10 Films to Watch at the 51st New York Film Festival

Kicking off TODAY throughout the Lincoln Center campus is the 51st New York Film Festival with over two weeks of quality independent, foreign and art house films, as well as social documentaries and multimedia installations from many of the worlds finest creators, directors, writers and artists.  This annual celebration of all things cinema brings a strong slate of films representing virtually every continent with several returning filmmakers scheduled to present and discuss their latest films.

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones also includes: Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Cinematheque Programming; Marian Masone, FSLC Associate Director of Programming; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Film Comment; and Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight & Sound.

IndieWood/HollyWoodn’t has put together a list of 10 (plus one homorable mention) must see films playing over the course of the festival, including several existing award winners (‘Inside Llewelyn Davis‘, ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’), not to be missed auteur selections (‘Bastards‘, ‘Only Lovers Left Alive‘) and many more based on our own subjective taste in films, as well as existing buzz.  As an added bonus, make sure not to miss the 20th anniversary screening and discussion of Richard Linklater‘s seminal growing up tale ‘Dazed & Confused‘, playing as part of the festivals Director Talks series.

Only Lovers Left Alive
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, John Hurt
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston make a dashing and very literal first couple—centuries-old lovers Eve and Adam—in Jim Jarmusch’s wry, tender take on the vampire genre. When we first meet the pair, he’s making rock music in Detroit while she’s hanging out with an equally ageless Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) in Tangiers. (Long-distance spells aren’t such a big deal when you’ve been together throughout hundreds of years.) Between sips of untainted hospital-donated blood, they struggle with depression and an ever-changing world, reflect on their favorite humans (Buster Keaton, Albert Einstein, Jack White) and watch time go by, each finding stability in the other.

12 Years a Slave 
Directed by Steve McQueen
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt & Alfre Woodard
The aesthetically stunning third collaboration between Director McQueen and star Fassbender features one of the seasons most stellar casting ensembles.  With Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Solomon Northrup, a free Nothern man only to find himself on a Southern plantation for over a decade; based on his autobiography), Brad Pitt (who’s Plan B Pictures acts as primary production house behind the film), Alfre Woodard and more, ‘12 Years a Slave‘ can boast the perfect mixture of A List talent, quality period material and undeniably clarity of vision. With the festival and art house success of ‘Hunger‘ and ‘Shame‘, the Director/Star duo seem poised to finally break into mass appeal territory with a handful of award season recognitions being a near certainty.

Blue is the Warmest Color 
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux
By now any cinephile would have heard of the infamous nature of ‘Blue is the Warmest Color‘ explicit depictions of female sexuality, but it is its multi dimensional character study of young love that will stay in viewers minds.  Having garnered the top prize at this years Cannes Film Festival, the film also boasts the festivals Best Actress Prize (going to the duo of Exarchopolous and Seydoux). Playing as an epic, 3+ hour love story against the backdrops of teenage development, social constrictions and modern love, ‘Blue is the Warmest Color‘ comes as the years most anticipated import.

Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde & Scarlett Johansson
Spike Jonze’ latest surrealist tale ‘Her‘ is a love based film in the age of Siri (in this case “Samantha”, as voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The film has been tapped to close the 51st New York Film Festival and with ‘Being John Malkovich‘ and ‘Adaptation‘ proving that the former Music Video auteur Jonze is a true master at absurdity, surrealism and metaphor.  Outside of that, not much else is known about the mysterious ‘Her‘, although on the heels of ‘The Master‘, Joaquin Phoenix seems poised to leave ‘I’m Still Here‘ far behind.

Alan Partridge
Directed by Declan Lowney
Starring Steve Coogan & Colm Meaney
Those who have hungered for the long-gestating big-screen debut of Steve Coogan’s singular comic creation need wait no longer: Alpha Papa has landed and it is uproariously funny. Since 1994, the BBC’s four series The Day Today, Knowing Me Knowing YouI’m Alan Partridge and Midmorning Matters have chronicled the hilarious downward trajectory of the vain and obliviously tactless Alan Partridge, from failed television talk-show host to obnoxious regional radio broadcaster, mercilessly skewering English mediocrity and media ineptitude along the way. When the staff of Radio Norwich is seized at gunpoint by down-sized DJ Pat (Colm Meaney), a siege scenario somewhere between Dog Day Afternoon and Die Hard is set in motion and Alan is obliged to risk his life by serving as the intermediary. As events escalate, our blunderingly self-aggrandizing hero is not entirely unhappy to find himself at the center of a media circus: can he save the day and, more importantly, resuscitate his career?

