Hong Sang-soo's Our Sunhi
The lineup for the 14th edition of the ever-eclectic Film Comment Selects series has finally been revealed and, to no one's surprise, there is plenty to sink your teeth into.
Things kick off on February 17 with Our Sunhi, the latest from Hong Sang-soo, whose Nobody Daughter Haewon screened at the 51st New York Film Festival just a few months ago. The movie, which won Hong the Silver Leopard award for Best Director at the 66th Locarno Film Festival last summer, follows a young film student as she returns to her former school looking for guidance and sparks romantic feelings in three men who cross her path.
Closing night falls on February 27 and this year's slot goes to Bernardo Bertolucci's Me and You, which has been racking up end-of-year awards in Italy. Bertolucci's first Italian-language feature in 32 years takes place in the confines of a family basement, where a teenage boy endeavors to hide from the world but ends up sharing the space with his heroin-addicted older half-sister.
Jane Campion's Top of the Lake
If you haven't gotten around to watching Jane Campion's brilliant foray into television, Top of the Lake, or if you have and are looking to experience it marathon-style on the big screen, now's your chance. The tense thriller, set in stunning rural New Zealand and starring Elizabeth Moss and Holly Hunter, will screen in all its six-hour glory… with a 15-minute intermission to spare your bladder.
As always, Film Comment Selects delivers a mix of old and new. Among the new work is Lukas Moodysson's We Are the Best!, a tale of three Swedish pre-teen girls who form a punk band that had critics raving when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Fans of Scandinavian crime thrillers should mark their calendars for Lasse Hallström's The Hypnotist, a Nordic noir about a psychologist who uses hypnotism to solve a grisly crime.
Ti West's The Sacrament
Great performances abound in this year's roster. Jake Gyllenhaal plays two doppelgängers in Enemy, his second collaboration with Denis Villeneuve following last year's Oscar-nominated Prisoners. Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas are together at last in Cherchez Hortense, a winning comedy-drama from frequent Jacques Rivette and Raúl Ruiz collaborator slash ex–Cahiers du cinéma critic Pascal Bonitzer. And a host of indie stalwarts, including Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Kate Lyn Sheil, and Kentucker Audley, pop up in the highly anticipated new film by indie horror master Ti West, The Sacrament.
After winning awards at last year's Sundance Film Festival, British Independent Film Awards, and a BAFTA nod for best Foreign Language film, Sean Ellis's Metro Manila is finally making its way to NYC. The harrowing domestic drama follows a rice-farming Filipino family's move to the city, where they find themselves in a downward spiral of exploitation and misery. The Australian production team behind the Oscar-nominated Animal Kingdom return with Felony, a tense police drama starring Tom Wilkinson and Joel Edgerton, who also wrote the screenplay.
Sean Ellis's Metro Manila
But wait, we promised you old stuff too, right? Among this year's classic selections is a Film Comment Double Feature—a true one, two films for the price of one—of healthcare mayhem made up of Blake Edwards's thriller about a botched illegal abortion, The Carey Treatment, and Arthur Hiller's black comedy The Hospital. The latter won an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Paddy Chayevsky, who also wrote Network.
The late Raúl Ruiz's rarely-screened City of Pirates blends folk legends, surrealist poetry, children’s adventure stories, and Hollywood horror movies into something the programmers call “a cross between Peter Pan and Friday the 13th as told through a wildly baroque visual style that suggests a collaboration between Georges Méliès and Sergio Leone.” And if you were a fan of Barbara (NYFF50), you won't want to miss our screenings of two of his previous films, Wolfsburg (2003) and Ghosts (2005).
