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The 39th Edition of "New Directors/New Films"

A venerable series tries to stay forever young

Clockwise from top left: Autumn, fest-opener Amreeka, Alexis Dos Santos's Unmade Beds, Cold Souls, and Mid-August Lunch.
Clockwise from top left: Autumn, fest-opener Amreeka, Alexis Dos Santos's Unmade Beds, Cold Souls, and Mid-August Lunch.

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Born in 1972, the MOMA/Lincoln Center co-production "New Directors/New Films" (March 25 through April 5) nudges a fresh flock of hatchling auteurs into the cold, cold world. Naturally, there will be whooping, newly untethered aesthetics, and callow, anguished protagonists—which I'll trade for veteran Italian scriptwriter Gianni di Gregorio (age 59) and his resignedly funny sketch Mid-August Lunch, with the director as a domesticated bachelor acting as manservant to a passel of seventysomethings. Also in career crossover: manqué photographer/video artist Laurel Nakadate, whose Stay the Same Never Change gets a real sense for the Midwest, but everything else in this ready-to-frame processional of Weird Americana—tinny-fragile keyboard pathos, strained deadpan-squirmy dialogue—betrays Nakadate's profound duplicity. Director names may change; the films, not always. The taciturn, scientifically composed art snoozer is an evergreen, exemplified in Zhang Chi's The Shaft, a slate-toned triptych of life in Western China. Turk Özcan Alper's Autumn is likewise parched, but this complements the tale of a freed political prisoner isolated in disillusion from the flooding lushness of his rural hometown. And I should say that there are 20 or so other movies, some notables mentioned in the pages ahead. Without much instructive precedent (or prejudice) from a track record, we can only dive in, hoping to surface with this year's find—the last go-around having included Lance Hammer's Ballast and Serge Bozon's La France—and the incomparable pleasure of having a new name to dote on.

 
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