The 2010 New York Film Festival is upon us, and that means that our coverage of the 2010 New York Film Festival is upon you. Because NYFF doesn't traditionally concern itself with nabbing world premieres (nor with distributing awards), it doesn't receive the oodles of attention usually reserved for the likes of Berlin or Venice, or even less qualitatively selective fests such as Sundance and Toronto. Having said that, the fest routinely provides the art-house sensations of tomorrow with their (North) American debuts, and it does so in a calm and civilized fashion (crucially, there's always free Illy espresso) that lends the proceedings a feeling of public accessibility despite how historically difficult the tickets can be to obtain.
The event - an uncluttered fortnight during which the main slate unspools on a single screen - temporarily transforms Lincoln Center into Promenade de la Croisette, as the fest invariably drops the cream of the Cannes crop right onto Broadway and readers the world over are provided more critiques of the year's most important films, this time removed from the wayward pomp and circumstance of the Cannes madness. As that festival offers a decreasingly reliable indication as to how certain films will fare in the outside world (e.g. 'Inglourious Basterds' was derided there last year only to be received ecstatically upon its public release) and the Toronto discourse leans towards the mainstream, NYFF has become the venue in which cinema's most formative offerings are first given an opportunity to take center stage and shine.
And so while I could have accurately predicted most of the line-up, the roster of films at this year's NYFF is nevertheless stuffed with essential filmmakers and their potentially essential new films. NYFF tends to have a bit of an auteurist bent, and once a director gets accepted into the fold you can expect to see their stuff appear on the line-up for as long as they live (with 'The Mysterious Case of Angelica' Manoel de Oliveira is still delivering new work to the fest at the tender age of 101, though it worries me that the press conference is explicitly labeled as "tentative"). This year's names aren't familiar so much as they are legendary, with Jean-Luc Godard's critically controversial 'Film Socialisme' joining the likes of Raul Ruiz ('Mysteries of Lisbon') and Abbas Kiarostami, whose masterful 'Certified Copy' plays like a cross between 'Before Sunset' and 'Cache,' and captivated the NYFF press corp like nothing else thus far despite being largely disregarded at Cannes.
And a visit to NYFF isn't just a ticket to Cannes, but a trip around the world. Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Palme d'Or-winning 'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives' takes us deep into the jungles of Thailand, Lee Chang-Dong's touching and vital 'Poetry' provides an unfussy window into rural South Korea, Michelangelo Frammartino's 'Le Quattro Volte' is a meditation on the cycles of life as seen through a year in a picturesque Italian village. And while all of these films are unfortunately saddled with the burden of their perceived importance, NYFF isn't nearly as dry as it might sound, as the roster also includes genre fare like Jorge Michel Grau's Mexican cannibal saga 'We Are Who We Are,' and even the line-up's most intimidating movie - Olivier Assayas' 319-minute terrorist biopic 'Carlos' - is one of the most kinetic and electrifying films of the year (hostages! Explosions! Hot naked Cold War terrorists of both male and female varieties!).
And despite NYFF's aforementioned indifference towards world premieres, this year's fest opens with a doozy in David Fincher's 'The Social Network' (which our own Erik Davis reviewed here). The films that bookend the fest and provide its centerpiece are often held to a
We posted a list of our most anticipated films of the fest when the schedule was initially announced, and we can't wait to see and share with you whether or not these movies lived up to our expectations. Because while the stuff at NYFF may not necessarily be on your radar now, this is the place to discover the films most likely to endure as favorites and classics long after 'The King's Speech' has been forgotten about under a pile of Oscars. So stay tuned, because even if Telluride and Toronto are behind us, movie season is just getting started.