Currents: Code Unknown

Graham Foy’s August 22, This Year (2020)

Way, way back in mid-September, just as this year’s New York Film Festival was opening, Artforum posted Tony Pipolo’s preview of the inaugural edition of Currents, the program that replaces Projections, which in turn, took the place of Views from the Avant-Garde. “Currents offers more than a dozen feature-length movies and forty-six shorter works in what may be the strongest blend in years,” wrote Pipolo. “As its title promises, a fair number of the entries are of up-to-the-minute societal relevance.” A few of those features and a good handful of the shorts will screen before this year’s NYFF wraps on Sunday.

One of the shorts programs, Code Unknown, is streaming right now through Saturday. It opens with Humongous!, originally slated to premiere in May as part of the Critics’ Week program in Cannes. In eleven minutes, director Aya Kawazoe, who has studied under Shinya Tsukamoto and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, envelops a young woman in memories of childhood. “Aya clearly values texture over concrete meaning, and this lends Humongous! an admirable subtlety and richness,” writes Michael Sicinski in the Notebook. “The title, it seems, is oddly ironic. This is a paean to small, half-remembered things.”

Another Critics’ Week 2020 selection is Graham Foy’s August 22, This Year, a blend of observed and constructed vignettes. In the world of the film, the title marks the end of time, and all of humanity has come to learn to accept mortality and live fully in the moment. Another big-picture short is Jacqueline Lentzou’s The End of Suffering (a proposal). A woman suffering a panic attack finds herself caught up in conversation with the universe, and the otherworldly voices suggest that she might be happier on Mars, a planet of love, not war. “Lentzou pitches this silent ‘dialogue’ against images of an immense cosmos—a contrast both dreamlike and seductive,” writes Pipolo.

Phạm Ngọc Lân’s The Unseen River is one of five titles that make up Mekong 2030, an anthology project overseen by the Luang Prabang Film Festival. A woman and a fisherman look back thirty years to their brief love affair while a young couple journeys to a temple in search of a cure for insomnia. “Though the characters express an abundance of uncertainty, Phạm Ngọc Lân’s filmmaking is confidently assured,” writes Herb Shellenberger in his program notes for the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival. “Gentle, subtly kinetic camera movements seem to guide the viewer along as if by hand, with delicate zooms into the faces of each character conveying their inner emotions better than any dialogue ever could.”

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