If one of the profound pleasures of movie-going, for the open-minded, big-hearted cinéaste, is the diversity of cinema, not just in terms of nationality or ethnicity, but of subjects, styles, sensibilities, then a film festival is bound to be an intense, heady, overwhelming experience. I suppose there may be film buffs who appreciate only a certain kind of movie, but for the vast majority, the leap from a Buñuel to a Renoir, from a Tarkovsky to a Raul Ruiz-hell, from Bergman to the Marx Brothers-is an exhilarating one. The glory of the medium (of any medium of course) lies in the gaping chasms that separate the most incompatible of filmmakers. A movie is a world, a unique and previously non-existent world, but it’s also a person, a personality, and giving yourself over to it is very much the same as meeting someone new, sizing them up, putting yourself in their mind, observing what makes them unique and exactly how they are similar to and different from yourself. To get to know someone is to become more than yourself, to expand, to grow. Attending a film festival is like finding oneself at a party with people of every possible personality type-you grow exponentially in every which way.
As festivals go, the New York Film Festival (NYFF) is highly concentrated, containing only 25 features, as well as a special presentation (this year the 1925 Paul Robeson silent Body and Soul [Oscar Micheaux], with live orchestral accompaniment), an annual program of avant-garde films, and a retrospective program (this year devoted to Silent Divas of the Italian Cinema). Unlike the international festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Toronto, Venice, Chicago, and elsewhere, which schedule as many as 100 films at several theaters simultaneously, New York (theoretically) sticks to the cream of the crop, with only two movies a weekday and four on the weekend, with no scheduling conflicts. It’s nice to have something of a life during the event, but not being able to afford to travel to other major world festivals means that I sometimes wish New York would over-schedule-in Toronto and Chicago there may be many more commercial, crowd-pleasing films on offer but there’s also more choice and more room for riskier programming. Still, I’m happy to report that what there was to see at New York was almost invariably excellent.
Ironically, given my introduction, this year’s Festival featured surprisingly little diversity thanks to the disproportionate number of Asian films in the main program: 10 of the 25 features were Asian, and that includes 10 of the 15 I saw. But, overall, the films’ personalities, so to speak, were as diverse as one could ask. Just within the Asian contingent, I bounced from the operatic and ecstatic Chunhyang to the patient, melancholy Platform, from the ravishing surfaces, musical form and brevity of In the Mood for Love to the traumatized stillness and steady accumulation of Eureka, from the fantastic in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to the quotidian in Yi Yi, and from Nagisa Oshima casting a dark spell in Gohatto to Beat Takeshi doing what Beat Takeshi does in Brother (with almost no adjustment resulting from the move from Japan to America-which is why I include this film in the Asian contingent to begin with). And that’s not even mentioning two of the great personalities of contemporary film, both rearing their heads here: Lars von Trier and Raul Ruiz.
The highlight of the Festival for me-not necessarily because it was so much better than the other films but because I didn’t see it coming-was Chunhyang, the 96th film by the Korean director Im Kwon Taek (between him and Ruiz, they clock up around 180 films), and I’d like to focus on this film because it wasn’t among the most talked about.
Chunhyang was one of the most deeply pleasurable movies I saw at the Festival. It is at once experimental, radical even, and yet traditional; it is both intellectually and emotionally a joy. Tradition is in fact the subject of the film, embodied in a Korean form of musical storytelling called “pansori.” Chunhyang opens with a singer and percussionist on stage before an audience; we are then ushered into the world of the story, a folktale about the love between Mongryong, a provincial governor’s son, and the beautiful but lower class, Chunhyang. The two lovers marry but when Mongryong leaves to complete his studies, a new governor arrives, commands Chunhyang to service him, and orders her put to death when she refuses out of loyalty to her absent husband. Mongryong, oblivious to all this, returns just in time and saves the day.
What makes Chunhyang so much more than simply a lovely, entertaining adaptation of a folktale (which it still happens to be) is Im’s decision not only to honor a traditional form of narrative art but to combine or scramble it with a far more modern and seemingly incompatible one. Im lets the singer do at least as much narrative work as the visuals, until the images and the soundtrack seem to switch places. The narrator bursts the boundaries of his role, so to speak-he tells the story but also describes everything we see, down to the details, and, at the most dramatic moments, he goes so far as to speak for the characters: we can hear the actors speaking the same words beneath the singing, but the singing is dominant, the voices like an undercurrent. It’s initially hard to bear, partly because there’s very little quiet, very little time for reflection or simple observation with the singing constantly at our heels, hurrying us along, and suffusing and overwhelming the images, which begin to seem like nothing but illustrations-the movie seems to drown in its own soundtrack. And the narration is constantly distancing us from the story we’re experiencing cinematically, taking us out of the moment, transforming the action from something that is happening to something that is being told.
