A little over a month ago the selections for the forthcoming New York Film Festival (9.25 through 10.11) were revealed. Many noted that the slate seemed to reflect the tastes of a rather hermetic, esoteric, film-dweeby selection panel with an aversion to anything that smacked of accessibility and across-the-board engagement. But I didn’t know how dweeby until just a little while ago when I was told by an excellent source that the NYFF committee turned down the Coen Bros.’ A Serious Man, Lone Scherfig‘s An Education and Jacques Audiard‘s A Prophet. To which I said, “What?”
On 8.11 Film Society of Lincoln Center programmer Richard Pena tried to explain the dweeb slate to the Hollywood Reporter‘s Stephen Zeitchik as follows: “Two years ago, we had the Coen brothers and Wes Anderson and Julian Schnabel and Noah Baumbach and Sidney Lumet. Last year, there was less, and this year there is much less.”
Except the NYFF selection committee did have the Coens this year in the form of A Serious Man, which, in the view of many who’ve seen this film in Toronto, is arguably one of the best they’ve ever made. And yet the NYFF selection committee — Pena and critics Dennis Lim, Scott Foundas, J. Hoberman and Melissa Anderson — for the most part disliked it and declined to show it.
I don’t know who specifically voted against it except for a vague understanding that Foundas is not a fan. (Apparently Foundas and Hoberman gave A Serious Man a “bomb” rating in the Critic’s Choice chart in the new issue of Film Comment.) But having seen A Serious Man myself and given the large Upper West Side Jewish audience that attends this festival, I can say with absolute authority that the NYFF committee is imbedded way too deeply inside its own posterior cavity. I mean, they’re really nuts not to show this film. As they are in having also turned down An Education and A Prophet.
These are three movies with serious critical cred that also play to an audience. Each would be a huge hit, trust me, with the NYFF crowd that attends each and every year. The NYFF selection committee has become a gathering of Trappist monks who’ve been slurping too much goat’s milk with their granola. I’m not the only one who thinks this, trust me.