Friday, August 28, 2009


NYFF 2009


The New York Film Festival (NYFF) is always one of the highlights of the year in film. It usually previews a few of the most important films that will be competing for awards at the end of the year (unimportant films also compete for awards, but they'll not be found at NYFF) , and many films that are among the very best of the year from all over the world, and hardly seen at all except at NYFF.

(For example, last year's slate screened Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner The Class and the Academy Award-nominated films The Wrestler, Changeling, and Waltz with Bashir.)

Filmmakers and actors often visit the festival and participate in discussions on stage after the film, (and even, sometimes, casually, outside).

Arnaud Desplechin
Outside Walter Reade Theater last year
Photo by Eric Roffman

Here, above, is Arnaud Desplechin, a quintessential French Director, who made last year's A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noel) (with Catherine Denueve and Mathieu Amalric) outside the Walter Reade Theater last year.

In the many connections among the films from year to year, Amalric was in the 2007 film
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le scaphandre et le papillon), and will appear again at the festival, this year in Wild Grass (Les herbes folles) by Alain Renais.

Pedro Almodovar will be back at the festival on closing night. Again, with a film featuring Penelope Cruz. Above: Here's a report from 2006 with Penelope Cruz talking about Almodovar.

(Note -- disclaimer!): I don't know which filmmakers or actors will actually be present this year... when I say they'll be back I only mean that they have a film in the festival).

Juliet Berto
at NYFF 1974
Photo by Eric Roffman

And Jacques Rivette (now 81... Alain Renais, by the way, is 87) will be back with 36 Views of Saint-Loup Peak (36 vues du Pic Saint-Loup). Above is a picture of Juliet Berto in the Green Room at Alice Tully Hall, when she came to the festival for Rivette's Celine et Julie vont en bateau more than 30 years ago. (Berto was a co-writer of that film, and was also in Godard's masterpiece La Chinoise, which was shown recently in the 1968 retrospective by the Film Society. )

Unfortunately, getting tickets to the films is not so easy. Each film is only shown at most twice. And the festival tends to be oversubscribed. Unlike the policy at the The Public Theater, which tries to give away many of their seats free to the public, democratically (but in return for waiting on line really, really early in the morning), access to Film Society tickets are prioritized by the length of time you've been a member of the Film Society, and only after initial orders are taken do other tickets go on sale to the public.

While Alice Tully Hall was undergoing renovations, films were shown at Rose Hall. It's time to take the most oversubscribed films and show them more than twice, perhaps adding screenings at Rose or even Avery Fisher Hall (where opening and closing night films are shown). It's nice that the Film Festival is like a party for those who go every year, but it should also allow more people to participate. I would think that a full house at any of these theaters would more than pay for itself and whatever trouble it would require to schedule extra screenings. Some of the films, of course, go on to commercial screeneings after the festival. Still, I think it's more fun to see them at the festival.

If you do not have a ticket, by the way, there are frequently people who do have extra tickets that they will sell (at face price) or even give away free at the door. There usually are quite a few, so it's worth trying if there's a film you want to see. (And if you do have a ticket you're not using, by all means go to the theater and let someone else use it!)

Note: 9/16 -- It has just been announced that there will be a "Rush Line" this year with at least 50 tickets available for each screening at the Alice Tully Hall box office!

Note 10/1 -- The Festival is providing extra screenings for the most popular sold-out films!


Here is a summary (by the NYFF) of the festival's main event offerings. (In addition to the main event there are several sidebar events, including selections of films from China and from India.) (Note: Check the description of the last film, the Wizard of Oz retrospective, for my favorite line from these previews!)


Opening Night: Alain Resnais' Wild Grass
Centerpiece: Lee Daniels' Precious
Closing Night: Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces

The 47th edition of the New York Film Festival will open with the U.S. premiere of Alain Resnais's Wild Grass (Les herbes folles) and close with Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos). This year's Centerpiece will be Lee Daniels' Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

In addition this year's festival will include two Masterworks series from China and India, Views From the Avant Garde, and special events.

The Festival returns this year to its renowned home, Alice Tully Hall, beautifully restored and renovated with superb, state-of-the-art sound and projection.

