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15 Films to See at the New York Film Festival

Indiewire By Indiewire Staff | Indiewire September 27, 2012 at 12:57PM

The 50th edition of the landmark festival kicks off Friday with an incredible lineup of some of the year's best films from around the world. For two weeks, NYFF is screening a highly curated selection of festival films and world premieres. Indiewire's staff picks the most essential of the bunch.
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nyff 2012

The landmark 50th edition of the New York Film Festival kicks off this Friday, and with it comes an incredible lineup of some of the year's best films from around the world. For just over two weeks, the festival is screening a highly curated selection of films from festivals like Cannes and Venice, as well as a few major world premieres (including Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," which opens the fest Friday night).

Indiewire's staff offers 15 of their picks for what to see during the fest below, though there's definitely more where that came from.

"Amour" (Oct. 5 & 6)
Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winning (the director's second Palme in just three years) "Amour" makes its New York debut at the festival. The film stars veteran French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as Georges and Anne, married music teachers living out their final years in a Paris apartment until Anne suffers from a stroke. Featuring staggering performances from Trintignant and Riva, the film is a remarkably moving portrait of its titular emotion. It also is a film that will hopefully finally give Haneke an Oscar for foreign language film (its Austria's official submission), not to mention nominations for his actors. [Peter Knegt]

READ MORE: CANNES REVIEW: A Restrained Michael Haneke Delivers With Gripping Death Drama 'Amour'

“Fill the Void” (Oct. 9 & 10)
Israeli filmmaker Rama Burshtein’s debut feature has the unique distinction of being the only film ever shot by a haredi Orthodox woman about Tel Aviv’s Hasidic community. Originally set to show first at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July, the film was pulled once it was chosen to screen at Toronto and Venice, where 22-year-old star Hadas Yaron ultimately won the best actress honor. A near sweep of the Israeli Academy awards then led to “Void” being chosen as Israel’s Oscar submission for best foreign-language film. Now American audiences can get a look at Burshtein’s Hebrew-language story of an engaged Orthodox teenager who is pushed to marry her brother-in-law instead when her sister dies in childbirth — a film with an excellent chance of drawing the attention of Academy voters throughout the fall. [Jay A. Fernandez]

"Flight"
"Flight"
“Flight” (Oct. 14, multiple showings)
Robert Zemeckis finally takes a break from motion capturing the likes of Jim Carrey and Tom Hanks for “Flight,” his first live action feature since “Cast Away,” which was released a whopping 12 years ago. Given that he’s never helmed a stinker of a feature (“What Lies Beneath” haters be damned), signs are pointing to “Flight” being a stellar closing night film for the festival. Working with Denzel Washington for the first time, “Flight” stars the acting titan as a pilot who crash lands a crippled airline. Hailed a hero upon landing with most of the passengers intact, he soon comes under fire after it’s revealed he was out boozing the night before. The plot affords Zemeckis the chance to show his action chops with a crash sequence that is rumored to be harrowing, but it’s the moral darkness of the tale we’re curious to see play out. [Nigel M. Smith]

“Frances Ha” (Sept. 30, Oct. 4 & 10)
Greta Gerwig gives her most appealing performance yet in Noah Baumbach’s seemingly effortless black-and-white comedy that, yes, does share a lot of similarities to Lena Dunham’s hit HBO show “Girls.” Centered on the bumbling life of Frances (Gerwig), a struggling post-modern dancer living and loving in the Big Apple, “Frances Ha” doesn’t tell a story, so much as force you to get to know the protagonist. As written by both Baumbach and Gerwig, Frances is a hot mess, but an endearing, awkward and hilarious one. The comedy made waves at its world premiere in Telluride and subsequently in Toronto, where IFC Films picked it up, but its homecoming New York premiere will likely be the most bittersweet for Baumbach and Gerwig. Don’t miss out on welcoming them home. [Nigel M. Smith]

"Ginger and Rosa."
"Ginger and Rosa."
"Ginger and Rosa" (Oct. 8, 9 & 10)
The fundamental coming-of-age conflict facing the troubled teen played by Elle Fanning in Sally Potter's "Ginger and Rosa" may look familiar, but the director brings a raw energy to the material that deepens its possibilities. Set at the height of nuclear paranoia in early-Sixties London, Potter's script has a lot to say about the progressive attitudes of its chosen era by cleverly analogizing them to the expanding horizons of a restless adolescent mind. A viscerally charged movie that foregrounds surface tensions and gripping performances, "Ginger and Rosa" is the filmmaker's most accessible and technically surefooted work to date. [Eric Kohn]

“Holy Motors” (Oct. 11)
This French entry from Leos Carax (his first feature in 13 years) is the definition of ‘oddball.’ Beloved at Cannes, where many pundits thought it had a shot at the Palme d’Or (Michael Haneke’s “Amour” won out), “Holy Motors” proves that Carax has lost none of his verve or ingenuity, but maybe some of his mind. In the gonzo odyssey that is “Holy Motors,” Carax’s longtime collaborator Denis Lavant plays a rich man named Oscar, who, with the help of his trusty female chauffeur, inhabits 11 different character over the course of one very long day. If you thought “Mulholland Drive” was too much of a mind fuck, then steer clear. Everyone else: gear up for the two surreal hours that you won't soon forget. Did we mention that Kylie Minogue pops up as a singing airline stewardess? [Nigel M. Smith]

READ MORE: CANNES REVIEW: Leos Carax Makes a Nutty Comeback With 'Holy Motors,' But Don't Expect Easy Answers

