The year’s best-curated selection of cinema begins this Friday at Film at Lincoln Center: the New York Film Festival. Now in its 57th edition, the event will kick off with one of its most high-profile world premieres in years, Martin Scorsese’s 3.5-hour crime epic The Irishman. What will follow is 17 days of the finest world cinema has to offer.
Since you are surely aware of their more high-profile selections–including Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or winner Parasite, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, and a certain jokester–in our preview we’ve sought out to highlight some films that are either flying a bit under the radar or go beyond their Main Slate selections. Check out 12 films to see, along with all reviews thus far, and return for our coverage. See the full schedule and more here.
Atlantics (Mati Diop)
Somewhere along the stretch of Senegalese coastline where Mati Diop’s feature-length directorial debut Atlantics takes place, a futuristic tower stands tall and spectral above the ocean–a sinister crossbreed between a stalagmite and a lighthouse, its lights thrusting red and warm blobs into the night. It’s a fictional place in a story of magical, mysterious elements–a love story that crisscrosses between social commentaries and ghastly apparitions, addressing the global migrant crisis through a language of disquieting and stunning reveries. – Leo G. (full review)
Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles)
The school in the fictional village of Bacurau, located somewhere in the desert hinterlands of north-eastern Brazil, bears the name of one João Carpinteiro. If the throbbing synth track that introduces the opening credits, the film’s glorious widescreen photography, and the narrative’s Rio Bravo-indebted premise weren’t sufficiently indicative, Google Translate helpfully confirms that in English the name does indeed translate to that of the author of Assault on Precinct 13. Credit where credit’s due, as Bacurau owes a considerable debt to Carpenter–while also taking ample cues from another half-dozen genre auteurs–but in terms of complexity and ambition, this furious political allegory co-written and directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles (the production designer on Mendonça Filho’s previous features) is very much a case of the students outclassing the master. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)
The Cotton Club Encore (Francis Ford Coppola)
As Francis Ford Coppola continues prepping his long-gestating sci-fi epic Megalopolis, the director has been looking back his career. After restoring Tucker: The Man and His Dream, he reworked Apocalypse Now, and now he’s returning to his 30s-set musical-meets-crime drama with The Cotton Club Encore. Following the inner workings of a Harlem jazz club, the film wasn’t a hit upon its 1984 release, but now Coppola has spent about a half a million of his own dime to restore image and sound, as well as re-edit the project to include the originally envisioned ending, new dance numbers, and more. He’ll appear in person at NYFF to present this new version on October 5, the same day a rare I.B. Technicolor print of The Godfather: Part II screens as part of a retrospective celebrating 100 years of the American Society of Cinematographers. – Jordan R.
Dodsworth (William Wyler)
Bringing the best in new restorations, NYFF’s Revivals section includes such highlights as Sátántangó, shorts from Sergei Parajanov and Vittorio De Seta, a pair of Buñuel classics, and the B-movie gem The Incredible Shrinking Man, but the biggest event is William Wyler’s Dodsworth, an adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel (and named by late TCM host Robert Osborne as his favorite film of all-time) which will get the rare screening for a revival at Alice Tully Hall. The screening of this brand-new restoration will feature an introduction by fellow admirer Kenneth Lonergan as well as a Q&A with Catherine Wyler and Melanie Wyler. – Leonard P.
Free Time (Manfred Kirchheimer)
While all three of this year’s gala slots (The Irishman, Marriage Story, and Motherless Brooklyn) capture a certain period of New York City, only one new film in the slate features actual footage from a bygone era. Manfred Kirchheimer returns to the festival after last year’s Dream of a City with Free Time, which is made from restored 16mm footage he shot during the late ’50s and early ’60s. Capturing the lives of people in Washington Heights, the Upper West Side, Hell’s Kitchen, and beyond, NYFF seems like the perfect site for a world premiere. – Leonard P.
