The New York Film Festival has announced their full lineup, boasting 30 films from 22 countries. Barry Jenkins's eagerly awaited post-Moonlight project, If Beale Street Could Talk, will have its U.S. premiere, as will High Life ("a spacecraft piloted by death row prisoners on a decades-long suicide mission to enter and harness the power of a black hole") from Claire Denis, and Frederick Wiseman's documentary about Monrovia, a town of 1,063 in Indiana.
The NYFF will be the North American premiere of Joel and Ethan Coen's The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which was once going to be a Netflix series but is now a movie, or more specifically, an "anthology of short films based on a fictional book of 'western tales.'" Other notable films: Palme d'Or winner Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s look at the impoverished living at the margins of Japanese society; Tamara Jenkins' Private Life about a New York couple trying to have a baby; Bi Gan's Long Day's Journey Into Night with a nearly "hour-long, gravity-defying 3D sequence shot;" and Mariano Llina's 14-hour long (!) La Flor.
The previously announced opening night film is Yorgos Lanthimos's The Favourite, a court intrigue dark comedy with Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Olivia Colman. And on closing night they'll screen Julian Schnabel's Vincent van Gogh biopic At Eternity’s Gate, starring Willem Dafoe as the artist. The centerpiece film is Alfonso Cuaron's ROMA, set in 1970s Mexico City.
Festival director Kent Jones said, "If I were pressed to choose one word to describe the films in this year’s Main Slate, it would be: bravery. These films were made all over the globe, by young filmmakers like Dominga Sotomayor and masters like Fred Wiseman, by artists of vastly different sensibilities from Claire Denis to the Coen Brothers, Jafar Panahi to Jean-Luc Godard. And the unifying thread is their bravery, the bravery needed to fight past the urge to commercialized smoothness and mediocrity that is always assuming new forms. That’s what makes every single title in this year’s Main Slate so precious, and so vital."
The New York Film Festival runs September 28 through October 14, and here's the Main Slate:
Opening Night: The Favourite
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/USA, 2018, 121m
In Yorgos Lanthimos’s wildly intricate and very darkly funny new film, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), and her servant Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) engage in a sexually charged fight to the death for the body and soul of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) at the height of the War of the Spanish Succession. This trio of truly brilliant performances is the dynamo that powers Lanthimos’s top-to-bottom reimagining of the costume epic, in which the visual pageantry of court life in 18th-century England becomes not just a lushly appointed backdrop but an ironically heightened counterpoint to the primal conflict unreeling behind closed doors. A Fox Searchlight Pictures release.
ROMA (Carlos Somonte/Netflix)
Dir. Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico, 2018, 135m
In Alfonso Cuarón’s autobiographically inspired film, set in Mexico City in the early ’70s, we are placed within the physical and emotional terrain of a middle-class family whose center is quietly and unassumingly held by its beloved live-in nanny and housekeeper (Yalitza Aparicio). The cast is uniformly magnificent, but the real star of ROMA is the world itself, fully present and vibrantly alive, from sudden life-changing events to the slightest shifts in mood and atmosphere. Cuarón tells us an epic story of everyday life while also gently sweeping us into a vast cinematic experience, in which time and space breathe and majestically unfold. Shot in breathtaking black and white and featuring a sound design that represents something new in the medium, ROMA is a truly visionary work. A Netflix release.
Closing Night: At Eternity’s Gate
Dir. Julian Schnabel, USA/France, 2018, 106m
North American Premiere
Julian Schnabel’s ravishingly tactile and luminous new film takes a fresh look at the last days of Vincent van Gogh, and in the process revivifies our sense of the artist as a living, feeling human being. Schnabel; his co-writers Jean-Claude Carrière and Louise Kugelberg, also the film's editor; and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme strip everything down to essentials, fusing the sensual, the emotional, and the spiritual. And the pulsing heart of At Eternity’s Gate is Willem Dafoe’s shattering performance: his Vincent is at once lucid, mad, brilliant, helpless, defeated, and, finally, triumphant. With Oscar Isaac as Gauguin, Rupert Friend as Theo, Mathieu Amalric as Dr. Gachet, Emmanuelle Seigner as Madame Ginoux, and Mads Mikkelsen as The Priest. A CBS Films release.
