This is a post by JBFC Programmer Andrew Jupin
The Press & Industry screenings of the film world – or P & I’s – can be a real wild scene. Film critics and film industry folk, be they filmmakers, distributors or, in my case, exhibitors, are a touchy bunch. We all enjoy sitting and experiencing films in a very particular way. Get us all in a room together, screen the film a tad out of focus and crank the air conditioner too high and people can come to blows. Well, maybe not blows, but a fair amount of passive aggressive jabs. Put this in a New York City theater and compound it with the excitement of the start of the New York Film Festival and chaos will break out the moment the lady who’s been around since the term ‘film festival’ was coined is told, “Theater’s filled.”
I’m kidding, of course.
We just happen to be a very particular bunch and the New York Film Festival is one of, if not the highlight of the New York film-going year, so of course everyone is excited. Attending the NYFF is probably the greatest rite of passage for any cinephilic New Yorker this side of your first time waiting out on the sidewalk to see the latest Woody Allen movie. That’s why Monday was a big day for me. Even after living in New York since 2006, I’d still never been to a single screening associated with the festival – possessing another trait of your average cinephile, I’m not one for crowds. But when the opportunity to cover the NYFF P & I’s for the JBFC came up, I jumped at the chance. I was past due.
Day one, at first glance, didn’t seem too daunting. Only two screenings? That’s fine. I’ll be out by lunch. Oh, what’s that, NYFF? The first screening of the day is Frederick Wiseman’s new, four-hour and three-minute doc, At Berkeley? You got me there, NYFF. Luckily the film was absolutely fantastic. Any fan of Wiseman will get right on board. The four-hour run time isn’t an issue at all. Seriously. Wiseman is so good at what he does, you can’t help but get sucked into the film, hypnotized by his fly-on-the-wall aesthetic. The vérité style he’s presented in over forty films, starting with 1967’s Titicut Follies, is here in full force as he follows students, professors, administrators, and workers around the Berkeley campus. It’s a beautiful film that carries the unfortunate message that, shock, the public higher education system in this country is seriously broken. Be on the lookout for this one, you’ll be glad you did. Just make sure you block out the day to watch it in one sitting.
Okay, four hours down, what’s another two? Hirokazu Koreeda’s Like Father, Like Son rounded out the day. The film tells the story of Ryota, a successful businessman who finds out that the boy he and his wife have been raising for six years is not their biological son. A distant, cold man stuck in an old-fashioned mindset, Ryota must make an impossible decision: raise his biological son, a stranger to him, or keep the boy he has been raising as his own. You might remember Koreeda’s last film, the beautiful and touching, I Wish, from 2011, which played at the Burns. Instead of an adult problem being shown from a child’s perspective, like the divorce in I Wish, it’s the parents who are front and center in Like Father, Like Son as Ryota and his wife struggle to make sense of this heartbreaking situation. Beautifully shot by first-timer, Mikiya Takimoto, this was a film that really struck me. I’m not the only one it struck either; Steven Spielberg has already optioned it for a U.S. remake.
Photo: Lynda Shenkman Curtis