominated Ryan, Mitchum, and Young form a marvelous trio, each of the soldiers developing a unique relationship with the police captain; it’s one of Young’s (Father Knows Best; Marcus Welby, M.D.) best roles, particularly when, with his ever-present pipe, he slinks back in his chair at a nearly impossible angle. “This business about hating Jews comes in a lot of different sizes,” Finlay explains in words that still ring true today and could be about various ethnicities, races, and religions. “There’s the ‘You can’t join our country club’ kind. The ‘You can’t live around here’ kind. The ‘You can't work here’ kind. And because we stand for all these, we get Monty’s kind. He’s just one guy; we don’t get him very often, but he grows out of all the rest. You know we have a law against carrying a gun? We have that law because a gun is dangerous. Well, hate — Monty’s kind of hate — is like a gun. If you carry it around with you, it can go of. . . . Hating is always insane, always senseless.” Also nominated for Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Grahame), and Best Adapted Screenplay and winner of Best Social Film at Cannes, Crossfire is a gripping, bold tale about hate, war, and violence and what can happen to soldiers once the official, approved fighting is over. At one point, Finlay asks Keeley if he’s ever killed anyone, and the sergeant responds, “Where you get medals for it.” The brutality of war is central to Crossfire, which illuminates a psychological form of what became known as PTSD, while also staring in the face of illogical hate in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Robert Mitchum gets caught up in some dangerous dichotomies in The Night of the Hunter

Robert Mitchum gets caught up in some dangerous dichotomies in The Night of the Hunter

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Charles Laughton, 1955)
Alice Tully Hall
Monday, October 9, 3:30
www.filmlinc.org

Robert Mitchum redefined himself in Charles Laughton’s lurid story of traveling preacher/con man/murderer Harry Powell, who has the word “love” tattooed on one set of knuckles and “hate” on the other. While in prison, Powell bunks with Ben Harper (Peter Graves), who got caught stealing $10,000 — but the only person who knows where the money is is Ben’s young son, John (Billy Chapin). When Preacher is released from jail, he shows up on the Harpers’ doorstep, ready to woo the widow Willa (Shelley Winters) — and get his hands on the money any way he can, including torturing John and his sister, Ruby (Gloria Castillo). Laughton’s only directorial effort is seriously flawed — the scenes in the beginning and end with Lillian Gish are wholly unnecessary and detract from the overall mood. Stanley Cortez’s cinematography is outstanding, featuring his unique use of shadows, an intense battle between light and dark (which plays off of several themes: old versus young, rich versus poor, good versus evil, men versus women), and some marvelous silhouettes. Based on Davis Grubb’s 1953 novel, the film has made its way onto many best-of lists, from scariest and most thrilling to all-time great and most beautiful.

(Robert Mitchum) has quite a tale to tell () in film noir classic

Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) has quite a tale to tell Ann Miller (Virginia Huston) in film noir classic

OUT OF THE PAST (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)
Walter Reade Theater
Monday, October 9, 4:00
www.filmlinc.org

“You know, maybe I was wrong and luck is like love,” Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) says in Out of the Past. “You have to go all the way to find it.” Bailey, previously known as Markham, is looking for luck and love in Jacques Tourneur’s film noir classic, considered one of the best of the genre, but he knows that it’s not going to come easy. Jeff is trying to escape his recent past by making a new life for himself in small-town Bridgeport, California (a nod to Mitchum’s real birthplace, Bridgeport, Connecticut), where he runs a gas station and is wooing Ann Miller (Virginia Huston), who is supposedly dating Jim (Richard Webb), the local policeman. But when Joe Stefanos (Paul Valentine) suddenly shows up, Jeff is thrown back into his sordid past when, as a private investigator, he got in too deep after being hired by New York gangster Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) to track down the kingpin’s girlfriend, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer), who shot Whit and took off with forty grand. When Jeff finds her, he falls hard and fast and ultimately lies to Whit and Joe, Whit’s right-hand man, who never liked Jeff in the first place. To clean their slate, Whit forces Jeff to do one more job for him, involving lawyer Leonard Eels (Ken Niles), Eels’s secretary, Meta Carson (Rhonda Fleming), and, of course, Kathie. Jeff’s going to need a whole lot more than luck to get out of this one.

Adapted by Daniel Mainwaring from his 1946 novel, Build My Gallows High, Out of the Past is the quintessential noir, with shadowy cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca, moody music by Roy Webb, a bold antihero played by Mitchum, and Greer as one of the great femme fatales. Mitchum’s effortlessly cool and calm style, both onscreen and in his voiceover narration, shines through, a terrific counterpoint to Douglas’s wonderfully smarmy and sarcastic turn as the slick Sterling. Cigarettes play a major role in the film from the very start, when Joe flicks a match at Jeff’s young gas station employee (Dickie Moore, from The Little Rascals), a portent of things to come; from then on, the tension thickens as more and more butts are smoked, adding to the heavy atmosphere maintained by Tourneur, a longtime editor who also directed such films as Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie. “Look at all the angles,” Joe, seen from behind, tells Jeff, whose face is half in shadow, but he’s talking to the viewer as well. Out of the Past is screening on October 9 at 4:00 at the Walter Reade Theater and will be introduced by Mitchum’s son, Christopher, who has appeared in more than sixty films himself.

