The New York Film Festival winds down this weekend, but still includes premieres of some of its biggest grabs. “Her,” Spike Jonze’s love story between Joaquin Phoenix and a Siri-esque computer voiced by Scarlett Johansson, has yet to screen for critics. But here are some of its other gets. (For times and tickets, visit the NYFF site.)
‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’
4 (out of 5) Globes
A pair of extremely graphic sex scenes have dominated the press for Abdellatif Kechiche’s epic drama, even moreso than the impressive fact that it took the top prize at Cannes, plus a special award for its two lead actresses. For the record, the bedroom bouts are important factors in understanding the relationship it depicts. Adele Exarchopoulos plays a high schooler whose bi-curiosity leads her to a lesbian bar, where she accepts the overtures of a blue-haired twentysomething artist (Lea Seydoux). Soon the two are making the beast with two backs for six (not 10, as reported) minutes. Carnality leads, with sad inevitability, to a union so comfortable it can’t help but fade away.
Because he’s a man directing women touching each other in bathing suit areas, “Blue Is the Warmest Color”’s blue moments can’t help but feel male gaze-y. But Kechiche (“The Secret of the Grain”) shoots these scenes the way he shoots the rest of the film: intimate yet clinical. He’s of the handheld grit style of French filmmaking, his camera pushing into everyone’s faces. But such intensity doesn’t mean the relationship it shows is tumultuous. This may be the first awards-gobbling, brutally honest look at lovers that only features one over-the-top fight. That there isn’t huge passion after the first half is what makes the film unique: It’s a look at a relationship that’s only significant and life-altering for one member, who’s left far more distraught and lost than the other. For what it’s worth, the three hours fly by, in part because so much of the apparently seven-year relationship is never shown. Even with an immense canvas, it’s amazing how much is never dwelled on.
‘Only Lovers Left Alive’
5 (out of 5) Globes
You’re not a real filmmaker, apparently, unless you do your own twist on the vampire movie. Jim Jarmusch’s stab is predictably odd and, of course, not at all a horror film, a couple of token drained humans aside. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play Adam and Eve, 500 and 5,000 years old respectively. They’re a literally old couple who, when we first see them, are on a scheduled break: He’s a famous but reclusive musician holed up in a shady part of Detroit; she’s hanging in walkable Tangier. Their reunion powers a film that’s at its best when it has no plot and no forward thrust, which is luckily most of the time. It mostly hangs with them, capturing them when they’re most comfortable: either alone or together.
The arrival of Eve’s younger, reckless party girl sister (Mia Wasikowska) threatens to destroy the bubble they’ve created, as well as the film. But it remains one of the best films about couples who live only for each other. They’re used to each other without being bored of each other. That they’re a bit of an odd fit — he’s a moody brooder; she’s more about living without being a live wire — helps, too. It’s a film that lives at night with people who enjoy it, the camera prowling homes powered by dim lights and records, and streets that have a calming lack of people. And it’s funny, too, and not just with the occasional nudgey we-couldn’t-resist lines about famous people they once knew. It’s the warmest film Jarmusch has ever made, and one of his best.