The 2012 New York Film Festival was an eclectic mix of breathtaking foreign films and star-powered Oscar bait. Opening with Ang Lee’s visual wonder “Life of Pi,” the annual event concluded with a bang. Robert Zemeckis’s “Flight” closed the two week festival and earned critical raves.
Other highlights included the hilarious “Camille Rewinds,” a French reimaging of “Peggy Sue Got Married,” and the Italian prison drama “Cesar Must Die.”
Overall, there were a few films that proved emotional and difficult to forget.
Noah Baumbach, who has been a favorite at the festival throughout his career, shared his New York set indie comedy “Frances Ha.” Shot in black and white, the film was an instant audience favorite. Not only does it capture the disappointment and frustration of being a struggling artist, it also pokes fun of the ridiculous scenarios that New Yorker’s often find themselves in. Greta Gerwig, who after spirited turns in “Damsels in Distress” and “Lola Versus” is fast becoming the darling of off-beat cinema, is lovably naïve and socially inept as Frances. Her seemingly effortless performance is almost heartbreaking.
Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, who gained recognition for his harrowing drama “4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days,” delves into a complex female friendship yet again in “Beyond the Hills.” The film is based on the real life exorcism that a young woman endured at the hands of religious extremism. Years after they grew up together in an orphanage, Alina (Cristina Flutur) visits her friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) in the monastery where she now lives. Alina is passionate and emotional while Voichita has been convinced that she must devote all of her energy to God. When the same restrictions are imposed on Alina, she begins suffering from panic attacks and hysteria—which those at the monastery believe is demonic possession. The striking film is both upsetting and difficult to watch. Both the film’s stars deservedly shared the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.
“Not Fade Away” marks the directorial debut of “Sopranos” creator David Chase. Set in the mid 60’s, the film centers on a young teen (Joe Magaro ) who forms a rock band despite stanch opposition from his father (a wonderful James Gandolfini). Filled with beloved hit songs from the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, the film presents a brilliant illustration of one of the most remarkable periods in pop-culture.
Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winning “Amore” will likely take home the Best Foreign Film Oscar next year. The poignant tearjerker manages to be both unsettling and beautiful at the same time. Set in Paris, the film centers on an elderly couple (Jean-Lois Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) that face an enormous tragedy. Haneke does an amazing job of allowing the audience to take in each scene rather than assuring that every moment serves the narrative. Not only was it one of the best film’s at the festival, it’s one of the best films released with-in the last five years.