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Steve McQueen's "Small Axe"
Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe”

Film at Lincoln Center celebrates the city’s long-awaited return to the cinema with Big Screen Summer: NYFF58 Redux (June 11 – August 26), showcasing 33 titles from from the 58th New York Film Festival.

The series kicks off with a special theatrical premiere of Steve McQueen’s acclaimed anthology, Small Axe —comprising five films that each tell a story about London’s West Indian community from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s—including a run of NYFF58 Opening Night selection Lovers Rock. To coincide with the run, FLC will present a new recorded conversation between McQueen and Director of Programming for FLC and NYFF, Dennis Lim.

Big Screen Summer: NYFF58 Redux also features eight additional theatrical premiere runs, including, from the Revivals section, new restorations of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flowers of Shanghai, Joyce Chopra’s Smooth Talk, and Jia Zhangke’s Xiao Wu; from Currents, Anders Edström and C.W. Winter’s eight-hour hybrid epic The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin), John Gianvito’s Her Socialist Smile, and Luis López Carrasco’s The Year of the Discovery alongside his 2014 feature El futuro; and from Spotlight, David Dufresne’s The Monopoly of Violence, a powerful indictment of police brutality against France’s Yellow Vest movement, and Orson Welles’s newly unearthed Hopper/Welles.

Additional highlights include Ephraim Asili’s The Inheritance on 35mm, Heinz Emigholz’s Streetscapes [Dialogue] alongside his two related works from last year’s Currents section (The Last City and The Lobby), double features of Terence Dixon’s Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris and William Klein’s Muhammad Ali, the Greatest; and much more.

Three more NYFF58 titles will open as new releases concurrently with the series: Hong Sangsoo’s The Woman Who Ran (opening July 9), Tsai Ming-liang’s Days (August 13), and Matías Piñeiro’s Isabella (August 27).

Big Screen Summer: NYFF58 Redux – Films

All films screen in the Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th St.) unless otherwise noted.

Opening Week
Steve McQueen’s Small Axe
Among the most remarkable achievements in recent world cinema, Steve McQueen’s anthology Small Axe consists of five films that stirringly chronicle the experiences of London’s West Indian immigrant community across a tumultuous period from the 1960s through the 1980s. Each film is a distinct and singular work in its own right; taken together, they form a powerful, complex, immersive, and endlessly rich historical portrait of oppression, resistance, and survival, glimpsed through the prism of the post-colonial experience. Join Film at Lincoln Center to celebrate McQueen’s accomplishment with a series of screenings of all five films within Small Axe, including a special two-week run of Lovers Rock (the NYFF58 Opening Night Film).

Lovers Rock
Steve McQueen, UK, 2020, 70m
A movie of tactile sensuality and levitating joy, Lovers Rock finds the always daring Steve McQueen (Hunger, 12 Years a Slave) in an ecstatic yet no less formally bold mode. Produced as part of McQueen’s ambitious, multifaceted Small Axe, an anthology of decades-spanning films that alights on various lives in London’s West Indian community, the intoxicating, early-eighties-set Lovers Rock takes place largely over one night at a house party. While McQueen and co-screenwriter Courttia Newland have constructed their ethereal narrative around the growing attraction between Martha (newcomer Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) and a brooding stranger (Micheal Ward), the film is equally about the rapture of music, specifically the reggae genre of the title—typified in the film’s swooning centerpiece set to Janet Kay’s euphoric 1979 single “Silly Games”—and the thrill and liberation of bodies in motion, miraculously photographed by Shabier Kirchner. An Amazon Studios release. NYFF58 Opening Night selection.

Red, White and Blue
Steve McQueen, UK, 2020, 80m
John Boyega plays real-life figure Leroy Logan, a member of the London Metropolitan police force who both witnessed and experienced first-hand the organization’s fundamental racism. Set in the eighties, McQueen’s film captures Logan’s growing awareness of a system that he would one day try to dismantle from the inside, while also centering on his relationship with his father, a victim of white police brutality who initially refuses to accept his son’s decision to enter law enforcement. An entry in McQueen’s Small Axe anthology charting various lives over the course of three decades in the city’s West Indian community, Red, White and Blue is richly evocative and politically charged, with an impassioned yet nuanced performance from Boyega. An Amazon Studios release. An NYFF58 Main Slate selection.

