NYFF 2023: Female-Focused Wrap – Margaret Barton-Fumo reports

Women directors held their own at this year’s New York Film Festival, with impressive films in each of the fest’s coveted programs, from the Main Slate to Revivals. We’ll dip into each of these categories, singling out some of the lesser-known titles, in a women-focused overview of the fest. Starting off with the generally crowd-pleasing Main Slate, a number of women-directed features stood out (eight out of thirty-two, in fact).

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LAST SUMMER (NYFF 2023) – Review by Margaret Barton Fumo

Rife with tension, ambiguous morals and sexual taboos, Catherine Breillat is back with her first film in a decade, the unexpectedly thrilling Last Summer. The film occupies familiar territory for Breillat–that of doomed relationships–with a focus on Anne, a successful lawyer in her early fifties who engages in a torrid affair with her 17-year-old stepson Théo. And while culturally, things are indeed “different in France,” (Théo drinks alcohol legally and has been smoking with his parents since the age of 12, for example), Breillat treats their relationship as something far more damaging than a mere sexual indiscretion.

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MAMBAR PIERRETTE (NYFF 2023) – Review by Margaret Barton-Fumo

No stranger to experimentation, Rosine Mbakam returns to the NYFF in 2023 with Mambar Pierrette, an engaging profile of a seamstress in Cameroon. Known for her previous works of creative nonfiction, Mbakam’s latest is an unassuming yet powerful drama that draws heavily from everyday life. Following Mambar closely as she toils from day to day, sewing in a tiny shop and taking care of her family during her hours off, Mbakam ekes out a candid tale of perseverance.

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THE ZONE OF INTEREST – Review by Diane Carson

It is a daunting challenge to present a cinematic experience that does justice to the Holocaust without repeating previous worthy considerations of the unfathomable horrors. Stretching back to Alain Resnais’ 1956 Night and Fog, important fiction and nonfiction works have honored the victims’ memories amidst various dramatizations of Nazi inhumanity. Writer/director Jonathan Glazer has forged a new approach in The Zone of Interest, a narrative of overwhelming, astonishing restraint. Loosely based on Martin Amis’ 2014 novel, Glazer’s narrative enters the pantheon of unforgettable films on the Holocaust, adding another chapter to our understanding of the banality of evil.

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WEEK IN WOMEN: Sofia Coppola’s PRISCILLA is NYFF Centerpiece – Brandy McDonnell reports

Writer-director Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla will screen as the Centerpiece selection for the 61st New York Film Festival, making its North American premiere Oct. 6 at Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center. Adapted from Priscilla Presley’s best-selling 1985 memoir Elvis and Me, the biopic stars Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla and Jacob Elordi as Elvis. Priscilla is a culminating triumph for Sofia Coppola, a filmmaker with a singular gift for illuminating the interior lives of her characters,” said Dennis Lim, artistic director of the New York Film Festival.

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New York Film Festival 2023: Female Filmmakers in Focus – Margaret Barton-Fumo reports

The New York Film Festival is set to return to the city with a packed schedule of international films. A little over one-fifth of the features this year are directed by women, with several standouts in the coveted Main Slate. Sofia Coppola’s highly anticipated Priscilla is one such feature, scheduled to be the festival’s “Centerpiece” screening. Many critics are eagerly situating Coppola’s film, which is based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir, Elvis and Me, as the femme-centric antidote to Baz Luhrmann’s bombastic rock ‘n’ roll biopic. All assumed comparisons aside, the subject matter is certainly well-suited to its director, given Coppola’s accomplished history of directing moody tales of alienated women.

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