The stately New York Film Festival, which runs this year from September 25th through October 11th, has just announced its stately slate, made up of many familiar names and very few surprises.
To be fair, New York isn’t really a festival one looks to for surprises, but I’d hoped what was an arguably weaker Cannes this year would prompt the NYFF slate a little farther afield from the conservative offerings below. (Which, incidentally, do not include either Jacques Audiard’s fondly looked upon prison tale “A Prophet” or Ken Loach’s crowd-pleaser “Looking for Eric,” both from Cannes — too audience friendly?)
Well, never mind — at least Resnais’ oddball “Wild Grass,” which opens the festival, is balanced out by Lee Daniels’ crazyface Sundance hit “Precious”; and Todd Solondz’s semi-sequel to “Happiness” is there, as is Bong Joon-ho’s fantastic exploration of the parent-child relationship by way of a darkly comedic mystery “Mother.” And I’m thrilled to have a chance to see “Everyone Else,” which I’ve heard nothing but raves about.
Here’s the full line-up — the descriptions were provided by the festival.
Alain Resnais, France, 2009; 113m
The venerable Alan Resnais creates an exquisite human comedy of manners, mystery and romance with some of France’s — and our — favorite actors: Sabine Azéma, André Dussollier, Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Almaric. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
“Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”
Lee Daniels, USA, 2009; 109m
Precious is sixteen and living a miserable life. But she uses all the emotional energy she possesses to turn her life around. Director Lee Daniel’s audacious tale features unforgettable performances by Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe. A Lionsgate release.
Pedro Almodóvar, Spain, 2009; 128m
Almodóvar’s newest masterwork is a candy-colored emotional roller that barrels from comedy to romance to melodrama to the darker haunts of film noir and stars his muse, Penélope Cruz, in a multilayered story of a man who loses his sight and the love of his life. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
“36 Views of Saint-Loup Peak”
Jacques Rivette, France, 2009, 84m
The legendary Jacques Rivette returns with an elegiac look at the final days of a small-time traveling circus.
Lars von Trier, Denmark, 2009, 109m
Surely to be one of the year’s most discussed films, Lars von Trier’s latest chronicles a couple’s efforts to find their love again after a tragic loss, only to unleash hidden monsters lurking in their souls. An IFC Films release.
“The Art of the Steal”
Don Argott, USA, 2009, 101m
Bound to be controversial, this intriguing account of the travails of the legendary Barnes collection of art masterworks and the foundation set up to protect it raises vital questions about public vs. private “ownership” of art.
Catherine Breillat, France, 2009, 78m
Two sisters reading Charles Perrault’s 17th century tale of perhaps the first “serial killer” becomes a meditation on the enduring fascination with a character who has served as inspiration for countless novels, plays and films.
“Crossroads of Youth”
An Jong-hwa, Korea, 1934, 73m
The oldest surviving Korean film, this recently-rediscovered masterwork will be presented with live musical accompaniment as well as a benshi (offscreen narrator).
“Eccentricities of a Blonde”
Manoel de Olivera, Portugal/France, 2009, 64m
One hundred years young, director Manoel de Oliveira returns with another gem: a wry, moving tale of a pure if frustrated love adapted from a novel by Eça de Queiroz.
Maren Ade, Germany, 2009, 119m
The ups and downs, joys and jealousies, frustrations and fulfillments of a young couple on a summer holiday provides the premise for this brilliant meditation on modern coupling.
Zhao Dayong, China, 2008, 180m
A revealing, one-of-a-kind look at China far away from the glittering urban skylines, this portrait of a contemporary rural community in China offers extraordinary insights into everything from the role of religion to gender relationships to the place of social deviants.
Bruno Dumont, France, 2009, 105m
A young woman searches for an absolute experience of faith — and in the process grows increasingly distant from the world around her.
Raya Martin, Philippines, 2009, 77m
Maverick director Raya Martin offers a kind of alternative history of the Philippines and its struggle for nationhood in this stylized tale of a mother and son hiding in the mountains after the US takeover of the islands.
Serge Bromberg, France, 2009, 100m
A film buff’s delight, Serge Bromberg film resurrects the surviving footage of Clouzot’s aborted, experimental film L’Enfer, revealing a slightly mad but beguiling project that will always remain one of cinema’s great “what ifs.”
Sabu, Japan, 2009, 109m
Kaniskosen is a highly stylized, stirring, manga-flavored update of a classic Japanese political novel, with labor unrest aboard a crab canning ship evolving into a cry of a younger generation aching to break the bonds of conformity.
Samuel Maoz, Israel, 2009, 92m
Debut director Samuel Maoz takes us inside an Israeli tank and the emotions of its crew during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
“Life During Wartime”
Todd Solondz, USA, 2009, 96m
Preparing for his bar-mitzvah, a young man must deal with his divorced mother’s prospective fiancé as well as rumors that his own father is not really dead.
Souleymane Cissé, Mali/France, 2009, 135m
A work of startling originality, Souleymane Cisse’s first film in over a decade insightfully and incisively chronicles the dissolution of an upper-middle class African marriage.
Bong Joon-ho, South Korea, 2009, 128m
Convinced that her son has been wrongly accused of murder, a widow throws herself body and soul into proving his innocence. Kim Hye-ja in the title role gives perhaps the performance of the year.
“Ne Change Rien”
Pedro Costa, France/Portugal, 2009, 103m
A shimmering valentine, Costa’s latest is less a portrait than a kind of visual homage, to the artistry of actor and singer Jeanne Balibar.
Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania, 2009, 115m
Discovering a teenager with hashish, a young policeman hesitates about turning him in. But his supervisor has other ideas in this beautifully acted, provocative modern morality play. An IFC Films release.
“Room and a Half”
Andrey Khrzhanovsky, Russia, 2009, 131m
Former animator Andrey Khrzhanovsky combines scripted scenes, archival footage, several types of animation, and surrealist flights of fancy to create this stirring portrait of poet Josef Brodsky and the postwar Soviet cultural scene. A Seagull Films release.
Ilisa Barish, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, USA, 2009, 105m
This breathtaking chronicle follows an ever-surprising group of modern-day cowboys as they lead an enormous herd of sheep up and then down the slopes of the Beartooth Mountains in Montana on their way to market.
Andrzej Wajda, Poland/France, 2009, 85m
Celebrated master Andrzej Wajda returns with a bold, experimental work that juxtaposes a story about a terminally doctor’s wife rediscovering romance thanks with a heart-rending monologue written and performed by actress Krystyna Janda about the death of her husband.
“To Die Like a Man”
Joao Pedro Rodrigues, Portugal, 2009,138m
This touching, finely-etched portrait follows Tonia, a veteran drag performer confronting younger competition and her boyfriend’s demands that she undergo a sex change.
Marco Bellocchio, Italy, 2009, 129m
Mussolini’s “secret” marriage to Ida Dalser, afterwards completely denied by Il Duce, along with the son born from the relationship, becomes the springboard for this visually ravishing meditation on the fascist manipulation of history. An IFC Films release.
Claire Denis, France, 2009, 100m
A handful of Europeans try to make sense of — and survive — the chaos happening all around them in an African country torn apart by civil war.
“The White Ribbon”
Michael Haneke, Austria/France, 2009, 144m
The Palme d’Or winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this is a starkly beautiful meditation on the consequences of violence–physical, emotional, spiritual–in a northern German town on the eve of World War I. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
“The Wizard of Oz”
Victor Fleming, 1939, USA, 103m
The 70th Anniversary of the timeless classic, presented in a spectacular newly-restored edition makes the film a new experience even for those who practically have it memorized. A Warner Bros. release.