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NYFF 2008: NY Festival Nets the Best from Cannes

I’m not sure what you call those large fishing nets that sweep the bottom of oceans floors in an attempt to capture mass quantities of fish, but I’d say that the curators from the NYFF certainly put this type of strategy into practice when setting up the line-up for the 46th edition to take place at the end of September until the midway point of October.

I’m not sure what you call those large fishing nets that sweep the bottom of oceans floors in an attempt to capture mass quantities of fish, but I’d say that the curators from the NYFF certainly put this type of strategy into practice when setting up the line-up for the 46th edition to take place at the end of September until the midway point of October. From the waters of the croisette, most of the pictures this year comes from the Cannes film fest — a notable grab-bag of quality titles with the odd picture that should have been thrown back at sea (Brillante Mendoza’s Serbis was a stinker and Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman was extremely disappointing. Among those that haven’t been shown at Cannes, and which I’m eagerly awaiting is this pair: Berlin film festival’s Mike Leigh comedy (the lead actress in this film makes me think of the quirky Miranda July) and I’m curious about is the closing night title from Darren Aronofsky.

Having personally seen eleven of these titles, many of which I feel will end up in my top 20 of the year, it’s safe to say that ticket-holders will guess right on many occasions. Here are my top half dozen must see pics, followed by a complete listing.

Ari Folman’s docu-animation project Waltz with Bashir walked away from Cannes without any award wins, but ask anyone at the film fest what film was among their top ten and more often than not you’d fine the evocative docu film.

Pablo Larrain’s extremely violent Saturday Night Fever hybrid excellently discusses the savagery in the Pinochet dictatorship. Tony Manero, a Chile-Brazil co-production will likely never see a domestic theater release – so see it before it is erased from memory.  

Film school introduced me to a couple of filmmakers who were unknowns to me – my three film introduction to Max Ophuls included the aesthetically perfect Lola Montes. NYFF offers a restored print of the 1955 classic. “

The best picture I saw at this year’s Cannes film festival wasn’t even part of the main competition. Hunger, Steve McQueen’s debut is difficult to stomach, but its a brilliant piece of filmmaking. See what the Brits will be rewarding heavily at year’s end. 

Those who miss the Sopranos will want to see how the underworld works in the homeland. Gomorrah is a fine piece of work that uses six narratives to explore how the mafia own many industries and common folks day to day lives. 

The Palme d’or winner was a worthy one. I expect Laurent Cantet’s The Class to touch global audiences – teachers in urban areas of the planet will definitely feel the hope and exasperation that goes on in this classroom and school yards.         

The festival takes place between the 26th of September to the 12th of October. 26 – October 12. Here is the complete festival listing:..

Opening Night
The Class” (Entre les murs)
Laurent Cantet, France, 2008; 128m
A tough, lively and altogether revelatory look inside a high school classroom, enacted by real teachers and students.

Centerpiece
Changeling
Clint Eastwood, USA, 2008; 140m
Angelina Jolie is a single mother whose troubles are just beginning when her son goes missing in Clint Eastwood’s majestic fact-based period drama.

Closing Night
The Wrestler
Darren Aronofsky, USA, 2008; 109m
Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime in Darren Aronofsky’s raw and raucous new movie.

24 City” (Er shi si cheng ji)
Jia Zhangke, China/Hong Kong/Japan, 2008; 112m
The rise and fall of a Chinese factory town is chronicled in this film, straddling the border between fiction and documentary.

Afterschool
Antonio Campos, USA, 2008; 122m
When two students at a posh prep school accidentally overdose, a student filmmaker struggles to create an appropriate tribute for them.

Ashes of Time Redux
Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 2008; 93m
The final, definitive version of Wong Kar Wai’s modernist take on the classic Chinese martial arts tale.

Bullet in the Head” (Trio en la cabeza)
Jaime Rosales, Spain/France, 2008; 85m
A powerful, engrossing meditation on politics and the contemporary cult of surveillance.

Che
Steven Soderbergh, France/Spain, 2008; 268m
Steven Soderbergh’s two-part Spanish-language epic about Che Guevara’s revolutionary military campaigns in Cuba and Bolivia features a brilliant lead performance by Benicio del Toro.

