The line-up for the New York Film Festival, happening from September 29 to October 15 at Lincoln Center, has been announced, and I have to say that it’s one of the best at any festival anywhere in the world this year. There are a couple of movies I was hoping to see on the schedule (hello, The Fountain? Aronofsky’s a New York City boy! And what about The Departed? I think its absence here might be a rotten sign), but there are also a couple of movies that are exciting surprises. I’m psyched to see The Host, the much buzzed about Korean monster movie, on the schedule. It’s great that David Lynch’s The Inland Empire is playing. Marie Antoinette had a tough reception at Cannes, so I’m interested in checking it out here and making up my own mind. Stephen Frears’ The Queen is a nice surprise – it’s his take on the British royal family in the days after Princess Diana’s death. Warren Beatty’s Reds makes a 25th anniversary appearance with a new print before hitting DVD. And of course there’s the closing night film, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which I am still dying to see (my dumb screening got cancelled tonight!).
Here are the films, in alphabetical order. Visit the New York Film Festival website here to buy your tickets.
Michael Apted, United Kingdom
The seventh segment of the landmark documentary series catches up with a dozen of the 14 British participants whose lives have been chronicled every seven years. Conceived 42 years ago, the first film, 7 Up, examined the worlds of a multi-ethnic, multi-class cross-section of children. Michael Apted, a researcher for the original film, returns to interview the “children”, now on the cusp of their 50s, on a variety of subjects including love, marriage, career, class and prejudice and captures more life changing decisions and shocking revelations than ever before.
A First Run Features Release
August Days (Dies d’agost)
Marc Recha, Spain
Part fiction, part documentary and part personal essay, August Days is a lucid and touching re-creation of a trip actually made by director Marc Recha (The Cherry Tree) and his brother David (both of whom play themselves), an experience now understood as a key moment in the director’s artistic evolution. Having hit a creative block while trying to conceive a new work based on the memoirs of a recently deceased friend, Marc is convinced by his twin brother David to take a break and to accompany him on a trip through the back roads of Catalonia. During the journey they re-establish the closeness somewhat dissipated since going their separate ways; have several brief interludes with strangers they meet on their way; and hear a number of stories, such as the one about a man-eating fish with whiskers that trawls a local lake. But what comes to define their time together are the extraordinary landscapes they encounter, each mountain passage or river run teeming with memories and
Abderrahmane Sissako, France / Mali
In the dusty courtyard of a West African communal dwelling, a remarkable tribunal has been set up. On trial are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, accused of bankrupting the African nations that they supposedly intended to support. It’s a tribute to the extraordinary artistry of Abderrahmane Sissako (Waiting for Happiness, NYFF 2002) that he’s able to alternate so effortlessly the images and rhythms of everyday village life (commerce goes on, a couple gets married) with a stark exposé of the causes of underdevelopment; prosecutors offer devastating critiques of so-called aid and development packages, while the accused and their attorneys defend their record and seek to shift the blame elsewhere.
Manoel de Oliveira, France
In an homage to auteur Luis Buñuel by Portuguese master Manoel de Oliveira (soon to celebrate his 98th birthday), Belle Toujours revolves around two characters from Buñuel’s Belle de Jour, that are reunited 38 years later. Séverine Serizy (Bulle Ogier, in the role originated by Catherine Deneuve) tries to avoid Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli) but he lures her with the promise to reveal a past secret. Severine, now a widow, expects a resolution but is driven to despair; Henri is satisfied that he has exacted the perfect revenge on the woman he both desires and detests.
A New Yorker Films Release
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey
Nuri Bilge Ceylan builds on a major theme found in his earlier films, Clouds of May and Distant (NYFF 2004)—the ravage caused by the inability to express one’s feelings—in this visually stunning tale of a couple’s rupture and the aftermath. The director himself plays the lead role of Isa, a selfish architecture teacher, who after breaking up with the only woman he every cared about (played by Ebru Ceylan, the director’s wife), travels across Turkey while attempting to come to terms with his need for her.
A Zeitgeist Films Release
Barbara Albert, Austria
Inspired by actresses of her generation who have influenced Austrian cinema, Barbara Albert brings together five women in their early thirties who meet for the first time in 14 years when they return to their small home town to attend their favorite teacher’s funeral. The reunion unexpectedly propels them in a new direction as old wounds are re-opened, friendships are re-ignited and each of them wonders whether they have lost sight of their dreams. Albert is clearly a leading figure in the most recently emerging generation of European filmmakers.
