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NYC Film Festivals

The Best of BAM's Best of 2006

Ebru Ceylan in Climates, one of the notable selections in BAM's Best of 2006 series (Photo: Zeitgeist Films)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

Formerly linked up with The Village Voice annual critics poll before its nexus, Dennis Lim, was sent packing from the paper last year, BAM's yearly Best Of series launches tonight in conjunction with Lim's current poll partners at indieWIRE. That's pretty much all that's changed from previous years' programs; the selections symbolize the same cinephile pageantry and purpose you've come to expect from the event, with a smart mix of festival hits, limited-distribution blips, sneak previews and discussions set to appear.

A few regular Reeler contributors and I took a look down the list and have a few recommendations from what we loved and what we're looking forward to:

--Belle Toujours (Today, April 4)

When the greying Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli) spies former bourgeois whore Séverine Serizy (Bulle Ogier, playing for Catherine Deneuve), his desire to reconnect four decades later inspires wistful silences and questions about their past. Sequelizing Buñuel's 1967 masterpiece Belle de Jour seems blasphemous, which is why Manoel de Oliveira made no attempt to in his picturesque homage, a charming eulogy to worldly pleasures and fading memories that comes straight from the 98-year-old auteur's heart. -- Aaron Hillis

--Day Night Day Night (Friday, April 13)

Although I haven't had the chance to see this one yet, writer-director Julia Loktev's narrative feature debut seems especially geared to pique (some would say exploit) the interest of New Yorkers. A nameless young female (Luisa Williams) is preparing for her mission as a suicide bomber in Times Square, that uber-fertile crescent of glistening office complexes and gaudy tourist traps. Loktev has garnered attention for the harsh, disquieting minimalism of her aesthetic along with the inevitable charge of pandering, using extremely sensitive currency for her calling card. -- Michelle Orange

--Climates (Tuesday, April 17)

A photographer turned slow-burning filmmaker, Nuri Bilge Ceylan treats his frames like exercises in deep-focus composition: he’s so adept at rack-focusing between background and foreground his characters can seem like an afterthought. While Climates isn’t as funny or psychologically developed as his masterfully, uncomfortably deadpan Distant, it still has enough shot coups and ambient sound mastery to throw you into a formal tizzy. While Ceylan -- playing himself as a morose bastard -- almost succumbs to making a self-pitying exercise about a man whose loneliness grows in direct proportion to his shitty treatment of women, there’s still a fundamental unknowability to his female protag (Ceylan’s own wife) that lends real depth to the tortured relationship anatomized here. Also featuring one of the most astonishing sex scenes since David Cronenberg began making films. -- Vadim Rizov

--Time to Leave (Weds. April 18)

Francois Ozon followed up the self-conscious, painfully derivative marriage melodrama of 2005's 5x2 with this self-conscious, shockingly sincere mortality melodrama, featuring Melvil Poupaud as a Paris fashion photographer secretly reckoning with a terminal illness. As his character sabotages his relationships and withdraws to the rural hospice of his grandmother (played with warm candor by Jeanne Moreau), Poupaud reflects his director's fascination with everything beautiful and doomed, seaside and recondite. Ozon has long been one to watch, but only spottily one to admire. Time to Leave signals a maturity and creative resolve that, like its arrogant anti-hero's imminent demise, is no fluke. -- STV

--Zoo (Thursday, April 19)

The sheer fact that I'm recommending this film will forever tarnish searching me on Google. But here goes: This is a film about zoophilia, focusing on the 2005 death of Kenneth "Mr. Hands" Pinyan, who died after having sex with a horse. Thankfully, Robinson Devor's doc isn't made in the same tradition of, say, Spellbound -- it handles a taboo fetish with care, as Devor speaks the friends of Pinyan who took him to the hospital and a third narrator who runs a non-profit that took the horses after The Seattle Times ran with it. Clearly the draw here is shock, but come on! This is from the guy who made Police Beat--with horses, and sex, and... I am so sorry, Mom. -- John Lichman

BAM's selections from indieWIRE's 2006 Critics Poll don't feature a single film from my personal ballot (or, for that matter, a single film that I've seen at all). But that just means there are more opportunities to catch up on things I've missed. Number one on my must-see list: Robinson Devor's Zoo, a reportedly "haunting" and "tender" documentary about a man who died whilst having sex with a horse (or, technically, whilst the horse was having sex with him). By all accounts, Devor assembled a unique doc (which blends interviews with reenactments) on what we can only hope is a unique subject. -- Matt Singer

Posted at April 4, 2007 1:40 PM

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