By Jack Rico
The New York Film Festival, North America’s second oldest film festival is once again upon us. This is the 52nd edition, from Sept. 26 to Oct. 12, that brings some of the movies from around the world and some world premieres that have never been seen before.
Before you get comfortable in reading our list, here’s a quick video glance of what you can expect at the NYFF 52 this year!
Founded in 1963, this festival continues to introduce audiences to the most exciting, innovative and accomplished works of world cinema. I have outlined what I think are the best in class at the festival and money that will be well spent. You love cinema? Get ready to feel like you’re at the Oscars!
1) Gone Girl (Opening Night, World Premiere)
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, and Neil Patrick Harris
Why you should see it: 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. 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.
2) Inherent Vice (Centerpiece, World Premiere)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Joaquin Phoenix, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Owen Wilson.
Why you should see it: Paul Thomas Anderson’s wild and entrancing new movie, the very first adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel, is a time machine, placing the viewer deep within the world of the paranoid, hazy L.A. dope culture of the early ’70s. Anderson has done only six movies and almost all of them are arguably some of the best films ever made in American cinema. From Hard Eight, Punch-Drunk Love, to his masterworks such as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood and The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson is a director who commands our immediate attention with every new release and Inherent Vice is no exception.
3) Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (Closing Night)
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu
Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton
Why you should see it: This is a movie about the theater. About a washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero who must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory. Directed by one of Mexico’s greatest directors in Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, this is an extravagant dream of a movie, alternately hilarious and terrifying, powered by a deep love of acting, theater, and Broadway—a real New York experience.
Director: Bennet Miller
Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo
Why you should see it: Bennett Miller’s meticulously crafted new film deals with the tragic story of the the fatally dissociated billionaire John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) and the brothers and championship wrestlers (played by Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum) recruited by du Pont to create a national wrestling team on his family’s sprawling property in Pennsylvania. Miller’s film is a powerfully physical experience, and the simmering conflicts between his characters are expressed in their stances, their stillnesses, their physiques, and, most of all, their moves in the wrestling arena. At the core is a trio of perfectly meshed and absolutely stunning performances from Mark Ruffalo as Dave, Channing Tatum as Mark, and an almost unrecognizable Steve Carell as the fatally dissociated du Pont. Foxcatcher offers us a vivid portrait of a side of American life that has never been touched in movies.
5) Clouds of Sils Maria (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz
Why you should see it: One of the more anticipated movies at the NYFF 2014, Juliette Binoche plays an aging actress and Kristen Stewart her personal assistant in Olivier Assayas’s brilliant new film about coming to terms with time’s cruel reality of aging. At the peak of her international career, Maria Enders is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years ago. Now she is being asked to step into the other role, that of the older Helena.
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller, Melissa Benoist, J.K. Simmons
Why you should see it: One of Hollywood’s promising young screenwriters and now director, Damien Chazelle, is presenting a sophomore musical film unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Chazelle’s large focus on music throughout his career (Grand Piano, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench) prepares him to delight us with an intense and potent film that will test your perceptions of music preparation. A young musician struggles to make it as a top jazz drummer. The live jazz core that is fused with Justin Hurwitz’s ambient score, the blood-on-the-drum-kit battle between student and teacher, and the dazzling filmmaking will keep your pulse rate elevated from beginning to end. A kinesthetic depiction of performance anxiety—you don’t need to be a musician to feel it –Whiplash also presents us with a moral issue open to debate.
7) Time Out Of Mind (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Oren Moverman
Cast: Richard Gere, Jena Malone, Danielle Brooks
Why you should see it: As George, a man forced onto the streets, Richard Gere may be the “star” of Oren Moverman’s haunting new film, but he allows the world around him to take center stage, and himself to simply be. This film’s take on destitution or homelessness, is one of the best performances of Gere’s career.
8) Two Days, One Night
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Pili Groyne
Why you should see it: A factory worker on the verge of being laid off (Marion Cotillard) has 48 hours to convince her co-workers to forego their bonuses so that she might keep her job. At once an unforgettable drama and a tough ethical inquiry, this movie channels the force of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s 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. In Two Days, One Night, the Dardennes take an urgent and extremely relevant ethical inquiry and bring it to bold and painfully human life.
