New York Film Festival To Fete Nicole Kidman And Richard Peña
Actress Nicole Kidman and retiring Film Society of Lincoln Center Program Director Richard Peña will receive gala tributes at the upcoming 50th New York Film Festival. Kidman stars in Cannes world premiere The Paperboy, which has also joined the NYFF lineup. Kidman's tribute will take place Wednesday October 3rd, while the gala in Peña's honor will take place Wednesday, October 10th.
Peña has been the Program Director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and director of the New York Film Festival since 1988. "It is very fitting that we celebrate the 50th birthday of the New York Film Festival by honoring the man who has guided the festival's artistic vision for the last 25 years," said FSLC's executive director Rose Kuo. "Richard Peña helped us discover directors like Pedro Almodovar, Abbas Kiarostami, Olivier Assayas, Lars von Trier and Hou Hsiao-hsiien, making an indelible contribution to film culture in New York City and around the world. We hope that his friends and colleagues will join us fora special evening to celibate his achievements."
The 50th New York Film Festival will open with the world premiere of Ang Lee's Life of Pi.
The 50th New York Film Festival main-slate:
AMOUR (2012) 127min
Director: Michael Haneke
The universally acclaimed winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, AMOUR is arguably Michael Haneke’s crowning achievement to date, a portrait of a couple dealing with the ravages of old age that is as compassionate as it is merciless. The great veteran French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are staggering as Georges and Anne, long-married music teachers living out their final years surrounded by the comforts of books and music in their warm Paris apartment. After Anne suffers a stroke, Georges attends to her with firmness shot through with love. The underlying unease, as well as some abrupt surprises, are hardly unexpected from Haneke, who challenges the viewer to confront the experience of his characters as directly as he does. But he rewards the effort with a film that is all the more moving for its complete avoidance of sentimentality. An unquestionable masterpiece. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
ARAF – SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN (2012) 124min
Director: Yeşim Ustaoğlu
The title refers as much to the film’s main location—a tiny Turkish town comprised of no more than a few houses and a large motorway rest stop where the locals work impossibly long hours—as it does to adolescence, the way station where the child transforms into an adult. What seems at first like a piece of low-key realism comes into dramatic focus when an adolescent girl begins an obsessive sexual relationship with a middle-aged trucker, fueling the fury of the teen-aged boy who hoped to marry her. Yesim Ustaoglu, whose debut feature JOURNEY TO THE SUN is one of the treasures of the New Turkish cinema, is not only a visual poet of her country’s harshly beautiful landscapes; she also depicts with great empathy and uncompromising honesty the heart’s desires and the body’s needs.
BARBARA (2012) 105min
Director: Christian Petzold
Set in 1980, Christian Petzold’s latest masterfully controlled, absorbing work centers around a doctor—played by the incomparable Nina Hoss, in her fifth film with the director—exiled to a small town from East Berlin as punishment for applying for an exit visa from the GDR. Planning to flee for Denmark with her boyfriend, Barbara remains icy and withdrawn around her colleagues, particularly with the lead physician (the excellent Ronald Zehrfeld), who is hiding a secret of his own. With her patients, however, the guarded doctor is kind, warm, and protective, even risking her own safety for one of her charges. This subtle, perfectly calibrated Cold War thriller expertly details the costs of telling and withholding the truth. Winner of the SIlver Bear for Best Director at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. An Adopt Films Release.
BEYOND THE HILLS (După dealuri) (2012) 150min
Director: Cristian Mungiu
This harrowing, visually stunning new film from director Cristian Mungiu (4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS) unfolds in and around a remote monastery where pious young women toil dutifully under the ever-watchful eye of an austere priest known as Papa (the excellent Valeriu Andriuta). As the film opens, Alina (Cristina Flutur) arrives to visit her friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), one of the nuns in training. As children, the two women lived together in an orphanage where the tough, short-tempered Alina served as a protector for her more delicate friend. Now, Alina wants Voichita to leave her cloistered life and return with her to Germany, but as the fateful hour draws near, Voichita seems disinclined to go, and so Alina stays on for a while, which is when the real trouble begins. Inspired by a case of alleged demonic possession that occurred in Romania’s Moldova region in 2005, BEYOND THE HILLS is not a supernatural film but rather an all too believable portrait of dogma at odds with personal liberty in a society still emerging from the shadow of Communism. For their remarkable lead performances, screen newcomers Flutur and Stratan shared the Best Actress prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where Mungiu also received the Best Screenplay award. A Sundance Selects release.
