NYFF59 Announces Spotlight section and if you’re not freaking out, you should be.

FILM AT LINCOLN CENTER ANNOUNCES SPOTLIGHT FOR THE
59th NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

Film at Lincoln Center just announced Spotlight for the 59th New York Film Festival. The Spotlight section is NYFF’s showcase of the season’s most anticipated and significant films. We’re pretty excited to see what’s on the schedule, including a double dose of Timothée Chalamet in DUNE and THE FRENCH DISPATCH. Sean Baker’s newest film RED ROCKET starring Simon Rex will sure to have sparks flying. Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s directorial debut THE LOST DAUGHTER and Mike Mills’ C’MON C’MON. 20th Century Women was my favorite title from NYFF54, so I’m eager to see what story he has for audiences this year.  You can find the entire Spotlight lineup listed below.


“Our Spotlight section is a new part of our reshaped New York Film Festival, a place that this year encompasses a range of cinema, new and old,” said Eugene Hernandez, Director of the New York Film Festival. “Of the new work, we’re showcasing a selection of anticipated films (and talent) from recent festivals (Wes & company! Olivia! Timmy! Jane & Charlotte! Joaquin! and more), while also looking back at our roots, celebrating the history of NYFF and New York City’s film culture by shining a special light on Amos Vogel. We hope that our Spotlight section, in year two, will again engage, enlighten, and entertain!”

Among the highlights are Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated adaptation of Dune; Academy Award–nominated director Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle, a visually extraordinary tale about a shy teenager who becomes an online sensation as a pop star; Mike Mills’s C’mon C’mon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a warmhearted radio journalist; Wes Anderson’s latest, The French Dispatch, showcasing his unmistakable cinematic style with a cast of familiar collaborators; directorial debuts from Charlotte Gainsbourg, profiling her legendary mother Jane Birkin in Jane By Charlotte, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, adapting Elena Ferrante’s novel The Lost Daughter, with a brilliant performance by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman; veteran Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio’s Marx Can Wait, a heart-wrenching examination of the legacy of his twin brother’s suicide, on the occasion of a family reunion in his hometown of Piacenza; and Red Rocket, Sean Baker’s newest depiction of contemporary America as a playground for hustlers and con men, set against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election.

NYFF59 also pays tribute to the centenary of late film programmer and festival co-founder Amos Vogel—who offered the city “films you cannot see elsewhere,” and whose uncompromising dedication to the medium’s radical possibilities inspired NYC film culture as it exists today—with a special Spotlight sidebar. Vogel’s wide-ranging curatorial career spanned his many years running Cinema 16, America’s most influential film society; his foundational work at Lincoln Center; his time at Grove Press; and his classic study Film as a Subversive Art, which will soon be reissued by The Film Desk. FLC’s tribute focuses on the NYFF period, bookended by screenings devoted to his work before and after his involvement with the festival, including films from Glauber Rocha, John Huston, and trailblazers of the Czech New Wave; a program from NYFF5 sidebar The Social Cinema in America, featuring Lebert Bethune’s Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, Santiago Álvarez’s dispatch from post-revolutionary Cuba, Now, and David Neuman and Ed Pincus’s snapshot of Civil Rights-era Mississippi, Black Natchez; and works from the era’s burgeoning avant-garde scene, such as Tony Conrad’s The Flicker and a world premiere restoration of Robert Frerck’s Nebula II.


FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS

Belle
Mamoru Hosoda, 2021, Japan, 121m
Japanese with English subtitles
In his densely beautiful, eye-popping animated spectacle, Academy Award–nominated director Mamoru Hosoda (Mirai) tells the exhilarating story of a shy teenager who becomes an online sensation as a princess of pop. Still grieving over a childhood tragedy, Suzu has a difficult time singing in public or talking to her crush at school, yet when she takes on the persona of her glittering, pink-haired avatar, Belle, in the parallel virtual universe known as the “U,” her insecurities magically disappear. As her star begins to rise, Belle/Suzu finds herself drawn to another “U” fan favorite—a scary but soulful monster whose “real” identity, like Belle’s, becomes a source of fascination for legions. Both a knowing riff on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and a moving commentary on the duality of contemporary living, Belle is a thrilling journey into the matrix and a deeply human coming-of-age story, packed with unforgettable images and dazzlingly styled characters. A GKIDS release.

C’mon C’mon
Mike Mills, 2021, USA, 108m
After gracing audiences with Beginners and 20th Century Women (NYFF54), writer-director Mike Mills returns with another warm, insightful, and gratifyingly askew portrait of American family life. A soulful Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a kindhearted radio journalist deep into a project in which he interviews children across the U.S. about our world’s uncertain future. His sister, Viv (a marvelously intuitive Gaby Hoffmann), asks him to watch her 9-year-old son, Jesse (Woody Norman, in one of the most affecting breakout child performances in years), while she tends to the child’s father, who’s suffering from mental health issues. After agreeing, Johnny finds himself connecting with his nephew in ways he hadn’t expected, ultimately taking Jesse with him on a journey from Los Angeles to New York to New Orleans. Anchored by three remarkable actors, C’mon C’mon is a gentle yet impeccably crafted drama about coming to terms with personal trauma and historical legacies. An A24 release.

Dune
Denis Villeneuve, 2021, USA, 155m
A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive. Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem lead the all-star ensemble in visionary filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal novel. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.

​​The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson, 2021, USA, 107m
English and French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Wes Anderson’s unmistakable cinematic style proves delightfully suited to periodical format in this missive from the eponymous expatriate journal, published on behalf of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun from the picturesque French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. Brought to press by a corps of idiosyncratic correspondents, the issue includes reports on a criminal artist and his prison guard muse, student revolutionaries, and a memorable dinner with a police commissioner and his personal chef. As brimming with finely tuned texture as a juicy issue of a certain New York–based magazine to which the film pays homage, The French Dispatch features precision work from a full masthead of collaborators (including Bill Murray, Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton,  Benicio del Toro, Frances McDormand, and Jeffrey Wright), each propagating inventive dedication to detail. Anderson’s deadpan whimsy is complemented by the film’s palpable sense of nostalgia. A Searchlight Pictures release.

Jane by Charlotte
Charlotte Gainsbourg, 2021, France, 86m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In creating a documentary portrait of a parent, as actor Charlotte Gainsbourg does in her directorial debut, one could overly flatter the subject or iron out the tough creases. Gainsbourg avoids these traps in her wise and wondrous film about her legendary mother, the singer and actress Jane Birkin. Consisting of several intimate conversations between parent and child, as well as footage of Birkin performing onstage, the result is a spare, loving window into the emotional lives of two women as they talk about subject matter that ranges from the delightful to the difficult: aging, dying, insomnia, celebrity, and their differing memories of their shared past, which includes Charlotte’s father and Jane’s husband, Serge Gainsbourg. Jane by Charlotte is an unexpected, imaginatively visualized work that affords intimate access to someone whom many of us only think we know.

The Lost Daughter
Maggie Gyllenhaal, 2021, USA/Greece, 121m
In her striking feature directorial debut, Maggie Gyllenhaal adapts the 2006 novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante, a potent work of psychological interiority that follows Leda, a divorced professor on a solitary summer vacation who becomes intrigued and then oddly involved in the lives of another family she meets there. Oscar-winner Olivia Colman brilliantly embodies this quietly tempestuous character, finely shading in the enigmatic relationships she creates with strangers. A moving, sometimes unsettling inquiry into motherhood and personal freedom, Gyllenhaal’s adaptation maintains Ferrante’s signature ambiguity and matter-of-fact style, and features an outstanding supporting cast, including Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, Dakota Johnson, Paul Mescal, Alba Rohrwacher, and Peter Sarsgaard. A Netflix release.

