Search Film Reviews

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What to See at NYFF

By Joshua Handler

The 52nd New York Film Festival arrives on Friday and is bringing with it a slew of noteworthy films (and some not so noteworthy ones).  But I'm only here to tell you about the good ones.  The below are  only the best of the festival selections that I have seen.  I'll be featuring full reviews of all of these and more through October 11.  Here we go:

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) - Of the dozen or so films I've seen that will be screening at the NYFF, Two Days, One Night is the best in ever way, and of the 150 or so 2014 releases I've seen, Two Days, One Night is one of the top five or so. The Dardennes have made another masterpiece with this film, which tells the story of a working class woman who must convince her coworkers to give up their bonuses in order for her to keep her job.  A masterclass in acting from Marion Cotillard combined with The Dardennes' humane view of working class life and compassion for their characters make this one unmissable.  Sundance Selects is releasing December 24 in the U.S.

WHIPLASH (Dir. Damien Chazelle) - Winner of the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, Whiplash is an intense, beautifully-acted film about a drummer who strives for perfection and the teacher who tries to push him towards it at any cost.  Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons lead the cast with committed performances, and Damien Chazelle's screenplay and direction lulled me into its hypnotic rhythms.  Another one you can't miss. Sony Pictures Classics is releasing on October 10 in the U.S.

THE LOOK OF SILENCE (Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer) - The Act of Killing is a hard act to follow, but somehow Joshua Oppenheimer managed to make another profound (and profoundly disturbing) documentary on the Indonesian genocide and its effects on the country today.  The Look of Silence tells the story of a man who confronts the men who killed his brother during the genocide.  That should sell you alone.  Drafthouse Films and Participant Media will release in the U.S. in summer 2015.

RED ARMY (Dir. Gabe Polsky) - Gabe Polsky's Red Army is a deceptively simple documentary about the Olympic-gold-medal-winning Soviet hockey team. The film tells their story from the 1970s-1990s.  It is riveting, moving, and will provide even non-sports lovers with something to love.  Sony Pictures Classics is releasing in January 2015 in the U.S.

STRAY DOG (Dir. Debra Granik) - Stray Dog, not to be confused with Tsai Ming-liang's Stray Dogs, is Debra Granik's first film since 2010's Best Picture-nominee Winter's Bone.  A loving, charming documentary portrait of Ron "Stray Dog" Hall, a Vietnam veteran who lives in rural Missouri, Stray Dog is a very good piece of storytelling that is immensely rewarding.  This film does not have U.S. distribution.

'71 (Dir. Yann Demange) - Yann Demange's feature debut, '71, tells the story of a British soldier who is abandoned by his unit in a Catholic neighborhood in Belfast during a riot.  The film is set during The Troubles.  Jack O'Connell is phenomenal, and Demange's direction is so confident that it looks like the work of a master like Kathryn Bigelow.  Intense, violent, and exciting.  Releasing through Roadside Attractions (date unannounced).

LISTEN UP PHILIP (Dir. Alex Ross Perry) - If you love Alex Ross Perry's uniquely acidic and sarcastic sense of humor, you'll love Listen Up Philip.  I love Perry's style and completely fell for this tale of a narcissistic, misanthropic author who begins to retreat deep into himself.  Jason Schwartzman plays the eponymous character and stars alongside Elizabeth Moss and Jonathan Pryce - all three give career-best performances.  Tribeca Film is releasing October 17 in the U.S.

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