New Directors/New Films: overview

I AM LOVE Tilda Swinton and Mattia Zaccaro

With its close-ups of beautiful people, exquisite cuisine and delirious lovemaking in the hills outside Milan, “I Am Love,” a voluptuous Italian melodrama directed by Luca Guadagnino, is the guilty pleasure of this year’s New Directors/New Films series. The movie, which wallows in luxury, has an elegant lead performance by Tilda Swinton and a throbbing musical score by John Adams.

A contemporary descendant of the lush, operatic films of Luchino Visconti, it observes the familial rites of the Recchis, a wealthy Milanese clan whose fortune is built on textiles. Their solidarity is endangered when Ms. Swinton’s character, Emma, whose husband owns the business with one of her two sons, embarks on a headlong secret affair with the son’s best friend, a gifted young chef.

If “I Am Love” isn’t especially profound, it is a cinematic tour de force of bold camera work executed with a Hitchcockian flair and pushed to the brink of excess. The movie is a delicious anomaly in the annual New Directors series, at the Museum of Modern Art and the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, in which social realism usually cancels out this kind of swoonworthy fare.

Most of the other 10 films to be shown in the last days of the series, which concludes on Sunday, focus on wastelands and bitter personal conflicts. The most desolate wasteland is the cultural void of North Korea as revealed in Mads Brugger’s ghastly/funny stunt documentary “The Red Chapel.”

This technically crude home movie, which won the grand jury prize for best world cinema documentary at the Sundance Film Festival this year, follows Mr. Brugger, a Danish journalist, and two Danish-Korean comedians on a Borat-like expedition to put on a slapstick performance in Pyongyang. How they duped the North Korean government into participating in this bogus exercise in cultural exchange boggles the imagination

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