The 17-day NYFF highlights 29 films from 17 countries by celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new independent directors.

This Year's Selections:

A Film Society veteran, legendary French auteur Alain Resnais returns with Wild Grass, his 10th film selected for the New York Film Festival. His film Muriel appeared in the first New York Film Festival in 1963. And recently, Private Fears in Public Places showed at the 44th edition of the Festival in 2006.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the French New Wave and fifty years after his groundbreaking debut with Hiroshima Mon Amour, Resnais delivers a career-crowning masterpiece with Wild Grass, a delightful roundelay based on Christian Gailly's novel The Incident, about the fate-altering ripples triggered by a seemingly ordinary purse snatching. The purse belongs to Marguerite (Resnais' regular, Sabine Azema), a dentist who moonlights as an aviatrix. Its contents are retrieved by Georges (André Dussollier), a married man who soon finds himself infatuated with the purse's owner, even though he hasn't actually met her yet. Add in a couple of keystone cops (hilariously played by Mathieu Amalric and Michel Vuillermoz), some dizzying aerial acrobatics, and the glorious widescreen camerawork of cinematographer Eric Gautier and Wild Grass becomes a uniquely playful meditation on coincidence and desire that suggests Resnais, at age 87, is truly in his prime.

Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Lee Daniels' Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, marks the first time the American director has been at the Festival. In his astonishing adaptation of Sapphire's 1996 novel, Daniels unsparingly recounts the horrific life of Clareece "Precious" Jones, an obese, barely literate 16-year-old living in late '80s Harlem who's sexually abused by both her father and mother. But Precious is not just a tale of endless abjection-it's also an exhilarating celebration of a young woman's determination to free herself from the pathologies surrounding her, guided by a teacher who senses her innate talents. Without a trace of easy, unearned sentimentality, Precious might be the most spirit-affirming movie of the year. Bringing this raw, uncompromising material to the screen, Daniels has assembled a remarkable cast: Paula Patton as Precious's devoted teacher, Mariah Carey as a tough yet compassionate welfare officer, fearless newcomer Gabourey Sidibe as Precious, and-most memorably-Mo'Nique as her monstrous mother, which won the actress a Special Jury Prize at Sundance.

Also no stranger to New York audiences, and a true NYFF favorite, Pedro Almodóvar's newest, Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos), marks his eighth film in the New York Film Festival. (Seven of these have either been Opening Night, Centerpiece or Closing Night selections.) Broken Embraces tells the story of a blind screenwriter, living and working under a pseudonym, who learns of the death of a powerful industrialist, triggering a flood of memories that encompass a tale of naked ambition, forbidden love and devastating loss. Moving from Madrid sound stages to the volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands, Almodóvar takes us on a candy-colored emotional roller coaster that barrels from comedy to romance to melodrama to the darker haunts of film noir-with even a salute to the "Making Of..." film along the way. Penelope Cruz has never been better, nor more ravishing, and she's ably aided by Lluis Homar (Bad Education), Blanca Portillo (Volver), and a wonderful newcomer to the Almodóvar stable, Rubén Ochandiano. The luscious cinematography is by Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros, Brokeback Mountain).

Rounding out the 2009 slate, The Film Society welcomes a group of well-established alumni back to the New York Film Festival with new features, including Marco Bellocchio (Vincere), Catherine Breillat (Bluebeard), Claire Denis (White Material), Manoel de Oliveira, (Eccentricities of a Blonde), Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon), Jacques Rivette (36 Views of Saint-Loup Peak), Todd Solondz (Life During Wartime), Lars von Trier (Antichrist) and Andrzej Wajda (Sweet Rush).

New directors to the Festival include Maren Ade (Everyone Else), Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweetgrass), Zhao Dayong (Ghost Town), Samuel Maoz (Lebanon), Raya Martin (Independencia), João Pedro Rodrigues (To Die Like A Man) and Sabu (Kanikosen).

