By Roger Costa
DO NOT EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM THE END OF THE WORLD
Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude attacks again with a nail-biting, scandalous and absurdist look at human behavior, injustice, working class struggles and social media obsession with this multi-layered report on the social, political and environmental abuses his country has been enduring for generations now. His alter ego this time is a compulsively engaged and political conscious social media influencer who while working on the conception of a safety video for a German company, casting humble workers who suffered accidents, finds opportunity to expose the problems her fellow Romanians go through with sarcastic takes on their regime, which in this case focuses on the careless system for those injured at work. Radical and immersive, Jude reflects on society’s behavior, the chaos of modern working-place and the daily injustice faced by the minorities with powerful control on the material, making it a superb and essential piece of cinema vérité.
(Screens October 7, 12)
THE ZONE OF INTEREST
Dark, unforgettable and profoundly intense, Jonathan Glazer’s look at the behind-the-scenes life of the head Commandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp is a film that gets under your skin, crawls over your body and haunts you for days. As the camera intimately and persuasively observes Father Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and mother Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) going on with their routine and family activities on the property located right next to the camp where thousands are being burned to death, the definition of evil finds the perfect home. Creating a chilling experience, filled by the mysterious sense of what goes behind those doors, Glazer crafted one of the most important and alarming films in history about the horrors of Auschwitz, but also a poignant portrait of family resistance. Both Friedel and Huller give superb performances and they should be nominated for Best Actor and Supporting Actress respectively for their incredible work. As for Glazer, the result here only confirms the British filmmaker as one of our finest and most engaged storytellers.
(Screens October 8, 9, 11, 13 and 14)
Greek auteur and Academy Award winner Yorgos Lanthimos gives us a different Barbie: Emma Stone’s Bella is a woman who was re-animated by a scientist and is experiencing the pleasures and disappointments of the world with that incomparable sense of first time. A cinematic visionary, Lanthimos tackles and teases up gender manipulation, religion, sexuality, moral standards, the limits of science, loyalty and love through a feminist fantasy that mirrors our era and how we treat each other. With a magnificent cast on top of their games (Willem Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo, Ramy Youssef and a special appearance by veteran star Hanna Schygulla, as well as a magical musical number by Fado diva Carminho), and a impeccable technical team who created a fantastical, gothic, grey world who must be painted and changed according to the muse, Lanthimos scores another masterpiece in his English-language career, confirming him as the ultimate visionary of modern cinema. Bold, provocative and unconventional, it is one of this year’s best films.
(Screens October 12, 15)
Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore pairs in this campy, irresistibly sexy and cynical take on feminine desire, vanity, obsession, ambition and competition. Directed by the always efficient Todd Haynes, who has never disappointed with his examinations on the Queer experience, family bond, sexual tension and complicated relationships, the film follows an explosive scandal involving a much older woman (Moore) who is caught having an affair with a 12-year old boy and becomes a national sensational. Portman plays the actress who comes along to learn aspects of her life in order to work her character for an upcoming film production. As the quest for perfection unfolds, unsolved and unspoken matters from that past emerges, creating a claustrophobic, dangerous and morally-risky situation for the couple and the vulnerable actress. Darkly funny, mysterious and utterly tense, it is an unashamed and scandalous double-female character study like never before.
(Screens October 7, 14).
(The 61st New York Film Festival is brought by Film at Lincoln Center and runs through October 14. Go to https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2023/ for tickets and details).