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Reversals of Fortune

STORYTELLINGTodd Solondz's raspberry to his detractors comes snidely packaged as preemptive autocritique. Alternately defensive and combative, tauntingly contemptuous and sometimes cruelly funny, this deformed diptych ("Fiction" about a flustered creative-writing student, the much longer "Non-Fiction" about an exploitative documentarian) amounts on the one hand to yet another morbid suburban freak show. But it's also a fascinating portrait of a persecution complex on a rampage; there are more reflexive layers encasing the rotten core than the director may even realize. The film makes a mockery of everything—not least its own disingenuousness. Fine Line plans a release next year. September 29, 30 (DL)

THAT OLD DREAM THAT MOVESAs a factory prepares to shut down, a young technician arrives to dismantle a piece of heavy machinery and befriends the remaining skeleton crew. To an extent a stunt premised on its own incongruity, Alain Guiraudie's 50-minute film—this year's Prix Jean Vigo winner—begins as sober social realism, but an improbable triangle of thwarted desire gradually emerges against the backdrop of ghostly abandonment. The film's casual eccentricity is also its most magnanimous gesture. Screening with Lisandro Alonso's La Libertad.No distributor. October 1 (DL)

LA CIÉNAGALucrecia Martel's accomplished first feature is a mordant account of provincial torpor in northwestern Argentina. It's superb filmmaking, shot and framed with a hyperreal documentary detachment—the actors might be playing themselves. As in Claire Denis, a vivid, if oblique, narrative is fashioned out of numerous micro-incidents. The title—which translates as The Swamp—refers, among other things, to the miasma of alcohol-infused social relations, involving kids, dogs, servants, and two interlocking, accident-prone families. Possibly the discovery of the festival, this Cowboy release opens next week at Film Forum. October 1, 2 (JH)

A reproach to current American youth films: from Y Tu Mamá También
photo: IFC Films
A reproach to current American youth films: from Y Tu Mamá También

Details

39th New York Film Festival
Lincoln Center
September 28 through October 4

Va Savoir
Directed by Jacques Rivette
Written by Rivette, Pascal Bonitzer, and Christine Laurent
Sony Pictures Classics
September 28 Alice Tully Hall
Opens September 29

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ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERSDenmark's fifth Dogme production is certainly its most benign. Writer-director Lone Scherfig's ensemble includes plenty of drunks but no donkey-boys. Although characters die throughout, the mode is basically an Ealing-style romantic comedy that ends with the equivalent of a triple wedding. Not nearly as sentimental as it might have been, Italian for Beginners is heartwarmingly rife with second chances and spiritual redemption. Miramax plans a 2002 release. October 2, 4 (JH)

TIME OUTAn ordinary middle-management type gets fired from his job and, ashamed to tell his family, invents a new occupation—persuading friends and relatives to invest in a nonexistent business. Laurent Cantet (whose previous film was Human Resources) handles this tale of economically induced mental illness, the story of a guy who likes to drive but can't turn the car around, as though it were a moody thriller. The movie is too long, but its pathos is undeniable. No distributor. October 3, 4 (JH)

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTERCharles Laughton's alternately sentimental and terrifying religious gothic is a bona fide contribution to American literature, as well as the occasion for Robert Mitchum's career performance. Made in 1955, this proudly anachronistic amalgam of D.W. Griffith and German expressionism (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari goes Way Down East) is Laughton's lone credit as a director. As Jacques Rivette remarked, "It's the greatest amateur film ever made." Showing in a new UCLA restoration, it plays Film Forum for a week starting October 26. October 3 (JH)

Y TU MAMA TAMBIÉNThe most popular Mexican movie ever made, Alfonso Cuarón's delicately raunchy comedy sends a pot-smoking Bill and Ted duo on the road with a total fantasy chick. The trio set out looking for an imaginary beach and get there anyway—it's that kind of movie. A "new wave" voiceover adding to the manic charm, Y Tu Mamá Tambiénis a reproach to current American youth films, as well as a lighter, more enjoyable piece o' pop than last year's Amores Perros. An IFC release. October 6, 7 (JH)

MULHOLLAND DRIVEThrilling and ludicrous, this is David Lynch's strongest outing since the halcyon days of Twin Peaks. The movie is scarcely unfamiliar in teaming a dark woman of mystery with an innocent blond "detective," and yet it's continually surprising. Careening from one violent non sequitur to the next, Mulholland Driveis never far from the brink of self-parody—not least in offering its own critique of Hollywood and a vision of L.A. as a gorgeously tawdry, seductively malign organism. Universal Focus will open the movie following the festival screenings on October 6, 7 (JH)

FAT GIRLDirectly translated, the title of Catherine Breillat's latest sexual forensics lesson is My Sister!, which better evokes its bloody core: the hopelessly entangled bond between two siblings, one gorgeous and cruel, the other obese and almost frightfully stoic. If Breillat doesn't earn her schematic shocker ending, she certainly etches the sisterly dynamic with ruthless precision, blurring the lines between love and hate until they become indistinguishable. Cowboy opens the movie the day after the festival screenings on October 8, 9 (Jessica Winter)

