In a savvy bit of anticipatory programming, BAMcinématek — capitalizing on the strong reviews and $60 million opening-weekend haul for F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton — launches its fall repertory season with “Set It Off: L.A. Hip-Hop on Film” (September 4–8), a short survey of early-Nineties movies featuring the talent of the West Coast’s hip-hop scene. (Ice Cube alone appears in Gray’s Friday, John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood, and Charles Burnett’s searing cop drama The Glass Shield.) Over in Queens, the Museum of the Moving Image presents the latest iteration of its ongoing “See It Big!” series; this edition, which emphasizes “New York in Film” (September 4–27), is predictably heavy on Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, The Age of Innocence, all screening in 35mm) and Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour, ditto), while also providing coveted items like the recent 227-minute DCP restoration of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America.
On the new-release front, A24 follows its customarily worthy first-half slate (which included While We’re Young, Amy, The End of the Tour, and the sleeper commercial hit Ex Machina) with a pair of promising indies: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Mississippi Grind (September 25, limited release), a gambling-heavy road movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn that sounds like a play on Robert Altman’s California Split, and Room (October 16, limited release), in which director Lenny Abrahamson and star Brie Larson adapt Emma Donoghue’s novel about a mother and son trapped for years inside a confined, windowless room.
After two minor, early-year pleasures in Danny Collins and I’ll See You in My Dreams, the new distributor Bleecker Street unleashes the formidable trio of Edward Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice (September 16), starring Tobey Maguire as the chess genius Bobby Fischer; Cary Fukunaga’s Netflix-backed Beasts of No Nation (October 16, limited release), a grueling study of a child soldier in Africa with a supporting part from Idris Elba; and Jay Roach’s Trumbo (November 6), with Bryan Cranston playing the blacklisted screenwriter (and original Hollywood Ten member).
In addition to Cranston’s, there are a host of dexterous transformations gunning to be remembered come Oscar time: In Scott Cooper’s Black Mass (September 18), Johnny Depp steps into the shoes of the heinous gangster Whitey Bulger, and his sinister, go-for-broke take on the role is already evident in the movie’s trailers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, meanwhile, confronts two big-time assignments, in The Walk (September 30, in which Gordon-Levitt portrays a French high-wire artist) and Oliver Stone’s Snowden (December 25, in which he plays the title role). And Eddie Redmayne (coming off a Best Actor Oscar for The Theory of Everything) seeks one of the first-ever gender reassignment surgeries as Lili Elbe in 1920s Copenhagen in Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl (November 27).
Vittorio De Sica
September 9–October 8
Though you wouldn’t guess it from the scrappy, hard-lived authenticity of the neorealist works that made his name as a director (Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D.), Vittorio De Sica was a handsome man and even something of a swoon-worthy screen star for the Mediterranean audiences of the 1930s. Gratefully, then, this Film Forum retrospective prioritizes De Sica’s work as a romantic performer (crooning “Parlami d’Amore, Mariù” in Mario Camerini’s What Scoundrels Men Are!, or playing a car mogul in Baldassarre Negroni’s Two Happy Hearts) just as much as it does his legacy as an influential director. New York’s first De Sica retro in 25 years, this event is not one to pass up. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org
The Québécois director Denis Villeneuve is a stylist of enormous talent: His abilities range from 2009’s Polytechnique (which depicts a 1989 school shooting in hushed, smoky, black-and-white widescreen) to 2013’s two-and-a-half-hour Prisoners, which takes the story of a small-town kidnapping and — using an effective supply of dread-ridden long shots — sucks all hope out of the air. In Sicario, his latest movie, Villeneuve and Prisoners DP Roger Deakins train their camera on the drug trade near the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Emily Blunt stars as an idealistic FBI agent; the screenplay is the first written by the actor Taylor Sheridan. Lions Gate, in limited release, lionsgate.com
September 25–October 11
