Fall Festival Updates

Ulrich Seidl’s Sparta (2022)

On August 30, the day before Venice opens, the festival will present the world premiere of the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Foundation’s new 4K restoration of Stella Dallas—not King Vidor’s version from 1937, but Henry King’s silent classic from 1925. Stella, a young woman from a small factory town, marries into a society repulsed by her vulgar tastes, and she sacrifices her new life for her beloved daughter. While praising King’s direction, Pamela Hutchinson suggested a few years ago that the “key to the success of Stella Dallas” is screenwriter Frances Marion, who wrote “a flowing narrative that begins in a garden in spring and ends on a city street in the cold.”

After Noah Baumbach’s White Noise premieres in Venice, it will open the sixtieth edition of the New York Film Festival on September 30. NYFF artistic director Dennis Lim calls the Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig-starring adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel “an unequivocal triumph: a wildly entertaining and morbidly funny meditation on the way we live now that is also the director’s most ambitious and expansive film.”

Toronto (September 8 through 18) has rolled out lineups for its Wavelengths, Discovery, and Midnight Madness programs and selected ten features from up-and-coming directors to premiere in its Platform competition. Wavelengths will offer new short works from Tacita Dean, Céline Condorelli and Ben Rivers, and Kurt Walker. Among the features are critical favorites from the Berlinale such as Cyril Schäublin’s Unrest and Joana Pimenta and Adirley Queirós’s Dry Ground Burning.

From Cannes comes Albert Serra’s Pacifiction, which is set, as Carson Lund writes at Slant, on “a Polynesian island buckling under rumors of malign influence from Russia, China, and the U.S.—intimations of nuclear meddling and financial malfeasance that feel very au courant.” Dispatching to Filmmaker from Cannes, Blake Williams, too, was won over: “Loquacious, tedious, and compulsively watchable, Pacifiction shows Serra in full command of his craft, and coasts on the tension between its implied political material and the sensuous atmosphere and images.”

Discovery will spotlight twenty-four fresh voices, and Midnight Madness will open with Eric Appel’s Weird: The Al Yankovich Story, starring Daniel Radcliffe. Platform’s opening film is Frances O’Connor’s directorial debut, Emily, a portrait of Wuthering Heights author Emily Brontë. Other selections include How to Blow Up a Pipeline, an environmental thriller that Daniel Goldhaber secretly shot during the pandemic, and Stéphane Lafleur’s Viking, a sci-fi comedy about preparing for the first manned mission to Mars.

Two of the season’s most anticipated titles will cross the Atlantic following their premieres in Toronto. Hong Sangsoo’s Walk Up will be one of ten titles competing in San Sebastián’s official selection and Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery will close this year’s BFI London Film Festival on October 16. Johnson, Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, and Madelyn Cline will walk the red carpet.

San Sebastián (September 16 through 24) has also selected Christophe Honoré’s Winter Boy, the story of a teenager struggling to cope with the death of his father. The cast features Paul Kircher, Vincent Lacoste, and Juliette Binoche. Sebastián Lelio’s The Wonder, starring Florence Pugh, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Burke, and Toby Jones, is set in a nineteenth-century Irish town where a little girl claims to have survived for months without eating. And Ulrich Seidl’s Sparta completes the diptych begun with Rimini, which premiered in Berlin in February.

In Variety, Jessica Kiang called Rimini, starring Michael Thomas as Richie Bravo, an Austrian pop singer whose heyday has long passed, “a shiveringly precise slow burn that continues to burrow new tunnels in the mind long after it ends.” In Sparta, Richie’s younger brother, Ewald (Georg Friedrich), is trying to start a new life in Romania. Seidl and Veronika Franz originally wrote both stories as intertwining plotlines in a single feature but decided to separate them at the editing table.

Shifting to the present, Salamishah Tillet writes in the New York Times about the BlackStar Film Festival currently running in Philadelphia through Sunday. BlackStar “partly distinguishes itself from other festivals with its emphasis on work made exclusively by ‘Black, brown and Indigenous artists,’” writes Tillet. “But as a regular of the festival, I’ve always been struck by its ambitious bridging of cultural specificity, social justice, and the avant-garde, making it an exciting, expansive, and revelatory cinematic experience.”

Finally, for now, Film Comment is running a string of excellent reports on recently wrapped editions. Matt Turner looks back on Karlovy Vary, Giovanni Vimercati on Il Cinema Ritrovato, and Simran Hans on FIDMarseille. And Leo Goldsmith delves into the work of Gregory J. Markopoulos in his piece on this year’s Temenos, which isn’t a festival exactly, though it is most definitely an event.

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