New York Film Festival 2009
September 25 - October 11
Main Slate


Mathieu Amalric in
Wild Grass
Alain Resnais, France, 2009; 113m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Sony Pictures Classics

Wild Grass / Les herbes folles
Alain Resnais, France, 2009; 113m
The venerable Alan Resnais creates an exquisite human comedy of manners, mystery and romance with some of France's - and our - favorite actors: Sabine Azéma, André Dussollier, Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Almaric. A Sony Pictures Classics release.


Gabourey Sidibe in
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Lee Daniels, USA, 2009; 109m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Lionsgate

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Lee Daniels, USA, 2009; 109m
Precious is sixteen and living a miserable life. But she uses all the emotional energy she possesses to turn her life around. Director Lee Daniel's audacious tale features unforgettable performances by Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe. A Lionsgate release.


Penelope Cruz in
Broken Embraces
Pedro Almodóvar, Spain, 2009; 128m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Sony Pictures Classics

Broken Embraces / Los abrazos rotos
Pedro Almodóvar, Spain, 2009; 128m
Almodóvar's newest masterwork is a candy-colored emotional roller that barrels from comedy to romance to melodrama to the darker haunts of film noir and stars his muse, Penélope Cruz, in a multilayered story of a man who loses his sight and the love of his life. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

36 Views of Saint-Loup Peak / 36 vues du Pic Saint-Loup
Jacques Rivette, France, 2009, 84m
The legendary Jacques Rivette returns with an elegiac look at the final days of a small-time traveling circus.

Lars von Trier, Denmark, 2009, 109m
Surely to be one of the year's most discussed films, Lars von Trier's latest chronicles a couple's efforts to find their love again after a tragic loss, only to unleash hidden monsters lurking in their souls. An IFC Films release.

The Art of the Steal
Don Argott, USA, 2009, 101m
Bound to be controversial, this intriguing account of the travails of the legendary Barnes collection of art masterworks and the foundation set up to protect it raises vital questions about public vs. private "ownership" of art.

Lola Creton in
Catherine Breillat, France, 2009, 78m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Pyramide Films

Bluebeard / La Barbe Bleue
Catherine Breillat, France, 2009, 78m
Two sisters reading Charles Perrault's 17th century tale of perhaps the first "serial killer" becomes a meditation on the enduring fascination with a character who has served as inspiration for countless novels, plays and films.

Crossroads of Youth / Cheongchun's Sipjaro
An Jong-hwa, Korea, 1934, 73m
The oldest surviving Korean film, this recently-rediscovered masterwork will be presented with live musical accompaniment as well as a benshi (offscreen narrator).

Eccentricities of a Blonde
Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal/France, 2009, 64m
One hundred years young, director Manoel de Oliveira returns with another gem: a wry, moving tale of a pure if frustrated love adapted from a novel by Eça de Queiroz.

Everyone Else / Alle Anderen
Maren Ade, Germany, 2009, 119m
The ups and downs, joys and jealousies, frustrations and fulfillments of a young couple on a summer holiday provide the premise for this brilliant meditation on modern coupling.

Ghost Town
Zhao Dayong, China, 2008, 180m
A revealing, one-of-a-kind look at China far away from the glittering urban skylines, this portrait of a contemporary rural community in China offers extraordinary insights into everything from the role of religion to gender relationships to the place of social deviants.

Bruno Dumont, France, 2009, 105m
A young woman searches for an absolute experience of faith-and in the process grows increasingly distant from the world around her.

Raya Martin, Philippines, 2009, 77m
Maverick director Raya Martin offers a kind of alternative history of the Philippines and its struggle for nationhood in this stylized tale of a mother and son hiding in the mountains after the US takeover of the islands.

Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Inferno / L'Enfer
Serge Bromberg, France, 2009, 100m
A film buff's delight, Serge Bromberg film resurrects the surviving footage of Clouzot's aborted, experimental film L'Enfer, revealing a slightly mad but beguiling project that will always remain one of cinema's great "what ifs."

Sabu, Japan, 2009, 109m
Kanikosen is a highly stylized, stirring, manga-flavored update of a classic Japanese political novel, with labor unrest aboard a crab canning ship evolving into a cry of a younger generation aching to break the bonds of conformity.

