Master Gardener (c) Hanway Film Armageddon Time (c) Focus Feature
TÁR (c) Focus Features Triangle of Sadness (c) NEON The Eternal Daughter (c) A24
In lieu of the upcoming traditional Fall Movie Preview, I would look at the main slate lineup of films in the New York Film Festival to let you know which art movies you should look forward to. Sure, the blockbusters are rarely programed here, but its catnap for you cinephiles looking to be stimulated with cool dramas, black comedies and probing documentaries. The New York Film Festival is the culmination of all the prestigious film festivals from early in the year like Sundance and Cannes to the ones of late summer like Toronto, Locarno, Telluride and Venice and they whittle down those massive film slates into the best of the fest with the occasional world premiere.
Last year, future Oscar nominees at the NYFF include “The Power of the Dog,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” “Parallel Mothers,” “Drive My Car,” “Flee,” and “The Worst Person in the World.” There are many contenders this year including some festival award winners and well-reviewed films by auteur directors. There are also those hidden gems, that one can only discover if one digs deeper into some of the less recognizable movies like last year’s “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” “Vortex,” “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn,” “Memoria,” and “Hit the Road.”
So, let’s dig into every movie and see what movies will make the most noise and which ones will interest you when the Festival begins on September 30th, with my personal spotlight in each category. Synopsis is edited from the Film at Lincoln Center website, which presents the festival. You can get a discount membership (only if you join by this Tuesday, August 16 with the code SUMMER22) which will give you special benefits for tickets, passes and merch for the Film Festival.
The Marquee Names:
Here are the films by directors you know that will probably be the hardest tickets to get this year.
TIB’s SPOTLIGHT PICK:
Decision to Leave (c) MUBI
Decision to Leave
Director: Park Chan-wook
South Korea, 138m
Korean and Chinese with English subtitles
Busan detective Hae-joon finds that he’s increasingly obsessed with a puzzling new case: a middle-aged businessman has mysteriously fallen to his death during a rock climbing expedition. Upon discovering photos of his abused wife, a Chinese national named Seo-rae (Tang Wei), Hae-joon begins to suspect it wasn’t an accident, all the while becoming emotionally and erotically drawn to her.
Park Chan-wook is most known for "Oldboy" and "The Handmaiden" and he won the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Director: James Gray
It’s Queens, 1980 and set against the backdrop of a country on the cusp of ominous sociopolitical change, Armageddon Time follows Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), a sixth grader who dreams of becoming an artist. At the same time that Paul builds a friendship with classmate Johnny (Jaylin Webb), who’s mercilessly targeted by their racist teacher, he finds himself increasingly at odds with his parents (Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway), for whom financial success and assimilation are key to the family’s Jewish-American identity. Paul feels on firmest ground with his kind grandfather (Anthony Hopkins), whose life experiences have granted him a weathered compassion.
Director James Gray is most known for The Immigrant, The Lost City of Z. Armageddon Time is part of the NYFF 60th Anniversary Celebration
Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) takes great care and pride in his work as the longtime head horticulturist at Gracewood Gardens, the historic estate of the demanding, imperious Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver). An enclosed, scrupulously run world of its own, Gracewood has been in the Haverhill family for generations, and Norma trusts no one other than Narvel to continue its traditions. However, a threat of change is harkened by the arrival of Norma’s troubled grand-niece, Maya (Quintessa Swindell), whose presence sets off a chain reaction of events that catalyze Narvel into coming to terms with his own shocking past.
Paul Schrader has directed recently directed First Reformed and The Card Counter. His latest will premiere at Venice before coming stateside.
Showing Up (c) A24
Lizzy (Williams) struggles to put the finishing touches on her latest pieces for a gallery show in Portland, all the while juggling admin work at the local art school; dealing with the neglect of her well-meaning landlord (Hong Chau), who also happens to be a rising-star conceptual artist; and tending to the emotional wellbeing of her increasingly fragmented family including her brother (First Cow’s John Magaro), her parents (Maryann Plunkett and Judd Hirsch) and a newly adopted pigeon.
