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Film Comment Selects Program 2010

Over the Edge

Over the Edge
Jonathan Kaplan, USA, 1979; 94m
Cast reunion, with screenwriters and producers, plus an afterparty with open bar co-sponsored by Vice.

“They were old enough to know better, but too young to care. And now this town is... Over the Edge.”

It’s teenage wasteland time as frustrated youths Matt Dillon and Vincent Spano lead a suburban delinquent insurrection. Originally pulled at the time of release over fears of violence, it’s become an influential classic of teen rebellion and boredom-fueled anarchy. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.

Green Zone

Green Zone
Paul Greengrass, USA, 2010; 107m
Deploying the fast-paced, visually-dynamic action chops he honed on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, Paul Greengrass reteams with Matt Damon for a high-adrenalin conspiracy thriller set in Baghdad during the brief and anarchic lull between the defeat of Sadaam Hussein and the beginning of the insurgency.

Accident

Accident
Soi Cheang, Hong Kong, 2009; 89m
In this twisty, paranoid thriller, a team of assassins-for-hire kill through ingeniously staged accidents that are planned down to the second and executed in broad daylight. Produced by Johnnie To’s genre powerhouse Milkyway Images, Pou-Soi Chang’s moody film opens with a bravura operation in the bustling city streets, synchronized through elaborate surveillance and bluffs. But perfection proves to be a difficult record to maintain as the team’s taciturn mastermind is led down the blind alleys and dark corners of suspicion and betrayal.

“A Hong Kong thriller in which mastermind assassin Louis Koo stops believing in the existence of chance after years of contriving minutely calibrated, accidental-looking deaths. It is seriously a hoot.” —Village Voice

Air Doll Hirokazu Kore-eda

Air Doll
Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2009; 116m
Deceptively airy, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Air Doll makes us reflect on our sexual assumptions and the depths of loneliness often endured by the inhabitants of large cities. Korean star Bae Du-na plays Nozomi, an inflatable sex doll belonging to a lonesome Tokyo salaryman who comes alive and wanders the city by day. Like a child with a fresh pair of eyes, she learns about life and love through observation—but how long can her journey of discovery last?

Applause

Applause
Martin Zandvliet, Denmark, 2009; 85m
Commanding Danish star Paprika Steen gives her rawest, bravest performance yet as a narcissistic stage actress, Thea, whose life closely mirrors the character she plays nightly: Martha from "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. " Habitually selfish and offensive, Thea smokes and drinks too much, and has lost not just her husband but custody of their two young sons. As she desperately tries to pull her life together, she finds self-control far more challenging than any acting role.

The Aviator's Wife

The Aviator's Wife
Eric Rohmer, 1981, France; 104m
In honor of French New Wave legend Eric Rohmer, who passed away in January, we screen the first film (NYFF ’81) from his Comedies & Proverbs series. A beautiful young man (Philippe Marlaud) trails his girlfriend’s lingering ex around Paris, fearing the worst.

Sois Sage

Be Good / Sois Sage
Juliette Garcias, France/Denmark, 2009; 90m 
In Juliette Garcias’s creepy-funny tale of dark obsession, a strange girl with a false identity stalks a married man in a rural French village. Making her directorial debut, Garcias demonstrates a sharp sense of behavioral peculiarity and an intriguingly off-center visual style. Her mythomaniac protagonist, who makes the rounds delivering bread for the local bakery, walks a fine line between mildly weird and unmistakably disturbed. A psychological mystery that becomes about far more than guessing what will come next.

A Brighter Summer Day

A Brighter Summer Day
Edward Yang, Taiwan, 1991; 237m 
"Edward Yang’s 1991 movie about growing up in 1960s Taiwan achieves an almost Tolstoyan density and gravity and reminds us what an enormous talent was lost when Yang died in 2007 at 59." —A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“From the late master whose Yi-Yi is a modern classic of the last decade, we present his rarely screened 1991 magnum opus in all its epic glory. Negotiating youth gangs and first love, a boy comes of age in early 1960s Taiwan against a backdrop of Communist witch hunts. Yang’s stunning time capsule of a forgotten era is presented in the complete, uncut restoration by the World Cinema Foundation. “The language of a free Chinese cinema in a contemporary syntax.” —Olivier Assayas, Film Comment Jan/Feb 08

