NYFF53: Films “Beautiful and Vital”

NYFF53 panel1 ©robinhollandThe 53rd New York Film Festival, opening today and running thorough October 11, includes a main slate of 26 features, made by directors from North America, Europe and Asia, with a vast and exciting range of artistic sensibilities. Kent Jones, the Festival’s Director and Selection Committee Chair, acknowledging the diversity, focused in on the essential, “the only thing that really matters is how uniformly beautiful and vital each of these movies are.”

Opening night, a world premiere, Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk,” in 3D, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit as he creates a very narrow aerial pathway linking the Twin Towers of World Trade Center and then thrillingly walks across.

Don Cheadle, making his directorial debut with the closing night film, “Miles Ahead” (also a world premiere), stars as the legendary musician Miles Davis in a unique “portrait of the artist.” Another unconventional take on the biopic, this year’s centerpiece, “Steve Jobs,” directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin, stars the always riveting Michael Fassbender in the title role.

Also presenting a first feature, the beautifully shot “Les Cowboys,” Thomas Bidegain (who wrote a Jacques Audiard masterpiece, “A Prophet”), uses John Ford’s great film, “The Searchers” as a touchstone. Fear and hatred of “the other” transcend era and geography.

Six films awarded palms (and scrolls) this year in Cannes will have their New York premieres: Best Director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “The Assassin;” Todd Haynes’ “Carol” (starring Best Actress winner Rooney Mara); Stéphane Brizé’s “The Measure of a Man,” (starring Best Actor winner Vincent Lindon); Jury Prize winner “The Lobster;” Un Certain Regard Best Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Journey to the Shore;” and Un Certain Talent Prize winner Corneliu Porumboiu’s “The Treasure.”

NYFF alum Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next” assesses the state of our union and has been called “provocative, very funny, impassioned”–like all of his work–but also surprising. Arnaud Desplechin returns with “My Golden Days,” an autobiographical epic that seriously investigates young love. Mathieu Amalric, once again the director’s alter ego, looks back from middle age at three episodes in his youth.

Frequent NYFF participant, Jia Zhangke, is presenting his latest feature, “Mountain May Depart” (starring Zhao Tao), an exploration of what has been lost as China has undergone massive social and economic upheaval. And in the festival’s spotlight on documentary section, Brazilian director Walter Salles’ “Jia Zhangke, A Guy from Fenyang” accompanies the director back to his hometown and other locations, visiting his family, friends and former colleagues.

While humor is often an integral part of even the most austere NYFF selection, there are also comedies in this year’s main slate. “Maggie’s Plan,” a romantic comedy directed by Rebecca Miller starring Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke and Greta Gerwig as the title character who steals a man from his family and then years later wants to give him back. In his latest visually inventive film, “Microbe & Gasoline,” Michel Gondry tracks two teenage misfits (whose nicknames give the film its title) as they explore France, “sputtering, pushing and coasting” in their handmade house on wheels.

In Nanni Moretti’s “Mia Madre,” the humor comes from the absurdities that are part of life on a film set–and of life itself. Margherita Buy stars as a middle-aged director fighting to make a film starring an American actor (John Turturro) with a large personality and a questionable work ethic, while struggling to deal with the pain and unreality of her beloved mother’s impending death. Moretti as Margherita’s brother, Giovanni, is impressive as a quietly supportive son and brother, secretly working through another change in his life.

NYFF53 panel2©robinholland

Upper panel, clockwise from top left: Jia Zhangke & Zhao Tao, John Crowley, Michael Fassbender, Chantal Akerman.  All images © Robin Holland.

Lower panel, clockwise from top left: Steven Spielberg, Michel Gondry, Guy Maddin, Don Cheadle, Michael Moore, Tom Hanks, John C. Reilly, Ethan Hawke.  All images © Robin Holland.

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