By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 16, 2010 at 4:54AM
With David Fincher's The Social Network and The Tempest as two already-announced linchpins of this fall's New York Film Festival, Monday the Fest announced the closer: Clint Eastwood's Hereafter, starring Matt Damon as a San Francisco psychic and Bryce Dallas Howard in a small role as his girlfriend. Eastwood calls this film, written by Peter Morgan, his "chick flick," and Damon tells EW it has a French "vibe."
Also on the line-up, as usual are several Cannes holdovers: Charles Ferguson's muckraking expose of Wall Street, Inside Job, Olivier Assayas's five-part TV biopic Carlos, about The Jackal (the filmmaker's documentary The Cinema Inside Me is also in the programme), Palme d' Or-winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Mike Leigh's Another Year, starring likely Oscar nominee Lesley Manville, and Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy, starring Juliette Binoche.
NYFF run-down with film descriptions is at indieWIRE and on the jump:
OPENING NIGHT The Social Network David Fincher, 2010, USA, 120m Brilliantly directed by David Fincher from a razor sharp script by Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network is a scintillating play-by-play of the meteoric rise and acrimonious fall of the founders of Facebook-Harvard undergrads who developed their zeitgeist-altering phenomenon out of their dorm rooms…and ended up suing each other for millions. Jesse Eisenberg turns in a mesmerizing performance as the genius but socially maladroit CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose flash of social-networking inspiration occurs during a drunken act of internet revenge on an ex-girlfriend, with Spiderman-to-be Andrew Garfield as nice-guy CFO Eduaordo Saverin and scene stealing Justin Timberlake as Napster co-founder Sean Parker. Much more than a ripped-from-the-headlines docudrama, The Social Network is a timeless study of unchecked ambition, status and privilege in America, and those other, more precious things money can’t buy. World Premiere. A Columbia Pictures release.
CENTERPIECE The Tempest Julie Taymor, 2010, USA, 110m Renowned for her wonderfully inventive works for both stage and screen, Julie Taymor has applied her considerable talents to this fascinating rendering of Shakespeare’s late, great mystical romance. Exiled on a remote island, Prospera (Helen Mirren, extraordinary), the duchess of Milan, conjures up a storm to lure a bevy of characters from her past to shore, revealing in the process a skate of human frailties, illusions, kindness and nobility. Ms. Mirren is ably aided by a terrific cast, including Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Djimon Hounsou, David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Ben Whishaw, Tom Conti, Reeve Carney and Felicity Jones. North American Premiere. A Touchstone Pictures release.
CLOSING NIGHT Hereafter Clint Eastwood, 2010, USA, 126m Another entirely surprising film from a director who, at 80, remains at the peak of his powers, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter explores the possibility of establishing connections with loved ones who have passed on-an enterprise marked by skepticism as well an adventurous sense of hope. An engrossing, nuanced ensemble piece with a cast headed by the excellent Matt Damon and Cécile de France, the script by Peter Morgan (The Queen, NYFF 2006) unfolds three intersecting stories as it entertains the idea that alternate realms of consciousness might exist apart from the life we all know. Filmed in France, England, San Francisco and Hawaii, Hereafter is made with the consummate skill and confident grace one expects from Hollywood’s most enduring and honored veteran. But it also exhibits the energy and curiosity of an ever-young mind still striving to tackle the eternal mysteries of life and death. U.S. Premiere. A Warner Bros. release.