Dir. Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2018, 100m
Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s fourth completed feature since he was officially banned from filmmaking is one of his very best. Panahi begins with a smartphone video shot by a young woman (Marziyeh Rezaei) who announces to the camera that her parents have forbidden her from realizing her dream of acting and then, by all appearances, takes her own life. The recipient of the video, Behnaz Jafari, as herself, asks Panahi, as himself, to drive her to the woman’s tiny home village near the Turkish border to investigate. From there, 3 Faces builds in narrative, thematic, and visual intricacy to put forth a grand expression of community and solidarity under the eye of oppression.
Asako I & II
Dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan/France, 2018, 119m
A truly original Vertigo riff, based on a novel by Tomoka Shibasaki, Asako I & II is an enchanting, unnerving paean to the notion of love as a trance state. Asako (Erika Karata) and Baku (Masahiro Higashide) share an intense, all-consuming romance—but one day the moody Baku ups and vanishes. Two years later, having moved from Osaka to Tokyo, Asako meets Baku’s exact double. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, who gained plenty of attention for 2015’s five-hour-plus Happy Hour, has returned with a beguiling and mysterious film that traces the trajectory of a love—or, to be accurate, two loves—found, lost, displaced, and regained. A Grasshopper Film release.
Ash Is Purest White
Dir. Jia Zhangke, China, 2018, 142m
Jia Zhangke’s extraordinary body of work has doubled as a record of 21st-century China and its warp-speed transformations. A tragicomedy in the fullest sense, Ash Is Purest White is at once his funniest and saddest film, portraying the passage of time through narrative ellipses and, like his Mountains May Depart (NYFF53), a three-part structure. Despite its jianghu—criminal underworld—setting, Ash is less a gangster movie than a melodrama, beginning by following Qiao and her mobster boyfriend Bin as they stake out their turf against rivals and upstarts in 2001 postindustrial Datong before expanding out into an epic narrative of how abstract forces shape individual lives. As the formidable, quick-witted Qiao, a never better Zhao Tao has fashioned a heroine for the ages. A Cohen Media Group release.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Dir. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, USA, 2018, 128m
North American Premiere
Here’s something new from the Coen Brothers—an anthology of short films based on a fictional book of “western tales,” featuring Tim Blake Nelson as a murderous, white-hatted singing cowboy; James Franco as a bad luck bank-robber; Liam Neeson as the impresario of a traveling medicine show with increasingly diminishing returns; Tom Waits as a die-hard gold prospector; Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck as two shy people who almost come together on the wagon trail; and Tyne Daly, Saul Rubinek, Brendan Gleeson, Chelcie Ross, and Jonjo O’Neill as a motley crew on a stagecoach to nowhere. Each story is distinct, but unified by the thematic thread of mortality. As a whole movie experience, Buster Scruggs is wildly entertaining, and, like all Coen films, endlessly surprising. An Annapurna Production and Netflix release.
Dir. Lee Chang-dong, South Korea, 2018, 148m
Expanded from Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” the sixth feature from Korean master Lee Chang-dong, known best in the U.S. for such searing, emotional dramas as Secret Sunshine (NYFF45) and Poetry (NYFF48), begins by tracing a romantic triangle of sorts: Jongsu (Yoo Ah-in), an aspiring writer, becomes involved with a woman he knew from childhood, Haemi (Jun Jong-seo), who is about to embark on a trip to Africa. She returns some weeks later with a fellow Korean, the Gatsby-esque Ben (Steven Yeun), who has a mysterious source of income and a very unusual hobby. A tense, haunting multiple-character study, the film accumulates a series of unanswered questions and unspoken motivations to conjure a totalizing mood of uncertainty and quietly bends the contours of the thriller genre to brilliant effect. A Well Go USA release.