Marx Can Wait
Marco Bellocchio, 2021, Italy, 95m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In his most achingly personal film to date, legendary Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio—an NYFF mainstay from the very beginning, from Fists in the Pocket (NYFF3) to The Traitor (NYFF57)—uses the occasion of a family reunion in his hometown of Piacenza to excavate and discuss a traumatic event: the death his twin brother Camillo, who committed suicide in the late ’60s at age 29. Through detailed conversations with his siblings, archival footage providing context about 20th-century Italian leftist politics, and occasional clips from his films, many of which were in some way imbued with this defining family tragedy, Bellocchio conducts a personal and historical exorcism. Reckoning with the push-pull the director has long felt between the twin poles of family and politics, Marx Can Wait is an attempt at reconciliation and understanding from a filmmaker in his eighties whose work has never shied away from the challenging or the provocative.

Red Rocket
Sean Baker, 2021, USA, 128m
Adding to his gallery of jet-fueled portraits of economic hardship within marginalized pockets of the U.S., director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, NYFF55) trains his restless camera on an unforgettable protagonist. Mikey, a wildly narcissistic former porn star fallen on hard times, has returned from L.A. to his depressed, postindustrial hometown of Texas City, reconnecting with his skeptical, drug-dependent estranged wife and mother-in-law, and using his wily charms to ingratiate himself into a community of people he couldn’t care less about. As played by a brilliantly cast Simon Rex (a star MTV VJ in the ’90s), Mikey is a charismatic force of nature—and destruction—who exploits the innocence and goodwill of everyone around him. Pointedly set against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election, Red Rocket is an aptly steamed-up depiction of contemporary America as a playground for hustlers and con men. An A24 release.

The Souvenir
Joanna Hogg, 2019, UK/USA, 119m
The follow-up to her 2013 feature Exhibition finds Joanna Hogg mining her own autobiography to craft a portrait of the artist as a young woman in early 1980s London. Caught between her dreams of becoming a filmmaker and her commitment to a toxic romance, 24-year-old Julie (an excellent Honor Swinton Byrne) comes home each night from film school to the Knightsbridge apartment owned by her mother (Tilda Swinton) only to discover some new, unpleasant surprise proffered by her boyfriend, Anthony (Tom Burke), a dandyish junkie whose sophisticated aura masks an abyss of selfishness and desperation. An eminently refined and moving bildungsroman about the ties that inexplicably bind, The Souvenir—as its title suggests—is also an absorbing evocation of a time, place, and national mood. An A24 release.  The Souvenir Part II is an NYFF59 Main Slate selection.


AMOS VOGEL CENTENARY RESTROSPECTIVE

Program 1, 113m
Cinema 16
At a time when moviegoing in New York was dominated by Hollywood offerings, Amos Vogel, a young Austrian émigré, and his wife Marcia saw the need for a new kind of venue. In the fall of 1947, they founded Cinema 16, inspired by European film societies as well as the daily screenings at the Museum of Modern Art, the shows Maya Deren organized of her own work at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village, and Frank Stauffacher’s Art in Cinema series in San Francisco. The organization, named after the gauge of the independent filmmaker, would become the most important film society of its era. Unlike a typical movie theater, Cinema 16 was based on a subscription model, with members paying a fee for a season of programs—an approach that allowed for financial stability, and a means by which to thwart the local censorship board. By the 1950s, 7,000 adventurous cinephiles had joined.

It was through Vogel that many of the period’s most vital auteurs were introduced to New York audiences. As historian Scott MacDonald has noted, Cinema 16 “was one of the first, if not the first, American exhibitor to present the work of Robert Breer, John Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner, Joseph Cornell, Brian DePalma, Georges Franju, Robert Gardner, John Hubley, Alexander Kluge, Jan Lenica, Richard Lester, Norman McLaren, Jonas Mekas, Nagisa Oshima, Yasujiro Ozu, Sidney Peterson, Roman Polanski, Alain Resnais, Tony Richardson, Jacques Rivette, Lionel Rogosin, Carlos Saura, Arne Sucksdorff, François Truffaut, Stan Vanderbeek, Melvin Van Peebles, Agnes Varda, and Peter Weiss.”

The significance of Cinema 16, however, lies not simply in what was shown, but how. Vogel would routinely bring together strikingly different works—pairing, for instance, an abstract animation with a science film, allowing both to be understood, contrapuntally, in a new light. For this screening, we’ve recreated the May 1950 program, with Vogel’s original notes.

The Lead Shoes
Sidney Peterson, 1949, USA, 16mm, 18m
A surrealist exploration of two ballads, “Edward” and “The Three Ravens,” scrambled in jam session style and interwoven with a boogie-woogie score. Produced by Workshop 20 at California Institute of Fine Arts.

Unconscious Motivation
Lester F. Beck, USA, 1949, 16mm, 40m
Produced by Dr. Lester F. Beck of the University of Oregon, this astonishing 40-minute motion picture is an unrehearsed, authentic clinical record, showing the inducement of an artificial neurosis by hypnotic suggestion in a young man and a young woman. Upon reawakening, the subjects, by means of dream analysis, ink blot and word association tests, gradually realize first the existence of a traumatic experience and then its content by slowly reconstructing the bogus events which caused it. Their reactions, discussion and self-analysis were spontaneous, unrehearsed and unpredictable: the result is a most unusual motion picture. Print courtesy of Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive.

The Battle of San Pietro
John Huston, USA, 1945, 35mm, 38m
A master of the cinema, John Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) portrays the horror of battle and the cruelty of its aftermath in unforgettable images that make this one of the great anti-war films of all time. Print preserved by the Academy Film Archive.

The Work of Oskar Fischinger
Study No. 11, Germany, 1932, 16mm, 4m
Allegretto, USA, 1936-43, 35mm, 2.5m
Motion Painting No. 1, USA, 1947, 35mm, 11m
The father of the “absolute film” and internationally famous film experimentalist is here represented by three films: Absolute Film Study No. 11 is an abstraction set to Mozart’s “Divertissement;” Allegretto, a non-objective color film accompanied by jazz; Motion Painting No. 1—hand-painted in oil on glass—won the Grand Prix 1949 at the International Experimental Film Festival in Belgium. [NB: “Absolute Film” was not part of Fischinger’s title for this film, and its accompaniment is Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” not “Divertissement.”] All Fischinger prints courtesy of Center for Visual Music, Allegretto preserved by CVM.

The New York Film Festival, 1963-1968
Cinema 16 came to a close in 1963. That same year Vogel co-founded the New York Film Festival with Richard Roud, and, as the head of Lincoln Center’s film department, laid the groundwork for the FLC of today. For our tribute, we’ll be highlighting a number of works that were presented during Vogel’s tenure at the festival, each of which reflects, in different ways, his long-standing preoccupations as a programmer.