Alex Wheatle
Steve McQueen, UK, 2020, 66m
The fourth film in Steve McQueen’s ambitious Small Axe anthology is a compact yet intellectually absorbing biopic of the titular writer (Sheyi Cole, in his cinematic debut). Born to Jamaican parents in 1963, Wheatle was abandoned by his family and passed into British social services, enduring the hardships and cruelties of life in a group home. In 1981, he lands in a halfway house in Brixton, where he quickly acclimates to the West Indian neighborhood’s customs and styles, forming something like a family with his new friends and acquaintances. But when the Brixton Riots break out, Alex finds himself incarcerated, leading to a political awakening that changes his life forever. An Amazon Studios release.

Education
Steve McQueen, UK, 2020, 63m
The culminating installment of the Small Axe is perhaps its most pointed and righteously indignant: painting a chilling portrait of the British education system in the 1970s, Steve McQueen captures the impossible circumstances facing West Indian students from their very first day of school. Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy) is a 12-year-old student whose school’s administration has advised his parents to transfer him to a “special” school better suited to his needs—but that school proves to be little more than an instrument of segregation, marked less by learning than by blatant neglect and apathy. With Education, McQueen brings the Small Axe anthology to a stirring, incensing conclusion through its multifaceted evocation of a system that doesn’t just disregard the UK’s immigrant communities: it seems to exist specifically to reinforce and institutionalize the racial hierarchy. An Amazon Studios release.

Atarrabi and Mikelats
Eugène Green, France/Belgium/Spain, 2020, 123m
Basque with English subtitles
Eugène Green (last seen at NYFF with 2016’s The Son of Joseph) fashions an original Baroque fable in modern dress in his inimitable style, perched on the line between earnest spirituality and sly satire. Atarrabi and Mikelats are brothers born minutes apart, the fatherless children of the powerful goddess Mari. After their mother hands them over to the Devil to be their teacher and caretaker—he’s a scholar and the “height of hipness,” after all—the boys grow up polar opposites. The curious, saintly Atarrabi (Saia Hiriart) wants to see the world beyond their lair; the wicked, diabolical Mikelats (Lukas Hiriart) prefers to stay and pledge his soul to his master. Green’s entertaining, episodic, and surpassingly beautiful film is a strikingly original vision of good and evil and the importance of humility and humanity in a fearful world. An NYFF58 Main Slate selection.

Beginning
Dea Kulumbegashvili, Georgia, 2020, 125m
Georgian with English subtitles
In her striking feature debut, Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili uses rigorous, compositionally complex frames to tell the devastating story of a persecuted family of Jehovah’s Witness missionaries from the perspective of a wife and mother. Following a shocking act of arson on the place of worship she and her husband have established in a remote village outside of Tblisi, Yana finds herself descending into a spiral of confusion and doubt, her suffering only exacerbated by her debased treatment at the hands of the local police. An occasionally harrowing depiction of women’s roles in both religious and secular society, Beginning announces a major new arrival on the world cinema scene. A MUBI release. An NYFF58 Main Slate selection.

The Disciple
Chaitanya Tamhane, India, 2020, 127m
Marathi with English subtitles
Indian filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane became a sensation after the runaway international critical and commercial success of his 2014 debut Court. His much-anticipated follow-up, The Disciple, is a finely crafted labor of love set in the world of Indian classical music, starring Hindustani singer—and remarkable first-time actor—Aditya Modak as Sharad, a man living in Mumbai who makes it his life’s goal to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a practitioner of the centuries-old Khayal raag music tradition. As the years wear on, Sharad grows increasingly disillusioned as he strives for divine purity in a world tipping over into bland commercialization. The Disciple is a refined yet uncompromising portrait of a young artist’s journey, his dreams, and his loneliness, featuring some extraordinary musical performances. A Netflix release. An NYFF58 Main Slate selection.

