On Monday, the New York Film Festival, running September 24 through October 10, unveiled its main slate. Today sees the announcement of two Masterworks series and a generous round of Special Events. Again, keep checking in for links and notes.
Elegant Elegies: The Films of Masahiro Shinoda. Says the Festival: "A spectacular filmmaker key to the Japanese New Wave, Shinoda was fascinated by both traditional Japanese aesthetics and the modernity of cinema. Gamblers betting it all in games they can't win, samurais heading into their final battles, lovers realizing their bonds are no match for an uncaring destiny: This is the remarkable universe of Masahiro Shinoda. This Masterworks program will showcase 12 of Shinoda's films, including such not to be missed titles as, Pale Flower [image above], Double Suicide and The Ballad of Orin. We're honored to welcome Mr Shinoda to this year's festival for this special tribute, presented as part of the 150th Anniversary Celebration of Japan-NYC Friendship."
Fernando de Fuentes' Mexican Revolution Trilogy. NYFF: "A foundational figure of Mexican cinema and a true jack-of-all trades Fernando de Fuentes landed in the cinema in the early Thirties and made this remarkable trilogy of films on the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1918, the first major revolution of the twentieth century. All three films in this series deal with the intimate nature of the conflict-how often it pitted friend against friend, brother against brother. Of special interest is Let's Go with Pancho Villa, Latin America's first super-production made in full collaboration with the Mexican government when they were trying to jump-start a national film industry."
VIEWS FROM THE AVANT-GARDE
Curators Mark McElhatten and Film Comment editor Gavin Smith offer an expanded edition this year, the series' 14th, that will include Robert Beavers's The Suppliant, James Benning's Ruhr, Nathaniel Dorsky's Pastourelle, a restoration of Manoel de Oliveira's Rite of Spring and Phil Solomon's three-screen American Falls. There'll also be new work from Thom Andersen, Ute Aurand, Stephanie Barber, Mati Diop, David Gatten, Janie Geiser, Lewis Klahr, Dani Leventhal, Jeanne Liotta, Matt McCormick, Tomonari Nishikawa, Michael Robinson, Fern Silva, Deborah Stratman, Peter Tscherkassky and many others, plus nightly special Furman Gallery projection performances by Paul Clipson and Bruce McClure.
Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones's A Letter to Elia and Elia Kazan's America, America (1963). Both will screen on Monday, September 27. The documentary "is a heartfelt declaration from one great American filmmaker to another, as Scorsese speaks candidly and passionately about one of his formative filmmaking influences: the late Elia Kazan. Utilizing precisely chosen clips from Kazan's signature films, and interview footage of the director himself, Scorsese and Jones recount the director's tumultuous journey from the Group Theatre to the Hollywood A-list to the thicket of the blacklist. But most of all, they make a powerful case for Kazan as a profoundly personal artist working in a famously impersonal industry." America, America is based "on the life of Kazan's own uncle, the director's favorite among his 19 feature films is the unforgettable story of an impoverished and oppressed Greek Turk determined to escape, by any means necessary, to the land of the free. His perilous journey across mountains and oceans, through arranged marriages and crafty swindlers, rivals that of an earlier Greek voyager, Odysseus, in its epic emotional sweep. Rarely screened and never released on DVD."
Stuart Schulberg's Nuremberg (1948), the Schulberg/Waletzky Restoration. "One of the greatest courtroom dramas in history, Nuremberg shows how the international prosecutors built their case against the top Nazi war criminals using the Nazis' own films and records. The trial established the 'Nuremberg principles' — the foundation for all subsequent trials for crimes against the peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Though shown in Germany as part of the Allies' de-Nazification campaign, US officials decided not to release Nuremberg in America for political reasons, nor was it shown in any other country. Over the years, the picture negative and sound elements were lost or destroyed. Sandra Schulberg and Josh Waletzky's restoration uses original audio from the trial, allowing you to hear the defendants' and prosecutors' voices for the first time. The film ends with Justice Robert H Jackson's stirring words — 'Let Nuremberg stand as a warning to all who plan and wage aggressive war' — words which leap the decades and make Nuremberg startlingly contemporary." A panel discussion will follow the screening on Tuesday, September 28.
