The festival couples both his well-known masterpieces -The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice, Tokyo Story,The End of Summer, Late Autumn - with lesser known films (too numerous to list in full), such as one we were able to catch entitled Equinox Flower (1958), Ozu's first color feature, superbly, carefully, sensitively acted but with a light "footprint," focusing on all aspects of marriage & the family - from traditional & arranged marriages, to the rigors of a daughter(s) choosing her own husband & a stern father's having to get used to new, non-traditional ways. Ultimately, according to one reviewer, the film presents "a balanced picture of Japanese family life, made with loving irony." (Don't know if this charming film is currently available from Netflix.)
|Edward Hopper work|
|Mary Cassatt work|
Three new, or recent, films to take note of and that I must recommend to you - without pyrotechnic activity & artificial mayhem - consist in the following: Renoir (2012, directed by Gilles Bourdos); Plimpton (2013, a documentary directed by Tom Bean & Luke Poling); and A Highjacking (2012, a feature film directed by Tobias Lindholm). To even mention these three currently running films is to speak of three strikingly different & original kinds of cinema experiences.
Renoir is composed of lush scenes & richly colorful vistas to be discovered by the viewer and dwelt upon - "painted" by both Pierre-Auguste Renoir (imperially & imperiously played by Michel Bouquet) and, also, by the film's cinematographer (Mark Lee Ping Bin) ... and set primarily at Renoir's estate in the south of France along the Cote d'Azur. The film focuses on the diurnal life of the working artist struggling in old age with constant, terrific, arthritic pain (his brushes must be strapped to his grizzled hands and fingers so that he can hold them, sketch & paint). This impressionist film, then, is centrally a portrait of an individual - a great impressionist painter - who cannot live without painting and without his current young model & bevy of loyal older models ... and who must endure the pain (both physical & emotional) as he must go on creating during the period of World War I.
|P-A Renoir (Michel Bouquet)|
Plimpton is a black-and-white, feature-length documentary film about the celebrated writer-editor-journalist, himself, George Plimpton. With Plimpton at center stage, the film essentially explores how he involved himself in all kinds of what he calls "participatory" journalistic activities. The film is, for the most part, narrated by Plimpton ... reflecting Plimpton writ large over 3 or 4 decades. And the material is presented throughout in Plimpton's own voice along with a few talking heads, such as Plimpton's good friend, the writer Peter Matthiessen, who invited him to Paris in 1953 to help begin what would become - under Plimpton's diligent editorship -.The Paris Review, one of the most elegant literary magazines in the entire canon of "small" magazines, in America & abroad.
|Plimpton / Quarterback|
You can't help but get to know George Plimpton, his ticks, his failings, his strengths at managing a major literary magazine, managing writers, and motivating people - both readers & writers and the athletes with whom his activities coincided. It seems that Plimpton, who died in 2003 at 76, is a literary figure very much missed ... but still, really, very much present & very much on the literary scene!
In summing up this documentary film, I offer you what Plimpton has articulated about himself and his work, in his own words: "Well, I have to write. A lot of people forget that. They think I'm some sort of a crazy buffoon who can't quite make up putting his mind [at] what he wants to do in life. But it's not that at all. It's, I'm a professional writer and have this device, really, of trying other people's professions." And so he did ... many times, over many years.
Based on an actual 2007 incident in the Indian Ocean involving the Danish cargo vessel, the MV Rosen, Tobias Lindholm's A Hijacking is the incredibly tension-laden, taut, nerve-wracking story of the actual event, a precarious highjacking situation which lasted some four (+) months. The film examines the bleak events sparely, in almost cinema verite style, from the point of view of the ship's crew (notably the ship's cook, the captain & a mate); the corporate "chief" who negotiates with the Somali pirates that have taken over the ship; and the pirates' enigmatic representative, Omar.
|Scene from A Hijacking / Pilou Asbaek (Cook)|
To wrap up for the moment, it should be noted that events developing throughout the hijacking - and the prolonged negotiation with the pirates - are depicted in real time with incredible tension mounting steadily on both the hijacked vessel and in the equally "hijacked" company's corporate conference room. Negotiations do, indeed, move forward, slowly, during what becomes - and we witness as - a fractured & shattering process: A fast-paced western European corporate culture slowed down to a proverbial crawl in its negotiations (in its "battle") with the all-the-time-in-the-world and nothing-to-lose culture of the Somali pirates. You'll just have to see it all for yourself to determine who, or what, actually wins out - or loses - in the end.
Two West Village restaurants you might want to know about are Mercadito, an exceptionally friendly & unique Mexican resto ("taqueria & cevicheria"), and Pinto, offering up somewhat idiosyncratic but quintessentially tasty Thai-Asian cuisine at very (very!) inviting prices.
|Mercadito - Grove Street|
|Taco de pescado|
Pinto (at 118 Christopher St., west of Bleecker; tel. 212/366-5455) is, as I alluded to above, an inviting Thai-Asian "bistro" we selected for its eclectic, interesting & varied menus. They serve an $8 prix fixe lunch (an appetizer & a main) and dinner; they also offer a "Sunset Menu" at $15, between 3:30 & 6:00, which includes an appetizer, a substantial main dish & a drink (e.g., a variety of iced teas, Asian beers, house wines). Lots of possibilities in each category to choose from: For appetizers we chose the mushroom crunch (sesame-crusted mushroom served with jalapeno tartar sauce) & the grilled beef salad (succulent slices of beef with spicy tomato vinaigrette).
|PCU noodle dish|
Food here at Pinto is very fresh and the service is extremely pleasant & accommodating; portions are commodious & prices are, well, utterly reasonable. This spot could easily become our fall-back West Village Thai-Asian resto. Give Pinto a try; it might continue to kindle your interest, too!