44th New York Film Festival Preview

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Every year for the last 43 years, the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York has collected the latest films from some of the greatest filmmakers of America and the world for a two-week celebration of the movies that will be on everyone’s mind over the next six months. Following hot on the heels of other prominent international film festivals, the 44th Annual New York Film Festival gives New Yorkers and visitors a chance to see some of the biggest buzz films from around the globe without shelling out for an expensive airline ticket.

With all the construction going on, Lincoln Center has seen better days, but there is no way in hell that’s going to stop the New York Film Festival from kicking off on Friday, September 29 with Stephen Frears’ The Queen, starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, trying to recover in the days after the death of Princess Diana in 1997. The movie, which has received huge amounts of critical acclaim from the Venice Film Festival, is a great example of the level of quality represented in the festival every single year, and Frears’ film is being given the same treatment and release pattern as Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake did two years ago.

The following night, Todd Field’s second film Little Children will get an advance sneak preview before its platform release on October 6. Adapted by Field with Tom (Election) Perrotta from Perrotta’s novel of the same name, it explores the intersecting lives of a number of suburbanites, including Kate Winslet, a young mother who has an affair with a local house-husband, played by Patrick Wilson of Hard Candy.

Michael Apted’s “Up Series” has been around almost as long as the festival, beginning with the British filmmaker interviewing 7-year-old boys and girls from different walks of life 42 years ago and then returning every seven years to chart their progress and learn their latest views on England and the world. The eighth film in the series 49 Up will play on October 5th before its theatrical run in New York the following day.

David Lynch’s Inland Empire, his first feature film since the critically acclaimed Mulholland Drive, will be shown on October 8 and 9 after debuting at the Venice Film Festival. It features a collection of snippets starring the likes of Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons and Harry Dean Stanton.

What would a New York Film Festival be without a new movie from Pedro Almodóvar? While his Viva Pedro film festival continues to run across the street at the Lincoln Plaza Theatre, his latest drama Volver plays at the festival as its Centerpiece on October 7 and 8. It once again teams Spain’s master director with Penélope Cruz, who is getting great critical notices for her role as a mother dealing with a troubled teen daughter, a gossiping sister and a dying friend, while her own seemingly dead mother returns from the grave. Don’t worry; it all makes sense in the world of Almodóvar.

Toward the end of the festival, Sofia Coppola’s stunning period piece and third film Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst in the title role, will have its North American debut, giving a decidedly different look at the young 17th Century French queen.

The film festival closes on October 15 with Guillermo (Hellboy) del Toro’s long-awaited period fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth, his take on “Alice in Wonderland” set during the Spanish Civil War, which was just picked as Mexico’s selection for the Academy Awards. That same night, Guy Maddin will debut his latest eclectic masterpiece Brand on the Brain! with two presentations on October 15. The black and white film includes music by a live orchestra, singers, foley artists and actress Isabella Rosellini as its live narrator.

Before things wrap up, the festival will feature some of Asia’s biggest genre hits, dashing the thoughts of the festival being only about stuffy foreign art films:

The Korean horror sensation The Host makes its U.S. premiere at midnight on October 7, following its record-breaking box office run in Asia. Director Bong Joon-ho will make the trek from Korea to present it.

The Japanese animated hit Paprika by Satoshi Kon treads similar trippy territory as Richard Linklater’s recent animated adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly, and it’s ready to blow some minds on October 7.

Johnny To’s recent Triad Election, the sequel to his Hong Kong smash hit Election, plays at the Alice Tully Hall on October 10 and 11, starring superstar Louis Koo as a young man running for the position as president of the Triad crime family. Mr. To’s last film to play at the festival was the crime drama PTU, which has yet to be released in the United States, but Triad Election will be released by Tartan Films next year sometime.

But returning directors are a regular occurrence every year at the New York Film Festival, as international filmmakers who have found success with previous films often bring their new movies to the festival as well.

The Fast Runner, the first film by Canadian filmmakers Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, was a highly respected film, and their follow-up, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, a docudrama about the Danish/Inuit explorer and scientist, should be equally riveting when it screens October 8 and 9.

China’s Tian Zhuangzhuang (Springtime in a Small Town) brings The Go Master to the festival on September 30 and October 1, it being the story of Wu Qingyuan, a child prodigy and the master of the Japanese board game, who got caught up in a religious cult that tried to exploit his fame.

Thailand filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady was very popular among New York film critics in 2005, placing on the Village Voice’s year-end list, but it debuted at the New York Film Festival a year earlier, and the director is back with Syndromes and a Century (October 7), two stories about doctors in two very different medical complexes.

From Mali comes Bamako, the latest film from Abderrahmane Sisako (Waiting for Happiness), which was just picked up by New Yorker Films. It depicts a tribunal hearing for a number of officials accused of promoting policies that are hurting the continent, something particularly relevant after the G8 summit, but at the same, life in the small town where the trial is held goes on unabated.

Austria brings two filmmakers back to the fest: Barbara (Free Radicals) Albert returns with the ensemble drama Falling (October 9 and 10) about 30-something women, while Nikolaus (Pripyat) Geyrhalter offers his documentary Our Daily Bread on October 11, which follows how food travels from its inception to our plates.

Also returning is Iran’s Jafar Panahi (Crimson Gold) with Offside about women soccer players, while Climates, the latest from Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Celan (Distant), stars the director and his wife taking a journey across Turkey.

Every year, the festival runs a number of side programs to the main festival and this year, it’s “50 Years of Janus Films”, running from September 30 to October 26, showing some of the classic films that have been restored and distributed by the company including Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, Federico Fellini’s La Strada, Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water, and more from the likes of Kurosawa, Antonioni, Ingmar Berman, and Francois Truffaut. If you can’t make it, then you can just wait for the amazing 50 Years, 50 Films, One Spectacular Box Set, which will include all of the films shown and more, but it just won’t be the same as seeing it at the Walter Reade Theatre.

On October 4, Paramount Home Entertainment will present a once in a lifetime 25th Anniversary theatrical showing of Warren Beatty’s Oscar-winning epic Reds, about a love affair set during the Bolshevik Revolution, before its release on DVD, and Beatty is supposed to be on hand for that.. Likewise, legendary Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky will be at the festival to present two of his ’70s cult classics, El Topo and The Holy Mountain on October 6 and 7.

If you live in New York City or will be there between September 29 and October 15, tickets are still available for many of the movies at the Lincoln Center’s Filmlinc but you can often get into anything that’s sold out by going to the standby line on the day of the movies. If not, you can always catch some of the movies when they get their theatrical releases:

Miramax releases The Queen in New York on September 30.
New Line gives Todd Field’s Little Children a platform release on October 6.
First Run Features also releases Michael Apted’s documentary 49 Up on October 6.
Sony releases Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette on October 20.
Zeitgeist Films releases Climates on October 27.
Sony Pictures Classics will release Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver on November 3 and Offside on March 2, 2007.
First Run/Icarus releases Our Daily Bread on November 24.
Magnolia Pictures will release the Korean horror film The Host on January 27, 2007.
Tartan Films plans to release Johnny To’s Triad Election sometime next year.

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