FSLC’s 53rd New York Film Festival Comes to a Rousing Close Sunday
By Ellis Nassour
It’s been almost 17 days and nights of premieres, documentaries, star-studded Q&As, panels, tributes [including feting Kate Winslet], shorts programs, revivals, the avant-garde Convergence series, roundtables, and lots of special and free events. There were works of celebrated auteurs and emerging filmmakers, and award-winners from the Cannes Film Festival. But, all good things must end. Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 53rd New York Film Festival officially closes on Sunday with a day of encore programming.
Saturday’s Closing Night attraction is the directorial debut of Oscar-nominee Don Cheadle with the passionate and cinematic Miles Ahead (Sony Pictures Classics), a portrait of musician Miles Davis, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, co-written by Cheadle and co-starring Emayatzy Corinealdi, GG nominee Ewan McGregor and Ewan McGregor, set in late-70s NY when the musician was wracked with pain from a variety of ailments and is haunted by memories of old glories and humiliations and of his great love (Corinealdi). Cast members will be present for a Q&A. Follows NYFF screening into theatres.
Friday programming will include Todd Haynes’s Carol, (The Weinstein Company), adapted from an early Patricia Highsmith novel, set in the 50s, and starring Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett as a sophisticated, wealthy, and elegant woman whose marriage is on the rocks as she comes out of the closet – falling head-over-heels with a younger woman, Best Actress (Cannes) Rooney Mara; Best Director (Cannes) Hou Hsiao-hsien’s "immersive, epherneral, sensuous," and bloody The Assassin (Well Go USA), set in the waning days of the Tang Dynasty where provincial rulers are challenging China’s royal court; and the acclaimed documentary of late filmmaker Chantal Akerman.
Sunday brings encore showings of a dozen of the Festival’s most popular attractions, highlighted by Noah Baumback and Jake Paltrow’s biographical documentary DePalma, featuring clips from the director’s notable films; John Crowley’s Brooklyn, based on Colm Tolbin’s novel and headlined by stunning Saoirse Ronan as "a vibrantly-alive silent screen heroine who leaves Ireland for a better life in America, but then is called back home, and Domhnall Gleeson; and No Home Movie, Chantal Akerman’s intimate portrait of her mother in her last years.
Also programmed will be Carol; Rebecca Miller’s delightful comedy Maggie’s Plan, adding luster to the already mesmerizingly-winning Greta Gerwig, searching for a donor-father for the baby she wants and who falls in love with author/teacher Ethan Hawke, with strong backing from a surely-to-be nominated Julianne Moore, devouring everything that’s not tied down and doing it brilliantly, and Bill Hader; and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Junrun about a recording session in India; and the restored Japanese classic Ran, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the life of a 16th Century warlord.
Alice Tully Hall, the main venue for Main Slate screenings, was kept busy along with the Walter Reade Theatre and the three venues of the Eleanor Bunin Munroe Film Center. There were features and documentaries Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, South Korea, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S.
The Festival opened with a day of free screenings of five restored classics as a tribute to the 100th Anniversary of the founding of 20th Century Fox. The Opening Night gala was Robert Zemeckis’ 3D docudrama The Walk (Tri-Star Pictures), based on Petit’s memoir To Reach the Clouds, with a star-making performance by Golden Globe nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist who achieved the 1974 feat of walking between the Twin Towers, and Oscar-winner Sir Ben Kingsley as his mentor. The film features an excellent score by Oscar and GG nominee Alan Silvestri and incredible visual effects that brings the NYC of 2011 alive again. In cineplexes now.
The Festival Centerpiece selection was Oscar and Golden Globe winner Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs (Universal/Legendary), adapted by Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin from Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography, and headlined by Michael Fassbender as Apple founder in his early years. Oscar and GG winner Kate Winslet co-stars, not only in one of her best portrayals but almost stealing the movie. Memorable featured performances are turned in by Seth Rogen, GG nominee Michael Stuhlbarg, and GG nominee Jeff Daniels. In theatres October 23.
Festival goers also saw Oscar-winner Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies (Fox2000DreamworksSKG), which focuses on the intrigue surrounding the 1962 exchange of a Soviet agent for U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers [downed in 1957]. Starring are Oscar-winner and Tony and Drama Desk-nominee Tom Hanks, six-time Emmy winner and Tony and a most steadied and winning turn as a Soviet spy by DD-winner Mark Rylance. Oscar nominee Alan Alda was featured. In cineplexes October 16.
There was a sneak preview of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller The Martian (20th Century Fox), based on Andy Weir’s bestseller, in RealD 3D. The film, "a gripping drama of survival infused with warmth and humor," stars Oscar winner Matt Damon in a harrowing and hilarious tour-de-force that covers the broad spectrum of acting and is another stellar step in the actor’s career. Now in theatres.
Cannes award-winners making NY premieres included Yorgos Lanthimos’ futuristic black comedy Jury Prize winner The Lobster with a dazzling tour-de-force by Colin Farrell, as you’ve never seen him, and co-starring Leá Seydoux, Rachel Weisz, and John C. Reilly; Stéphane Brizé’s The Measure of a Man, starring Best Actor Vincent Lindon; the Un Certain Regard Best Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Journey to the Shore; and Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Treasure, which captured the Un Certain Talent Prize.
Also on the roster were Jai Zhangke’s simple but powerful drama of star-crossed lovers across a sweep of 15 years, Mountains May Depart, which takes place on the cusp of China’s capitalist explosion; France’s César Award-winning screenwriter Thomas Bidegain’s Les Cowboys, in which a father searches for his daughter across two-decades; Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre starring John Turturro; France’s Arnaud Desplechin with a story of young love, My Golden Days (Trois Souvenirs de ma jeunesse), co-starring Mathieu Amalric (A Christmas Tale); and Michael Moore with the documentary Where to Invade Next, a hard, surprising look at the state of the U.S. compared to other powers.
A stellar attraction in the Revivals category, was Ernst Lubitsch’s sophisticated comedy jewel, which gets away with a lot that’s said and unsaid for its time, the stunningly-restored Technicolor feast Heaven Can Wait (20th Century Fox;1943), which stars Don Amache, Gene Tierney, and great character actor Charles Coburn.
FSLC receives support from American Airlines, The New York Times, Stella Artois, HBO, Kobal Collection, Variety, Row NYC Hotel, the National Endowment for the Arts, and NY State Council on the Arts. NYFF support is provided by Jaeger-LeCoultre, FIJI Water, KIND Bars, Portage World Wide, WABC-7, and WNET.
Tickets for the final days FSLC’s 53rd New York Film Festival are on sale at the Alice Tully Hall and Walter Reade Theatre box offices and at www.filmlinc.com. Showtimes, venues, and attraction synopses can be found on the website.