Brandon’s Angle: New York Film Festival is a cinephile’s paradise

Photo illustration by Sammy Newman.

Brandon Shillingford, Contributing Writer

Earlier this year, Landon Roberts and I went to New York City to help a friend move into a new apartment. While we were there, we had the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the city, hopping from theater to theater, taking in every skyscraper and blaring taxi cab that seemed hellbent on running us over. 

While we were doing this, I would’ve never guessed I’d be back three months later for the prestigious New York Film Festival with press accreditation. 

While not as flashy as Venice, or as huge as Toronto, New York has its own unique sense of style and class. It consistently boasts a balance of the fall movie season’s most anticipated titles, experimental shorts and documentaries, and career retrospectives featuring some of the most celebrated filmmakers on the planet.

Nevertheless, the 57th edition of NYFF was unforgettable. Between getting to meet idols of mine such as fellow critics Karen Han, Patrick Willems and Odie Henderson, and being in the presence of cinematic royalty like Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, NYFF was pretty eventful. Not to mention all of the incredible films I saw while I was there.

One of the few downsides to the festival was the lack of press screenings held during a single day. During my week in the city, I only saw five films from the program. But I’m by no means complaining, all the films I had the opportunity to see were amazing.

Of the five films I saw, my favorite would have to be the new Céline Sciamma film “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” a sensuous and searing lesbian period drama. It tells the story of two women in late 18th century France who fall in love after one was commissioned to paint a portrait of the other. 

From “The Irishman.” Photo by Niko Tavernise / Courtesy of Netlifx

It utilizes the female gaze to tell its story from a completely subjective standpoint. It also paints sex and intimacy as a deeply personal connection used to build bridges instead of separate people. It’s a truly special film that I can’t wait to see again — and without a doubt shed thousands of tears too. 

A more high profile release that will for sure be the toast of Oscar season is Martin Scorsese’s new gangster epic “The Irishman.” I’ve already talked about it in a separate review, but I really loved it, and it’s some of Scorsese’s best work in years.

I was particularly relieved that the film was good seeing as I had to start queuing outside of Alice Tully Hall for two hours before its start. But this wasn’t my first rodeo. I was prepared with plenty of pretzel chips and water to save myself from starvation. 

On the whole, New York was an unforgettable experience that I’ll never forget. I met a ton of new people, saw a lot of great films and made friends with a few Airbnb cockroaches that, for as nice and as interested they were in my trip, I really, really hope I’ll never see again. 

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