The New York Film Festival is rolling out a “reshaped” version of its Revivals section for this year’s edition of the festival, with a rich assortment of repertory cinema that runs the gamut from beloved classics to rarities seeking new life. The lineup includes a Tony Leung double bill, thanks to Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “Flowers of Shanghai” and Wong Kar Wai’s “In the Mood for Love,” while Joyce Chopra’s 1986 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, “Smooth Talk,” shows off a breakout performance by a young Laura Dern.
Other highlights include Jia Zhangke’s rarely screened “Xiao Wu,” Mohammad Reza Aslani’s rediscovered “The Chess Game of the Wind,” and Béla Tarr’s black-and-white noir, “Damnation.” Opening night filmmaker Steve McQueen also had a hand in the selection: he’s opted to screen Jean Vigo’s “Zero for Conduct,” which he says inspired his latest project, a five-film anthology series, the first of which will open the festival.
“We are thrilled with our selections for Revivals, a section reshaped for the 2020 edition of NYFF to showcase the relevance, the vitality, and the beauty of yesterday’s cinema,” said Florence Almozini, FLC Senior Programmer at Large, in an official statement. “The program covers the ’70s to the ’90s, from Europe to Asia to the U.S., and features seminal works by Wong Kar Wai, Joyce Chopra, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Marie-Claude Treilhou, William Klein, Jia Zhangke, and more, in outstanding restorations. Together, these films reveal an enduring influence on our collective sense of cinema, culturally and politically, for filmmakers as well as audience members.”
As indicated by festival brass earlier this summer, this year’s NYFF is going to operate differently than it has in previous incarnations. The event will combine a brand-new virtual presence with carefully designed outdoor screenings, including two drive-ins. To that end, “limited rentals” for Revivals selections “Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris” and “Zero for Conduct” will be available for free to NYFF audiences. Final screening plans for the rest of the slate have not yet been announced, but will roll out in the coming weeks.
As IndieWire reported earlier this month, the 58th edition of the festival will open with Steve McQueen’s “Lovers Rock,” with the festival also playing home to two other features that comprise McQueen’s ambitious new “Small Axe” series in its main slate. Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” will screen as the festival’s centerpiece. Last week, the festival also announced that it will close out its festivities with Azazel Jacobs’ “French Exit,” which will make its world premiere as the closing night selection of the upcoming festival.
Its robust Main Slate was also announced, including new films from Garrett Bradley, Heidi Ewing, Philippe Garrel, Hong Sangsoo, Jia Zhangke, Christian Petzold, Sam Pollard, and Frederick Wiseman.
The Revivals section is programmed by Florence Almozini and Dan Sullivan with program advising by Gina Telaroli. Check out this year’s Revivals lineup below, with all descriptions care of NYFF.
“The Chess Game of the Wind”
Mohammad Reza Aslani, Iran, 1976, 93m
Farsi with English subtitles
An unheralded landmark of Iranian cinema, Mohammad Reza Aslani’s debut feature is set during the rule of the Qajar dynasty and chronicles the fallout when a noble family’s matriarch passes away, kindling tensions new and old among her heirs. Screened publicly just once and long thought lost after the 1979 Revolution, “The Chess Game of the Wind” evokes the work of Luchino Visconti in its sumptuous, refined, and poetic rendering of aristocratic decadence, the passage of time, the ties that bind, and the desires that set us against one another. Featuring a remarkable score by the trailblazing female film composer Sheyda Gharachedaghi and masterfully lensed by Houshang Baharlou with a candle-lit grandeur reminiscent of Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon,” “The Chess Game of the Wind” ranks among the great recent (re)discoveries of world cinema. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata and The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project. Funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.
Béla Tarr, Hungary, 1986, 116m
Hungarian with English subtitles
A key turning point in Béla Tarr’s career, the first of the director’s six collaborations with novelist László Krasznahorkai signaled a visible shift away from the verité realism of his early features and toward the highly stylized, black-and-white otherworldliness that would become his signature. The story is a kind of desiccated film noir, focusing on the efforts of a dour loner, Karrer (Miklós Székely B.), to steal back his estranged lover—a lounge singer (Vali Kerekes) in a funereal bar named Titanik—from her debt-addled husband. Karrer lures the husband into a smuggling scheme that will force him to leave town, but these well-laid plans soon go awry, and the characters play out their doomed destiny through enveloping layers of rain, shadow, and despair. An Arbelos Films release. New 4K restoration by the Hungarian National Film Institute – Film Archive.