Gardens of Autumn (Jardins en automne)
Otar Iosseliani, France
In the comic, floating world of Otar Iosseliani (Monday Morning, NYFF 2002), people betray their vanities and fears with sardonically amusing, telltale eccentricities that propel them headlong into a series of comic misadventures. In this latest symphony of folly, Iosseliani’s warmest and most winning, we chart the life of Vincent, a powerful minister with an immense office, innumerable staff, a limousine and a beautiful wife, Odile, who spends all his money. But his world is transformed when the people he has ignored for so long, rise up in protest and force him to step down. Finding himself alone, back in his childhood apartment, his friends re-acquaint him with the simple pleasures of music, drinking, flirting—and the beauty of public gardens.
The Go Master (Wu qingyuan)
Tian Zhuangzhuang, China
The Go Master is based on the true-life story of the world’s most renowned master of the ancient Asian game of Go, Wu Qingyuan. A Chinese prodigy practicing a Japanese game, Wu’s allegiances are torn by the increasingly bellicose relations between the two countries. Remaining in Japan in spite of the outbreak of war, and later, sucked into a religious cult which tries to exploit his celebrity, Wu (excellently played by Chang Chen) is the still center of the storm, following his own inner notions of spiritual integrity and loyalty to the discipline of his chosen vocation. Few filmmakers today can make movies as visually elegant and psychologically astute as Tian Zhuangzhuang (The Blue Kite, NYFF 1993).
The Host (Gwoemul)
Bong Joon-ho, South Korea
A smash hit in South Korea, the exhilarating third picture from Bong Joon-ho is the decade’s best monster movie. Its premise has a 1950s purity: Toxins from a U.S. military base flow into the Han River causing the birth of a mutant creature (imagine the world’s hugest, most malevolent guppy) which proceeds to terrorize Seoul. When it grabs a little girl, her dysfunctional family must band together to save her. Bong’s movie is everything our homegrown horror movies are not—funny, suspenseful, rich with ideas and intelligent about family values.
A Magnolia Pictures Release
The Inland Empire
David Lynch, France / USA
A Polish woman looks, intently, into someone or something … an actress (Laura Dern) is warned that her new movie is cursed … a rabbit-headed family perform sit-com actions on a stage set as if engaged in a solemn ritual … Such are just a few of the elements and recurrent motifs of The Inland Empire, a mesmerizing surge through countless looking glasses that lands us on the far side of the land of nightmares. Lynch’s first foray into high-definition video is just as visually stunning as his work in 35mm, but the long gestation period of his new film (he shot on and off over two years, and wrote as he went) has allowed him to give his own uniquely epic form to many of his primary concerns: the exploitation of young women, the mutability of identity, the omnivorousness of Hollywood.
Lino Brocka, The Philippines, 1976
The first Filipino film screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Insiang begins as the title character, marvelously played by Hilda Koronel, watches as her mother, Tonia (Mona Lisa), eases her relatives out of their ramshackle house so that she can ease in her boyfriend, Dado (Ruel Vernal). It doesn’t take long for Dado to notice the beautiful Insiang, and soon the three are locked in a vicious emotional and sexual triangle clearly heading for some kind of explosion. Like his contemporary R.W. Fassbinder, Brocka used the conventions of melodrama in order to transcend them; if Hell is other people, with Insiang Brocka created one darkest visions of the inferno ever committed to film. A New York Film Festival Retrospective.
The Journal of Knud Rasmussen
Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, Canada
The new film by Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn focuses on the Danish explorer and scientist Knud Rasmussen’s visit to the isolated camp of the great Igluik shaman, Aua, in 1922. Rasmussen and his protégé, the young anthropologist Therkel Mathiasse, are captivated by the artic paradise, an intoxicating mix of spiritual and physical vitality, amazing intelligence and exuberant generosity. But the tranquility of the nomadic Inuit community is interrupted and irreversibly marred by encroaching Christianity, foreign goods and the shocking first murder of a white man.
Todd Field, USA
Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Patrick Wilson star in Todd Field’s multi-layered romantic drama that is loosely based on the acclaimed Tom Perrotta novel. Little Children follows a group of young married couples whose lives intersect in the playgrounds, town pools and streets of their small community in surprising and potentially dangerous ways. The lives of the seemingly perfect parents are disrupted when a mom has an affair with the neighborhood’s only stay-at-home dad, causing everyone involved to look inside themselves and discover what they really want in life.
