A.O. Scott has a great piece here on Neo-Neo Realism (or as I call it, American Neo-Realism).
In the article, he discusses how filmmakers have gathered around the nexus of our hard times, channeling the bleakness of the Italian neo-realists in Rosselini’s Rome: Open City or De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. He cites such filmmakers as Kelly Reichardt with Wendy and Lucy and Old Joy, Lance Hammer with Ballast, Ramin Bahrani with Man Push Cart and So Yong Kim’s Treeless Mountain. Those films, he argues, show the struggle of underpowered individuals in a world they can never succeed in (thus: realism). By contrast, take the Oscar’s Slumdog Millionaire a movie with underpowered indivudals triumphing despite (and to spite) all odds, which Scott points out aptly is “the magical power of popular culture to conquer misery, to make dreams come true. And the major function of Oscar night is to affirm that gauzy, enchanting notion.”
Scott also makes some good analogies about borrowing, looking at how a film like Wendy and Lucy can take a lost dog from De Sica’s Umberto D and teach it a new trick. And indeed, these filmmakers are building on each other.
The place where many of these filmmakers meet, where the “American neo-realists” got their break, is at the New Directors/New Films Festival. Because from Kelly Reichardt (Class of ’05) to Ramin Bahrani (Class of ’06) to Lance Hammer (Class of ’07), all of these filmmakers had their breakthrough “neo-realist” films here at ND/NF. And as if to put the icing on the cake, A.O. Scott even included a film that’s playing this year at the festival: So Yong Kim’s beautiful, difficult and diffident Treeless Mountain.
So check it out. After all, in these “hard-scrabble times”, tickets are only 10 bucks for students, saving you a bit (plus a nice Q+A with those cool director-types).
After all, if this writer may opine: “Ticket to ND/NF Film: 10 dollars. Chance to one-up A.O. Scott by knowing about a good movie before he does: Priceless.”
-Nicholas Feitel, ND/NF New Voice