Raúl Ruiz's City of Pirates
All right, we've said enough. We'll leave you with some words from Film Comment magazine editor-in-chief (and series co-programmer) Gavin Smith, after which you can dive in to the rest of this exciting lineup. Tickets go on sale to members on Tuesday, January 28 and to the general public on Thursday, January 30. Film Comment subscribers get a special $10 ticket price and, for maximum savings, take advantage of our three-film package…
“Every year the process of programming Film Comment Selects is an adventure, not that different in some ways from the editing of the magazine every two months. This year is particularly special for us because we’ve finally been able to bring in six films (all on 35mm!) from the early Seventies, the mid Eighties, and the early part of the last decade that we’ve dreamed of showing on the big screen for some time—and they’re every bit as thrilling as the films by new discoveries and familiar faces from all over the world that are our bread and butter—films that in eight cases will be coming back (but you want to see them before everyone else, right?) and nine others that won’t be (so this is your only chance to see them). We’re privileged to share these with our audience of art-film devotees, genre fanatics, open-minded cinephiles, and movie lovers of every stripe. And once again, we guarantee: there’s something for everyone.”
Lukas Moodysson's We Are the Best!
Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2013, 88m; HDCam
Another dryly comic and acutely observed take on misread behavior, indecision, and awkward interchanges between the sexes from one of cinema’s undisputed masters of moral comedy, the ever-prolific Hong Sang-soo. Call this one “Who’s That Girl?” or “Identification of a Woman.” Attempting to make a new start, slightly lost former film school student Sunhi (Jung Yumi) returns to her college to get a reference letter and inadvertently awakens vague romantic longings first in her old professor, then in a graduate student ex-boyfriend, and finally in a film director and potential mentor from her class. The three men move into orbit around Sunhi, proffering career and life-choice advice while attempting to define and “understand” her, but in the end they are merely projecting their own feelings and interpretations onto their obscure and unwitting object of desire, to quietly comical effect.
Monday, February 17 at 9PM
Thursday, February 20 at 4:45PM
Me and You
Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy, 2012, 103m; DCP
Bertolucci returns with his first Italian-language feature in 32 years. Following on from Besieged and The Dreamers it continues a minimalist phase for the director after a series of huge international co-productions—this is his third film in a row mostly set in a claustrophobic, very bourgeois interior, and like Besieged, it concerns the solipsistic self-confinement of an obsessive narcissist who is “saved” and led out into the world by a woman who may well be nothing more than a projection of his insecurities. Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), a 14-year-old from a well-to-do family, takes no interest whatsoever in the outside world, and withdraws into himself completely: pretending to go on a school skiing trip, he shuts himself in the basement of his mother’s apartment building for an entire week. But the basement turns out to be a regular refuge for Olivia (Tea Falco), his heroin-addicted older half-sister, and so Lorenzo doesn’t find the perfect solitude he’s looking for. An Emerging Pictures release and one of five films being released under the Cinema Made in Italy label.
Thursday, February 27 at 8:30PM
David Jones, U.K., 1983, 95m; 35mm
Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley, and Patricia Hodge star in this rarely screened adaptation of one of Harold Pinter’s greatest plays, a semi-autobiographical portrait of an adulterous affair. In a unique structural gambit, nine scenes, each marking a significant stage in the development and termination of the affair, are presented in reverse order, starting at the bitter end and working their way back to the beginning. Kingsley is the husband with an unfaithful wife (Hodge) and a bad best friend (Irons). The reverse chronology frees the viewer to concentrate on the subtext: our age has sanctioned betrayal, and as betrayers, we get caught in a web of who knows what and when, and once the rules are broken, there is no one to trust. David Jones, who had previously worked with Pinter and Irons on the 1978 TV drama Langrishe, Go Down, stepped in to direct after Mike Nichols dropped out—and 30 years on Nichols would direct the recent Broadway production.
Tuesday, February 18 at 8:45PM
Blood Glacier (formerly titled The Station)
Marvin Kren, Austria, 2013, 98m; HDCam
An over-the-top creature feature for the Global Warming age. Scientists researching climate change at a research base in the German Alps discover a mysterious substance leaking from a glacier containing micro-organisms that can infect multiple hosts—and soon do. The local wildlife begin to mutate into predatory “hybrid creatures” just as a government minister and her entourage are due to arrive for a publicity op. Panic sets in as the station is besieged by biological mutations, and the team and their visitors find themselves fighting for survival—and with each other. Director Marvin Kren builds the tension without dumbing down the characters in this alpine homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing, and delivers the requisite shocks and gore while favoring old-school special effects over CGI. AN IFC Films release.