Another Year Mike Leigh, 2010, UK, 129m Brimming with joy and tragedy, old wounds and new beginnings, the latest from British master Mike Leigh observes four seasons in the lives of longtime married couple Tom and Gerri (the marvelous Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), their 30-year-old bachelor son Joe, and Gerri’s spinster work colleague Mary (Lesley Manville). A houseguest so frequent she’s practically family, Mary at first seems a harmless sad sack, drinking too much and bemoaning her failures in life and love. But as time passes, and summer gives way to fall, Mary’s depression grows, and her behavior becomes ever more erratic. A typically wry, wise, carefully observed portrait of the human experience, Another Year finds Leigh at the top of his game, and Manville-in her seventh collaboration with the director-at the top of hers. By turns abrasive and fragile, hilarious and finally heartbreaking, Mary emerges as one of Leigh’s most complex and memorable characters-a rare gift to an actress and an audience. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
Aurora Cristi Puiu, 2010, Romania/France/Switzerland Germany, 181m Five years after The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (NYFF 2005), Romanian writer-director Cristi Puiu returns with another singular, uncompromising character study, this time casting himself in the demanding lead role. That man, named Viorel, is a metallurgical engineer whose life seems to have spun loose from its axis, leaving him to solemnly stalk the streets of Bucharest, encountering former colleagues, a mistress, his mother, and his former in-laws, all the while harboring a secret plan designed to restore order to the whole. In a series of long, methodical takes, Puiu plunges us directly into Viorel’s world, making us both voyeur and accomplice to his actions, as we gradually come to understand just who this man is and the inevitability of where he’s going.
Black Venus/Vénus noire Abdellatif Kechiche, 2010, France, 166m In his unforgettable telling of the short, deplorable existence of the “Hottentot Venus”-née Saartjie Baartman, a slave from Cape Town who was exhibited as a freak-show attraction in early nineteenth-century Europe-Abdellatif Kechiche (The Secret of the Grain) delivers a riveting examination of racism. Gawked at and groped in grimy carnivals in London and, later, high-society Parisian salons, Baartman soon becomes the object of prurient fascination of French scientists, obsessed with calibrating every part of her anatomy-particularly her enlarged buttocks and genitals. Though Baartman’s life was unspeakably grim, Yahima Torres’s remarkably complex portrayal of the title character reveals not just a mute symbol of victimhood but also a woman capable of fierce defiance. North American Premiere.
Carlos Olivier Assayas, 2010, France/Germany, 319m An astonishment in every respect, Carlos is a dynamic, intelligent and revelatory account of the career of the notorious revolutionary terrorist popularly known as Carlos the Jackal. A sensation at Cannes, it also packs every one of its 319 minutes with real movie-movie excitement, action, sex and suspense, creating a nerve-jangling, you-are-there verisimilitude, most of all in its breathless recreation of Carlos’ audacious 1975 kidnapping of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna. Edgar Ramirez inhabits the title role with the arrogant charisma of Brando in his prime, while director Olivier Assayas takes great artistic, political and historical risks-fluidly staging sequences set in at least 16 countries and spoken in all the appropriate languages-to emerge with the best film of his career to date. An IFC Films release.
Certified Copy/Copie conforme Abbas Kiarostami, 2010, France/Italy, 106m On paper, Abbas Kiarostami’s return to narrative filmmaking after a decade of experimental video projects seems a risky proposition: a French production, filmed on location in Tuscany, with a European cast speaking in a mixture of English, French and Italian. But in fact, this close-up study of a relationship is a dazzling return to form. An antiques dealer (Juliette Binoche) and a philosopher (British opera star William Shimmell) appear to meet for the first time following one of his lectures, but soon we begin to suspect that there is more to this couple than meets the eye. Are they in fact husband and wife engaging in an elaborate charade? Or is Kiarostami showing us the beginning, middle and end of a marriage in something other than chronological order? Nimbly juggling reality with cinematic illusion, and anchored by Binoche’s emotionally naked performance (Best Actress, Cannes), Certified Copy is a stimulating and provocative Kiarostami coup. North American Premiere. An IFC Films release.
The Cinema Inside Me: Olivier Assayas Filmmaker turned film critic (at Cahiers du cinema) turned filmmaker, Olivier Assayas (Carlos) has become over the past two decades one of the most respected filmmakers working anywhere today. His critical writing on cinema was crucial for introducing the new Asian cinema into France, and he continues to maintain a strong interest in the avant-garde and experimental films. In conversation with NYFF Selection Committee Chairman Richard Peña, Mr. Assayas will offer a personal guided tour of some key moments in his own history of cinema-showing sequences from films and by filmmakers who powerfully influenced his thoughts on cinema as well as his filmmaking practice.