Dir. Paweł Pawlikowski, Poland, 2018, 90m
Academy Award-winner Paweł Pawlikowski follows up his box-office sensation Ida with this bittersweet, exquisitely crafted tale of an impossible love. Set between the late 1940s and early 1960s, Cold War is, as the title implies, a Soviet-era drama, but it stringently and inventively avoids the clichés of many a classical-minded World War II art film, tracking the tempestuous love between pianist (Tomasz Kot) and singer (Joanna Kulig) as they navigate the realities of living in both Poland and Paris, in and outside of the Iron Curtain. Shot in crisp black-and-white and set to a bewitching jazzy score, Pawlikowski’s evocative film consummately depicts an uncompromising passion caught up in the gears of history. An Amazon Studios release.
A Faithful Man/L’Homme fidèle
Dir. Louis Garrel, France, 2018, 75m
Nine years after she left him for his best friend, journalist Abel (Louis Garrel) gets back together with his recently widowed old flame Marianne (Laetitia Casta). It seems to be a beautiful new beginning, but soon the hapless Abel finds himself embroiled in all sorts of dramas: the come-ons of a wily jeune femme (Lily-Rose Depp), the machinations of Marianne’s morbid young son, and some unsavory questions about what exactly happened to his girlfriend’s first husband. Shifting points of view as nimbly as its players switch partners, the sophomore feature from actor/director Louis Garrel—co-written with the legendary Jean-Claude Carrière—is at once a beguiling bedroom farce and a slippery inquiry into truth, subjectivity, and the elusive nature of romantic attraction.
A Family Tour
Dir. Ying Liang, Taiwan/Hong Kong/Singapore/Malaysia, 2018, 107m
Since his 2012 feature When Night Falls, a stinging critique of state power that the Chinese authorities attempted to suppress, the director Ying Liang has been forced to live in exile in Hong Kong. His return to feature filmmaking is a characteristically precise and powerful work, and, as inspired by his own precarious situation and based on a reunion with his in-laws, an autobiographical one. The film follows a Hong Kong-exiled director (Gong Zhe) as she travels to a film festival in Taiwan with her husband and toddler, while her ailing mother (Nai An) vacations there separately with a tour group. To avoid attracting attention, the family shadows the tour’s sightseeing itinerary, visiting each other during photo stops and mealtimes. An empathetic snapshot of a mother-daughter relationship, this brave, poised film is also a deeply moving testament to the inseparability of the personal and the political.
La Flor (Laura Citarella)
Dir. Mariano Llinás, Argentina, 2018, 807m
North American Premiere
A decade in the making, Mariano Llinás’s follow-up to his 2008 cult classic Extraordinary Stories is an unrepeatable labor of love and madness that redefines the concept of binge viewing. The director himself appears at the start to preview the six disparate episodes that await, each starring the same four remarkable actresses: Elisa Carricajo, Valeria Correa, Pilar Gamboa, and Laura Paredes. Overflowing with nested subplots and whiplash digressions, La Flor shape-shifts from a B-movie to a musical to a spy thriller to a category-defying metafiction—all of them without endings—to a remake of a very well-known French classic and, finally, to an enigmatic period piece that lacks a beginning (granted, all notions of beginnings and endings become fuzzy after 14 hours). An adventure in scale and duration, La Flor is a marvelously entertaining exploration of the possibilities of fiction that lands somewhere close to its outer limits.
Dir. Hong Sangsoo, South Korea, 2018, 66m
Sitting in a café, typing on a laptop, Areum (Kim Min-hee) eavesdrops on three dramatic situations unfolding in her general vicinity: a young woman bound for Europe and a male friend who erupt in vitriolic accusations, a washed-up actor trying to sweet-talk his way into staying with an old friend, and a narcissistic actor-director (Jung Jin-young) trying to rope a young writer into his next project. Playing out largely in long-take two-shots, these conversations create a kind of never-ending theatrical performance, with Areum as the anchor. With its raw emotions and seeming formal simplicity masking a complex episodic approach, Grass finds Korean master Hong Sangsoo setting up a fascinating narrative problem for himself and solving it as only he can. A Cinema Guild release.