Program 2
Barravento
Glauber Rocha, 1962, Brazil, 16mm, 78m
Portuguese with English subtitles
The first edition of NYFF included in its main slate Barravento, a seminal work of Cinema Novo and the debut feature of Glauber Rocha, whose work Vogel would champion for decades thereafter. The film—shot on location in sensuous black and white, and deeply attuned to the rhythms of collective labor and religious ritual—centers upon a Bahian fishing village. The community finds itself caught in the net of capitalist exploitation and likewise bound by mystical belief, a situation that one man, returning to his hometown after years spent in the city, seeks to change. Though Rocha’s visual style would continue evolving with later works like Antonio das Mortes, his insurrectionary imperatives, aesthetic as well as political, were already evident in Barravento. “The Tricontinental cinema,” he would famously declare, “must infiltrate the conventional cinema and blow it up.” Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Program 3
Pearls of the Deep / Perličky na dně
Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová, and Jaromil Jireš, Czechoslovakia, 1965, 107m
Czech with English subtitles
Among Vogel’s many contributions to film culture in America, especially notable is the platform he gave to work coming out of Eastern Europe during the 1960s and ’70s, a particularly rich moment for filmmaking in the region. Emblematic of this era is the omnibus Pearls of the Deep, which played at the New York Film Festival in 1966. Each of its five sections, from the wonderfully morbid opening chapter, set against the backdrop of a motorcycle race, to its closer, a tender study of young love, is directed by a different filmmaker and based on a short story by Bohumil Hrabal; the work as a whole, with its forays into the absurd, is now regarded as a kind of manifesto for the Czech New Wave. “This astonishing, tightly knit group of young filmmakers represented the values of the first post-Stalinist generation,” Vogel would go on to remark. “It was striking to note how similar their views were to those of the West’s rebellious youth, which, from a different starting point, had also become engaged in a search, without illusions, for possible ideals and provisional truths. It seemed that the world was perversely backing into an enforced brotherhood, which would universalize such problems as individual freedom in a bureaucratic society, estrangement between generations, the failure of dogmatic ideologies, and eternal confrontations of imperfect innocence as against the corruption of so-called maturity.”

Program 4, 105m
The New American Cinema, 1966
The Fourth New York Film Festival featured a sampling of the New American Cinema, bringing the underground uptown. Two of the works screened that year, Tony Conrad’s The Flicker and Peter Emmanuel Goldman’s Echoes of Silence, reflect the range of avant-garde activity flourishing at the time: the former, a landmark of structural filmmaking, reduces the cinema to its most fundamental elements, while the latter suggested alternative paths for the narrative feature.

The Flicker
Tony Conrad, 1966, USA, 16mm, 30m
“This film contains no images at all,” wrote Vogel of The Flicker. “Its subject is light and its absence. It consists of combinations of alternating white and black frames, flashing by in constantly changing patterns and causing a continuous stroboscopic flicker effect of great complexity. Whether its frequency is momentarily static or changeable (it ranges from 24 flashes down to 4 flashes per second throughout its 30 minute duration), the effect is literally hypnotic. This concerted ‘overload’ of the retina and nervous system provokes an endless variety of changing shapes, patterns and, most surprisingly, colors, whose nature differs with each viewer (even varying from performance to performance). The electronic soundtrack was generated by relays and components carrying different types of information; the various frequencies are orchestrated by the director. This ‘pure’ film deals with perception itself; its hallucinatory effect—despite absence of image, content, or meaning—reveals an unsuspected congruity with deep emotional needs.” Please note: This film may affect viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy and other photosensitivities.

Echoes of Silence
Peter Emmanuel Goldman, 1965, USA, 16mm, 75m
Echoes of Silence, by contrast, chronicles the lives of twentysomethings adrift in New York City, locating tremendous feeling in the smallest moments: a furtive glance across a museum gallery, women putting on makeup, a stroll beneath the gleaming lights of Times Square marquees. Unencumbered by diegetic sound, its shadowy images of youthful flaneurs are paired with evocatively hand-painted title cards and a dynamic soundtrack drawn from the artist’s LPs that, when combined, produce an unforgettable ballad of sexual dependency. Though little remembered today, Goldman was hailed by Vogel (along with Godard, Mekas, and Sontag) as a major new talent.

Program 5, 92m
The Social Cinema in America, 1967
The Fifth New York Film Festival featured a sidebar on “The Social Cinema in America,” which surveyed the new directions of documentary filmmaking, with an emphasis on cinema verité and the possibilities opened up by more portable recording equipment (the program introduced New York audiences to now-classic works like Peter Adair’s Holy Ghost People, Allan King’s Warrendale, and Frederick Wiseman’s Titticut Follies). One screening, reprised here, brought together Lebert Bethune’s Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, Santiago Álvarez’s Now, and David Neuman and Ed Pincus’s Black Natchez.

Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom
Lebert Bethune, 1964, France, 22m
Bethune, a Jamaican filmmaker who had become a notable figure within Paris’s Black expatriate milieu, created a remarkable portrait of a political icon, and his film features some of the very last interviews with Malcolm X, recorded during his travels in Europe and Africa mere months prior to his assassination.

Now
Santiago Álvarez, 1965, Cuba, 35mm, 6m
A brief but incendiary dispatch from postrevolutionary Cuba, Now blasts forth as a machine-gun montage of violent imagery from the American civil rights era while Lena Horne provides a soaring soundtrack with her titular protest anthem, sung to the tune of “Hava Nagila.”

Black Natchez
David Neuman and Ed Pincus, 1967, USA, 64m
In Black Natchez, we encounter the struggle for freedom again, though articulated in a different form. “The advent of portable sync-sound equipment in the early ’60s meant, for the first time in the sound era, that filmmakers could go to the subject as opposed to bringing the subject to the camera,” Pincus would later explain. “The ability to take a camera out into the world created the desire to ‘get it right,’ to film the world independent of the act of filmmaking. In the U.S., all sorts of rules were being created in documentary film—no script, no narration, no interviews, no lighting, no mic boom, no collusion between subject and filmmaker.

In 1965, the second year of intense voter registration drives in Mississippi, we decided to make a film in the southwest corner of the state. Little civil rights work had been done there because of the danger in the region. Our approach was to seek out several story lines and then continue with the most interesting. A car bombing of a civil rights leader while we were there changed everything. The event emphasized the rifts in the Black community around the demands for equality. Rifts between teenagers and women on one hand and the Black business community on the other. Rifts between Black males forming armed protection groups and the call for nonviolence by the major civil rights groups. And rifts between grassroots organizations and more traditional leadership organizations such as the FDP (Freedom Democratic Party) and the NAACP.”

New digitization courtesy of Ed Pincus Film Collection, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. Digitization was supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Program 6, 69m
Personal Cinema, 1968
1968 marked Vogel’s final year of overseeing the NYFF, and, as with the festival’s previous iterations, many remarkable (and even today underappreciated) works were selected. One program in particular from that edition stands out. Dubbed “Personal Cinema,” it included several key examples of how the medium was being democratized, with the camera made accessible to those who had previously enjoyed limited or no access to the tools of production. In The Jungle, members of North Philadelphia’s 12th & Oxford Street gang dramatize the internal workings of their group, and, in so doing, put forward a vivid, unvarnished image of urban life in America, while Jaime Barrios’s Film Club showcases the activities of a storefront workshop that allowed Puerto Rican teenagers living on the Lower East Side to make their own movies. In The Spirit of the Navajo, Mary J. and Maxine Tsosie likewise drew from their own community, here focusing on their grandfather, a well-known medicine man, as a way to document the traditions of their tribe in their own style, on their own terms.

The Jungle
12th and Oxford Street Film Makers, 1967, USA, 35mm, 22m
35mm preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Film Club
Jaime Barrios, 1968, USA, 16mm, 26m

The Spirit of the Navajo
Maxine Tsosie and Mary J. Tsosie, 1966, USA, 16mm, 21m
Print courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art.

Program 7, 90m
Film as a Subversive Art
Long a source of inspiration for film programmers, Film as a Subversive Art is a guidebook to cinema’s outer limits, replete with tantalizing descriptions of some of the most radical movies ever made. First published in 1974, this lavishly illustrated volume can be seen as a culmination of Vogel’s work over the previous decades, chronicling as it does the taboo-busting potential of cinema, at the level of form as well as content. For this program, we foreground one of the book’s most iconic titles, WR: Mysteries of the Organism (a still featuring its star, Milena Dravić, with clenched fist raised, graces Vogel’s cover), alongside an altogether different piece: Nebula II, one of its most obscure entries. The precise abstraction of the latter stands in contradistinction to the messy fantasies, sexual and political, of the former, yet they emerge from a similar moment—and, in true Vogelian style, complement one another, suggesting unexpected affinities. His notes on the films are below.