Film Socialisme Jean-Luc Godard, 2010, Switzerland, 101m At 80, Jean-Luc Godard shows no sign of slowing down or easing up; his latest work is one of his most formally audacious, as well as one of his most resonant. A visual and aural collage that moves through discussions of nature, art, politics, atrocities, and film history (among other topics), shot in a dizzying variety of formats, Film Socialisme is never simply an intellectual exercise. There’s a passion behind this torrent of words and images, a sense of the vital importance of the issues addressed and the need to find new ways for cinema to discuss them-plus, as always in Godard, the sheer beauty of much of the film. Following our September 29 screening, New Yorker film critic Richard Brody, former Cahiers du cinema editor Jean-Michel Frodon and celebrated film scholar Annette Michelson will discuss the film, putting it in the context of Godard’s career as well as that of contemporary cinema.
Inside Job Charles Ferguson, 2010, USA, 108m There could scarcely be a film more timely or relevant to the contemporary economic crisis than Inside Job. Continuing in the meticulous, comprehensive and penetrating style that so well served his incisive analysis of the Iraq quagmire, No End in Sight, director Charles Ferguson enlists many key players to explain an often arcane and complicated subject in ways that everyone can comprehend. Placing recent developments on Wall Street and around the world in historical perspective dating back to the Great Depression, this concise documentary generates cumulative outrage as it systematically emphasizes how financial growth and industry deregulation fostered an environment of economic recklessness and criminality, as well as a willingness to look the other way as long as the good times rolled. Dealing in facts and figures rather than hyperbole and hysteria, Ferguson employs more than three dozen expert economists, executives, politicians and scholars to lay it all out in terms that are as illuminating as they are chilling. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
LennonNYC Michael Epstein, 2010, USA, 115m In 1971, John Lennon arrived in New York City and felt re-born: at last living in the country that had dominated his artistic imagination, Lennon and his new bride Yoko Ono found in the city the perfect blend of music, politics, culture and lifestyle. But those heady first years eventually gave way to a dark period in which both Lennon’s musical career and his personal life almost ran aground-until once again New York City came to his rescue. Using remarkable, rarely seen footage and interviews with many who were close to John, filmmaker Michael Epstein has created a moving, revealing portrait of the music legend’s New York years, detailing not only his triumphs but also some hard times over which he so beautifully recovered in the final years of his tragically curtailed life. World Premiere.
Meek’s Cutoff Kelly Reichardt, 2010, USA, 104m In 1845, three families hire the wild-eyed, bushy-bearded Meek (Bruce Greenwood) to lead them over Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Trekking through parched lands and running dangerously low on water, the group begins to lose faith in their tall-tale-telling guide, further questioning his instincts when they encounter a Native American wanderer. Like her earlier, incomparable Pacific Northwest-set films Old Joy (ND/NF 2006) and Wendy and Lucy (NYFF 2008), Kelly Reichardt’s sublime Western explores American myths, precarious safety nets, and the kindness-and cruelty-of strangers. Magnificently shot by Chris Blauvelt, Meek’s Cutoff reteams this essential director with deft screenwriter Jon Raymond and Wendy and Lucy star Michelle Williams, perhaps the toughest young bride in a calico dress you’ll ever see.
My Joy/Schastye moe Sergei Loznitsa, 2010, Ukraine/Germany/Netherlands, 127m A most impressive feature debut, My Joy starts as the tale of Georgy, a driver who heads off from his home town with a truckload of goods for the market. A wrong turn leads him onto the back roads of the region and seemingly deeper into the area’s hidden history. Weaving together several stories, Sergei Loznitsa creates an unsettling portrait of a world deceptively tranquil in appearance but harboring long festering resentments and violence that can surface without warning. The film beautifully moves between two modes-one decidedly contemporary, the other more historical or even mythic, as if these characters are always part of a larger, obscured reality of which they themselves are scarcely aware. My Joy is an encouraging example of the terrific work beginning to emerge again from the nations of the former Soviet Union.