Happy as Lazzaro/Lazzaro felice
Dir. Alice Rohrwacher, Italy, 2018, 128m
In the transfiguring and transfixing third feature from Alice Rohrwacher (The Wonders, NYFF52), we find ourselves amid a throng of tobacco farmers living in a state of extreme deprivation on an estate known as Inviolata, with wide-eyed teenager Lazzaro (nonprofessional discovery Adriano Tardiolo) emerging as a focal point. Although this all seems to be taking place in the past (as implied by the warm grain of Hélène Louvart’s 16mm cinematography), a stunning mid-movie leap vaults the narrative squarely into the present day and into the realm of parable. In a fable touching on perennial class struggle with Christian overtones, Rohrwacher summons the spirit of Pasolini, while also nodding to Ermanno Olmi and Visconti. A Netflix release.
Dir. Alex Ross Perry, USA, 2018, 134m
The latest from Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip, NYFF52) traces the psychology of an unforgettable woman under the influence. Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss, in a powerhouse performance), the influential lead singer of a popular ’90s alt-rock outfit, struggles with her demons as friends, family, and bandmates alike behold her unraveling through a prism of horror, empathy, and resentment. Perry tracks Becky’s self-destruction—and potential creative redemption—through snaking long takes (arguably some of DP Sean Price Williams’s finest work) in claustrophobic backstage hallways, garishly lit dressing rooms, and recording studios, and the film’s ensemble cast (including Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, Amber Heard, Virginia Madsen, Dan Stevens, and Eric Stoltz) is impeccable in support of Moss’s rattling trip to the brink.
High LIfe (Claire Denis)
Dir. Claire Denis, Germany/France/USA/UK/Poland, 2018, 110m
Claire Denis’s latest film is set aboard a spacecraft piloted by death row prisoners on a decades-long suicide mission to enter and harness the power of a black hole. But as is always the case with this filmmaker, the actual structure seems to evolve organically through moods and uncanny spells, and the closest juxtapositions of violence and intimacy. High Life features some of the most unsettling passages Denis has ever filmed, as well as moments of the greatest delicacy and tenderness. With Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, and Mia Goth.
Hotel by the River
Dir. Hong Sangsoo, South Korea, 2018, 96m
Two tales intersect at a riverside hotel: an elderly poet (Ki Joo-bong), invited to stay there for free by the owner, summons his two estranged sons, sensing his life drawing to a close; and a young woman (Kim Min-hee) nursing a recently broken heart is visited by a friend who tries to console her. At times these threads overlap, at others they run tantalizingly close to each other. Using a stark black-and-white palette and handheld cinematography (with frequent DP Kim Hyung-ku), Hong crafts an affecting examination of family, mortality, and the ways in which we attempt to heal wounds old and fresh.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Dir. Barry Jenkins, USA, 2018
Barry Jenkins’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Moonlight is a carefully wrought adaptation of James Baldwin’s penultimate novel, set in Harlem in the early 1970s. Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (KiKi Layne) are childhood friends who fall in love as young adults. Tish becomes pregnant, and Fonny suffers a fate tragically common to young African-American men: he is arrested and convicted for a crime he didn’t commit. Jenkins’s deeply soulful film stays focused on the emotional currents between parents and children, couples and friends, all of whom spend their lives repairing and reinforcing the precious but fraying bonds of family and community in an unforgiving racist world. With Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Aunjanue Ellis, and Michael Beach. An Annapurna Pictures release.
The Image Book (Kino Lorber)
The Image Book/Le Livre d’image
Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland, 2018, 90m
Jean-Luc Godard’s “late period” probably began with 2001’s In Praise of Love, and since then he has been formulating and enacting a path toward an ending: the ending of individual films, the ending of engagement with cinema, and, now that he’s 87, the possible ending of his own existence. With The Image Book all barriers between the artist, his art, and his audience have dissolved. The film is structured in chapters and predominantly comprised of pre-existing images, many of which will be familiar from Godard’s previous work. The relationship between image and sound is, as always, intensely physical and sometimes jaw-dropping. And…isn’t it enough to say, simply, that this is the work of a master? And that you have to see it? A Kino Lorber release.