Saturday, February 22 at 9:45PM
Manuel Martín Cuenca, Spain, 2013, 116m; DCP
The blunt title of this quietly disturbing, creepily atmospheric, and deeply perverse character study won’t prepare you for the slow and mesmerizingly deliberate experience in store for you. Introverted small-town tailor Carlos, hauntingly played by Antonio de la Torre, keeps to himself, but his solitary life is disturbed by the arrival of Alexandra (Olimpia Melinte), a Romanian “masseuse” who moves into an apartment upstairs. While she receives male clients, Carlos keeps his distance despite her seductive overtures until one night she comes calling on him, seeking his help after a brutal “boyfriend” pays her a visit. The tailor agrees to drive her to the police station. Cut to the arrival of Alexandra’s twin sister Nina (Melinte again), who comes looking for her sibling who owes her money… A story of loneliness and longing, Manuel Martín Cuenca’s low-key chiller of uncommon restraint and unease, Cannibal revolves around the mysteries and dark impulses of the human heart. A Film Movement release.
Saturday, February 22 at 3:20PM
Wednesday, February 26 at 3:30PM
Pascal Bonitzer, France, 2012, 100m; DCP
Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas together at last—enough said? Another of the pleasing, underrated comedy-dramas of frequent Rivette and Ruiz screenplay collaborator and ex–Cahiers du cinéma critic Pascal Bonitzer. Bacri is a conflicted and ineffectual academic who reluctantly agrees to ask his father, a senior judge, to pull some strings on behalf of a Polish woman facing deportation—a task that fills him with horror since his relationship with his father is, you know, complicated. His marriage to a celebrated stage director (Scott Thomas) is on the skids, his teenage son is going through growing pains, a cranky old friend (Jackie Berroyer) is suicidal, and amidst all this he’s befriended by Aurore (Isabelle Carré), a girl half his age. Full of delightful moments and wry observations, this is an old-school relationship movie in which a self-involved member of the Parisian cultural elite comes to see how the other half lives, and it’s more than carried by Bacri, one of the best actors in contemporary French cinema.
Tuesday, February 18 at 6:30PM
Tuesday, February 25 at 4:45PM
City of Pirates
Raul Ruiz, France/Portugal, 1983, 111m; 35mm
Propelled by a ferocious creative energy and blending folk legends, surrealist poetry, children’s adventure stories, and Hollywood horror movies, this vintage film by the late Raúl Ruiz follows a decidedly nonlinear narrative about a sleep-walking virgin (Anne Alvaro), a 10-year-old boy (Melvil Poupaud) who claims to have raped and murdered his entire family, and the lone inhabitant of an island castle (Hughes Quester) who shares his body with an imaginary sister. Funny, frightening, and enigmatic, City of Pirates is like a cross between Peter Pan and Friday the 13th as told through a wildly baroque visual style that suggests a collaboration between Georges Méliès and Sergio Leone. A rare screening of one of Raúl Ruiz’s classics.
Wednesday, February 26 at 9:50PM
Denis Villeneuve, Canada/Spain, 2013; 90m; DCP
Jake Gyllenhaal gives his best performance to date as both Adam, a reserved and humorless history professor, and Anthony, a more animated and cocksure bit-part actor who catches the academic’s eye on screen due to his alarming resemblance to him. So begins Adam’s obsessive journey to confront his doppelgänger face to face. With this provocative existential thriller, and second collaboration (following Prisoners), director Denis Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal score again, this time with a moodily absurdist adaptation of José Saramago’s The Double that if anything actually deepens the possibilities explored in the novel. An A24 release.