9) Maps to the Stars (U.S. Premiere)
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon
Why you should see it: Some of Cronenberg’s recent films don’t really make a lot of sense. They’re so deep in social commentary and philosophical profoundness that deciphering their true meaning is a task difficult to ascertain immediately. This time though, our helmer takes Bruce Wagner’s script—a pitch-black Hollywood satire—chills it down, and gives it a near-tragic spin. The terrible loneliness of narcissism afflicts every character from the fading star Havana (Julianne Moore) to the available-for-anything chauffeur (Robert Pattinson) to the entire Weiss family, played by John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, and Mia Wasikowska. Cronenberg’s visual strategy physically isolates the characters from one another, so that their occasional violent connections pack a double whammy.
10) Pasolini (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Abel Ferrara
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ninetto Davoli, Valerio Mastandrea
Why you should see it: Considered one of cinema’s quintessential New York directors, Abel Ferrara’s new film compresses the many contradictory aspects of Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini last days in 1975. Ferrara has managed to take his subject’s life and work and insert it into a distilled, prismatic portrait, with a brilliant Willem Dafoe in the title role. A thoughtful, attentive, and extremely frank meditation on a man who continues to cast a very long shadow on film and history.
11) Listen Up Philip
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Krysten Ritter
Why you should see it: Alex Ross Perry’s third feature heralds the arrival of a bold new voice in American movies. Even more than in his critically lauded The Color Wheel, Perry draws on literary models (mainly Philip Roth and William Gaddis) to achieve a brazen mixture of bitter humor and unexpected pathos. 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.
12) Goodbye to Language 3D
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Héloise Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier
Why you should see it: Jean-Luc Godard’s 43rd feature, shot in 3-D and “starring” his beloved dog Roxy, is a work of the greatest freedom and joy, as impossible to summarize as a poem by Wallace Stevens or a Messiaen quartet.
13) Life of Riley (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Alain Resnais
Cast: Sabine Azéma, Hippolyte Girardot, Caroline Sihol
Why you should see it: The final work from Alain Resnais, based on British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking, is a moving, graceful, and surprisingly affirmative farewell to life from a truly great artist.
14) Saint Laurent (North American Premiere)
Director: Bertrand Bonello
Cast: Gaspard Ulliel, Jérémie Renier, Louis Garrel
Why you should see it: Blessed with an absolutely refined taste in fashion, clothing designer Yves Saint Laurent is the subject of Bertrand Bonello new biopic. He focuses on a dark, hedonistic, wildly creative decade for Laurent’s life and career, as he toys deliriously with biopic rules and limitations. As much as Laurent exerts his power, Bonello is interested in cinema’s potential both to capture and to warp the passage of time and our perception of it.
15) Hiroshima Mon Amour (Revival)
Director: Alain Resnais
Cast: Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada, Stella Dallas
Why you should see it: This debut feature from Alain Resnais, written by Marguerite Duras, a story told in two tenses about the aftereffect of the atomic bomb as experienced by two lovers in Hiroshima, is one of the great masterworks of modernist cinema, now fully restored.
16) Once Upon a Time in America (Revival)
Director: Sergio Leone
Cast: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern
Why you should see it: A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life.
17) Misunderstood (North American Premiere)
Director: Asia Argento
Cast: Anna Lou Castoldi, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Gabriel Garko
Why you should see it: As preteen Aria shuttles between the well-appointed homes of her divorced showbiz parents, a large affectionate cat her only companion, she elaborates her walks into sometimes life-threatening adventures. Blurring the line between imagination and actuality, Asia Argento’s Misunderstood is ingenious, direct, and utterly real.
