“Change is coming to the New York Film Festival,” Eugene Hernandez wrote just over a month ago. While rumors had been circulating for some time, when the lineup for the festival was announced in August, the festival made things clear. Hernandez reported that the festival would kick-off solely at the newly renovated Alice Tully Hall for the first time and, in a dramatic break with a nearly twenty-five year tradition, there will not be a black tie gala opening bash at the venerable Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Tonight those changes will rear their head as the festival kicks off its 47th edition with Alain Resnais’ “Wild Grass” (Les Herbes folles). The famed Tavern soiree – which cost as much as $125,000 and was paid for by the distributor of the opening night film – will officially be no more.
“It’s a reflection of the times,” Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Mara Manus told indieWIRE last month, “It was clear to me, when I started this job, that we couldn’t go to a studio or distributor this year and ask them to write this huge check.”
“I actually think it’s a wonderful idea,” Sony Pictures Classics Michael Barker said upon the fest’s announcement. His company has the festival’s opening night (“Grass”), closing film (Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces”), as well as Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon.” “[Alice Tully Hall] is a wonderful place to hang out after, to watch a movie,” he continued, supportive of the change, “It’s a celebration of the new theater.”
What will remain for NYFF is the festival’s characteristic roster of acclaimed auteurs. Among the returning directors bringing new work to the event are Marco Bellocchio (“Vincere”), Catherine Breillat (“Bluebeard”), Claire Denis (“White Material”), Manoel de Oliveira, (“Eccentricities of a Blonde”), Michael Haneke (“The White Ribbon”), Jacques Rivette (“36 Views of Saint-Loup Peak”), Todd Solondz (“Life During Wartime”), Lars von Trier (“Antichrist”) and Andrzej Wajda (“Sweet Rush”). Filmmakers bringing work to the NYFF for the first time include Maren Ade (“Everyone Else”), Ilisa Barish and Lucien Castaing-Taylor (“Sweetgrass”), Zhao Dayong (“Ghost Town”), Samuel Maoz (“Lebanon”), Raya Martin (“Independencia”), João Pedro Rodrigues (“To Die Like A Man”) and Sabu (“Kanikosen”).
indieWIRE has reviews of eight of the films, while The AV Club offers a tip sheet for festival patrons, Eric Kohn gives some highlights at The Wrap, and The Village Voice declares “five must see films,” including João Pedro Rodrigues’s “To Die Like a Man,” Harmony Korine’s “Trash Humpers,” Serge Bromberg’s documentary, “Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno,” Zhao Dayong’s “Ghost Town” and Sabu’s “Kanikosen”
In today’s New York Times Manohla Dargis also gives a rundown of the fest’s offerings. She singles out Resnais’ opening night film, calling “openly, generously pleasurable and inviting,” and also gives takes on Don Argott’s “Art of the Steal” (“a bright exception”), Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s “Sweetgrass” (“pleasantly unhurried”), Marco Bellocchio’s “Vincere” (“sensationally acted”), Corneliu Porumboiu’s “Police, Adjective” (“perfectly timed”), and numerous others.
Dargis additionally points to her excitement in the fest’s return to Alice Tully Hall. “The crater on the corner has vanished, and in the spiffed-up offices of the Film Society of Lincoln Center the mice are (mostly) gone too,” she writes. “On Friday, after three disruptive years, the society brings the New York Film Festival back to Broadway and 65th Street and its familiar home, Alice Tully Hall. Glossed up and glassed in, the renovated Tully juts from its corner like the prow of a luxury liner that’s docked and ready for boarding. While the old building looked like a bunker (duck and watch!), the new Tully transmits a sense of light and air and transparency. Come on in, the building seems to say, we’re happy to see you.”
The New York Film Festival runs today through October 11th. For a full schedule and ticket information, click here.