Im creates a strange tension-a clash between two ways of telling a story (the visual, or cinematic, and the verbal). What makes Chunhyang radical and exciting is that Im is forcing us to experience two forms of narrative art simultaneously, laid one on top of the other, almost like a collage or a kind of narrative polyphony. But when we least expect it, at several of the most emotional, dramatic moments (such as the scene in which the new governor tries to beat Chunhyang into obedience), these two opposing streams suddenly begin to flow into each other, forming a more powerful, surging current, and pulling us more deeply into the story rather than distancing us-the polyphony suddenly becomes a particularly beautiful harmony. The spell is strong enough by the time of the most painful scene, the beating of Chunhyang, that he can even afford to cut back to the singer and drummer on stage. The unity between the narrative forms is so complete that there’s nothing distracting about shuttling between them-when Im cuts to the singer we continue to experience the story with the characters, and when he cuts back to the characters we continue to feel ourselves an audience before a storyteller.
Dancer in the Dark
The other movie in the Festival to transform a traditional musical form was, of course, Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, which has been written and talked about so much that I’ll simply mention that it’s basically a remake of Dennis Potter’s 1978 BBC miniseries, Pennies from Heaven. The only substantive differences are that von Trier uses original music, where Potter had his characters lip-synch a succession of standards, and that Arthur, the main character in Pennies, is a much more complicated character than von Trier’s Selma, far more implicated in his own misery and downfall, but still sympathetic. The genuine power Dancer in the Dark manages to scrounge up flows almost directly out of Bjork’s performance-her battle with von Trier for possession of the character accounts for the measure of genuine feeling in each tear von Trier jerks out of us. But the character as conceived has almost no autonomy-she’s an impossibly selfless, pure creature, to be pitied and wept over as von Trier’s plot machinery chews her over. Pennies from Heaven is about the desire to escape sexual frustration, self-hatred, delusion, and unhappiness through popular music. Dancer in the Dark is about the desire to escape impending execution for a crime committed in order to retrieve stolen money that was intended for an operation to save an only son’s eyesight.through music. Potter took a hard, unpleasant look at misery, both external and internal; Von Trier, for all his ambition, creativity, and provocativeness, takes a much easier path.
In the Mood for Love
Music is also very much at the center of the lovely, ravishing In the Mood for Love, but Wong Kar-Wai, the director, is much less showy about it. In the Mood for Love is not a musical; it’s more like a piece of music itself. The story concerns two neighbors, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, in mid-’60s Hong Kong, who come to realize that their spouses are having an affair. But Wong takes the emphasis off the story, even denying us a glimpse of the spouses.
In a Q&A after the screening, he suggested that showing the spouses would have encouraged us to judge them, to speculate on their guilt-it would’ve meant involving us in their story. Instead, Wong devotes all his resources to creating a mood; his interest lies not in storytelling or even characterization, but in surfaces, gestures, light and shadows, in the texture, the rhythm, and the emotional music of the relationship at the film’s center. He sets all these things into a dance-like motion, by cutting away everything extraneous and by giving the film a musical form. Rarely has décor and costuming loomed so large in a movie: from the countless variations on an identical dress worn by Cheung in each scene, to the patterns and color of the wallpaper in every room, to the mysterious, naturalistic but surreal image of the cramped hallway of the hotel where the two meet, with a series of identical, unremarkable doors facing a swaying, velvet red curtain (suggesting the opposing options they face). In the Mood for Love is a remarkably atmospheric, physical film, taking place in a world in which every surface and every pattern seems somehow to reflect what’s going on emotionally.
