New York Film Festival 2003

Martha P. Nochimson


This year there was a noticeable presence at the New York Film Festival, whether intentionally or not, of films reflecting back on the past, both real and imagined. A second wave of millennial summing up, more profound than that forced by the media in the year 2000, these films, at their best, seek with courage and compassion to understand the larger forces at work in the troubled 20th century. At their worst, they stand as work riddled by self-deluding cliches in collusion with our own worst impulses. Among the number of \'films of remembrance\' shown, those that demand to be discussed because they best exemplify the ongoing struggle to make cinema responsive to the needs of filmgoing audiences to know reality \'again for the first time\' (pace T. S. Eliot) are, in a rough order of importance: _S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine_ (Dir. Rithy Pan); _The Fog of War_ (Dir. Errol Morris); _Dogville_ (Dir. Lars von Trier); _Mayor of the Sunset Strip_ (Dir. George Hickenlooper); _Bright Leaves_ (Dir. Ross McElwee); and _The Best of Youth_ (Dir. Marco Tullio Giordana). Alas, among the NYFF 2003 films of memory and summation, it is also necessary to discuss _Mystic River_ (Dir. Clint Eastwood), but only because of its inexplicable media notoriety, a sad testimony to a Dubya phenomenon in things cinematic. This is one hanging chad. Among the festival films not informed by this core trend, but eminently worthy of mention, are: _PTU_ (Dir. Johnnie To); _Free Radicals_ (Dir. Barbara Albert); _Crimson Gold_ (Dir. Jafar Panahi); and _Raja_ (Dir. Jacques Doillon), though, unhappily, it would strain this portmanteau overview to talk in detail about more than the first two.

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