Kelly Reichardt has directed "First Cow," "Certain Women" and "Wendy and Lucy." "Showing Up" premiered at Cannes.
Stars at Noon (c) A24
Stars at Noon
English and Spanish with English subtitles
A dissolute young American journalist (Margaret Qualley) and an English businessman (Joe Alwyn) with ties to the oil industry meet by chance while on different, mysterious assignments in modern-day Nicaragua. The two tumble into a whirlwind romance despite knowing little about each other’s true professional identities—all while abstract forces close in on them as they desperately try to book it out of a country that won’t seem to let them leave. Stars at Noon is based on an 1986 novel by Denis Johnson.
Claire Denis is the veteran French director who made films like "Beau Travail," "Let the Sunshine in" and her two most recent films, "Both Sides of the Blade" and "High Life." Stars at Noon won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Cate Blanchett’s talents are put to astounding use in this deft showcase for the actor’s nearly musical artistry, a portrait of Lydia Tár, a world-famous orchestra conductor and her gradual unraveling.
This is Todd Field’s third film after “In the Bedroom” and “Little Children.” Tár will premiere at the Venice Film Festival before coming to NYFF
Triangle of Sadness
Kicking off as a satirical romance, following the bickering, money-soured relationship between two hot young models (Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean), the three-part film escalates into increasing absurdity after they are invited on a luxury cruise, where they rub elbows with the super-rich, as well as a disheveled and disillusioned, Marx-spouting sea captain (Woody Harrelson). To tell more would ruin the Buñuelian twists of this poison-dipped farce on class and economic disparity, which doesn’t skewer contemporary culture so much as dunk it in raw sewage.
Swedish director Ruben Östlund made a splash with his 2014 film, “Force Majuere” and then winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his next two films, “The Square,” and “Triangle of Sadness.”
White Noise (c) Netflix
Based on Don DeLillo’s epochal postmodern 1985 novel, White Noise, Jack Gladney (Adam Driver), an ostentatious “Hitler Studies” professor and father of four whose comfortable suburban college town life and marriage to the secretive Babette (Greta Gerwig) are upended after a horrifying nearby accident creates an airborne toxic event of frightening and unknowable proportions.
Noah Baumbach is a hometown director with New York-centric movies like The Squid and Whale," "The Meyerwitz Stories" and "Marriage Story," so it’s only logical that the film, which will open this year’s Venice Film Festival will also be the opening night gala for NYFF.
The Buzziest Films:
Here are the films that are getting a lot of buzz from other festivals that might be hot tickets
TIB’s SPOTLIGHT PICK:
One Fine Morning (c) Sony Pictures Classics
One Fine Morning
French with English subtitles
Léa Seydoux stars as Sandra, a professional translator and single mother at a crossroads. Her father (Pascal Greggory), rapidly deteriorating from a neurological illness, will soon require facility care, and her new lover (Melvil Poupaud) is a married dad whose unavailability only seems to draw her nearer to him, despite—or because of—the fact that she’s going through an overwhelming time in her life.
French director Mia Hansen-Løve has made such films as “All is Forgiven,” “Things to Come” and last year’s well-received “Bergman Island.” “One Fine Morning” premiered at Cannes as part of the Directors’ Fortnight slate.
Catalan and Spanish with English subtitles
A ruminative, lived-in portrait of a rural family in present-day Catalonia whose way of life is rapidly changing. The Solé clan live in a small village in present-day Catalonia, annually harvesting peaches for local business and export. However, their livelihood is put in jeopardy by the looming threat of the construction of solar panels, which would necessitate the destruction of their orchard.
This is director Carla Simón’s follow-up to her acclaimed childhood drama "Summer 1993" and was the winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale Festival.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (c) Nan Goldin
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
This Nan Goldin documentary, weaves two narratives: the fabled life and career of era-defining artist Goldin and the downfall of the Sackler family, the pharmaceutical dynasty greatly responsible for the opioid epidemic’s unfathomable death toll. Following her own personal struggle with opioid addiction, Goldin, who rose from the New York “No Wave” underground to become one of the great photographers of the late 20th century, put herself at the forefront of the battle against the Sacklers, both as an activist at art institutions around the world that had accepted millions from the family and as an advocate for the de-stigmatization of drug addiction. Illustrated with a rich trove of photographs by Goldin, she narrates her own story, including her dysfunctional suburban upbringing, the loss of her teenage sister, and her community’s fight against AIDS in the eighties.