But it’s not just visual patterns that interest Wong-he puts just as much emphasis on the patterns and repetitions of the characters’ routines, their comings and goings, their mutual encounters, their behavior toward each other. It’s a musical approach to filmmaking, and Wong takes it a step further by using the music in the film as much more than accompaniment. A Nat King Cole song is prominently featured, but it’s the original score, an achingly lovely instrumental refrain that appears every fifteen minutes or so, that becomes so important to the film. With every appearance of this theme, the movie switches to slow motion, transforming the characters into dancers, and imparting a certain graceful, ritualistic quality to their story. These moments are like little cinematic arias, transforming the most mundane, casual actions and experiences into the emotional heart of the movie. The characters certainly don’t see their lives in musical terms, but Wong does-he unearths the music buried within. Like Chunhyang, In the Mood for Love combines two art forms in a subtle, exciting way-it doesn’t just encompass music, it behaves like it.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Wong is a NYFF favorite, so the new film’s place in the program was not surprising, but its relationship to his other films was. It’s possible to recognize it as a Wong Kar-Wai film but only by rethinking what makes a Wong Kar-Wai film ‘a Wong Kar-Wai film’. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee’s new film, works in the same way. You can see Ang Lee in it if you try-above all in its sensitivity and its generosity towards its characters-but I can’t imagine that anyone was expecting an out-and-out kung-fu fantasy film from him. I loved the film-the action scenes are exciting and beautifully choreographed, but the movie is more than just a series of set-pieces. It approaches an emotional richness, a mythological resonance, that’s infinitely more satisfying. It falls just short, though, of creating one of those fictional worlds that takes up permanent residence in your imagination, that on some level you consider as impossibly far away but undoubtedly a reality in some corner of the universe. It feels too short, too underdeveloped-I came out very happy but also wishing that I had been allowed to inhabit its world more fully, to breathe it in more deeply.
Seeing 15 movies in 18 days is tough even if you’re talking about a James Bond retrospective. But it’s especially overwhelming when so many of the films are so intense, so hypnotic. There are a lot of different ways for a movie to be great, but almost all of the films I saw at the Festival went way beyond entertaining or even stimulating me. This was a year of sensual, transporting movies, movies that draw you deeply into strange and unfamiliar but fully formed worlds that wrap themselves around you and only very reluctantly let go. Seeing, in quick succession, Chunhyang, The Comedy of Innocence, The Circle, Gohatto, In the Mood for Love, Eureka, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, meant traveling from world to world, and the experience was jarring-one spell had barely worn off before I found myself succumbing to another.
The strangest, most vivid worlds were those created by Nagisa Oshima in Gohatto (Taboo) and Shinji Aoyama in Eureka, the two purely Japanese films on the program (Brother is jointly Japanese and American). Along with Chunhyang, Eureka was the most exciting discovery of the Festival for me.
This black-and-white, three hour and thirty seven minute, three- (or arguably four-) character study, takes its sweet time, but like most movies this long, the length is part of the point-it’s a movie about the process of healing, about gradually emerging from a state of shock and becoming a person again, and it respects the excruciatingly slow, sometimes imperceptible progression from trauma to emotional stability. The three central characters, a young girl and her brother, and a bus driver, are the only survivors of a bus hijacking and murder spree. The children are abandoned by their mother after their father dies in an accident and carry on an isolated, silent existence in their home until the bus driver returns from a period of aimless wandering and takes up residence with them, partly to protect them (a purpose that gives a measure of meaning to his life) but partly to share their existence. The most remarkable thing about the movie is its mood. There’s an overwhelming stillness, a static quality, to the film (even when it becomes a road movie of sorts), a total lack of regard for any storytelling considerations, as if the movie, like its characters, is paralyzed by shock, too full of despair, too numb to make any gesture towards even a shadow of a narrative. Eureka is full of pain, but despite its length it’s not a difficult experience, but rather a beautiful and a moving one-not because its characters eventually show signs of recovering from their emotional paralysis (they do, but for one of them, these signs are at least as disturbing as the paralysis itself), but because the movie so effortlessly and so profoundly inhabits their emotional state.
