The Tragedy Of Macbeth to open NYFF

Joel Coen film stars Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand

by Anne-Katrin Titze

The Tragedy Of Macbeth
The Tragedy Of Macbeth Photo: Apple/A24

Film at Lincoln Center has announced today that Joel Coen’s The Tragedy Of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand (Oscar-winner for her performance in Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland), will be the Opening Night selection of the 59th New York Film Festival.

This latest retelling of William Shakespeare's tragedy - a rare solo work from Joel Coen who normally collaborates with his brother Ethan on films - stars Denzel Washington and Coen's wife Frances McDormand as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

The film also features Kathryn Hunter as the embodiment of the "weird sisters" who, along with his wife, fuels Macbeth's ambitions.

In the press release from the festival, the film is described as a "a work of stark chiaroscuro and incantatory rage".

It adds: "Though it echoes the forbidding visual designs—and aspect ratios—of Laurence Olivier’s classic 1940s Shakespeare adaptations, as well as the bloody medieval madness of Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, Coen’s tale of sound and fury is entirely his own—and undoubtedly one for our moment, a frightening depiction of amoral political power-grabbing that, like its hero, ruthlessly barrels ahead into the inferno."

Coen said: “The New York Film Festival is a place where I’ve been watching movies as an audience member and showing them as a filmmaker for almost 50 years. It’s a real privilege and a thrill to be opening the festival this year."

Joel Coen's The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, to open the 59th New York Film Festival
Joel Coen's The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, to open the 59th New York Film Festival Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

“We can’t wait to welcome New York Film Festival audiences back to Lincoln Center this fall, and what a way to do that!” said Eugene Hernandez, Director of the New York Film Festival. “With Joel Coen, Frances McDormand, Denzel Washington, and our friends at Apple and A24 on Opening Night at Alice Tully Hall, we’re setting the stage for a momentous return to our roots. Last year was a deeply meaningful edition of NYFF; our Festival traveled to Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and around the country via our Virtual Cinema. This year we’re back in our Upper West Side home, but you’ll also find us exploring new venues and ways to connect with moviegoers in person, outdoors, and online—stay tuned!”

“We’re proud to open the festival with a film that immediately joins the ranks of the great screen Shakespeares,” said Dennis Lim, Director of Programming for the New York Film Festival. “Working with brilliant collaborators, including Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in stunning form, Joel Coen has made an inspired and urgent interpretation of an eternally relevant classic, a moral thriller that speaks directly to our time.”

The NYFF Main Slate selection committee, chaired by Dennis Lim, also includes Eugene Hernandez, Florence Almozini, K. Austin Collins, and Rachel Rosen.

The 2021 New York Film Festival runs from September 24 through October 10, 2020.

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