Fauna
Nicolás Pereda, Mexico/Canada, 2020, 70m
Spanish with English subtitles
Protean filmmaker Nicolás Pereda always takes viewers on zigzag narratives whose complexities belie the sedentary nature of the characters at their center. His alternately ticklish and dark-toned latest feature mixes realism and light absurdity in the story of a young television actress who joins her estranged brother and new boyfriend—also an actor, though he has yet to graduate from bit player—to visit her family at her parents’ rustic home in the Mexican countryside. There, the couple deals with culture clash and familial rivalries, but Pereda has a metafictional trick up his sleeve that reveals the grim intimations of violence bubbling under the community. Fauna, taking its title from one of its characters, is a clever and entertaining inquiry into performance and the stories we tell. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

Flowers of Shanghai
Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 1998, 113m
Cantonese & Shanghainese with English subtitles
An NYFF regular from relatively early in his career, Hou Hsiao-hsien made his seventh festival appearance with this ravishingly beautiful chamber drama that follows the intertwined fortunes and intrigues of four “flower girls” serving in the opulent brothels of fin-de-siècle 19th-century Shanghai. The great Tony Leung stars as the melancholy Master Wang, torn between his affections for the jealous, demanding Crimson (Michiko Hada) and the more eager-to-please Jasmin (Vicky Wei), and gradually realizing that he is looking for love in all the wrong places. Hou’s first film set outside his native Taiwan, Flowers of Shanghai is a transfixing masterwork and an achingly, intoxicatingly sensuous landmark of ’90s world cinema. A Janus Films release. An NYFF58 Revivals selection. Restored in 4K in 2019 from the 35mm original negative by Shochiku in collaboration with the Shanghai International Film Festival at the L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. With funding provided by Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Her Name Was Europa
Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy, Germany, 2020, 76m
The aurochs were a breed of wild cattle indigenous to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Extinct since the early 17th century, these majestic, horned beasts have long held a mythological status, believed to embody supernatural powers. In the early 20th century, German scientists began a series of attempts to resurrect the species under the auspices of the Nazi regime; such experiments continue today in various forms. Berlin-based filmmakers Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy use this history to fashion a poetic and deadpan 16mm work of fanciful nonfiction that calls attention to itself as a constructed version of a strange reality. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

Her Socialist Smile
John Gianvito, USA, 2020, 93m
For nearly two decades, John Gianvito has been carving out a unique space in American cinema with passion projects of expansive shape and political ambition, including The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein, a documentary-fiction inquiry into the human toll of the Gulf War, and Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, a becalmed yet radical Howard Zinn–inspired reflection on American progressivism. In his new film, Gianvito meditates on a particular moment in early 20th-century history: when Helen Keller began speaking out passionately on behalf of progressive causes. Beginning in 1913, when, at age 32, Keller gave her first public talk before a general audience, Her Socialist Smile is constructed of onscreen text taken from Keller’s speeches, impressionistic images of nature, and newly recorded voiceover by poet Carolyn Forché. The film is a rousing reminder that Keller’s undaunted activism for labor rights, pacifism, and women’s suffrage was philosophically inseparable from her battles for the rights of the disabled. A Grasshopper Film release. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

Hopper/Welles
Orson Welles, USA, 2020, 130m
In November 1970, two movie mavericks, one already a legend (Orson Welles) and the other on his way to mythic status (Dennis Hopper), met for an epochal conversation. It had been more than a decade since Welles had worked within the Hollywood system, and he had begun to strike out on his own as an independent, ruthlessly idiosyncratic artist; Hopper, on the other hand, had just had an unexpected major success with the studio-financed counterculture hit Easy Rider. At this decisive moment, the pair of auteurs shared their candid thoughts and feelings about cinema, art, and life, and Welles captured this unscripted talk on two cameras, in lush black and white, lit only by a fireplace and hurricane lamps. This entertaining and revealing footage, never before seen in full, has been resurrected by producer Filip Jan Rymsza and editor Bob Murawski, who helped bring Welles’s unfinished The Other Side of the Wind to meticulously restored life two years ago. An NYFF58 Spotlight selection.

The Hourglass Sanatorium
Wojciech Has, Poland, 1973, 124m
Polish with English subtitles
The collective trauma of the Holocaust looms over this adaptation of Jewish author Bruno Schulz’s visionary and poetic reflection on the nature of time and death, which won the Jury Award at Cannes. Józef (Jan Nowicki) finds himself aboard a train en route to visit his father in the hospital; he arrives to find the hospital in a state that’s a bit less than… orderly. From there, past and present, reality and fantasy, collapse into each other, unleashing a surreal phantasmagoria that is by turns psychedelic, paranoiac, elegiac, funny, and everywhere haunted by the specter of death: both Józef’s prophesied death and the death of a Europe that existed before the rise of Hitler, the horrors of the Holocaust, and the carnage of World War II. An NYFF58 Revivals selection. New 4K restoration from the original camera negative, produced by Fixafilm (Łukasz Cerenka, Andrzej Łucjanek), supervised by Łukasz Ceranka, and curated by Daniel Bird.

