By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
Five years before the crafty hipster auteur began his adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are (perhaps the iPod generation's most anticipated film of the season), he had already befriended author Maurice Sendak. In addition to Jonze's first two features, MOMA's mischievously named retrospective includes his candidly funny film portraits of Sendak, plus music videos, commercials, and shorts—such as We Were Once a Fairytale, a hallucinatory new collaboration with Kanye West. MOMA, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org
Still seen as a controversial figure for ratting out alleged Commies in the era of Hollywood blacklisting, the director of On the Waterfront and East of Eden was, nevertheless, one of our most venerated icons. Sixteen key works will be screened, including rarities like Man on a Tightrope and America, America. On October 23, a new 35mm 'Scope print of Kazan's long-unavailable 1960 Wild River—a complex and atmospheric Depression-era drama starring Montgomery Clift—earns its own week-long run. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org
Chilean director Sebastián Silva's terrific, two-time Sundance Prize winner—about a lonely, embittered live-in maid (a truly riveting Catalina Saavedra) who feels threatened when the family she has served for two decades hires extra help—is so nail-bitingly claustrophobic that it sometimes feels like a thriller. Not so much about upstairs-downstairs class struggles, this bleakly comic character study tracks our sourpussed antihero as she sabotages her competition, shuns compassion, and sidesteps both our sunniest and gloomiest expectations. Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street, angelikafilmcenter.com
It might sound hyperbolic to call Danish bad boy Lars von Trier's psychodrama the most talked-about film of the year, except that this maddening, exhilarating, retina-tattooing aberration has all the ingredients: talking foxes, hardcore penetration, and the most explicit images of disfigurement this side of torture porn. Grieving over the negligent death of their child, psychiatrist Willem Dafoe and his wife, Charlotte Gainsbourg, retreat to the woods to repair their marriage and deeply disturbed psyches. Yeah, good luck with that. IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue, ifccenter.com
October 28–November 8
In a recession this ugly, filmmakers could learn plenty from the low-budget ingenuity of this prolific producer who helped launch the careers of Coppola, Scorsese, and Cameron. One week alone will be dedicated to Corman's finest work as a director: his seven Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. (Don't miss the Grand Guignol goofiness of The Raven.) Among the rarely screened treasures are the biker-gang curio The Wild Angels and The Intruder, starring William Shatner as a racist agitator. Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, anthologyfilmarchives.org
'The House of the Devil'
Nobody needs another retro horror parody, so it's refreshing that Ti West's '80s-set, satanic thriller—which artfully evokes Rosemary's Baby, early Brian De Palma, and the Euro-sleaze of yore—sustains a stone-faced sincerity and avoids cheap scares. (It's creepy as hell!) College sophomore Jocelin Donahue accepts an odd babysitting gig at a secluded Victorian mansion on the night of a lunar eclipse, and, before you know it, the slow-burning suspense ratchets up to a gonzo, bloody finale. That title's no joke. Magnolia Pictures, in limited release, magnetreleasing.com
While I'm Not There screenwriter Oren Moverman's directorial debut sounds emotionally manipulative on paper—after a tour in Iraq, U.S. Army officer Ben Foster is partnered with loose-cannon military lifer Woody Harrelson to bear bad news for the Casualty Notification service—it's a surprisingly restrained, authentically moving portrait of friendship and grief that never stoops to easy melodramatic clichés. It's not action-packed like The Hurt Locker, but just as outstanding, and both Foster and Harrelson should officially be put on the Oscar watch list. Oscilloscope Laboratories, in limited release, oscilloscope.net
New Czech Films
BAM's annual showcase brings out Helena Trestikova for a Q&A about her award-winning doc René, in which she spent 20 years following an eccentric, tattoo-covered prisoner who published two books and once burgled the filmmaker's home. Milos Forman returns with A Walk Worthwhile, his second filmed performance of the jazzy stage musical since 1966. Also of note are Maria Procházková's lush, child's-view charmer Who's Afraid of the Wolf? and Jan Hrebejk's richly whimsical I'm All Good. Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, bam.org
'A Town Called Panic'
Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox won't be the only stop-motion animated film boasting savvy and style over the holidays. Belgian first-timers Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar expand their manically inventive series of comedy shorts to feature-length, following the buoyantly offbeat antics of Plasticine heroes Cowboy, Indian, and Horse on the occasion of the Horse's birthday. As defiantly lo-fi as South Park, the animation style has a herky-jerky vibrancy befitting of the filmmakers' demented wit. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org
December 21–January 2
The beloved French auteur and actor was the trickiest and most sophisticated slapstick artist in cinema history, which doesn't say enough about how astutely his ambitious comic mysteries observed the absurdities of modern living. MOMA's exhibition includes newly struck 35mm prints of Tati's six dazzling features (if you see only one, make it his 1967 masterpiece Playtime), plus rare shorts like Cours du soir—a filmed comedy lesson in which he teaches the proper way to fall "up" a flight of stairs. MOMA, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org
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