Thursday, February 27 at 6:30PM
Mohammad Shirvani, Iran, 2013, 85m; DCP
A singular, cryptic, and ambiguous object that surely breaks with and subverts the orthodoxies of Iranian art cinema, and may be the first hint of the emergence of a new, younger generation of filmmakers. The action centers on an obese con man who uses his deaf-mute, cute adult son as bait to extort money from predatory young women looking for a boy-toy—until the pair’s sketchy life on the social margins is inexplicably upended by the arrival of a mysterious woman who makes herself at home, with unexpected consequences. The film may be an allegorical attack on patriarchy, but its emphasis on the grotesque and the absurd, its off-kilter, unstable style, and its enigmatic refusal to define itself in narrative terms signal the emergence of a talent looking to break fresh ground.
Saturday, February 22 at 1:30PM
Matthew Saville, Australia, 2013, 105m; DCP
Moral dilemmas abound in this tense police drama, another knockout from Australia’s Blue-Tongue Films, the production company behind Animal Kingdom. A detective (Joel Edgerton, who also wrote he screenplay) wrestles with guilt after running down a nine-year-old cyclist while driving under the influence and allowing his boss (Tom Wilkinson) to cover things up. To make matters worse the squad rookie (Jai Courtney) begins to take a closer look at the facts of the supposed hit-and-run case while the comatose victim hovers between life and death… Edgerton delivers another compelling performance and Matthew Saville’s tight direction makes for gripping stuff. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Monday, February 17 at 6:30PM
Film Comment Double Feature: Healthcare Mayhem
The Carey Treatment
Blake Edwards, 1972, 101m, 35mm
In this elaborately plotted mystery thriller, hospital pathologist James Coburn slowly uncovers the truth behind the death of a teenager after a botched illegal abortion. Co-starring Jennifer O’Neill, Pat Hingle, and Dan O’Herlihy and based on a novel pseudonymously written by Michael Crichton and pseudonymously adapted by husband and wife screenwriting team Harriet Frank and Irving Ravetch!
Arthur Hiller, 1971, 101m, 35mm
George C. Scott is the head of a hospital beset by crisis and suspicious medical mishaps in a blackly comic drama by Network writer Paddy Chayevsky, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay. Co-starring Diana Rigg, Barnard Hughes, Richard Dysart, and Nancy Marchand. (Plus: blink or you’ll miss them uncredited walk-ons by Stockard Channing and Christopher Guest!)
Tuesday, February 25 at 7PM
Flesh of My Flesh
Denis Dercourt, France, 2013, 76m; DCP
An unsettling and strikingly oblique psychological horror film that gives new meaning to the term “mother love,” Flesh of My Flesh takes us into the schizoid reality of Anna (Anna Juliana Jaenner), a woman whose young child has a rare medical condition that requires a highly unusual diet. Writer-director Denis Dercourt, best known for 2006’s The Page Turner, uses an unconventional bare-bones approach, evoking his estranged protagonist’s subjectivity with a cold, distorted visual style that blends sharp clarity and hazy shallow-focus while maintaining a distinctly clinical distance. Inspired by a real-life case in Germany and taking inspiration from George’s Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, Dercourt made the film almost single-handedly (he also did the camerawork, sound recording, and editing), while Austrian actress Jaenner, onscreen from start to finish in her screen debut, gives a truly memorable performance.
Saturday, February 22 at 5:45PM
Christian Petzold, Germany, 2005, 85m; 35mm
Unreleased in the U.S., the third film by one of the most exciting directors from Germany’s Berlin School interweaves two intersecting storylines to explore the spectral existences of three female outsiders—a pair of late adolescent girls and an unstable middle-aged woman—who struggle to reconnect with “normal” society and find a place to belong. The action unfolds in Berlin’s redeveloped Potsdamer Platz, symbol of the post-reunification German social and economic order, but nonethless haunted by three “ghosts”: lonely, unworldly Nina (Julia Hummer), who lives in a youth home, manipulative homeless delinquent Toni (Sabine Timoteo), with whom Nina becomes infatuated, and Francoise (Marianne Basler), who is searching for her long-ago kidnapped and still missing child and comes to believe that Nina may be her grown up daughter. Petzold’s film forms the middle section of his “Ghosts Trilogy” (initiated by The State I Am In in 2000 and concluded in 2007 with Yella). Here the ghosts are not just his three main characters—one lost in a traumatic past, one trapped in an empty present, and one grasping at an imagined but hollow future—but the collective and historical ghosts of Germany’s unconscious.