The Inheritance
Ephraim Asili, USA, 2020, 35mm, 100m
Pennsylvania-born filmmaker Ephraim Asili has been exploring different facets of the African diaspora—and his own place within it—for nearly a decade. His feature-length debut, The Inheritance, is a vibrant, engaging ensemble work that takes place almost entirely within the walls of a West Philadelphia house where a community of young people have come together to form a collective of Black artists and activists. Based partly on Asili’s own experiences in a Black liberationist group, the film interweaves a scripted drama of characters attempting to work towards political consensus with a documentary recollection of the Philadelphia liberation group MOVE, which was the victim of a notorious police bombing in 1985. Asili’s film is an endlessly generative work of politics, humor, and philosophy, referencing the legacies of the Black Arts Movement and featuring Black authors and radicals, members of MOVE, as well as poets Ursula Rucker and Sonia Sanchez. A Grasshopper Film release. NYFF58 Currents Opening Night selection.

The Last City
Heinz Emigholz, Germany, 2020, 100m
English and German with English subtitles
Five distinct cities across the world become the backdrops for a series of spiraling tête-a-têtes in Heinz Emigholz’s ambitious and surprisingly funny film, which moves him ever further away from his documentary origins and into the realms of the uncanny. John Erdman and Jonathan Perel, who appeared in Emigholz’s magnum opus of psychoanalysis and architecture, Streetscapes [Dialogue], kick things off as an archaeologist and a weapons designer discussing war and depression in Israel’s industrial city Be’er Sheva. From there, Emigholz introduces an expansive roster of deadpan performers in dual roles (including Young Sun Han, Dorothy Ko, Susanne Sachsse), interacting in Athens, Berlin, Hong Kong, and São Paulo, and wrestling with issues such as war crimes, racism, family, religion, sex, and cosmology. As Erdman, Emigholz’s surrogate, says, it’s a film of “social taboos, the paradoxical logic of dreams, an infinite round dance.” An NYFF58 Currents selection.

The Lobby
Heinz Emigholz, Germany/Argentina, 2020, 76m
“There is no Here here.” A character simply named Old White Male (John Erdman) holds court in the lobbies of various apartment buildings in Buenos Aires and expounds with measured disgust on death, consciousness, and the state of contemporary human relations. The man’s mostly unsolicited remarks form an unsparing, stitched-together modern-day monologue that alternates between absurd and chilling, reasonable and grotesque. Filmed in Buenos Aires in October 2019, Heinz Emigholz’s spare continuation—and sardonic distillation—of certain themes explored in The Last City is morbid, confrontational, and hilarious. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

Screening with:

Streetscapes [Dialogue]
Heinz Emigholz, Germany, 2017, 132m
A director speaks at length to a psychoanalyst, confiding his obsessions, fears, ideas about cinema, and psychological blocks, and eventually comes to realize that this all-encompassing exchange could be the basis of a film . . . Streetscapes [Dialogue] is based on a six-day psychoanalytic marathon that Emigholz undertook with trauma specialist Zohar Rubinstein—their roles are played in the film by American actor John Erdman and Argentinian filmmaker Jonathan Perel, who are photographed in and around buildings in Uruguay by Julio Vilamajó, Eladio Dieste, and Arno Brandlhuber. The result is Emigholz’s magnum opus, a demonstration of his singular working methods, and a playful, moving treatise on trauma and architecture in which foreground and background carry equal weight.

Malmkrog
Cristi Puiu, Romania, 2020, 201m
Hungarian, French, German and Russian with English subtitles
A turn-of-the-20th-century Christmas Eve gathering among five members of the European elite at an elegant Transylvanian estate becomes the setting for an increasingly intense succession of conversations. These discursive elaborations on good and evil, Jesus and the Devil, and war and peace take place in a series of well-appointed rooms with the utmost gentility, but the simmering violence beneath their veneer of politesse, and the occasional shocking nature of the subject matter at hand, come to reveal the invasive horrors of the colonialist mindset, couched in Western philosophy inspired by the writings of Vladimir Solovyov. Romanian director Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) has created a pristine, sometimes terrifying vision, a portrait of the damned that would only seem absurdist if it didn’t feel so utterly up-to-date. An NYFF58 Main Slate selection.

