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NYFF 2021 to Open with Joel Coen’s ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth,’ Starring Washington and McDormand

The fall festival will kick off with Coen's black-and-white "work of stark chiaroscuro and incantatory rage."

The Tragedy of Macbeth

“The Tragedy of Macbeth”


This year’s 59th New York Film Festival will open with some classic Shakespearean tragedy, as only Joel Coen could render it. Film at Lincoln Center has today announced that the world premiere of Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, will serve as the festival’s Opening Night event on September 24. This year’s festival will take place September 24 – October 10, and will feature a combination of in-person, outdoor, and virtual screenings, with a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with state and city medical experts.

“The New York Film Festival is a place where I’ve been watching movies as an audience member and showing them as a filmmaker for almost 50 years,” said director Coen in an official statement. “It’s a real privilege and a thrill to be opening the Festival this year with ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth.'”

Today’s announcement bills the film as “a work of stark chiaroscuro and incantatory rage” and that this “boldly inventive visualization of The Scottish Play is an anguished film that stares, mouth agape, at a sorrowful world undone by blind greed and thoughtless ambition. In meticulously world-weary performances, a strikingly inward Denzel Washington is the man who would be king, and an effortlessly Machiavellian Frances McDormand is his Lady, a couple driven to political assassination — and deranged by guilt — after the cunning prognostications of a trio of ‘weird sisters’ (a virtuoso physical inhabitation by Kathryn Hunter). Though it echoes the forbidding visual designs — and aspect ratios — of Laurence Olivier’s classic 1940s Shakespeare adaptations, as well as the bloody medieval madness of Kurosawa’s ‘Throne of Blood,’ Coen’s tale of sound and fury is entirely his own — and undoubtedly one for our moment, a frightening depiction of amoral political power-grabbing that, like its hero, ruthlessly barrels ahead into the inferno.”

“We can’t wait to welcome New York Film Festival audiences back to Lincoln Center this fall, and what a way to do that!” said Eugene Hernandez, Director of the New York Film Festival, in a statement. “With Joel Coen, Frances McDormand, Denzel Washington, and our friends at Apple and A24 on Opening Night at Alice Tully Hall, we’re setting the stage for a momentous return to our roots. Last year was a deeply meaningful edition of NYFF; our Festival traveled to Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and around the country via our Virtual Cinema. This year we’re back in our Upper West Side home, but you’ll also find us exploring new venues and ways to connect with moviegoers in person, outdoors, and online — stay tuned!”

Further programming announcements are expected in the coming days, including Main Slate picks, plus the Closing Night and Centerpiece galas, and much more.

The NYFF Main Slate selection committee, chaired by Dennis Lim, also includes Hernandez, Florence Almozini, K. Austin Collins, and Rachel Rosen.

Despite the hardships COVID-19 has brought upon the festival circuit, the festival reported a historic level of attendance for its 58th edition, held last year. Part virtual, part drive-in experience, NYFF 2020 pulled in more than 70,000 viewers across all 50 states. The festival’s revised format ran longer than usual from September 17 through October 11, averaged 1.5 home viewers per virtual film rental and 2.5 attendees per drive-in ticket. According to festival presenter Film at Lincoln Center, attendance was up by 9.15 percent compared to 2019.

Festival passes are now on sale, with Early Bird pricing through Friday, July 30 only. NYFF59 tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, September 7 at noon ET, with early-access opportunities for FLC members and pass holders prior to this date.

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