Gohatto, the first film in 14 years from Oshima, tells a reasonably straightforward story, but tells it in a highly stylized, uncanny way, mixing comedy and deeply unsettling drama in almost every scene. The main character, Kano, a new recruit who wreaks havoc among his fellow samurai, is in a sense the flip side of Sada, the central character in Oshima’s famous 1976 film, In the Realm of the Senses, whose insatiable sexual appetite drove her to devour and destroy her lover. Kano, passive himself, creates this appetite in everyone around him. But Kano is a more enigmatic, symbolic character, a force of evil more than a human being. The true center of Gohatto is Hijikata, the captain who is the most perceptive and sensitive of the samurai and whose struggle against Kano’s power is treated both more seriously and less explicitly than that of the other samurai. Beat Takeshi’s performance in the role will come as a shock to anyone who has seen him only in his own films, in which he has developed a signature persona: stone-faced, inexpressive, and unshakably calm except for brief, almost lightning-fast, bursts of extreme violence. Included at the Festival was his latest-and the first to be filmed in America-Brother, which I admire for being almost indistinguishable from his Japanese films. Kitano the director seems as unimpressed by America as his character, an exiled yakuza who, without even bothering to learn English, begins building a crime empire almost upon stepping off the boat in the US. But I’m not a fan of Kitano’s films, Japanese or not. I appreciate the stylistic idea behind his use of silence, stillness, inaction, but it’s the only idea he has-it’s an interesting approach to the material, but the material is empty and boring. There is no content in his films-there’s only violence and waiting for violence, and the wait, more often than not, is filled with sentimental nonsense.
Kitano’s performances in his own films are a matter of attitude more than of acting. In Gohatto the difference is not immediately apparent-he’s not much more expressive or demonstrative than usual-but it’s a dramatic difference all the same. Certain great actors, like Marcello Mastroianni, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Denzel Washington, manage to create profoundly different characters with very little change in their appearance or manner. They’re physically very similar in role after role but they feel completely different. Kitano puts himself in their company with Gohatto-he seems the same on the surface, but I’ve never seen him invest a character with so much humanity-Hijikata has a vulnerability, a thoughtfulness, and, above all, a sense of self-doubt that would be unthinkable for any of the characters in his own films. And Oshima helps make him the most compelling presence in the film by letting us eavesdrop on his thoughts and by building the extraordinary, dream-like final image around him.
The Comedy of Innocence
The reigning queen of the acting style I just mentioned is Isabelle Huppert, not so much an actress as a force of nature, an international treasure. . What she does can only fall under the description of acting, but it’s very different from what most other actors do-instead of revealing her characters’ emotions and thoughts, instead of working towards some measure of transparency, she creates masks. Her specialty, from which I’ve never seen her depart is to embody characters who keep their emotions tightly sealed within themselves, who concentrate all their energies on maintaining an appearance of cool, controlled normality, who are beautiful but remote, closed-off, and cold. Within this area of expertise, she has created an impressively diverse portfolio of characters-from a flighty, morally unmoored abortionist in The Story of Women (Claude Chabrol, 1988) and a murderous postal worker in La Cérémonie (Claude Chabrol, 1995) to the passionate older woman in Benoit Jacquot’s The School of Flesh (1998). All of these characters, though, come alive through her unique approach, a kind of negative acting: Huppert doesn’t come at her characters’ emotions head-on, she communicates them indirectly, by emphasizing their attempts to hide behind an appearance of composure. The inner life of a Huppert character registers all the more vividly because it is so well hidden and mysterious; emotion never erupts from her, it radiates out, on a frequency outside of our range, but which we somehow sense nevertheless. Huppert is never likable but always fascinating and mysterious. Most actors serve their characters up to us; Huppert draws us into them.
Raul Ruiz’s latest, the hugely entertaining The Comedy of Innocence, would be almost unthinkable without her. It’s a surreal nightmare of a movie, about a child who suddenly begins insisting that his mother (Huppert) is not his mother, and that another woman, whom the family has never had any contact with, is. Ruiz plays his conceit absolutely straight, drawing us into a strange world in which anything seems possible but also never quite supernatural-something he’d never be able to pull off without an actress as introverted and unreadable as Huppert. The challenge Ruiz entrusts to her is to communicate the mother’s bewilderment, panic, and fear, realistically enough to keep the movie from floating off into fantasyland, but not so naturalistically as to drain the movie of its mystery. Her style is always understated, but peerlessly unsettling and creepy – qualities that are perfectly suited to The Comedy of Innocence.
