The 46th New York Film Festival Has Begun!

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The 46th New York Film Festival is taking place in New York staring this weekend and running through October 12. As always, it creates a great opportunity for anyone in the New York area that hasn’t been able to get to any of the other recent international film festivals a chance to see a lot of the big films in the Fall awards season before anyone else. Although ComingSoon.net has not been able to get to as many advance screenings as in years past, it looks like another great festival with more than usual returning alum and a couple very high profile movies making their New York debut months before their release.

There’s one major and noticeable difference that’s unique to this year’s festival from the previous 45 years. With the Alice Tully Hall still under construction with heavy renovations, most of the festival’s movies will be screened at the much larger Ziegfeld Theatre. The legendary movie theater holds 1,100 people, which means one can expect more tickets to be available right up until the day of the show, although one should check Filmlinc’s Online Ticketing Site to see what’s available. Ticket prices range from $16 to $40, depending on the section, with reserved seats available for the Ziegfeld and Alice Tully Hall shows.

The festival opens on Friday night, September 26, with Laurent Cantet’s The Class (Sony Pictures Classics – Dec. 12), which was just picked as France’s entry to the Academy Awards after winning the coveted Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival back in May. Based on the non-fiction novel by François Bégaudeau based on his own experiences, it takes place in a tough multi-ethnic junior high school in Paris in which a teacher tries to make a difference.

Clint Eastwood’s Changeling (Universal – Oct. 24) is the festival’s prestigious Centerpiece. Starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich, it’s a story set in 1928 Los Angeles, in which a single mother returns home to find her 10-year-old son missing. When the police finally find him in a nationwide manhunt, the boy seems changed and different in many ways that causes his mother more worry. It will play on October 4 and 5 at the Ziegfeld, preceded by the mother-and-son short film Wait for Me by Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Ross Kaufman (Born into Brothels).

Having already played at Cannes and in Toronto to great acclaim as well as winning the Golden Lion at Venice, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight – Dec. 19), starring Mickey Rourke, will have its New York premiere as the festival’s Closing Night film on Sunday, October 12 at 8:30PM at the Avery Fisher Hall. Rourke plays a washed-out professional wrestler who suffers a near-fatal heart attack twenty years after his heyday has passed him, but unable to get his act together, he decides to return to the ring for a big match that he knows might ultimately kill him. Marisa Tomei plays his stripper love interest and Evan Rachel Wood plays his estranged daughter, and it might forever change how you think of Rourke and Aronofsky. (Personally, we feel that Rourke is on the very short list to win the Academy Award as Best Actor this year.)

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mike Leigh returns to the festival for the eighth time with Happy-Go-Lucky (Miramax – Oct. 10), a showcase for Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan, who both appeared in Leigh’s last movie Vera Drake (NYFF 2004). Hawkins plays Poppy, a cheery schoolteacher who looks at the world through rose-colored glasses, taking very little seriously until she encounters the cynically dour driving instructor Scott (Marsan) and the two have to find a way to get through their weekly driving lessons despite their different personalities. Leigh’s latest will be screening twice this weekend at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Sept. 27 at 6:15 and 28 at noon. (Look for our exclusive interview with Mr. Leigh and Ms. Hawkins before its limited release in a few weeks.)

IFC Films is unveiling a huge slate at this year’s festival including Steve McQueen’s Hunger, a stirring film about the last days of imprisoned IRA protest leader Bobby Sands, played in an absolutely astounding performance from Michael Fassbender (300). Showing the torture and horrifying circumstances in the prison which led to Sands going on a 66-day hunger strike in 1981 that ultimately killed him after destroying his body. It’s the first feature length film from the edgy artist known for doing video installations in New York and London. It screens this weekend on September 27 and 28.

Matteo Garrone’s Italian crime film Gomorrah has created a lot of buzz even before Italy chose the film to represent the country in the upcoming Academy Awards. Based on the bestselling novel by Roberto Saviano, it takes a look at the Italian organized crime empire Camorra based in Naples and the extended reach they have in all aspects of Italian culture including fashion and movies. It screens once on October 3 at 6pm and then again on October 5.

