The 60th New York Film Festival unveiled the Spotlight section, the festival’s showcase of the season’s most anticipated and significant films.
The Spotlight world premieres are Maria Schrader’s drama She Said, detailing the New York Times investigation that uncovered decades of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood; Chinonye Chukwu’s Till, the story of Mamie Till-Mobley, the Chicago woman whose son, Emmett Till, was lynched while visiting cousins in Mississippi in 1955; American film critic Elvis Mitchell’s Is That Black Enough for You?!?, a kaleidoscopic documentary that creates a definitive narrative of the Black revolution in 1970s cinema; A Cooler Climate, Academy Award®-winning filmmaker James Ivory and Giles Gardner’s deeply personal new documentary that uncovers boxes of film Ivory shot during a life-changing trip to Afghanistan in 1960; and Personality Crisis: One Night Only, Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s documentary featuring a man who, like Scorsese, is a New York institution, entertainer David Johansen, singer-songwriter of the 1970s glam punk groundbreakers the New York Dolls, and his reinvention as hepcat lounge lizard Buster Poindexter.
Additional highlights include Bones and All, Luca Guadagnino’s work of both tender fragility and feral intensity, featuring Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet as lovers with insatiable, dangerous desires; Marco Bellocchio’s Exterior Night, a monumental six-part series about the kidnapping and eventual murder of the Italy’s influential statesman and former prime minister Aldo Moro by the leftist Red Brigades; Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom Exodus, a third season of his incomparable television series, The Kingdom, with all five parts presented on the big screen; Chris Smith’s “Sr.”, a tender yet fittingly irreverent portrait of the life and career of Robert Downey, Sr., a collaboration between the celebrated director, the subject’s son, Robert Downey, Jr., and the man himself, who passed away in 2021; and The Super 8 Years, a delicate journey into author Annie Ernaux’s family’s memory, compiled from gorgeously textured home movie images taken from 1972 to 1981; and Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, her screen adaptation of Miriam Toews’s acclaimed novel about a group of women from a remote religious community dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault.
Rounding out this year’s Spotlight slate is the 50th anniversary presentation of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, often described as a Soviet response to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and an enigmatic work of startling beauty and depth. This anniversary screening features a live newly created score by Matthew Nolan and Stephen Shannon.
Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival takes place September 30–October 16, 2022.
FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS
Bones and All
Luca Guadagnino, 2022, U.S., 130m
In a startling, star-making performance, Taylor Russell plays Maren, a teenager who has just moved to a small town in Virginia with her father (André Holland). However, it’s only a matter of time before the frightening secret Maren harbors is revealed and she must hit the road again—on her own. Soon, she meets another young drifter, Lee (Timothée Chalamet), who understands her more than anyone she’s ever met, and the two set out on a cross-country journey, satiating their dangerous desires and reckoning with their tragic pasts. Adapting a novel by Camille DeAngelis, director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name) has crafted a work of both tender fragility and feral intensity, setting corporeal horror and runaway romance against vividly textured Americana, and featuring fully inhabited supporting turns from Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jessica Harper, Chloë Sevigny, and Anna Cobb. A United Artists release.
A Cooler Climate
James Ivory and Giles Gardner, 2022, U.K., 75m
In this deeply personal new documentary from James Ivory, the Academy Award®-winning filmmaker uncovers boxes of film he shot during a life-changing trip to Afghanistan in 1960. This glorious color footage unleashes a Proustian reverie during which Ivory recounts his life as traveler, outsider, and artist. Alternating between the incredible moving images he recorded as a curious visitor in Kabul and Bamiyan and his own personal story growing up in Oregon, coming to terms with his own sexual identity and embarking on what would become a legendary cinematic career, Ivory has made a film—co-directed with Giles Gardner and featuring music by Alexandre Desplat—about the voyages we all take, around the globe and within our own interior landscapes.
Marco Bellocchio, 2022, Italy, 328m
Italian with English subtitles
The indefatigable Marco Bellocchio, whose last fiction feature at NYFF was his riveting mafia crime drama The Traitor, has directed a monumental six-part series about a shocking event that rocked Italy in the late 1970s: the kidnapping and eventual murder of the country’s influential statesman and former prime minister Aldo Moro by the leftist Red Brigades. It’s a subject that Bellocchio has explored before (Good Morning, Night) but not in the extensive, gripping detail seen here. Taking a prismatic approach, which allows him to feature the perspectives of all the incident’s major players and negotiators, including the politicians, the clergy, and the terrorists, Bellocchio gives a sense of both the incremental tension and the political frenzy that occurred during and after, forever changing the relationship between the country’s Communist and Christian Democratic parties. The extraordinary cast includes Fabrizio Gifuni as Moro, Toni Servillo as Pope Paul VI, Fausto Russo Alesi as Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga, and Daniela Marra as kidnapper Adriana Faranda.
