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New York Film Festival 2023: reviews, trailers, and more

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New York Film Festival is often a strong mix of high-profile directors and newcomers making their debut. Some are still seeking distribution, while others already have their theatrical runs scheduled with hopes that they can stand out in the crowded autumn. While NYFF may not have the prestige of Cannes or the indie spirit of Sundance, it is the last big push as the industry moves into awards season. Ongoing labor disputes with actors and writers mean that the festival itself will be largely star-free. But directors will be picking up the promotion slack.

This year’s main slate screens new works from venerable directors Sofia Coppola (Priscilla), Todd Haynes (May December), and Michael Mann (Ferrari). But perhaps more exciting are the international features making their way stateside for the first time, including films by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Evil Does Not Exist), Aki Kaurismäki (Fallen Leaves), Justine Triet (Anatomy of a Fall), and two new movies by the prolific Hong Sangsoo (In Water, In Our Day). Also making its US debut is Richard Linklater’s Hit Man, recently acquired in Toronto by Netflix for a record-breaking $20 million.

We’ll be reporting out of NYFF, tackling several of the biggest releases, and uncovering some lesser-known gems. Follow along on this page to keep up with everything coming out of this year’s festival.

  • dA tRaIlEr ZoNe.

    Zone of Interest finally has a trailer, and an official US theatrical release date: December 15.

    I saw Jonathan Glazer’s latest at NYFF and found it to be one of the most urgent and sobering films of the past decade. But it will be divisive, and I can’t wait to hear what you all think.

  • Perfect Days is a tidy look at Tokyo’s toilets

    A still from Perfect Days
    Courtesy of Master Mind Ltd

    In Perfect Days, Hirayama (Koji Yakusho) is a bathroom cleaner. He starts his day early, gets a coffee from the vending machine, pops a classic rock tape into the stereo, and drives his van to various public restrooms, where he gets to work. He scrubs and tidies the sink meticulously. The various parts of a bidet are wiped. He uses a small mirror to check the underside of a toilet to make sure it’s sparkling in places no one will ever see.

    I don’t love work, but I love stories about work. The stakes of a job are so obvious and familiar that you get to skip the explanations of motive (we don’t need to know why Don Draper wants to be a good ad man). What you gain instead is usually a process story — the illustrative part, where you get to see how someone is good at their job. 

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  • Mr. Sakamoto’s opus.

    Tonight at NYFF, the premiere of the final concert film of legendary composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who passed at the age of 71 earlier this year. The reviews out of Venice were raves, and I can’t wait to see this and probably cry a little bit.

  • Priscilla is Sofia Coppola back to her old tricks

    A still of Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny in Priscilla
    Image: A24

    Priscilla is the work of a filmmaker playing to her strengths. While director Sofia Coppola might be called a “nepo baby” because her father is Francis Ford Coppola, the point of the insult is to call out unacknowledged privilege. Meanwhile, Coppola’s work is largely about growing up in the orbit of powerful men and what that does to one’s own wants and self-worth. Her take on Priscilla Presley, wife of one of the most famous musicians of his century, is Coppola playing a familiar tune — but one that’s getting a little old.

    The film’s title character, Priscilla Presley (Cailee Spaeny) is, of course, the wife of Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi). But although Priscilla is in the orbit of planet Elvis, the strength of the film is what it doesn’t show. Much in the way Bob Harris’ fame is left mostly off-screen in Lost in Translation, all the Elvis stuff exists outside the walls of Graceland. There is a short glimpse of rabid fans at the beginning, the occasional whisper behind Priscilla’s back about you-know-who. But in the movie, you won’t hear a single Elvis song. Coppola even nearly gets away without showing him onstage, either, except for one short scene that’s not exactly flattering (though a part of me wishes the film had committed more strongly and omitted this, too).

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  • The zone of dissenting opinion.

    I quite liked (but had some issues with) Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest. But critic (and very good Letterboxd follow) Kristen Yoonsoo Kim is a hater. Her take:

    Why must I watch the inner lives of Nazis? I was hoping Glazer would answer that question but this film does not go into any enlightening or thought-provoking territory beyond, like, “here it is, the banality of evil! Also here are some random ‘experimental’ shots in between.”

