Imagine Rain Man meets Humphrey Bogart and you’ve got the eccentric gumshoe character that Edward Norton plays in Motherless Brooklyn, a film he starred in as well as wrote, directed and produced and which has the prestigious Closing Night slot of the 2019 New York Film Festival. Norton adapted his film from Jonathan Letham’s 1999 novel of the same name, changing the book’s gritty 1999 New York setting to a painterly 1950’s New York setting – an impressively ambitious if dubious decision (on an indie budget).
Including Top Ten Broken-Marriage / Divorce Movies. So: Marriage Story, a stylish romantic comedy written and directed by Noah Baumbach with an all-star cast led by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver and featuring top-notch talent such as Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Wallace Shawn, opened as the centerpiece of the 2019 New York Film Festival. Helen Highly Loathes this movie. I think perhaps I wouldn’t loathe it so much if everyone else wasn’t loving and lauding it so much. Sigh. Something about the gushing acceptance of this film into the “canon” of broken-marriage and/or divorce-themed movies creates a feeling of outrage in me – a feeling much deeper than any inspired by the self-consciously sentimental moments in the film.
To experience Portrait of a Lady on Fire, is to observe a detailed painting coming to life. Over time, its sketch marks and broad dabs of paint begin to layer and blend, filling out a finished canvas full of detailed and vivid complexion — a slow burn that turns more beautiful the longer it heats. Movies often teach you how to watch them, and director Celine Sciamma, much like her two female protagonists, insists on your patience, your attention to detail and your openness.
Invoking his signature cinematic past, in the opening-night film of the 57th New York Film Festival, director Martin Scorsese opens The Irishman, his 209-minute mob-focused opus, with a long tracking shot. Instead of weaving through casino slots or dinner tables though, this visual tour slowly glides past the sterile, morose hallways of a nursing home to greet a solitary, white-haired old man, staring blankly into an empty room. The movie’s primary focus and sole storyteller, Frank Sheeran, played by Robert De Niro, looks into the camera and begins meditating on the unthinkable, unlikely atrocities and long gestating regrets that have consumed his life. If it’s fair to label this the conclusion to a trilogy, the bow wrapping together Scorsese’s mob-centric classics Goodfellas and Casino, then it’s also fair to consider it a technical and spiritual hard pivot.
Toronto filmmaker Alan Zweig’s latest documentary, Coppers, is a disturbing, sad and very moving look at the long term effects of working as a police officer. It recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and I was able to speak with the director about the film. “I drove a cab for 18 years and I hated cops,” Zweig told me over the phone while doing press at TIFF. “I always saw them as bullies. But when I met Gary I saw a tough guy who had been through a lot.”
Henry Glassie: Field Work, the latest film by acclaimed director Pat Collins (Song of Granite), recently had its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. It’s main subject is an American folklorist who has dedicated 50 years of his life to studying folk artists and their work. From sculptors in Brazil, to carpet weaver and ceramicists in Turkey, Collins’ film accompanies Glassie as he visits several countries to explore how each culture manifests its own standards of beauty and meaning through its artisans and craftspeople. I recently sat down with Collins and asked him about his film.