The Cinema Inside Me: Olivier Assayas. On October 3, NYFF Selection Committee Chairman Richard Peña will talk with the director and critic about "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." And Assayas's Carlos is in the main slate lineup.
Frederick Wiseman's Boxing Gym. See the Cannes roundup. Screens October 4.
Mike Leigh: Shooting London. "Leigh will discuss the importance of London neighborhoods and sites in his films, and their integration into his films' themes." With clips, naturally. October 6. And in the main NYFF lineup: Another Year.
Biographical and Beyond: An Evening with David Thomson. NYFF: "Praised as the finest reference book ever written about movies, David Thomson's The New Biographical Dictionary of Film is its author's idiosyncratic, indispensible, and deeply addictive indexing of the key players in the history of moving pictures, from Abbott and Costello to Catherine Zeta-Jones. On the eve of the publication of the revised and expanded Fifth Edition, we have invited Thomson (himself a former member of the NYFF selection committee) to discuss his work, his writing process, and to present a film of his choosing. His selection is Birth (2004), director Jonathan Glazer's metaphysical thriller starring Nicole Kidman as a woman who becomes convinced that a 10-year-old boy is the reincarnation of her late husband. Thomson has hailed the film as a neglected masterpiece." October 7.
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (see the Cannes roundup) and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death (1946). The double feature unreels on October 8.
Andrei Ujică's The Autobiography of Nikolae Ceaucescu. See the Cannes roundup and, in Film Comment, Kent Jones. Screening on October 9.
Joe Dante's The Hole in 3D (2009). NYFF: "Like his Gremlins, Explorers and Small Soldiers, director Joe Dante's latest frightmare — and his first in 3D — takes place in one of those placid, Midwestern anytowns that, in the sci-fi classics of the 1950s, regularly played host to intergalactic blobs, body snatchers and other strange invaders. Here, the aberrations come from below rather than above-specifically, from a boarded-up pit in the basement of an ordinary suburban home, which gets reopened when a single mother and her two curious sons move in. Like a Freudian Pandora's box, the hole gives rise to the deepest fears of those who peer into it, from the purely abstract to the terrifyingly physical. All of which is mere prelude for our eventual plunge down the hole itself, which Dante turns into an ingenious, Caligarian funhouse of long shadows, exaggerated perspectives and things that go bump in the night (all, it should be noted, accomplished on a fraction of usual Hollywood budget)." See also Daniel Kasman's review from TIFF 2009. October 9.
George Melford's Dracula (1931). This Spanish version was "filmed at night in Hollywood on the same sets as the Bela Lugosi Dracula with a Spanish-speaking cast" and it'll be "accompanied by an eerie live solo guitar performance by guitarist, composer, and Grammy-nominated songwriter Gary Lucas." October 9.
The Marvelous World of Segundo de Chomón. NYFF: "Known as the 'Spanish Méliès,' Segundo de Chomón was a major film pioneer whose inventive special effects and optical processes influenced the cinema for years to come, and can be found in many silent classics, from Pastrone's Cabiria to Gance's Napoleon — not to mention his own extraordinary works. Through the generosity of the Filmoteca de Catalunya in Barcelona, we're delighted to present a sampler of de Chomón's great achievements, including masterworks such as The Electric Hotel, The Witch's Cave, and The King of Dollars, with piano accompaniment by Makia Matsumura. Film scholar Tom Gunning will be on hand to discuss the importance of de Chomón's work." October 10.
Verena Paravel and JP Sniadecki's Foreign Parts. NYFF: "Tucked between the new Citifield baseball stadium and the Van Wyck overpass lie a ramshackle collection of auto-body repair shops and other small businesses, staffed by an extraordinarily multicultural cast of characters. But New York City has other plans: the area has been targeted for development, complete with apartments, malls, and parks, and this commercial shantytown may soon be a memory. Filmmakers Verena Paravel and JP Sniadecki have created a revealing and tender portrait of Willets Point, Queens, that captures the many roads the American dream has taken." October 10.