The 10 Most Anticipated Films of the 2015 New York Film Festival

Photos via NYFF

With the start of the New York Film Festival this Friday, every cinephile’s favorite time of year has finally arrived. This weekend, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will kick off the 53rd annual event, lasting until October 11. As always, the lineup is rife with fascinating new features from Hollywood heavyweights, international sensations, independent films, and art house rarities. This year, the fest starts with Robert Zemeckis’ Philippe Petit biopic The Walk, one of the most anticipated award season movies of the year. NYFF highlights also include Danny Boyle’s Jobs, their centerpiece selection and Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead, the closing night film. But in between, films from some of the greatest living filmmakers will have their NY premieres—and we cannot wait to devour them all. From Todd Haynes’ emotionaly devatating Carol to Arnaud Desplechin’s wondrous My Golden Days, check out the 10 films we’re dying to see at NYFF 2015. Peruse our list and get your tickets HERE.

CAROL, Todd Haynes

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Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s early novel stars Cate Blanchett as the titular Carol, a wealthy suburban wife and mother, and Rooney Mara as an aspiring photographer. They meet by chance, fall in love almost at first sight, and defy the closet of the early 1950s to be together. Working with his longtime cinematographer Ed Lachman and shooting on the Super-16 film he favors for its echoes of the movie history of 20th-century America, Haynes charts subtle shifts of power and desire in images that are alternately luminous and oppressive. Blanchett and Mara are both splendid; the erotic connection between their characters is palpable from beginning to end, as much in its repression as in eagerly claimed moments of expressive freedom. Originally published under a pseudonym, Carol is Highsmith’s most affirmative work. Haynes has more than done justice to the multilayered emotions evoked by the original. A Weinstein Company release.

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MY GOLDEN DAYS, Arnaud Desplechin

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Arnaud Desplechin’s alternately hilarious and heartrending latest work is intimate yet expansive, a true autobiographical epic. Mathieu Amalric—Jean-Pierre Léaud to Desplechin’s François Truffaut—reprises the character of Paul Dédalus from the director’s groundbreaking My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument (NYFF, 1996), now looking back on the mystery of his own identity from the lofty vantage point of middle age. Desplechin visits three varied but interlocking episodes in his hero’s life, each more surprising and richly textured than the next, and at the core of his film is the romance between the adolescent Paul (Quentin Dolmaire) and Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet). Most directors trivialize young love by slotting it into a clichéd category, but here it is ennobled and alive in all of its heartbreak, terror, and beauty. Le Monde recently referred to Desplechin as “the most Shakespearean of filmmakers,” and boy, did they ever get that right. My Golden Days is a wonder to behold. A Magnolia Pictures release.

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THE ASSASSIN, Hou Hsiao-hsien 

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A wuxia like no other, The Assassin is set in the waning years of the Tang Dynasty when provincial rulers are challenging the power of the royal court. Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi), who was exiled as a child so that her betrothed could make a more politically advantageous match, has been trained as an assassin for hire. Her mission is to destroy her former fiancé (Chang Chen). But worry not about the plot, which is as old as the jagged mountains and deep forests that bear witness to the cycles of power and as elusive as the mists that surround them. Hou Hsiao-hsien’s art is in the telling. The film is immersive and ephemeral, sensuous and spare, and as gloriously beautiful in its candle-lit sumptuous red and gold decor as Hou’s 1998 masterpiece, Flowers of Shanghai. As for the fight scenes, they’re over almost before you realize they’ve happened, but they will stay in your mind’s eye forever. A Well Go USA release. 

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ARABIAN NIGHTS, Miguel Gomes

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An up-to-the minute rethinking of what it means to make a political film today, Miguel Gomes’s shape-shifting paean to the art of storytelling strives for what its opening titles call “a fictional form from facts.” Working for a full year with a team of journalists who sent dispatches from all over the country during Portugal’s recent plunge into austerity, Gomes (Tabu, NYFF50) turns actual events into the stuff of fable, and channels it all through the mellifluous voice of Scheherazade (Crista Alfaiate), the mythic queen of the classic folktale. Volume 1 alone tries on more narrative devices than most filmmakers attempt in a lifetime, mingling documentary material about unemployment and local elections with visions of exploding whales and talking cockerels. It is hard to imagine a more generous or radical approach to these troubled times, one that honors its fantasy life as fully as its hard realities. 