My Mexican Bretzel
Nuria Giménez, Spain, 2019, 74m
Mid-century home movies in glorious color provide the narrative skeleton for a singular exploration of storytelling in Nuria Giménez’s first feature. Winner of the Found Footage Award at this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, My Mexican Bretzel uses onscreen subtitles, taken from the diaries of one Vivian Barrett, to accompany and narrate silent images of her life with her husband Léon, a World War II pilot who damaged his hearing in a plane accident. As we follow the couple on their travels around the world, their story grows more unpredictable and perhaps improbable, and Giménez reveals her spellbinding film to be an imaginative cinematic sleight of hand. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

Screening with:

The Plastic House
Allison Chhorn, 2019, Australia, 46m
Australian filmmaker Allison Chhorn allows the viewer to feel time passing, seasons changing, and life moving on in this tactile, lovingly crafted cinematic experiment that doubles as a personal emotional exercise. Economical yet expansive, and largely wordless, The Plastic House takes place almost entirely inside and around her Cambodian family’s dilapidated greenhouse, where she oversees inspiring regrowth despite the sometimes harsh natural elements. Chhorn filters and displaces her fears about her parents’ deaths onto an intensely moving narrative of ritual, physical labor, and isolation. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

The Monopoly of Violence
David Dufresne, France, 2020, 86m
French with English subtitles
In this stimulating, sometimes shocking, and altogether powerful documentary about police violence in contemporary France, filmmaker and journalist David Dufresne examines the ways in which a government justifies brutal acts against its own citizens. Taking its title from sociologist and political economist Max Weber, who wrote that the state establishes a “monopoly on violence” by claiming the legitimate use of force, Dufresne’s film mixes footage of attacks on protestors—largely of the gilet jaunes, or “yellow vest,” political movement—and interviews with intellectuals, police officers, and victims of police assault. The Monopoly of Violence is an essential and timely work, showing the dangers of police serving the state rather than the people, and identifying the growing tendency among Western democracies to enact totalitarian methods to keep the populace under their control. An NYFF58 Spotlight selection.

Muhammad Ali, the Greatest
William Klein, France, 1974, 123m
English and French with English subtitles
A masterful study of one of the greatest boxers of all time and a key cultural and political figure of his era, Klein’s portrait of Muhammad Ali ranks among the most enjoyable, provocative, and candid sports documentaries. Focusing on the lead-ups to and aftermaths of three of Ali’s defining bouts—the two fights with Sonny Liston in 1964 and ’65, and the “Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman in ’74—Klein vividly captures Ali in his element as well as the sociopolitical climate surrounding the champ. Featuring some of the most enthralling footage of Ali boasting ever committed to celluloid, Muhammad Ali, the Greatest is an astonishing work that renders its beyond-charismatic subject in all his prowess (verbal and physical), complexity, and majesty. A Janus Films release. An NYFF58 Revivals selection. Presented by Films Paris New York and ARTE. First digital 2K restoration from the original 16mm negative scanned in 4K with the support of the CNC. Image works by ECLAIR Classics and sound by L.E.DIAPASON.

Screening with:

Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris
Terence Dixon, U.K./France, 1971, 27m
This rare film document of one of the towering figures of 20th-century American literature—photographed by Jack Hazan (Rude Boy, A Bigger Splash)—captures the iconic writer in several symbolic locations, including the Place de la Bastille. As Hazan recounts: “Things don’t go to plan for him and the film crew when a couple of young Black Vietnam draft dodgers impose themselves on the American. Baldwin wrestles with being a role model to the Black youths, denouncing Western colonialism and crimes against African Americans while at the same time demonstrating his mastery and understanding of the culture he supposedly despises.” An NYFF58 Revivals selection. Restored from a 2K scan of the 16mm original color negative A&B rolls and the 16mm optical negative. Scanning services by UPP, Prague. Picture and audio restoration, grading, and mastering by Mark Rance, Watchmaker Films, London. The film is presented in 1.37:1.

Night of the Kings
Philippe Lacôte, France/Ivory Coast, 2020, 93m
French and Dyula with English subtitles
At the Maca correctional facility in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan, the inmates run the prison, a place all but ruled by folkloric superstitions. Tonight, upon the rising of a red moon, a newly arrived prisoner (Koné Bakary), jailed for pickpocketing, has been selected by the autocratic Lord Blackbeard to assume the position of “Roman storyteller”: he must keep his fellow inmates entertained with wild tales or risk his own life. As this Scheherazade-like scenario unfolds, he tells the story of Zama, the childhood friend who became a legendary crime boss. Paying homage to the tradition of the griot in West African culture, Night of the Kings is a work of Shakespearean fabulism and gripping, energetic filmmaking, an altogether original vision from breakout Ivory Coast filmmaker Philippe Lacôte. A NEON release. An NYFF58 Main Slate selection.

