The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL, now in its 54th year, begins this September 30th and runs through October 16th. As always, the festival is diverse, with a number of International, Documentary and World Premieres from filmmakers established and emerging.
With new works from Errol Morris, Jim Jarumusch, Ang Lee, Pedro Almodóvar, Kelly Reichart, Olivier Assayas and Paul Verhoeven’s first feature film in nearly a decade, not to mention screenings of the lone restored Marlon Brando feature One Eyed Jacks, this festival is once again a Criterion collector’s dream come true.
Here are the features I’ll be geeking out over, which are just some of this year’s highlights.
For showtimes, tickets and additional information about director and cast member in person Q&As, visit FilmLinc.org/NYFF
THE BIG THREE
Launching the festival is the opening night documentary THE 13, making its world premiere. The nonfiction film’s title refers to the loophole in the 13th Amendment that allowed for a progression from slavery to the horrors of mass incarceration and the prison industry. I’m hearing a lot of pre-festival buzz on this one. It’s Netflix produced, with an eye on Emmy and Oscar, but a bigger mission to shed light on its subject matter. Featuring Cory Booker, Angela Davis, David Dinkins, Henry Louis Gates, and Newt Gingrich.
20th CENTURY WOMAN
The festival’s centerpiece selection is another world premiere – Mike Mills’s follow up to the acclaimed Beginners called 20th CENTURY WOMAN. Set in 1979, the comedic drama stars Annette Bening in a buzzworthy role. Rounding out the great cast is Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning.
THE LOST CITY OF Z
Closing out the festival is James Grey’s THE LOST CITY OF, based on the novel of the same name. Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland and Angus MacFadyen star in this true-life drama of British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s. This is the film’s world premiere.
MY FICTION PICKS
BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK
This Ang Lee award-bait feature is making its world premiere at the festival nearly one month before national release. The movie is based on Ben Fountain’s novel and stars Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel and Steve Martin. If that’s not impressive enough, get ready to geek out big time over the technical specs. The movie was shot in 3D, but at 120fps with native 4K rendering and mastering. Theatre owners and exhibitors were treated to 11 minutes of footage in April, and the reaction was thankfully beyond anything Peter Jackson accomplished with his bad soap-opera effect on The Hobbit. Expect the same mastery of modern storytelling technique as Lee’s last film, Life of Pi.
Kelly Reichardt is one of the most exciting indie filmmakers working today. If you’ve not seen Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, or even Meek’s Cutoff, do yourself a favor and indulge in their simplicity and sophistication. CERTAIN WOMEN brings together Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart under her direction (!!!) in a trio of stories set in Montana. The film was shot on 16mm, because of course it was. A hit at Sundance, this is the movie’s last festival appearance before the IFC Films release in mid October.
Love him or hate him, Paul Showgirls-but-also-Robocop Verhoeven brings to the festival the US Premiere of his first French film ELLE. Isabelle Huppert plays a victim of rape who refuses the very mantle of victimhood. She’s also the CEO of a video game company and daughter of a notorious mass murderer. From a screenplay by David Birke (13 Sins, Gacy) adapted from a book by Philippe Djian (Betty Blue), the film received a seven-minute standing ovation at its Cannes Film Festival International premiere.
I, DANIEL BLAKE
On the topic of Criterion Collection picks past and probably future, my first introduction to director Ken Loach came from their remastered treatment of his classic coming-of-age tale Kes. The newest film from the regarded British director, I, DANIEL BLAKE won this past year’s Palme d’Or in Cannes and centers around a man all but defeated by the bureaucracy of the English health care system.
Hot on the heels of the announcement that Barry Jenkins will be helming a limited series adaptation of current bestseller The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, comes the director’s latest feature. Spanning the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of a gay African-American man who survives Miami’s drug-plagued inner city, the film goes into general release in late October after this, and many other acclaimed festival appearances.
MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA
Dash Shaw is the author of graphic novels New School and Bottomless Belly Button. This is his animated feature debut, set in high school and featuring the voice talents of Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon, and John Cameron Mitchell. The showings do come with a warning, however, from the festival – the film uses stroboscopic effects that can be dangerous for people with photosensitive epilepsy.
Jim Jarmusch once took the last seat at a screening I tried to attend of The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I’ll never forgive him for that. Well, that and for his disappointing follow up to Broken Flowers with The Limits of Control. With his latest film, PATERSON, he must measure up to his brilliant last film, Only Lovers Left Alive. Adam Driver plays a bus, um, driver in the town of Paterson, New Jersey. Getting even more meta is the epic poem Paterson by William Carlos Williams at the heart of this story. Watch for a cameo from Moonlight Kingdom star Jared Gilman. This is the US Premiere of the Amazon Studios distributed release.
Fans of the Olivier Assayas film Clouds of Sils Maria will be thrilled to catch PERSONAL SHOPPER, which also stars it-girl Kristen Stewart. It is described in the program notes as being a psychological and supernatural thriller for the digital age. This brief festival appearance marks its US Premiere, and a chance to see the film before its general release even in France.
MY DOCUMENTARY PICKS
Errol Morris’s latest focuses on Elsa Dorman, a friend of the director who uses 20×24 Polaroids as her medium for portrait photography. This is a documentary about a documentarian, who has for over fifty years commissioned the portraits of people in an unconventional format.
The real-life Postcards from the Edge and then some, this is a portrait of the ultimate open-book celebrity mom and daughter team of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. The movie is directed by veteran documentary producer Alexis Bloom and filmmaker/actor Fisher Stevens.
THE BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED
Musical theatre geeks will salivate over this story of the cult Sondheim/Prince show Merrily We Roll Along, which closed after only 16 performances in 1981. This is the World Premiere of the documentary, featuring the original cast members of the show. Stephen Sondheim himself is scheduled to appear in person at the October 9th screening.
The importance and impact of Iggy and the Stooges is explored and exploited in Jim Jarmusch’s love letter to the punk gods of my hometown Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jarmusch and Iggy Pop are scheduled to discuss the film in person at the October 1st premiere. Shirts optional, lust for life required.