For New Yorkers, when the season begins to change from the scorching pleasures of summer into fall’s romantic chill, we’re apt to adjust ourselves into a different headspace, as well as a different wardrobe. We may begin to bury ourselves in work and big sweaters once again, but we also become nostalgic for the fall seasons that have come before. And every September as the air starts to change, whether you’re dreading the tundra of winter to come or still longing for the final kiss of summer heat, there’s also The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual New York Film Festival to look forward to.
If you haven’t had the chance to get yourself to Cannes or TIFF, it’s that thrilling first time of the year that you can indulgence in your cinematic passions and see some of the most exciting new features of the year from your favorite filmmakers around the world. And this year, the 52nd NYFF will be screening so many wonderful films, from Hollywood icons such as David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson to acclaimed artists such as Olivier Assayas and Mia Hansen-Love. So with the festival beginning this Friday with Fincher’s Gone Girl, we rounded up our most anticipated features and one very special presentation. Take a look, get your tickets here, and enjoy.
GONE GIRL, David Fincher
Main Slate / Opening Night
David Fincher’s film version of Gillian Flynn’s phenomenally successful best seller (adapted by the author) is one wild cinematic ride, a perfectly cast and intensely compressed portrait of a recession-era marriage contained within a devastating depiction of celebrity/media culture, shifting gears as smoothly as a Maserati 250F. Ben Affleck is Nick Dunne, whose wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on the day of their fifth anniversary. Neil Patrick Harris is Amy’s old boyfriend Desi, Carrie Coon (who played Honey in Tracy Letts’s acclaimed production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) is Nick’s sister Margo, Kim Dickens (Treme, Friday Night Lights) is Detective Rhonda Boney, and Tyler Perry is Nick’s superstar lawyer Tanner Bolt. At once a grand panoramic vision of middle America, a uniquely disturbing exploration of the fault lines in a marriage, and a comedy that starts black and keeps getting blacker, Gone Girl is a great work of popular art by one of our best filmmakers. A 20th Century Fox and New Regency release.
INHERENT VICE, Paul Thomas Anderson
Main Slate / Centerpiece
Paul Thomas Anderson’s wild and entrancing new movie, the very first adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel, is a cinematic time machine, placing the viewer deep within the world of the paranoid, hazy L.A. dope culture of the early ’70s. It’s not just the look (which is ineffably right, from the mutton chops and the peasant dresses to the battered screen doors and the neon glow), it’s the feel, the rhythm of hanging out, of talking yourself into a state of shivering ecstasy or fear or something in between. Joaquin Phoenix goes all the way for Anderson (just as he did in The Master) playing Doc Sportello, the private investigator searching for his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston, a revelation), menaced at every turn by Josh Brolin as the telegenic police detective “Bigfoot” Bjornsen. Among the other members of Anderson’s mind-boggling cast are Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Owen Wilson, and Jena Malone. A trip, and a truly great American film. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.
EDEN, Mia Hansen-Love
Main Slate / U.S. Premiere
Mia Hansen-Løve’s fourth feature is a rare achievement: an epically scaled work built on the purely ephemeral, breathlessly floating along on currents of feeling. Eden is based on the experiences of Hansen-Løve’s brother (and co-writer) Sven, who was one of the pioneering DJs of the French rave scene in the early 1990s. Paul (Félix de Givry) and his friends, including Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter (otherwise known as Daft Punk), see visions of ecstasy in garage music—as their raves become more and more popular, they experience a grand democracy of pure bliss extending into infinity, only to dematerialize on contact with changing times and the demands of everyday life. Hansen-Løve’s film plays in the mind as a swirl of beautiful faces and bodies, impulsive movements, rushes of cascading light and color (she worked with a great cameraman, Denis Lenoir), and music, music, and more music. Eden is a film that moves with the heartbeat of youth, always one thought or emotion ahead of itself.