Robert Mitchum heads back to Japan in Sydney Pollacks The Yakuza

Robert Mitchum heads back to Japan in Sydney Pollack’s The Yakuza

THE YAKUZA (Sydney Pollack, 1975)
Francesca Beale Theater
Friday, October 13, 3:15
Festival runs through October 14
www.filmlinc.org

One of Hollywood’s first forays into the Japanese underworld has quite a pedigree — directed by Sydney Pollack (coming off his success with The Way We Were) and written by Robert Towne (who had just scribed Chinatown and Shampoo) and Paul Schrader (his first writing credit, to be followed by Taxi Driver). Robert Mitchum stars as Harry Kilmer, a WWII vet who returns to Japan thirty years later to help his friend George Tanner (Brian Family Affair Keith), whose daughter has been kidnapped. Kilmer thinks he can just walk in and walk out, but things quickly get complicated, and he ends up having to take care of some unfinished business involving the great Keiko Kishi (The Twilight Samurai). Kilmer and his trigger-happy young cohort, Dusty (Richard Logan’s Run Jordan), hole up at Oliver’s (Herb “Murray the Cop” Edelman), where they are joined by Tanaka (Ken Takakura) in their battle against Toshiro Tono (Eiji Hiroshima Mon Amour Okada) and Goro (James Flower Drum Song Shigeta) while searching for a man with a spider tattoo on his head. There are lots of shootouts and sword fights, discussions of honor and betrayal, and, in the grand Yakuza tradition, the ritual cutting off of the pinkie. Oh, and there’s Robert Mitchum, of course, a cinematic giant who towers above it all.

NYFF55: FACES PLACES

JR and Agnès Varda have a blast in the masterful Faces and Places

JR and Agnès Varda have a blast with people and animals in the masterful Faces and Places

FACES PLACES (VISAGES VILLAGES) (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)
New York Film Festival, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Sunday, October 1, Alice Tully Hall, $25, 12:30
Monday, October 2, Francesca Beale Theater, $25, 8:30
Festival runs September 28 - October 14
212-875-5601
www.filmlinc.org
cohenmediagroup.tumblr.com

“We’ll have fun making a film,” legendary eighty-eight-year-old Belgian-born French auteur Agnès Varda tells thirty-three-year-old French photographer and street artist JR in Faces Places (Visages Villages), a masterful road movie that may very well be the most fun film you’ll see all year. The unlikely pair first met when Varda, who has made such classics as Cléo from 5 to 7, Vagabond, Jacquot de Nantes, and The Gleaners and I, accepted an invitation from JR, whose practice involves wheat-pasting giant black-and-white photos of men, women, and children on architectural structures, to visit his Paris studio. (JR brought his “Inside Out” art project to Times Square in 2013.) When Varda saw JR’s blow-up of a 1960 self-portrait Varda shot of herself standing in front of a Bellini painting in Venice, the two instantly hit it off and decided to make a film together, heading out in JR’s small photo-booth truck to team up with people in small towns throughout France, including coal miners, dockworkers, farmers, a church-bell ringer, and factory workers. The reactions of the villagers — shrewd, curious, flattered — to JR’s enormous wheat-pasted blow-ups of themselves on their neighborhood walls, barns, abandoned housing, containers, water towers, and other locations are fascinating. “JR is fulfilling my greatest desire. To meet new faces and photograph them, so they don’t fall down the holes of my memory,” Varda, who edited the film with Maxime Pozzi-Garcia, says. Varda and JR make a formidable duo, finding a childlike innocence in their collaboration that is simply captivating to watch.

Cinematic collaboration between Agnès Varda and JR results in stunning visions of humanity

Cinematic collaboration between Agnès Varda and JR results in stunning visions of humanity

Varda continually tries to get JR to remove his ever-present dark glasses, remembering how her friend and colleague Jean-Luc Godard once let her take pictures of him without glasses, but JR prefers to maintain his mystery, a man who photographs tens of thousands of people’s faces around the world while never fully showing his own. Varda, who relies on the “power of imagination,” even sets up an afternoon with Godard at his home in Switzerland, preparing by having JR roll her furiously through the same Louvre galleries the protagonists run through in Godard’s Band of Outsiders, but of course nothing with Godard ever goes quite as planned. “Chance has always been my best asset,” Varda proclaims in the film, and it is chance, and the willingness to enthusiastically embrace every moment of life, that helps give Faces Places its immeasurable charm. The film, which features a playful score by Matthieu Chedid (‑M-) and was executive produced by Varda’s daughter, Rosalie Varda-Demy, subtly tackles socioeconomic issues but is primarily a marvelous celebration of genuine humanity. Faces Places is screening at the New York Film Festival on October 1 at Alice Tully Hall and October 2 at the Francesca Beale Theater, with both shows followed by a Q&A with Varda and JR.

