1996 New York Film Festival Diaries
Week 2: Desperately Seeking Wim III: Wim, Vigor, and Vitality
At the end of the second week of the New York Film Festival, I'm still looking
for Wim Wenders. At the party for the press to meet the directors, somebody
spread the rumor that he's on a train or boat or plan with Lars von Trier
(the director of "Breaking the Waves," whose fear of travelling
So I instead of star-gazing, I took a good look at the program - this year's
smorgasbord. The New York Film Society will always hear carping about the
selection of films, and this year is no different: too much Hollywood, not
enough indies, where's the third world, why don't we have more French, Italian,
Russian, Slovakian, Balkan, Asian, blah-blah-blah?
I myself once took issue with "New Directors/New Films" for "pork-barrel
programming," to wit: there was an overt lack of consistency to that
festival. You could easily guess which committee member had insisted on
which film. The deals and swaps were all too apparent. That's not a problem
with The New York Film Festival, although it too is programmed by a committee.
The Festival only has some 30 slots to fill, and it has to satisfy all its
constituents, Francophiles and indie-freaks alike. And it's doing a rather
good job, to be fair.
This year's program reminds me of what I call "zoo theory" - each
kind in its own proper cage. There's are sufficient Asian films to reflect
the quality of film in that part of the world. There are few enough Canadian
films. There's the pro-forma French junk. Even an Austrian film that is,
typically, too long (why must German-language films remind us of the length
of the war?) There's the aging auteur Antonioni, and the unripe Nick Gomez.
There's ballet and homosexuality. And sufficient independent films to reflect
the range of talent from Richard Linklater's ultra-hip "Suburbia,"
with its lifestyle commentary, to Billy Bob Thornton's compellingly tragic
A small complaint - and not too many people will share this - is that I
was at Cannes and much of the New York program is skimmed off the competition
My main kvetch is about "Vertigo." Does anybody recall that only
a decade ago a Universal Studios executive named Jim Katz pulled Hitchcock
films out of the vault, spiffed them up and released them? I remember seeing
"Vertigo" in the mid-80s at the Toronto Film Festival and sitting
next to Rex Reed, who, when the last vertiginous shot had carried us into
a psychological stratosphere, stood, brushed his hands and said of Kim Novak,
"She always was a little too ripe." (Have a heart!)
Anyway, showing "Vertigo" as part of the New York Festival is
pure sentimental slop. Instead, they could have made room for a nifty little
movie like "Naked Acts". Or that other....oh, well, there I go
being the noodge festival freak nobody likes.
Pace, Lincoln Center - you may have lost Wim, but you've got your vitality.
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