This year’s New York Film Festival has just unveiled a slew of Special Events to round out its already full-to-bursting lineup, and it includes some late-breaking entries to previously announced sections and a selection of brand new events that are very special indeed. Highlights include a trio of documentary premieres, including Susan Lacy’s “Spielberg” (focused on the eponymous director, with both Lacy and her subject set to appear at the festival), along with Jennifer Lebeau’s Bob Dylan concert film “Trouble No More,” and Susan Froemke’s “The Opera House,” a history of the Metropolitan Opera and a love letter to the art form that will (appropriately enough) screen at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.
Other standouts include four brand-new films from Claude Lanzmann, a sparkling new restoration of G.W. Pabst’s “Pandora’s Box.” Elsewhere, Kate Winslet will be on hand for a career-spanning chat and legendary cinematographers Vittorio Storaro and Ed Lachman will appear in a two-fer Master Class in which both men will discuss their new films (the Closing and Centerpiece films of the festival, incidentally) and their previous works with NYFF Director Kent Jones.
The festival has also added a new feature to their already wide-ranging Retrospective honoring Robert Mitchum’s centenary: Bruce Weber’s “Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast,” a work-in-progress portrait of Mitchum the man that Weber began shooting more than twenty years ago.
Below are the newest additions to the NYFF 2017 lineup, with full synopses provided by the festival. Other lineup additions will be announced in the coming weeks.
The New York Film Festival runs September 28 – October 15.
A Conversation with Kate Winslet
For more than twenty years, Kate Winslet has proven herself one of the most expressive actors in movies, from her astonishing breakouts in Heavenly Creatures (1994), Sense and Sensibility (1995), and Titanic (1997), to the increasingly internalized characterizations of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Revolutionary Road (2008), The Reader (2008), for which she won an Oscar, and Steve Jobs (2015), a NYFF centerpiece. This year, Winslet stars in the NYFF festival closer, Wonder Wheel, directed by Woody Allen, and her blistering, unpredictable, vanity-free performance is destined to be remembered as one of her greatest. Join Kate Winslet in a special live onstage event in which she talks about this latest role, and her career in general.
Master Class: Vittorio Storaro and Ed Lachman
The cinematographers behind two of this year’s true visual wonders—titled, appropriately, Wonderstruck and Wonder Wheel—sit down with NYFF Director Kent Jones for a conversation about the craft of cinematography and their own astonishing careers in particular. Vittorio Storaro, who has had lengthy creative partnerships with Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Coppola, and Carlos Saura, has now worked with Woody Allen to create one of his greatest aesthetic achievements; Ed Lachman, who has worked extensively with many filmmakers from Wim Wenders to Steven Soderbergh, is now perhaps best known for his collaboration with Todd Haynes, with whom he has created a remarkable movie set in two wholly distinct lost worlds: New York in the twenties and the seventies.
Claude Lanzmann’s Four Sisters
“The Hippocratic Oath” (France, 2017, 89m)
“Baluty” (France, 2017, 64m)
“The Merry Flea” (France, 2017, 52m)
“Noah’s Ark” (France, 2017, 68m)
Since 1999, Claude Lanzmann has made several films that could be considered satellites of Shoah, comprised of interviews conducted in the 1970s that didn’t make it into the final, monumental work. He has just completed a series of four new films, built around four women from four different areas of Eastern Europe with four different destinies, each finding herself unexpectedly and improbably alive after war’s end: Ruth Elias from Ostravia, Czechoslovakia; Paula Biren from Lodz, Poland; Ada Lichtman from further south in Krakow; and Hannah Marton from Cluj, or Kolozsvár, in Transylvania. “What they have in common,” wrote Lanzmann, “apart from the specific horrors each one of them was subjected to, is their intelligence, an incisive, sharp and carnal intelligence that rejects all pretence and false reasons—in a word—idealism.” What is so remarkable about Lanzmann’s films is the way that they stay within the immediate present tense, where the absolute horror of the shoah is always happening.
“The Opera House,” Dir. Susan Froemke, USA, 2017, 108m, World Premiere
Renowned documentarian Susan Froemke takes viewers through the history of the Metropolitan Opera via priceless archival stills, footage, and interviews (with, among many others, the great soprano Leontyne Price). The film follows the development of the glorious institution from its beginnings at the old opera house on 39th Street to the storied reign of Rudolph Bing to the long-gestating move to Lincoln Center, the construction of which traces a fascinating byway through the era of urban renewal and Robert Moses’s transformation of New York. Most of all, though, this is a film about the love for and devotion to the preservation of an art form, and the upkeep of a home where it can live and thrive. This screening will take place at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.
