The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced the lineup for the 17th edition of Film Comment magazine’s annual series, Film Comment Selects, taking place February 17 to 23, 2017 at the Walter Reade Theater.
The festival opens with two anticipated new films: the U.S. premiere of A Woman’s Life, by Stéphane Brizé (The Measure of a Man, NYFF53), an adaptation of a Guy de Maupassant novel, and a special presentation of Terrence Malick’s cosmic documentary marvel Voyage of Time in Ultra-widescreen 3.6, the 46-minute cut screening as the director intended, featuring music without narration. Other highlights include Lav Diaz’s The Woman Who Left and Wang Bing’s Bitter Money, both prizewinners at last year’s Venice Film Festival; Bogdan Mirica’s Dogs, starring Romanian cinema regular Vlad Ivanov (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days); Ivan Gaona’s debut feature Guilty Men; Michal Marczak’s All These Sleepless Nights, which won the documentary directing prize at Sundance; and more.
In addition to a fresh crop of films, this year’s edition features a retrospective sidebar on the late, great French New Wave cinematographer Raoul Coutard (1924-2016). Showcasing a selection of rare films from his oeuvre, the sidebar includes Jacques Baratier’s La Poupée (1962) and Philippe Garrel’s Wild Innocence (2001), which was never released stateside. Film Comment Selects also presents a double bill of films directed by Paul Newman: his recently rediscovered short film, the Chekhov adaptation On the Harmfulness of Tobacco (1962), which hasn’t screened publicly for more than 50 years; and the feature The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972), starring Joanne Woodward.
Rounding out the lineup are retrospective screenings of Louis Malle’s God’s Country (1985), followed by a special live Film Comment Podcast about cinema in a changing political landscape; German director Doris Dörrie’s comedy Men… (1985); new international genre films; and more. As evidenced by such past selections as Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day, Olivier Assayas’s demonlover, Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Christian Petzold’s Phoenix, and Terence Davies’s Sunset Song, these are films that play by their own rules—works of considered artistry that reflect the philosophy of a magazine that has been an essential critical guide for film lovers for more than 50 years.
FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS
A Woman’s Life / Une vie
Stéphane Brizé, France/Belgium, 2016, 119m
French with English subtitles
French filmmaker Stéphane Brizé, director of last year’s working-class drama The Measure of a Man, which earned star Vincent Lindon the best actor award at Cannes, takes an unexpected turn to costume drama with this bold adaptation of a novel by Guy de Maupassant. Following the life and disillusionment of an aristocrat named Jeanne (Judith Chemla) from adolescence through unhappy marriage, Brizé’s film explores the inherently exploitative social dictates and moral codes of nineteenth-century marriage and family. Shot in the purposely constricting 4:3 aspect ratio, A Woman’s Life is a tightly composed, intricate work that avoids melodrama in its tender yet cutting portrayal of life’s indifferences, pressures, and disappointments. A Kino Lorber release.
Voyage of Time in Ultra-widescreen 3.6
Terrence Malick, USA, 2017, 46m
A special presentation of the original Ultra-widescreen IMAX Experience
Last fall’s festivals brought Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, Terrence Malick’s long-awaited cosmic reflection, extrapolating and expanding upon the creation-of-life sequence in The Tree of Life, with a voiceover by Cate Blanchett—“the most maximalist work yet by the U.S.’s most unabashedly big-thinking film artist.” (Michael Koresky, Film Comment). Now, Voyage of Time in Ultra-widescreen 3.6 presents Malick’s shorter version of this vision as he intended it to be seen, a purely experiential film featuring only music, rather than voice over, and shown in the widest possible aspect ratio.
All These Sleepless Nights
Michal Marczak, Poland/UK, 2016, 100m
Polish with English subtitles
New York Premiere
“After a rough breakup with his college sweetheart, Krzysztof moves into an apartment with his friend Michal, embarking on a hedonistic tour of house parties and group raves, flings and romances, foolishness and philosophical musings. One night bleeds into another, scenes alternate with snapshots, but it all makes an impression . . . Our questions over what’s observed, staged, or spontaneous in Marczak’s audacious cinematic happening are overwhelmed by the fact and meaning of all that movement.” (Eric Hynes, Film Comment) Winner of the directing prize at the Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Documentary competition. Released by The Orchard.
