(This post began as one entry containing three reviews, but as each section became longer, I decided to split it up into separate posts. So let's just call this the introduction, shall we?)
As the New York Film Festival pulls into its final weekend, it becomes a good time for both anticipation and reflection. More reviews and recaps will be coming in the next few days -- I've had some difficulty finding time to write recently -- but my overall impressions have been quite positive for this year's collection of films. Not too many disappointments but several titles which proved to be surprises (at least to me) and far better than expected. In fact, I would be surprised if somewhere between three and five of my Best of 2006 titles did not come out of movies seen at the 44th New York Film Festival.
The best thing about several of this year's selections, however, has been the representation of not just film as entertainment or art but rather filmmaking as craft. With all the complaints many have had regarding the inclusion of some titles and exclusion of others, three films in particular have a lot in common in what may be the most important area possible: they are examples of consummate filmmaking. Two of them -- The Host and Closing Night selection Pan's Labyrinth -- are more high concept entertainment than anything you'll ever see from Hollywood: near perfection in storytelling, use of every visual and audible aspect of cinema, thematic representation, building on film history and political statements that may not be subtle but won't drop anvils on your skull neither.
The third film is the most difficult to discuss, one that, like its filmmaker, has already been heavily debated. In fact, I can't really write anything like a straightforward review of David Lynch's Inland Empire. I didn't like it; I didn't dislike it; and I'm anything but indifferent. I have nothing to say and much to say, all simultaneously, and in its own way, that statement itself might be the perfect review of this film. Even so, here are some more expansive thoughts, albeit, not necessarily a review nor a critique.