“Flowers of Shanghai”
Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 1998, 113m
Cantonese and Shanghainese with English subtitles
An NYFF regular from relatively early in his career, Hou Hsiao-hsien made his seventh festival appearance with this ravishingly beautiful chamber drama that follows the intertwined fortunes and intrigues of four “flower girls” serving in the opulent brothels of fin-de-siècle 19th-century Shanghai. The great Tony Leung stars as the melancholy Master Wang, torn between his affections for the jealous, demanding Crimson (Michiko Hada) and the more eager-to-please Jasmin (Vicky Wei), and gradually realizing that he is looking for love in all the wrong places. Hou’s first film set outside his native Taiwan, “Flowers of Shanghai” is a transfixing masterwork and an achingly, intoxicatingly sensuous landmark of ’90s world cinema. A Janus Films release. Restored in 4K in 2019 from the 35mm original negative by Shochiku in collaboration with the Shanghai International Film Festival at the L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. With funding provided by Jaeger-LeCoultre.
“The Hourglass Sanatorium”
Wojciech Has, Poland, 1973, 124m
Polish with English subtitles
The collective trauma of the Holocaust looms over this adaptation of Jewish author Bruno Schulz’s visionary and poetic reflection on the nature of time and death, which won the Jury Award at Cannes. Józef (Jan Nowicki) finds himself aboard a train en route to visit his father in the hospital; he arrives to find the hospital in a state that’s a bit less than… orderly. From there, past and present, reality and fantasy, collapse into each other, unleashing a surreal phantasmagoria that is by turns psychedelic, paranoiac, elegiac, funny, and everywhere haunted by the specter of death: both Józef’s prophesied death and the death of a Europe that existed before the rise of Hitler, the horrors of the Holocaust, and the carnage of World War II. New 4K restoration from the original camera negative, produced by Fixafilm (Łukasz Cerenka, Andrzej Łucjanek), supervised by Łukasz Ceranka, and curated by Daniel Bird.
“In the Mood for Love”
Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 2000, 98m
Cantonese and Shanghainese with English subtitles
Wong Kar Wai’s swoon-inducing instant classic made Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung the star-crossed dream team of the early 2000s art house. They play next-door neighbors who, upon discovering that their spouses are carrying on an affair, start a platonic romance of their own amid the alleyways and noodle shops of 1960s Hong Kong. The breathless, will-they-won’t-they tension is pushed to intoxicating heights by the luscious mise en scène: Christopher Doyle’s caressing cinematography; the sensuous use of slo-mo; the red- and green-saturated and patterned print-galore period art direction (that wallpaper!); and the haunting, endlessly repeating strains of Nat King Cole. “Quizás, quizás, quizás…” A Janus Films release. This 4K digital restoration was undertaken from the 35mm original camera negative by the Criterion Collection, in collaboration with Jet Tone Films, L’Immagine Ritrovata, One Cool, and Robert Mackenzie Sound. Supervised and approved by Wong Kar Wai.
“Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris”
Terence Dixon, U.K./France, 1971, 27m
This rare film document of one of the towering figures of 20th-century American literature—photographed by Jack Hazan (“Rude Boy,” “A Bigger Splash”)—captures the iconic writer in several symbolic locations, including the Place de la Bastille. As Hazan recounts: “Things don’t go to plan for him and the film crew when a couple of young Black Vietnam draft dodgers impose themselves on the American. Baldwin wrestles with being a role model to the Black youths, denouncing Western colonialism and crimes against African Americans while at the same time demonstrating his mastery and understanding of the culture he supposedly despises.” Restored from a 2K scan of the 16mm original color negative A&B rolls and the 16mm optical negative. Scanning services by UPP, Prague. Picture and audio restoration, grading, and mastering by Mark Rance, Watchmaker Films, London. The film is presented in 1.37:1.