Bitter Money / Ku Qian
Wang Bing, China/France, 2016, 152m
Mandarin with English subtitles
New York Premiere
An essential chronicler of modern China in constant flux, Wang Bing turns his camera this time on garment workers in Eastern China. His roving study of migrant laborers is a sometimes shocking, sometimes lulling immersion into a usually invisible swath of humanity. Wang’s steady gaze gives the sense of people (many of them teenagers) buffeted about by far more powerful forces, and mired in the daily grind. A prize-winner at last year’s Venice Film Festival, it’s another formidable effort from the director of ’Til Madness Do Us Part and Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks.
Dogs / Câini
Bogdan Mirica, Romania/France/Bulgaria/Qatar, 2016, 104m
Romanian with English subtitles
New York Premiere
“Broad-shouldered city boy Roman (Dragos Bucur) wants to sell off his grandfather’s sprawl of grassy land and brush, right on the border with Ukraine. But the caginess of the caretaker he meets is merely an aperitif to the area’s casually vicious morass of nefarious intentions and brutality—it’s all run as a criminal fiefdom by shadowy capo Samir (Vlad Ivanov)… An impressively assured and expertly assembled feature debut from Romanian commercial director and novelist Bogdan Mirica, this tale of a man claiming a huge inherited country estate and finding deep-rooted corruption takes its cues from American return-of-the-repressed backwater thrillers.” (Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment)
Guilty Men / Pariente
Ivan Gaona, Colombia, 2016, 115m
Spanish with English subtitles
“Gaona’s sharp debut feature taps into Colombia’s roiling discontent amidst corruption and the foreboding legacy of paramilitaries in the countryside. The queasily tense drama tracks a rural love triangle that ensues when a woman’s ex surfaces, to the displeasure of her corrupt strongman fiancé. Despite a sweet sense of yearning between the potential lovers, any hope of romance seems set to wither and die amidst the moral rot and, more concretely, the thefts and killings that periodically occur and drive home the powerlessness of the area’s inhabitants. Gaona shows how the violence becomes a part of the landscape as much as the local sugarcane, as he charts the varying degrees to which people give in, or resist.” (Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment)
Harmonium / Fuchi ni tatsu
Kôji Fukada, Japan/France, 2016, 118m
Japanese with English subtitles
“Winner of the Prix du Jury in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, Harmonium observes a family as it’s dealt a tragic blow and then no less shaken by the process of recovery. Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) runs a garage workshop that opens right into the home he shares with his wife, Akié (Mariko Tsutsui), and their cute-as-a-button daughter, Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa). Trouble arrives when Toshio hires Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), a friend with an unsavory past who’s in need of a break—though the complicated effects of his arrival on the close-knit family are best left unrevealed.” (Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment) A Film Movement release.
The Untamed / La región salvaje
Amat Escalante, Mexico/Denmark/France/Germany/Norway/Switzerland, 2016, 100m
Spanish with English subtitles
“Amat Escalante’s The Untamed variously dazzled, horrified, shocked, and, in the case of some very nervous viewers, tickled the Venice Film Festival when it played in competition,” Jonathan Romney wrote in a dispatch from Venice last fall. Escalante’s mindbending country tale injects an intrusive otherworldly presence into a love triangle between a married man, his wife, and his brother-in-law. Desire seems to bend reality itself, as the no-holds-barred director of Heli and Sangre unleashes a film of sexual hunger with science fiction elements.
The Woman Who Left / Ang babaeng humayo
Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2016, 226m
Filipino with English subtitles
A woman discovers that, after 30 years in prison, her friend and fellow inmate committed the murder she was accused of, leading to her release and discovery of the man who framed her. Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year, Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz’s Tolstoy-inspired epic is a story of revenge deferred, “a meditation on the nature of Goodness in a world of deceit and corruption” (Olaf Moller, Film Comment) that functions as a slow-build tale of urban theater and class warfare, and a sensitive expression of family and forgiveness. A Kino Lorber release.
RETROSPECTIVES & EVENTS
Raoul Coutard Tribute: Beyond the New Wave
Last November, the world lost the man who shot Breathless, Contempt, Jules and Jim, Lola, and Pierrot le Fou—to name only a few of the films that epitomized the French New Wave at its most dazzling and technically innovative. This tribute remembers Coutard (1924-2016) with a look at some of the rarer films on the legendary cinematographer’s résumé.