Mysteries of Lisbon/Mistérios de Lisboa Raúl Ruiz, 2010, Portugal/France, 272m In 19th century Lisbon, a teenage boy raised by priests learns the secret of his aristocratic lineage; a French heiress (the wonderful Clotilde Hesme) seeks revenge against the man who sullied her honor; and a kindly padre changes identities as it suits the occasion. These are among the characters who populate Raul Ruiz’s breathtaking adaptation of one of the masterworks of Portuguese literature: Camilo Castelo Branco’s Mysteries of Lisbon. Nothing-and nobody-is first as it/he appears in this intoxicating spiral of stories within stories within stories, filmed by Ruiz with gorgeous period design, a fluid, pirouetting camera, and a peerless French and Portuguese cast. A companion film to his magnificent Proust adaptation, Time Regained (NYFF 1999), Mysteries of Lisbon is the crowning achievement of a great director’s career.
Of Gods and Men/Des hommes et des dieux Xavier Beauvois, 2010, France, 120m In this year’s winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, director Xavier Beauvois recounts the harrowing true story of a brotherhood of French monks in the highlands of North Africa who find themselves threatened by Islamic extremists during the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s. Starring a gifted ensemble cast led by the empathic Lambert Wilson (as resident religious scholar Brother Christian), the film begins as a bucolic chronicle of these simple men of God and their gentle relationship with their Muslim neighbors, to whom they provide much needed medical care and other services. When the insurgents arrive, they find themselves faced with an impossible decision: to flee, or to stand their ground and fulfill their spiritual mission. Magnificently photographed by cinematographer Caroline Champetier in compositions that suggest Renaissance paintings, Of Gods and Men is a poetic, austerely beautiful triumph.
Oki’s Movie/Ok hui ui yeonghwa Hong Sang-soo, 2010, South Korea, 80m NYFF perennial Hong Sang-soo’s latest may be his wittiest-and his most deeply felt-work to date. Toggling between the present and the past, reality and fiction, and divided into four chapters (and different points of view), Oki’s Movie recounts the amorous and artistic adventures of talented young director Jin-gu (Lee Sun-kyun), his middle-aged cinema instructor, Professor Song (Moon Sung-keun), and Oki (Jung Yumi), the woman who loves them both. As “Pomp and Circumstance” wryly plays throughout, the protagonists nobly fumble their way through romance and work, culminating in Jin-gu’s disastrous post-screening Q&A. Hong’s eleventh feature is a comedy with tremendous emotional heft, concluding with a heartbreaking précis on the vagaries of the heart and the terrors of aging.
Old Cats/Gatos viejos Sebastián Silva, 2010, Chile, 88m With last year’s The Maid (ND/NF 2009) and now with Old Cats, Sebastián Silva has emerged as one of cinema’s greatest young talents, mining the hilarity and horror of the nuclear family. Claudia Celedón and Catalina Saavedra-who, respectively, played la señora and the titular domestic servant in The Maid-star as girlfriends Rosario and Hugo, hapless schemers always borrowing money from Isadora and Enrique, Rosario’s ailing mother and stepfather. When Isadora refuses to be swindled once again by her daughter, Rosario erupts in tears and recriminations, her hysterics setting off several outrageously funny scenes. A master of tone shifts, Silva seamlessly transforms his family farce into a weightier look at the responsibilities that parents and their offspring alike must face. World premiere.
Poetry/Shi Lee Chang-dong, 2010, South Korea, 139m As he did in his last film, Secret Sunshine (NYFF 2007), Lee Chang-dong creates another masterful tale about a woman raising a child on her own. Mija (played by the extraordinary Yoon Jeong-hee), a proper, sixtyish home aide in the early stages of dementia, lives with her sullen adolescent grandson, whose mother is looking for work in Pusan. Enrolling in a poetry class, Mija anxiously awaits inspiration from the muses-which arrives the moment she decides her charge must finally suffer the consequences of a heinous act he has committed. Perfectly paced and performed, Poetry stands out as both a quietly scathing condemnation of male violence (and the craven attempts to cover it up) and an ode to the strength-and moral compass-of an indefatigable senescent woman. A Kino International release.
