Overview of the 47th New York Film Festival


The Toronto Film Festival has been over for less than a week, and ComingSoon.net is already well into its next film festival of the year, and that’s the annual New York Film Festival held by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. This is the 47th year for the festival, and granted, there’s a lot of crossover with Toronto, but it’s a far more relaxed festival in terms of there being fewer movies and venues, so the selection committee has been far more selective about what movies they include that have already played other festivals.

This year’s slate is made up mostly of foreign films with only a few notable exceptions, but things officially kicked-off on Friday, September 25 with the Opening Night feature, 87-year-old French filmmaker Alan Resnais’ Wild Grass (Sony Pictures Classics), an absurdist comedy (of sorts) about a man (André Dussolier) who finds a woman’s wallet and becomes obsessed with meeting her. The woman is played by Resnais’ regular Sabine Azema, and the cast includes Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace) and Emmanuelle Devos.

The festival’s Centerpiece is also one of the few American-made films at the festival, and that is Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (Lionsgate – Nov. 6), a movie that’s already receiving a huge amount of awards buzz for the performances by newcomer Gabby Sidibe as the title character, a miserable girl dealing with an abusive mother, played by comedian Mo’Nique in a rare dramatic turn.

Closing Night will be the U.S. Premiere of another long-time attendee of the festival, filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, who brings his latest movie Broken Embraces (Sony Pictures Classics – Nov. 20), to the festival, once again with Penelope Cruz along with him. This one is about a filmmaker blinded in a car accident fourteen years earlier after becoming involved with the wife of a powerful businessman who is financing his movie.

Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon follows in a long line of Cannes Palm D’Or winners that have their New York premiere at the festival. This one deals with the consequences of violence on the eve of World War I. (Haneke’s last appearance at the film festival was his 2005 release Caché.)

Todd Solonz will also continue his run of NYFF premieres with Life During Wartime, a follow-up of sorts to his 1998 movie Happiness, this time with an all-new cast, as it follows the preparations of young teen boy for his upcoming Bar-Mitzvah. The eclectic cast includes Charlotte Rampling, Ciaran Hinds, Shirley Henderson, Paris Hilton and Paul Reubens.

Don Argott’s documentary The Art of the Steal (Sundance Selects) takes a look at the controversial dealings over the Barnes Foundation’s multi-billion dollar collection of rare artwork, which became the center of numerous litigations and questionable deals after his death in 1951.

Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon (Sony Pictures Classics) is a riveting war drama set during the early days of the Lebanon War in 1982, all shown from the perspective of four Israeli soldiers stationed inside a tank. Having won the Golden Lion at the recent Venice Film Festival, which is a fairly lofty honor, it was thought to be Israel’s selection to represent the country in the Oscar Foreign Language category, but it was beaten at that country’s own Ophir Awards by Ajami over the weekend.

The new movie from Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 to Bucharest), Police, Adjective, has received his country’s nod of approval. It follows an undercover police officer as he tries to save a teenager from going to jail for sharing recreational drugs with his friends.

Korea’s selection, Bong Joon-ho’s maternal murder mystery Mother (Magnolia) will also play at the festival on its way to the Oscars. Other Asian offerings including Zhao Dayong’s Ghost Town and Kanikosen from Japan.

The Italian epic Vincere (IFC Films) by Marco Bellocchio takes an operatic look at Italian director Bennito Mussolini and his secret marriage to Ida Dalser, who bore him a son he later denied.

Lars von Trier’s divisive thriller Antichrist (IFC Films) follows its run at Cannes and Toronto before its release in October, while French filmmakers Claire Denis and Catherine Breillat return to the festival with their new films White Material and Bluebeard, respectively.

Three notable British directors–Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane), James Marsh (Man on Wire) and Anand Tucker (The Golden Compass)–take on David Peace’s novels about England’s infamous serial killer, “The Yorkshire Ripper,” with The Red Riding Trilogy (IFC Films), which stars the likes of Andrew Garfield, Sean Bean, Paddy Considine and David Morrisey.

Resnais has nothing on Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira, who celebrates his 100th (!) birthday with his new film Eccentricities of a Blonde Hair Girl is a story about frustrated novel adapted from Eça de Queiroz. (Make sure to get to this one early for the concert short Get Your YaYa’s Out! by Albert Maysles that showcases early footage of the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden.)

Film Society will also be using the festival to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Victor Fleming’s seminal The Wizard of Oz with a rare big screen showing of the popular classic.

The 47th New York Film Festival kicked-off on Friday night, but one can still get tickets to some of the other films mentioned above. (This is a festival where it’s worth getting to screenings early and standing in the rush line, because many subscribers don’t use their tickets.)