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Film Fall Picks 2013

Edited by Aaron Hillis

Jacques Demy

October 4–17

Starry-eyed dreamer of the French New Wave, Demy's frothy, seductive fairy tales may not have been as political or naturalistic as the work of his peers, but their exuberant sense of mise-en-scène still offers timeless appeal. Leading up to a revival of Demy's newly restored, all-sung Catherine Deneuve rhapsody The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (October 18–24), Film Forum's unmissable two-week series includes many more restorations, from his 1961 debut, Lola (starring Anouk Aimée as a yearning cabaret singer), through his final 1988 feature, Three Seats for the 26th, an Yves Montand vehicle by way of MGM song-and-dance homage. Los Angeles plays itself in Demy's only American stint, Model Shop, Marcello Mastroianni has preconceived doubts about becoming A Slightly Pregnant Man, Japanese manga is adapted with a gender-bent 18th-century swashbuckler named Lady Oscar, and Orpheus goes to hell as a headband-wearing pop star in the rock 'n' roll Cocteau ode Parking. Amid the dozen-plus features (and four early shorts), don't be surprised if you run into Nouvelle Vague matriarch Agnès Varda, whose doc tributes The World of Jacques Demy and The Young Girls Turn 25 help contextualize her late husband's career. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org

'Skateboarding Is Not a Crime'

September 6–23

George Gage's 1978 cult frolic Skateboard (co-written by Law & Order creator Dick Wolf!) opens BAM's totally awesome 24-film tribute to skate rats, half-pipes, and the art of the ollie. Rail slide on down for '80s skatesploitation faves (Gleaming the Cube, Thrashin'), contemporary classics (Kids, Paranoid Park, Dogtown and Z-Boys), and such radical rarities as Noel Black's 1965 Palme d'Or-winning short Skaterdater, believed to be the first-ever skateboard movie. Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, bam.org

After Tiller

September 20

Even the term "hot button" sounds incendiary, yet Martha Shane and Lana Wilson's terrific, deeply thoughtful portrait of the only four American doctors who provide third-trimester abortions (following the 2009 assassination of their colleague, Dr. George Tiller) is refreshingly calmer and more sensible than activists debating either side of the issue. Coping with harassment, personal challenges, and profound ethical choices about the necessity of each risky termination, these humanitarians share a progressive "pro-quality-of-life" philosophy. Oscilloscope, in limited release, oscilloscope.net

The 51st New York Film Festival

September 27–October 13

Paul Greengrass hijacks opening night with the world premiere of Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks as the cargo ship commander held hostage by Somali pirates, while Spike Jonze closes out the joint with his post-human romance Her. Early recommendations include James Gray's magnificent '20s-set melodrama The Immigrant, Alain Guiraudie's austere cruising noir Stranger by the Lake, and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive—perhaps the hippest vampire flick ever made. From September 20–26, "NYFF Opening Act" showcases earlier works from this year's accepted filmmakers. The Film Society of Lincoln Center, West 65th Street and Broadway, filmlinc.com

All Is Lost

October 18

We've seen action movies about one-man armies, but how about a one-man action movie? Writer-director J.C. Chandor follows up Margin Call with the most visceral, relentlessly suspenseful thriller of the year, about an aging yachtsman who wakes up to a hull breach in the middle of the Indian Ocean. In an ambitiously physical, near-wordless performance to retire by, Robert Redford exudes an entire career's worth of gravitas as the nameless sailor whose ingenuity is the stuff of existential legend. Roadside Attractions, in limited release, roadsideattractions.com

Blue Is the Warmest Color

October 25

Without grumbling about our country's severe puritanism, it's sadly unsurprising that this year's top-honored Cannes winner has been pigeonholed as "three hours of steamy French lesbian sex." However, The Secret of the Grain auteur Abdellatif Kechiche's fantastic, emotionally raw tale of l'amour fou is no male-gaze fantasy, as he explores the fiery long-term relationship between a teen (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and her blue-haired college lover (Léa Seydoux) with his trademark prolonged takes and class critiques. Sundance Selects, in limited release, sundanceselects.com

The Visitor

November 1

Egyptian-born schlock producer Ovidio Assonitis's ridiculously entertaining 1979 collaboration with bodybuilder-cum-director Michael J. Paradise—a convoluted hybrid that blatantly knocks off Rosemary's Baby, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Birds, Damien: Omen II, and more—aims to be the schizophrenic mother of all drive-in oddities. A destructive young girl with telekinetic powers, a loyal pet hawk, and demonic family secrets faces intergalactic messiah Franco Nero and eponymous messenger John Huston alongside a jaw-dropping ensemble (Shelley Winters, Lance Henriksen, Glenn Ford, and a bizarrely dubbed Sam Peckinpah). Drafthouse Films, in limited release, drafthousefilms.com

Traveling Light

November 15–18

Amtrak travelers might find the trek from Penn Station to Pittsburgh a routine slog, but in critic-filmmaker Gina Telaroli's magical mystery train tour, it's the canvas for a sumptuously hypnotic experiment in spatial abstraction, stationary views of motion, and non-narrative storytelling. (Pay attention, mainstream filmgoers: It's a thrilling watch, not homework.) As a weekend supplement, Anthology Film Archives railroads in thematically apt screenings of Josef von Sternberg's Shanghai Express, Richard Fleischer's Narrow Margin, and Robert Aldrich's Emperor of the North. Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, anthologyfilmarchives.org

 
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