Festival Dispatch #5: Cruisin' 🏎
A sampling of some features from the 2023 New York Film Festival
Did you know New York had a film festival? That city might be going places. Anyway, I went places (New York) and watched things (films) at the festival (NYFF 2023). I jotted down some more of these thoughts at Polygon, but here’s a sample of a few more movies I managed to see while I was there. Read on, see what’s worth it to see this fall — or beyond.
directed by: Michael Mann | written by: Michael Mann and Troy Kennedy
What I like most about Ferrari is how confident it is in its ambiguity. When we first see Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) he’s waking early, careful to untangle himself from the woman in bed with him and tuck in a sleeping kid, before making his way to his car. The great car tycoon and former racer starts his car by rolling it down the hill and, briefly, keeping the engine off. For a moment we are left to wonder if this is for an extra few dozen feet of quiet around the house, or if his car is, in fact, broken. Only when we see his wife Laura Ferrari (Penélope Cruz), grumpily roaming their house on the same morning, do we start to get a sense of the reality Enzo is living.
And so Ferrari, directed by Michael Mann with a screenplay by Troy Kennedy Martin, rolls out from there, zeroing in on the strange stretch of Enzo’s life where his marriage is more strained than ever while his company is at risk of going under. His only way out, of both: Winning the Mille Miglia, an impossibly hard and formidable race.
Ferarri could come down hard on Enzo, Laura, their associates, the situation — but instead, Mann and Martin let scenes settle like an old house: mostly quietly and yet with an inescapable sense of things in flux. This is a man whose world is spinning his control. And yet, Ferrari feels like a work of exacting command, a smooth glide into some great unknown.
directed by: Richard Linklater | written by: Richard Linklater and Glen Powell
Gary (Glen Powell) is an unassuming guy. By day, he is a teacher at a local community college. By other day, he assists the police with sting operations, specifically people who are looking to hire a hit man. When Gary one day has to step into the role of “fake hitman” he finds a calling — turns out he’s remarkably good at sizing up people and knowing just what kind of hit man would best speak to them.
The movie sails a lot on these moments from Powell, who tackles each persona with an unparalleled charm. As he molds himself into whatever killer the people want, you can at once feel his movie star charisma pinning together the whole enterprise without undercutting the innate quietness that defines Gary’s life. Or at least defined; when he meets Maddy (Adira Arjona), who’s trying to get out of a bad marriage by calling a hit, the chemistry is instant, as Maddy and “Ron” hit it off without even trying.
And so a rom-com of sorts ensues, built on tangled lies, good intentions, and really strong performances from Arjona and Powell. True to the oeuvre of Richard Linklater, who directed and co-wrote the movie with Powell, Hit Man is about a little weirdo who gets in over his head and has to face tall consequences. Linklater loves these eccentrics, and we are always better for it when a movie like Hit Man gets to do his delightful dance in the strange gray of a story “mostly based” on a true story.
directed by: Harmony Korine
Imagine a movie that’s original Playstation graphics, with a sort of existential XBox live voice over done by Vincent Price emulator. You are close to imagining the effect of Aggro Dr1ft, Harmony Korine’s latest. Only now also imagine those visuals are being filtered through a CRT on its last legs, so that everything looks like technicolor on acid. And also you’re following an aging assassin who’s begun to question the life he’s led.
That’s about as much story as Aggro Dr1ft offers, centering its story almost entirely in BO’s (Jordi Mollà) mind as he narrates his work, his home life, his deepest thoughts. Korine clearly wants the movie to be provocative, with BO’s nemesis being a misogynistic beast of a man (dubbed “The Beast”) who yells things like “Dance bitches!” at the scantily clad women around him. Instead, Aggro Dr1ft mostly only succeeds at being boring; degenerate ASMR whose lasting impact is almost exclusively on your retinas. And even that fades after a few minutes outside the theater. What few shots or moments of interest Korine weaves in to Aggro Dr1ft easily drift away, the same way Travis Scott’s “role” does. Korine is engaging in a level of performative artifice that would be hard to stomach if it felt like much of a meal at all.
Assorted Internet Detritus
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