New York Film Festival

Alejandro Iñárritu’s ‘Birdman’ is Brainy, Buoyant, Brash, Meta Moviemaking

The pompous, self-important Method actor played by Edward Norton in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is not, as you might think, based on any particular prickly thespian Norton has worked with (and he’s worked with many: De Niro, Brando, Keitel, himself). In fact, he confessed after the picture’s New York Film Festival press screening yesterday, he was mostly inspired by his director. “I’m wearing his scarf in the movie, I’m wearing the jacket, everything I say in the movie, I’ve heard him say or know he wants to say…” It got a little eerie, Iñárritu confessed, when they got to the scene where Norton’s character is in the midst of a contentious rehearsal with Micheal Keaton—playing a character at least somewhat inspired by himself. “So I was explaining to Edward the movement of the camera and the pace and everything, and he began to question me about it: ‘What is it? Why is she saying that?’” And that’s when it hit the director: “Oh my God, this is a fucking mirror in a mirror in a mirror”—which is a pretty apt description of Birdman, when you get right down to it. … Read More

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Bennett Miller’s ‘Foxcatcher': A Mesmerizing Telling of a Bizarre, Tragic, True Tale

Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher is the dark story of a deeply troubled man and a cold-blooded murder, but that’s not what drew the Capote and Moneyball director to the film. “I thought it was funny. Seriously!” he said at the news conference following Friday’s press and media screening for the film, which screens tonight at the New York Film Festival. “The absurdity, the dark comic absurdity of one of the wealthiest men in America bringing a team of wrestlers to his estate to train, where he would become their coach without knowing anything about wrestling… It’s the kind of thing that’s funny till it’s not — and then it’s not funny at all.” … Read More

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Christopher Guest on the Real Inspiration Behind ‘This Is Spinal Tap’

Christopher Guest would like you to know that there was no particular band that inspired Spinal Tap — not that this discouraged audience members from positing theories at last night’s 30th anniversary New York Film Festival screening of This Is Spinal Tap, even after Guest insisted that none of them would hold. It had to be inspired by Uriah Heep, one man insisted (based on that band’s high drummer turnover rate). Another said it had to be drawn from Michael McKean’s time in the pop band The Left Bank. “This was not about a specific band,” Guest explained patiently, more than once. That said, there was a particular incident that may have sparked something in the… Read More

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How a Legendary William S. Burroughs Documentary Was Lost… and Found 30 Years Later

In 1983, the New York Film Festival screened Burroughs: The Movie, a feature-length documentary about William S. Burroughs — the first such film made about (and with the cooperation of) the legendary author, an expansion of a thesis film by an NYU filmmaker named Howard Brookner (with the help of classmates Jim Jarmusch and Tom DiCillo). Tonight, 31 years later, the NYFF will host a revival screening of that film, which had all but vanished in the intervening years. The film itself is fascinating, but what happened off-screen is even more remarkable, the story of an important document’s disappearance and rediscovery by a young man dedicated to saving it. That young man is Aaron Brookner, nephew of Burroughs director Howard, who spoke to me recently about the picture’s peculiar journey — and his own. … Read More

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Nick Broomfield’s ‘Tales of the Grim Sleeper': A Powerful, Sadly Untold Story

Nick Broomfield is not an imposing figure. A silver-haired, soft-spoken Brit, he makes his muckracking documentaries as simply as possible — usually with a two-person crew, himself (running sound) and a cameraman. When he shows up to shoot, carrying his own microphone and headphones, he probably looks like a bit of an amateur. But by keeping his operation so lean and mobile, he manages to go places most moviemakers don’t go, and get the kind of footage they usually can’t grab. There are moments in his new film, Tales of the Grim Sleeper, where you worry a bit for his safety; canvassing the streets of South Central Los Angeles where the titular serial killer prowled, a group of nearby men call him a “goddamn peckerwood” and instruct him to “get y’all’s ass outta here.” But Broomfield sticks around. That’s his style. … Read More

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10 Filmmaking Lessons From Paul Thomas Anderson

It probably says something about Paul Thomas Anderson that the first film clip he selected to screen at an event titled “On Cinema” was pulled from a television show. The sold-out chat, part of the New York Film Festival (and of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s ongoing “Directors Dialogue” series) was an amiable and enjoyable hybrid of master class, Inherent Vice promotion, and self-professed “nerd talk”; over the course of the 90-minute conversation with the Film Society’s Kent Jones, Anderson showed clips from not only movies that inspired him, but television and music videos as well. In doing so, he imparted some of his filmmaking philosophy, which we’ve helpfully compiled here for your easy digestion. … Read More

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Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ Is a Breezy, Bizarre Blast

Paul Thomas Anderson took five years to make his 2007 oil epic There Will Be Blood. He took another five years to make 2012’s Scientology-inspired The Master. He banged out his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice in two, and you can feel the difference—in the best possible way. The two films that preceded it marked the filmmaker’s transition from wunderkind to Serious Artist; by turns wrenching, challenging, and borderline impenetrable, they plunged the depths of American history and the American soul. Vice, by contrast, is a slang-y, breezy lark, a picture whose two-and-a-half-hour running time, Oscar-friendly release date, and premiere as the Centerpiece selection at the New York Film Festival make it sound like a more important movie than it is—or, more importantly, than Anderson seems to think it is. After a decade spent making two films that are like pressure cookers, he was clearly ready to blow off some steam. … Read More

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Stop Calling David Fincher a “Control Freak”

As you may have heard, David Fincher’s terrific adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller Gone Girl premiered last weekend at the New York Film Festival. So your film editor was perusing some of the coverage of that premiere, like ya do, when I came upon Anne Thompson’s analysis of the “Three Reasons to Worry About Gone Girl.” She mostly examines the film’s chances at box office success and Oscar gold (ugh), but this is the line that jumped out at me: “Fincher was being typically controlling during the press conference, exhorting the press to hide Gone Girl plot spoilers — while the bestseller is still flying off bookshelves — and refusing to allow anyone to record the NYFF press conference.” It’s not often that you see three consecutive inaccuracies in the same sentence, but that’s what happens when you have to conform your facts to a preexisting narrative — in this case, that Fincher is some sort of cruel, demented control freak. It’s a narrative that’s been floating around for a while now, and the more you think about it, the sillier it is. … Read More

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‘Whiplash’ Is an Exhilarating Deconstruction of a Tired Cinematic Trope

Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash opens with a drum roll of steadily increasing speed and intensity, and that’s as an appropriate a metaphor for the filmmaking as any. That sound is heard over a black screen; the next drum roll is accompanied by a slow tracking shot down a music conservatory hallway, to a young drummer named Andrew (Miles Teller). He stops playing when he realizes he’s being watched by Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the school’s most feared instructor, a mysterious bogeyman who floats through hallways before bursting in doors like the Kool-Aid Man. “You know I’m looking for players,” he tells Andrew. “Yes, sir,” the young man replies. “Then why did you stop playing?” He resumes — and the instructor objects. He plays again, and Fletcher is gone, like a ghost. … Read More

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David Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl': Top-Shelf Mystery and Pitch-Black Comedy

David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl opens not with an abduction or a murder, but with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), in voice-over, talking about his wife’s head. “I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brains,” he says, over a close-up of the cranium in question. “Trying to get answers: What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other?” This is how the movie begins; this is what it’s about. Gone Girl may come advertised as a thriller, but that’s Fincher being a trickster—he’s gone and made the curtest, nastiest, most acidic black comedy about the marital accord since The War of the Roses. … Read More

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