56th New York Film Festival early bird highlights

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, Wildlife, Maria By Callas and Non-Fiction (Doubles Vies)

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Nora Hamzawi star in Olivier Assayas's Non-Fiction (Doubles Vies) with Christa Théret and Pascal Greggory
Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Nora Hamzawi star in Olivier Assayas's Non-Fiction (Doubles Vies) with Christa Théret and Pascal Greggory Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Tom Volf's standout Maria By Callas on Maria Callas, with the voice of Joyce DiDonato in the Spotlight on Documentary program; Special Events selection Morgan Neville's They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead documentary with Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar, and Joseph McBride on the making of Orson Welles's The Other Side Of The Wind; and in the Main Slate Paul Dano's Wildlife, co-written with Zoe Kazan, starring Ed Oxenbould, Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Bill Camp, and Olivier Assayas's Non-Fiction (Doubles Vies) with Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, and Nora Hamzawi round out the four early bird highlights of the 56th New York Film Festival.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) chronicles the goings on around the chaotic assembly of Orson Welles's never completed film The Other Side Of The Wind, which will be shown hand in hand for the first time in the Special Events section of the New York Film Festival, almost half a century after it all began. With Alan Cumming as an unobtrusive narrator, the documentary lifts the various stones around the movie's creation and lets us have a good look at the monsters hiding underneath Welles's barely watchable, misogynistic hate parade. You could call it the anti-Mr. Rogers. In 1970, Hollywood was changing and Welles intended to make two films in one. The titbits are fascinating: Peter Bogdanovic, acting in The Other Side Of The Wind was given the instruction to play his role "like Jerry Lewis," there is Claude Chabrol popping up like a chubby lemur in the party sequence, while the lead part of Hannaford, famous tough-guy movie director isn't even cast yet. John Huston soon will bite on it and chew and grin his way through a sheer endless Hollywood industry party that contains the interrupted screening of the unfinished movie within the movie, which parodies and intends to combine the likes of Ingmar Bergman's Persona, Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse, and Jacques Demy's Model Shop.

Public screenings: Saturday, September 29 at 12:00pm - Alice Tully Hall - Extended conversation with Frank Marshall, Filip Jan Rymsza, Peter Bogdanovich, Bob Murawski, and Morgan Neville (moderated by Kent Jones and Martin Scorsese) on September 29, following The Other Side Of The Wind at 2:15pm - Alice Tully Hall

Wildlife

Wildlife
Wildlife

Joe Brinson (Ed Oxenbould), the 14-year-old protagonist of Wildlife has been given such a bland first name by his parents so that he could go anywhere and be anybody. Feeling trapped, going places, struggling for survival and retaining dignity are the marrow of Paul Dano's impressive, devastatingly piercing directorial debut, which he adapted together with Zoe Kazan from Richard Ford's novel. It is 1960. His family recently moved to a small town in Montana, where his father Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) works at a golf course. His mother Jeanette (Carey Mulligan), a former substitute teacher is, by the father's decision mostly it seems, a housewife and mother now. She is a woman pushed to her limits, as she tries to come up with any sort of plan for her family's future. She finds a job as a swimming instructor after her husband lost his. This is where she meets Warren Miller (Bill Camp), a war veteran, much older than she, not much to look at, but the wealthy owner of a car dealership in town, among other businesses. Landscape and music and everyday objects are used to splendid effect. A moody pink sky is accompanied by a soundtrack that echoes a far-away train and a flute. The kitchen rubber gloves are pale green and foreshadow what Jeanette calls her "desperation dress," a taffeta creation in the same hue with the most beautifully cut back.

Public screenings: Sunday, September 30 at 6:00pm - Alice Tully Hall; Monday, October 1 - Francesca Beale Theater - Expected to attend: Paul Dano and Carey Mulligan on September 30 (joined by Zoe Kazan) and October 1

Maria By Callas

Maria By Callas
Maria By Callas

Maria by Callas fashionably transports you into the world of a great artist. As the title suggests, Tom Volf's documentary lets the famous opera singer speak for herself about her life, her career, her loves as Maria, the woman behind, or within, the star. Often you see the truth in her face, not in her words. Maria Callas died in 1977, so it is recordings from radio and clips from television interviews, including with David Frost, Edward Murrow, and Barbara Walters, that help us time travel with her, as much as she allows. A sheer endless parade of airport arrivals, dressed to the nines, poodle Toy in tow, makes it easy to drift momentarily into a dreamworld of mid-century notoriety, with Callas's voice hypnotising us into something that never really existed. When Callas speaks in an interview about the fact that she would have liked to have had children and that she feels she was forced into her career, first by her mother and then by her husband, Giovanni Battista Meneghini, centuries of gender expectations fly open and reveal a wound of uncertainty. Headlines, bronchitis, the press in an uproar, a terrified star "swamped with fear" - Volf nimbly does not untangle the drama for us.

Public screenings: Sunday, September 30 at 3:15pm - Alice Tully Hall; Monday, October 8 at 3:00pm - Walter Reade Theater - Expected to attend: Tom Volf on September 30

Non-Fiction (Doubles Vies)

Non-Fiction
Non-Fiction

In Olivier Assayas in his bursting-at-the seams, state-of-the-dying-art Non-Fiction (Doubles vies), our heads are already filled with opinions before editor Alain (Guillaume Canet) and his rather Knausgaardian author of auto-fiction Léonard (Vincent Macaigne) even begin ordering their lunch. There is almost as much well-chosen hospitality concerning food and drink, as there is conversation in this film. Juliette Binoche plays Selena, Alain's actress wife, competent equally in performing classics on stage as on a successful TV crime series, where she sports an ugly red wig and hedges revenge fantasies. Léonard's significant other Valérie (Nora Hamzawi) is a campaigning politician's right-hand woman and she has a singular handle on the whiny author who is capable of only using his own life in his books. Pascal Greggory as Marc-Antoine, owner of the old publishing house Alain works for, during a stroll around the gardens of his country house, clad in Barbour jacket and Wellies, informs his editor that he might be selling the company - and him with it. In this smashingly sad comedy of manners, shoes drop left and right. The good life of the educated, culturally aware, carefully and statement-makingly dressed people with all the talk and snacks and friends and beach houses, is ultimately just as empty and filled with self-hatred as a tweet can be.

Public screenings: Tuesday, October 2 at 6:00pm - Alice Tully Hall; Wednesday, October 3 at 9:30pm - Alice Tully Hall - Expected to attend: Olivier Assayas on October 2

The 2018 New York Film Festival runs from September 28 through October 14.

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