WR: Mysteries of the Organism
Dušan Makavejev, 1971, Yugoslavia/West Germany, 35mm, 85m
English, German, Russian, and Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles
Banned in Yugoslavia, hailed at international film festivals, this is unquestionably one of the most important subversive masterpieces of the 1970s: a hilarious, highly erotic political comedy which quite seriously proposes sex as the ideological imperative for revolution and advances a plea for Erotic Socialism. Only the revolutionary Cubist Makavejev—clearly one of the most significant new directors now working in world cinema—could have pulled together this hallucinatory melange of Wilhelm Reich; excerpts from a monstrous Soviet film, The Vow (1946), starring Stalin; a transvestite of the Warhol factory; A.S. Neill of Summerhill; several beautiful young Yugoslavs fucking merrily throughout; the editor of America’s sex magazine Screw having his most important private part lovingly plaster-cast in erection; not to speak of a Soviet figure-skating champion, Honored Artist of the People (named Vladimir Ilyich!), who cuts off his girlfriend’s head with one of his skates after a particularly bountiful ejaculation, to save his Communist virginity from Revisionist Yugoslav Contamination. It is an outrageous, exuberant, marvelous work of a new breed of international revolutionary, strangely spawned by cross-fertilization between the original radical ideologies of the East, Consciousness III in America, and the sexual-politics radicalism of the early Wilhelm Reich, who equated sexual with political liberation and denied the possibility of one without the other…

Preceded by:
Nebula II
Robert Frerck, 1971, USA, 16mm, 5m
World premiere of restoration
After Jordan Belson, one might have thought no further mandala films could be fruitfully made; Nebula II quickly dispels this notion. As the ever-changing circular patterns become more complex and change in increasingly rapid fashion, the incessant bombardment of our senses with flicker effects, visual transmogrifications, pulsating color, and enforced forward movement via zoom, finally set up a sensory overload both hypnotic and overpowering in its beauty and mystical revelation. Print restored by Anthology Film Archives with support from Cinema Conservancy.


The NYFF59 Spotlight retrospective will be followed by tributes at repertory cinemas across New York City—Anthology Film Archives, Film Forum, Light Industry, Metrograph, MoMA, and the Museum of the Moving Image—in an unprecedented collaboration.

The Spotlight section is programmed by Eugene Hernandez and Dennis Lim. NYFF’s Amos Vogel centenary celebration is organized by Thomas Beard, Dennis Lim, and Tyler Wilson.

NYFF59 will feature in-person screenings, as well as select outdoor and virtual events. In response to distributor and filmmaker partners and in light of festivals returning and theaters reopening across the country, NYFF will not offer virtual screenings for this year’s edition.

Proof of vaccination will be required for all staff, audiences, and filmmakers at NYFF59 venues. Additionally, NYFF59 will adhere to a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and state and city medical experts, while adapting as necessary to the current health crisis. Visit filmlinc.org for more information.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema and takes place September 24 – October 10, 2021. An annual bellwether of the state of cinema that has shaped film culture since 1963, the festival continues an enduring tradition of introducing audiences to bold and remarkable works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent.

Festival Passes are now on sale through this Sunday, August 22 only. NYFF59 tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, September 7 at noon ET, with early-access opportunities for FLC members and pass holders prior to this date. Learn more here. Support of the New York Film Festival benefits Film at Lincoln Center in its nonprofit mission to promote the art and craft of cinema


NYFF57: ‘Parasite’ is a wild and exciting ride – new screenings added at Film at Lincoln Center

The hype started to build for Bong Joon Ho’s latest film when it won the Palme D’or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. I missed it during the festival, and when it was sold out at IFC Center, I was worried I’d have to wait for streaming. Luckily Film at Lincoln Center added more screenings and I attended the 6pm Friday showing in the crowded Walter Reade Theater. 

Going in with zero knowledge of even the plot, it was such a fun experience not having any idea what was going to happen next. Showing a short clip before the film from an interview with the director, someone asks something like, “how do you come up with such original stories?” His answer, “It’s my job.” How perfect is that?

I’m not going to spoil anything for you, I’ll just say it’s beautifully shot and you’ll gasp and laugh out loud within the same scene.

Tickets for Film at Lincoln Center

NYFF57 review: ‘Zombi Child’

ZOMBIE CHILD

  • Bertrand Bonello
  • 2019
  • France
  • 103 minutes
  • Subtitled
  • Opens January 24, 2020

Bertrand Bonello injects urgency and history into the well-worn walking-dead genre with this unconventional plunge into horror-fantasy, moving fluidly between 1962 Haiti, where a young man known as Clairvius Narcisse is made into a zombie by his resentful brother, and a contemporary Paris girls’ boarding school attended by Clairvius’s direct descendant.

This film has a unique narrative style. Long takes establishing backstory are a stark contrast to the teen angst-driven by voice-over lover letters. Weaving strange but true history about zombification and a young girl’s adolescent heartbreak, Zombi Child presents a story about the lengths we’ll go for love. Cinematically beautiful natural light adds to the atmosphere. Performances are everywhere from subtly grounded to flamboyant and frightening. The script is unexpected but the end result is a bit of a fever dream that will hypnotize audiences.

NYFF57 review: ‘College Behind Bars’ makes the case for education for all, coming to PBS in November.

COLLEGE BEHIND BARS

  • Lynn Novick
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 222 minutes

World Premiere 

 COLLEGE BEHIND BARS, a four-part documentary series directed by Emmy and Peabody Award winning filmmaker Lynn Novick (co-director of THE VIETNAM WAR), which world premieres at New York Film Festival later this month. This film, premiering on PBS in November, marks Novick’s solo directorial debut and is executive produced by her longtime collaborator Ken Burns. Distilled from nearly 400 hours of cinéma-vérité footage, the documentary explores the lives of a dozen incarcerated men and women as they struggle to earn degrees in the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), one of the most rigorous and effective prison education programs in the country.

This 4 part doc series explores New York State’s college degree program, BPI: Bard Prison Initiative. We follow a group of students as they make their way toward graduation. I say students and not inmates because when they are in class, they are students. While we as an audience are eventually privy to the subjects’ backstories, BPI as a program does not focus on why each individual is imprisoned. BPI focuses on their education. At Seb Academy you will get the best chemistry tuition in the Singapore.

This series is about humanity and ambition. These men and women are striving to better themselves and escape the environment they have, in most cases, created for themselves. The series also addresses the very real statistic that socioeconomic circumstances oftentimes lead to a life of crime. Inmates are not afforded the rights and freedoms of the average American. They must contend with the chaos of prison while engaging in a vigorous Bachelor’s degree program. College is difficult enough without being constantly interrupted by lockdowns, race wars, or the ultimate chaos of being surrounded by mental illness and other inmates in general.

The admissions process is cutthroat. It is based on an essay and an interview. It begins with an AA and then an even luckier few continue on to the BA program. Students are studying things like Plato, Mandarin, Debate, and Calculus. They are earning their degrees in the same way any other student would outside prison walls. Professors do not give pass/fail grades. They are legitimately working with each individual just as they would at a stand-alone university. This is a college that just happens to be on prison grounds. Before they graduate, they must submit a senior project. The paper must be between 80-100 pages. It is the equivalent of a Master’s thesis. Here is a best option for part time engineering diploma in Singapore.

