The emphasis of this year’s New York Film Festival is less on premieres and more on presenting what the selection committee—NYFF director Kent Jones and Film Society of Lincoln Center programmers Dennis Lim and Florence Almozini—simply considers to be the outstanding films of the year so far. The fifty-sixth edition, which opens tomorrow with Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite and runs through October 14, naturally features titles gleaned from the lineups of festivals such as Cannes and Locarno, Venice and Toronto, but also new restorations, dozens of short films by renowned filmmakers and fresh discoveries, and, as announced just yesterday, a series of live talks with the likes of Frederick Wiseman, Tamara Jenkins, Paul Dano, and Zoe Kazan. Talking to Jones and Lim on a recent edition of the Close-Up podcast, FSLC editorial director Michael Koresky asks about several highlights of the Main Slate, but also touches on a few special events, the Spotlight on Documentary, and the Projections program formerly known as Views from the Avant-Garde.
“If not one of the most jam-packed programs in the festival’s history, it is one of the more geographically far-flung ones, with thirty films from twenty-two different countries comprising the Main Slate,” notes Slant Magazine at the top of its collection of reviews—twenty-five and counting. You’ll find briefer overviews at the Film Stage, where the focus is on fifteen “under-the-radar highlights”; IndieWire, with its capsule previews of ten titles; at Flavorwire, where Jason Bailey writes up ten “must-see movies”; and the Playlist, which has ten more. There’ll be four programs of short films, and for Film International, Gary M. Kramer writes about two of them, New York Stories and the second round of International Shorts.
In The Favourite, which premiered in Venice, Abigail (Emma Stone), described by an ambitious eighteenth-century politician (Nicholas Hoult) as “once a Lady, now a nothing,” arrives at the court of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and poses an immediate threat to the Queen’s confidante (Rachel Weisz). “From the first explosively satisfying use of the word ‘cunt’ to the final three-way comeuppance,” writes Jessica Kiang at the Playlist, “The Favourite is a bawdy, bacchanalian beauty that manages to be both filthy-minded and a little heartbreaking, while among its embarrassing riches it boasts not one but three of what will undoubtedly be the best female performances of the year.”
For Time’s Stephanie Zacharek, Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) makes “love ’em or hate ’em pictures . . . At his best, he’s a solid deadpan satirist, like a more acidic Buñuel; at his worst, he’s a cinematic sadist, seemingly seeking only to wish you and yours a very, very bad day.” But she heartily recommends The Favourite, especially if you’ve got a taste for “treachery, manipulative erotic escapades, and flamboyant early-eighteenth-century fit-and-flare shooting outfits for ladies (courtesy of costume goddess Sandy Powell).” At the Film Stage, Leonardo Goi agrees that The Favourite is “a joy for the eyes. Robbie Ryan’s cinematography alternates camera spins and fisheye lenses, capturing some stupefying interiors and the distorted perspective of solitary royals populating them . . . Endlessly quotable and serendipitously timely—all the more so considering the whole project was conceived nine years ago—The Favourite is a zany, piercing close-up on three women so replete with swagger as to reduce their male counterparts to disposable extras.”
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