The New York Film Festival winds down this weekend, and what a wonderful, strange trip its been. We've been to late '90s Britain, modern day Korea and the rural area outside Madrid, but still have yet to wing our way to pre-revolutionary France and fascist Spain. Thrilling, n'est pas? Here's a few thoughts on some of the films from the 44th annual that we've sampled.

Marie Antoinette
2006_10_arts_nyffmarie.jpgSofia Coppola likes to tell stories about young girls who are bit lost, but trying to find themselves. In her newest movie, Marie Antoinette, she's taken on a much grander scale but essentially it's still the same kind of story. A pretty slip of a thing thrown into the turmoil of a new society, where she uses her sweet charms to stumble her way to greatness. Kirsten Dunst last danced this dance for Coppola in Virgin Suicides' '70s high school and she's used to great affect here in the Palace of Versailles. In some ways, Dunst is actually just a beautiful piece of Coppola's spectacular scenery, moving in and out of the perfectly composed environment. Like Antoinette wandering through her new palace apartments for the first time, these sequences leave you with your mouth hung open at one gilt strewn room after another. Some critics of Coppola's movie may charge that this is all the movie is, beautiful surface. But it seems clear instead that Coppola is actually critiquing this decadent, declining society that doesn't expect any more of its sovereigns than producing heirs and conducting one ridiculous ceremony after another. In Coppola's movie, Antoinette never even sees her obviously starving subjects until they arrive at Versailles demanding her head. Who would even know to think of such unpleasantness anyhow, when there's shoes to be bought, cakes to be eaten and cute soldiers to flirt with? [Screenings Friday at 9 pm and Saturday at 3 pm. The film gets regular theatrical release starting next week on Oct. 20.]

Pan's Labyrinth
The festival's closing film this year is Guilermo del Toro's new horror film, Pan's Labyrinth. Time constraints kept us from the press screenings for this highly anticipated film, but everything we've heard from those who've seen it have been nothing but raves. Set during the Spanish Civil War, with historical details about fascism interwoven with fantastical elements like an enchanted labyrinth and mythical princesses, this film is apparently a real cinema spectacle. Del Toro will also be participating in a director's dialogue with Film Comment's Editor Gavin Smith and selection committee member Kent Jones on Saturday at 4 pm. [Screening on Sunday at 8:30 pm. It will get an American theatrical release starting Dec. 29th.]

Brand Upon the Brain!
2006_10_arts_nyffbrand.jpgCanadian director Guy Maddin delights in playing with our expectations—new movies look old, are hyperbolic, without sound and peppered with antiquated stylistic flourishes. His contribution to this year's festival, Brand Upon the Brain! is also apparently semi-autobiographical, as it's main character, a young boy, is also named Guy Maddin. The young Guy and his Sis live a provincial life on an island filled with orphans. Things begin to get a bit more interesting though when the teen detectives Wendy and Chance Hale visit the island and the teens latent hormones begin to fly. Longtime Maddin collaborator Isabella Rosselini will be narrating the intertitles at the festival's screening, which will also be accompanied by a full orchestra. Imagine all the beauty of a silent black and white film but with a modern sensibility as well as a wicked sense of humor, and you begin to get a sense of Maddin's brilliant work. They're a real movie-going experience. [Screenings on Sunday at 4 pm and 8 pm.]

Don't forget, even though the festival proper ends this weekend, the sidebar devoted to Janus Films continues through Oct. 26th. We urge you (again) to try to catch some of these cinema classics. Cleo from 5 to 7 and Seven Samurai, the two flicks playing on Saturday at 2 pm and 7:30 pm respectively, are just a few examples of the amazing movies being offered in this program.