This year’s New York Film Festival packs such a strong lineup that a world-premiere screening of the new Steven Spielberg picture, Bridge of Spies (a Cold War–era legal exposé with Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance), isn’t even one of the three gala events. That honor belongs to the following titles: opening-night selection The Walk, Robert Zemeckis’s 3-D vision of funambulist Philippe Petit’s stroll between the World Trade Center’s twin towers; centerpiece selection Steve Jobs, from director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin; and closing-night selection Miles Ahead, in which Don Cheadle directs himself in the role of Miles Davis. On top of this, the festival brings New York debuts of such hotly anticipated Cannes holdovers as Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin and Todd Haynes’s Carol. Film Society of Lincoln Center, West 65th Street and Broadway, filmlinc.com
September 29–October 18
Just as Robert Zemeckis gears up to open NYFF with his new movie, The Walk, MoMA will honor the director with “What Lies Beneath: The Films of Robert Zemeckis,” a comprehensive career retrospective that spans from 1972 (with Zemeckis’s seven-minute The Lift) to the present day. Organized by the invaluable Dave Kehr — a longtime Zemeckis champion and the author of an epic 1995 defense of Forrest Gump in Film Comment — the series comes at a crucial point for Zemeckis: After a series of fascinating experiments in motion-capture technology throughout the 2000s, he seems to have fallen out of favor with some critics. Even 2012’s Flight, Zemeckis’s triumphant return to live-action, was lauded more for its heart-pounding crash sequence than its subtle, refined direction of actors in spaces of negotiation. A few visits to this retro should duly reinforce his place in the pantheon. Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org
Out 1: Noli Me Tangere
Perhaps the can’t-miss repertory event of the fall calendar, this two-week run of Jacques Rivette’s thirteen-hour Out 1: Noli Me Tangere (1971) marks the world theatrical premiere of the long-unseen opus. (After a rare screening at the Museum of the Moving Image, a rapt J. Hoberman wrote about Out 1 for the Voice in 2007.) Screening from a newly restored DCP courtesy of Carlotta Films U.S., Out 1 consists of eight episodes that will be shown as pairs five times each during this sixteen-day outing. BAMcinématek has done a prodigious amount of legwork in the past to introduce Rivette to New York audiences — including a 2008 run of 1974’s Céline and Julie Go Boating and a 2013 run of 1981’s Le Pont du Nord, both in new 35mm prints — so this major coup is nothing if not well warranted. BAM, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, bam.org
By the Sea
For her first two cracks at directing, Angelina Jolie chose respectable, sober-minded historical material: 2011’s In the Land of Blood and Honey told of a relationship sent into turmoil by the onset of the Bosnian War, while last year’s Unbroken related Louis Zamperini’s heroic survival in a World War II P.O.W. camp. Regardless of whether it turns out to be a disaster or a rousing success, her new movie, By the Sea, stands as easily her weirdest and most exciting directorial project to date. With Jolie stepping out from behind the camera to play the wife of an American writer (Brad Pitt, Jolie’s real-life husband) in 1970s France, the movie promises to do away with good taste and luxuriate in all sorts of surface pleasure: sex, booze, cigarettes, luscious scenery. Niels Arestrup, Mélanie Laurent, and Melvil Poupaud populate the all-star supporting cast. Universal Pictures, universalpictures.com
The seminal Hitchcock/Truffaut — a heavy, book-length conversation stocked with images and stills the size of full pages — is one of the first movie books an aspiring cinephile should add to the shelf. Half a century after François Truffaut published this dialogue with Alfred Hitchcock — an inherently admiring exercise that challenged Hitchcock’s then-image as a slick genre craftsman — the great critic Kent Jones has turned the book into a wonderfully accessible documentary. Jones, a deputy editor at Film Comment, has worked on documentaries before with Martin Scorsese (including one on Val Lewton and another on Elia Kazan). Here, Jones makes the most of contributions from a team of cinematographers (including Mihai Malaimare Jr. and Eric Gautier) and a winning assemblage of talking heads (Scorsese, Olivier Assayas, James Gray, and more). Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org
Son of Saul
The debut feature of László Nemes (who previously worked as an assistant director for Béla Tarr), Son of Saul takes place over a compressed period of time in Auschwitz in 1944. The main character, a Jewish prisoner in the camp, is put to work assisting with the rampant extermination of his own people, and Nemes captures his plight with a formal complexity that impressed critics at Cannes: Our own Stephanie Zacharek, reporting from the festival, called Saul “extraordinarily controlled, elegant in its formality despite the grim subject matter.” That Nemes’s movie is one of the few Cannes highlights to be left off the NYFF slate makes this theatrical run an even higher-priority occasion. Sony Pictures Classics, in limited release, sonyclassics.com