“Muhammad Ali, the Greatest”
William Klein, France, 1974, 123m
English and French with English subtitles
A masterful study of one of the greatest boxers of all time and a key cultural and political figure of his era, Klein’s portrait of Muhammad Ali ranks among the most enjoyable, provocative, and candid sports documentaries. Focusing on the lead-ups to and aftermaths of three of Ali’s defining bouts—the two fights with Sonny Liston in 1964 and ’65, and the “Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman in ’74—Klein vividly captures Ali in his element as well as the sociopolitical climate surrounding the champ. Featuring some of the most enthralling footage of Ali boasting ever committed to celluloid, “Muhammad Ali, the Greatest” is an astonishing work that renders its beyond-charismatic subject in all his prowess (verbal and physical), complexity, and majesty. Presented by Films Paris New York and ARTE. First digital 2K restoration from the original 16mm negative scanned in 4K carried out with the support of the CNC. Image works were carried out by ECLAIR Classics and by L.E.DIAPASON for the sound.
“Simone Barbes or Virtue” / “Simone Barbès ou la vertu”
Marie-Claude Treilhou, France, 1980, 77m
French with English subtitles
A criminally overlooked work from the post-post-New Wave era of French cinema, Marie-Claude Treilhou’s feature debut assumes the form of a triptych, following leather-clad porno theater usher Simone (Ingrid Bourgoin) as she banters with her coworker (Martine Simonet) while watching the eccentric strangers puttering in and out of the cinema’s lobby; then clocks out and heads off to meet her girlfriend, a waitress at a lesbian club; and later, has an encounter with a lonely man on the prowl (Cahiers du cinéma critic Michel Delahaye). But the minimalist plot of “Simone Barbes” almost seems besides the point: Treilhou’s film is saturated with style and atmosphere, the chargedness of each throwaway gesture, idle remark, or seemingly empty moment yielding a character study unlike any other. 4K scan and restoration by Cosmodigital for La Traverse with the support of the CNC.
Joyce Chopra, U.S., 1985, 92m
In her first lead role, 18-year-old Laura Dern gave one of her most stirring, layered performances in an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s 1966 short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” She stars as Connie Wyatt, a teenager who spends her summer days moping around the house and exploring her sexuality in the Northern California suburbs. But the thrills and innocence of youth are forever shaded by the predatory behavior of an older man named Arnold Friend (Treat Williams) whom she encounters at a drive-in. “Smooth Talk” won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize in 1986 and remains a carefully observed, shockingly powerful story of manipulation and deviance. A Janus Films release. New 4K restoration undertaken by the Criterion Collection.
Jia Zhangke, China, 1997, 112m
Mandarin with English subtitles
Among the most essential filmmakers of the past several decades, Jia Zhangke launched his career with this, his 1997 debut (featured in New Directors/New Films in 1999) about a pickpocket struggling to keep up with the current of China’s transformation into an economic powerhouse. Abandoned by his friends and associates and stymied by the terrain shifting beneath him, the titular and somewhat nihilistic thief stumbles upon a chance at love—or at least a human connection—and finds himself confronted with the question: is this any way to live? Even in this early work, Jia’s unsurpassed attentiveness to the texture of quotidian life amid a society in flux is powerfully in evidence, presaging his current status as cinema’s great portraitist of the latter-day Chinese behemoth. Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in collaboration with Jia Zhangke and in association with MK2. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.
Steve McQueen Selects:
“Zero for Conduct” / “Zéro de conduite”
Jean Vigo, France, 1933, 49m
French with English subtitles
Among the greatest artworks about the anarchic energies of youth, Jean Vigo’s autobiographical mid-length film endures as a singular masterpiece whose influence and reputation have only grown in the decades since his untimely death at age 29 a year later after the film’s release. Set in an all-boys boarding school, the film follows the students as they set about turning the institution’s uptight rules on their head. A delirious and visually astonishing achievement and an acknowledged inspiration for Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” and Lindsay Anderson’s “if…” (among countless other films), “Zero for Conduct” is at once a sweet ode to childhood and a dreamlike exaltation of youthful chaos. Restored in 4K by Gaumont in association with The Film Foundation and La Cinémathèque française with the support of the Centre National de la Cinématographie. Restoration performed at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna and Paris.
The festival will run September 17 through October 11. Further additions to the slate, including Currents, Spotlight, and Talks, will be announced in the coming weeks.