Friday, September 25, 2009

NYFF: A Classic Film and Film Maker

Sabine Azéma in "Wild Grass," above, and a scene from “Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." "Wild Grass" photo courtesy of The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Sony Pictures Classics. "Precious" photo courtesy of The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Lionsgate.

FILM buffs can go west – to the west side of New York City where the 47th New York Film Festival jumps off this evening at Lincoln Center. Through 11 October screenings the main slate of 29 feature-length films and 13 shorts from the United States and as far away as Poland and South Korea will be shown at Alice Tully Hall and the Walter Reade Theater.

Also check out special programs during the 17-day festival – among them the "HBO Films Directors' Dialogue" and "(Re)Inventing China: A New Cinema for a New Society, 1949-1966," one of the film series in this year's Masterworks repertory collection, which annually pays homage to the history of cinema around the world.

Opening the film festival is New Wave member Alain Resnais (“Night and Fog”) with “Les herbes folles” or Wild Grass. This time the Frenchman explores the contretemps that ensue after a purse-snatching. Based on the Christian Galley novel, The Incident, “Wild Grass” stars frequent Resnais collaborator, Sabine Azéma, as well as André Dussollier, Mathieu Amalric and Michel Vuillermoz Chrwhen. Showtimes: 6 p.m./9 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall and 8 p.m. at Walter Reade Theater tonight (25 Sept.)

One of the most eagerly anticipated screenings during the festival is a 70th anniversary Warner Home Video release of that old chestnut, “The Wizard of Oz.” The yellow brick road and other colorful landmarks on the landscape en route to chez Wizard should be in brilliant color and clarity in this newly-restored version. As a bonus, “Wizard” connoisseurs can attend “Approaching The Wizard: Flying Monkeys, Ruby Slippers and Yellow Brick Roads in American Cinema and Culture, a panel discussion about the enduring impact of the film, 70 years later. Showtime: 11 a.m. on Saturday 26 Sept. at Alice Tully Hall. Panel: 11 a.m. on Sunday, 27 Sept. at Walter Reade Theater

Also creating buzz is Lee Daniels’ ("Monster's Ball") “Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire,” no doubt helped by a recent plug on "Oprah" (one of the producers, along with Tyler Perry). Here is the story of a young, poor, black, obese girl in Harlem circa late 1980s, who refuses to succumb to the humiliating and mortifying abuse that has defined her young life. That is the twist in this tale starring Mariah Carey, Paula Patton, Gabourey Sidibe as the title character, and Mo’Nique in what some believe is Oscar-worthy work in a horrifying turn as the mommy dearest. Showtimes: 7 p.m./10 p.m. on Saturday, 3 Oct. at Alice Tully Hall.

A good mother is at the center of South Korean’s Bong Joon-Ho’s “Mother.” When her mentally challenged son is wrongly imprisoned for murder, Kim Hye-Ja’s character is as dogged in her pursuit to clear him as a bear protecting her cubs. Showtimes: 6 p.m. on Friday, 9 Oct./noon on Saturday, 10 Oct. at Alice Tully Hall.

For a dose of whimsy with undertones of “Romeo and Juliet” is Manoel de Oliveira’s Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl/Singularidades de uma rapariga loura). Like a number of the year’s entries, it is based on a novel: de Oliveira’s Portuguese countryman, Eça de Queiroz. In this offbeat tale of unrequited love, a Lisbon accountant (Ricardo Trepa) recounts the story of the love of his life (Catarina Wallenstein), with some trademark touches from the centenarian, de Oliverira. Showtimes: 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, 26 Sept. and 9:15 p.m. on Sunday, 27 Sept. 27 at Alice Tully Hall.

Pedro Almodóvar closes the festival with Broken Embraces/Los abrazos rotos. What happens when a blind screenwriter learns of the death of a powerful industrialist: comedy, drama, tragedy, romance and so on. Another delectable-sounding soup starring the Spaniard's favorite femme, Penelope Cruz. Showtimes: 5 p.m./8 p.m. on Sunday, 11 Oct. at Alice Tully Hall.

Throughout the festival, Yours Truly will be offering comment on select films and events.

For a complete list of 2009 New York Film Festival entries and ticket/general information, visit:

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