By Peter Knegt | Indiewire August 16, 2012 at 4:19PM
LIFE OF PI (2012)
Director: Ang Lee
Based on the book that has sold more than seven million copies and spent years on the bestseller list, Academy Award winner Lee's LIFE OF PI takes place over three continents, two oceans, many years, and a wide world of imagination. Lee’s vision, coupled with game-changing technological breakthroughs, has turned a story long thought un-filmable into a totally original cinematic event and the first truly international all-audience motion picture. LIFE OF PI follows a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While marooned on a lifeboat, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with the ship¹s only other survivor…a fearsome Bengal tiger. A Twentieth Century Fox release.
LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (2012) 109min
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Fresh from the triumph of his Tuscany-set CERTIFIED COPY (NYFF 2010), master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami travels even further afield from his native Iran for this mysteriously beautiful romantic drama filmed entirely in Japan. LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE revolves around the brief encounter between an elderly professor (the wonderful 81-year-old stage actor Tadashi Okuno, here playing his first leading role in a film) and a sociology student (Rin Takanashi) who moonlights as a high-end escort. Dispatched to the old man by her boss—one of the professor’s former students—the young woman finds her latest client less interested in sex than in cooking her soup, talking, and playing old Ella Fitzgerald records (like the one that gives the film its allusive title). Eventually, night gives way to day and a tense standoff with the student’s insanely jealous boyfriend (Ryō Kase); but as usual in Kiarostami, nothing is quite as it appears on the surface. Are these characters—who conjure in one another the specters of regret and roads not taken—meeting by chance, or is it fate? Is this love, or merely something like it? A Sundance Selects release.
LINES OF WELLINGTON (Linhas de Wellington) (2012) 151min
Director: Valeria Sarmiento
After conquering Spain, Napoleon Bonaparte sent a powerful army to invade Portugal in 1810. The French plowed through the resistance mounted against them until, as they approached Lisbon, they were met by a combined British and Portuguese army under the command of the Viscount Wellington. That’s the general historical outline for Valeria Sarmiento’s extraordinarily intimate epic of the Peninsular War. Along the way, we witness love affairs and treachery, noble action and selfish cruelty, from the highest social echelons to the most humble quarters. Prepared by the late Raul Ruiz from a screenplay by Carlos Saboga (Mysteries of Lisbon), LINES OF WELLINGTON was completed by Sarmiento—Ruiz’s longtime editor as well as his widow—who has created a revealing portrait of life during what has been called one of the first examples of “total war.” The all-star cast includes Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Elsa Zylberstein, Marisa Paredes, and John Malkovich as Wellington.
MEMORIES LOOK AT ME (Ji Yi Wang Zhe Wo) (2012) 91min
Director: Song Fang
Song Fang’s remarkable directorial debut, in which she travels from Beijing to Nanjing for a visit with her family (many of whom play themselves), gracefully expounds on several poignant topics: how an adult child’s relationship with her parents changes as they grow older, and how to negotiate one’s place as a single woman in a world of married couples. Song, who many will remember for her wonderful performance as the nanny and aspiring filmmaker in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon (NYFF 2007), perfectly captures the rhythms of brief sojourns home, trips filled with reunions (both joyful and heart-wrenching), reminiscences, and moments of feeling painfully out of place. Winner of the Best First Feature prize at this year’s Locarno Film Festival.
NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET (La Noche de enfrente) (2012) 107min
Director: Raul Ruiz
In August 2011, the cinema sadly lost one of its most magical artists, director Raul Ruiz—but, happily, not before he left us with one final masterpiece. Returning to his native Chile, Ruiz introduces us here to Don Celso, a bespectacled office worker heading into retirement. After an evening’s poetry class, Celso starts to narrate several tales from his childhood to his teacher, guiding the audience both within and outside the film through various levels of reality that mix the private and the public, the historical and the mythic, the here and the beyond. The journey is, of course, full of Ruizian flights of visual and verbal wit, where resonances between words and images form connections that at times defy traditional storytelling. NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET is both a moving meditation on one man’s mortality as well as an insightful summation of an artist’s brilliant career. A Cinema Guild release. Ruiz will also have his work presented during NYFF’s soon-to-be-announced Views From the Avant-Garde schedule.
NO (2012) 110min
Director: Pablo Larrain
In 1988, in an effort to extend and legitimize its rule, the Pinochet military junta announced it would hold a plebiscite to get the people’s permission to stay in power. Despite being given 15 minutes a day to plead its case on television, the anti-Pinochet opposition was divided and without a clear message. Enter Rene Saavedra (an excellent Gael Garcia Bernal), an ad man who, after a career pushing soft drinks and soap, sets out to sell Chileans on democracy and freedom. Winner of the top prize in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, NO is little short of a miracle: shooting on U-matic video tape to give the film the look of the Eighties, filmmaker Pablo Larrain (TONY MANERO, POST MORTEM) has created a smart, funny and totally engrossing political thriller with a powerful resonance for our times. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
NOT FADE AWAY (2012) 112min
Director: David Chase
The time is the 1960s, on the cusp of the summer of love. The place, suburban New Jersey. The music, 100 percent pure rock and roll. For his feature filmmaking debut, The Sopranos creator David Chase has crafted a wise, tender and richly atmospheric portrait of a group of friends trying to do what so many awkward suburban kids of the time dreamed of doing: form their own rock band. And these guys are good, fronted by a preternaturally gifted singer-songwriter (terrific newcomer John Magaro) who’s a dead ringer for the young Bob Dylan, even if dad (James Gandolfini) doesn’t take kindly to seeing junior strut around in long hair and Cuban heels. Masterfully capturing the era’s conflicting attitudes and ideologies, all set to a killer soundtrack produced by the legendary Steven Van Zandt, NOT FADE AWAY just might be the best coming-of-age movie since Barry Levinson’s Diner—and one of the best rock movies ever. A Paramount Vantage release.