BARANWhat is a New York Film Festival without the latest film by Majid Majidi? This time, heaven is an Iranian construction site manned largely by illegal immigrants. When her father is injured, an Afghani girl passes as a boy to take his place. An Iranian youth figures it out; suffice to say that every good deed has unexpected consequences. Baran is benign, undistinguished, and somewhat less emotionally strident than Majidi's previous films. Miramax has it. October 9, 10 (JH)

DEEP BREATHSmashingly shot in austere black and white, Damian Odoul's first feature might be termed an anti-idyll. A spotty, ungainly, rambunctious kid—spending a boring summer on his uncle's farm—is allowed to get drunk with the guys and goes on an extended bender. Odoul rivals Bruno Dumont in celebrating what Marx termed "the idiocy of rural life." No distributor. October 10 (JH)

SOBIBOR, OCTOBER 14, 1943, 4 P.M.Claude Lanzmann's stripped-down, journalistically acute 1979 interview with Holocaust survivor Yehuda Lerner was originally intended as part of the monumental Shoah, but it resisted incorporation. Lerner was 16 years old when he participated in an uprising at Sobibor which shut down the camp where 250,000 Jews had already been murdered. Relishing the irony, Lerner explains that the revolt went like clockwork and succeeded in part thanks to the Germans' obsession with punctuality. The complications of translation from Hebrew to French (subtitled in English) cause a delay between Lerner's words and the viewer's comprehension, thus making palpable the distance between his experience and our own. New Yorker releases the film in October. October 11 (AT)

INTIMACYAll unairbrushed sex and unquiet desperation, Patrice Chéreau's anguished character study posits loneliness as a permanent human condition—the passionate grapplings of extraordinary leads Mark Rylance and Kerry Fox stand in stark contrast to hyperreal scenes of conversational disconnect and meltdown, achieving a tension that's cumulatively devastating. Empire releases the film October 19. October 11, 13 (JW)

WAKING LIFEA collective labor of love involving director Richard Linklater and some 30 animators supervised by Richard Sabiston, this dreamlike, peripatetic narrative sends fragile, anxious Wiley Wiggins wandering through a surreal landscape where he meets a series of motormouths who spout grand theories of existence harbored since their undergraduate days. Not only do these oddballs of all ages contradict each other, their absolute belief in their various cosmologies is gently mocked by the film's ephemeral images. Fox Searchlight releases the film October 19. October 12, 13 (AT)

THE SON'S ROOMNanni Moretti's self-aggrandizing male weepie stars the director as a psychotherapist and subtly controlling patriarch of a near-perfect nuclear family. He has a beautiful wife, a lovely daughter, and a teenage son who has just begun to rebel against familial expectations. Then a terrible accident reveals the abyss beneath their orderly lives. The Cannes Palme d'Or winner, this chicly modern melodrama left the festival's audience dissolved in tears. If only Moretti had been less heavy-handed with the music cues and had valued the feelings of the female family members even half as much as he did those of his alter ego. A Miramax release. October 12, 13 (AT)

ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOUHere's a curious pop epic of teen angst and the Internet, courtesy of Japanese director Shunji Iwai. The unhappy hero seeks virtual shelter in a world of adolescent cruelty by managing a Web site for a pop idol named Lily Chou-Chou. For all the movie's dreamy chemical colors and high-school confidential material (shoplifting, prostitution, gang rape), the effect is precious and ultimately tiresome. Lily's music, when we get to hear it, is thunderously insipid. No distributor. October 13 (JH)

IN PRAISE OF LOVELovely to look at but not always delightful to know, Jean-Luc Godard's feature is a self-conscious work of art (and historical memory) in the burnished tradition of Nouvelle Vague and Passion. Much of the argument is visual: In Praise of Love begins in a black and white that's voluptuously Lumière-like; after a while, the action flashes back to garish video. The atmosphere is vaguely religious, although Godard's most overt article of faith is his insistently simpleminded anti-Americanism. There's even a distributor, Manhattan Pictures. October 14 (JH)

SHORT FILMSAs usual, the curtain raisers are a mixed bag. One exception is Australian filmmaker Janet Mereweather's Contemporary Case Studies (as Witnessed From Life) (playing with Intimacy), a tartly funny take on sex and romance, couched as an old-fashioned training film and updated with split-screens and irreverent observation. Mereweather is the NYFF's latest female discovery from down under, following in the footsteps of Jane Campion and Alison Maclean. Geoff Dunbar's Tuesday (with Silence, We're Rolling), a whimsical animation about a fleet of frogs that takes to the air on lily pads, is a lovely distraction until the unintentionally chilling last line: "All those in doubt are reminded that there is always another Tuesday." Ola Simsonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson's Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers (with Mulholland Drive), a Fluxus-like demonstration of homemade musique concrète, and Eric Guirado's Superhero (with Storytelling), a glimpse at the hostility underlying party games, make a virtue of brevity. On the other hand, Inja(Dog), Steve Pasvolsky's allegory of apartheid, packs so much pain into its 17 minutes that it will be difficult to focus on Baran, the feature with which it's paired. (AT)

Unavailable for preview: The Royal Tenenbaums; The Lady and the Duke; Silence, We're Rolling.

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