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Reversals of Fortune

STORYTELLING Todd 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 MOVES As 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 CIÉNAGA Lucrecia 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

ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS Denmark'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 OUT An 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 HUNTER Charles 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 TAMBIÉN The 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 También is 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 DRIVE Thrilling 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 Drive is 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 GIRL Directly 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)

BARAN What 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)

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