OUR CHILDREN (À perdre la raison) (2012) 111min
Director: Joachim Lafosse
How does it happen that a vibrant, capable young woman loses her sense of self-worth and ends up destroying what she most loves? Belgian director Joachim Lafosse structures an all too familiar contemporary story that was headline news in Europe as a classical tragedy. Émilie Dequenne more than fulfills the promise of her award-winning performance in the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta with this portrait of a young school teacher who marries a Moroccan immigrant (Tahar Rahim) and has four children with him, while gradually becoming aware of how much he is in thrall to his mentor, a domineering doctor (Niels Arestrup). Rahim and Arestrup reprise their father/son relationship from Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet but with an even more corrupt twist. Lafosse’s direction of this perverse narrative of patriarchal power and female oppression is like steel wrapped in silk.
Director: Brian De palma
Brian De Palma exhibits great panache and a diabolical mastery of frequent, small surprises in his first fiction feature since his magical comedy-of-coincidences, FEMME FATALE. With tongue planted in cheek, or maybe not—it’s up to you to decide—De Palma turns French director Alain Corneau’s 2010 LOVE CRIME into a far more droll, erotic tale of female competition. Noomi Rapace more than matches her performance in the original GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO as the assistant to an unscrupulous advertising honcho (Rachel McAdams), who steals her ideas and acts as if it’s all good sport. It’s great fun until De Palma zeros in on the fury in Rapace’s eyes. The De Palma trademarks are all present and deployed with coolly calculated abandon: a brilliant use of split screen; a confusion of identical twins; dreams within dreams; and shoes to die for.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR (Après Mai) (2012) 122min
Director: Olivier Assayas
In the months after the heady weeks of May ’68, a group of young people search for a way to continue the revolution believed to be just beginning. For Gilles (newcomer Clément Mettayer), this means having to balance his political commitments with his desire to explore painting and filmmaking; for his girlfriend Christine (GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE star Lola Créton), this means throwing herself wholeheartedly into the task of organizing. Olivier Assayas (CARLOS, SUMMER HOURS) here describes the sentimental education of a generation that was too young to have been on the barricades; he brilliantly captures its explorations of new lifestyles, the arguments about strategies and tactics, and above all its music, a constant presence that becomes something like the artistic unconscious of an era. The period details are perfect, but what makes this film so special is the sense it conveys of history as lived experience. A Sundance Selects release.
TABU (2012) 118min
Director: Miguel Gomes
The ghosts of F.W. Murnau, Luis Buñuel, Joseph Cornell and Jack Smith hover above Miguel Gomes’s third feature—an exquisite, absurdist entry in the canon of surrealist cinema. Shot in ephemeral black-and-white celluloid, TABU is movie-as-dream—an evocation of irrational desires, extravagant coincidences, and cheesy nostalgia that nevertheless is grounded in serious feeling and beliefs, even anti-colonialist politics. There is a story, which is delightful to follow and in which the cart comes before the horse: the first half is set in contemporary Lisbon, the second, involving two of the same characters, in a Portuguese colony in the early 1960s. “Be My Baby” belted in Portuguese, a wandering crocodile, and a passionate, ill-advised coupling seen through gently moving mosquito netting make for addled movie magic. The winner of the Alfred Bauer Prize (for a work of particular innovation) and FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. An Adopt Films release.
YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET (Vous n'avez encore rien vu) (2012) 115min
Director: Alain Resnais
From its impish title to its vibrant formal experimentation, YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET proves that, at age 90, master French filmmaker Alain Resnais (HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, WILD GRASS) is indeed still full of surprises. Based on two works by the playwright Jean Anouilh, the film opens with a who’s-who of French acting royalty (including Mathieu Amalric, Michel Piccoli and frequent Resnais muse Sabine Azéma) being summoned to the reading of a late playwright’s last will and testament. Upon their arrival, the playwright (Denis Podalydès) appears on a TV screen from beyond the grave and asks his erstwhile collaborators to evaluate a recording of an experimental theater company performing his Eurydice—a play they themselves all appeared in over the years. But as the video unspools, something curious happens: instead of watching passively, these seasoned thespians begin acting out the text alongside their youthful avatars, looking back into the past rather like mythic Orpheus himself. Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Eric Gautier on stylized sets that recall the French poetic realism of the 1930s, YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET is an alternately wry and wistful valentine to actors and the art of performance from a director long fascinated by the intersection of life, theater and cinema.