In My Room
Dir. Ulrich Köhler, Germany, 2018, 119m
The fourth feature from German director Ulrich Köhler (Sleeping Sickness, NYFF49) takes a disarmingly realistic and restrained approach to a fantastical premise: the eternally popular fantasy of the last man on earth. Sad-sack, 40ish TV cameraman Armin (Hans Löw) has been summoned home by his father to help tend to his terminally ill grandmother, but awakens one morning to find the world around him entirely depopulated. Eventually, the film introduces a fellow survivor, an Eve (Elena Radonicich) to complicate the apparent contentment of its Adam. In My Room is a film of meticulous details and sly, subtle ironies, crafted by the skills, temperament, and philosophical inquiry of an emerging master. A Grasshopper Film release.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Dir. Bi Gan, China/France, 2018, 133m
As proven by his knockout debut, Kaili Blues, Bi Gan is preoccupied with film’s potential to both materialize mental space and convey physical sensation. His cinematic ambitions are further crystallized, to say the least, in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a noir-tinged film about a solitary man (Huang Jue) haunted by loss and regret, told in two parts: the first an achronological mosaic, the second a nocturnal dream. Again centering around his native province of Guizhou in southwest China, the director has created a film like nothing you’ve seen before, especially in the second half’s hour-long, gravity-defying 3D sequence shot, which plunges its protagonist—and us—through a labyrinthine cityscape.
Monrovia (Zipporah Films)
Dir. Frederick Wiseman, USA, 2018, 143m
Every new film from Frederick Wiseman, now 88 years old, seems more vigorous and acute than the last. His subject here is Monrovia, Indiana; population 1063, as of 2017; located deep in the American heartland. Wiseman alights on key activities: talk among friends over coffee at the diner, packaging meat at the supermarket, trucks loading with corn, expansion debates at town planning commission meetings, and, most intriguingly, a funeral. Through lines emerge: coarsening nostalgia and consumerism, and the resulting spiritual and physical exhaustion. Monrovia, Indiana is a tough, piercing look at the rhythm and texture of life as it is lived in a wide swathe of this country. A Zipporah Films release.
Dir. Olivier Assayas, France, 2018, 106m
Set within the world of publishing, Olivier Assayas’s new film finds two hopelessly intertwined couples—Guillaume Canet’s troubled book executive and Juliette Binoche’s weary actress; Vincent Macaigne’s boorish novelist and Nora Hamzawi’s straight-and-balanced political operative—obsessed with the state of things, and how (or when) it will (or might) change. Is print dying? Has blogging replaced writing? Is fiction over? But the divide between what these characters—and their friends, and their enemies, and everyone in between—talk about and what is actually happening between them, moment by moment, is what gives Non-Fiction its very particular charm, humor, and lifelike stabs of emotion. A Sundance Selects release.
Private Life (Netflix)
Dir. Tamara Jenkins, USA, 2017, 123m
In Tamara Jenkins’s first film in ten years, Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti are achingly real as Rachel and Richard, a middle-aged New York couple caught in the desperation, frustration, and exhaustion of trying to have a child, whether by fertility treatments or adoption or surrogate motherhood. They find a willing partner in Sadie (the formidable Kayli Carter), Richard’s niece by marriage, who happily agrees to donate her eggs, and the three of them build their own little outcast family in the process. Private Life is a wonder, by turns hilarious and harrowing (sometimes at once), and a very carefully observed portrait of middle-class Bohemian Manhattanites. With John Carroll Lynch and Molly Shannon. A Netflix release.
