The 54th New York Film Festival was a celebration of international cinematic art, including some of the best French-language feature, documentary, classic and short films, and it captivated a sold-out audience at Lincoln Center for 17 days.
We viewed several francophone films in the Main Slate, including Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper and Things to Come (L’Avenir), directed by former FFC guest director Mia Hansen-Love. Staying Vertical (Rester vertical), Alain Guiraudie’s follow-up to his break-through Stranger by the Lake (L’Inconnu du lac, NYFF 2013) was equally brilliant. The Unknown Girl (La Fille inconnue) was directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who both participated in a fascinating Q&A. Revivals included The Battle of Algiers, by Gillo Pontecorvo—an FFC 2017 French Cinémathèque film at the Avon Theatre on November 15—among others. With such dazzling variety, the 2016 NYFF was a veritable feast of French-language cinema.
The selection committee joined a big crowd of Isabelle Huppert fans to watch one of the most talented and versatile actresses in contemporary and classic French cinema, in back-to-back screenings: Mia Hansen-Love’s Things to Come (L’Avenir) and Paul Verhoeven’s demented thriller/dark comedy Elle, two very different films featuring “complicated feline friends and unhinged elderly mothers.”* Elle, which also starred FFC 2013 guest Anne Consigny, is France’s Best Foreign Language Film entry for the Academy Awards.
Spotlight on Documentaries included Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Hissein Habré, A Chadian Tragedy (Hissein Habré, une tragédie tchadienne), a “personal sketch of the tragic history of [Haroun’s] Central African home country, starting in the mid-1970s with the emergence of a romantic revolutionary figure named Hissein Habré, who seized power in 1982 and established a regime that became renowned throughout the world for human rights abuses.” FFC screened three of his earlier films: Grigris in 2014, A Screaming Man (Un homme qui crie) in 2011 and Sex, Okra and Salted Butter (Sexe, gombo et beurre salé) in 2010.
Explorations—the NYFF’s newest section, screening bold selections “from the vanguard of contemporary cinema—presented the U.S. Premiere of The Death of Louis XIV (La Mort de Louis XIV). This film stars the great Jean-Pierre Léaud as the longest-reigning French monarch on his deathbed, with riveting candlelight images that capture the texture of life at Versailles, as gleaned from Saint-Simons’ memoirs and other historical texts. Cinema aficionados will note that the visual atmosphere is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lindon.
Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph)—the most recent work of American-born expatriate filmmaker Eugène Green, “a film that refines the comic and the human with the baroque music and architecture that he cherishes”—rekindled memories of FFC 2015 favorite, La Sapienza. Newcomer Victor Ezenfis has an extraordinary screen presence as a discontented Parisian teenager; he stars together with FFC-favorite Mathieu Amalric. This Franco-Belgian release hits the festival circuit to “…[skewer] French cultural pretensions.”
John Oursler, a friend of FFC at the Film Society of Lincoln Center could not have said it better: “For cinéphiles, there are few joys as pure as that of discovery!”
Mille mercis to the Film Society of Lincoln Center for their 54th celebration of innovative new films and legendary classics.
*all quotes are excerpts from the NYFF brochure.