The series makes an interesting case for free college for all throughout the country. It’s an intriguing commentary on the misconceptions about who deserves an education. Shouldn’t it be a right? It should not belong solely to the lucky few, the wealthy, or the white population. Losing your liberty should not mean losing your right to an education. If anything, education has been proven to lift people out of poverty and violence. The political hockey puck that this type of program has become since it’s inception in the 90’s has seen taxpayer dollars bounce in and out of the system. Resentment permeates the perception of the system by politicians to everyone from the prison staff to voters. Even though it actually monetarily benefits the taxpayer in the long run. Would you rather pay for an inmate to learn or sit inside a cell? Guess which one actually costs less.

College Behind Bars puts faces and voices to those benefiting from but genuinely fighting to improve their lives and thus, the world all we live in. We, the viewers, are forced to come to terms with the prison industrial complex, systemic racism, and our own moral compass. And the students are forced to come to terms with their pasts and their futures. College Behind Bars is both informative and eye-opening. It breathes life into the stories of a population oftentimes swept under the rug. You will cheer on the college students, no matter what your views on how they got their opportunity to learn and earn their degrees.

Premieres: Monday, November 25, 2019 & Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET

COLLEGE BEHIND BARS

The four-part documentary film series, directed by award-winning filmmaker Lynn Novick, produced by Sarah Botstein, and executive produced by Ken Burns, explores the transformative power of education through the eyes of incarcerated men and women trying to earn college degrees. Shot over four years in maximum and medium security prisons in New York State, the series examines America’s failure to provide meaningful rehabilitation for the over two million men and women living behind bars.

Premieres: Monday, November 25, 2019 & Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET

NYFF57 review: ‘Pain and Glory’ is one of the year’s best films.

PAIN AND GLORY

  • Pedro Almodóvar
  • 2019
  • Spain
  • 113 minutes
  • Subtitled

New York Premiere · 

Pedro Almodóvar taps into new reservoirs of introspection and emotional warmth with this miraculous, internalized portrayal of Salvador Mallo, a director not too subtly modeled on Almodóvar himself and played by Antonio Banderas, who deservedly won Best Actor at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

 

Auto-fiction at its finest, Pain and Glory is one of this year’s most beautiful and compelling films. Addressing addiction, depression, redemption, physical and emotional health, this story weaves a tale that is all at once meta and whimsical in presentation. It’s a profoundly important example of LGBTQ representation in film. Antonio Banderas is Oscar-worthy. Breathtakingly nuanced from every angle, he proves yet again how great acting can move an audience. Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, his heart and art are on the screen at all times. It is so visually lush you can almost taste the colors on screen. With a gorgeous supporting performance by Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory should easily walk away with top foreign language awards this year. Rightly deserved for a film that combines sensuality, art, and memories for audiences to immerse themselves in. It is a timeless story of love and loss, experience and pain. Pain and Glory is unforgettable in this year’s strong line up at the New York Film Festival.

Sony

NYFF57 review: ’45 Seconds of Laughter’ Tim Robbins’ doc brings levity to the lives of those who need it most.

45 SECONDS OF LAUGHTER

  • Tim Robbins
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 95 minutes

North American Premiere

In his contemplative, pared-down, and wildly engaging documentary, Tim Robbins captures a series of extraordinary sessions in which a group of inmates at the Calipatria State maximum-security facility take part in acting exercises that enhance bonding and emotional connection.

Zip. Zap. Zop. This is one of the most familiar improv games for theater nerds all over the country. In the first 20 minutes of Tim Robbins‘ new doc we watch a group of maximum security prisoners experience their very first acting class with The Actor’s Gang Prison Project. Ordinarily divided by race and gang affliction out in the yard, these men from all different backgrounds allow themselves to be free. They allow happiness, vulnerability, doubt, fear, and reflection into their normally regimented day and existence. The human connections and breakthroughs made in an acting class can change the very way you think and process information. It is an outlet that is unique and to see the effect it has on this particular group of people is profound. As the classes progress, they are challenged to emote, not just feign happy or sad, but truly feel anguish, rage, glee. To see men who are oftentimes not allowed to express themselves because of toxic masculinity and their specific surrounding, finally, feel safe enough to do so is truly breathtaking. Robbins and his teaching team, which includes an ex-prisoner, give us a masterclass in this documentary. 45 Seconds of Laughter (which is also how they end each class) is more than a film, it is a brilliant human experience. You will see transformations right in front of your eyes. Destroying boundaries through art, building friendships through mask play, and repairing relationships with loved ones by taking a chance on something completely outside of their comfort zone is nothing short of extraordinary. 45 Seconds of Laughter is a joyous film. Bravo to all.

 

New York Film Festival: Movies coming soon to a theater near you (or your favorite device)

Of the 48 films screening at this year’s New York Film Festival (Main Slate, Spotlight on Documentary, Special Events) there are 17 that are either released or will be in the next 6 months. That used to mean they were just coming soon to a cinema screen, but now it could mean it will soon be available for you to watch on your favorite device. For those outside NY or LA, you might never get the opportunity to see these movies if it weren’t for streaming. It’s quite the world we’re living in.

One should note that sponsors of this year’s festival are HBO and Netflix.

Netflix had 3 films screening, The Irishman, releasing in select theaters and Netflix November 1st, Marriage Story, releasing December 6th in select theaters and Netflix and Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story whose release date is November 15th on Netflix.

HBO oddly only has one, the documentary, Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn – which I’m really looking forward to seeing. Release date is only for 2020 at this point.

  • Pain and Glory [Main Slate] Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics, 10/14/19, in theaters
  • Parasite [Main Slate] Distributed by: NEON, 10/14/19, in theaters
  • Motherless Brooklyn [Closing Night] Distributed by: Warner Bros, 11/01/19
  • The Irishman [Opening Night] Distributed by: Netflix, 11/01/19
  • A Girl Missing [Main Slate] Distributed by: Film Movement, 11/15/19
  • Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story [Main Slate] Distributed by: Netflix, 11/15/19, on Netflix
  • Varda by Agnès [Main Slate] Distributed by: Janus Films, 11/22/19, at Film Forum & Film at Lincoln Center Nationwide Rollout to Follow
  • College Behind Bars [Spotlight on Documentary] Distributed by: PBS, 11/25/19
  • 63 Up [Spotlight on Documentary] Distributed by: BritBox, 11/27/19
  • Marriage Story [Centerpiece] Distributed by: Netflix, 12/06/19
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire [Main Slate] Distributed by: NEON, 12/06/19
  • Cunningham 3D [Spotlight on Documentary] Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures, 12/13/19
  • The Traitor [Main Slate] Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics, 01/03/20
  • I Was at Home, But… [Main Slate] Distributed by: Cinema Guild, February 2020
  • The Whistlers [Main Slate] Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures, 02/28/20
  • First Cow [Main Slate] Distributed by: A24, 03/06/20
  • Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn [Spotlight on Documentary] Distributed by: HBO Documentary Films, 2020

New York Film Festival Review: ‘The Wild Goose Lake’

The Wild Goose Lake

  • Diao Yinan
  • 2019
  • China/France
  • 113 minutes
  • Subtitled

U.S. Premiere · 

Small-time mob boss Zhou Zenong (the charismatic Hu Ge) is desperate to stay alive after he mistakenly kills a cop and a dead-or-alive reward is put on his head. Chinese director Diao Yinan deftly keeps multiple characters and chronologies spinning, all the while creating an atmosphere thick with eroticism and danger.