A New Line Cinema Release
Alberto Lattuada, Italy, 1962
A comic classic from the Golden Age of Italian cinema. Antonio (Alberto Sordi), a conscientious factory official, takes his wife and children to meet his family in Sicily and finds himself in the favor of local mobster Don Vincenzo (Ugo Attansio). Terrified and conflicted, he tells his family that he is going hunting but instead seeks out an enemy of the mafia in New York. A New York Film Festival Retrospective.
A Rialto Pictures Release
Sofia Coppola, USA
Academy Award®-winning Sofia Coppola’s new film brings to the screen an imaginative interpretation of the life of France’s legendary teenage queen Marie Antoinette. When betrothed to King Louis XVI (Jason Shwartzman), the naïve Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) enters the opulent French court, which is steeped in conspiracy and scandal. Without guidance, adrift in a dangerous world, the young girl rebels against the isolated atmosphere of Versailles and becomes France’s most misunderstood monarch. A strong supporting cast including Marianne Faithful as Maria-Theresa and Rip Torn as Louis XV.
A Columbia Pictures release
Jafar Panahi, Iran
A tireless chronicler of the inequities and contradictions of contemporary Iran, Jafar Panahi here traces a group of Iranian girls who attempt to enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium dressed as boys to watch a major football tournament. Their deliberate flouting of the law, which forbids women to enter stadiums, puts them at great risk as they are caught, arrested and punished, yet nothing can quell their spirit of rebelliousness—or their willingness to ignore a law they consider unjust.
A Sony Pictures Classic Release
Our Daily Bread
Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria
Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s sparse and restrained documentary about food-manufacturing factories is punctuated with footage of anonymous workers and startling images of meat processing. The measured, un-narrated piece aptly demonstrates humans’ disconnection from their meals. The few scenes with factory workers enjoying their lunch break before heading back to operate the unearthly machines underscores the fascinating polarity that such a messy business as eating starts in these clinical and robotic environments.
A First Run / Icarus Films Release
Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) – CLOSING NIGHT FILM
Guillermo Del Toro, Spain / Mexico
Guillermo Del Toro’s sixth and most ambitious film, Pan’s Labyrinth is a gothic fairy tale set against the postwar repression of Franco’s Spain. The film centers on Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a lonely and dreamy child living with her mother (Ariadna Gil) and adoptive father (Sergi López), a military officer tasked with ridding the area of rebels. In her loneliness, Ofelia creates a world filled with fantastical creatures and secret destinies. With post-war repression at its height, Ofelia must come to terms with her world through a fable of her own creation. The film is a haunting story that deftly combines the director’s penchant for the fantastical with a rich historical vision.
A Picturehouse Release
Satoshi Kon, Japan
Satoshi Kon’s new animé plays like a head-on collision between Hello Kitty and Philip K. Dick. The plot starts with a machine that lets therapists enter patients’ dreams: When it’s stolen, all hell breaks loose, and only a woman therapist (nicknamed “Paprika”) seems able to stop it. Kon is a brilliant director by any standard and as the characters shuttle from dream to dream, nightmare to nightmare, Paprika becomes a thrilling tour-de-force of visual invention—every frame is packed with imagination. This delightful movie is bursting with ideas about Japanese repression, multiple identities, collective dreams and the dark side of his countrymen’s love of Cute.
A Sony Pictures Entertainment Release
Poison Friends (Les Amities Malefiques)
Emmanuel Bourdieu, France
Eloi (Malik Zidi) and Alexandre (Alexandre Steiger) meet André on the first day of the academic year. Seduced by his cool behavior, charisma and intelligence, they easily fall prey to his charm. André (Thibault Vinçon) offers them friendship and mentoring in return for a pledge of loyalty. Overcome with admiration, Eloi and Alexandre bow to the harsh discipline until the day that he leaves them pretending he has earned a scholarship at an American University. Suddenly left to their own devices, Eloi and Alexandre have nobody to turn to and must grow up.
A Strand Releasing Release
Private Fears in Public Places (Coeurs)
Alain Resnais, France
Alain Resnais collaborates again with British playwright, Alan Ayckbourn. The setting is snow-covered Paris where six lonely peoples’ lives collide. André Dussolier is the real estate agent in love with his pious assistant (Sabine Azéma) who moonlights as a home care worker for the demanding father of a widowed bartender (Pierre Arditi). One of his customers, a bitter army vet (Lambert Wilson) splits from his fiancée (Laura Morante) and meets a shy young woman (Isabel Carré) who lives with her brother, the real estate agent. Ineffably graceful, Private Fears is a heartbreakingly delicate meditation on loss, uncertainty and love, made with the kind of serene wisdom available only to true masters.