Is That Black Enough for You?!?
Elvis Mitchell, 2022, U.S., 135m
American film critic Elvis Mitchell’s kaleidoscopic documentary creates a definitive narrative of the Black revolution in 1970s cinema, from genre films to social realism, from the making of new superstars to the craft of rising auteurs. With Is That Black Enough for You?!? (the title references a recurring line from Ossie Davis’s 1970 benchmark Cotton Comes to Harlem), Mitchell takes a personal and panoramic approach, expressing his own experiences as a viewer while detailing the cinematic and political histories that led to this extraordinary flowering of a newly ascendant Black heroism. The Learning Tree, Watermelon Man, Shaft, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Cool Breeze, Sounder, Super Fly, Coffy, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, Claudine, Uptown Saturday Night, Cornbread, Earl and Me, Killer of Sheep, and dozens more are analyzed with Mitchell’s customary verve and perspicacity. This is a work of painstaking scholarship that’s also thoroughly entertaining, an essential archival document and testament to a period of American film history unlikely to be repeated. Featuring interviews with Margaret Avery, Harry Belafonte, Charles Burnett, Laurence Fishburne, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Suzanne de Passe, Glynn Turman, Billy Dee Williams, Zendaya, and more. A Netflix release.
The Kingdom Exodus
Lars von Trier, 2022, Denmark, 291m
Danish, English, Swedish with English subtitles
Lars von Trier has directed a third season of his incomparable television series, The Kingdom, which began in 1994 and helped establish the Danish filmmaker’s reputation for jolting imagery and penchant for layered, unpredictable storytelling. The show’s legions of fans will be delighted by his dark-comic return to the misfit world of Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet, once again ruled equally by sinister supernatural visions and at times hilarious administrative incompetence. This time, the hospital’s workers are aware of having been in a show and complain that the scoundrel Lars von Trier has given them a bad name. Our guides to the increasing madness are Karen (Bødil Jorgensen), a curious somnambulist who voluntarily checks herself in after wandering to the Kingdom in her sleep, and the new Swedish head neurosurgeon, Stig, Jr. (Mikael Persbrandt), desperate to follow in the footsteps of his father, the original series’ dastardly Dr. Stig Helmer. We are pleased to offer the opportunity to theatrically experience all five episodes, featuring the return of such original cast members as Ghita Norby, Peter Mygind, Søren Pilmark, and Udo Kier, as well as appearances from Alexander Skarsgard. A MUBI release.
Personality Crisis: One Night Only
Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi, 2022, U.S., 120m
Continuing his vibrant and invaluable documentaries about iconic American artists and musicians, such as George Harrison: Living in the Material World, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, and the Fran Lebowitz portrait Public Speaking, Martin Scorsese turns his camera on another beloved New York institution: the singular David Johansen. Equally celebrated as the lead singer-songwriter of the androgynous 1970s glam punk groundbreakers the New York Dolls and for his complete reinvention as hepcat lounge lizard Buster Poindexter in the 1980s, the chameleonic Johansen has created an entire genre unto himself, combining swing, blues, and rock into something at once mischievous and deeply personal. In Personality Crisis: One Night Only, Scorsese and co-director David Tedeschi (The 50 Year Argument), with the help of cinematographer Ellen Kuras (American Utopia), luminously capture the entertainer’s January 2020 Café Carlyle set, where he performs as Poindexter singing the Johansen songbook, bringing downtown irreverence to this storied uptown joint. Presented alongside new and archival interviews, the concert is marvelously intimate and a testament to both a lost New York and a performer who remains as fresh and exciting as ever. A Showtime release.
Maria Schrader, U.S., 2022, 135m
In 2017, New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke a story that would change the world. Uncovering decades of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, Kantor and Twohey boldly took on an establishment that had too long been allowed to systematically protect abusers. This thrilling new drama based on Kantor and Twohey’s best-selling book about their hard-fought investigation is directed by Maria Schrader (director of I’m Your Man and the acclaimed TV series Unorthodox) from a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Ida). She Said stars Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan in wonderful performances as the two intensely committed reporters whose efforts would ultimately help ignite the #MeToo movement. Schrader’s film, in the tradition of All the President’s Men and Spotlight, is a tribute to the art and importance of investigative journalism, as well as a moving portrait of two women whose personal lives couldn’t be put on hold even as they navigated a labyrinth of NDAs, legal double binds, and frightened witnesses. She Said’s remarkable supporting cast includes Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Samantha Morton, and Jennifer Ehle. A Universal Pictures release.