Laura Poitras is the Academy Award–winning filmmaker "Citizenfour") and her latest film is the NYFF centerpiece film.
French with English subtitles
Countess Sophia Behrs married Leo Tolstoy when she was 18 and he was 34. They were husband and wife for 48 years, had 13 children, and she outlived him by nine years. Yet their relationship, among the most discussed and written about in literary history, was anything but harmonious, as Sophia, an artist in her own right—a photographer, memoirist, and editor—was constantly forced to negotiate her happiness with her husband’s infidelities. Based on Sophia’s diaries and letters from Leo to Sophia, structured as a series of monologues delivered with magnificent poise and gathering intensity by star and co-writer Nathalie Boutefeu, pillowed by graceful images of natural beauty from the film’s bucolic French setting.
Frederick Wiseman is the legendary American director who made such New York documentaries as “Jackson Heights” and “The Library.”
The Eternal Daughter
One gloomy night, a middle-aged filmmaker (Carly-Sophia Davies) and her elderly mother (Tilda Swinton) arrive at a fog-enshrouded hotel in the English countryside. An ominously brusque clerk, an apparent lack of other guests, and disturbing sounds from the room above theirs bode a less-than-welcome arrival. Yet all is not what it seems on this increasingly emotional trip into the past for these two women, one of whom has definitely been here before.
Joanna Hogg is among today’s foremost filmmakers, making a big splash with her recent two-part opus, The Souvenir. This film will premiere in Venice before coming to New York.
The Inspection (c) A24
Based on director Elegance Bratton’s own experiences as a gay man in Marine Corps basic training during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, following a decade of living on the streets, Tony and Emmy–nominated actor Jeremy Pope is a young man dealing with the intimidation of a sadistic sergeant (Bokeem Woodbine), his desire for a sympathetic superior (Raúl Castillo), and his complicated feelings toward the mother who rejected him (Gabrielle Union).
Elegance Bratton is known for his documentary "Pier Kids," about homeless queer and transgender youth in New York, and the Viceland series My House, on underground competitive ballroom dancing.
Elegance Bratton’s narrative film debut will come to New York after its premiere at Toronto. It is the closing night film of the NYFF.
Farsi, Azerbaijani, Turkish with English subtitles
In "No Bears," as in many of his recent titles, Jafar Panahi centers himself, having relocated temporarily to a rural border town to remotely oversee the making of a new film in Tehran, the story of which comes to sharply mirror disturbing events that begin to occur around him. In these parallel yet cross-hatching narratives, Panahi keeps pulling the narrative rug out from under the viewer as he confronts tradition and progress, city and country, spiritual belief and photographic evidence, and the human desire to escape from oppression.
Jafar Panahi has made such films as “The White Balloon” and “Taxi.” He was recently arrested and is ordered to serve six years in jail. The film, film in secret like most of his films, will screen in New York after screenings in Venice and Toronto.
R.M.N. (c) IFC Film
Romanian with English subtitles
Matthias (Marin Grigore) has returned to a rural Transylvanian village riven by ethnic conflicts, economic resentment, and personal turmoil after an altercation at his job in a German slaughterhouse, only to find that his estranged wife has grown more distant and his young son has stopped talking after witnessing something disturbing in the forest near their home. Meanwhile his former lover, Csila (Judith State), with whom he hopes to rekindle an affair, has become involved in an escalating controversy when her local bread factory hires Sri Lankan migrants.
Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, directed "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days." "Graduation" and "Beyond the Hills." R.M.N. premiered at Cannes.