Seven Men From Now, Platform and Yi Yi
Back in Asia, Platform and Yi Yi are not much shorter than Eureka, but their running times feel every bit as justified. I love cinematic brevity and efficiency as much as the next person-you get a special thrill from a movie that does what it sets out to do with a minimum of fuss, as simply and directly as possible. As it happens the Festival included a perfect example of this kind of pleasure in Budd Boetticher’s newly restored Seven Men From Now (1956). Most of Boetticher’s films clock in at well under 90 minutes, but are deeply satisfying-they all feel exactly as long as they should be. The opening scene of Seven Men belongs in some sort of Hall of Fame: two men, cooking over a fire on a rainy night, are interrupted by the approach of a stern, emotionless Randolph Scott, who asks if he might join them. The conversation immediately falls on a robbery which occurred the night before. The two men say they heard the crime was committed by a band of seven men, and ask if any of them have been caught. To which Scott says, menacingly, “Two of ’em,” and pauses a moment, letting the two men grope for their guns, before shooting them.
For certain movies, though, it’s important to spend a great deal of time with the characters, to come to inhabit their world. The beauty of a movie like Jia Zhang Ke’s Platform is not in its efficiency but in its cumulative effect, the sense it provides of time having past, of a journey having been taken. Platform takes place over the span of a decade, from 1979 to 1989, focusing on four characters who are performers in a theater (and eventually musical) group. The movie traces these characters over the course of the decade, as they change over time and as the times change. It’s a strange, difficult movie because it’s so loathe to lead us by the hand; it revels in a great wealth of detail but tells almost nothing-everything has to be inferred or guessed at, especially when a period of time has been skipped over. I found myself playing catch-up, struggling to keep up with everything I felt I was supposed to know (I’m ashamed to admit that, partly because of the relaxed storytelling but partly because I couldn’t tell the actresses apart, I’m not even sure which of the two women the main male character marries). But I still loved the movie. The big picture, the sense of witnessing a gradual social and historical shift, comes across loud and clear (or should I say, quiet and clear) whether you pick up on every plot point or not. Platform is far more than a history lesson because everything is grounded in a group of specific, genuine characters, but there’s a sense that the film is not about these particular people, that they’re simply embedded in the portrait of the country that Jia is painting.
Edward Yang’s Yi Yi is a wonderful film as well, but it works a bit differently because it takes place in the present, over a relatively short period of time. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important to develop a history with the characters. In fact, there’s nothing spectacular or original about the story, or stories, of Yi Yi (Yang gives more or less equal attention to the lives of several members of an extended family). What makes the film special is its patience and its big-heartedness. It gives the impression that the story of a film doesn’t matter as long as it’s treated with enough perceptiveness and honesty, and populated with characters as lovingly created and acted as in Yang’s film. Yi Yi, like Eureka or Platform, is a movie to settle into, to explore, to wander within. It didn’t transport me, like Eureka or Chunhyang did, but that’s not its personality. It’s a film based on a solid foundation of modesty, of seemingly simple observation, but what Yang builds on this foundation turns out to be as substantial as any of the other films in the Festival.
Jafar Panahi’s The Circle is another film to wander within. Part of what’s so exciting about Iranian cinema now is that several different directors (Kiarostami, the Makhmalbafs, Panahi, and others) work within a sort of shared vocabulary yet each film does new and surprising things.
The withholding of what is conventionally considered crucial information about the characters and their stories, the naturalistic, real-time pacing, the mostly non-professional actors, and the shifting of emphasis from narrative to something more experiential-all are familiar devices from other Iranian films. But Panahi makes the approach his own-by telling a collection of stories he tips the balance a bit more towards the culturally and socially specific. The Circle never becomes didactic-the beauty of it is that it allows us to share the experience of its characters, all female and all either literally or figuratively in danger of imprisonment. But it feels more immediate, more urgent than the other Iranian films I know.
Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine
The Circle was one of the two Iranian films playing at NYFF (surprisingly slim pickings given the current Iranian craze). Though it is easily the better of the two, Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine, by veteran filmmaker Bahman Farmanara, who has not made a film since the revolution in 1979, is still a fascinating film precisely because it’s so different from the Iranian films that have made waves internationally. The difference is ironic because the movie certainly sounds Iranian-it’s self-referential and self-conscious after the manner of Kiarostami and others. The main character is a filmmaker named Bahman (played by Farmanara) who has not made a film since the revolution. But its tone is very different-much more prosaic and accessible. It’s a much more personality-driven film than any Iranian movie I know, revolving around the picaresque experiences and engaging perceptions of its main character. It’s not a great movie by any means, but I’m glad I caught it simply because it broadened my view of Iranian cinema.