BWAKAW (2012) 110min
Director: Jun Robles Lana
BWAKAW is the film you hope for at any festival, a work by an unknown director that comes out of nowhere to captivate and enthrall with its emotional truth, high humor and sage assessment of the human condition. Filipino cinema great Eddie Garcia gives a career-capping performance as Rene, a 70-plus single gent in a quiet provincial town who, having alienated almost everyone with his caustic comments, is resigned to seeing out his days alone, save for the company of his loyal canine companion (whose name gives the movie its title). Rene has his secrets but is disinclined to share them until he befriends a brawny tricycle taxi driver. Employing frequent outrageous humor, director Jun Robles Lana elegantly captures the quality of everyday life in this backwater while crafting a superior character study of a man who has allowed most of life to pass him by until an emotional jolt emboldens him to go where he's never dared venture before.
CAESAR MUST DIE (Cesare deve morire) (2012) 76min
Directors: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Padre Padrone, The Night of the Shooting Stars) triumphantly reasserted their eminence among modern Italian directors by winning the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival with CAESAR MUST DIE. The sight of inmates putting on a play in prison is not entirely new, but beginning with the brilliant opening scenes of convicts with wildly differing accents and backgrounds auditioning for the immortal roles of Brutus, Anthony, Cassius and, most impressively and menacingly, the title character in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, this approach resonates in ways that both Pirandello and Brecht would have appreciated. The play’s director must not only help guide these amateurs in their performances, but is also forced to police real-life rivalries and rages that threaten to derail the production before it can ever be seen. Vital, provocative and entirely engaging, CAESAR marks a wonderful late-career triumph for this still-formidable brother act. An Adopt Films release.
CAMILLE REWINDS (Camille redouble) (2012) 110min
Director: Noémie Lvovsky
Noémie Lvovsky’s ebullient twist on the comedy of remarriage transposes Frances Ford Coppola’s PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED to present day France, which means that when the titular Camille—who’s in the throes of divorcing her husband of 25 years—passes out drunk, she wakes up as a high school senior in the mid-1980s (leg warmers, “Walking on Sunshine” on the turntable, and no cell phones in sight.) Lvovsky is hilarious and touchingly vulnerable as Camille. Hard as she tries to avoid the classmate (Samir Guesmi) who she knows will become her first love, her husband, and the father of her daughter, and who will ditch her after she turns 40, she nevertheless winds up in his arms. Her double take, just before their lips meet for a first kiss the second time around, is indescribably delicious. In the tiny role of a watchmaker who may have set Camille’s time travel in motion, New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud is perfect.
THE DEAD MAN AND BEING HAPPY (El muerto y ser feliz) (2012) 94min
Director: Javier Rebello
For his third feature, the gifted Spanish director Javier Rebollo (WOMAN WITHOUT PIANO) has decamped to Argentina and created a literate, screwball road movie that Borges surely would have loved. The “dead man” of the title is Santos (veteran Spanish screen star José Sacristán), a cancer-stricken hired killer who flees his Buenos Aires hospital bed and sets off on one last assignment. It is a journey that takes him through an interior Argentina rarely glimpsed in movies, from the Cordoba resort town of La Cumbrecita (with its disproportionate—and disconcerting—population of elderly Germans) to the northern province of Santiago del Estero. Along the way, Santos finds himself joined by Alejandra (the wonderful Roxana Blanco), an attractive middle-aged woman who impulsively jumps into his vintage Ford Falcon at a gas station and soon thwarts him from his intended path. At one point, our curious couple stops off at a decrepit beach town described by one of the film’s dueling voice-over narrators as “a strange mix of paradise and apocalypse”—which, as it happens, also perfectly sums up Rebollo’s playful and unexpectedly moving reverie on love, death and the open highway.
