Is it a salon des refusés for the last New York Film Festival? A preemptive strike against the upcoming event in Tribeca? Who cares? This year’s edition of the now annual critic-driven series “Film Comment Selects” offers an unusually rich selection of the recent and unreleased.
The series kicks off Thursday with a preview of Neil Young’s Super-8 manifesto cum garage-rock opera Greendale, set to open next month. Other upcoming releases include two highly original documentaries: Lars von Trier’s game-like challenge to his mentor Jorgen Leth, The Five Obstructions (February 19), and Thom Andersen’s complex essay on the history of Los Angeles as movie myth and representation, Los Angeles Plays Itself (Saturday). But “FCS” is mainly notable for those movies that as yet have no distribution.
Pick of the litter is Alain Guiraudie’s droll and baffling No Rest for the Brave (Friday and Monday). With its static camera setups and no less fixed expressions, detached violence, and nonstop babbling, this discombobulated road movie is the opposite of Richard Linklater’s Waking Life—a comedy of sleep deprivation. Not so much a latter-day surrealist as a Jarry-style pataphysician, Guiraudie posits a parallel universe of magic spells and secret passages that is all the more disorienting for being shot, without inflection, in rural France. More tumultuous, if scarcely less opaque, is Arnaud Desplechin’s self-reflexive Playing “In the Company of Men”—a mock-doc account of a rehearsed play (not by Neil LaBute but Edward Bond), showing Sunday and Tuesday. Despite its jittery handheld camera, deliberately choppy editing, and convoluted oedipal intrigue, the movie is more cerebral than visceral—it’s as perverse in its way as Desplechin’s last experiment in “acting,” Esther Kahn.
The Chinese avant-garde is represented, with two features by latest “Sixth Generation” sensation Andrew Cheng and Yu Lik-wai’s All Tomorrow’s Parties (Friday and February 19). Yu, cinematographer on all three of Jia Zhangke’s features, weighs in with a lushly digital, low-budget dystopia. All Tomorrow’s Parties has a generic resemblance to Alphaville or The Creation of the Humanoids, complete with inexplicable fun and games on a slag heap and the industrial sex life of the future (something to do with zappy techno and a toy rabbit). The movie, which is not based on William Gibson’s novel of the same name, employs a number of Jia’s actors and something of his minimalist mise-en-scène, but it’s much more designed—a sort of post-totalitarian funky chic.
Finally, fans of Martín Rejtman’s Silvia Prieto will be pleased by his follow-up The Magic Gloves (Sunday), a similarly absurdist comedy with another depressed, somewhat downwardly mobile protag navigating a yuppie Buenos Aires milieu. Timing is everything—this is the sort of movie in which elaborate schemes come to naught and a long-established couple break up 10 minutes before a planned dinner. The Seinfeldian punchline has the hapless antihero dancing alone in a disco, surrounded by teenagers. Rejtman’s worldview has intimations of Almodóvar and Jarmusch as well, but on the basis of three movies, it seems very much his own.