NYFF 2022: White Noise, Showing Up, Triangle of Sadness | Festivals & Awards

Otherwise, it strikes this critic that the 2022 festival is notable for two puzzling changes already causing perplexity in various quarters. One has to do with how the NYFF presents its offerings to the press, a method that, for the first time ever, makes it virtually impossible for critics to see everything in the Main Slate. Unfortunately, this wastes one of the festival’s distinct advantages. While competitors like Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto and the big European festivals host scores or hundreds of titles and thus can press-screen only a fraction of them, New York’s Main Slate has traditionally contained only around 30 films. In the past, its press screenings would run four weeks, with two, three (or rarely, four) films per day screening on weekdays. This year, though, for reasons unknown, the screenings are crammed into three weeks, with four, five, six and even seven films unreeling per day. Moreover, some films are screened in competition with each other: while a Main Slate film plays in the Walter Reade Theater, a film from one of the festival’s other sections (Currents, Spotlight, Revivals) will show at another venue.

This is hectic, exhausting, and, above all, unnecessary. As I can testify, critics who are longtime fans and supporters of the NYFF have appreciated its relative user-friendliness for those covering it. Seeing all of its main attractions, or close to it, may have been challenging, but it was at least possible. This punishing new regimen has occasioned mainly complaints and hopes that the fest will revert to the status quo ante next year.

White Noise

The other puzzling change is the absence of world premieres in the festival’s main slots: Opening Night, Centerpiece and Closing Night. Many top-tier festivals of course demand world premieres for every film in their main sections. Though New York never had the clout to do that, it held onto the practice in its main slots, as a matter of pride and prestige. Oddly, this year’s Opening Night selection, Noah Baumbach’s White Noise,” not only premiered last month at the Venice Film Festival, it was the Opening Night selection there too. (Some observers have wondered if the power of Netflix, the film’s distributor, had anything to do with its unusual festival prominence this season. Interestingly, the NYFF’s printed program this year doesn’t mention distributors of any films. That’s a first too, I think.)

While previous Opening Night films have had the privilege of arriving as unknown quantities, “White Noise” was preceded by its Venice reviews, which were notably less enthusiastic than those for other films at the festival such as Todd Field’s “Tar” (which plays the NYFF next week). Common themes in the critical reaction were that the great success of Baumbach’s last film, “Marriage Story,” was almost bound to make any follow-up seem weaker by comparison; and that a kindred risk lay in the fact that, for the first time ever, Baumbach was adapting another writer’s work—Don DeLillo’s acclaimed 1985 novel, which has sometimes been described as “unfilmable.”

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