Autumn Sonata

Young guns Jaoui and Jia mingle with old masters Bergman, Rohmer, and Godard at NYFF

October 15 and 16

Courageous moralist or the indie maestro of mean? In burlesquing the travails of a pregnant teenage refugee from deepest New Jersey, Todd Solondz has constructed a tale designed to affront smug liberals and fanatical right-to-lifers alike. This equal-opportunity offensiveness is tied to a would-be universalizing metaphor in which the heroine is played by a half-dozen actresses. It doesn't work, but who's to say that Solondz's discomforting take on abortion didn't vouchsafe Vera Drake's Venice triumph. Distributors are circling. J.H.

Amalric (right) in Kings and Queen
photo: FSLC
Amalric (right) in Kings and Queen


New York Film Festival
October 1 through 17
Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fisher Hall


Studio of Flying Daggers
Ornate sets, emperor-peasant action, and royal-court face-offs highlight a Shaw Bros. retro 'Elegance, Passion, and Cold Hard Steel: A Tribute to Shaw Brothers Studios'
By Michael Atkinson

October 16

A Leon Uris–y Mideast jeremiad, this four-and-a-half-hour generational epic by Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah seems familiar to U.S. eyes in almost every sense except one: History unfolds from the p.o.v. of Palestinians killed, bulldozed, exiled, tortured, and disenfranchised by the Israeli state. Feverishly melodramatic but capable of painfully poetic moments (a starving Arab squeezing milk out of a dead cow, wandering refugees discovering they'd passed into Lebanon and then looking mournfully back), Nasrallah's outraged saga has the full-throated voice of a freedom fighter's anthem text. No distributor. M.A.

October 16

Like Millennium Mambo, Hou Hsiao-hsien's new masterpiece monitors the inner transformation of a young woman (Japanese singer Hitoto Yo)—the shift barely registers moment to moment but by film's end is blissfully palpable. Conceived as an Ozu tribute, Café Lumière is scaled and paced accordingly. It's a film about the tenuous comfort of friends and family, the magic of Maurice Sendak, the clattering lullaby of railway sounds, the joys of home cooking and coffee (or warm milk) in the afternoon. There's not exactly a happy ending, but the cumulative effect is one of muted rapture. No distributor. D.L.

October 17

Alexander Payne leaves his native Nebraska to stage a hilarious excellent adventure in which Paul Giamatti's depressed eighth-grade teacher treats his skirt-chasing best friend (TV actor Thomas Haden Church playing a TV actor) to a bachelor week in the California wine country. The performances are superlative—über-nebbish Giamatti defines a genre, but Church steals the movie. The comedy is more than poignant—it's actively painful. Fox Searchlight will release it October 20. J.H.

Unavailable for preview: Triple Agent

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