Inside Llewlyn Davis
Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garret Hedlund & Justin Timberlake
As, perhaps, the most high profile film on this list the Coen Brothers latest ‘Inside Llewlyn Davis‘ has also been garnering praise from Cannes to NYFF.  The highly volatile yet artistically (and socially) fulfilling landscape of the 1960s folk music scene of Greenwich Village is explored with beautiful clarity from Amelie DP Bruno Delbonnel.  Featuring a breakout performance from its lead Oscar Issac, as well as an ensemble cast featuring Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, ‘Inside Llewlyn David‘ is as close to a sure thing for audience and critical darling alike as the season will find.

A Touch of Sin
Directed by Tian Zhu Ding
Starring Jiang Wu, Wang Baoqiang, Zhao Tao
Jia Zhangke’s bloody, bitter film finds the great Chinese filmmaker entering new genre territory, but retaining his commitment to the marginalized and oppressed—this time by way of four overlapping parallel stories, each inspired by real-life acts of violence. A miner (Jiang Wu) struggles with corrupt village leaders. A migrant worker (Wang Baoqiang), returning home, gets his hands on a firearm. A sauna hostess (Jia’s wife and muse, Zhao Tao) endures a series of humiliations over the course of an affair with a married man. A young man (Luo Lanshan) moves to a new town only to find himself trading one thankless, demoralizing job for another. The cumulative portrait, filled with despair and rage, is of a modern-day China undergoing rapid, convulsive changes and creeping cultural amnesia.

When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism
Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
Starring Bogdan Dumitrache, Diana Avramut, Mihaela Sirbu
This rigorously structured new film from Corneliu Porumboiu (Police Adjective) takes an interestingly oblique look at filmmaking. We don’t see the process itself, but a succession of exchanges that take place when the camera isn’t rolling: dinners after work between the director-protagonist Paul (Bogdan Dumitrache) and his actress (and momentary girlfriend) Alina (Diana Avramut), a rehearsal, an exchange between Paul and his tough producer Magda (Mihaela Sirbu), a car ride through Bucharest at night. Every scene is covered in one meticulously executed take. Porumboiu’s approach, which the filmmaker himself has likened to that of Hong Sang-soo, allows us to concentrate on the rhythms of the everyday – silences, pauses, hesitations; the anodyne discomfort of making conversation; the strangeness of so many temporary relationships between exhausted, edgy individuals. When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (the title will make sense at the end) is so precisely composed that its very construction has a crystalline beauty.

Bastards (Les Salauds)
Directed by Claire Denis
Starring Vincent Lindon, Julie Bataille, Lola Créton, Chiara Mastroianni, Michel Subor
Claire Denis’s jagged, daringly fragmented and very darkest film – visually, psychologically, and politically – is that rarest of cinematic narratives, a genuinely contemporary film noir. Inspired by recent French sex ring scandals involving men of wealth and power, Denis positions the superb Vincent Lindon (the lover in her 2002 Friday Night) as the movie’s moral and erotic center. Lindon is a sea captain gone AWOL to come to the rescue of his estranged sister (Julie Bataille) and his teenaged niece (Lola Créton, star of Mia Hansen-Løve’s Goodbye First Love); Chiara Mastroianni is Lindon’s married lover, who has sold her soul in exchange for the security of her young son; and the remarkable Michel Subor, an erstwhile Denis collaborator since Beau Travail, is the very embodiment of an evil beyond comprehension. Shooting digitally for the first time, Denis and her long-time camerawoman Agnès Godard impart their trademark tactility to every image.

Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian
Directed by Arnauld Desplechin
Starring Benecio Del Toro, Mathieu Amalric
In the late 1940s, at the progressive Menninger Clinic, two mavericks bonded, not simply as therapist and patient, but as friends united by their personal experiences as outsiders. Arnaud Desplechin’s extraordinarily intelligent and moving adaptation of Georges Devereux’s landmark work of ethnographicpsychoanalysis stars Benecio Del Toro as the titular Jimmy P, a Blackfoot Indian and World War II veteran suffering from what initially seems like severe posttraumatic stress, and Mathieu Amalric as Devereux, a Hungarian Jew who reinvented himself many times over before coming to the US to study Mohave Indian culture. Both actors are at the top of their game and their interaction makes the best case for the “Talking Cure” ever depicted in a fiction film.

with Honorable Mention

Dazed & Confused (20th Anniversary Screening)
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Matthew McConaughey, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck
It’s hard to believe that Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, his hair-raisingly perfect autobiographical film about the last day of high school in 1976, extends through the hard-partying night to the next morning, is now 20 years old. We are excited to celebrate this anniversary with a special Reunion screening—and no, it will not be sponsored by the Marijuana Growers Association of America.

New York Film Festival




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