My first dispatch from the 60th annual New York Film Festival contains capsule reviews of Claire Denis’
Stars At Noon, Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s Personality Crisis: One Night Only and Ruben Östlund’s Triangle Of Sadness.


dir. Claire Denis. 2022. Main Slate. France. 137 minutes.

Claire Denis’ haunting, sometimes startlingly erotic adaptation of Denis Johnson’s 1986 novel The Stars At Noon drops more than just the definite article. She’s uncoupled the story of an investigative journalist stranded in Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua from any era-specific political concerns, leaving the mesmerizing Margaret Qualley’s flighty, failed reporter stuck in the present-day location like it’s a sweaty sort of limbo, suspended in purgatorial Covid protocols and empty hotel bars. She sleeps with strangers for protection, or sometimes for fifty bucks — as is the case with a mysterious British energy executive played by handsome slab of wood Joe Alwyn. Soon these two will find whatever cache or personal belongings they have left stripped away by the increasingly sinister circumstances, unmoored and alone together in a strange and unfriendly land. Denis is the best we’ve got at ellipses and entangled limbs, and the languorous lull of these two dancing to a doom-laden Tindersticks song is sensual and swoony in ways you didn’t think modern movies were still allowed to be. (Though I must admit the period sex is surprisingly restrained coming from the director of Trouble Every Day.) But she’s never been a filmmaker much interested in plot, and Stars At Noon is her longest, talkiest movie to date, with the second hour bogged down in espionage and the interests of an insinuating CIA agent –well played by Benny Safdie – that pale in comparison to the initial atmospherics. Lose thirty minutes of chatter and this could be one of her masterpieces.


dirs. Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi. 2022. Spotlight. USA. 122 minutes.

An amusing companion piece to their Fran Lebowitz films, Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s latest documentary portrait finds former New York Dolls frontman turned pompadoured lounge act David Johansen, a.k.a. Buster Poindexter, performing a set at Manhattan’s cushy Carlyle Hotel for a classy cohort of his fellow 1970s CBGBs survivors. (Yep, that’s Debbie Harry in the front row.) The songs are interspersed with plenty of boozy banter, tall tales and reminiscences from Johansen. He’s an engaging performer and a very funny guy, even when the material feels like secondhand Tom Waits. Unsurprisingly, the best parts of the film are the expertly edited trips down memory lane to the derelict downtown of the Dolls era, with the then-crumbling, skanky city and it’s dope-addled underground art scene a hilarious contrast to the elegant accoutrements and polite applause of the swanky Café Carlyle. (After a while I was anxious for the songs to be over so we could get back to the good stuff.) The highlight of the whole festival for me was Scorsese’s endlessly eloquent introduction to the film, which doubled as a keynote reflecting on sixty years of NYFF, from the early days when he couldn’t afford a ticket through his triumphs there with Mean Streets and The Irishman. While it will never be confused with one of his major works, Personality Crisis strikes the same chord as Scorsese’s speech: someone from humble beginnings looking back on a life in the arts with gratitude and more than a little amazement.


dir. Ruben Östlund. 2022. Main Slate. Sweden/France/UK/Turkey/Germany. 147 minutes.

Earlier this year, director Ruben Östlund joined the ranks of Francis Ford Coppola, Ken Loach, Michael Haneke and the Dardenne brothers upon winning his second Palme d’Or at Cannes for his lugubrious, one-note farce about a $250 million luxury yacht that hits rough waters during a pleasure cruise for the disgustingly rich. Split into three segments — each longer, more expansive and less interesting the last — the film begins rather promisingly with an uncomfortable argument over picking up the check by two young, dumb influencer types living beyond their means. The centerpiece sequence is the most impressively staged, with the gargantuan vessel tossed about the seas like a cork as the cosseted clientele attempt to keep their sense of decorum whilst projectile vomiting and splashing amid the shit of overflowing toilets. Woody Harrelson is a hoot as the socialist ship captain who stays blackout drunk to assuage his feelings of guilt, Googling Marx quotes on his phone to holler at a Reagan-worshiping Russian industrialist. It’s all quite broad and extremely thin, never daring to complicate the audience’s easy emotional responses or jeopardizing the platform of smug superiority from which we are invited to look down upon these shallow caricatures. Especially during the film’s final hour, a dire and interminable Lina Wertmüller For Dummies escapade on an island that doesn’t offer anything the movie hasn’t reiterated six or seven times already. Östlund reveals himself to be a social satirist and political thinker on the level of Adam McKay, and is just as inexplicably acclaimed.

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