Wednesday, February 26 at 8PM
Lasse Hallström, Sweden, 2012; 122m; DCP
Lasse Hallström returns to his native tongue for the first time in 25 years for this twisty, visually striking Nordic noir about a psychologist (the great Mikael Persbrandt) who’s lured back into hypnotism—a practice he’d sworn off—to help solve a horrific crime. A brutal family slaying has left only one survivor: a badly injured, shell-shocked teenage boy, whose memory the doctor sets out to penetrate. It turns out to be a dangerous undertaking, and what surfaces places the detective on the case and the doctor and his wife (Lena Olin) and young son in harm’s way. An engrossing, chilly nail-biter based on the international best-seller by Lars Kepler.
Friday, February 21 at 3:30PM
Sunday, February 23 at 7:30PM
Noh Young-seok, South Korea, 2013, 99m; DCP
A twisty blackly comic suspense thriller from South Korea, where sometimes it seems like they do this sort of thing better than anyone else. Looking for peace and quiet, a screenwriter rents a winter cabin in a remote country backwater to concentrate on his latest project. On the bus he does his best to rebuff a talkative character fresh out of prison, who unfortunately gets off at the same destination. Throw in a group of obnoxious kids on a ski vacation in the cabin next door, a pair of menacing game hunters who turn out to be related to the ex-con, and a shifty cop and you can see where things are headed, right? Maybe, maybe not. In his second effort, indie director Noh Young-seok shows he’s a talent to watch out for. Co-presented with the Korea Society and Subway Cinema.
Thursday, February 20 at 6:45PM
Thursday, February 27 at 4:15PM
*Director Noh Young-seok in person
Sean Ellis, U.K./Philippines, 2013; 115m
Poor rice-farmers Oscar (Jake Macapagal) and Mai (Althea Vega) travel from the desolate mountains to bustling Manila with their two young children in the hopes of making some money, only to discover that the exploitation they faced at home is nothing compared to what greets them in the big city. From the moment they arrive they fall into a downward spiral: Oscar takes a hazardous job as an armored truck driver, while Mai is forced to dance at a sleazy strip joint, not an ideal line of work for any woman, much less an expectant mother. This harrowing domestic/crime drama was the much-deserved winner of a 2013 Sundance Audience Award. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release.
Friday, February 21 at 6PM
Ti West, U.S., 2013, 95m; DCP
Indie horror specialist Ti West’s story of a Jim Jones–type religious cult will stick in your mind long after the credits roll. Continuing to go from strength to strength, with support from producer Eli Roth, West adopts a first-person found-footage approach with his usual flair and assurance. A VICE magazine photojournalist (Kentucker Audley) arrives at “Eden Parish,” a self-sustaining utopian commune established at a remote undisclosed jungle location outside the U.S. He’s there at the invitation of his estranged sister (Amy Seimetz), and brings along a cameraman (Joe Swanberg) and sound recordist (AJ Bowen), ready to make an exposé documentary. While the trio find no signs of trouble at first—although what’s with the compound’s armed guards?—before long they their doubts prove more than justified as the commune’s mysterious leader, Father (Gene Jones), finally reveals his plans for his followers. A Magnolia release.
