Bernardo Bertolucci's Me And You

The 14th edition of Film Comment Selects, the annual festival curated by the editors of Film Comment magazine, is underway here at the Film Society. Surveying the very best upcoming, underseen, and forgotten gems on the festival and repertory circuit, this year’s series has received much praise for its eclectic lineup and wide-ranging selections. As critics from publications far and wide have been giving the series some serious attention, we thought we’d dive right in and take a look at some of the ink being spilled.

“One of the great joys of attending any film festival,” reminisces Robert Levin of AM New York, “is the experience of discovering a movie for the first time, to sit down without any preconceptions and to emerge with your mind expanded and your perspective shifted. There's a flip side to that, of course. Entrusting your moviegoing experience to a team of festival programmers leaves you exposed to their whims and desires. There's a serious measure of trust involved, and the credentials of the curators matter. Fortunately, those credentials don't get much better than the editors of Film Comment, the Film Society of Lincoln Center's venerable publication.”

Last week, film critic A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote on the series as a whole. “This is a festival that disguises its ambition in the matter-of-fact modesty of its title and presents winter-weary New York audiences with a grab bag full of oddities and treasures,” Scott remarked. “It’s up to you to decide which is which… Or you can sort through the selections a different way: into movies you might have missed, movies you might want to see before everyone else does, and movies you know almost nothing about. The last category is always my favorite, and includes most of the titles under discussion here.”

Mohammad Shirvani's Fat Shaker

“Guilt and betrayal are common themes of the program this year,” notes Craig Hubert of Blouin ARTINFO. “Christian Petzold’s Wolfsburg involves a hit-and-run as well, though this time handled with precision and grace. Also screening is a 35mm print of David Jones’s adaptation of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, starring Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley. Recently produced on Broadway starring real married couple Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig, the narrative involves various levels of infidelity that go back a number of years. The structure of the narrative—told in reverse, essentially—unfolds as if you’re traveling back in time down the rabbit hole of your own memories.”

Writing for the Village Voice, David Fear says “for the past 14 years, the Film Comment Selects series has been a godsend for obsessives. Its show-don't-just-tell modus operandi offers the chance to sample some of the more obscure and obtuse offerings the 50-year-old publication champions. Yes, you may now be able to find virtually any film you want floating around the vast cosmos of cyberspace, but curation remains an undervalued necessity. Combine that with exhibition, and we have cinephilia synergy in action.”

Film-Forward's Christopher Bourne notes that “this series specializes in finding bizarre, unclassifiable films from around the world, and Mohammad Shirvani’s Fat Shaker is definitely one of the strangest. Consider it Iran’s answer to David Lynch. A definitely Lynchian reordering of narrative elements occurs in this story of three people who may or may not be related, shifting from “reality,” dreams, and fantasy, to the point where they’re well-nigh indistinguishable.”

Marvin Kren's Blood Glacier

Getting a taste of the genre features being screened, R. Emmet Sweeney went to the source itself, Film Comment, to analyze some of the bloodier efforts., such as Blood Glacier from Australia. “In East Antarctica, a river of red, iron-oxide infused water flows out of Taylor Glacier. Known as 'Blood Falls,' it was discovered in 1911, but toiled in big screen obscurity until it was made into the subject of an Austrian horror movie in 2013. Blood Glacier is a resourceful riff on John Carpenter’s The Thing and Larry Fessenden’s Last Winter: a group of scientists at a remote arctic outpost are under attack from mutant insects that were born out of microorganisms brewing in the retreating, globally warmed ice. A briskly entertaining, old-fashioned monster movie, it wrings plenty out of its clapboard set, rubber effects, and omnipresent red LED eyes.”

On our Closing Night film, Me and You from director Bernardo Bertolucci, Matt Prigge of Metro noted “Its findings are modest but deeply felt, and best of all, it slips in David Bowie’s 'Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola,' his Italian-language version of 'Space Oddity' that utterly changes the subject matter from space to heartbreak.”

Not to be outdone, Slant Magazine is reviewing many of the films screening in Film Comment Selects as the festival progresses.