“Pandora’s Box,” Dir. G.W. Pabst, Germany, 1929, 143m
Pabst’s immortal film version of the Frank Wedekind play gave us one of the most enduring presences in cinema. “Is the movie’s resident Pandora, Louise Brooks, inside the character of Lulu or is Lulu inside her?” wrote J. Hoberman in The Village Voice. As Brooks herself put it to Kenneth Tynan, “It was clever of Pabst to know even before he met me that I possessed the tramp essence of Lulu.” Lulu, in Hoberman’s words, was a “new kind of femme fatale—generous, manipulative, heedless, blank, democratic in her affections, ambiguous in her sexuality.” She has inspired countless helmet-haired imitators, but she still reigns supreme. Featuring the world premiere of a new orchestral score composed and conducted by Jonathan Ragonese. A Janus Films release. DCP courtesy of the Deutsche Kinemathek from the restoration based on elements contributed by the Cinémathèque Française, Gosfilmofond and the Národní Filmový Archiv in Prague undertaken at Cineteca di Bologna. The work was helmed by the George Eastman House and Big Sound with funding provided by Hugh M. Hefner. This evening is generously supported by Ira Resnick.
“Spielberg, Dir. Susan Lacy, USA, 2017, 147m, World Premiere
Susan Lacy’s new film traces the private, public, and artistic development of one of cinema’s true giants, from his early love of moviemaking as a kid growing up in all-American suburbia, through his sudden rise to superstardom with Jaws, to his establishment of a film-and-TV empire with DreamWorks and beyond. All along the way, Spielberg has approached every new film as if it were his first. Featuring interviews with friends and contemporaries in the “New Hollywood” (Francis Coppola, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese); key artistic collaborators (including Tom Hanks, John Williams, longtime DP Janusz Kamiński); and, the film’s most touching presences, Spielberg’s beloved sisters and parents, Arnold and Leah. An HBO Documentary Film.
“Trouble No More,” Dir. Jennifer Lebeau, USA, 2017, 59m, World Premiere
Like every other episode in the life of Bob Dylan, the “born again” period that supposedly began with the release of Slow Train Coming (1979) and supposedly ended with Shot of Love (1981) has been endlessly scrutinized in the press. Less attention has been paid to the magnificent music he made. This very special film consists of truly electrifying video footage, much of it thought to have been lost for years and all newly restored, shot at shows in Toronto and Buffalo on the last leg of the ’79-’80 tour (with an amazing band: Muscle Shoals veteran Spooner Oldham and Terry Young on keyboards, Little Feat’s Fred Tackett on guitar, Tim Drummond on bass, the legendary Jim Keltner on drums and Clydie King, Gwen Evans, Mona Lisa Young, Regina McCrary and Mary Elizabeth Bridges on vocals) interspersed with sermons written by Luc Sante and beautifully delivered by Michael Shannon. More than just a record of some concerts, Trouble No More is a total experience.
“Without a Net,” Dir. Rory Kennedy, USA, 2017, 56m
Many of us assume that the world, or at least the country, is now fully connected, but throughout American classrooms there exists a digital divide. In a shockingly large number of schools, access to technology, connectivity, and teacher-training is nonexistent. Many of those underserved schools are located just a few miles from fully equipped schools with technologically adept teachers in better funded districts. This new film from Rory Kennedy, in which we see the situation through the eyes of students, educators, policy experts, and advocates across the country, clearly lays out the steps we must take a to bring our public education system into the 21st century. Verizon, a producer of the film, has over the last five years, committed more than $160 million to help close the digital divide.
Film Comment at NYFF Events
“A Gentle Creature,” Dir. Sergei Loznitsa, France/Germany/Lithuania/The Netherlands, 2017, 143m, North American Premiere
This tragicomic pageant by Sergei Loznitsa (My Joy, NYFF48) brings a roiling energy and a lunatic sense of desperation to its larger-than-life vision of today’s Russia. Inspired by a Dostoevsky short story, A Gentle Creature follows an unnamed woman (Vasilina Makovtseva) moving through a prison town underworld after attempting to visit her incarcerated husband. Loznitsa uses the town as a microcosm for a country where corruption and authority are so intertwined as to be indistinguishable. A Gentle Creature brings its own genius to a Russian tradition of social panoramas, and as the film takes a turn into the carnivalesque and the infernal, it gets at the deeply troubled slumber of a beleaguered country.
The Cinema of Experience
At this year’s NYFF, filmmakers are rising to the challenge of representing race and immigration at a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Our guests will discuss how cinematic technique is used to reflect such experiences and what is different about the latest generation of storytelling.
For the second year, Film Comment gives you the rare chance to see some of today’s most important filmmakers in dialogue with each other. A selection of directors whose films are screening at this edition of NYFF will talk together in a discussion moderated by Film Comment editor-in-chief Nicolas Rapold.
In what is becoming an annual tradition, Film Comment contributing critics and editors gather for the festival’s last weekend and talk about the films they’ve seen, discussing—or arguing about—the selections in the lineup, from Main Slate and beyond.
“Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast,” Bruce Weber, 2017, USA
In the late 1990s, the great photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber managed to convince Robert Mitchum to appear before his camera for a filmed portrait. Weber shot Mitchum in 35mm black and white, hanging with friends and cronies in restaurants and hotel rooms and singing before a microphone in a studio recording standards for a projected album. When Mitchum passed away in 1997, Weber parked his beloved project and it was some time before he went back into his footage. Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast (a great title, from a Julie London song), still a work in progress, is a beautifully textured full-throttle portrait of a man who came from—and for many was the very embodiment of—a bygone era, speaking and enacting its prejudices, its longings, and its charms. He was also a great artist with the sensibility of a poet, as you’ll see.