In past years I’ve already been on the ground at the start of New York Film Festival, dishing on opening night films Life of Pi and Captain Phillips to much excitement, regardless of their absolute quality. This year, I won’t be making it out there till Sunday, but with little being missed in my lateness. While I’d love to get a jump on Gone Girl while the buzz is still simmering, a nationwide release next Friday is a comforting reminder that there’s no rush for greatness. There are some intriguing mysteries I’ll be missing as a consequence, namely Asia Argento’s Misunderstood, Eugene Green’s European romance La Sapienza, even Kathryn Bigelow’s 3-minute PSA Last Days about elephant poaching. As ever, the Film Society at Lincoln Center has assembled a juicy program.
Given my usual fixed timeframe of a single week, there are also 2nd-week films I’ll feel guilty about missing. Hotly anticipated Oscar contenders Foxcatcher and Birdman alike have U.S. releases in the imminent future, so once again, no reason to be hasty. Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria is a nearly unmissable prospect, unifying eternal talent Juliette Binoche and rising indie star Kristen Stewart in an intriguing film about stars, performance, and by all implications sexuality. Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip promises thornier character work for Jason Schwartzman, and a beautifully filled out cast including Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce and Kate Lyn Shiel, and it’ll be reaching screens mid-October.
A last-minute surprise from the festival threw me, that being the announcement of Laura Poitras’ CITIZENFOUR, a documentary that’s ostensibly about Edward Snowden. Knowing Poitras, whose work on The Oath and My Country, My Country has bravely complicated the (a)moral waters of her subject matter, there’s a much deeper, more scathing commentary under the surface. Radius-TWC was quick to announced a late October release, but one documentary with no distribution yet secured is Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, which is perhaps my most anticipated title of the festival by dint of its title alone. It’s socially potent, but also the kind of potentially intimate film that could reach Iraq in Fragments levels of devastation. Alas, I’ll have to wait for another opportunity to arise. It’s much less likely an opportunity will arise for me to see Claire Denis’ new short film, Voila L’enchainement (paired with Arnaud Desplechin’s The Forest). When will the time arise for me to catch up with those, huh?
As it stands, I’m currently guaranteed to see 16 festival films over my eight days there, with four additions depending on the availability of stand-by and rush tickets (denoted by *). That’s not even including the fact that I’ve already caught up with Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night, a lovely working-class adventure on an intimate scale. I’ll be reviewing it upon its festival screening, along with hopefully every film I see. You can see my full schedule below, along with my advanced thoughts on each films’ prospects.
- Maps to the Stars (Dir. David Cronenberg) – Cronenberg’s stylistic sensibilities have withered in the digital age, but the promise of meaty, seething performances from Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson and Cannes winner Julianne Moore have me hooked.
- ’71 (Dir. Yann Demange) – Jack O’Connell’s on a roll as of late, and a thriller set at the height of the Troubles, an Irish period of poverty and struggle that’s not as historically finished as people conventionally believe, promises a peak of both form and performance. My most anticipated film of the fest.
- Saint Laurent (Dir. Bertrand Bonello) – This year’s yielded two Yves Saint Laurent biopics, and from all indications, this is the favorable one. I guessed that from Bonello’s sensual promise, but I’m interested in what makes this more than a simple biopic.
- The Blue Room (Dir. Mathieu Amalric) – Monday’s certainly shaping up to be a sensual day, isn’t it? Amalric dissects a passionate chamber piece. He’s a promising director, so any step forward in his trajectory is worth keeping an eye on.
- National Gallery (Dir. Frederick Wiseman) – Wiseman was responsible for possibly 2013’s most immaculate documentary, At Berkeley. This film’s subject isn’t quite as socially pressing, but it should prove to be a much more engrossing depictions of preserving artistic monuments than, say… another 2014 film about men saving monuments. Titles escape me.
- Sunshine Superman (Dir. Marah Strauch) – I’m looking forward to calling this the best Superman movie ever made. A documentary about the founder of BASE jumping may be dramatically simple, but should offer some exciting airborne sequences.
- The Look of Silence (Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer) – Some have hailed Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing as one of the greatest documentaries, even films, of all time. Much more desperately anticipated, for me, is the story of the victims rising to preserve the memories to the atrocities.
- *Beloved Sisters (Dir. Dominik Graf) – An 18th century love triangle between a German poet and two sisters. I have dreams of a more contestant Bright Star. Time will most certainly tell if Germany’s 3-hour Foreign Language Film entry reaches that dreamscape.
- Timbuktu (Dir. Abderrahmane Sissako) – Cannes standout about the jihadist of Malian city of Timbuktu, covering multiple characters, but an expansive portrait of a particular community in a particularly stressful time.
- *Goodbye to Language (Dir. Jean-Luc Godard) – Godard plays with 3D. Jean-Luc Godard is playing with 3D. Challenging, often Brechtian, French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard made a movie where he does God-only-knows-what with 3D technology! (*repeat and continually expand 14x till the brain is mush).
- Iris (Dir. Albert Maysles) – Another forefather of documentary cinema, glimpsing into the life of “fashion-and-interior-design maven Iris Apfel”. I can’t get my hopes too high for a major work, but a solo work by the surviving Maysles brother (David sadly passed as early as 1987) must be seen, regardless.
- L’il Quinquin (Dir. Bruno Dumont) – Dumont’s typical grimness gets a comic undertow in this 3+ hour crime film. I’m imagining David Fincher meets Monty Python. Dumont, don’t punish me too much?
- Heaven Knows What (Dir. Josh & Benny Safdie) – The big mystery of the festival going in; the biggest surprise winner of the fest going out? Up-and-coming director duo tackling heroin addiction in New York City? Ready for something searing!
- Red Army (Dir. Gabe Polsky) – Not really an anticipated film, but an intriguing one. Documentary about the Russian ice hockey team during the Cold War. Scooped up by Sony Classics for the awards season. We’ll see if it can balance tough politics and heart-rending subject matter.
- Mr. Turner (Dir. Mike Leigh) – Leigh hasn’t once disappointed me. In fact, his films get more richly textured as time goes on, it’s often proven. Timothy Spall’s ungainly performance could be a turn-off, but trust the emotionally sensitive, tactile director in all circumstances.
- Projections: Program 3 – One of two experimental showcases I’m attending, partly because one of my professors has a film there, partly because Mary Helena Clark is visiting our school the following week, and partly because Ben Rivers is an extraordinary avant-garde talent. Still waiting on A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness to get U.S. distribution (Review here).
- Inherent Vice (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) – Has Paul Thomas Anderson ever made a film that’s less than totally intriguing and engrossing? Has he ever made a film that’s actively grotesque? Answers to those (for me, anyway) are both “no”. Like nearly all his films, we won’t know exactly what we’re getting till we’ve got it, but we’ll almost certainly be grateful for it.
- *Projections: Program 7 – Ben Russell featured, another co-director of A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, and director of the ravishing Black and White Trypps series.
- *The Princess of France (Dir. Matias Pineiro) – Pineiro’s delicate brand of cinema is one that’s bound to work me over emotionally at some point. It’s gorgeous to behold in most instances, regardless.
- Eden (Dir. Mia Hansen-Love) – I’ve been ready to fall in love with Hansen-Love for some time, but without an entry point into her work. The short appearance of Greta Gerwig will get me in (I emphasize *short*, so don’t expect to movie to revolve around her), but the fusion of the music and sensory images of the 1980s garage music scene should keep me enthused and engrossed.