FILL THE VOID (Lemale et ha'halal) (2012) 90min
Director: Rama Burshtein
With her first dramatic feature, writer-director Rama Burshtein has created a work that is very likely unprecedented: a woman's view of Tel Aviv's ultra-orthodox Hasidic community from the inside. Typically, a story about a devout 18-year-old Israeli being pressured to marry the husband of her late sister, would include the option of the woman declaring her independence in the modern fashion. Such a choice is not even on the table in this cloistered, intimately rendered world where religious law, tradition and the rabbis' word are absolute. A graduate of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem and Hassidic herself, Burshtein startlingly brings to life a world known to few in this provocative, undeniably talented debut from a most unlikely source.
FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED (2012) 78min
Director: Alan Berliner
Sometime in the new millennium, Edwin Honig—the distinguished poet, translator, critic and university professor—began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, which gradually but inexorably brought on the loss of his memory, command of language and relation to the past. Filmmaker Alan Berliner—for whom Honig was a cousin, a friend and a mentor—documented their meetings over five years; his new film chronicles the steady decline of Honig’s mind and body, but also the strength and stamina of his spirit, as well as his innate charm and wonderfully playful way with words and sounds. Occasional moments of lucidity offer an insight as to the ways in which Honig attempts to make sense out of what is happening to him. FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED is an unflinching essay on the fragility of being human, and a stark reminder of the profound role that memory plays in all of our lives. An HBO Documentary Films release.
FLIGHT (2012) 138min
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Triumphantly returning to live-action filmmaking for the first time since Cast Away 12 years ago, Robert Zemeckis teams with Denzel Washington on the tense and edgy thriller FLIGHT. In a brilliant, heart-stopping sequence, pilot Whip Whitacker (Washington), after an all-nighter of booze, sex and drugs, boldly guides a crippled airliner to a crash landing that nearly all the passengers survive. Although he is acclaimed as a hero, the legal, moral and ethical aspects of Whip’s behavior before and after the accident are much more ambiguous than initially meet the public eye. A study of addiction far more complex than the norm, FLIGHT is a compelling drama anchored by a great performance from one of our most distinguished actors. John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo and Kelly Reilly offer vibrant supporting turns in what is certain to be one of the most talked-about movies of the season. A Paramount Pictures release.
FRANCES HA (2012) 86min
Director: Noah Baumbach
Reminiscent of Jean-Luc Godard’s celebration of the mystery and vulnerability of his muse Anna Karina in BANDE Á PART, Noah Baumbach’s love poem to Greta Gerwig is an effervescent, seeming effortless comedy about a young woman taking the first shaky, post-Ivy League steps in what will become her real life. Gerwig, who also co-wrote the script, proves herself far more articulate and funny than any of her former Mumblecore colleagues. Her Frances arrives in New York determined to become a post-modern dancer despite the fact that she’s constantly falling over her feet or putting one of them in her mouth. The movie is lightning-in-a-bottle–deft, sophisticated, and, in its myriad shades of digital gray, radiantly beautiful in a brand new way.
THE GATEKEEPERS (Shomerei Ha’saf) (2012) 90min
Director: Dror Moreh
Since its stunning military victory in 1967, Israel has hoped to transform its battlefield success into the basis for long-lasting peace. Simply put, this hasn’t happened: 45 years later, violence continues unabated while the mistrust between both sides increases daily. In what can only be called an historic achievement, filmmaker Dror Moreh has brought together six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s Secret Service, who reflect on their successes and failures to maintain security while responding to the shifting politics and imperatives of the “peace process.” Each man weighs in on topics ranging from preemptive strikes to confronting terrorists both Palestinian and Israeli; their thoughts and responses are candid, well-informed and rarely short of remarkable. An insider’s guide—and what insiders!—to five decades of Israeli history, THE GATEKEEPERS will surely be one of the most widely and hotly discussed films of the year.
A Sony Pictures Classics release.
