Given the extraordinary acclaim that Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Winter Sleep and Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Leviathan found during last May’s Cannes Film Festival and particularly given the New York Film Festival’s long-established focus on the finest foreign-language films of the moment, it’s really quite strange that the 52nd NYFF has snubbed both. In the case of Leviathan a colleague has suggested this is “an even greater indignity than the treatment it received from Jane Campion‘s Cannes jury.” Obviously the selection committee didn’t care for either, but what could their justifications have been? If you look at things objectively, it’s incredibly perverse to have excluded both of those films when, regardless of what the selection committee may have felt, it’s a fair bet that the core NYFF audience would have loved to see these films, and may even have enjoyed them more than offerings like Jean-Luc Godard‘s Goodbye to Language, Abel Ferrara‘s Pasolini and Pedro Costa‘s Horse Money.
And what about Damian Szifron‘s Wild Tales while we’re at it?
One of these days someone might really want to analyze the tastes and choices the selection committee makes. It is ruled by the incredibly esoteric tastes of Amy Taubin, Gavin Smith and especially Dennis Lim, who has a reputation of being an enemy of anything remotely mainstream or conventionally pleasurable. This year they’ve swung back to considerably more minimalism — Pedro Costa, et al. — while again proving themselves incapable of rejecting anything by Abel Ferrara. Kent Jones knows how to pinpoint the big titles he needs to show, but now that they’ve eliminated having any outsiders on the selection committee (except for Amy, who lives in New York and therefore doesn’t cost them anything to lodge somewhere), things have regressed in ways that might alienate part of their audience. But since media attention is almost 100% preoccupied by the “awards season” and as long as they have three or four titles like Gone Girl, Inherent Vice and Birdman, few writers really go deeply into the rest of it.