Accent on international fare at New York festival

Wed Aug 12, 2009 4:06am EDT
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By Steven Zeitchik

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Foreign films predominate in the lineup of the New York Film Festival, announced Tuesday.

The festival, which opens September 25, will showcase such European filmmakers as Michael Haneke ("The White Ribbon"), Alain Resnais (who will open the fest with his "Wild Grass"), Pedro Almodovar ("Broken Embraces") and Claire Denis ("White Material"). Only two U.S. directors have scripted features in the lineup, a recent low for the event.

"Two years ago, we had the Coen brothers and Wes Anderson and Julian Schnabel and Noah Baumbach and Sidney Lumet," said Richard Pena, programing director and selection committee chair for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. "Last year, there was less, and this year there is much less."

Although that's at least partly a function of the diminishing film specialty business -- which in turn has led to a dwindling amount of U.S. auteur fare -- Pena said he sees it more as a passing phase than a new reality." I think we're in one of those in-between years, when a number of films are being prepared," he said. He added that there were "a number of Hollywood films that we were hoping to see that weren't ready in time."

As the indie business contracts or moves to more commercial fare, one consequence is the shift of festival titles away from the U.S. to burgeoning cinematic regions like Eastern Europe. The NYFF slate includes "Police, Adjective," a drama by Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu that was well received at the Cannes festival.

As it typically does, NYFF is studded with titles that screened in May at the French festival, including Lee Daniels' coming-of-age drama "Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire" (the festival's centerpiece screening, which premiered in January at Sundance), Joon-ho Bong's framed-murderer story "Mother," Marco Bellochio's Mussolini drama "Vincere" and festival closer "Broken Embraces," from NYFF favorite Almodovar.

Past opening-night selections have included such awards-season contenders as "Mystic River" (2003) and "The Queen" (2006), but this year will see the more rarefied choice of Resnais' "Grass," a romantic comedy-drama from the French New Wave master that Sony Pictures Classics recently picked up.

The festival could see a frisson of controversy with the screening of the Cannes hot potato "Antichrist," Lars von Trier's graphic, genre-tinged relationship pic starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, in which a couple brutalizes each other at their country house after the sudden death of their child.   Continued...

<p>Spanish actress Penelope Cruz and Spanish director Pedro Almodovar arrive for the British premiere of "Broken Embraces" at the opening night of Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House in London, July 30, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>