Take a Chance on These Films
The rest of the slate have some very interesting and intriguing films that may be worth a shot
TIB’s SPOTLIGHT PICK:
The Novelist's Film (c) The Cinema Guild
The Novelist’s Film
South Korea, 92m
Korean with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Junhee (Lee Hyeyoung) is a prickly middle-aged novelist, who, after revisiting an old friend who now runs a bookshop outside of Seoul, embarks on a restorative journey that leads her to a chance encounter with a famous actress and former movie star (Kim Minhee); the two make an instant connection that stokes both women’s dormant creative impulses. Within this simple, loose-limbed premise, the film locates a deep well of emotional truth, and poses a bounty of questions about the necessities and expectations of art-making, leading to a poignant, entirely unexpected, mode-shifting climax.
This is prolific Korean Hong Sangsoo’s 27th film (winner of Berlin’s Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize) and one of two films in this year’s New York Film Festival.
Aftersun (c) A24
Scottish director Charlotte Wells makes her directorial debut with memory piece inspired by her relationship with her dad, taking place over the course of a brooding weekend at a coastal resort in Turkey. The charismatic Paul Mescal (“Normal People”) and newcomer Francesca Corio fully inhabit Calum and Sophie, a divorced father and his daughter often mistaken for brother and sister, who share a close and loving bond that creates an entire world unto itself.
Charlotte Wells won the French Touch Prize of the Jury at this year’s Cannes Festival for “Aftersun.”
All That Breathes
Hindi with English subtitles
In this documentary set in New Delhi, there are birds of prey known as black kites that have routinely been falling from the skies due to injuries sustained from pollution or manja, the dangerous cotton threads of paper kites that slice through their wings. For decades, brothers Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad—who believe in the interconnectedness of human and animal life—have taken it upon themselves to save the birds, which the general city population largely sees as nuisances despite their essential role in the city’s ecosystem.
New Delhi–based filmmaker Shaunak Sen directed his first film, “Cities of Sleep” in 2016. “All That Breathes” is his second film and is the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary (World Cinema) at Sundance and the L’OEil d’or for Best Documentary at Cannes.
Corsage (c) IFC Films
Austria, France, Germany 113m
German, French, English, Hungarian with English subtitles
Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread) is Empress Elizabeth of Austria, who begins to see her life of royal privilege as a prison as she reaches her 40th birthday. The film explores Elizabeth’s cloistered, late-19th-century world within the Austro-Hungarian Empire with both austere realism and fanciful anachronism, while staying true and intensely close to the woman’s private melancholy and political struggle amidst a crumbling, combative marriage and escalating scrutiny.
Austrian director Marie Kreutzer’s latest film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard.
De Humani Corporis (c) Grasshopper Film
De Humani Corporis
Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor
French with English subtitles
This documentary uses microscopic cameras and specially designed recording devices to survey the wondrous landscape of the human body. More transfixing than clinical, the film, shot in hospitals in and around Paris, eschews the normal narrative parameters for medical documentation in favor of a rigorously detached, expressionistic look at our tactile yet essentially unknowable flesh and viscera. The film is filled with unshakable images of biopsies, cesarean delivery, endoscopic procedures, and the little-seen crevices inside all of us.
Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor directed Leviathan and Caniba, with their latest film premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes.
In 1860, decades after the U.S. banned the practice of kidnapping and importing humans for enslavement, yet five years before the 13th amendment emancipated the nation’s already enslaved people, a ship named the Clotilda docked in Mobile, Alabama. There, it unloaded more than one hundred African souls before it was ordered destroyed and sunk to eradicate evidence. Freed in 1865, yet unable to return to their homeland, the documentary spotlights on the survivors who founded Africatown—a testament to their strength which persists today despite the town’s governmental neglect and economic disparity.
Margaret Brown directed the documentaries The Order of Myths and The Great Invisible. Her latest film won a special jury prize for Impact for Creative Vision at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
In 1973, on an uninhabited, windswept, rocky island off the coast of Cornwall in southwest England, an isolated middle-aged woman (Mary Woodvine) spends her days in enigmatic environmental study. When she’s not tending to the moss-covered stone cottage in which she lodges, her central preoccupation is a cluster of wildflowers at cliff’s edge, their subtle changes noted in a daily ledger. Yet she’s also increasingly haunted by her own nightmarish visitations, which seem both summoned from her own past and brought up from the very soil and ceremonial history of this mysterious place. Shot on enveloping, period-evocative 16mm, this eerie, texturally rich experience conjures works of classic British folk horror but remains its own strange being, a genuine transmission from a weird other world.
