The New York Film Festival, like every Autumn for the past 56 years, blessed us with an astounding list of films and filmmakers. The lineup was spectacular, to say the least, and we saw a variety of new trends and topics of interest come up in the work that was screened. The festival brings together artists from all around the world to celebrate the art of filmmaking and forms a community of sorts for people to engage with what is shown on the screen. The festival does not have a competitive aspect to it. Here are some of the best moments of the festival so far:
Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar)
Pain and Glory deals with the raw reality of death, and how artists who have experienced fame deal with its inevitability. Antonio Banderas’s character shows us how reluctant he is to accept the truth of his present state, and his attempts to cling to the past through relics of the past. He struggles with the weight of regret and remorse from years long gone and is facing the brunt of old age – the deprivation, the frailness, and the fear of death. But even though all this sounds morose and bleak, the film has its own positive side to it and ends on a seemingly hopeful note.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
This film gives us a rather unusual yet enrapturing take on how portraits are taken and the art that goes on behind their completion. The plot is set in the year 1770, where an artist is commissioned to bring to canvas the image of a French countess’s daughter. The daughter, as it turns out, refuses to pose for the canvas. What follows is the painter trying her best, one way or another, to bring her essence to life on the canvas. The purpose of the painting itself – to seal a contract of marriage – makes the plot even more intriguing. With Noémie and Adèle Haenel, the film leaves the audience wondering about how people are represented through art, and the role memories have to play in the process.
Varda by Agnès
In the third week of the New York Film Festival this year, we saw a remarkable and heart touching tribute to Agnès Varda, a filmmaker who was rightfully dubbed as the “godmother of the French New Wave.” The film was screened for the first time at the Berlin Film Festival, a short while after her death. The film is a true delight to watch, with numerous insights into her work behind the camera and in the classroom as well. It contains letters, lectures, The film celebrates the true spirit of Agnès Varda, a person who was energetic and opinionated from the start of her career till the age of 90. She brought innovation and creativity to French cinema and encouraged those who came up after her to experiment and create art that lies beyond mere conventions.
The festival stands out with its rich lineup of films that are not screened at press time, most of the time they are documentaries. The titles, just like the content itself, we’re truly interesting and served to broaden the understanding of the audience on various topics – some of which are seldom brought up. The lives and realities of incarcerated students were shown on-screen by Lynn Novick in ‘College Behind Bars’.
Another director traced the lives of numerous Britons over the course of many decades, in his work, “63 Up”. Another film that was screened was “Born To Be” which brings to the forefront of the struggles and the stories of people who undergo surgical transitioning.
Spanning around twenty years, the film tells the tale of how a banker rises through the positions and becomes an important part of a Montevideo money launderer’s business. The banker soon falls into the trap of money and fame and finds it hard to step away from it all – for he is in too deep, with violence and guns on the table as well. The movie has been aptly said to be a cautionary tale.
The lineup was beyond impressive this year, and the overall highlight surely seems to be the interest and the persistence with which the directors and actors brought the stories to life.