By David Hudson

The only repeat screening at New Directors/New Films today is Viola. The rest of the day is given to first screenings of three more features.

“The omnipresent power of criminals that resides beneath the buff and shine of Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy provides the context for Leonardo di Costanzo’s narrative debut, L’Intervallo,” writes Chris Cabin in Slant. “Teenaged Salvatore (Alessio Gallo) works as a lemon-ice-cart operator alongside his father, but even such menial, low-wage work is subject to the sway of those with guns. The cart is stolen from Salvatore by a local thug, Mimmo (Salvatore Ruocco), who promises to return the young man’s sole means of employment in exchange for babysitting Veronica (Francesca Riso), a smart-ass lady friend to chief hood Bernardino (Carmine Paternoster), who’ll arrive by nightfall to relieve him.”

“The spirit of neo-Realism lives on in this modest, beautifully realized film,” finds the New York TimesA.O. Scott. “The subtle simplicity of the director’s style perfectly complements the sophistication and sensitivity of the storytelling.”

Writing for the London Film Review, Paul Risker finds that “a sense of natural realism… is achieved through Di Costanzo’s patience and his employment of the documentary form’s necessity of observation.” More from Robert Bell (Exclaim!), Howard Feinstein (Filmmaker), Patrick Gamble (CineVue), Chris Knipp, and Jorge Mourinha.

Jards is a jam session,” writes Steve Macfarlane in Slant. “Taking an apparent cue from Robert Altman’s definition of jazz as ‘an extension of a moment,’ the documentary manages to avoid confessional pitfalls or gotcha-style interviewing by giving the full of its frame to 70-year-old samba musician Jards Macalé. There’s no checklisting of albums, drug busts, or divorces, with director Eryk Rocha (son of Glauber) instead focusing on the primal sum of the musician’s performances in making his new album (also called Jards). No talking heads or fawning acolytes appear to contextualize Macalé within the tidal wave of post-bossa nova Brazilian music or weigh in on his relevance to future generations.”

Rocha “presents his human subject through a variety of styles and shooting formats,” noted Aaron Cutler in Idiom last November. “While in the musical sequences Jards almost invariably appears in high-res color HDCam images, the qualities of the quiet, solitary interludes between them vary greatly. Sometimes Jards, sitting on the veranda of his beach house or walking alone as waves crash impressionistically around him, is seen in color, sometimes in black-and-white. Sometimes he is shot from an outsider’s observational view in full curved figure; at other moments, it’s as if you’re seeing the air vibrate blurrily through his bespectacled eyes. Sometimes, without explanation or transition, the grainy, tattered, film images captured during his youth run onscreen, as a jovial young man parties with friends in an alleyway. These are moments of downtime, allowing space for reflection. Each different style, we sense, reflects a different part of Jards’ head—long-bubbling introspection and brief, immediate joy, distorting darkness, distending radiance. They all come together with force and energy when he sings.”

Chris Knipp finds that “the arty visual approach was unnecessary, even detrimental in presenting the work of such a first-rate musician.”

Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell has been touring the festival circuit ever since its Venice Days premiere in August (here‘s a roundup that collected reviews over a two-week period), and what’s more, “having made three previous features, Polley is no longer anyone’s idea of a ‘new’ director,” grants Scott Foundas in the Voice. “But by any measure, Stories We Tell is her most daring, formally inventive work—a shape-shifting film inspired by the adult Polley’s discovery that the man she grew up calling ‘dad’ might not be her biological father. That much is true, but much of what follows in Stories toys with our belief in the validity of moving images (and the sounds that accompany them) as Polley sets out on a trans-Canadian quest to unravel the mystery of her parentage.”

“There are huge surprises in this movie, both narrative and formal,” writes A.O. Scott in the NYT, “but even more impressive than its ingenuity are the generosity of spirit Ms. Polley demonstrates as she contemplates the fallibility of her parents, and the ethical seriousness with which she addresses the challenges of filmmaking. This is one of the boldest and most exciting films I’ve seen in the last six months, and the kind of experience that has the power to alter your perception of the world.”

“The film’s greatest success is the way it captures the essence of what it means to be a family,” finds Nick McCarthy, writing in Slant, “despite the fissures in the cracks of its foundation—that sly ethos from which we appreciate, become annoyed, feel guilty, and ultimately understand our relations both socially and genetically. The pieces of film feel intertwined with DNA, and the audience feels welcome yet suitably unnerved while learning the various dynamics and attitudes in this exhaustive and tricky story, which ricochets into new narratives with every new discovery.”

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