Cornish filmmaker Mark Jenkin won the 2019 BAFTA Award for Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for his film "Bait." This is his second film which premiered at Cannes.
EO (c) Janus Films and Sideshow
Polish, Italian, English, French with English subtitles
This film follows the travels of a peripatetic donkey named EO. After being removed from the only life he’s ever known in a traveling circus, EO begins a journey across the Polish and Italian countryside, experiencing cruelty and kindness, captivity and freedom The film imagines the animal’s mesmerizing journey as an ever-shifting interior landscape, marked by absurdity and warmth in equal measure, putting the viewer in the unique perspective of the protagonist.
Legendary director Jerzy Skolimowski’s ("The Deep End," "Moonlighting") latest film won a Jury Prize at Cannes this year.
Pacification (c) Grasshopper Film and Gratitude Film
French with English subtitles
A portrait of a French bureaucrat (Benoît Magimel) drifting through a fateful trip to a French Polynesian island with increasing anxiety, Pacifiction charts the various uneasy relationships that develop between Magimel’s autocratic yet avuncular High Commissioner, De Roller, and the Indigenous locals (including nonprofessional actor Pahoa Mahagafanau) who operate essentially under his faux-benevolent thumb, many of whom we meet at a resort that caters to the prurient exoticism of foreign tourists. This atmospheric thriller is a slow-building fever dream that lulls before catching us by surprise with the depths of its darkness.
Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra made “Story of My Death” and “The Death of Louis XIV” and his latest premiered at Cannes this year.
Return to Seoul
France/Germany/South Korea/Belgium, 115m
English, French, and Korean with English subtitles
Freddie (Park Ji-Min), a young French woman, finds herself spontaneously tracking down the South Korean birth parents she has never met while on vacation in Seoul. It’s unpredictable, careering narrative that takes place over the course of several years, always staying close on the roving heels of its impetuous protagonist, who moves to her own turbulent rhythms and whose feelings of unbelonging have kept her at an emotional distance from nearly everyone in her life.
Cambodian-French filmmaker Davy Chou made his feature fiction debut in 2016 with “Diamond Island,” and his follow-up, premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year.
Saint Omer (c) Laurent Le Crabe
French with English subtitles
Rama (Kayije Kagame), a successful journalist and author living in Paris, has come to Saint Omer, a town in the north of France, to attend the trial of a young Senegalese woman, Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanga), who allegedly murdered her baby daughter. Although she admits to killing the child, she cannot or will not provide motivation, claiming it was a kind of sorcery out of her control. Rama’s plan to write about Laurence in a book inspired by the Medea myth increasingly unravels as she becomes overwhelmed by the case, and reckons with memories of her immigrant mother as well as her own impending motherhood.
This is documentarian Alice Diop’s ("Nous," "Vers la Tendresse") narrative feature debut, which will be seen in New York after its showings at Toronto and Venice.
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Scarlet is an enchanting period fable based on a beloved 1923 novel by Russian writer Alexander Grin. Beginning as the tale of a sensitive brute (Räphael Terry) who returns home from World War I to his rural French village to discover his wife has died and that he must take care of their baby daughter, Juliette, the film blossoms into a pastoral portrait of Juliette as a free-spirited young woman (Juliette Jouan) reckoning with a local witch’s prophecy for her future and falling for the modern man (Louis Garrel) who literally drops from the sky.
Pietro Marcello had a breakthrough with his 2019 Martin Eden, and his latest was seen at Cannes in its Directors Fortnight.
