New York Film Festival

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“We Didn’t Try to Colonize the Boy in Making the Film”: The Dardenne Brothers on Young Ahmed

For 20 years running, the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have confronted a single fundamental facet of modern life: class. From their breakout La Promesse (1996) to The Unknown Girl (2016), the messy tangle of money, employment, and morality has defined their work. The brothers take a hard turn, in subject if not style, with Young Ahmed. The film debuted at Cannes, like their previous seven features, where it won the Best Director prize earlier this year. Despite that honor–which they won over Almodóvar, Tarantino, and Malick among other heavyweights–the film has earned the harshest reviews of the Dardennes’ career. […]

NYFF 2019: Oh Mercy!, Synonyms

Arnaud Desplechin’s returned to his hometown onscreen many times: “I still have to go back in my tracks, as a malediction—not as a dream, but as a curse,” he’s said of Roubaix, where My Sex Life and My Golden Years‘ protagonist stand-in Paul Dédalus hails from and where A Christmas Tale unfolds. Desplechin’s also shot digitally before, but this is the first time he’s ever aggressively leaned into it: like Tale, Oh Mercy! also starts during the holiday season, but—opening strings of Christmas lights over city streets aside—the dominant colors aren’t red and green but the familiar digital color-correction staples of orange and blue. […]

NYFF 2019: Vitalina Varela, Fire Will Come

Vitalina Varela is a luxuriantly claustrophobic staging of a story Pedro Costa’s title subject, playing herself, first orally recounted in 2014’s Horse Money. The world Costa constructs around her is, initially, an endless night—daylight is, at best, the barest suggestive sliver peeking in from outside. As the narrative unfolds, more sunlight penetrates interiors, but a full radiant glare seems, at best, a hypothetical perk for people with more money, and in the very final-stretch shots in exterior day, colors have been graded down enough where the effect isn’t overwhelming but mutedly in keeping. There isn’t a pixel Costa hasn’t accounted for in his […]