In its 19th edition, Film Comment Selects provides a showcase for various films from around the world, their contribution to cinema deemed important and vital by Film Comment Magazine's esteemed editors.
This year's lineup includes Steven Soderbergh's High Flying Bird, once again shot on an iPhone; László Nemes' Sunset, his followup to Son of Saul; Flight of a Bullet, a one-take docu into the heart of the Russia-Ukraine conflict; Up the Mountain, Zhang Yang's formally daring portrait of Bai people in Western China; and The Hidden City, a sensory tour of Madrid's underground.
Most of these films in the selection are not what you call masterpieces, but each brings a spark and its unique colors to cinema. This is the reason why I love the series. It keeps me on my toes and makes me giddy with joy because it reminds me time and again, that cinema is indeed a great art form, not because of its consistency but rather its fluidity.
Film Comment Selects runs Feb 6 thru 10th at Film Society of Lincoln Center. Please visit their website for tickets and more info.
I had a privilege to sample the following:
Sunset - László Nemes
László Nemes' follow up to a haunting holocaust drama Son of Saul, Sunset is yet another period film that is equally brilliant and challenging. It tells a story of Írisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), a young heiress to the famous hat maker parents who perished in a fire. She came to Budapest, to her parents' hat making showroom/shop to get a job as a milliner. But the manager of the shop Oszkár (played by great Romanian actor Vlad Ivanov of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Police Adjective and Snow Piercer) doesn't want her there, saying the city is not for a country girl like her. But Írisz is determined to stay and find a brother she never knew she had.
The time is the height of Austro-Hungarian empire in the early twentieth century, on the eve of World War I. Soon Írisz finds herself in chaotic social upheaval where dangers and mysteries are around every corner where nothing is what it seems and everything is layered. Nemes keeps his Son of Saul subjective perspective - focusing closely on Írisz on steadicam, following her exclusively. It's a startlingly absorbing theater experience. As well as the visuals, Nemes put an emphasis creating soundscapes that reflects the tumultuous times with off the frame whispers, conversations and ominous soundtrack.
Sunset juxtaposes a society on the brink of self-destruction with setting the film around something trivial and decadent as a designer hat shop. There is something creepy about all the beautiful, young women hat makers preparing for the dance party for the crown prince and princess and be chosen as a personal milliner and move to Vienna. Is Írisz's brother an anarchist bent on toppling Oszkár and the ruling class? Nemes doesn't give an easy answer to any of these intrigue. Instead, he makes us work for it and it's great.