GINGER AND ROSA (2012) 89min
Director: Sally Potter
In 1962 London, two teenage girls, best friends since they were toddlers, are driven apart by a scandalous betrayal. Making her NYFF debut, writer-director Sally Potter (ORLANDO, ND/NF 1993) has crafted an intimate, riveting coming-of-age story—one made all the more powerful by a revelatory performance by Elle Fanning as the bright, anxious Ginger, increasingly affected by both the misery of her parents (deftly played by Alessandro Nivola and Christina Hendricks) and the era’s all-too-real fears of nuclear destruction. As her private dramas unfold against the backdrop of broader historical terrors, Ginger proves to be one of cinema’s most fascinating and formidable young heroines. Talented newcomer Alice Englert, the daughter of filmmaker Jane Campion, makes her impressive feature film debut as the troubled Rosa.
HERE AND THERE (Aquí y Allá) (2012) 110min
Director: Antonio Mendez Esparza
Pedro returns home to a small mountain village in Guerrero, Mexico after years of working in the U.S. His daughters feel more distant that he imagined, but his wife Teresa is delighted he’s back. With the money he’s earned he can create a better life for his family, and maybe even start the band with his cousins he’s dreamed about for years. But work back home remains scarce, and the temptation of heading back north of the border remains as strong as ever. Antonio Mendez Esparza has made a most remarkable debut; rarely, if ever, has a film about US/Mexican border experience felt so fresh or authentic. Using non-professionals, Mendez Esparza gets remarkably nuanced performances that gives a richness of nuance and detail to each of his characters that goes way beyond cliché and stereotype. Winner of the Grand Prize at this year’s Critics Week in Cannes.
HOLY MOTORS (2012) 115min
Director: Leos Carax
This unclassifiable, expansive movie from Leos Carax (Lovers on the Bridge)—his first feature in 13 years—operates on the exhilarating logic of dreams and emotions. After a prologue in which Carax himself, clad in pajamas, walks through a corridor that leads to a theater full of silent spectators, HOLY MOTORS segues to actor Denis Lavant, Carax’s longtime collaborator, playing a mysterious man named Oscar who inhabits 11 different characters over the course of a single day. This shape-shifter is shuttled from appointment to appointment in Paris in a white-stretch limo driven by the soignée Edith Scob (EYES WITHOUT A FACE); not on the itinerary is an unplanned reunion with Kylie Minogue. To summarize the film any further would be to take away some of its magic; the most accurate précis comes from its own creator, who aptly described HOLY MOTORS after its world premiere in Cannes as “a film about a man and the experience of being alive.” An Indomina release.
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012) 95min
Director: Roger Michell
Bill Murray provides a career-topping performance as President Franklin D. Roosevelt in this captivating, winningly acted comedy-drama that pulls back the curtain on the complicated domestic arrangements at FDR’s beautiful New York country estate. Told from the perspective of Roosevelt's little-known sixth cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney), a member of the president's intimate inner circle of women, HYDE PARK ON HUDSON revolves around the royal visit of King George VI (yes, him again!) to the United States on the eve of World War II. In a film both buoyantly comic and inescapably serious, screenwriter Richard Nelson and director Roger Michell (NOTTING HILL, VENUS) subtly examine the tricky dynamics of the chief executive's relationships with his wife, mother and devoted female staff while also taking stock of his ego, shrewd manipulations and consummate ability to win people's favor and confidence—most notably in the case of the insecure young king. It's an entrancing peek at a time when the personal secrets of our leaders were well and truly kept. A Focus Features release.
KINSHASA KIDS (2012) 85min
Director: Marc-Henri Wajnberg
Perhaps the most ebullient “musical” you’ll see this year, Marc-Henri Wajnberg’s singular documentary/fiction hybrid follows a group of street kids—kicked out of their homes for being “witch children”—in the titular Congolese capital. These ever-resourceful youngsters decide to form a band and team up with Bebson, an eccentric impresario and one-time recording star; he’s just one of many unforgettable adults who, whether as informal instructors, fellow musicians, or menacing pursuers, impact the lives of these indefatigable tykes. Completely devoid of sentimentality and condescension, KINSASHA KIDS celebrates and honors both the resilience of its young protagonists and the chaotic city in which they live.
