The SAG-AFTRA strike, a wild card throughout the fall festival season, has created a closing stretch of the New York Film Festival unlike many (any?) of its 60 previous editions.
The presence of talent onstage at Walter Reade Theater, thanks to an interim agreement for publicity obtained by distributor Neon before the film’s August 31 world premiere in Venice, offered a welcome dose of the familiar. Not only was the stage picture a recognizable one, but the themes of the conversation all covered well-established terrain. (The strike, for example, never came up.) Topics included the film’s production in Italy, Mann’s decades-long quest to get it made and the cast’s exhaustive research.
Cruz said her character, Laura Ferrari, “was even more involved [in the auto company] than we see here. From her reading, the actor added, “I learned that she would sleep next to the tires, during the races, so that nobody would touch them.” Mann’s writing and direction, Cruz added, made the character a “beautiful homage to all the women who continue to live in the shadow of men.” Driver recalled the extensive training on the track learning to drive period-specific racecars, which had no roofs and large, skinny wheels. With no seatbelts, he said, “the goal was to get thrown from the car [in the event of an accident] because that was considered more safe than to be locked in this moving coffin.”
Ferrari‘s splashy Friday followed a premiere the night before that offered a distinctly less glitzy experience. The Curse, an A24/Showtime series co-created by and starring Benny Safdie and Nathan Fielder, with Emma Stone also in a lead role, had its world premiere at Alice Tully Hall, though only NYFF Artistic Director Dennis Lim ventured onto the vast Tully stage.
“The Screen Actors Guild guidelines permit Benny and Nathan to watch these episodes with us tonight,” Lim explained, “so please welcome them, they’re in the audience.” The pair got an enthusiastic ovation, but the house lights and spotlights remained dark. Lim also acknowledged Stone, who was not in attendance but also stars in two other NYFF entries, Poor Things and short film Bleat.
The Curse is the first TV series to premiere at NYFF, though the fest’s presenting organization, Film at Lincoln Center, has shown Breaking Bad and other episodic fare at its commercial arthouse. The first three of the 12 episodes in the series won over the audience from the opening moments, generating regular laughs and hearty applause. A couple hundred attendees stayed in the lobby and outside the building on Broadway well after the lights came up, lingering despite the absence of customary festival components like a reception or an onstage Q&A.
In his introduction, Lim called The Curse “as brilliant, wild, perverse, hilarious, uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing as you’d expect” given its principals were behind Uncut Gems (Safdie) and The Rehearsal (Fielder). He said the programming team decided to invite it because its aesthetic belongs alongside the rest of the slate. “Everything about this screams ‘cinema’ to me,” he said.
The 61st edition of NYFF, which began amid heavy rain and extreme flooding, officially winds down Sunday with David Fincher’s The Killer in a Spotlight Selection.