Samuel Maoz, Israel, 2009, 92m
Debut director Samuel Maoz takes us inside an Israeli tank and the emotions of its crew during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Life During Wartime
Todd Solondz, USA, 2009, 96m
Preparing for his bar-mitzvah, a young man must deal with his divorced mother's prospective fiancé as well as rumors that his own father is not really dead.

Min Yé
Souleymane Cissé, Mali/France, 2009, 135m
A work of startling originality, Souleymane Cissé's first film in over a decade insightfully and incisively chronicles the dissolution of an upper-middle class African marriage.

Mother/ Maedo
Bong Joon-ho, South Korea, 2009, 128m
Convinced that her son has been wrongly accused of murder, a widow throws herself body and soul into proving his innocence. Kim Hye-ja in the title role gives perhaps the performance of the year.

Ne Change Rien
Pedro Costa, France/Portugal, 2009, 103m
A shimmering valentine, Costa's latest is less a portrait than a kind of visual homage, to the artistry of actor and singer Jeanne Balibar.

Police Adjective / Politist, adj.
Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania, 2009, 115m
Discovering a teenager with hashish, a young policeman hesitates about turning him in. But his supervisor has other ideas in this beautifully acted, provocative modern morality play. An IFC Films release.

Room and a Half / Poltory komnaty ili sentimentalnoe puteshtvie na rodinu
Andrey Khrzhanovsky, Russia, 2009, 131m
Former animator Andrey Khrzhanovsky combines scripted scenes, archival footage, several types of animation, and surrealist flights of fancy to create this stirring portrait of poet Josef Brodsky and the postwar Soviet cultural scene. A Seagull Films release.

Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, USA, 2009, 105m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, USA, 2009, 105m
This breathtaking chronicle follows an ever-surprising group of modern-day cowboys as they lead an enormous herd of sheep up and then down the slopes of the Beartooth Mountains in Montana on their way to market.

Sweet Rush / Tatarak
Andrzej Wajda, Poland/France, 2009, 85m
Celebrated master Andrzej Wajda returns with a bold, experimental work that juxtaposes a story about a terminally doctor's wife rediscovering romance thanks with a heart-rending monologue written and performed by actress Krystyna Janda about the death of her husband.

To Die Like a Man / Morrer como um homen
João Pedro Rodrigues, Portugal, 2009, 138m
This touching, finely-etched portrait follows Tonia, a veteran drag performer confronting younger competition and her boyfriend's demands that she undergo a sex change.

Marco Bellocchio, Italy, 2009, 129m
Mussolini's "secret" marriage to Ida Dalser, afterwards completely denied by Il Duce, along with the son born from the relationship, becomes the springboard for this visually ravishing meditation on the fascist manipulation of history. An IFC Films release.

White Material
Claire Denis, France, 2009, 100m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Wild Bunch

White Material
Claire Denis, France, 2009, 100m
A handful of Europeans try to make sense of-and survive-the chaos happening all around them in an African country torn apart by civil war.

The White Ribbon / Das weisse band
Michael Haneke, Austria/France, 2009, 144m
The Palme d'Or winner at this year's Cannes Film Festival, this is a starkly beautiful meditation on the consequences of violence-physical, emotional, spiritual-in a northern German town on the eve of World War I. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

The Wizard of Oz
Victor Fleming, 1939, USA, 103m
The 70th Anniversary of the timeless classic, presented in a spectacular newly-restored edition makes the film a new experience even for those who practically have it memorized. A Warner Bros. release.

This year the NYFF introduces Masterworks which will feature works from India and China.
- "Re-Inventing China: A New Cinema for a New Society, 1949-1966"
- "A Heart as Big as the World: The Films of Guru Dutt"
Both series will screen at the Walter Reade Theater.

There will also be: Special Events! and Views From the Avant Garde.

(Note: Always remember the Sponsors. Due to the strange way the world works, few artistic endeavors would ever exist without private sponsors.)


The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from 42BELOW, GRAFF, Stella Artois, Illy Caffè, The New York State Council on the Arts, and The National Endowment for the Arts.

The 47th Annual New York Film Festival is sponsored by HBO® Films, The New York Times, and Kodak.
HBO® and related channels and service marks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.

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