THE LAST TIME I SAW MACAO (A Última Vez Que Vi Macau) (2012) 82min
Director: João Pedro Rodrigues
This stunning amalgam of playful film noir and Chris Marker–like cine-essay from João Pedro Rodrigues (TO DIE LIKE A MAN, NYFF 2009) and João Rui Guerra da Mata explores the psychic pull of the titular former Portuguese colony. After a spectacular opening scene, in which actress Cindy Scrash lip-synchs, as tigers pace behind her, to Jane Russell’s “You Kill Me”—from Josef von Sternberg’s MACAO (1952), a key reference here—the film shifts to da Mata’s off-screen recollections of growing up in this gambling haven in the South China Sea. He’s come back to Macao to help a friend who later vanishes—a mystery that begets not only poetic ruminations on time, place, and memory but also magnificent compositions of flora, fauna, and cityscapes. Rodrigues will also have his work presented during NYFF’s soon-to-be-announced Views From the Avant-Garde schedule.
LEVIATHAN (2012) 87min
Directors: Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel
Having previously immersed us into the worlds of Montana sheep herding and Queens auto salvaging, respectively, NYFF alumni Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweetgrass) and Véréna Paravel (Foreign Parts) team for another singular anthropological excavation, this time set inside one of the world’s most dangerous professions: the commercial fishing industry. Taking to the high seas of the North Atlantic—Herman Melville territory—the filmmakers capture this harsh, unforgiving world in all of its visceral, haunting, cosmic detail, using an arsenal of cameras that pass freely from film crew to ship crew, and swoop from below sea level to literal bird’s-eye views. The result is a hallucinatory sensory experience quite unlike any other. To paraphrase Francis Coppola describing his Apocalypse Now, LEVIATHAN isn’t a movie about commercial fishing; it is commercial fishing.
LIFE OF PI (2012)
Director: Ang Lee
Based on the book that has sold more than seven million copies and spent years on the bestseller list, Academy Award winner Lee's LIFE OF PI takes place over three continents, two oceans, many years, and a wide world of imagination. Lee’s vision, coupled with game-changing technological breakthroughs, has turned a story long thought un-filmable into a totally original cinematic event and the first truly international all-audience motion picture. LIFE OF PI follows a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While marooned on a lifeboat, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with the ship¹s only other survivor…a fearsome Bengal tiger. A Twentieth Century Fox release.
LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (2012) 109min
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Fresh from the triumph of his Tuscany-set CERTIFIED COPY (NYFF 2010), master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami travels even further afield from his native Iran for this mysteriously beautiful romantic drama filmed entirely in Japan. LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE revolves around the brief encounter between an elderly professor (the wonderful 81-year-old stage actor Tadashi Okuno, here playing his first leading role in a film) and a sociology student (Rin Takanashi) who moonlights as a high-end escort. Dispatched to the old man by her boss—one of the professor’s former students—the young woman finds her latest client less interested in sex than in cooking her soup, talking, and playing old Ella Fitzgerald records (like the one that gives the film its allusive title). Eventually, night gives way to day and a tense standoff with the student’s insanely jealous boyfriend (Ryō Kase); but as usual in Kiarostami, nothing is quite as it appears on the surface. Are these characters—who conjure in one another the specters of regret and roads not taken—meeting by chance, or is it fate? Is this love, or merely something like it? A Sundance Selects release.
LINES OF WELLINGTON (Linhas de Wellington) (2012) 151min
Director: Valeria Sarmiento
After conquering Spain, Napoleon Bonaparte sent a powerful army to invade Portugal in 1810. The French plowed through the resistance mounted against them until, as they approached Lisbon, they were met by a combined British and Portuguese army under the command of the Viscount Wellington. That’s the general historical outline for Valeria Sarmiento’s extraordinarily intimate epic of the Peninsular War. Along the way, we witness love affairs and treachery, noble action and selfish cruelty, from the highest social echelons to the most humble quarters. Prepared by the late Raul Ruiz from a screenplay by Carlos Saboga (Mysteries of Lisbon), LINES OF WELLINGTON was completed by Sarmiento—Ruiz’s longtime editor as well as his widow—who has created a revealing portrait of life during what has been called one of the first examples of “total war.” The all-star cast includes Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Elsa Zylberstein, Marisa Paredes, and John Malkovich as Wellington.