Post Mortem Pablo Larraín, 2010, Chile/Mexico/Germany, 98m A literal and figurative dissection of his country’s turbulent contemporary history, Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s third feature is another highly original, darkly comic mix of the personal and the political from the director of Tony Manero (NYFF 2008). Set in 1973 in the last days of Salvador Allende’s presidency, the film stars Tony Manero lead Alfredo Castro (here sporting a mane of long, whitish-blond hair) as Mario, an autopsy recorder who frequents a seedy burlesque hall where his neighbor, Nancy, is one of the dancers. Infatuated from afar, he finally works up the courage to visit her dressing room, and finds his affections if not exactly returned, at least entertained. As Mario haphazardly tries to woo Nancy away from her Popular Front boyfriend, Chile descends into chaos around them, until Mario finds himself an unwitting first-person witness to the grim face of violent social change.
Le Quattro Volte Michelangelo Frammartino, 2010, Italy/Germany/France, 88m Michelangelo Frammartino’s wondrous four-part meditation on man and nature traces the grand cycle of life through the humble daily rituals of rural folk in the hilly southern Italian region of Calabria. An elderly shepherd ingests the dust from a church floor to treat his cough; a baby goat from his flock tentatively ventures out to pasture; a majestic fir tree is felled and repurposed as the centerpiece of a village celebration; finally, its logs are transformed into wood charcoal through the ancient methods of the local workers. Connecting the dots among animal, vegetable, mineral and dust, Frammartino’s film is both concrete and cosmic, and it features what may be the most impressive single shot of the year: a masterfully orchestrated long take involving a religious procession, a herd of goats, a runaway truck, and a truly awe-inspiring dog.
Revolution/Revolución Mariana Chenillo, Patricia Riggen, Fernando Eimbcke, Amat Escalante, Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo García, Diego Luna, Gerardo Naranjo, Rodrigo Plá and Carlos Reygadas, 2010, Mexico, 105m The first major political revolution of the twentieth century, the Mexican Revolution transformed that society while offering a model for the rest of Latin America for government-directed social change. To commemorate its centenary, ten of Mexico’s brightest young directors each contributed a short to this omnibus project, organized and co-produced by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. Ranging from Patricia Riggen’s delightful Beautiful and Beloved to Carlos Reygadas’ explosive This is My Kingdom, Revolución is an intriguing collection of responses to the Revolution’s legacy, a fascinating panorama of views on contemporary Mexico, as well as a terrific introduction to one of the world’s most consistently exciting national cinemas.
The Robber/Der Räuber Benjamin Heisenberg, 2010, Austria/Germany, 96m Adapted from a novel that was in turn based on the real-life case of a champion marathoner who led a double life holding up banks in 1980s Austria, Benjamin Heisenberg’s sleek and intelligent genre exercise is at once an action thriller, a love story, a character study, and an existential parable. Its protagonist, Johann (Andreas Lust, last seen here in the Oscar-nominated Revanche), is defined almost exclusively by his twin obsessions. He runs and he robs, therefore he is. Alternating between endorphin-rush kineticism and stretches of quiet tension, The Robber is as precise and single-minded as its hero. At the film’s center is a brilliantly calibrated performance by Lust, by turns explosively physical and tightly coiled, as a man driven to attain a state of perpetual motion.
Robinson in Ruins Patrick Keiller, 2010, UK, 101m The British filmmaker Patrick Keiller is a master of the personal cine-essay and the political landscape film. As in his previous psycho-geographic tours London (1994) and Robinson in Space (1997), this new work purports to be constructed from footage recorded by Keiller’s fictional alter-ego, the peripatetic researcher Robinson. Striking images of nature and marginal sites (military bases, opium fields, lichen growing on a traffic sign) are paired with the measured tones of a narrator (Vanessa Redgrave) who recounts Robinson’s progress through the south of England and pieces together his notebook of musings on, among many other subjects, agriculture, architecture, the collapse of late capitalism and the extinction of the planet. Packed with secret histories, hidden connections, and a few whimsical fictions, Robinson in Ruins is a work of towering ambition and sly humor, densely informative but never dry, slicing through space and time with wit, alacrity, and eccentric intelligence.