18) Mr. Turner
Director: Mike Leigh
Cast: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson
Why you should see it: With a sense of quirk, culture and social commentary, director Mike Leigh brings us not only an exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner’s life, but also the great human problem of sharing a life with other people. Featuring a remarkable performance from director Mike Leigh’s frequent collaborator, Timothy Spall, this is a rich, funny, moving, and extremely clear-eyed film about art and its creation.
19) The Blue Room (North American Premiere)
Director: Mathieu Amalric
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Léa Drucker, Stéphanie Cléau
Why you should see it: A perfectly twisted, timeless adaptation of a Georges Simenon domestic crime novel in which an adulterous man (Mathieu Amalric) and woman (Stéphanie Cléau) meet in a country hotel’s blue room… but have very different visions of their future. Director and star Amalric, who has the most eloquent eyes in contemporary cinema, uses them here to convey lust, guilt, bewilderment, and the dawning realization that he is a pawn in a malignant game. It is unforgettable.
Director: Yann Demange
Cast: Jack O’Connell, Sam Reid, Sean Harris
Why you should see it: This is a riveting thriller set in the mean streets of Belfast over the course of 24 hours. Think of this as FOX’s “24” set in wartime Europe but with an artistic filter. ’71 brings the grim reality of the Troubles to vivid, shocking life as a squaddie (Jack O’Connell) finds himself trapped and unarmed in hostile territory and the lines between friend and foe become increasingly blurred. Suggesting an update of Carol Reed’s classic Odd Man Out, this tough, compact suspenser is tightly written by Black Watch playwright Gregory Burke and handled with a dynamic, vigorous energy by debut director Yann Demange.
21) Jauja (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Lisandro Alonso
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Diego Roman, Ghita Nørby
Why you should see it: A work of tremendous beauty and a source of continual surprise, Alonso’s first period piece stars Viggo Mortensen as a Danish military engineer who traverses a visually stunning variety of Patagonian shrub, rock, grass, and desert on horseback and on foot in search of his teenage daughter. Alonso’s style reaches new heights of sensory attentiveness and physicality, driving the action toward a thrilling conclusion that transcends the limits of cinematic time and space.
22) CITIZENFOUR (World Premiere)
Director: Laura Poitras
Why you should see it: When filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet Edward Snowden for the first time, Poitras brought her camera with her. The result is a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. CITIZENFOUR is a major work on multiple levels, and a deeply unsettling experience.
23) The Princess of France (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Matías Piñeiro
Cast: Julián Larquier Tellarini, Agustina Muñoz, Alessio Rigo de Righi
Why you should see it: Argentinian director Matías Piñeiro’s dazzling fifth feature, which follows a group of young people involved in a radio production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, doesn’t transplant Shakespeare to the present day so much as summon the spirit of his polymorphous comedies. An intimate, modestly scaled work that takes characters and viewers alike into dizzying realms of possibility, The Princess of France is the most ambitious film yet from one of world cinema’s brightest young talents, a cumulatively thrilling experience.
24) La Sapienza (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Eugène Green
Cast: Fabrizio Rongione, Christelle Prot, Ludovico Succio
Why you should see it: In Eugène Green’s exquisite new film, an unhappy married couple travel to Italy so that the husband can research the Baroque architect Francesco Borromini. There they encounter a brother and sister, whose friendship helps to restore their own sense of inner balance. It’s difficult to convey the precise beauty of La Sapienza, to describe its serenity, its quiet intensity, or the delicate equilibrium Green locates between faces, landscapes, and architectural forms.
25) Los Sures (Convergence)
Director: Diego Echeverria
Why you should see it: Diego Echeverria’s Los Sures skillfully represents the challenges of its time: drugs, gang violence, crime, abandoned real estate, racial tension, single-parent homes, and inadequate local resources in Brooklyn’s Los Sures neighborhood. Yet Echeverria’s portrait also celebrates the vitality of this largely Puerto Rican and Dominican community, showing the strength of their culture, their creativity, and their determination to overcome a desperate situation. The screening will be shown with a presentation of Living Los Sures, the expansive documentary project by Southside-based UnionDocs, in which the original is reframed and remixed just in time for the 30th anniversary of its premiere at the New York Film Festival.