First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
In First Cow, Kelly Reichardt carves out space for friendship and generosity amidst an otherwise selfish landscape. Set in the 1820s Pacific Northwest, a familiar realm for the Oregon-loyal Reichardt, the film’s twin protagonists are atypically sensitive souls, both towards each other and their environments, and yet they remain hyper-conscious of the cruelty that enervates within their community. Reichardt probes at the limitations of self-preservation as a life philosophy, even though it’s basically required to survive such a hardscrabble existence. What’s the purpose of survival if life doesn’t incentivize assisting your fellow man? – Vikram M. (full review)
Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello)
The rare heavy-hitter to arrive at the trio of Venice, TIFF, and NYFF, Martin Eden finds Pietro Marcello stepping further into the international spotlight. The Jack London adaptation, which won the top prize at TIFF’s Platform section, follows a sailor who has dreams of becoming an author as he’s immersed in an Italian port city. Shot on 16mm with early comparisons to Visconti and Rossellini, this could be the international break-out of the season, and it’s already been picked up by Kino Lorber for a U.S. release. – Jordan R.
Synonyms (Nadiv Lapid)
Relocation becomes dislocation in director Nadav Lapid’s intense, beguiling Synonyms. Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, the story follows a young Israeli man who moves to Paris in the hope of shedding his past and remolding his identity, yet instead finds his sense of self chipped away at. This is an unsettling film about nationality and how society shapes people in a way that is difficult to entirely shake off. – Rory O. (full review)
Varda by Agnès (Agnès Varda)
Life can seldom offer us neat endings. Cinema sometimes can, and there is something nicely fitting to the notion that Agnès Varda, the seventh art’s great celebrator of all things gleaned, would leave audiences–newcomers and devotees alike–with so much to take from her final film, as Varda par Agnès has ultimately proved to be. It is a swan song but not a melancholy tune, more a joyous celebratory coda to the director’s life and work, a film that feels purpose-built to dispel any notions of solemnity around her passing. – Rory O. (full review)
Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa)
A dark back-alley drowned in shadow; towering concrete walls on either side; on the top right a row of headstones overlook; the glimmer of a walking stick emerges in the distance, and then a funeral procession. 15 minutes later a women disembarks from an airplane and is greeted not by family but by the airport’s cleaning staff. “There is nothing for you in Portugal, Vitalina,” they say. Welcome—or perhaps welcome back—to the world of Pedro Costa, the austere Portuguese director behind Colossal Youth (2006), In Vanda’s Room (2000), and other haunting works with which to grapple. – Rory O. (full review)
The Wild Goose Lake (Diao Yinan)
“Ever thought of running away?” “Where to?” This exchange comes late in The Wild Goose Lake, the latest film from stylish Chinese genre filmmaker Diao Yinan (previously awarded with Berlinale’s 2014 Golden Bear for his art film-inflected neo-noir Black Coal, Thin Ice), and within the film’s noir milieu the line fits. It’s shared between a gangster on the run and the call girl companion he’s been forcefully entwined with, however a strange combination of filmic tools means it comes tinged with a unique, near-cosmic portent, revealing even more so than his last film a much richer, wounded existentialism about two lonely, desperate people simply surviving in a dilapidated, contemporary Mainland China. – Josh L. (full review)
Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello)
Bertrand Bonello’s last film, the terrorism-themed thriller Nocturama, hit headlines as it was released in the wake of Islamic State terror attacks in France. Supposedly it was the reason the film didn’t debut in competition at Cannes that year and with the compelling Directors’ Fortnight premiere Zombi Child, the director has again swerved away from official selection. Where Nocturama pointed to a seething social tension that Bonello believed present in the undercurrent of contemporary France, this is a genre-blending horror satire on the country’s racial divisions that delves into the country’s post-colonial heritage and the myth of Haitian zombie legend. – Ed F. (full review)
Fire Will Come
A Girl Missing
Heimat Is a Space in Time
I Was at Home, But…
Pain and Glory
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
To the Ends of the Earth
The 57th New York Film Festival takes place September 27-October 13. See schedule and ticket info here.