IFC’s biggest awards-season release will probably be Steven Soderbergh’s 4 and a half hour Che Guevara biopic Che starring Benicio del Toro as the Argentina-born revolutionary has played at a number of festivals, but the New York Film Festival will be its first showing in the United States with its single screening on Tuesday October 7 at 6pm. Although it’s already sold out, tickets may become available closer to that day.

Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir (Sony Classics – Dec. 26) has already been selected by Israel as their Oscar selection, and even if it doesn’t get into the always-crowded foreign film category, it stands a good chance at being this year’s Persepolis. It’s a stirring war tale told using cutting edge rotoscope animation in which the film’s director reflects back on his time as a soldier and a horrifying event from his which he repressed but that keeps haunting his dreams. It screens on October 1 and 2.

Agnès Jaoui’ s French drama Look at Me opened the festival in 2004, and Jaoui’s new movie Let It Rain marks the French actress and filmmaker’s return playing a feminist novelist who’s thinking of getting into politics. Meanwhile, her husband Jean-Pierre Bacri plays a filmmaker looking to make a documentary about her. It will play at the Ziegfeld on Friday, October 10 and Sunday, October 12.

We’ve interviewed French iconoclast Olivier Assayas a few times in the last few years, so we’re excited to see him bringing his new movie Summer Hours (Oct. 1 and 2) to the festival. It’s a drama about three siblings (Charles Berling, Juliet Binoche, Jerémie Rénier) who come together from across the globe to decide what to do when their mother passes away.

Arnaud Desplechin brought his last film Kings and Queen to the 2004 New York Film Festival and he returns with his fourth film, the ensemble drama A Christmas Tale (November 14) with an all-star cast of some of France’s finest including Catherine Deneuve, her daughter Chiara Mastroianni, Mathieu Amalric from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Melvil Poupad and Emmanuelle Devos. They’re a dysfunctional family who reunites for the holidays as the family’s matriarch (Deneuve) needs an urgent bone marrow transplant that might prove dangerous for the donor. It plays at the festival on October 10 and 11.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is best known for being one of the originators of the J-horror movement with movies like Cure and the original Pulse, but with his new movie Tokyo Sonata (Regent Releasing), he deals with a different type of terror in the form of domestic abuse and violence as a man from Tokyo takes his frustrations out on his gifted son after being laid off form his job. The winner of a Jury Prize at this Cannes Film Festival plays the festival on Thursday Oct. 9 and Saturday Oct. 11 with Mr. Kurosawa in attendance.

South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo (Woman on the Beach) is also returning to the festival for the firth time with his new drama Night and Day, about a middle-aged painter who escapes to Paris trying to set up a new life there. It premieres on October 4. Likewise, Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke (Still Life) can’t stay away from the New Film Festival, returning this year with 24 City (Cinema Guild), a pseudo-documentary about the cultural revolution told through the stories of the workers at a shut-down munitions factory in the city of Chengdu, played by professional actors such as Joan Chen. It will screen once on Saturday, September 27.

The Mexican film Voy a explotar (I’m Gonna Explode) (Sept. 28 and 29) from Gerardo (Drama/Mex) Naranjo follows two high school boys who travel across the country in a stolen Volkswagen, while Argentine director Lucrecia (The Holy Girl – NYFF ‘04) Martel’s The Headless Woman (Monday, Oct 6) follows a woman who think she hits something while driving along a dirt road, something that endlessly haunts her.

There are at least a dozen more foreign films from all parts of the world that you can read about on the Official Site, and as usual, the festival showcases a number of great short films, which precede some of the shorter features. Tickets can be bought on Filmlinc’s Online Ticketing Site.

You can read ComingSoon.net’s coverage of previous New York Film Festivals by clicking on the appropriate link below:

The 44th New York Film Festival

The 43rd New York Film Festival | Part 2

The 42nd New York Film Festival | Part 2

The 41st New York Film Festival | Part 2