Stylized fight choreography and lush cinematography drive this film firmly into the crime noir genre. While the quick take editing lies somewhere between self-indulgence and brilliance, The Wild Goose Lake is altogether engrossing. An over the top take on territory grievances becomes a backstabbing story of survival and redemption. There is actually very little dialogue for s film of this length but this is another area where the film can shine. The almost immersive sound editing is a transitional heads up. The plot is chaos and greed-driven, inevitably leading to brutal violence. Lead performances are incredibly strong, especially Hu Ge . The Wild Goose Lake is worth the price of entry at this year’s NYFF. This is a film that deserves a top-quality viewing experience on a large screen if you can swing it.

https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2019/films/the-wild-goose-lake/

NYFF 57 review: – Kelly Reichardt’s ‘First Cow’ is a film about male friendship in the early 19th century.

First Cow

  • Kelly Reichardt
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 122 minutes

New York Premiere ·

Kelly Reichardt once again trains her perceptive and patient eye on the Pacific Northwest, this time evoking an authentically hardscrabble early 19th-century way of life for this tale of a taciturn loner and skilled cook (John Magaro) who has joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, but only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) also seeking his fortune.

Kelly Reichardt has a style all her own. You can pick out a film of hers within the first five minutes of long drawn out, beautifully cinematic shots. First Cow is based on the novel “The Half-Life” by John Raymond who is also a longtime collaborator with Reichardt. The story follows a quiet man called Cookie who is making his way across the Oregan territory with a group of fur trappers. Stumbling upon a clearly educated Chinese immigrant named King Lu, the men become fast friends in uncertain times. This film is essentially about male bonding in a time and environment that is driven by greed and aggression. The kindness and sincerity of our two leads, John Magaro and Orion Lee, bounds off the screen. You believe in their earnest chemistry. With Reichardt’s usual use of natural light and sparse dialogue, we are fully entrenched in the almost uninhabitable world these two men live in. At moments, this feels like a buddy comedy and I do mean that as a complete compliment. Some of the greatest moments in the script occur within the conversations between Cookie and the cow, itself. It must be mentioned the sheer number of wonderfully acted ancillary characters is mind-boggling. Sweet and funny, and bursting with charm, First Cow is something special in its storytelling.

https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2019/films/first-cow/

 

New York Film Festival Review: ‘Sybil’ is chaotic and anything but predictable

What I really enjoyed about Justine Triet’s ‘Sybil’ is the layered stories that are told in real-time alongside flashbacks. The result leaves you with a feeling of unease. Was it happening now or was she remembering? I got a feeling of confusion that was intriguing and captivating.

Past and present collide in an increasingly complicated and highly entertaining fashion in Justine Triet’s intricate study of the professional and personal masks we wear as we perform our daily lives. Psychotherapist Sibyl (Virginie Efira) abruptly decides to leave her practice to restart her writing career—only to find herself increasingly embroiled in the life of a desperate new patient: Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a movie star dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic affair with her costar, Igor (Gaspard Ulliel), while trying to finish a film shoot under the watchful eye of a demanding director (Toni Erdmann’s Sandra Hüller, splendidly high-strung), who happens to be Igor’s wife. Sybil, negotiating her own past demons, makes the fateful decision to use Margot’s experiences as inspiration for her book, as boundaries of propriety fall one after another. As she proved in her previous film In Bed with Victoria, which also starred the magnificently expressive Efira, Triet is a master at creating heroines of intense complexity, and of maintaining a tricky balance between volatile drama and sly comedy. A Music Box Films release.

There’s nothing simple about this dark comedy/drama, which is what gives it such rich complexity. It’s disorienting at first to figure out what is going on, which seems to mimic Sybil’s current status. Just when you think you know where it’s going, life happens. It’s unpredictable and fascinating.

There are a few tickets left for Saturday at noon, so if you’re looking for something to see that’s worth the ticket, this would be highly recommended. Being in French adds another level of fantastic. https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2019/films/sibyl/

I just didn’t like this poster because I still think Sally Field when I hear Sybil, so it makes me think she has multiple personalities.

57th New York Film Festival begins with the world premiere of Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ arriving soon on Netflix & select theaters

If you aren’t catching one of the few screenings of The Irishman at the New York Film Festival, it will come to Netflix on November 1st and will go do select theaters (major cities) on November 27th.

I’m so excited to see a Netflix movie premiere as the opening night film. What makes a movie? It’s not definable. You know when you see it. This is a movie.

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci star in Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN, an epic saga of organized crime in post-war America told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran, a hustler and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime: its inner workings, rivalries and connections to mainstream politics.

 

Where to Watch Obama’s 2018 Movie List – Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, EPIX, Rent/Buy

Artist: Joe Burdick

All the movies on Obama’s list are the best of the best. From the Best Foreign Film Entry from South Korea, Burning to the female badasses of Annliation, there’s guaranteed you’ll find one of these movies worth your time. As I looked at Obama’s favorite movies of 2018, I’ve only seen 7, and I wondered where I could see the rest of them. As of this posting, I discovered that 12 of the 15 can be seen online right now! Two of them are on Netflix: Black Panther & Roma (also in select theaters). Minding the Gap can be seen on Hulu, The Death of Stalin on Showtime and The Rider. Three are only available in theaters: Burning, Shoplifters and If Beale Street Could Talk.

Here’s a quick recap of where you can watch each.

  • Annihilation – EPIX, Rent, Buy 4K – SCI-FI  DRAMA
  • Black Panther – Netflix, Rent, Buy 4K ACTION SCI-FI
  • BlacKkKlansman – Buy 4K, Rent 4K DRAMA  ACTION
  • Blindspotting – Select Theaters, Buy 4K, Rent 4K DRAMA  COMEDY
  • Burning – Select Theaters DRAMA
  • The Death of Stalin – Showtime, Rent, Buy COMEDY
  • Eighth Grade – Buy 4K, Rent 4K DRAMA
  • If Beale Street Could Talk – Select Theaters DRAMA
  • Leave No Trace – Rent, Buy DRAMA
  • Minding the Gap – Hulu DOCUMENTARY
  • The Rider – Starz, Rent, Buy DRAMA
  • Roma – Select Theaters, Netflix 4K DRAMA
  • Shoplifters – Select Theaters DRAMA
  • Support the Girls – Rent, Buy COMEDY DRAMA
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor – Rent, Buy DOCUMENTARY

Four of these movies are on AFI’s Top Ten list of 2018: Black PantherBlacKkKlansmanEighth Grade, If Beale Street Could Talk.

Burning is the Best Foreign Film Entry for South Korea.

Ten of the movies have been nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. BlacKkKlansman, Blindspotting, Eighth Grade, Leave No Trace, Minding the Gap, The Rider, Roma, Shoplifters, Support the Girls, Won’t You Be My Neighbor

As for festivals, 11 of the 15 we either in Cannes, Sundance, New York Film Festival or Toronto International Film Festival.

Check out the table below to discover more about Obama’s list of movies.

New York Film Festival Reviews: ‘A Faithful Man’ & ‘Ash Is The Purest White’

25Two very different films about loyalty played at NYFF this year. A Faithful Man is quintessential French romcom and Ash Is The Purest White is the best of director Jia Zhangke.

A Faithful Man is about a couple of lovers torn apart by a pregnancy and brought back together by death. The jokes are witty and performances are stellar. I have adored every NYFF selection starring Louis Garrel, so it’s not surprising that one written, directed and starring him would entertain. He is charming alongside costars Laetitia Casta and Lily-Rose Depp. The chemistry between the three is electric and the story is fun and unexpected. If you like flirty french cinema, A Faithful Man will be up your alley.


Ash Is The Purest White, selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, is a much more complex look at the relationship of a man vying for power and the woman who takes the fall for his criminal actions. This is a story about pride and love. It spans three different time periods in Zhao Tao and Liao Fan’s characters lives. It transforms into a fascinating journey of a woman reclaiming her life and a patriarchal takedown. Bravo to the makeup departments for the seamlessly addressing a huge span of time in a realistic way. Tao and Fan walk a delicate balance of adoration and loathing.

