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NYFF 2023: 10 Films On Our Radar

Sep 18, 2023 By Kaveh Jalinous Web Exclusive
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It’s that time of year again. For two weeks in the early fall, New York’s iconic Lincoln Center transforms into the stomping grounds of the New York Film Festival (September 29-October 15). Some of the center’s most iconic music venues turn into screening rooms. A fair amount of the year’s most anticipated films screen for sold-out audiences. If you find yourself at the intersection of 66th and Broadway, an exciting world of film awaits, just steps away.

Now in its 61st edition, NYFF faces what will be one of its most interesting festivals yet. Major talent appearances for big studio films are still on halt, due to the SAG and WGA strikes. By now, most of the independent films–including the festival’s centerpiece and closing night films (Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla and Michael Mann’s Ferrari)–have secured SAG interim agreements, allowing their actors to promote their films.

This year, NYFF boasts a spectacular lineup, featuring more United States and North American premieres than usual. Working through the festival’s slate–which is divided into four sections (Main Slate, Currents, Spotlight and Revivals) can be overwhelming. To assist with the task, here are the 10 films we’re most excited to see, as selected by UTR film critic Kaveh Jalinous.

1. The Beast (Main Slate)

Who: Bertrand Bonello, the genre-bending French director of Nocturama and Zombi Child, the always-wonderful Léa Séydoux, 1917-standout George MacKay.

What: “Bertrand Bonello has created a dynamic and disturbing parable that jumps between three different time periods (1910, 2014, and 2044) and tells the story of a young woman who undergoes a surgical process to have her DNA—and therefore memories of all her past lives—removed.”

Why: Bonello’s career has been defined by taking risks, both in stylistic and narrative terms. Based on reactions from Venice and Toronto, where this flick also played, it seems like The Beast is perhaps even riskier, and more fascinating, than the director’s other works. Plus, with two über-talented actors in the film’s leading roles, it seems that this will be a difficult experience to forget about anytime soon.

2. The Boy and the Heron (Spotlight)

Who: The legendary Hayao Miyazaki, returning with his (allegedly) final film and his first film in 10 years.

What: “While the Second World War rages, the teenage Mahito, haunted by his mother’s tragic death, is relocated from Tokyo to the serene rural home of his new stepmother; as he tries to adjust, this strange new world grows even stranger.”

Why: Whether The Boy and the Heron is truly his final film or not, all that matters is that Miyazaki is back! We can’t wait to see what the director has been cooking in the decade since his last film, The Wind Rises. Plus, if the film is anything like the novel on which it is based (titled How Do You Live?), we anticipate (multiple) waves of tears incoming.

3. The Zone of Interest (Main Slate)

Who: Jonathan Glazer, acclaimed director of Birth and Under the Skin, German actress Sandra Hüller (who also stars in another festival selection, Anatomy of a Fall).

What: “British director Jonathan Glazer situates the viewer at the center of frighteningly familiar banality: the domestic routine of a Nazi Commandant, his wife, and their kids, while death and violence occur against those imprisoned in Auschwitz over the wall from their idyllic house.”

Why: The Zone of Interest was all anyone could talk about at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, with critics suggesting that the harrowing script and performances would be some of the year’s best. Months later, their premonitions seem to be accurate, as audiences cannot stop raving about Glazer’s newest film. Based on the synopsis alone, we’re nervous to see how this story unfolds, but we trust that Glazer will navigate the film’s story, and themes, carefully and effectively.

4. Evil Does Not Exist (Main Slate)

Who: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, whose 2021 film Drive My Car earned four Oscar nominations and won the Best Foreign Film category.

What: “Ryûsuke Hamaguchi reconstitutes the boundaries of the ecopolitical thriller with the tale of a serene rural village that’s about to be disrupted by the construction of a glamping site for Tokyo tourists.”

Why: It feels like only days ago that I was recommending Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car as a film to catch at NYFF’s 59th edition. Since then, Hamaguchi has become one of the film world’s most popular, and most reliable, directors. With Evil Does Not Exist, the director appears to be continuing his trend of using slow-burning dialogue and visuals to tap into the essential elements of what makes us human, for better and for worse. If the film’s Silver Lion (second place) prize at Venice suggests anything, it’s that the director is successful yet again.