The Queen – OPENING NIGHT FILM
Steven Frears, United Kingdom
With Helen Mirren in the title role, The Queen is an intimate, revealing and frequently acidly funny portrait of the British royal family during the dramatic days after the death of Princess Diana. Stephen Frears’ fictionalized account features James Cromwell as Prince Phillip and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair and captures the interaction between the royal household and the government during their struggle to reach a compromise between allowing privacy for a personal family tragedy and the public’s demand for an overt display of mourning.
A Miramax Films Release
Warren Beatty, USA
Reds is a masterful political and historical epic that mesmerized critics and audiences alike. A love story between activists John Reed (Warren Beatty) and Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) set against the backdrop of the outbreak of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, it became an American cinematic milestone, garnering 12 Academy Award® nominations in 1982—more than any film in the previous 15 years. The film boasts a tremendous supporting cast including Jack Nicholson as playwright Eugene O’Neill, Gene Hackman, Paul Sorvino and Maureen Stapleton. A New York Film Festival Retrospective.
A Paramount Pictures Release
Syndromes and a Century
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand / France / Austria
Syndromes and a Century is an exploration of how people remember as well as a fictional account of the lives of filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s parents before they became lovers. The movie is broken into two distinct, but analogous parts: one focusing on a female doctor in a small-town clinic, the other on a male doctor at a big city hospital. What unites the stories is Apichatpong’s superb eye for nuances of feeling and an alluring knack for finding marvelous moments, be it a droll Bangkok doctor boozing it up before she appears on TV or the exquisite poetry of villagers listening to a Thai country-western singer serenading the night.
These Girls (El-Banate dol )
Tahani Rached, Egypt
Filmmaker Tahani Rached’s sensitive documentary delves in to the marginalized existence of adolescent girls on the streets of Cairo, many of who are escaping acute poverty and abuse. All exude astonishing strength and camaraderie whilst coping with a gamut of human experiences ranging from rape, drug abuse and prostitution to pregnancy and motherhood. This uncompromising film follows the girls over an extended period of time, allowing us to discover the inner workings of an invisible section of Middle Eastern society.
Triad Election (Hak se wui yi wo wai kwai)
Johnnie To, Hong Kong
Jimmy (Louis Koo, one of the superstars of Hong Kong cinema) is in the running for the coveted post of Triad president. He faces resistance from his “godfather” Lok (Simon Yam), who has served his two-year term and makes an increasingly desperate effort to throw tradition to the wind and maintain his position. As the power plays escalate, so does the violence … not to mention the virtuosity of director Johnnie To, who creates one spectacular cinematic set piece after another. To is working deep within the gangster genre, whose traditions he observes with the greatest respect even as he’s busy revitalizing and re-contextualizing them. But he’s also given Triad Election a genuinely political edge: in To’s dog-eat-dog vision, the body of free-market expansion beats with a savage heart.
A Tartan Films Release
Volver – CENTERPIECE PRESENTATION
Pedro Almodóvar, Spain
Pedro Almodóvar’s 16th feature returns to his roots; the lively working-class neighborhoods, where immigrants from various Spanish provinces share dreams, lives and fortune with a multitude of ethnic groups and other races. Three generations of women survive wind, fire and even death, thanks to goodness, audacity and a limitless vitality. With an ensemble female cast: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohanna Cobo and Chus Lampreare that was awarded an ensemble award at the recent Cannes Film Festival.
A Sony Pictures Classics release
Woman on the Beach (Haebyonui yoin)
Hong Sang-soo, South Korea
A filmmaker, trying to complete a script, stumbles into relationships with two women during a stay at an off-season seaside resort. The affairs reveal the patterns of destructive behavior that define his romantic relationships—and generate material for the new film. Even for director Hong Sang-soo’s many admirers, his new film turns out to be an unexpected delight—the most sheerly enjoyable and satisfying film of his career. Even as Woman on the Beach brilliantly explores one of Hong’s enduring themes—the Korean male psyche in all its willfulness, anger and self-contempt—it brings its female characters to the forefront in a revelatory new way.