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Frank J. Avella’s
Film and Theater Column

47th Annual New York Film Festival 2009

Written by Frank J. Avella

Opposite Photo Credit:
Evan Sung



It’s that time again: New York cinephiles favorite time of the year. The New York Film Festival is upon us and, after three messy years of renovations, Alice Tully Hall has been glassified and completely renovated for the event. In addition, the splendor that defines Lincoln Center--the new and improved Fountain that marries Avery Fisher Hall with the MET and City Opera--has finally been unveiled—and it’s magnificent. The entire area has a more welcoming glow about it (although some construction is still going on).

The seventeen day festival boasts 29 films from 17 countries and the list of filmmakers include many a film fest favorite as well as few newbies.

What continues to define the festival is their constant striving to bring ‘diverse, fresh and compelling” films—to quote Program Director and Chairman of the Selection Committee Richard Pena—to our great metropolis and not be swayed by Hollywood glamour or notions of box office success. In a world where festivals seem to be cropping up in the smallest of cities, the Film Society of Lincoln Center have a more pompous (and I use that word in the best possible sense), arrogant (ditto) and familial approach to selection.

Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces

This year’s Opening Night offering, Wild Grass, is directed by a Festival vet: the 87-year old French filmmaker Alain Resnais. The Centerpiece is the highly anticipated American feature, Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire. The event culminates with another gem from Film Society favorite (his 8th NYFF appearance) Pedro Almodovar. The auteur’s latest effort, Broken Embraces, stars Penelope Cruz and is a delicious Noirish melodrama that is pure magic and a valentine to cinema.

Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg in Lars Van Trier's Antichrist

Festival bad boy, Lars von Trier is repped by his controversial (the word seems redundant describing him) thriller, Antichrist, while Michael Haneke returns with Cannes fave, The White Ribbon and scaryboy Todd Solondz is back with Life During Wartime.

Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere (Win)

A major highlight this year is Marco Bellocchio’s Italian masterpiece, Vincere (Win), a true account of Mussolini’s hidden family.

Other great artists who have previously had films shown and have films in this year's Festival: Catherine Breillat (Bluebeard), Claire Denis (White Material), Manoel de Oliveira, (Eccentricities of a Blonde), Jacques Rivette (36 Views of Saint-Loup Peak), and Andrzej Wajda (Sweet Rush).

New directors to the Festival include: Maren Ade (Everyone Else), Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweetgrass), Zhao Dayong (Ghost Town), Samuel Maoz (Lebanon), Raya Martin (Independencia), Joao Pedro Rodrigues (To Die Like A Man) and Sabu (Kanikosen).

Finally the Spotlight Retrospective is devoted to the 70th Anniversary screening of a newly restored high definition print of Victor Fleming’s 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz.

For film lovers there is nothing like the New York Film Festival. Do not miss it.

The 47th New York Film Festival runs from Friday through Oct. 11. Most movies will be shown in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. Tickets are $20; $10 for obstructed view. Fifty $10 rush tickets will be available an hour before showtime on the day of performance. Information: (212) 875-5050; tickets: (212) 721-6500;

Click here for a list of New York Film Festival selections.






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