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MOUNTAINS MY DEPART, Jia Zhangke

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The plot of Jia Zhangke’s new film is simplicity itself. Fenyang 1999, on the cusp of the capitalist explosion in China. Shen Tao (Zhao Tao) has two suitors—Zhang (Zhang Yi), an entrepreneur-to-be, and his best friend Liangzi (Liang Jin Dong), who makes his living in the local coal mine. Shen Tao decides, with a note of regret, to marry Zhang, a man with a future. Flash-forward 15 years: the couple’s son Dollar is paying a visit to his now-estranged mother, and everyone and everything seems to have grown more distant in time and space… and then further ahead in time, to even greater distances. Jia is modern cinema’s greatest poet of drift and the uncanny, slow-motion feeling of massive and inexorable change. Like his 2013 A Touch of Sin, Mountains May Depart is an epically scaled canvas. But where the former was angry and quietly terrifying, the latter is a heartbreaking prayer for the restoration of what has been lost in the name of progress. A Kino Lorber release.

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CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR, Apichatpong Weerasethakul

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The wondrous new film by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (whose last feature, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, was a Palme d’Or winner and a NYFF48 selection) is set in and around a hospital ward full of comatose soldiers. Attached to glowing dream machines, and tended to by a kindly volunteer (Jenjira Pongpas Widner) and a young clairvoyant (Jarinpattra Rueangram), the men are said to be waging war in their sleep on behalf of long-dead feuding kings, and their mysterious slumber provides the rich central metaphor: sleep as safe haven, as escape mechanism, as ignorance, as bliss. To slyer and sharper effect than ever, Apichatpong merges supernatural phenomena with Thailand’s historical phantoms and national traumas. Even more seamlessly than his previous films, this sun-dappled reverie induces a sensation of lucid dreaming, conjuring a haunted world where memory and myth intrude on physical space. A Strand Releasing release.

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EXPERIMENTER, Michael Almereyda

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Michael Almereyda’s brilliant portrait of Stanley Milgram, the social scientist whose 1961, Yale-based “obedience study” reflected back on the Holocaust and anticipated Abu Ghraib and other atrocities carried out by ordinary people who were just following orders, places its subject in an appropriately experimental cinema framework. The proverbial elephant in the room materializes on screen; Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) sometimes addresses the camera directly as if to implicate us in his studies and the unpleasant truths they reveal. Remarkably, the film evokes great compassion for this uncompromising, difficult man, in part because we often see him through the eyes of his wife (Winona Ryder, in a wonderfully grounded performance), who fully believed in his work and its profoundly moral purpose. Almereyda creates the bohemian-tinged academic world of the 1960s through the 1980s with an economy that Stanley Kubrick might have envied. A Magnolia Pictures release.

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IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, Frederick Wiseman

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Frederick Wiseman’s 40th feature documentary is about Jackson Heights, Queens, one of New York City’s liveliest and most culturally diverse neighborhoods, a thriving and endlessly changing crossroad of styles, cuisines, and languages, and now—like vast portions of our city—caught in the gears of economic “development.” Wiseman’s mastery is as total as it is transparent: his film moves without apparent effort from an LGBT support meeting to a musical street performance to a gathering of Holocaust survivors to a hilarious training class for aspiring taxi drivers to an ace eyebrow-removal specialist at work to the annual Gay Pride parade to a meeting of local businessmen in a beauty parlor to discuss the oncoming economic threat to open-air merchants selling their wares to a meeting of undocumented individuals facing deportation. Wiseman catches the textures of New York life in 2015, the music of our speech, and a vast, emotionally complex, dynamic tapestry is woven before our eyes. A Zipporah Films release.

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NO HOME MOVIE, Chantal Akerman

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At the center of Chantal Akerman’s enormous body of work is her mother, a Holocaust survivor who married and raised a family in Brussels. In recent years, the filmmaker has explicitly depicted, in videos, books, and installation works, her mother’s life and their own intense connection to each other. No Home Movie is a portrait by Akerman, the daughter, of Akerman, the mother, in the last years of her life. It is an extremely intimate film but also one of great formal precision and beauty, one of the rare works of art that is both personal and universal, and as much a masterpiece as her 1975 career-defining Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.

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RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN, Hong Sangsoo

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Ham Chunsu (Jung Jaeyoung) is an art-film director who has come to Suwon for a screening of one of his movies. He meets Yoon Heejung (Kim Minhee), a fledgling artist. She’s never seen any of his films but knows he’s famous; he’d like to see her paintings and then go for sushi and soju. Every word, every pause, every facial expression, and every movement is a negotiation between revelation and concealment: too far over the line for Chunsu and he’s suddenly a middle-aged man on the prowl who uses insights as tools of seduction; too far for Heejung and she’s suddenly acquiescing to a man who’s leaving the next day. So they walk the fine line all the way to a tough and mordantly funny end point, at which time… we begin again, but now with different emotional dynamics. Hong Sangsoo, represented many times in the NYFF, achieves a maximum of layered nuance with a minimum of people, places, and incidents. He is, truly, a master.

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