Happy End

Les Derniers jours du monde / Happy End
Arnaud & Jean-Marie Larrieu, France/Spain/Taiwan, 2009; 133m
Who better to celebrate the end of the world with than a suitably shambolic Mathieu Amalric? In Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu’s pre-apocalyptic ramble through love and death, a picturesque series of disasters provide the backdrop for a bewildered, lovelorn searcher (Amalric) and his tragicomic misadventures in pursuit of a mystery woman. (Talk about "cherchez la femme.") Abandoning his family, he travels through an increasingly disintegrating and strange France in Planet Earth’s anarchic final days.

Godard

Godard Rarities
Jean-Luc Godard; 90m
A choice selection of lesser known and rarely screened from the extended oeuvre of Jean-Luc Godard, including Opération Béton (1954), Godard's first short documentary; Le Nouveau Monde, JLG's contribution to RoGoPaG—a 1965 omnibus film; trailers cut by JLG for both his own films (Pierrot le Fou—in 35mm! in Scope!, among others) and for film festivals (Une Catastrophe for the 2008 Viennale). Plus Godard 80, a portrait of the artist by Jon Jost and Pour Thomas Wainggai, a collaboration with Anne-Marie Mieville made for Amnesty International. Curated by Jake Perlin.

Kinatay

Kinatay / The Execution of P.
Brillante Mendoza, Philippines/France, 2009; 105m 
Somewhat misguidedly considered the scandal of Cannes 2009, this hard-hitting film by leading Filipino director Brillante Mendoza (Serbis) is serious political filmmaking. Kinatay (which translates as “slaughter”) depicts, among other things, the horrific fate of a Manila prostitute through the eyes of a sweet-faced young cop in over his head. Deliberately artless and avoiding genre pigeonholing, Mendoza’s film confronts issues of complicity, exploitation, and the morality of bearing witness through photographic images, whether fictional or documentary, to the most extreme crimes against women that are taking place all over the world every day.

The Land of Madness

The Land of Madness / La Terre de la folie
Luc Moullet, France, 2009; 85m
French New Wave iconoclast and former Cahiers du cinéma critic Luc Moullet muses on his native region’s folklore of murder, suicide, and mental illness in this wickedly morbid and inventive documentary. Leaving no stone unturned, the director sifts through his own family history, the violent tall tales that have long circulated through his home, and the possible influences of both nature and nurture. Moullet’s unorthodox and playful study of rural isolation and barbarism is marked by an almost giddy fascination, one that gives equal consideration to the plausible, irrational, and mythological.

Like You Know it All

Like You Know It All
Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2009; 126m 
Nobody does it better: Hong Sang-soo’s latest dose of mortification and misadventure follows a hapless movie director invited to serve on a film festival jury. True to the title (drawn from Hong’s customarily candid dialogue), the young filmmaker jousts with friends old and new in a tragicomic examination of self-absorption, wayward sexual impulses, and all manner of misbehavior. Amidst the "soju"-fueled blackouts, inappropriate confessions, and ill-advised sallies across the gender divide, Hong has come up with yet another complex, surprising, and moving work.

"The South Korean director Hong Sang-soo has won a critical following for his piquant, melancholy and formally witty dissections of sexual anxiety and professional anomie among his youngish compatriots, with a special emphasis on the self-pitying awfulness of modern South Korean men. His new film, “Like You Know It All,” takes place in what is to Mr. Hong the familiar terrain of a film festival, where the main character, a young director, is serving on a jury." —A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"It's a film both 'real' and beautiful; socially grounded, deprecating melancholy." —Village Voice

Morphia

Morphia / Morfiy
Alexei Balabanov, Russia, 2008; 102m
Balabanov’s engrossing historical backtrack after the morbidly compelling Cargo 200 is a richly textured look at the anarchy surrounding the Russian Revolution. The anecdotal narrative tracks the adventures of a young doctor who arrives at a rough-and-ready hospital in the hinterlands, wins the confidence of the local population, and beds one of his nurses, as well as an aristocrat’s daughter. Balabanov’s fixation on corporeal corruption comes to the fore here, and the film strikes the right balance between mordant distance and rousingly dramatic engagement.