Huang Ji and Ryuji Otsuka
Hunanese with English subtitles
Expanding their project, their gripping, humane yet uncompromising latest, shot with a precise formal economy by Otsuka (who also serves as cinematographer), focuses on a year in the life of Lynn, a flight-attendant-in-training whose plans to finish college are thrown into doubt when she discovers she’s pregnant. Not wanting an abortion (a decision she hides from her callow, absent boyfriend, away on modeling and party-hosting gigs), she hopes to give the child away after carrying it to term, while staying afloat amidst a series of dead-end jobs. As incarnated by the filmmakers’ quietly potent recurring star Yao Honggui, Lynn—whose story continues after being the center of the filmmakers’ acclaimed The Foolish Bird (2007)—is both a fully rounded character and the vessel for an urgent critique of a modern-day social structure that has few options for women in need of care.
Beijing-based wife-and-husband team Huang Ji and Ryuji Otsuka previous films “The Foolish Bird” and “Egg and Stone” are the first two films of a trilogy about the hardship of Chinese women which “Stonewalling,” making its US premiere at NYFF, is the third.
Argentina, 250m (presented in two parts)
Spanish with English subtitles
Trenque Lauquen is told in 12 chapters spread across two feature films, and takes the viewer on a limitless, mercurial journey through stories nested within stories set in and around the Argentinean city of Trenque Lauquen (“Round Lake”) and centered on the strange disappearance of a local academic named Laura (Laura Paredes). Through initial inquiries by two colleagues—older boyfriend Rafael and a driver named Ezequiel with whom she had grown secretly close—we learn about her recent discoveries, including a new, unclassified species of flower and a series of old love letters hidden at the local library, which may help them track her down. Yet as flashbacks and anecdotes pile up, we—and the film’s intrepid investigators—begin to realize that this intricately structured tale is larger and stranger than we could have imagined.
Laura Citarella is the producer of the equally remarkable epic "La Flor" (which runs at 868 minutes) so the modest 250-minutes Trenque Lauquen, which will premiere at Venice first, is now seen as doable.
Unrest (c) KimStim
Swiss German, Russian and French with English subtitles
This film is set in the hushed environs of the Swiss watchmaking town of Saint-Imier in the 1870s where a youthful Pyotr Kropotkin, who would become a noted anarchist and socialist philosopher, experiences a quiet revolution, finding himself inspired by the buzzing activity of the town’s denizens. They include photographers and cartographers surveying its people and land; to the growing anarchist collective at the local watermill, raising funds for strikes abroad; to the organizing workers at the watch factory, whose craft is depicted with exacting detail and devotion.
Cyril Schäublin’s first film was “Those Who are Fine” in 2017. “Unrest” premiered at Berlin earlier this year.
South Korea, 97m
Korean with English subtitles
Successful middle-aged filmmaker Byungsoo (Kwon Haehyo) drops by to visit and introduce his daughter to an old friend, Mrs. Kim (Lee Hyeyoung), the owner of a charming apartment building that houses a restaurant on the ground floor. After Mrs. Kim tries to persuade him to move into one of the walk-up units, the film and Byungsoo’s future take a series of unexpected turns, as the various floors of the apartment come to contain different stages of his romantic and professional lives—or perhaps they’re different realities?
This is prolific Korean Hong Sangsoo’s 28th film (which will premiere at Toronto) and one of two films in this year’s New York Film Festival.
Till (c) Orion Pictures and United Artists Releasing
It was announced in July that director Chinonye Chukwu’s feature film “Till” will make its world premiere at the 60th New York Film Festival on opening weekend. But for some reason, it’s not listed on the official Main Slate listing on the Festival’s website. It’s most likely a special presentation.
Till is a profoundly emotional and cinematic film about the true story of Mamie Till Mobley’s (Danielle Deadwyler) relentless pursuit of justice for her 14 year old son, Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall), who, in 1955, was lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In Mamie’s poignant journey of grief turned to action, we witness the universal power of a mother’s courage, and ability to change the world.
This is Chinonye Chukwu second film after “Clemency” and NYFF’s only announced World Premiere so far. I hope it’s absence on the website is just an oversight as the New York Film Festival, MGM’s Orion Pictures and United Artists Releasing had announced a collaboration with community partners to invite high school students to special screenings with the filmmakers during NYFF60.
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