The Dark Room of Damocles (a.k.a. Like Two Drops of Water)
Fons Rademakers, Netherlands, 1962, 119m
Dutch and German with English subtitles
Raoul Coutard constructed the three-wheeled “Coutard dolly” to shoot this existentialist examination of thought and action. In Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, a withdrawn cigar store owner named Ducker finds his doppelganger in a Resistance parachutist, who calls upon him to help carry out attacks on the Gestapo. As Ducker’s involvement deepens, the thriller builds to a climactic twist. Courtesy of EYE Film Institute Netherlands.
Hail Mafia! / Je vous salue, mafia!
Raoul Lévy, France/Italy, 1965, 16mm, 90m
Hail Mafia! tells the story of two hitmen (Jack Klugman and Henry Silva) hired to kill an American expatriate before he testifies against the mob. But as they travel through stark cityscapes and deserted highways, the conversation turns inward, merging B-movie noir with thug-philosophical meditations on gangsterdom. The vigor of Coutard’s visual style sets the rhythm for this evocative crime drama.
Jacques Baratier, France/Italy, 1962, 35mm, 95m
French with English subtitles
Baratier’s playfully colorful and rarely screened final feature takes “surreal sci-fi” to new heights. The titular poupée, or “doll,” is in fact the robot wife of a revolutionary impersonating the leader of a fictional Latin American country. La Poupée is part theater of the absurd, part musical with Greek chorus, with an extravagant use of color and staging that make for a singular visual journey. “A highly stylized mix of Grand Guignol, cabaret, and surrealist theater that puts together the incomparable Polish star Zbigniew Cybulski at his most eccentric with the glacial Canadian transvestite Sonne Teal.” (Olaf Möller, Film Comment)
Wild Innocence / Sauvage innocence
Philippe Garrel, France/Netherlands, 2001, 35mm, 123m
French with English subtitles
The final film Coutard shot, in sprawling black-and-white widescreen, was for Philippe Garrel, with whom the cinematographer wrote a fresh last chapter to his career. It’s about a director (Medhi Belhaj Kacem) shooting a film inspired by a past lover, a model who OD’d on heroin (with an echo of Garrel’s own past with singer Nico). As the director struggles to complete the film, he’s sucked into a drug deal by his producer (Michel Subor), and things only get darker from there.
Paul Newman Directs
On the Harmfulness of Tobacco
Paul Newman, USA, 1962, 16mm, 25m
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
Paul Newman, USA, 1972, 100m
Not seen publicly since 1962—on a program with Murder, She Said at the Baronet on Third Avenue—On the Harmfulness of Tobacco is the recently rediscovered short film directed by Paul Newman, a Chekhov adaptation starring Michael Strong as Ivan Ivanovich Nyukhin, a lifelong smoker giving a lecture on the dangers of tobacco that gradually unwinds into a lyrical soliloquy on marriage and loneliness. In addition to this exceedingly rare film, we are also screening Newman’s poignant feature adaptation of Paul Zindel’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, starring Joanne Woodward. Followed by Q&A with director-actor Jack Garfein and composer David Amram.
Louis Malle, USA, 1985, 16mm, 90m
Louis Malle first became acquainted with the everyday rhythms of Glencoe, Minnesota, while filming a TV documentary in 1979. After Reagan’s reelection, Malle revisited the farming community to find familiar faces steeped in a period of economic crisis. Glencoe’s residents make up the fabric of God’s Country, opening their homes and sharing their traditions with Malle’s crew. In turn, Malle speaks with the warmth and empathy of a humbled traveler as he seeks fragments of Glencoe’s essence.
Live Film Comment Podcast: “Before and After”
Cinema après Trump! This live recording of the Film Comment Podcast tackles how we might view certain films and the cultural endeavor differently in light of the 2016 election and a wildly changed political landscape. Featuring Nicolas Rapold, Editor of Film Comment, and special guests to be announced.
Men… / Männer…
Doris Dörrie, West Germany, 1985, 35mm, 99m
German with English subtitles
“’German screwball comedy’ are words not often heard together. But in 1985, Doris Dörrie gifted the movie world with Men…, which comprised all the necessary elements. The story of a jilted husband who, on the sly, becomes the roommate of and gradually befriends his wife’s new, artsy lover is fast-paced silliness, full of witty dialogue and engaging performances. The movie is not easy to find, with only a terribly transferred and even more terribly dubbed DVD available in the U.S.” (Laura Kern, Film Comment) Catch it at this rare screening. Print courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek.