By Leslie (Hoban) Blake
At Lincoln Center’s 44th New York Film Festival several films are already generating buzz including Stephen Frear’s The Queen and Todd Field’s Little Children, both of which are already in release. Also notable is Pedro Almodovar’s Volver, scheduled to open in early November. The Queen examines the period directly after Princess Diana’s untimely demise, when Queen Elizabeth II (played by a stoic Helen Mirren) at first refused to heed either her country’s heartfelt outcry or the political pleas of Tony Blair, played by Michael Sheen.
Little Children presents an ensemble cast portraying a group of infantile suburbanites (including Kate Winslet’s discontented wife and mother) battling the presence of a known pedophile (a truly frightening Jackie Earle Haley) in their midst. Volver combines two of Almodovar’s favorite things—women and melodrama—with the supernatural, as a Sophia Loren-ish Penelope Cruz struggles to hold her family together while receiving unsettling visits from her dead mother. All three directors as well as Mirren, Winslet and Cruz are already on various Oscar prediction lists.
Other films at the NYFF may never find New York audiences because they don’t have distributors yet. Among these are Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and Century. It is about the separate lives of two doctors, one a big city male and the other a small town female. Hong San-soo’s Woman on the Beach shows a Korean film director getting involved with two women while working on a script at the seaside. Abderrahmane Sissako’s Bamako combines both a village in Mali and the African trial of the International Monetary Fund, with a cameo from Danny Glover.
It’s a nostalgia buff’s buffet table with more than 30 films celebrating Janus Films’ 50th Anniversary. Classics such as Children of Paradiase, La Strada and The Seventh Sea are featured. There's also a revival of Mafioso, Albert Lattuada’s delightful granddaddy of The Godfather and The Sopranos, plus a special treat for fans of Luis Bunuel’s Belle du Jour. Belle Toujours is 97-year-old Manoel de Oliveira’s sprightly homage to both the original film and one of its original actors, Michel Piccoli. In the same vein, documentarian Michael Apted returns to the NYFF with 49 Up, as his original 7 Up children cope with middle age and the meaning of life.
The Festival runs through Oct. 15. For tickets call (212) 496-3809 or visit filmlinc.com.