RAY & LIZ
Dir. Richard Billingham, UK, 2018, 107m
English photographer and visual artist Richard Billingham’s first feature is grounded in the visual and emotional textures of his family portraits, particularly those of his deeply dysfunctional parents, whose names give the film its title. Billingham builds astonishing and unflinching scenes with his principal actors—Ella Smith as Liz, Justin Salinger as Ray, Patrick Romer as the older Ray, Tony Way and Sam Gittins as neighbors, and Joshua Millard-Lloyd as the youngest child—that play out second by second as if by some new form of direct transmission from the artist’s memory bank. There is not a single second of this electrifying debut that doesn’t feel 100% rooted in personal experience.
Shoplifters (Magnolia Pictures)
Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2018, 121m
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner is a heartrending glimpse into an often invisible segment of Japanese society: those struggling to stay afloat in the face of crushing poverty. On the the margins of Tokyo, a most unusual “family”—a collection of societal castoffs united by their shared outsiderhood and fierce loyalty to one another—survives by petty stealing and grifting. When they welcome into their fold a young girl who’s been abused by her parents, they risk exposing themselves to the authorities and upending their tenuous, below-the-radar existence. The director’s latest masterful, richly observed human drama makes the quietly radical case that it is love—not blood—that defines a family. A Magnolia Pictures release.
Dir. Christophe Honoré, France, 2018, 132m
North American Premiere
The ever-unpredictable Christophe Honoré (Love Songs) returns with perhaps his most personal, emotionally rich work yet. At once an intimate chronicle of a romance and a sprawling portrait of gay life in early 1990s France, Sorry Angel follows the intertwining journeys of Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps), a worldly, HIV-positive Parisian writer confronting his own mortality, and Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a curious, carefree university student just beginning to live. Brought together by chance, the men find themselves navigating a casual fling that gradually deepens into a tender, transformative bond. Graced with vivid, complex characters and inspired flights of cinematic imagination, this is a vibrant, life-affirming celebration of love, friendship, and human connection. Released by Strand Releasing.
Too Late to Die Young (Dominga Sotomayor)
Too Late to Die Young
Dir. Dominga Sotomayor, Chile/Brazil/Argentina/Netherlands/Qatar, 2018, 110m
The year 1990 was when Chile transitioned to democracy, but all of that seems a world away for 16-year-old Sofia, who lives far off the grid in a mountain enclave of artists and bohemians. Too Late to Die Young takes place during the hot, languorous days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when the troubling realities of the adult world—and the elemental forces of nature—begin to intrude on her teenage idyll. Shot in dreamily diaphanous, sun-splashed images and set to period-perfect pop, the second feature from one of Latin American cinema’s most artful and distinctive voices is at once nostalgic and piercing, a portrait of a young woman—and a country—on the cusp of exhilarating and terrifying change.
Dir. Christian Petzold, Germany/France, 2018, 101m
In Christian Petzold’s brilliant and haunting adaptation of German novelist Anna Seghers’s 1942 book Transit Visa, a hollowed-out European refugee (Franz Rogowski), who has escaped from two concentration camps, arrives in Marseille assuming the identity of a dead novelist whose papers he is carrying. There he enters the arid, threadbare world of the refugee community, and becomes enmeshed in the lives of a desperate young mother and son, and a mysterious woman named Marie (Paula Beer). Transit is a film told in two tenses: 1940 and right now, historic past and immediate present, like two translucent panes held up to the light and mysteriously contrasting and blending.
Dir. Paul Dano, USA, 2018, 104m
In the impressive directorial debut from actor Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), a carefully wrought adaptation of Richard Ford’s 1990 novel, a family comes apart one loosely stitched seam at a time. We are in the lonely expanses of the American west in the mid-’60s. An affable man (Jake Gyllenhaal), down on his luck, runs off to fight the wildfires raging in the mountains. His wife (Carey Mulligan) strikes out blindly in search of security and finds herself running amok. It is left to their young adolescent son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) to hold the center. Co-written by Zoe Kazan, Wildlife is made with a sensitivity and at a level of craft that are increasingly rare in movies. An IFC Films release.