Friday, September 26, 2014

NYFF52: 'Gone Girl,' Drinks w/R. Gere, Ming's Dynasty and a Huge Spotlight on Mankiewicz ... It's Going to Be a Bumpy (17) Night(s)!

Gene Tierney as the married lady of the title in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." Photos courtesy of New York Film Festival.

DID he or didn't he? In essence, that is the premise of “Gone Girl.”

The ''he” is Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). And the question that needs an answer is whether he killed his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike).

“Gone Girl” chronicles the relationship of the two unemployed writers Dunne and the investigation into and media circus surrounding the disappearance of Amy.

The film has its world premiere this evening as the opener of The 52nd New York Film Festival (through 12 Oct.) It opens in U.S. theaters on 3 Oct. Scuttlebutt has it that "Gone Girl," based on the Gillian Flynn best-seller, is a winner.

After the last two opening-night films, perhaps NYFF has on its hand one that won't be so polarizing between the “loved it” and “hated it” camps. Views on last year's “Captain Phillips” were decidedly split between the two sides.

One point of interest about “Gone Girl,” for which GF also wrote the screenplay, is that it won't be structured like the book. The novelist, who once upon a time was herself an unemployed writer, won praise for her detours from the traditional ways suspense plays out and quirky narration.

A tiger lives in Harlem but not in a zoo in “Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air.”

Another point of interest is that Reese Witherspoon is one of the film's producers. (See trailer above). She is also one of the stars of NYFF centerpiece, "Inherent Vice." Paul Thomas Anderson's lurid expose on the Los Angeles drug scene of the '70s is adapted from a Thomas Pynchon novel, a first. It has its world premiere on 4 Oct.

Richard Gere may have a lot to jaw about on the evening of 8 Oct. over cocktails and dinner, including "Time Out of Mind."

Speaking of actor-producers, Richard Gere wears the two hats for “Time Out of Mind,” which will makes its U.S. premiere at NYFF on 5 Oct. The film explores homelessness, and the glamorous RG stars as a homeless man.

Giving good support is Ben Vereen in a project that homeless advocate (who knew?!) RG said came to him in the '80s. The actor also hangs out for "An Evening With ..." (one of NYFF's "Special Events") over cocktails and dinner.

Other "Special Events" and "Revivals" run to a 30th anniversary screening of “This Is Spinal Tap” and the beautifully restored “The Color of Pomegranates/Sayat Nova.”

Meanwhile, the “NYFF Talks” free series (NYFF Live and HBO Directors Dialogues) features Mike Leigh, Mathieu Amalric and others.

As expected, NYFF has its usual fare of shorts (“In August”/ “En Août” is a rich, amuse-bouche). Of course, documentaries, too, from the delightful to the disturbing (Ethan Hawke's directorial debut, “Seymour: An Introduction,” “The Look of Silence”).

On the menu as well is the “Projections” series, addressing experimental and innovative modes of filmmaking. One exhibit is Phillip Warnell's “Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air”).

A wonderful (and perhaps final?) joy ride in "In August / "En Août."

The NYFF closing film (11 Oct.) is “Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.” It stars Michael Keaton as a former action hero who is trying to stage an adaptation of a Raymond Carver work, while dealing with personalities, peccadilloes and pathos worthy of a Shakepearean comedy. The film opens nationally on 17 Oct.

Before it closes NYFF pays homage to a true icon in the retrospective, “Joseph L. Mankiewicz: The Essential Iconoclast." In short, 21 films. All classics or near classics.

Seymour Bernstein at the piano in "Seymour: An Introduction."

Consider: “Cleopatra,” “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Julius Caesar,” “A Letter to Three Wives,” “No Way Out.” And “All About Eve.” (See video above).

Fasten your seatbelts …

Visit to learn more about The 52nd New York Film Festival, including tickets and showtimes.

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