Eclectic, progressive, traditional, and nostalgic are among the somewhat contrasting adjectives that could be applied to the New York Film Festival (NYFF), which, for the past 17 days, has been celebrating its 50th birthday. These qualities have never been so evident as in this expanded celebratory edition, which finishes today.
Art-house films directed by international festival favourites such as Abbas Kiarostami and Olivier Assayas rubbed shoulders with Hollywood's Denzel Washington vehicle Flight (which plays today as the closing night offering), and some low-key avant-garde works.
Paparazzi fought for the best positions on the red carpet when the cast of Rob Reiner's cheerful The Princess Bride reunited for a special screening. Nicole Kidman's appearance for the impressionistic The Paperboy almost caused a media stampede. By contrast, famed Italian filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, in town for their prison-set drama Caesar Must Die, passed almost unnoticed by the crowds.
Filmmakers from the past turned up for the celebrations, too. Bob Rafelson, the director of the 1970 American New Wave classic Five Easy Pieces, screened his little-seen The King of Marvin Gardens which, like Pieces, stars Jack Nicholson. The future - and perhaps the filmmakers of the future, if they will still be called filmmakers in the digital times to come - was represented by a conference about transmedia productions. That's the buzzword for mixed-media works which use digital technology, the web and just about anything else to tell a story.
The New York Film Festival runs to its own set of rules. It does not feel the need to present big world premieres - many of the selections have usually played elsewhere - and it steadfastly refuses to have a competition section.
This year, though, there was an important world premiere. Ang Lee's 3-D film Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel's popular 2001 novel, debuted to generally good notices.
The metaphysical nature of the book, in which the action is confined mainly to a boy, a tiger and a boat, made it a difficult tale to shoot, Lee told audiences. It was a long-cherished project of the director, but as he admitted to the audience: "I remember thinking that no one in their right mind would make this film." Lee is reportedly still working on the final cut, and, the audience was told, he "had just got off the phone with a tiger-trainer" before the film's screening.