Guys, It’s Your New York Film Festival Preview

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09/28/2011 4:00 AM |

A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg)
Minimalist filmmaking to better showcase the maximum intellectual positioning of the origins and conflicts of three schools of thought: 1) Hunky, sensitive woo-woo mystic bourgeois Jung (Michael Fassbender); 2) lucid and sexual thought obsessed Freud (Viggo Mortensen); and 3) the unchosen path, neurotic masochist patient turned doctor Sabina (Keira Knightly) who experienced sex as annihilation instead of creation and influenced both men without credit. It’s about unreconciled opposites: authority vs. honesty, patient vs. doctor, and analysis vs. spanking. Miriam Bale

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
The star and director of the recent OSS 117 films (spoofs on France’s answer to James Bond) reteam for a sweet but unambitious silent movie homage. Jean Dujardin steals the show as a Valentino-type Hollywood who that struggles to stay on top once the era of talking pictures begins. There’s already Oscar buzz surrounding the film, but only Dujardin and co-star Missi Pyle really deserves awards. Simon Abrams

A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)
A splitting Tehran couple, their sweet, serious daughter, and a newly hired caretaker and her hothead husband all maneuver around an act of inadvertent violence, which spirals nail-chewingly into a worst-case scenario for all the little shameful things you think you can get away without mentioning, and burrows deep into faultlines along the class, gender and religious divides in Iranian society. Mark Asch

Corpo Celeste (Alice Rohrwacher)
The banality of faith in practice: a young girl suffers a quiet crisis while her confirmation teacher harangues her texting charges and pines for the ambitious priest, hustling up votes for the bishop’s preferred candidate as his ticket out of his nowheresville industrial parish. Rohrwacher’s first feature ties up its stray thematic threads aggressively, but earns points back for using an actual crucifix as its crucifix metaphor—;the literalness is, in this context, invigorating. Asch

Footnote (Joseph Cedar)
Writer-director Cedar’s broad comedy follows two Israeli intellectuals, father and son, as they compete for academic fame and fortune. The father assumes that integrity and celebrity cannot mix; Cedar to some extent agrees, but doesn’t ultimately take the pair too seriously, treating the whole feud as a tempest in a very sturdy teapot. Rarely has a filmmaker given so many intellectually justified reasons not to care about his own film. Abrams

The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
The Belgian dramatists’ latest moral tale follows a bike-obsessed boy (the astonishingly good Thomas Doret) who struggles to bond with his neglectful father (Dardenne regular Jérémie Renier). The Dardennes have made a consistently satisfying but never jaw-dropping little variation on their usual theme of responsibility—;and it’s kind of a big disappointment. Simon Abrams

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismäki)
Kaurismäki’s latest, refreshingly good-natured deadpan fable is a succession of friendly faces and comically sinister figures. Wizened shoeshiner Marcel Marx takes an African refugee into his home, and helps him elude the authorities (represented by an ever-present police inspector in black hat, black trench coat, black leather gloves, and gray moustache). Along the way he’s helped by sympathetic friends and a few surprising turns of fate (whose lack of narrative credibility Kaurismäki has fun with). Andrew Schenker

The Loneliest Planet (Julia Loktev)
In this movie about a couple hiking with a guide through the Georgian countryside, Gael Garcia Bernal destabilizes his relationship with his fiancée when he commits a sudden, instinctual act of self-preservation—;or cowardice? Using telephoto’d landscapes to reflect the story’s intimacy, Loktev explores gender roles in modernity—;the clash between a longing for equality and for the protection of a strong man—;and the way single instants can forever alter our lives. Henry Stewart

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin)
Elizabeth Olsen flees a sex-and-sustainability cult led by ever-skinnier John Hawkes for her bougie estranged sister’s lake house in the opening scene; for the rest of the film, writer-director Durkin and cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes use low light to dislocate us from stable time and place, and selective backstory—;the film seems to have cut out everything that wasn’t convincing, enlisting us as cowriters to uncanny effect. Asch

Melacholia (Lars von Trier)
Lars von Trier is depressed. In his latest, a big ball of doldrums takes the form of a big blue planet named Melancholia, which was hidden behind the sun but is now on a crash course for Earth. Get it? It’s a metaphor—;for depression’s volatile nature, its unpredictable effects, its inescapability, its enormity, and the way it tears apart families because depressed people are so fucking difficult to deal with. Stew

Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo)
Writer/director Naranjo’s ferocious follow-up to Godard homage I’m Gonna Explode is a weird mix of action thriller tropes and social commentary. A beauty pageant hopeful is taken on a nightmarish journey by drug cartel members and corrupt cops; Naranjo bullies his audience into feeling immersed and then, infrequently, distanced from his deer-in-the-headlights protagonist. Compelling, but the rest is open to interpretation. Abrams

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Ceylan’s anatomy of a police procedural film asks the big question: Can we affect the world around us? Which is more thoughtful in theory than in practice—;the repetitive Anatolia is about 40 minutes too long. But it’s also fitfully beautiful (we watch, for instance, an apple tumble down a hill). Abrams

Pina (Wim Wenders)
Wenders’s tribute to late experimental dance choreographer Pina Bausch is a soulful entrée into its subject’s oeuvre. 3D photography makes the already kinetic and indelibly expressive scenes that much more immersive. You (yes, you) need to see this one. Abrams

The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar)
Who’s that girl doing yoga and making sculptures, locked into an upstairs bedroom in the home clinic of pioneering plastic surgeon Antonio Banderas? She sure looks like… This riff on Eyes Without a Face and Vertigo (or maybe De Palma’s Obsession) hinges on a shapeshifting twist not without precedent in the Almodóvar filmography; it’s risky, campy, extravagant with influence, and the best Pedro since… wow. Asch

We Can’t Go Home Again (Nicholas Ray)
Late in life, Ray took a job teaching at SUNY-Binghamton, and made this eternally unfinished, newly restored film—;which plays in superimpositions and processed psychedelia against matte backdrops—;with his students, derived from his interactions with them and their addled scene-making. It shares with the rest of Ray’s work a vivid, passionate sensitivity to the generation about to destroy him; the posing hippies are humanized, and humorous, in their pretensions. Asch