New York Film Festival Review: ‘Private Life’ – Now on Netflix!

There is an age-old dilemma in Manhattan in respect to career and family. When I was a preschool teacher 10 years ago, the average age of the parents in my class when they gave birth was 40. My own mother had me at 22. This was the “normal” I understood. But, after I got married at 31 and moved back to Manhattan after years of traveling the world, I realized that I was faced with the same dilemma. My husband had not just hinted but boldly stated that he was ready for kids. I had just gotten deep into film criticism and similar projects, there was no way I was about to slow down now. Then, once I was ready it took a grueling 8 months to get pregnant. I know, some people will say that’s not a very long time, it takes years for some women to get pregnant. But that feeling of disappointment and fear month after month is palpable still. Those visceral memories are what made Tamara Jenkins new film Private Life so engrossing for me.

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Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti play a couple that put arts careers first and family second. Then the reality of the situation slams into them head-on. With adoption, fertility treatments, and surrogacy all on the table, this couple cannot seem to catch a break. The brilliance of this film is the fact that it’s rooted in reality. The emotional rollercoaster that is trying to be parents is all emotions at once. The comedy is as pure as the heartbreak. Giamatti is always fantastic. There is a beautiful juxtaposition in a performance from Molly Shannon. On the surface, it may appear to be an uncomplicated foil for Katherine’s character, but it is anything but. Private Life‘s essence lies in Hahn’s performance. Her soul-baring work will most certainly catch you off guard. It’s the quietest moments that crush you. Her specificity is award-worthy stuff, no doubt. Private Life is not just about having a kid, it’s about marriage. It’s about the delicate balance of love and hate and resentment between two people who promise to be together forever. Hands down, in my top three films from the festival this year. You can catch Private Life right now on Netflix. I highly recommend you do.

New York Film Festival Review: ‘Non-Fiction’

Juliette Binoche is literally in a New York Film Festival feature every year. This year (and it’s not the first) she appears in two. Non-Fiction is a brilliant and sardonic piece of writing about the state of literature, media, politics, and intimate relationships. Centering around a writer a publisher, an actress, and a campaign manager, the film intertwines affairs and humor. If Aaron Sorkin wrote French romcoms, Non Fiction would pour from his fingertips. The witty repartee keeps you in your toes as does the relevant subject matter. At times an intellectual war if words.ans ideas from different generations, quite literally. The idea of printed booked versus ebooks and Twitter, the idea of classical consumption and attention span, and of course the implications this all has had and will have on capitalism. Non Fiction is not shy about poking fun at itself or at the world’s state of affairs. Perhaps it played well for a room filled with critics because of its plot but I would hope the love it garnered would spread to a much wider and wiser audience of all ages. The conversations it may provoke are why we still go to the cinema, after all.

Directed by: Olivier Assayas 2018 France 106 minutes

Sundance Selects release.

New York Film Festival 56 Review: ‘In My Room’

While the idea of the last man on Earth isn’t revolutionary, Ulrich Köhler’s film In My Room approaches the idea from a long-game perspective. The opening of the film is visually jarring. In hindsight, this is a fantastic set up for our leading man and a plot in which the world’s population vanishes overnight. This introduction is subtle at first. If you were to go into the film unaware of the plot, you may miss the first signs. The film’s emotional journey is all over the place. Panic sets in, and then, very quickly, it transitions to a “fuck it” attitude. Hans Löw‘s physical transformation, from beginning to end, is startling. As is his intellectual prowess. Without an electronic grid, one would have to adapt quickly to survive. In My Room pushes you to think about the effects of a cataclysmic event. In the film, Armin has a system. It is one he strives to improve upon daily, without losing his mind. I’d love to report an uplifting ending, alas I cannot. Without going into detail, you’re left to root for a man that could easily be you. In My Room goes to dark places and sits there. Then makes you sit there. In doing so, it is an incredibly effective film.

Directed by: Ulrich Köhler
Germany / 2018 / 119 minutes / NR

Grasshopper Film

New York Film Festival Review: ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’


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Long Day’s Journey Into Night is why we go to film festivals. It’s one of those films that people will be talking about for years to come because the audience will either love it or loathe it. There is no denying it’s a visually striking and stylistically over-indulgent noir that goes nowhere and everywhere all at once. Confused? You’re not alone. I’m not sure anyone walked out of the theater thinking, “Yup, I can totally relate!” That would actually be pretty weird on multiple levels, but with all that being said, wow, it is one hell of a cinematic experience. The hyper-saturation of the sets, costumes, and the unusual use of neon give it a Blade Runner feel in style. You’re also working with two timelines. And then, wait for it, a 1 hour, single-take, dream sequence… in 3D! Yes. Reoccurring images, long natural cadence in the dialogue, superb music, and sound editing add the wild magic and peculiarity that is Long Day’s. It’s a film I may never see again unless I wanted to discuss it in some University setting, which, admittedly, I am not opposed to. So, I suppose in summation, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is as cool as it is confounding.

Theatrical release in 2019. Distributed by Kino Lorber. Scheduled at Lincoln Center for April 12, 2019.

New York Film Festival Review: Claire Denis’ ‘High Life’ starring Robert Pattinson & Juliette Binoche

Fresh from being picked up for distribution by A24 at the Toronto Film Festival, High Life is a sci-fi drama with twists and turns that both come slowly and take your breath away. It’s difficult to describe without giving away the plot, so I’ll just say that it’s a space odyssey whose cast includes Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche and André 3000.

While told in space, don’t expect too many techy gadgets, this story focuses on the people. There are moments of discomfort, shock, and tenderness. While I don’t gush over it, I did really enjoy it and highly recommend to people who enjoy original storytelling.

Listen to director Claire Denis and star Robert Pattinson speak about it at the press conference below.

If you want to see another stellar performance by Pattinson, you should check out The Rover.

8 New York Film Festival films you can see this year & 3 are coming to Netflix!

The festival is officially over, but you’ll be able to see a few of the selections very soon!

Private Life
Country: USA
In Tamara Jenkins’s first film in ten years, Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti are achingly real as Rachel and Richard, a middle-aged New York couple caught in the desperation, frustration, and exhaustion of trying to have a child, whether by fertility treatments or adoption or surrogate motherhood. They find a willing partner in Sadie (the formidable Kayli Carter), Richard’s niece by marriage, who happily agrees to donate her eggs, and the three of them build their own little outcast family in the process. Private Life is a wonder, by turns hilarious and harrowing (sometimes at once), and a very carefully observed portrait of middle-class Bohemian Manhattanites. With John Carroll Lynch and Molly Shannon.
Distributed by: Netflix WATCH NOW


Wildlife
Country: USA
In the impressive directorial debut from actor Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), a carefully wrought adaptation of Richard Ford’s 1990 novel, a family comes apart one loosely stitched seam at a time. We are in the lonely expanses of the American west in the mid-’60s. An affable man (Jake Gyllenhaal), down on his luck, runs off to fight the wildfires raging in the mountains. His wife (Carey Mulligan) strikes out blindly in search of security and finds herself running amok. It is left to their young adolescent son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) to hold the center. Co-written by Zoe Kazan, Wildlife is made with a sensitivity and at a level of craft that are increasingly rare in movies.
Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival
Awards: Golden Camera – Cannes Film Festival (Nominee), Grand Jury Prize – Sundance Film Festival (Nominee), People’s Choice Award – Toronto International Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: IFC Films 10/19/2018

Melissa says: I’ll see anything with Paul Dano because he always brings incredible sincerity to his characters. I’m very curious to see how that sincerity translates behind the camera.