"Musty, icy and thrumming with Revolutionary unease, this latest Russian drama from Alexei Balabanov complements his impeccably controlled Cargo 200 (2007) ... the movie flexes with ambition." —Time Out New York

Nucingen House

Nucingen House
Raúl Ruiz, France/Chile, 2008; 94m 
From cinema’s truest inheritor to the playful metafictions of Borges, Raúl Ruiz, comes this surreal haunted-house riff on a story by Balzac. Featuring transferred identities, over-the-top theatrical performances, and behavioral non sequiturs, Ruiz’s 1920s-set film centers on a mysterious house in Chile that an American gambler wins in a bet. When the dubiously lucky man (named William James) inspects the place with his nervous wife, he finds the house filled with strange stuff and some unusual hangers-on, and the stage is set for another Ruizian derangement of the mind and senses.

Perfect Life

Perfect Life
Emily Tang, Hong Kong/China, 2008; 98m  
Welcome to the belly of the beast: capitalism, Chinese style. In a kind of distaff take on Jia Zhang-ke territory (and produced by Jia), visually contrasted storylines track two lost souls losing their grip at different ends of the food chain: a young hotel maid in a grim northern city who is trying to better herself amidst a cycle of exploitation, and a Hong Kong woman who finds her comfortable middle-class marriage unraveling and fights for custody of her children.

Persecution

Persecution
Patrice Chéreau, France, 2009; 100m
Eros is gravely ill in Patrice Chéreau’s latest film, a twisted love roundelay scaling operatic heights of romantic complication. At the center is a tormented young Parisian named Daniel (Romain Duris): adored by his long-suffering lover (Charlotte Gainsbourg), clung to by his emotionally needy best friend, and stalked by an admirer (Jean-Hugues Anglade) who suddenly professes his love. Chéreau presents a merciless dissection not only of the ties that bind, but of the thin air out of which romantic attachment is often constructed.

"This is a small-scale opera, emotionally raw and quietly devastating." —Time Out New York

Survival of the Dead

Survival of the Dead
George A. Romero, U.S./Canada, 2009; 90m 
You probably weren’t expecting this: Romero’s latest is a comic-book-like Old West riff about an AWOL band of soldiers drawn into a family feud on a Delaware island. While the Muldoon clan are determined to keep their dead “alive” in hope of some future cure, their sworn enemies the O’Flynns just want to exterminate any zombie in sight. Like all great Romero films, things are not as simple as they look: how we deal with the departed reveals much about our civilization and our shared humanity.

Tales from the Golden Age

Tales from the Golden Age
Cristian Mungiu, Ioana Uricaru, Hanno Höfer, Razvan Marculescu & Constantin Popescu, Romania, 2009; 155m  
Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) leads a team of rising young talent from the new Romanian cinema to present urban legends from the era of Ceausescu (propagandized as a “Golden Age”). Chaos is the unifying principle of the six absurdist episodes in the omnibus, as society repeatedly grinds to a halt in deference to its ruler. The black humor and often ridiculous situations tap the rich tradition of satires that dismantle the illusions of totalitarianism.

"Tales From the Golden Age, an anthology film overseen by Cristian Mungiu, the writer and director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, is, like that movie, a visit to the absurd totalitarian nightmare that was Romania in the 1980s. Less harsh than 4, 3, 2—almost nostalgic in some of its moments—Tales is a collection of “urban legends” from the Ceauçescu dictatorship. In each episode something that probably didn’t happen but might well have serves to illustrate the ridiculousness of life under Romania’s special brand of Communism." —A.O. Scott, The New York Times

The Time that Remains

The Time That Remains
Elia Suleiman, France/Belgium/Italy, 2009; 110m
The latest semiautobiographical film from Palestinian-Israeli director Elia Suleiman (Divine Intervention) spans 50 years in the life of a middle-class Nazareth family. The filmmaker’s vignette style and tonal alternation between deadpan irony and melancholic detachment is in full effect, as the story skips from the "nakba" of 1948 on through the Seventies (Suleiman’s childhood and teenage years) and Eighties (with Suleiman as a lonely observer of his parents’ waning years). A tough and poignant work.