Friday, February 21 at 8:30PM
Director Ti West in person
Top of the Lake
Jane Campion & Garth Davis, New Zealand, 2013, 350m; DCP
Twin Peaks crossed with The Killing—and that isn’t the half of it. Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss stars in this thrilling seven-episode television series, the toughest, wildest picture Jane Campion has ever made. With the emotional intensity of the performances and the urgency of the drama scaled to match the vast, primal setting and the six-hour time frame, Top of the Lake is episodic television as epic poem, the Trojan wars recast as the gender war. Moss plays a detective who has returned to the bleak rural town where she grew up in order to spend time with her dying mother, and is recruited by the sole local police officer (David Wenham) to investigate a case of statutory rape. The 12-year-old victim refuses to disclose who got her pregnant, but there are no lack of suspects, starting with her father Mitcham (Peter Mullan), who runs a meth and ecstasy factory in his tumbled-down fortress of a home and seems to have fathered near a half-dozen children with several mothers, making incest as well as violence the subtext of desire, past and present. There are also Mitcham’s sullen, gun-toting sons, and a “foreign” teacher with a pedophile past. A stellar embodiment of “the law of the father,” Mitcham goes on the offensive when women challenge his rule. Enter GJ (Holly Hunter), who buys the lakefront property that Mitcham presumes is his by right and establishes a community of women attempting to recover from abuse through anarchic hijinks—damaged goods empowered by their own sense of comedy. A perfect example of auteurist television, made in collaboration with writer Gerald Lee (who co-wrote Campion’s Sweetie) and co-director Garth Davis.—from Amy Taubin’s article on Top of the Lake in the March/April 2013 issue of Film Comment. A See-Saw Films production in association with Sundance Channel.
Sunday, February 23 at 1PM
*Includes a 15m intermission
We Are the Best!
Lukas Moodysson, Sweden, 2013, 102m; DCP
The director of Together and Lilya 4-ever is back on form with an energetic rough-and-tumble story of three rebellious teenage girls who form a punk rock band to defy the stifling conformity of early 1980s Stockholm. Adapting his wife Coco’s graphic novel, Moodysson affirms that an adolescent girl’s bedroom is as good a place as anywhere to find the ingredients for personal development and political foment as he sketches the friendship between Klara and Bobo, who use punk ideals and music to process the narrow thinking, variable parenting, inconsistent authority, and sexism they encounter in their lives. The action unfolds in a loose series of episodes during which the girls define and give voice to their untested feminist, spiritual, and political ideas, although they can be just as intolerant and conformist as their peers and parents—they recruit classmate and gifted guitar player Hedvig, ostracized for being a devout Christian, but insist that she renounce her religion! Returning to his roots, Moodysson depicts the exploits and follies of his unruly trio with warmth and affection, while cheerfully celebrating the DIY ethos and the urge to revolt. A Magnolia release.
Saturday, February 22 at 7:30PM
Jeon Kyu-hwan, South Korea, 2012; 107m, DCP
Jung (Jo Jae-hyeon) is a sickly hunchbacked mortician who takes pride and pleasure in cleaning and dressing the dead. Gong-bae (Zia) is his burdensome younger stepbrother, who wants nothing more than to be a woman. Their story, fraught with human misery and cruelty—and yes, be warned, some necrophilia and graphic gore—is by no means to all tastes. But looking past the film’s bleak exterior there’s actually much beauty to be found within the grotesquerie. The Weight is exquisitely shot and directed and Jo and Zia deliver staggering performances as two catastrophically confused souls. Unsettling, heartbreaking, and altogether bizarre, The Weight is truly one of a kind.
Thursday, February 20 at 9PM
Christian Petzold, Germany, 2003, 90m
Unavailable in the U.S., the second film by the Berlin School’s leading light and his first collaboration with actress Nina Hoss, star of his art-house hit Barbara, is a slow-burning thriller that uses the relationship between a hit-and-run driver and the victim’s mother to examine the role of chance in people’s lives and the existential malaise of modern Germany. Upwardly mobile car salesman Philipp (Benno Fürmann) seems to have it made—high-pressure job,perfect house and beautiful fiancée, Katja (Antje Westermann), who happens to be his boss’s sister. But Katja has her doubts about Philipp, and when he runs down a boy on a bicycle and drives on, his life begins to unravel. After the boy’s death, his struggling single mother Laura (Hoss), who works in a retail warehouse, sets out to track down his killer, but after a chance meeting between hunter and hunted, a cautious romantic relationship develops, with the guilty Philipp setting out to find a better job for the unknowing Laura. Petzold’s exploration of the nature of work and economics in today’s Germany is echoed in the film’s title, which invokes the factory town where Volkswagen is based.
Wednesday, February 26 at 6PM