Ouvertures
The Living and the Dead Ensemble, UK/France, 2020, 132m
The first film from The Living and the Dead Ensemble—a collaboration among artists and performers from Haiti, France, and the United Kingdom spearheaded by artist Louis Henderson and curator Olivier Marboeuf—Ouvertures traces a reverse chronology of the life of revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture from his imprisonment and death in France at the hands of Napoleon’s forces, to Port-au-Prince, where, in the present, a group of young actors translate, rehearse, and debate their Creole production of Édouard Glissant’s play Monsieur Toussaint. The film becomes a meditation on the politics of collective authorship and translation, creating a space in which the ghosts of Haiti’s colonial past return to address its present. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

Simone Barbes or Virtue / Simone Barbès ou la vertu
Marie-Claude Treilhou, France, 1980, 77m
French with English subtitles
A criminally overlooked work from the post-post–New Wave era of French cinema, Marie-Claude Treilhou’s feature debut assumes the form of a triptych, following leather-clad porno theater usher Simone (Ingrid Bourgoin) as she banters with her coworker (Martine Simonet) while watching the eccentric strangers puttering in and out of the cinema’s lobby; then clocks out and heads off to meet her girlfriend, a waitress at a lesbian club; and later, has an encounter with a lonely man on the prowl (Cahiers du cinéma critic Michel Delahaye). But the minimalist plot of Simone Barbes almost seems besides the point: Treilhou’s film is saturated with style and atmosphere, the chargedness of each throwaway gesture, idle remark, or seemingly empty moment yielding a character study unlike any other. An NYFF58 Revivals selection. 4K scan and restoration by Cosmodigital for La Traverse with the support of the CNC.

Slow Machine
Joe DeNardo & Paul Felten, USA, 2020, 72m
The thriller genre is exploded and reassembled in DeNardo and Felten’s funny and alluring work on paranoia, surveillance, and performance. Featuring an intriguingly eclectic cast (including the experimental theater performers Stephanie Hayes and Scott Shepherd, the musician Eleanor Friedberger, and Chloë Sevigny), Slow Machine follows an actress (Hayes) whose intimate relationship with a shadowy NYPD-affiliated operative ends abruptly and disastrously, leading her to hide out in a country house otherwise occupied by a band preparing their new record. But la vie bohemienne proves almost as anxious and tense as life in the city… Deftly lensed in 16mm and unfurling as a digressive, tantalizingly off-kilter mystery, Slow Machine is a fascinating work pitched at the intersection of American independent cinema and the avant-garde theater of Richard Foreman and the Wooster Group. A Grasshopper Film release. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

Smooth Talk
Joyce Chopra, USA, 1985, 92m
In her first lead role, 18-year-old Laura Dern gave one of her most stirring, layered performances in an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s 1966 short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” She stars as Connie Wyatt, a teenager who spends her summer days moping around the house and exploring her sexuality in the Northern California suburbs. But the thrills and innocence of youth are forever shaded by the predatory behavior of an older man named Arnold Friend (Treat Williams) whom she encounters at a drive-in. Smooth Talk won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize in 1986 and remains a carefully observed, shockingly powerful story of manipulation and deviance. A Janus Films release. An NYFF58 Currents selection. New 4K restoration undertaken by the Criterion Collection.

The Tango of the Widower and Its Distorting Mirror
Raúl Ruiz & Valeria Sarmiento, Chile, 2020, 64m
Spanish with English subtitles
This latest dispatch from beyond the grave by the late legendary Chilean director Raúl Ruiz (completed, as ever, by his widow, the filmmaker Valeria Sarmiento) takes as its basis an abandoned 1967 effort by Ruiz, begun well before his exile from Chile after Augusto Pinochet’s brutal seizure of power in 1973. Working from the ethereal, surrealistic, Poe-like images that Ruiz left behind, Sarmiento has reconstructed the story her husband had wished to tell: that of a sickly literature professor haunted by the memory of his wife (who has recently committed suicide) and attempting to carry on as normal despite the ever-weakening boundary between his dreams and waking life. The Tango of the Widower is paradoxically both an early Ruiz film and a radically contemporary experiment, at once the birth of a new work and the resurrection of a work that never was. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

