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Time regained: Lincoln Center sends out the celluloid century with a sophisticated mix of the old and the new, the hot and the unreleasable, the familiar, the outré, and the apocalyptic. Kicking off with an Almodóvar opening night, the party's enlivened (at least in theory) by the inclusion of rude boys Kevin Smith and Harmony Korine, and graced by Claire Denis's belated festival debut. The documentaries evoke some distinctively 20th-century nightmares, but there's another sort of living history in the inclusion of Manoel de Oliveira, the last working filmmaker to have begun his career before sound. -J. Hoberman

All About My Mother Pedro Almodóvar's life- affirming, pop-surrealist, every-which-way gender-bender is guaranteed to start the festival off on a euphoric note. Cecilia Roth is back in the director's fold as a former actress, who, when her son is killed, returns to the scene of her mad youth in order to find his father-a hot number named Lola. That death does not take a holiday only makes it imperative to love without reservation. A Sony Pictures Classics release. September 24. (Amy Taubin)

The Edge of the World After years of apprenticeship spent shooting studio-bound "quota quickie" thrillers, Michael Powell made his first personal film in 1937 with this remarkable account of the harshness of life on a rugged Scottish isle. Although hailed as a semi-doc in the Flaherty tradition when first released, the mystical aspects of the story and its almost supernatural feeling for landscape mark The Edge of the World as the work of British cinema's greatest misfit romantic. September 25. (Elliott Stein)

Horse latitudes: License To Live
photo courtesy of the 37th New York Film Festival
Horse latitudes: License To Live

Details

The 37th New York Film Festival
At Alice Tully Hall
September 24 through October 10

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The Color of Heaven NYFF blurbists went overboard to sell this small semi-doc by Iranian director Majid Majidi as evidence of a "great talent" and an "ever-astonishing" film industry. The tale of an adorable blind boy raises its stakes in the closing moments (or "extraordinary final sequence") but the movie is at once diluted and overwhelmed by crass nature close-ups and the overwrought performances of fake happy children. Miramax released Majidi's Children of Heaven, passed on this one. September 25 and 26. (JH)

Rien Sur Robert As a result of publishing a review of a controversial Balkan movie that he's never seen, a ridiculously self-involved postmodern critic (Fabrice Luchini) begins to be tortured by that old-fashioned problem-authenticity-and not merely in his intellectual life. Sandrine Kiberlain steals Pascal Bonitzer's slight, brittle comedy as an assured young woman who chooses inappropriate places to describe, matter-of-factly, every detail of what she does in bed. September 25 and 27. (AT)

License To Live Now, here's a discovery. A 24-year-old youth wakes up after a decade in a coma to find that his friends have grown and his family's dispersed. Written and directed by the newly festivalized Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to the late Akira), the movie evolves unpredictably from deadpan disorientation to low-key slapstick comedy to something far more haunting. Attempting to realize the dreams of his 14-year-old self, the hero is left with the question, "Did I really exist?" September 26 and 27. (JH)

Sicilia! Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet's adaptation of Elio Vittorini's pre?World War II novel is so spare and unassuming as to seem a throwaway. But the film, which is structured as a series of conversations between a man returning to Sicily after 15 years in America and various locals, builds to a meeting with his mother who reveals a past history no one would have suspected. A New Yorker Films release. September 26. (AT)

Princess Mononoke Said to be the most popular movie in Japanese history, this ambitious, impressively detailed anime is set in a world of lava-lamp deities and medieval marketplaces, positing an apocalyptic pantheism in which endangered species turn demonic. Miramax, which dubbed the original into English with stars ranging from Minnie Driver to Billy Bob Thornton, plans a late October release. September 26. (JH)

The Letter Manoel de Oliveira's most straightforward film in many years is an adaptation of the French 17th-century classic The Princess of Clèves. Pouty, languorous Chiara Mastroianni is beautifully dressed but miscast as the intellectual heroine tempted by passion. As the object of her desire, Portuguese rock star Pedro Abrunhosa is even more, but perhaps intentionally, absurd. September 28. (AT)

Beau Travail Against a harshly beautiful East African landscape, Claire Denis paints a picture of male meltdown that has the inevitability and intensity of Greek tragedy. Denis Lavant plays a French foreign legionnaire who's driven mad with jealousy when he suspects that the commanding officer he adores is giving preference to a new recruit (Gregoire Colin). A spare but emotionally brutal film, it brings to mind Full Metal Jacket and Denis's own extraordinary No Fear, No Die. No distributor. September 28 and 29. (AT)

Julien Donkey-Boy Harmony Korine, the glue-sniffer's Jean-Luc Godard, returns-enfant no more but terrible still. Worse than Gummo, Julien lacks even the courage of its gross-out aesthetic. Although it's insulting to have this digital-video geek-show in the festival's main program while a group of more talented, less pampered avant-gardists are shunted off to the side, the big hee-haw is likely to be on Fine Line, which plans to trot out this laughable camera-flail in October. September 29 and 30. (JH)

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