New York Film Festival (2010)

New York Film Festival (2010)

The New York Film Festival (2010):  Around the World and NYC

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In a small amount of time, with a relatively compact film portfolio, the New York Film Festival takes you around the world visiting a plethora of cities, countries and genres, with the least represented being comedy.  On one recent day this week I experienced a shining example of that, beginning with dramas from Austria and Romania and ending with a documentary from New York.

Tuesday, After Christmas is a film entry from Romania by director Radu Muntean.  The film explores the internal struggle of a man, Paul, who must choose between his wife of ten years and his recent mistress.  He is torn between obligation to his family and a sincere passion for his mistress.  The topic, of course, is not new and has been done more interestingly by better, but I do credit Muntean for creating and attempting to maintain balance and fairness to all characters of his love triangle.  Furthermore, he subtly portrays the reality that sometimes-painful situations like this just happen and are not necessarily sought after or created. He falls short in saying the women are evenly matched and equally liked and sympathized with.  I guess Muntean didn’t notice that the mistress was at least ten years younger and five shades blonder than the jilted wife and mother.

Does Tuesday, After Christmas live up to the festival buzz?  No.  Overall, it’s tepid and underwhelming.  For a better example of contemporary Romanian cinema, please, please watch 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; for a better genre example, invest the time in Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage.

Now to Austria where we turn up the heat, cinematically speaking, with The Robber by Benjamin Heisenberg.  Based on the true story of a professional marathon runner/bank robber in the 80s, the film comes successfully across as a mixture of thriller, love story and character study.  The bonuses are the way many of the running scenes are shot and the startling turn of events, both of which keep you on the edge of your seat.

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When you hear there’s a John Lennon documentary at the festival and soon to be broadcast on TV, you probably think, why?  Isn’t there more than enough done on the man, the musician, and the tragedy?  For some, maybe many, who have followed all things Lennon, you may see some redundancy and fail to see the relevance of LennonNYC.  For others, such as myself, you may perceive a certain level of freshness and appreciate this film’s perspective.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Epstein focuses his research and portrayal on Lennon’s (and Yoko Ono’s) New York years where he lived from 1971 until his senseless murder in 1980.  When I say focus, I mean focus.  Epstein stays true to his point of view- Lennon- and Lennon’s sense of place in New York (except for his brief banishment to L.A. within this period).  This isn’t a Beatles story, this isn’t a New York story, it’s Lennon in NYC- why he came to the city, why he loved it and what he accomplished here, personally and professionally.  Furthermore, and maybe more interestingly, the movie becomes a story of immigration as Lennon was continuously threatened with deportation due to his political allegiances, but fought desperately to be granted permanent residency he so richly deserved.

Key to any significant documentary is access, and Epstein obtain much in the forms of, first and foremost, Yoko Ono and music studio audio and video footage rarely, if ever seen and heard.

LennonNYC will air in or near December as part of the American Masters series on PBS.

Paula Farmer

Beverly Berning has recently begun her fourth career as a high school teacher of French and Italian, but her love of film remains steadfast. A former film student who aspired to be just like her idols Woody Allen, Erik Rohmer and Charlie Kaufman, she has been writing reviews for Culturevulture since 2006.