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At the New York Film Festival, the actors' strike put the spotlight on smaller films

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The New York Film Festival offers industry insiders and the public an early look at some big movies. The fest concludes today, but NPR's arts editor Rose Friedman has been in and out of screenings for two weeks. Rose, it sounds like a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: Exactly. Hi, Ayesha.

RASCOE: (Laughter) Thank you so much for joining us. So we're excited to hear about some of these movies. But first, you know, the actors strike is still ongoing. So how did that affect the festival?

FRIEDMAN: Well, there were some buzzy films for sure. You know, most couldn't have big panels with their casts. But I also noticed it did kind of draw everyone's attention to a lot of great smaller films. I got to see some really incredible things that aren't delayed and are going to be coming out soon.

RASCOE: So what were some of the big movies?

FRIEDMAN: Well, a big movie that had its North American premiere at the festival was also kind of a local story - "Maestro," starring Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan. It's based on the life of Leonard Bernstein.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MAESTRO")

BRADLEY COOPER: (As Leonard Bernstein) Oh, that's 12.

CAREY MULLIGAN: (As Felicia Montealegre) No.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: (As Leonard Bernstein) Six.

MULLIGAN: (As Felicia Montealegre) No.

COOPER: (As Leonard Bernstein) Eight.

MULLIGAN: (As Felicia Montealegre) Try - just concentrate.

COOPER: (As Leonard Bernstein) Maybe I should stop and think for a second.

MULLIGAN: (As Felicia Montealegre) You should stop and think 'cause I am sending it to you.

COOPER: (As Leonard Bernstein) Twenty.

MULLIGAN: (As Felicia Montealegre) No.

(LAUGHTER)

FRIEDMAN: Bernstein is a musical icon, but the movie is really focused on their relationship. You know, it's a little bit melodramatic for me, but it's going to be big because it's also a Netflix movie. It'll be streaming by December. And then another one is Michael Mann's "Ferrari," starring Adam Driver, but, with equal billing, Penelope Cruz as his wife. So both are kind of standard award season biopics. And then there was Yorgos Lanthimos' "Poor Things" with Emma Stone, which I have to say was my favorite of the buzzy movies.

RASCOE: OK, so tell us more about that.

FRIEDMAN: So Yorgos Lanthimos is one of those directors that people like to call a critical darling. He makes these very odd movies. You might remember one called "The Favourite," which got about 10 Oscar nominations in 2019. In this one, Emma Stone plays a Victorian woman who, through a kind of contrived set of circumstances, winds up becoming a baby in a fully grown adult body. So here's a little bit of sound from the trailer.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "POOR THINGS")

WILLEM DAFOE: (As Dr. Godwin Baxter) She's an experiment.

EMMA STONE: (As Bella Baxter) Good evening.

DAFOE: (As Dr. Godwin Baxter) Her brain and her body are not quite synchronized, but she is progressing at an accelerated pace.

FRIEDMAN: Willem Dafoe plays her father figure/sort of creator. Basically, what happens is that as her mind develops, she discovers sex. And because she has no inhibitions and no social norms, she just has it with whoever she wants, whenever she wants.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "POOR THINGS")

STONE: (As Bella Baxter) I am Bella Baxter, and there is a world to enjoy, circumnavigate.

FRIEDMAN: It's honestly - it's a joy to watch her just do exactly what she wants, even as it makes the men around her furious. You know, they can't control her. She's really the hero of the movie. It's a pretty radical movie. And I was a little skeptical because Yorgos Lanthimos had made this movie called "The Lobster" that was about relationships that I thought was really conventional and kind of reinforced straight, middle-class coupledom. So this was just a nice surprise. And I think it's going to be a big Oscar contender when it comes out in December, certainly for Emma Stone.

RASCOE: So what are some of the smaller movies that should be on our radar?

FRIEDMAN: There are so many movies I want to tell you about, especially foreign ones. I keep picking new favorites. But, OK, one I really loved was called "The Taste of Things" - not a great title. This is a French movie with Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel. He plays the owner of an estate. He's this famous gourmet. And she's his cook and, of course, his lover. But it's really a movie about food. It's almost like watching a cookbook come to life. Here's a little of that trailer.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE TASTE OF THINGS")

BENOIT MAGIMEL: (As Dodin Bouffant, speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, speaking French).

MAGIMEL: (As Dodin Bouffant, speaking French).

JULIETTE BINOCHE: (As Eugenie, speaking French).

FRIEDMAN: Why I love this so much is the food on screen and how it's been created. And so even though it has these two very famous actors in it, the guy who designed the food for the production is this equally famous French chef in Paris. And it's just - it's extraordinary to see his kind of, you know, "performance," quote-unquote, on screen with the food here.

RASCOE: Anything else before we let you go?

FRIEDMAN: OK, I loved this Argentine movie called "The Delinquents." The marketing materials are calling it a heist movie. It's not - well, it kind of is. It's about a bank robbery, but the robber is the bank's treasurer. And the amount that he steals is exactly equal to his salary for the next 25 years, which is how long he has until retirement. So it really ends up being a film about sort of the drudgery of work and finding a better and more fulfilling way to live through stealing. But you totally sympathize with him. He's like - he's not trying to get rich. He's just trying to live a life that's not about work. So I don't know. I think that may resonate at sort of a dark level with anyone reconsidering work-life balance.

RASCOE: I guess. But if I was going to steal some money, I'd do more than my salary.

FRIEDMAN: Take a little more.

RASCOE: Come on. If I'm going to go for it, go for it. Oh, my goodness. That's NPR arts editor Rose Friedman. Thank you so much for joining us.

FRIEDMAN: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHITNEY'S "RHODODENDRON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Rose Friedman is an Associate Editor for NPR's Arts, Books & Culture desk. She edits radio pieces on a range of subjects, including books, pop culture, fine arts, theater, obituaries and the occasional Harry Potter-check-in. She is also co-creator of NPR's annual Book Concierge and the podcast recommendation site Earbud.fm. In addition, Rose has edited commentaries for the network, as well as regular features like This Week's Must Read on All Things Considered.
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