The only other features I saw were House of Mirth and Krapp’s Last Tape (which screened along with a shorter Beckett adaptation-Not I by Neil Jordan), both solid, impressive films, but without the same sense of discovery and excitement that went along with the others. I also saw three of the four avant-garde programs, two of which consisted of multiple short films, the other of two longer shorts, Peter Hutton’s Time and Tide and Nathaniel Dorsky’s Arbor Vitae. The shorts programs were highly variable, but there was some excellent work, especially by Michael Snow, Jean-Luc Godard, Janie Geiser, and Guy Maddin. The Michael Snow film, Prelude, was probably about as good as a one-minute long film can be (very good, as it turns out), and also as entertaining as a highly formal, structuralist film can be. Putting Maddin’s film, which was fifteen times as long as Snow’s, at the beginning of a program of shorts was a pretty provocative choice-talk about a hard act to follow. Maddin is in love with silent-film aesthetics-always has been-but usually his movies draw you into a fantasy, film-history world. Delirious and hilarious, A Heart of the World is more like a full-frontal attack, a wild, spectacular Russian silent melodrama on fast-forward. Janie Geiser’s films (there were three spread over the two programs) also draw you into very artificial, sealed-off worlds. But they’re populated not by characters from a fictional silent film but by figurines, paper cutouts, and other materials. Reality never intrudes, but hers are very concrete, physical worlds. The best of the three, The Fourth Watch, saw her introducing video images into the mix, populating a sharply lit, vivid dollhouse with shadowy, ethereal TV-image phantoms. The effect was ghostly and very beautiful.
Nathaniel Dorsky’s Arbor Vitae is a very pretty, melancholy film, something like a photography show in motion. Like his other films, it’s utterly silent, which is a large part of what makes it so effective, and consists simply of a series of shots, unconnected (except in spirit) and of varying lengths (though never more than several seconds long). Dorsky has a great eye and his strength lies in conveying patterns, textures, colors, and especially moods. I’ve seen several of his films and as much as I admire them, I’ve never been overwhelmed, partly because I find that the mood is upset whenever he includes a shot with people, unless they’re rendered somehow abstract. Faces, expressions, the suggestion of thoughts, emotions, and above all stories-these things throw the film into a new territory that’s unfriendly to his strengths. His movies are highly physical and immediate, but they depend on a certain withdrawal from daily, mundane reality. Dorsky, like many good photographers, pulls us outside of our perceptual habits and shows us the patterns, the beauty we overlook. More often than not, when a person wanders into one of his shots daily life comes crashing back in.
* * *
Emerging from two weeks of movies, I found myself dazed and overwhelmed, but thankful. Thankful for the Asian quasi-focus, which provided the Festival with an informal theme, and gave the audience, at least those of us who put friends and family on the back burner for two weeks, a chance not only to survey the field but to immerse ourselves in a particular corner of world cinema. But thankful more generally for having been given a chance to see a number of movies I was dying to see, almost none of which disappointed. Most of all, though, I came away with very special feelings towards Chunhyang, Eureka, and Platform, three movies I knew nothing about prior to seeing them. The real pleasure of a film festival, or so I’ve come to believe, rests with the movies you weren’t looking for but come away treasuring most deeply. As much as I loved those other movies, it’s the discoveries, the ones that could so easily have gotten away (and indeed, Eureka and Platform are apparently the only films on the program which may not return), that have been haunting me most persistently. Thankful as I am, I take issue with the Festival for not devoting more of the program to these low-flying, under-the-radar films, by not-so-established directors (I should say again that I didn’t see everything, and that I especially regret missing George Washington, The Taste of Others, and Chronically Unfeasible). Of course, the reason that Wong Kar-Wai, Edward Yang, and Raul Ruiz are as well-established as they are is that they’re favorites on the film festival circuit. But by now they can fend for themselves-they have little trouble, relatively speaking, finding audiences for their films (in New York anyway). It may seem picky finding fault with such an excellent program, but most of the movies I loved at the Festival I’ll be revisiting soon. There are other films out there, though, that may never show up in town, and I’m talking not just about movies I know I want to see (like the new films by Chantal Akerman or Olivier Assayas) but about movies I don’t yet know I want to see-the cinematic unknown soldiers, so to speak. It’s the ghosts of the films that weren’t on the program, the ones which may not be able to book any other sort of passage to New York, that haunted this year’s Festival, and distracted me between great movies.