MEMORIES LOOK AT ME (Ji Yi Wang Zhe Wo) (2012) 91min
Director: Song Fang
Song Fang’s remarkable directorial debut, in which she travels from Beijing to Nanjing for a visit with her family (many of whom play themselves), gracefully expounds on several poignant topics: how an adult child’s relationship with her parents changes as they grow older, and how to negotiate one’s place as a single woman in a world of married couples. Song, who many will remember for her wonderful performance as the nanny and aspiring filmmaker in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon (NYFF 2007), perfectly captures the rhythms of brief sojourns home, trips filled with reunions (both joyful and heart-wrenching), reminiscences, and moments of feeling painfully out of place. Winner of the Best First Feature prize at this year’s Locarno Film Festival.
NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET (La Noche de enfrente) (2012) 107min
Director: Raul Ruiz
In August 2011, the cinema sadly lost one of its most magical artists, director Raul Ruiz—but, happily, not before he left us with one final masterpiece. Returning to his native Chile, Ruiz introduces us here to Don Celso, a bespectacled office worker heading into retirement. After an evening’s poetry class, Celso starts to narrate several tales from his childhood to his teacher, guiding the audience both within and outside the film through various levels of reality that mix the private and the public, the historical and the mythic, the here and the beyond. The journey is, of course, full of Ruizian flights of visual and verbal wit, where resonances between words and images form connections that at times defy traditional storytelling. NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET is both a moving meditation on one man’s mortality as well as an insightful summation of an artist’s brilliant career. A Cinema Guild release. Ruiz will also have his work presented during NYFF’s soon-to-be-announced Views From the Avant-Garde schedule.
NO (2012) 110min
Director: Pablo Larrain
In 1988, in an effort to extend and legitimize its rule, the Pinochet military junta announced it would hold a plebiscite to get the people’s permission to stay in power. Despite being given 15 minutes a day to plead its case on television, the anti-Pinochet opposition was divided and without a clear message. Enter Rene Saavedra (an excellent Gael Garcia Bernal), an ad man who, after a career pushing soft drinks and soap, sets out to sell Chileans on democracy and freedom. Winner of the top prize in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, NO is little short of a miracle: shooting on U-matic video tape to give the film the look of the Eighties, filmmaker Pablo Larrain (TONY MANERO, POST MORTEM) has created a smart, funny and totally engrossing political thriller with a powerful resonance for our times. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
NOT FADE AWAY (2012) 112min
Director: David Chase
The time is the 1960s, on the cusp of the summer of love. The place, suburban New Jersey. The music, 100 percent pure rock and roll. For his feature filmmaking debut, The Sopranos creator David Chase has crafted a wise, tender and richly atmospheric portrait of a group of friends trying to do what so many awkward suburban kids of the time dreamed of doing: form their own rock band. And these guys are good, fronted by a preternaturally gifted singer-songwriter (terrific newcomer John Magaro) who’s a dead ringer for the young Bob Dylan, even if dad (James Gandolfini) doesn’t take kindly to seeing junior strut around in long hair and Cuban heels. Masterfully capturing the era’s conflicting attitudes and ideologies, all set to a killer soundtrack produced by the legendary Steven Van Zandt, NOT FADE AWAY just might be the best coming-of-age movie since Barry Levinson’s Diner—and one of the best rock movies ever. A Paramount Vantage release.
