By Roger Costa
A contemporary auteur who continuously defies the normalcy and banality of the conventional, Bertrand Bonello returns with his most cerebral film yet, a weird sci-fi romance spanning three different periods in the life of a woman who joins a program in order to keep some of her memories safe and get rid of others. Those include the incendiary encounters with a mysterious charming man, who is possibly a lover from one of those lives. Lea Seydoux and George MacKay are fabulously funny, sexy and ambiguous in this triptych, mind-bending experience like nothing before. Addressing consumerism, vanity, mental disorder, manipulation and the rapid advances of AI, Bonello scored a haunting and psychological study on isolation disturbingly reflecting our troubled times.
(Screens October 8, 9. Awards Potential: Costume Design, Sound Design)
ALL OF US STRANGERS
Mysterious and intriguing, Andrew Haigh’s ghost love story brings one of this year most powerful male performances: Andrew Scott. He is the center and emotional combustible of this melancholic drama that efficiently blends a spiritual journey, a late Queer coming of age story, and a family drama. Joined by Paul Mescal as his heavy-drinker boyfriend, he will try to make sense of all the traumas he suffered in childhood while setting up a safe future. Claire Foy and Jamie Bell give memorable performances as his parents, stealing every scene they are in. Haigh conducts the material with his usual sensitivity as well as his precise observations on gay modern life, making this a powerful portrait of forgiveness and reconciliation.
(Screens October 1, 2, 8, 14. Awards Potential: Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay)
Finnish master Aki Kaurismaki returns with another unique, deadpan socioeconomic modern tragic fable, reflecting on the working class struggle for stability, love, healing and progress. Winner of the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the veteran director picks two charismatic desperate souls as the core of his new moral tale. A supermarket lady worker and an industrial man are interconnected and fall in love after many hurdles and losses in this eccentric, darkly funny and heartbreaking look at injustice and the cruelty of capitalism. It is such a gentle, kind film that praises compassion, decency, honesty and humanitarian values, all while aware of the world’s collapsing. Plus Kaurismaki makes one of the most genuinely beautiful homages to the seventh art in recent memory. One of the year’s best.
(Screens October 1, 9, 12, 13. Awards Potential: Actress, Original Song, International Film).
THE TASTE OF THINGS
France’s Oscar submission brings the always luminous Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel as a pair of devoted gourmet artistic chefs. Since the opening sequence, where the camera dances all over the kitchen, as they prepare a feast for their friends, the audience is taken to an immersive, seductive gastronomic, visually enhancing experience that will, for sure, delight the eyes, and ignite the appetite. Besides resisting to his marriage proposals, which she sees as the end of their open-free relationship, they have two important tasks: teaching a promising apprentice, a lovely, gastronomy-enthusiastic girl, and preparing an important menu for the Prince. Utterly sensitive, sophisticated and superbly performed, director Trân Anh Hùng makes an inspirational and irresistible multi-character study where the passion, dedication and pleasure of tasting are the main players.
(Screens October 5, 7, 8, 11. Awards Potential: International Fim, Actress, Actor)
STRANGE WAY OF LIFE
Iconic filmmaker Pedro Almodovar second English-language short film gathers Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal as two cowboy lovers dealing with traumas from the past, a homicide investigation, and their explosive desire. 20 years after their affair, the two men reunite to discuss Pedro’s son’s murder of passion. They end up awakening their discreet sexual tension for each other. A fashionista of cinema, Almodovar composes a classy, guilty pleasure Queer-love-story, offering beautiful homo-erotic resistance context, gorgeous scenarios, and cool outfits that will make you collect all your savings to get one alike.
(Screens September 30 followed by a conversation with Almodovar).
(The 61st New York Film Festival runs September 29th-October 15th at Film at Lincoln Center, 165 65th Street, Broadway, New York City. Go to https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2023/ for details).