There Are Not Thirty-Six Ways of Showing a Man Getting on a Horse / No existen treinta y seis maneras de mostrar cómo un hombre se sube a un caballo
Nicolás Zukerfeld, Argentina, 2020, 63m
Spanish with English subtitles
Nicolás Zukerfeld’s third feature is a wry, surprising work of filmmaking-as-criticism that begins as a kind of supercut of moments from the work of pantheon Hollywood auteur Raoul Walsh. This rhythmically entrancing parade of images traces a mysterious and amusing arc across the director’s vast oeuvre—but at the halfway mark, the film reinvents itself as an idiosyncratic, essayistic investigation into memory, cinema, and their shared mutability. There Are Not Thirty-Six Ways… reimagines cinema as a medium for the generation and transmission of ideas, and the results are by turns humorous, stimulating, and thrilling. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin)
C.W. Winter & Anders Edström, USA/Sweden/Japan/UK, 2020, 480m
Japanese, English and Swedish with English subtitles
Five seasons, four parts, eight hours: the dimensions of C.W. Winter and Anders Edström’s film are as incommensurable as its central figure. Tayoko Shiojiri, a vegetable farmer who works and cares for her ailing husband in a small village north of Kyoto, Japan (and who is also Edström’s mother-in-law), is the nominal core of this monumental work, a matriarch whose labor the film observes through precise tableaux, dense sonic collage, and sequences that bend all conventional distinctions between fiction and documentary. Through the film’s workday duration, time itself becomes the subject: in its incremental movement at natural, epochal, and human scales, and through the slow passage of a rural way of life that is fading into the past. A Grasshopper Film release. An NYFF58 Currents selection. Screening at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 W. 65th St.).

Xiao Wu
Jia Zhangke, China, 1997, 112m
Mandarin with English subtitles
Among the most essential filmmakers of the past several decades, Jia Zhangke launched his career with this, his 1997 debut (featured in New Directors/New Films in 1999) about a pickpocket struggling to keep up with the current of China’s transformation into an economic powerhouse. Abandoned by his friends and associates and stymied by the terrain shifting beneath him, the titular and somewhat nihilistic thief stumbles upon a chance at love—or at least a human connection—and finds himself confronted with the question: is this any way to live? Even in this early work, Jia’s unsurpassed attentiveness to the texture of quotidian life amid a society in flux is powerfully in evidence, presaging his current status as cinema’s great portraitist of the latter-day Chinese behemoth. An NYFF58 Revivals selection. Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in collaboration with Jia Zhangke and in association with MK2. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.

The Year of the Discovery
Luis López Carrasco, Spain, 2020, 200m
Spanish with English subtitles
Shot on Hi-8 videotape entirely within a typically smoky Spanish snack bar in the city of Cartagena in Murcia—with occasional interruptions from the archive in the form of propagandistic news bulletins and exuberant TV commercials—Luis López Carrasco’s second feature excavates the forgotten histories of 1992. In this pivotal year, Spain celebrated both the Olympic Games in Barcelona and the quincentenary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas—and ushered in a new age of neoliberalism and economic restructuring. Through one-on-one interviews, complex split-screen compositions, and subtle manipulations of time, The Year of the Discovery offers a vivid counternarrative to the official history, one in which industrial labor’s toll on the body and the brutal fracturing of communities testifies against a national mythology of progress. An NYFF58 Currents selection.

Screening with:

El Futuro
Luis Lopez Carrasco, Spain, 2013, DCP, 67m
Spanish with English subtitles
“El Futuro tries to critically look at the values and customs that Spanish society acquired stunningly fast at the beginning of the ’80s. These were values, behaviors, and new ways of living that I have also shared and lived. One of the people I interviewed while researching this period told me: “With the socialist victory of 1982, we thought that everything had been achieved when in reality, everything was still left to be done.” It was as if the Spanish middle class had mixed up democracy and consumerism. The main idea of the film is to reflect how young people in the ’80s, ’90s, and XXI Century share the same social codes about leisure, sexual relationships, political commitment, and labor issues. As well as how in 1982 we can find the seed of the economic crisis we are currently living 30 years later.” —Luis Lopez Carrasco

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