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA, Olivier Assayas
Main Slate / U.S. Premiere
Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is a middle-aged actress who soared to stardom in her twenties in a play called Maloja Snake, in which she created the role of a ruthless young woman named Sigrid who engages in a power game with her older boss. Now an established international actress, Maria is considering the role of the older woman in a heavily promoted revival, with an infamous young superstar (Chloë Grace Moretz) as Sigrid. Maria and her savvy personal assistant (Kristen Stewart) prepare for the production at a secluded spot in the Swiss Alps, in a series of stunning scenes that are the beating heart of Olivier Assayas’s brilliant new film. What begins as a chronicle of an actress going through the paces of celebrity culture (fashion shoots, official dinners, interviews, Internet rumors) gradually develops into something more powerfully mysterious: a close meditation on time and how one comes to terms with its passage. An IFC Films release.
CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras
Main Slate / Special Presentation / World Premiere
In January 2013, filmmaker Laura Poitras was in the process of constructing a film about abuses of national security in post-9/11 America when she started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as “citizen four,” who was ready to blow the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. In June 2013, she and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Poitras is a great and brave filmmaker, but she is also a masterful storyteller: she compresses the many days of questioning, waiting, confirming, watching the world’s reaction and agonizing over the next move, into both a great character study of Snowden and a narrative that will leave you on the edge of your seat as it inexorably moves toward its conclusion. CITIZENFOUR is a major work on multiple levels, and a deeply unsettling experience.
GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE, Jean-Luc Godard
The 43rd feature by Jean-Luc Godard (and the only film at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival to get a round of applause mid-screening),Goodbye to Language alights on doubt and despair with the greatest freedom and joy. At 83, Godard works as a truly independent filmmaker, unencumbered by all concerns beyond the immediate: to create a work that embodies his own state of being in relation to time, light, color, the problem of living and speaking with others, and, of course, cinema itself. The artist’s beloved dog Roxy is the de facto “star” of this film, which is as impossible to summarize as a poem by Wallace Stevens or a Messiaen quartet. Goodbye to Language was shot, and can only be truly seen and experienced, in 3-D, which Godard has put to wondrous use. The temptation may be strong to see this film as a farewell, but this remarkable artist is already hard at work on a new project. A Kino Lorber release.
HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT, Josh & Benny Safdie
Main Slate / U.S. Premiere
Harley (Arielle Holmes) is madly in love with Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones). She’s sure he loves her just as much, if only he could express it. Both of them are heroin addicts, kids who pretend to be heavy-metal rockers but spend their time scuffling, arguing, and preying on each other as they wander around New York looking for a fix and the chump change to pay for it. The script, based on a Holmes’s memoir and written by the Safdies with Ronald Bronstein, is a miracle of economy. Sean Price Williams’s cinematography expresses the clouded vision of kids who can’t imagine how invisible they are to the New Yorkers who take their homes and jobs for granted. And the Safdie Brothers, in their toughest and richest movie, direct a cast composed largely of first-time actors so that they disappear into their characters, horrify us, and break our hearts.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE, Joshua Oppenheimer
Spotlight on Documentary
In his 2012 documentary The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer stunned audiences with his bold approach to unmasking the perpetrators of the mid-1960s genocide in Indonesia. While that film exposed the killers themselves, its companion piece The Look of Silence revisits the scenes of their crimes and follows one family among the hundreds of thousands in a quest for understanding as they attempt to confront the remaining murderers—a dangerous endeavor, because the killers are still in power and there hasn’t been any official reconciliation process. But this is no simple confrontational documentary told from a survivor’s point of view. In Oppenheimer’s quietly concentrated second look at the generations affected, a young man, concerned about raising his own children in a society cowed into silence, tracks down his brother’s killers and tries to force them to see the past with fresh eyes.
LISTEN UP PHILIP, Alex Ross Perry
Alex Ross Perry’s third feature heralds the arrival of a bold new voice in American movies. Even more than in his critically laudedThe Color Wheel, Perry draws on literary models (mainly Philip Roth and William Gaddis) to achieve a brazen mixture of bitter humor and unexpected pathos. In this sly, very funny portrait of artistic egomania, Jason Schwartzman stars as Philip Lewis Friedman, a precocious literary star anticipating the publication of his second novel. Philip is a caustic narcissist, but the film, shot with tremendous agility on Super-16mm by Sean Price Williams, leaves his orbit frequently, lingering on the perspectives of his long-suffering photographer girlfriend, Ashley, (Elisabeth Moss) and his hero, the Roth-like literary lion Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), who himself considers Philip a major talent. A film about callow ambition, Listen Up Philip is itself remarkably poised, a knowing, rueful account of how pain and insecurity transfigure themselves as anger but also as art. A Tribeca Film release.