"Mordant humor in the face of political disaster... The Time That Remains, is a lovely autobiographical film by Elia Suleiman. Its exquisite balance of visual rigor and heartfelt emotion gives it remarkable, if always quiet, beauty and power." —A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"Actor-director Elia Suleiman may be the only filmmaker bold enough to take on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with the savage comedy it deserves. It’s been way too long since Suleiman’s last feature, 2002’s Divine Intervention, but the new one justifies the wait. A decades-spanning autobiography, it includes some of the filmmaker’s most glittering jabs." —Time Out New York

The Victors

The Victors
Carl Foreman, U.S., 1963; 175m 
A powerful, pissed-off riposte to the futility and corruption of war, the 1963 directorial debut of blacklisted Oscar-winning screenwriter Carl Foreman (High Noon) features an extraordinary cast: George Hamilton, Eli Wallach, George Peppard, Peter Fonda, and Jim Mitchum alongside heartbreakers Jeanne Moreau, Melina Mercouri, Romy Schneider, and Elke Sommer. Foreman’s take on World War II is literally dark, shot in a gritty documentary style, and for a major release (greenlit by Columbia), it’s surprising in its moral and aesthetic complexity, with newsreel footage interspersed in Brechtian fashion throughout its fictional narrative.

"A smorgasbord of early-'60s Euro-arthouse damsels; Memorable scenes abound ... epitomizes Foreman's crude-ironic stance toward mass culture and mass violence—an irony that turns to bad antiwar pathos in the last reel." —Village Voice

The Revenge: A Visit from Fate

The Revenge: A Visit from Fate
Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan, 1997; 80m  
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s unnerving compromised-cop doubleheader, a vital missing piece of his early work, was shot back to back before his breakout Cure. In the first half, the traumatized officer crosses the line in pursuit of brutal yakuza foes, but in this homage to Dirty Harry, taking revenge exacts its own moral price.

The Revenge: The Scar that Never Fades

The Revenge: A Scar That Never Fades
Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan, 1997; 83m  
In the second half, Kurosawa’s damaged cop goes after a yakuza boss by infiltrating his gang. But moving up the underworld ranks takes time and leads to an identity crisis of the sort Kurosawa would examine in films as disparate as Cure and Tokyo Sonata.

Sombre

Sombre
Philippe Grandrieux, 1998; 112m 
A daring stylistic experiment on a familiar theme, Sombre tells the story of a monster abroad in France. Blending avant-garde techniques and imagery within a narrative framework, director Grandrieux draws us into the hypnotic account of a murderer (Marc Barbé) lugging puppets and a wolf disguise whose horrific and meaningless existence ends when he meets the right girl—Hal Hartley axiom Elina Löwensohn—and her sister. Grandrieux transcends the conventions of the serial-killer genre only to propel us into even more complex and disturbing territory.

La Vie Nouvelle

La Vie nouvelle
Philippe Grandrieux, 2002; 102m 
In an unspecific Balkan war zone, an American expatriate attempts to rescue a woman from a forced prostitution ring. Pushing a story of obsession into uncharted visual and experiential territory, Grandrieux renders a nocturnal landscape of stygian strip-clubs throbbing with music and desolate wastelands roamed by dogs. It’s a nightmarish trance-film retelling of the Orpheus myth, in which an array of layered filmic and sonic effects are unleashed in the service of obscure needs, bodies adrift, and a pioneering vision of cinema.

Un Lac

Un lac
Philippe Grandrieux, 2008; 90m 
In Grandrieux’s fable-like tale, the ultimate extremity of otherness is found close to home. Deep in the middle of a forest, a family ekes out a primitive existence, until one day a mysterious stranger arrives. What ensues is captured with handheld camerawork counterbalanced by heady, blurry, desaturated landscape photography evoking Gerhard Richter and Casper David Friedrich. Reportedly, at one screening of the film, Grandrieux sought to block out the glow from the exit signs to achieve the requisite darkness.

"This is immersive, poetic ruralism at its most intense." —Time Out New York

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