    (Also, does embedding Letterboxd posts work in our CMS? Let’s find out!)

    Update: It does!

  • Planet of the dates.

    Janet Planet, the film directorial debut from the widely celebrated playwright Annie Baker, premiered at NYFF yesterday. Set in Western Massachusetts in the early ‘90s, we see Janet (Julianne Nicholson) through the eyes of her 11-year-old daughter Lacy (Zoe Ziegler) watching her mother navigate several relationships. It’s funny, richly layered, and avoidant of tropes. (I also relish any movie where a child actor does not come across as too precocious!)

    Baker’s stage experience shows in the dialogue and the precision of its rhythms; everywhere else, though, Janet Planet feels very well versed in the language of the screen.

    I wish there was a trailer I could share! A24 has picked it up, and though tonally it’s different from Lady Bird, Aftersun, or Past Lives, there’s a shared quiet intimacy in all these films. Which is to say: if you liked any of those, you will probably love Janet Planet.

    A still from Janet Planet, featuring actresses Julianne Nicholson and Zoe Ziegler as mother and daughter.
    Julianne Nicholson and Zoe Ziegler as mother and daughter in Janet Planet.
    Courtesy of A24
  • Losing the plot.

    For the New York Times, Beatrice Loayza admires that NYFF’s slate features so many movies that are light on story and instead heavy on sense, mood, and image. A good read!

  • The chilling distance of The Zone of Interest

    A still from ‘The Zone of Interest’
    Image: A24

    During World War II, the Germans designated the area surrounding Auschwitz the “zone of interest.” The dullness of the phrase was intentional, another euphemism as operative as “concentration camp.”

    In Jonathan Glazer’s sorta adaptation of Martin Amis’ eponymous novel, this self-delusion is on display. Hedwig Höss (Sandra Hüller) runs a stately home. She raises her children, bosses maids around, and tends to the garden. Their house is on a plot beside Auschwitz. Jews are being slaughtered on the other side of the wall.

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  • Anatomy of a Fall’s slow-burn murder mystery turns the heat up on a difficult marriage

    A still from Anatomy of a Fall
    Image: Neon

    Before Anatomy of a Fall gives us a body, we get a booming steel drum cover of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” It’s coming from upstairs, where Sandra’s (Sandra Hüller) husband is insulating the attic. But he’s playing the music loudly — possibly out of spite. Sandra is downstairs answering a grad student’s questions about her career as a successful novelist, speaking pretentiously, and predictably, about how reality informs her fiction. Samuel (Samuel Theis), the husband, is also a writer but has never been able to publish a book. Blasting horrible music is perhaps how he expresses that bitterness to his wife. An hour later, he’ll be found outside, head cracked open after tumbling from the third floor.

    That’s the initial assumption at least. But we don’t see how Samuel died, and the police investigation suggests some inconsistencies with Sandra’s story. Was it an accident? Suicide? Or was it… murder?

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  • Sofia Coppola power ranking.

    Priscilla premieres tonight at NYFF. I caught the press screening earlier today (pretty good, will get my thoughts down on paper shortly). It fits snugly in the middle of Coppola’s body of work, and is her strongest film in over a decade.

    1. Lost in Translation

    2. Somewhere

    3. The Virgin Suicides

    4. Marie Antoinette

    5. Priscilla

    6. The Beguiled

    7. The Bling Ring

    8. On the Rocks

  • In Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s new movie Evil Does Not Exist, it does

    A still from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s film, Evil Does Not Exist
    Image: Film at Lincoln Center

    There’s an old episode of the podcast Reply All I think about all the time called “Negative Mount Pleasant” — a title that reveals nothing about what it’s about. Also, the first eight minutes of the episode aren’t super instructive either. It opens with tape from a village meeting, where the community of Mount Pleasant is accosting their representative about a mysterious new development that is happening in their backyard.