5. Menus-Plaisirs: Les Troisgros (Spotlight)

Who: Documentary filmmaking legend and pioneer Frederick Wiseman.

What: “Frederick Wiseman brings his camera into a three-star Michelin restaurant in rural central France—La Maison Troisgros, located in the Roanne commune in Loire—and the results are as expansive, delectable, and provocative as one would hope: a patient, kaleidoscopic documentary portrait of the demand for perfection.”

Why: After an (unsuccessful) switch to narrative storytelling last year, the 93-year-old documentary filmmaker is back with another four-hour observational documentary. This time, his subject–a three-star Michelin restaurant–seems just as fascinating as ever. If we’ve learned anything from Wiseman’s films, we can expect little camera movement, long takes and expansive bursts of dialogue. And, based on the clips that have been released thus far, we can also expect to leave the cinema hungry.

6. The Taste of Things (Spotlight)

Who: French director Trân Anh Hùng, the iconic Juliette Binoche, underrated French actor Benoît Magimel.

What: “This sumptuous, exceptionally well-crafted work of epicurean cinema, set in late 19th-century France, stars Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel as Eugénie, a cook, and Dodin, the gourmet chef she has been working with for 20 years.”

Why: Movies about food are somewhat rare these days, which makes it all the more ironic that NYFF is hosting two films set in the cooking world. Regardless, The Taste of Things was a Cannes standout, with many critics suggesting that it should have won the Palme d’Or on account of its smart narrative and brilliant cinematography (specifically, when it came to capturing food on-screen). We’re excited to see if the film lives up to the hype.

7. Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Currents)

Who: Vietnamese filmmaker Thien An Pham.

What: “A reverie on faith, loss, and nature expressed with uncommon invention and depth that follows a thirtysomething man after he leaves Saigon for a trip back to his rural hometown following a family tragedy.”

Why: This was another standout at Cannes earlier this year, where it won the Caméra d’Or (Best First Film) award. Clocking in at nearly three hours, the film requires a lot of commitment, but a compelling story, beautiful-looking visuals and swaths of promising reviews are enough to secure our interest.

8. Hit Man (Spotlight)

Who: Richard Linklater, the legendary director of Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, Top Gun: Maverick breakout Glen Powell.

What: “Glen Powell, in a wily and charismatic star turn, plays strait-laced philosophy professor Gary Johnson, who moonlights as an undercover hit man for the New Orleans Police Department, inhabiting different guises and personalities to catch hapless criminals hoping to bump off their enemies.”

Why: Linklater is one of the most consistent working American directors, and if reviews of Hit Man from Venice and Toronto suggest anything, it’s that he has another hit on his hands (no pun intended). Plus, Powell has been on the up-and-coming for years now, and if he brings the same charisma that he had in Top Gun: Maverick to this role, we’re in for a great time.

9. Priscilla (Main Slate)

Who: Sofia Coppola, director of hits like Lost in Translation or Marie Antoinette, Cailee Spaeny, Euphoria star Jacob Elordi.

What: “Sofia Coppola, who in her remarkable filmography has so often returned to intimate portraits of women living complicated lives behind closed doors, has found a subject exquisitely tailored to her interests in Priscilla Presley, whose love affair and marriage to Elvis kept her in the public eye before she had truly experienced the world.”

Why: Coppola’s biopic has already caused controversy at the Elvis estate, who would not let the director use any of Elvis’ songs in the film. Instead, the director relies on an anachronistic soundtrack–just one of the many reasons we can’t wait to see the feature. It’ll also be nice to see a portrait of the Presleys that has a clear and meaningful message, rather than the typical biopic fare that we’ve gotten in the past (here’s looking at you, Elvis (2022)).

10. Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus (Spotlight)

Who: Ryuichi Sakamoto, the brilliant, influential Japanese composer who died in March 2023, at the age of 71.

What: “A gorgeous elegy starring Sakamoto himself in one of his final performances, an intimate, melancholy, and achingly beautiful one-man show recorded in late 2022 at NHK Studio in Tokyo.”
Why: Throughout his career, Sakamoto consistently pushed the boundaries of what classical music could be. It was extraordinarily difficult to say farewell to the composer earlier this year, but this film, directed by Sakamoto’s son, seems like an emotionally fulfilling way to showcase the composer’s talent and highlight his legacy’s immortal impact.


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