This year’s New York Film Festival is taking place at drive-ins throughout the city and at Film at Lincoln Center’s virtual cinema. Tickets for the virtual screenings are available Nation-wide. Here are a few reviews of what I’ve been watching:
Director: Garrett Bradley
“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Easier said than done. Fox Rich has been trying to get her husband Robert released from prison for twenty years. He’s in prison for robbing a bank, a crime in which Fox was accomplice but served a much shorter sentence. Robert’s sentence is sixty years. Let’s set aside the fact that robbing a bank is essentially a victimless crime as long as nobody gets shot and killed. Robert committed the crime, but what Time asks of us is to consider the repercussions of a sentence of sixty years. Director Garrett Bradley documents Fox as she goes about her life; going to work, taking care of her kids, and making phone calls to attorneys, judges and other officials, hoping this will finally be the day Robert gets released. She’s done this every day of her life for twenty years. How long is twenty years? The movie is packed with homemade videos shot by Fox and her kids throughout the years. The absence is felt. The life of this family has been defined by incarceration. Time has established a whole different relationship to them – it moves slower as they wait, it moves faster as another year goes by and there’s no release, but it always moves relentlessly, unstoppable, indifferent. By asking me to consider life in Fox’s position, Time became one of the most emotionally overwhelming experiences I’ve had with a movie… and that was only 90 minutes.
Time will be available to stream on Amazon Prime starting Oct. 9
Director: Viktor Kossakovsky
I went on my friend Lou’s podcast to talk about Spielberg’s A. I. the other day, and our conversation brought us to the topic of Anthropocentrism – the belief that humans are the most important creatures int he universe – and how that affected our views of the film when we first encountered it as dumb teenagers. Viktor Kossakovsky’s Gunda tries as effectively as any movie I have seen to dismantle our human bias and present the world as experienced by a different kind of creature. This is a documentary that follows a series of farm animals, including a group of cows, a one-legged chicken, and most importantly a sow named Gunda and her piglets as they go about their lives. The film is made up of long takes, shot at the scale and from the perspective of the animals and features absolutely no narration. We’re just there, encountering the world from the vantage point of these creatures, seeing what they do, and projecting our own human bias onto them. This approach, paired up with the involvement of Executive Producer Joaquin Phoenix suggests Vegan propaganda, which is kind of a fair assessment, but also beside the point. I have long struggled with documentaries that claim they are depicting any kind of objective truth because the filmmaker has tried to make his presence feel invisible when the truth is every documentarian is selecting, shaping and restructuring footage according to their own agenda. This is not a criticism, but an acknowledgement of how filmmaking works. What makes this movie great is that the silent, observational style is not an affectation, but part of an essential gamble to present its argument from the perspective of its subjects. Gunda appeals to our Anthropocentric selves not by showing us cute piglets (though the piglets are incredibly cute), but by revealing a surprising level of emotional complexity to animal life. I don’t want to spoil anything, but near the end of the movie Gunda – the leading lady of this picture – breaks the “fourth wall” in a moment as powerful as anything I’ve seen a human do on screen.
Gunda is distributed by Neon, no release date is available at the moment.