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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

6 Intriguing Films on the New York Film Festival Main Slate

Come hell or high water, I do plan to cover the New York Film Festival again this year. And, judging by the main slate of films just announced by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, it's going to be a great one. While there are many films on the list helmed by buzzworthy stars including Woody Allen (however you fall with that), Richard Linklater, Noah Baumbach, and Greta Gerwig (for her directorial debut), I took a liking to some work from the more seldom discussed filmmakers who excite me. Here's what I'm checking for this year (including my hot takes):

Before We Vanish

Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan, 2017, 129m
The latest from master of art-horror Kiyoshi Kurosawa is perhaps his most mainstream film yet, a throwback to 1980s sci-fi. An advance crew of three aliens journey to Earth in preparation for a complete takeover of the planet. They snatch not only bodies but memories, beliefs, values—everything that defines their conquests as human—leaving only hollow shells, which are all but unrecognizable to their loved ones. This disturbing parable for our present moment, replete with stunning images—including a drone attack and a bit of Clockwork Orange–style murder and mayhem—is also a profoundly mystical affirmation of love as the only form of resistance and salvation. A NEON release.
HOT TAKE: I read "a throwback to 1980s sci-fi" and "Clockwork Orange" and that already had me pulling up a chair. This sounds spectacular. 

BPM (Beats Per Minute)/120 battements par minute
Dir. Robin Campillo, France, 2017, 144m
U.S. Premiere
In the early 1990s, ACT UP—in France, as in the U.S.—was on the front lines of AIDS activism. Its members, mostly gay, HIV-positive men, stormed drug company and government offices in “Silence=Death” T-shirts, facing down complacent suits with the urgency of their struggle for life. Robin Campillo (Eastern Boys) depicts their comradeship and tenacity in waking up the world to the disease that was killing them and movingly dramatizes the persistence of passionate love affairs even in dire circumstances. All the actors, many of them unknown, are splendid in this film, which not only celebrates the courage of ACT UP but also tacitly provides a model of resistance to the forces of destruction running rampant today. A release of The Orchard.
HOT TAKE: I feel like I've seen this story several times before, but I am curious to see a French narrative exploring the AIDS epidemic. I'll give it a chance. 

Call Me by Your Name
Dir. Luca Guadagnino, Italy/France, 2017, 132m
A story of summer love unlike any other, the sensual new film from the director of I Am Love, set in 1983, charts the slowly ripening romance between Elio (Timothée Chalamet), an American teen on the verge of discovering himself, and Oliver (Armie Hammer), the handsome older grad student whom his professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg) has invited to their vacation home in Northern Italy. Adapted from the wistful novel by André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name is Guadagnino’s most exquisitely rendered, visually restrained film, capturing with eloquence the confusion and longing of youth, anchored by a remarkable, star-making performance by Chalamet, always a nervy bundle of swagger and insecurity, contrasting with Hammer’s stoicism. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
HOT TAKE: I'm literally only interested in this film because everyone has been raving about it. I can only assume the trailer doesn't do it any justice. I'll allow it.

Mrs. Hyde/Madame Hyde
Dir. Serge Bozon, France, 2017, 95m
North American Premiere
Serge Bozon’s eccentric comedic thriller is loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with many a twist. Mrs. Géquil (Isabelle Huppert), a timid and rather peculiar physics professor, teaches in a suburban technical high school. Apart from her quiet married life with her gentle stay-at-home husband, she is mocked and despised on a daily basis by pretty much everyone around her—headmaster, colleagues, students. During a dark, stormy night, she is struck by lightning and wakes up a decidedly different person, a newly powerful Mrs. Hyde with mysterious energy and uncontrollable powers. Highlighted by Bozon’s brilliant mise en scène, Isabelle Huppert hypnotizes us again, securing her place as the ultimate queen of the screen.
HOT TAKE: I'm still salty about how y'all fell over yourselves for Huppert's lackluster performance in last year's Elle, but this movie actually sounds really good. I haven't seen a Jekyll/Hyde approach in a long while. Keeping my fingers crossed. 

Dir. Dee Rees, USA, 2017, 134m
Writer/director Dee Rees’s historical epic details daily life and social dynamics in the failing economy of Mississippi during the World War II era. Two families, one white (the landlords) and one black (the sharecroppers), work the same miserable piece of farmland. Out of need and empathy, the mothers of the two families bond as their younger male relatives go off to war and learn that there is a world beyond racial hatred and fear. The flawless ensemble cast includes Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, and Jonathan Banks. A Netflix release.
HOT TAKE: After giving us the deeply personal, and astounding Pariah back in 2011, I'd watch just about anything from Dee Rees. But at some point, we have to talk about Mary J. Blige as an actress....because how long can that go on?

Dir. Joachim Trier, Norway/Sweden/France, 2017, 116m
In the new film from Joachim Trier (Reprise), an adolescent country girl (Eili Harboe) has just moved to the city to begin her university studies, with the internalized religious severity of her quietly domineering mother and father (Ellen Dorrit Petersen and Henrik Rafaelsen) always in mind. When she realizes that she is developing an attraction to her new friend Anja (Okay Kaya), she begins to manifest a terrifying and uncontrollable power that her parents have long feared. To reveal more would be a crime; let’s just say that this fluid, sharply observant, and continually surprising film begins in the key of horror and ends somewhere completely different. A release of The Orchard.HOT TAKE: I'm not 100% confident that I understand the premise, but I'm curious enough to at least find out what this "terrifying and uncontrollable" power is.

The 55th annual New York Film Festival takes place September 28-October 15 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City. For more information, visit their website


Brittani Burnham said...

I had only heard of Call me By Your Name and Mudbound from this list, but I think I'd watch all of them. I look forward to your coverage.

And lol at your comment about Huppert in Elle. I never did get around to that. I read your review and was like "most likely me too" and skipped.

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