"Little Shop of Horrors: The Director's Cut" (Sept. 29)
Beyond the festival's curated selection of the best films currently on the festival circuit, there's the plentiful Masterworks section, which features everything from a restoration of "Lawrence of Arabia" to Bob Rafelson presenting his hugely underrated 1972 film "The King of Marvin Gardens." But perhaps the greatest among the selections is a director's cut of Frank Oz's 1986 film "Little Shop of Horrors," featuring 20 minutes of never-before-seen-footage. Oz, actress Ellen Greene, composer Alan Menken and film restorer Kurt Galvao will all attend the screening. [Peter Knegt]

"A Luther Price Bestiary" (Oct. 7)
Coming off a successful showing at the Whitney Biennial, where he was widely hailed as the show's stand-out artist, Luther Price is back to the Views from the Avant-Garde section with a one-man show.  Price is known for making bricolages out of pieces of various discarded or forgotten, Hollywood or unknown films.  The performance will pair performance with several of the artist's films. [Bryce J. Renninger]

"Leviathan" (Oct. 13)
Just look at the trailer for "Leviathan":

The filmmakers behind the fantastic docs "Sweetgrass" (Lucien Castaing-Taylor) and "Foreign Parts" (Véréna Paravel) take an unprecedented, stunning look at the commercial fishing industry.  Screening at the Alice Tully Hall, the audience will no doubt be left in awe. [Bryce J. Renninger]


'Life of Pi'
'Life of Pi'
"Life of Pi" (Sept. 28, multiple showings)
The New York Film Festival has managed to score quite a few major world premieres as of late ("The Social Network" and "Hugo," for example) and they managed another with this year's opening night film, Ang Lee's "Life of Pi." Screening a remarkable nine times on the fest's first night (a few screenings still have tickets), the film is an epic 3D adaptation of Yann Martel's Man Booker Prize-winner novel of the same name. Utilizing some of the best technology available, the film tells the story of a young Indian boy (Suraj Sharma in his debut role) who survives a shipwreck and then spends 227 days in a lifeboat with none other than a Bengal tiger. If the film goes over well, it could definitely shake up this year's Oscar race with a new major contender. [Peter Knegt]

“Not Fade Away” (Oct. 6, two showings)
With “The Sopranos” on his resume, David Chase’s legacy is secure. But 35 years of TV work (“Northern Exposure,” “The Rockford Files”) means nothing when it comes to a feature-film debut, so audiences will want to see if Chase’s original, self-penned story about a group of suburban New Jersey kids trying to launch a rock band in the mid-1960s stands on its own. Chase did stack the deck a bit, with James Gandolfini returning for duty as a disapproving father and Steven Van Zandt producing the soundtrack, but regardless, this centerpiece world premiere is undoubtedly one of the hottest tickets of the fest. [Jay A. Fernandez]

"The Paperboy" (Oct. 3)
Lee Daniels, in a film that feels more "Shadowboxer" than "Precious," will have his masterfully in-control yet out-there storytelling on display at Alice Tully Hall.  In the film, a journalist (Matthew McConaughey) heads with his brother (Zac Efron) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the case of a wrongly convicted man on death row (John Cusack) whose fiancée (Nicole Kidman) met him as a prison pen pal.  The screening of "The Paperboy" is paired with a night honoring its star, Nicole Kidman.  I'd celebrate the New York debut of my peeing on Zac Efron, too. And did we mention it's narrated by Macy Gray?  Perfection. [Bryce J. Renninger]

READ MORE: CANNES REVIEW: Is Lee Daniels' 'The Paperboy' So Bad Its Good? Only If That's What You Want From It.

“Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out” (Sept. 29, Oct. 2)
Though Marina Zenovich’s follow-up to her provocative 2008 doc “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” screened at Toronto, it was overshadowed by the multitude of high-profile narrative films on tap throughout the Canadian festival. So this new doc’s U.S. premiere Saturday, Sept. 29, will be audiences’ first real exposure to Zenovich’s investigation of everything that happened in the unresolved 1978 statutory rape case against Polanski in the aftermath of revelations brought to light in her first film — renewed efforts to get the original case dismissed in L.A., Polanski’s nine-month house arrest in Switzerland and inter-governmental negotiations that eventually led to his release. New in this sort-of-sequel are extensive interviews with grown-up victim Samantha Geimer and her mother, and Zenovich, much as with Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky in their “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations,” becoming a part of the story herself. [Jay A. Fernandez]

"Room 237."
"Room 237."
"Room 237" (Oct. 4 & 8)
Stanley Kubrick's 1980 Stephen King adaptation "The Shining" endures for many reasons -- from its supremely horrific mood to the technical feats used to create it. However, the lively voices in "Room 237" take that admiration to an entirely new plane of awareness. A search for deeper meanings in Kubrick's movie, Rodney Ascher's film is a brilliant collage of interviews with academics and other experts in the art of textual analysis. Jazzing up a process usually reserved for scholarly pursuits, Ascher combines reasonable interpretations of "The Shining" with hilariously extreme conclusions -- but in every case, the narrator's authority over their own ideas makes even the battiest theories sound credible. The takeaway isn't just that "The Shining" is a rich text, but that its richness is a paragon of the magically subjective experience that all great cinema provides. [Eric Kohn]

"Tabu" (Oct. 10 & 14)
Ever since it premiered at this year's Berlinale, "Tabu," from Portugal's Miguel Gomes, has been the talk of the town wherever it screens.  The film, surreal and shot in black-and-white, spans two times.  One, contemporary Lisbon; the second, a Portuguese colony in the 1960's. Citing the head-scratching crocodile, our own Eric Kohn compares the film to Apichatpong Weerasethakul's work in his review from Berlin.  [Bryce J. Renninger]
 


 

This article is related to: New York Film Festival