In the year of their major milestone, the impressive 50th Anniversary, the New York Film Festival is on its way to their third incarnation. The First Generation, known as the Richard Roud Years, was top-heavy Francophile central. Generation Two, the Richard Pena Years, will be remembered for its obsession with “Third World Cinema”. Now with the changing of the guard, the festival is heading into the Third Generation, which will become known over time as “The Hollywoodification Years”.
This can be blamed on two things. First, the Tribeca Film Festival which has been throwing its’ weight and corporate monies around for the last decade trying to be the Cannes of NY (doesn’t even come close) and then floating a balloon about moving their festival to the Fall to go head-to-head with the New York Film Festival as they can’t get Cannes film because they run before it but can get Toronto titles by running right after. Second, with the expansion of the Lincoln Center complex and the opening of their new venue, Elinor Munroe Film Center, the Film Society, with the strong encouragement of their board is going head long into kowtowing to Hollywood as even the cinemaphilia class is obsessed with celebrities and in turn star-studded “Premieres.”
Opening the film festival will be Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi in 3D (Fox), Closing Night will be Robert Zemeckis’ Flight with Denzel Washington (Paramount) and the Soprano’s creator David Chase’s feature film debut Not Fade Away will be the Centerpiece. Which one doesn’t belong? 32 films comprise the Main Slate ranging from Michael Haneke’s Amour (Sony Classics) starring Jean-Louis Trintignant (see Richard Roud Years), Emmanuelle Riva and Isabelle Huppert, and Alain Resnais’ You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Kino Lorber) to Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa (A24), Leos Carax’s return with Holy Motors (the micro distributor Indomina) and Roger Michell’s Hyde Park On The Hudson (Focus Features).
Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy (Millennium Films), Pablo Larrain’s No (Sony Classics), Alan Berliner’s First Cousin, Once Removed (HBO Documentary), Dror Moreh’s The Gatekeepers (Sony Classics), Brian DePalma’s Passion (rumoured to be going to Entertainment One) and Joachim Lafosse’s Our Children (a startup distrib is supposed to be in conversations about acquiring this) are more of the selections for the festival this year.
Adopt Films, trying to replicate Sony Classics marketing push last year has a number of films in the film festival including the Taviani Brothers’ Caesar Must Die, Miguel Gomes’ Tabu and Christian Petzold’s Barbara. Barbara seems to be the breakout here.
Cinema Guild, replicating it’s schedule last year of acquiring and releasing non-commercial features will be putting out Joao Pedro Rodrigues & Joao Rui Guerra de Mata’s The Last Time I Saw Macao, Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel’s Leviathan and Raul Ruiz’s Night Across The Street.
IFC Films and its’ sister distributor Sundance Selects are busy hoovering up art films to pump out into their VOD pipeline. This year’s catch for IFC Films include Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone In Love, Olivier Assayas’ Something In The Air and Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. Sundance Selects grabbed Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond The Hills. When the New York Film Festival starts replicating Toronto’s Midnight Madness then we’ll see IFC Midnight in the game.
The films without distributors (and word has never will get one) include Noemie Lvovsky’s Camille Rewinds, Antonio Mendez Esparza’s Here & There, Song Fang’s Memories Look At Me, Jun Lana’s Bwakaw, Javier Rebollo’s The Dead Man & Being Happy, Rama Burshtein’s Fill The Void, Marc-Henri Wajnberg’s Kinshasa Kids, Yesim Ustaoglu’s Araf/Somewhere In Between and Valeria Sarmiento’s Lines Of Wellington.
The sidebars are worth the admission alone. Masterworks consists of 18 restorations, revivals and rediscoveries. The highlights and ones that must be seen on a big screen (alas DCP on many of them) include Fellini’s Satyricon, David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia and Francesco Rossi’s The Mattei Affair. The one special film is French director Pierre Chenal’s adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son from 1951. The Cineastes/Cinema Of Our Time is a personal favorite (and not because I acted as sales agent for the rights holder in the US during the early ’90s) as they are documentaries about directors which started being made for French television in the mid-1960s, many directed by Andre S. Labarthe. Among some of my favorite filmmakers profiled are Erich von Stroheim, Jean-Pierre Melville, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Jean Vigo, Sam Fuller, Shohei Imamura, Joseph Losey, Alain Cavalier and Raoul Walsh.
For the die-hard cinemaphile junkies there is a side bar titled Cinema Reflected. Casting By profiles the respected casting director Marion Dougherty and posits the position that casting directors are as important to the success of a film as the director, cinematographer and editor. Some may disagree so the commentary from Taylor Hackford, the head of the DGA, will be of interest. Celluloid Man profiles the father of India’s National Film Archive (the counterpart to Henri Langlois who founded the Cinematheque Francaise). Final Cut – Ladies & Gentlemen could be best described as the Hungarian That’s Entertainment paying homage to classics of cinema from around the world. Liv Ullman reminisces about her mentor Ingmar Bergman in Liv & Ingmar. Room 237 is the obsessive-compulsive take on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining by ranting conspiracy theorists.