By William Wolf

NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2017  Send This Review to a Friend

There are so many films included in this year’s New Directors/New Films series jointly presented by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art (March 15-26) that the best I can do is report on what I have managed to sample at press previews amid the hectic schedule of regular film and theater coverage.

Over the years many films in the series have leapt to wider recognition. Those who make the selections have the opportunity to find gems or at least discoveries worth a wider audience, and that is the satisfaction that the series brings annually.

Depending on your capacity for rap, you may find “Patti Cake$,” written and directed by Geremy Jasper, an appealing offbeat film with a magnetic heroine. Danielle Macdonald, seriously overweight, plays Patti, who may lack self-confidence but on the other hand is eager to be a rap performer.

I had no idea of the busy rap scene in northern New Jersey, to which Jasper, a musician and former music video director from Hillsdale, is attuned. He has been inspired to direct his first feature film, and it is alive with passion, rap and the effective depiction of the scene.

Macdonald makes an impression as a likable young woman with heart, and one is seduced into rooting for her. Siddharth Dhananjay is also effective as her hip-hop partner who encourages her, and they acquire as a collaborator Mamoudou Athie. Another major role is played by Bridget Everett as Patti’s alcoholic mother, also a singer. The film is a major entry in the current series.

Although it can sometimes be confusing because of its flashbacks, “By the Time It Gets Dark,” directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong and in Thai wih English subtitles, deals with important issues. The touchstone is a 1976 massacre of Thai student activists at a university. We see a scene in which the students are forced to lie face down, and what happens to many of them became a milestone in Thailand.

Various characters are examined in the film, especially that of an actress who is assumed to be well known. We see her at different stages of her life, and the portrait is linked to the massacre. In some ways “Before It Gets Dark” is a memory story, and in other aspects it appears meant to be of the moment.

“Arabia,” co-directed by João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa, is a Brazilian working class film that zeroes in on conditions and an individual trying to find a path amid the pressures and situations that confront him.

Cristiano has a prison record, a strike against him, and we follow his adventures and struggles as he takes to the road and tries to find his place in life. The film makes a welcome statement about conditions In the country.

I found the film “4 Days in France,” which clocks in at two horus and 21 minutes, extended pretention. Directed by Jérôme Reybaud, the film involves one gay man leaving his lover, who then proceeds to try to find where he went and catch up with him.

What is most interesting, however, is how the film depicts a network of gays through the French countryside connected via smart phones. It would seem that no matter where a gay man is, he can find other gays and rendezvous with them for quickie contacts, or perhaps more than that.

We see all this through the eyes of the lover who has split as he drives along country roads. The scenery is often quite breathtaking, and the film is enlivened by encounters with gays and others not in the network. For example, one woman needs help in burying her pet. Another woman is rather strange and just wants a life.

The trouble is one can tire of the very drawn out journey. Whether there is an emotional kick when the lovers finally meet will depend on how much patience you have.

The South Korean film “Autum, Autumn,” directed by Jang Woo-jin, eventually focuses on a man and woman who meet on a tour. Each is married, but in the course of the film they engage in intimate conversation revealing to each other much about their lives.

He is not very good looking and she is pretty in an ordinary way. What we learn about their respective lives, in the closeness that develops as they express themselves in ways that they have been able to with their mates, is rather tender.

Because of their ties in life, nothing will ever come of this meeting. You might call this a Korean “Brief Encounter,” although it has nowhere near the depth and emotion of the British classic.

A film with particular political interest is “White Sun,” directed by Deepak Rauniyar. It is set in Nepal against the background of the divisions and political rivalries in that country. But the story is a personal one, and that gives the film a very human quality.

The plot involves a Maoist activist who returns home after his father has just died. His father believed in the monarchist regime, which the Maoissts fought in a lengthy civil war. The son’s brother also was on the monarchist side.

What happens in the effort to perform a burial according to the required rituals and the clashing relationship make for an involving and sometimes satirical film. How all is worked out holds one’s attention and tells us much abut human behavior. Reviewed March 20, 2017.

  

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