Solaris — 50th Anniversary Screening with Live Musical Accompaniment
Andrei Tarkovsky, USSR, 1972, 166m
Russian and German with English subtitles
Possibly the most emotionally devastating science fiction film ever made, Solaris follows scientist Chris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) as he is sent to a space station whose inhabitants have been attempting to make contact with the mysterious planet Solaris. Often described as a Soviet response to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris is an enigmatic work of startling beauty and depth. To mark this seminal film’s 50th anniversary, our special screening features live musical accompaniment by Matthew Nolan and Stephen Shannon. Their newly created score, specially commissioned for the festival, is rooted in both Tarkovsky’s aesthetic and philosophical concerns and in the sonic architecture of Oleg Artemyev’s original soundtrack. This alternative score, with its mesmerizing waves of electronic sounds, brings the core concerns of the film into greater focus, its atmosphere of dread and longing offering a fascinating interpretation of the film’s cryptic emotions. A Janus Films release.
Chris Smith, 2022, U.S., 89m
Rarely do films about artists allow the kind of poignant intimacy seen in this tender yet fittingly irreverent portrait of the life and career of Robert Downey, Sr., the fearless, visionary American director who set the standard for counterculture comedy in the 1960s and ’70s. An inspired collaboration between celebrated documentarian Chris Smith (American Movie); the subject’s son, Robert Downey, Jr.; and the man himself, who’s occasionally shown working on his own version of the movie we’re watching, “Sr.” functions both as an elegy for the rule-flouting underground icon, who passed away at age 85 in July 2021, and as a testament to his tireless creative spirit. Capturing its subject’s refreshing candor about aging, past struggles with addiction, and the ups and downs of working in Hollywood, Smith’s film is an emotional depiction of a father-son bond that remained strong, pragmatic, and deeply loving to the end.
The Super 8 Years
Annie Ernaux and David Ernaux-Briot, 2022, France, 60m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
The French writer Annie Ernaux, whose novels and memoirs have gained her a devoted following (and whose autobiographical L’Événement was adapted just last year into the critically acclaimed film Happening), opens a treasure trove with this delicate journey into her family’s memory. Compiled from gorgeously textured home movie images from 1972 to 1981—when her first books were published, her sons became teenagers, and her husband, Philippe, brought an 8mm film camera everywhere they went—this portrait of a time, place, and moment of personal and political significance takes us from holidays and family rituals in bourgeois suburban France to trips abroad in Albania and Egypt, Spain and the USSR. Supplying her own introspective voiceover, Ernaux and her co-filmmaker, her son David, guide the viewer through fragments of a decade, diffuse and vivid in equal measure. The Super 8 Years is a remarkable visual extension of Ernaux’s ongoing literary project to make sense of the mysterious past and the unknowable future.
Chinonye Chukwu, 2022, U.S., 130m
Chinonye Chukwu’s searing modern-day death-row drama Clemency was one of the most accomplished breakthroughs in recent American cinema. The director has now traveled back to the 1950s to tell the story of Mamie Till-Mobley, the Chicago woman whose son, Emmett Till, was lynched while visiting cousins in Mississippi and whose body became an indelible image of the horrors of American racism. Employing a direct, unflinching, yet sensitive gaze, Chukwu has created the definitive drama of this woman’s grief and resilience, and in an astonishing performance, Danielle Deadwyler captures both a mother’s indescribable heartbreak and her inspiring ascension to the role of civil rights activist. Till is a momentous reminder of an ever-present tragedy, featuring painstaking production design, subtly expressive camera framing and composition, and a note-perfect supporting cast, including Sean Patrick Thomas, Jalyn Hall, Tosin Cole, John Douglas Thompson, Frankie Faison, and Whoopi Goldberg. A United Artists release.
Sarah Polley, 2022, U.S., 104m
Sarah Polley brings ferocious honesty and restrained urgency to her screen adaptation of Miriam Toews’s acclaimed novel about of a group of women from a remote religious community dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault perpetrated by the colony’s men. A film of ideas brought to life by Polley’s imaginative direction and a superb, fine-tuned ensemble cast—including Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand, Ben Whishaw, and Judith Ivey—Women Talking is a deep and searching exploration of self-determination, group responsibility, faith, and forgiveness, philosophically engaging and emotionally rich in equal measure. A United Artists release.