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Two Gala Screenings Highlight New York Film Festival

not fade awayFor those like myself who are mystified by the Film Society of Lincoln Center's (70 Lincoln Square #4, New York, NY) steadfast dedication to the middlebrow efforts of Ang Lee, opening the New York Film Festival (September 28 - October 14, 2012) with the latest opus by that director might be taken as an inauspicious sign. The festival centerpiece, however — Not Fade Away, the first theatrical feature written and directed by the lionized television impresario, David Chase — proved to be a delightful surprise, with far more visual coherence and panache than some of the episodes of The Sopranos that he directed. A semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age narrative about rock-'n'-roll-loving youth set in 1960s, suburban New Jersey, the film features an attractive cast of mostly unknowns along with James Gandolfini, both hilarious and touching as the protagonist's father. The screenplay by Chase is predictably well-written while the entire enterprise is further enlivened by memorable period music.

Of the directorial protégés of Stephen Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, despite numerous accolades and awards, has attracted significantly less attention from auteurists than his counterpart, Joe Dante — with the signal exception of critic extraordinaire Dave Kehr, who has for decades championed Zemeckis as a major talent just as he has praised this filmmaker's latest work, Flight, the closing night presentation of this year's festival. Flight represents a departure from Zemeckis's multiple forays into expensive animated features and a return to a more character-centred approach to narrative epitomized by one of his strongest films, Cast Away. Like that work, Flight revolves around a sterling main performance, in this case given by Denzel Washington, one of the finest actors in Hollywood. The film is the tale of redemption of an alcoholic commercial pilot who's conduct becomes the focus of investigation around a tragic airplane crash. Zemeckis has assembled a remarkable array of outstanding actors in support of Washington, including John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Don Cheadle, and the underrated Robert Greenwood, who all do first-rate work here. Flight is an exceedingly accomplished example of classical filmmaking but, almost inevitably, some of the lustre of its achievement is diminished by the digital format — the bane of contemporary motion picture production — that here typically fails to attain the visual splendor of 35-millimeter.

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New York Film Festival 2012
September 28 - October 14, 2012

Film Society of Lincoln Center
70 Lincoln Center Square, #4
New York, NY

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