NYFF55: NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2017

Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying opens the fifty-fifth New York Film Festival this week

Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying opens the fifty-fifth New York Film Festival this week

Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Bruno Walter Auditorium, Alice Tully Hall
West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
September 28 - October 14
212-875-5601
www.filmlinc.org/nyff2017

The New York Film Festival turns fifty-five this year, with another powerful lineup of shorts, features, documentaries, animation, and more from around the world, with Richard Linklater’s road movie, Last Flag Flying, kicking it all off on September 28. The centerpiece selection is Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck, based on a YA novel by Brian Selznick, with Woody Allen’s Coney Island-set Wonder Wheel closing things out on October 14. Divided into Main Slate, Convergence, Projections, Talks, Retrospectives, Revivals, Shorts, and Spotlight on Documentary, this year’s lineup also features works by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Arnaud Desplechin, Agnès Varda and JR, Greta Gerwig, Claire Denis, Noah Baumbach, Aki Kaurismäki, Agnieszka Holland, Claude Lanzmann, Rebecca Miller, Griffin Dunne, Abel Ferrara, and Hong Sang-soo, most of whom will be on hand for Q&As following select screenings. There’s also a twenty-four-film salute to Robert Mitchum celebrating the centennial of his birth; revivals of works by Jean Vigo, Jean-Luc Godard, Hou Hsiao-hsien, James Whale, Philippe Garrel, Jean Renoir, Jean-Pierre Melville, and others; experimental films by Xu Bing, Luke Fowler, Kevin Jerome Everson, Barbara Hammer, and more; immersive and interactive experiences; and panel discussions and dialogues. Below is a list of at least one highlight per day for which tickets are still available or the event is free; keep checking twi-ny for reviews and further information.

Thursday, September 28
Last Flag Flying (Richard Linklater, 2017), introduced by Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, J. Quinton Johnson, and Darryl Ponicsan, Alice Tully Hall, $100, 6:00

Friday, September 29
Convergence, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, free, 3:00 - 6:00 (also 9/30 and 10/1, 12 noon - 6:00)

Saturday, September 30
On Cinema: With Richard Linklater, moderated by Kent Jones, Walter Reade Theater, $25, 6:00

Spoor (Agnieszka Holland, in cooperation with Kasia Adamik, 2017), followed by a Q&A with Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik, Alice Tully Hall, $25, 9:00

Sunday, October 1
HBO Directors Dialogues: Lucrecia Martel, Howard Gilman Theater, free, 3:00

Film Comment Live: The Cinema of Experience, amphitheater, free, 7:00

Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel closes the fifty-fifth New York Film Festival

Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel closes the fifty-fifth New York Film Festival

Monday, October 2
HBO Directors Dialogues: Agnès Varda & JR, Francesca Beale Theater, free, 6:00

Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017), followed by a Q&A with Lucrecia Martel, Alice Tully Hall, $25, 6:00

Tuesday, October 3
L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934), Howard Gilman Theater, $15, 3:45

Wednesday, October 4
Film Comment Presents: A Gentle Creature (Sergei Loznitsa, 2017), Walter Reade Theater, $25, 6:00

Thursday, October 5
A Story from Chikamatsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954), Francesca Beale Theater, $15, 3:30

Friday, October 6
Spielberg (Susan Lacy, 2017), introduced by Jessica Levin and Emma Pildes, Walter Reade Theater, $25, 8:45

Saturday, October 7
Claude Lanzmann’s Four Sisters: The Hippocratic Oath (Claude Lanzmann, 2017), introduced by Claude Lanzmann, Alice Tully Hall, $25, 1:00

Good Luck (Ben Russell, 2017), followed by a Q&A with Ben Russell, Francesca Beale Theater, $15, 6:15

Sunday, October 8
Projections Program 5: Urban Rhapsodies, followed by a Q&A with Ayo Akingbade, Fern Silva, Ephraim Asili, and Michael Robinson, Francesca Beale Theater, $15, 12 noon

Let the Sun Shine In (Claire Denis, 2017), followed by a Q&A with Claire Denis, Alice Tully Hall, $25, 3:30

Monday, October 9
HBO Directors Dialogues: Hong Sang-soo, amphitheater, free, 7:00

Tuesday, October 10
HBO Directors Dialogues: Philippe Garrel, amphitheater, free, 8:00

Wednesday, October 11
Master Class: Vittorio Storaro and Ed Lachman, moderated by Kent Jones, Walter Reade Theater, $25, 6:15

Thursday, October 12
Hallelujah the Hills (Adolfas Mekas, 1963), introduced by Jonas Mekas, Howard Gilman Theater, $15, 6:00

Lucía (Humberto Solás 1968), Howard Gilman Theater, $15, 8:00

Friday, October 13
Ismael’s Ghosts (Arnaud Desplechin, 2017), Director’s Cut, followed by a Q&A with Arnaud Desplechin, Alice Tully Hall, $25, 6:00

Saturday, October 14
Farewell, My Lovely (Dick Richards, 1975), introduced by Robert Mitchum’s daughter, Petrine Mitchum, Howard Gilman Theater, $15, 1:30