OUR CHILDREN (À perdre la raison) (2012) 111min
Director: Joachim Lafosse
How does it happen that a vibrant, capable young woman loses her sense of self-worth and ends up destroying what she most loves? Belgian director Joachim Lafosse structures an all too familiar contemporary story that was headline news in Europe as a classical tragedy. Émilie Dequenne more than fulfills the promise of her award-winning performance in the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta with this portrait of a young school teacher who marries a Moroccan immigrant (Tahar Rahim) and has four children with him, while gradually becoming aware of how much he is in thrall to his mentor, a domineering doctor (Niels Arestrup). Rahim and Arestrup reprise their father/son relationship from Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet but with an even more corrupt twist. Lafosse’s direction of this perverse narrative of patriarchal power and female oppression is like steel wrapped in silk.
PASSION (2012) 94min
Director: Brian De palma
Brian De Palma exhibits great panache and a diabolical mastery of frequent, small surprises in his first fiction feature since his magical comedy-of-coincidences, FEMME FATALE. With tongue planted in cheek, or maybe not—it’s up to you to decide—De Palma turns French director Alain Corneau’s 2010 LOVE CRIME into a far more droll, erotic tale of female competition. Noomi Rapace more than matches her performance in the original GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO as the assistant to an unscrupulous advertising honcho (Rachel McAdams), who steals her ideas and acts as if it’s all good sport. It’s great fun until De Palma zeros in on the fury in Rapace’s eyes. The De Palma trademarks are all present and deployed with coolly calculated abandon: a brilliant use of split screen; a confusion of identical twins; dreams within dreams; and shoes to die for.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR (Après Mai) (2012) 122min
Director: Olivier Assayas
In the months after the heady weeks of May ’68, a group of young people search for a way to continue the revolution believed to be just beginning. For Gilles (newcomer Clément Mettayer), this means having to balance his political commitments with his desire to explore painting and filmmaking; for his girlfriend Christine (GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE star Lola Créton), this means throwing herself wholeheartedly into the task of organizing. Olivier Assayas (CARLOS, SUMMER HOURS) here describes the sentimental education of a generation that was too young to have been on the barricades; he brilliantly captures its explorations of new lifestyles, the arguments about strategies and tactics, and above all its music, a constant presence that becomes something like the artistic unconscious of an era. The period details are perfect, but what makes this film so special is the sense it conveys of history as lived experience. A Sundance Selects release.
TABU (2012) 118min
Director: Miguel Gomes
The ghosts of F.W. Murnau, Luis Buñuel, Joseph Cornell and Jack Smith hover above Miguel Gomes’s third feature—an exquisite, absurdist entry in the canon of surrealist cinema. Shot in ephemeral black-and-white celluloid, TABU is movie-as-dream—an evocation of irrational desires, extravagant coincidences, and cheesy nostalgia that nevertheless is grounded in serious feeling and beliefs, even anti-colonialist politics. There is a story, which is delightful to follow and in which the cart comes before the horse: the first half is set in contemporary Lisbon, the second, involving two of the same characters, in a Portuguese colony in the early 1960s. “Be My Baby” belted in Portuguese, a wandering crocodile, and a passionate, ill-advised coupling seen through gently moving mosquito netting make for addled movie magic. The winner of the Alfred Bauer Prize (for a work of particular innovation) and FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. An Adopt Films release.
YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET (Vous n'avez encore rien vu) (2012) 115min
Director: Alain Resnais
From its impish title to its vibrant formal experimentation, YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET proves that, at age 90, master French filmmaker Alain Resnais (HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, WILD GRASS) is indeed still full of surprises. Based on two works by the playwright Jean Anouilh, the film opens with a who’s-who of French acting royalty (including Mathieu Amalric, Michel Piccoli and frequent Resnais muse Sabine Azéma) being summoned to the reading of a late playwright’s last will and testament. Upon their arrival, the playwright (Denis Podalydès) appears on a TV screen from beyond the grave and asks his erstwhile collaborators to evaluate a recording of an experimental theater company performing his Eurydice—a play they themselves all appeared in over the years. But as the video unspools, something curious happens: instead of watching passively, these seasoned thespians begin acting out the text alongside their youthful avatars, looking back into the past rather like mythic Orpheus himself. Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Eric Gautier on stylized sets that recall the French poetic realism of the 1930s, YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET is an alternately wry and wistful valentine to actors and the art of performance from a director long fascinated by the intersection of life, theater and cinema.