Chouga” (Shuga)
Darezhan Omirbaev, France/Kazakhstan, 2007; 91m
A Kazakh, minimalist adaptation of Anna Karenina.

A Christmas Tale” (Un conte de Noel)
Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2008; 150m
Arnaud Desplechin’s grand banquet of a movie brims with life, as Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Devos and the other members of a marvelous ensemble cast come home for Christmas.

Four Nights with Anna” (Cztery noce z Anna)
Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland/France, 2008; 87m
This visually mesmerizing tale of a shy man and his obsession with the woman across the way marks the triumphant return of Polish maestro Jerzy Skolimowski.

Gomorrah” (Gomorra)
Matteo Garrone, Italy, 2008; 137m
A blistering version of Roberto Saviano’s modern true crime classic about the modern-day Neapolitan mafia.

Happy-Go-Lucky
Mike Leigh, UK, 2008; 118m
An affectionate portrait of an unattached, 30-something London schoolteacher coming to terms with the fact that she’s no longer young.

The Headless Woman” (La mujer sin cabeza)
Lucrecia Martel, Argentina/France/Italy/Spain, 2008; 87m
Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel’s powerful third feature takes us into an altered perceptual state with a woman who hits something with her car.

Hunger
Steve McQueen, UK, 2008; 96m
British visual artist Steve McQueen’s feature film debut is an uncompromising look at the hunger strike led by IRA prisoner Bobby Sands in 1974.

I’m Going to Explode” (Voy a explotar)
Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico, 2008; 103m
Two Mexican teenagers go into hiding to see the reactions their disappearance will get from relatives and friends.

Let It Rain” (Parlez-moi de la pluie)
Agnes Jaoui, France, 2008; 110m
A portrait of a rising feminist politician may be the ticket to fame and jobs for two aspiring filmmakers.

Lola Montes” Retrospective
Max Ophuls, France/West Germany, 1955; 115m
The life of the legendary courtesan and circus performer–lover of kings, knaves and Franz Liszt–is presented in its definitive, restored version.

Night and Day” (Bam guan nat)
Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2008; 144m
When his life in Seoul becomes too complicated, an artist hightails it to Paris–but things don’t get any easier.

The Northern Land” (A Corte do Norte)
Joao Botelho, Portugal, 2008; 101m
A woman searches for the truth about her life in the stories of ancestors and the distant manor house they inhabited.

Serbis
Brillante Mendoza, Philippines/France, 2008; 90m
A family tries to quell the tensions tearing it apart while it struggles to keep the family business–a porn movie theater–afloat

Summer Hours” (L’heure d’ete)
Olivier Assayas, France, 2008; 103m
Juliette Binoche is one of three siblings brought face-to-face with time and mortality by the sudden death of her mother in this moving new film from Olivier Assayas.

Tokyo Sonata
Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan/Netherlands, 2008; 85m
A Japanese family struggles to re-define itself after the father loses his corporate job.

Tony Manero
Pablo Larrain, Chile/Brazil, 2008; 98m
In the dark days of the Pinochet dictatorship, a John Travolta wannabe blazes a murderous trail through the back alleys of Chile.

Tulpan
Sergey Dvortsevoy, Germany/Kazakhstan/Poland/Russia/Switzerland, 2008; 100m
Winner of the Un Certain Regard Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Tulpan charts an aspiring herdsman’s efforts to win the attention of his intended.

Waltz with Bashir” (Vals in Bashir)
Ari Folman, Israel/Germany/France, 2008; 90m
Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman’s haunting autobiographical memory piece about his experiences as a soldier during the 1982 war in Lebanon are given a hyper-real spin by state-of-the-art animation.

Wendy and Lucy
Kelly Reichardt, USA, 2008; 80m
In Kelly Reichardt’s follow-up to her acclaimed Old Joy, Wendy (Michelle Williams) searches for her dog Lucy. The troubled spirit of modern America is beautifully evoked along the way.

The Windmill Movie
Alexander Olch, USA, 2008; 80m
Filmmaker Alexander Olch, using material left by the late filmmaker Richard Rogers for a never completed film autobiography, attempts to make sense of the life of his former teacher and friend.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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