With two entries on hand, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai and his cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, were among the more prominent talents on view in the 35th New York Film Festival. Fallen Angels, which Kino International releases in the US in January, is a 1995 omnibus film shot by Doyle with liberally employed wide-angle lenses and a neon palette. Happy Together, the more recently completed work, tells the impressionistic story of two bickering lovers (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Leslie Cheung) adrift in Buenos Aires.
Alternating between black and white and vibrant rainbow colors, Doyle (profiled in the July 1997 issue of Lighting Dimensions) finds the perfect visual counterpoint to the film's torturous-to-ecstatic mood shifts. Much of Happy Together unfolds in a cramped, claustrophobic room the squabbling men share, so Doyle says he was constantly looking for new places to set up the camera--in the closet, under the bed. In a Wong Kar-Wai/Doyle collaboration, there is no such thing as invisible technique; the active camera, saturating filters, and changing frame rates are an inseparable part of the film's fabric. Happy Together was released last October by Kino International.
Other highlights of the festival, held September 26 through October 12 at Lincoln Center, and sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, included the opening night feature, Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, and the closing selection, Pedro Almodovar's Live Flesh. The former, set in suburban Connecticut in 1973, was shot in wintry gray colors by Frederick Elmes, and climaxed with the stunningly lit phenomenon of the title. It was released by Fox Searchlight Pictures last September. The latter, which MGM's Goldwyn Films will distribute in early 1998, is an unusually subdued work, with DP Affonso Beato contributing images of more depth and texture than is customary for Almodovar.
Alain Berliner's Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink), a movie that would undoubtedly be dear to the Spanish director's heart, is the charming Belgian story of a seven-year-old boy who longs to be a girl. In the most outlandish scenes, he even fantasizes a candy-colored utopia presided over by a popular Barbie-style doll. Cinematographer Yves Cape shot this bittersweet film, released by Sony Pictures Classics in December, with an abundance of forgiving soft light.
Another end of the spectrum was represented by the dank Deep Crimson, Mexican filmmaker Arturo Ripstein's telling of the same murderous tale that inspired The Honeymoon Killers (1970). The earlier version was black and white; Deep Crimson is shot by Guillermo Granillo in a nearly sepia-toned color, with only the red of the coldhearted heroine's dress and the blood of the victims to puncture the monochromatic images. New Yorker Films released the movie on a limited basis last October.
Upcoming films that screened at the festival include Richard Kwietniowski's Love and Death on Long Island, starring John Hurt in a career-capping performance. Cinepix Film Properties will release the movie, photographed by Oliver Curtis, in the first quarter of 1998. Also opening soon in some US theatres is Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry, the contemplative study of a man considering suicide, shot mostly in closeups and long takes by Homayon Payvar. This winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival will be distributed by Zeitgeist Films.
The festival included both relatively high-profile studio movies, like Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, an exhilarating ode to the 1970s porn industry (released by New Line Cinema) shot with great style and widescreen vitality by Robert Elswit, and challenging movies like Japanese director Takeshi Kitano's Hani-bi and Egyptian director Youssef Chahine's Destiny, that do not yet have American distributors. Documentaries ran the gamut from Errol Morris' Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, a bizarre potpourri shot in a variety of formats by Robert Richardson, to Frederick Wiseman's Public Housing, photographed by John Davey in the pure, straightforward Wiseman style.
There were also the festival sideline special events, which encompassed an avant-garde program, part two of Lars von Trier's TV medical horror series The Kingdom, and Jim Jarmusch's Year of the Horse, a Super-8 documentary about Neil Young and Crazy Horse that was distributed to theatres by October Films. And there was a restored version of D.W. Griffith's 1921 classic Orphans of the Storm, presented with live orchestral accompaniment at Avery Fisher Hall. The French Revolution, as enacted by Griffith, the Gish sisters, and a team of cinematographers including the great G.W. "Billy" Bitzer, came to breathtaking black-and-white and tinted life again.