SAINT LAURENT, Bertrand Bonello
Running counter to the current strain of wan, mechanical biopics, Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent toys deliriously with the genre’s rules and limitations. Focusing on a dark, hedonistic, wildly creative decade (from 1967 to ’77) in Yves Saint Laurent’s life and career, Bonello considers the couturier (convincingly embodied by Gaspard Ulliel and later by Visconti stalwart Helmut Berger) as a myth, a brand, an avatar of his era. Bonello’s star-studded supporting cast (including Louis Garrel, Léa Seydoux, Jérémie Renier, and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) serves as first-rate human mise en scène amid a kaleidoscopic torrent of lavish excess, retrospectively pieced together with a Proustian form of fast-and-loose association. As much as his subject and the gravitational pull he exerts in the hothouse environments of atelier and nightclub, Bonello is interested—as he was in House of Pleasures, his sumptuous portrait of a fin de siècle Parisian brothel—in cinema’s potential both to capture and to warp the passage of time and our perception of it. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
The action is elemental. The employees in a small factory have been given a choice. They will each receive a bonus if they agree to one of them being laid off; if not, then no one gets the bonus. The chosen employee (Marion Cotillard) spends a weekend driving through the suburbs and working-class neighborhoods of Seraing and Liège, knocking on the doors of her co-workers and asking a simple but impossible question: will you give up the money to let me continue to earn my own living? The force of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s new film lies in the intensity with which they focus on the second-by-second toll the situation takes on everyone directly affected, while the employers sit at a benign remove. InTwo Days, One Night, the Dardennes take an urgent and extremely relevant ethical inquiry and bring it to bold and painfully human life. A Sundance Selects release.
HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, Alain Resnais
This modernist masterwork began as a documentary commission from Daiei Studios, secured for Alain Resnais by producer Anatole Dauman. Resnais decided that the bombing of Hiroshima and its impact needed fiction, brought Marguerite Duras onto the project, and worked with her to create a story—of a French film actress (Amour Oscar-nominated Emmanuelle Riva) who goes to Hiroshima to make a film and has an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada)—that would exist “in two tenses… the present and the past coexist.” Few films have had such a lasting, wide-ranging impact.Hiroshima, mon amour is a devastating experience on every level: visually, sonically, emotionally, intellectually. Thanks to a new 4K restoration, it can now be seen and heard, once again, in its full glory. Restoration by Argos Films, Fondation Groupama Gan, Fondation Technicolor, and Cineteca Bologna, with support from the CNC. A Rialto Pictures release.
THE FOREST, Arnaud Desplechin with VOILA L’ENCHAINEMENT, Claire Denis
Special Events / U.S. Premiere
The name of Alexander Ostrovsky may not be as well known in the west as Anton Chekhov’s, but he was far more prolific a playwright, and many of his works are the backbone of his country’s theatrical tradition. The Comédie Française incorporated The Forest, his 1871 comic drama (we would now call it Chekhovian, but Ostrovsky died when Chekhov was just getting started) about the familial intrigues between a scheming middle-aged woman, her marriageable niece, and an itinerant nephew who returns from self-imposed family exile, into its repertoire in 2003. Arnaud Desplechin’s version, created for Arte’s “Theatre” series, prunes the production down to a trim 82 minutes. The Forest is both a vibrantly spontaneous and brutally funny family drama, and a glorious tribute to acting and theater—in other words, an Arnaud Desplechin film. With Michel Vuillermoz and Denis Podalydès as the nephew and his friend, Adeline D’Hermy as the niece, and Martine Chevallier in a stunning performance as the sublimely selfish aunt Raissa.
Claire Denis’s formidable new short film, shot during her time as a visiting professor at Le Fresnoy, is cinema at its most fundamental: a man and a woman seen only within the charged space of their own coupling. Longtime Denis collaborator Alex Descas and theater actress Norah Krief are the mixed-race couple who come together and then violently apart. The text is by the novelist and playwright Christine Angot, the images shot by Denis’s creative partner Agnès Godard.