Silent Souls/Ovsyanki Aleksei Fedrochenko, 2010, Russia, 75m Ancient customs and traditions live on in the wake of the former Soviet Union in Silent Souls, yet another bracing sign of life for serious filmmaking in the now-fragmented land. A brooding, poetic, hauntingly beautiful art film of the old school, albeit shot through with a modern frankness about society and sex, this short feature from Ukranian director Aleksei Fedorchenko centers on a unique sort of road trip. Imposing tough guy Miron requests that taciturn writer Aist accompany him on a long journey to dispose of the remains of his wife, whose body they transport in the back of the car. As they traverse the evocatively bleak landscape, Miron, according to custom, fills the hours relating the most intimate details of his relationship with his wife, leading to a surprising finale. Drenched in melancholy and haunted by an inescapable past, this is an exquisite work by a quickly rising director.
The Strange Case of Angelica/O Estranho Caso de Angélica Manoel de Oliveira, 2010, Portugal/Spain/France/Brazil, 94m More than ever a force of nature, the Portuguese master Manoel de Oliveira, 102 this December, delivers one of his most magical films: a radiant ghost story in which a dead newlywed comes to life before a camera lens. As the photographer hero (Ricardo Trepa) grows obsessed with this spectral beauty, the film evolves into an enchanting tale of cinema itself, intimately concerned with the act of perception and the conjuring of alternate worlds. Meditative and serene, with Chopin-scored passages of rapt contemplation and intense melancholy, Angelica is also unpredictably alive, filled with playful detours into subjects like particle physics, manual and mechanized labor, climate change, witchcraft, and the metaphysics of photography. This singular masterpiece could only be the work of an artist liberated by age: a man of multiple times, working with the freedom of a filmmaker almost as old as his medium. A Cinema Guild release.
Tuesday, After Christmas/Marti, dupa raciun Radu Muntean, 2010, Romania, 99m Paul (Mimi Branescu) must choose between his wife of ten years, Adriana (Mirela Oprisor), and his mistress, pediatric dentist Raluca (Maria Popistasu). Radu Muntean’s singular, stripped-down look at adultery contains several masterfully composed long takes-scenes that further heighten the film’s unbearable suspense, from the highly awkward meeting of all the players in the triangle to Paul’s confession to his spouse. Muntean’s trio of exemplary actors convey the raw emotional states of their characters without ever once relying on histrionics; though each performer is mesmerizing to watch, Oprisor, as the oblivious and then wounded wife, is astonishing in her portrayal of one woman’s betrayal, hurt, and spite.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010, UK/Thailand/France/Germany/Spain, 113m Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year for this gently comic and wholly transporting tale of death and rebirth, set in Thailand’s rural northeast. Uncle Boonmee, a farmer suffering from kidney failure, is tended to by loved ones and visited by the ghosts of his wife and son. As for his remembered past lives, they might-or might not-include a water buffalo, a disfigured princess, a talking catfish, and the insects whose chirps engulf the nighttime jungle scenes. A sensory immersion, Uncle Boonmee is an otherworldly fable that lingers on earthly sensations, a film about a dying man that’s filled with mysterious signs of life. Apichatpong’s vision is above all a generous one: in the threat of extinction he sees the possibility of regeneration. A Strand release.
We Are What We Are/Somos lo que hay Jorge Michel Grau, 2010, Mexico, 99m The sudden death of its patriarch leaves a Mexican clan bereft, panicked about their survival, and fumbling to continue a family tradition-namely, a cannibalistic rite that involves the hunting and gathering of fresh human meat in present-day Mexico City. As the widow and her three teenage children grow increasingly desperate, the young director Jorge Michel Grau combines slow-burning suspense with simmering sexual tension and a queasy sense of mystery: the belief system behind what the family calls “the ritual” is never fully explained. A potent and tremendously assured first feature, We Are What We Are packs the allegorical and visceral punch of the best vintage horror. An IFC Films release.