    This isn’t exactly how Evil Does Not Exist starts. But like “Negative Mount Pleasant,” it makes the small-town stakes feel big — and specific. The conflict in director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s excellent new film concerns the imposition of a new “glamping” site just outside Tokyo. Some 6,000-plus miles from the Wisconsin village of Mount Pleasant, a talent agency has arrived in the remote town of Mizubiki to introduce a project sure to make it a “tourist hot spot.”

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  • Is Netflix ruining the movie theater experience?

    I enjoyed Richard Linklater’s Hit Man (review here!) but like Vulture’s Alison Willmore, I’m bummed it will likely get a diminished theatrical release next year. Sometimes a movie needs to be seen in the theater — not for eye-searing IMAX spectacle, but just to be around a room of strangers you can laugh with.

  • The wholesome, feel-good true crime of Hit Man

    Glen Powell in Hit Man
    Image: Film at Lincoln Center

    Gary Johnson has a particular set of skills. He talks to strangers about offing loved ones: family members, business partners, or anybody close to them that they want dead. In imaginative detail, he tells them how he’ll murder them. There’s a contract, money is exchanged, an agreement is made. But the thing about Gary is that he isn’t actually a killer; he’s working with the cops.

    In director Richard Linklater’s Hit Man, that’s how the sting works. Someone admits they want a person killed and passes Gary the cash. That’s enough evidence for the police to make an arrest. And Gary (Glen Powell), the guy posing as the hard-boiled killer who’s going to fulfill those contracts? When he’s not acting, he’s as normcore as they come, a philosophy teacher at the local college, and a personality that people would probably call “swell.” Gotta say: Glen Powell can really do swell!

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  • How do you live?

    That’s the question answered by Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film, which screens today at New York Film Festival under its much worse American title, The Boy and the Heron. I caught this last week and loved it — though it will definitely be divisive, especially for those expecting a film as straightforward as The Wind Rises.

    Alicia Haddick reviewed the movie for The Verge back in July, after its release in Japan. Check that one out, if you missed it.

  • Hong Sangsoo’s new movies are losing focus

    A still from ‘In Our Day’
    Courtesy of Cinema Guild

    Recently, we’ve been gifted two new works by Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo each year. He loves a small movie, usually comfortably under the 90-minute mark, and a scope that might encompass a novella or even a short story. I personally find them kind of hit or miss. Not to say Hong is inconsistent. In fact, it is remarkable how he can keep making the same kind of movie over and over. Even within the self-imposed constraints of Hong’s manner, there is wild variance in what he puts out. In that sense, his new movies are fitting — though unessential — additions to his prolific filmography.

    One of this year’s, In Our Day, is fairly standard Hong: low stakes, talky, and cast with familiar actors (if you think Wes Anderson likes recurring players, I’ll raise you any of these). It’s also pure Hong thematically: creatives gently wrestling with their late careers, nebulous self-reflection, and gestures toward alcoholism.

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  • Do you like to watch Pedro Pascal ride a horse?

    Would it be even better if he donned a bright green YSL riding jacket while doing it? In Pedro Almodóvar’s short queer Western, Pascal reunites with a past lover (Ethan Hawke) after 25 years. It plays today at NYFF, and streams on Mubi soon.

  • Rain or shine.

    The year’s biggest storm didn’t stop the festival’s opening night with May December, or the party that followed, or the heavy sponsorship from Campari. (Although you’d expect that a bright red Italian liquor might make more sense for the premiere of Ferrari?)

  • Waiting in the rain for Miyazaki.

    Even for press screenings, you have to wait outside. Here’s me before The Boy and the Heron a few days ago.


  • May December premieres in September, hits theaters in November, and streams in December.

    Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore reunite for New York Film Festival’s opening night, though you’ll be able to catch it on Netflix in a few months.

  • And live from New York Film Festival, it’s... Friday morning.

    I usually edit very long things at The Verge. But over the next couple weeks, I’m going to do my best Charles cosplay at NYFF and review a lot of the exciting movies making their US debut at Lincoln Center. So keep your eyes on this space for more (and catch up on our coverage of Toronto International Film Festival if you missed it).