Burning
Country: South Korea
Expanded from Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” the sixth feature from Korean master Lee Chang-dong, known best in the U.S. for such searing, emotional dramas as Secret Sunshine (NYFF45) and Poetry (NYFF48), begins by tracing a romantic triangle of sorts: Jongsu (Yoo Ah-in), an aspiring writer, becomes involved with a woman he knew from childhood, Haemi (Jun Jong-seo), who is about to embark on a trip to Africa. She returns some weeks later with a fellow Korean, the Gatsby-esque Ben (Steven Yeun), who has a mysterious source of income and a very unusual hobby. A tense, haunting multiple-character study, the film accumulates a series of unanswered questions and unspoken motivations to conjure a totalizing mood of uncertainty and quietly bends the contours of the thriller genre to brilliant effect.
Cannes Film Festival, Munich Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival
Awards: FIPRESCI Prize – Cannes Film Festival (Winner), Vulcain Prize for the Technical Artist – Cannes Film Festival (Winner), Palme d’Or – Cannes Film Festival (Nominee), ARRI/OSRAM Award – Munich Film Festival (Nominee), People’s Choice Award – Toronto International Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Well Go USA 10/26/2018

Melissa says: I’ve been continually impressed with South Korean cinema, so there’s no reason to think this will be anything less than amazing.


At Eternity’s Gate
North American Premiere
Country: USA, France
Julian Schnabel’s ravishingly tactile and luminous new film takes a fresh look at the last days of Vincent van Gogh, and in the process revivifies our sense of the artist as a living, feeling human being. Schnabel; his co-writers Jean-Claude Carrière and Louise Kugelberg, also the film’s editor; and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme strip everything down to essentials, fusing the sensual, the emotional, and the spiritual. And the pulsing heart of At Eternity’s Gate is Willem Dafoe’s shattering performance: his Vincent is at once lucid, mad, brilliant, helpless, defeated, and, finally, triumphant. With Oscar Isaac as Gauguin, Rupert Friend as Theo, Mathieu Amalric as Dr. Gachet, Emmanuelle Seigner as Madame Ginoux, and Mads Mikkelsen as The Priest.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: CBS Films 11/16/2018

Melissa says: If nothing less, Willem Dafoe will be worth watching.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
North American Premiere
Country: USA
Here’s something new from the Coen Brothers—an anthology of short films based on a fictional book of “western tales,” featuring Tim Blake Nelson as a murderous, white-hatted singing cowboy; James Franco as a bad luck bank-robber; Liam Neeson as the impresario of a traveling medicine show with increasingly diminishing returns, where they use the best equipment for travelling as the PNW backpack; Tom Waits as a die-hard gold prospector; Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck as two shy people who almost come together on the wagon trail; and Tyne Daly, Saul Rubinek, Brendan Gleeson, Chelcie Ross, and Jonjo O’Neill as a motley crew on a stagecoach to nowhere. Each story is distinct but unified by the thematic thread of mortality. As a whole movie experience, Buster Scruggs is wildly entertaining, and, like all Coen films, endlessly surprising.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Netflix, Annapurna Production 11/16/2018

Melissa says: This trailer reminds me of the one for A Serious Man, so let’s hope it’s as good.


Shoplifters
Country: Japan
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner is a heartrending glimpse into an often invisible segment of Japanese society: those struggling to stay afloat in the face of crushing poverty. On the margins of Tokyo, a most unusual “family”—a collection of societal castoffs united by their shared outsiderhood and fierce loyalty to one another—survives by petty stealing and grifting. When they welcome into their fold a young girl who’s been abused by her parents, they risk exposing themselves to the authorities and upending their tenuous, below-the-radar existence. The director’s latest masterful, richly observed human drama makes the quietly radical case that it is love—not blood—that defines a family.
Cannes Film FestivalMunich Film FestivalToronto International Film Festival
Awards: Palme d’Or – Cannes Film Festival (Winner), Best International Film – Munich Film Festival (Winner), People’s Choice Award – Toronto International Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures 11/23/2018


The Favourite
Country: USA, Ireland, UK
In Yorgos Lanthimos’s wildly intricate and very darkly funny new film, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), and her servant Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) engage in a sexually charged fight to the death for the body and soul of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) at the height of the War of the Spanish Succession. This trio of truly brilliant performances is the dynamo that powers Lanthimos’s top-to-bottom reimagining of the costume epic, in which the visual pageantry of court life in 18th-century England becomes not just a lushly appointed backdrop but an ironically heightened counterpoint to the primal conflict unreeling behind closed doors.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures 11/23/2018


ROMA
Country: Mexico, USA
In Alfonso Cuarón’s autobiographically inspired film, set in Mexico City in the early ’70s, we are placed within the physical and emotional terrain of a middle-class family whose center is quietly and unassumingly held by its beloved live-in nanny and housekeeper (Yalitza Aparicio). The cast is uniformly magnificent, but the real star of ROMA is the world itself, fully present and vibrantly alive, from sudden life-changing events to the slightest shifts in mood and atmosphere. Cuarón tells us an epic story of everyday life while also gently sweeping us into a vast cinematic experience, in which time and space breathe and majestically unfold. Shot in breathtaking black and white and featuring a sound design that represents something new in the medium, ROMA is a truly visionary work.
Toronto International Film Festival, Venice Film Festival
Awards: People’s Choice Award – Toronto International Film Festival (Nominee), Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Netflix 12/14/2018

Melissa says: The director of Children of Men and Gravity, two incredibly cinematic creations, does a black and white family drama. Oh, I’m all in.


Watch 3 Press Conferences from the New York Film Festival

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will be available on Netflix in a little over a month on 11/16/18, The Favourite will be in theaters shortly after that on 11/23/18, but High Life hasn’t been announced, so we can only assume 2019.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
North American Premiere
Country: USA
Here’s something new from the Coen Brothers—an anthology of short films based on a fictional book of “western tales,” featuring Tim Blake Nelson as a murderous, white-hatted singing cowboy; James Franco as a bad luck bank-robber; Liam Neeson as the impresario of a traveling medicine show with increasingly diminishing returns; Tom Waits as a die-hard gold prospector; Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck as two shy people who almost come together on the wagon trail; and Tyne Daly, Saul Rubinek, Brendan Gleeson, Chelcie Ross, and Jonjo O’Neill as a motley crew on a stagecoach to nowhere. Each story is distinct but unified by the thematic thread of mortality. As a whole movie experience, Buster Scruggs is wildly entertaining, and, like all Coen films, endlessly surprising.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Netflix, Annapurna Production 11/16/2018

‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ Press Conference | Joel & Ethan Coen and Cast | NYFF56


High Life
U.S. Premiere
Country: Germany, France, USA, UK, Poland
Claire Denis’s latest film is set aboard a spacecraft piloted by death row prisoners on a decades-long suicide mission to enter and harness the power of a black hole. But as is always the case with this filmmaker, the actual structure seems to evolve organically through moods and uncanny spells, and the closest juxtapositions of violence and intimacy. High Life features some of the most unsettling passages Denis has ever filmed, as well as moments of the greatest delicacy and tenderness. With Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, and Mia Goth.
Distributed by: A24 2019


The Favourite
Country: USA, Ireland, UK
In Yorgos Lanthimos’s wildly intricate and very darkly funny new film, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), and her servant Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) engage in a sexually charged fight to the death for the body and soul of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) at the height of the War of the Spanish Succession. This trio of truly brilliant performances is the dynamo that powers Lanthimos’s top-to-bottom reimagining of the costume epic, in which the visual pageantry of court life in 18th-century England becomes not just a lushly appointed backdrop but an ironically heightened counterpoint to the primal conflict unreeling behind closed doors.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures 11/23/2018