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    Lee Marvin in a scene from Sam Fuller's 1980 World War II film The Big Red One, now with close to an hour of original footage restored. in New York Film Festival
    Lee Marvin in a scene from Sam Fuller's 1980 World War II film "The Big Red One," now with close to an hour of original footage restored.

    The "New" in New York

    This year's New York Film Festival looks to be at its best when it features new, less heralded talents.


    Sometimes in the film festival world, you expect a lineup full of knockouts and what you get is a vague sense of unfulfilled expectations. And then one or two films come along that leave you picking your guts up off the floor when the lights come up.

    Twenty-five films from 16 countries.
    Oct. 1-17, 2004.
    Twenty-five films from 16 countries.
    Oct. 1-17, 2004.

    Related links: Official site
    NY Film Festival 2004

     Bad Education
     House of Flying Daggers
     Infernal Affairs trilogy
     Look at Me
     Notre Musique
     Or (My Treasure)
    • Sideways
     Triple Agent
     Woman Is the Future of Man
     The World

     Official site
    It's too early to say whether this year's New York Film Festival will be the uneven kind (I've only seen five of the features as of opening day, so there are probably some fine films on the horizon), but it's not too early to spot the guts-on-the-floor entry.

    "Undertow" is David Gordon Green's follow-up to the outstanding "All the Real Girls," with which it has everything and nothing in common. "Undertow" has Green's distinctive sense of pacing and simply constructed, Southern-accented speech, but it's no soft-focus romance full of wide-eyed sincerity and broken hearts. No, this is a vicious thriller whose brutality is only accentuated by the film's failure to dream up exotic villains and creative ways of killing. It's horrifying because it's spare, human and entirely believable.

    The festival has been overtaken by politics for the past several years — it came on the heels of Sept. 11 in 2001, then an Iranian filmmaker was barred from the country in 2002, and each year's roster has been heavy with global politics. This year is a little more personal — in fact, it may be the year of the Tormented Teen Tragedy. "Tarnation" by New York actor-director Jonathan Caouette is an unorthodox documentary recounting his own tormented youth as a gay teenager in Texas. "In the Battlefields" is a Lebanese film set amid the civil war of the 1980s, but dealing primarily with a girl's awakening to boys, family issues, gender roles. Todd Solondz's "Palindromes" features a girl caught in the middle of the abortion controversy. And Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education" stars Gael Garcia Bernal as a transveestite who exacts revenge on the church for the Catholic-school offenses that set him on his difficult path.

    Other name directors include some big names from film history. Jen-Luc Godard arrives with "Notre Musique," a three-part meditation on war. Eric Rohmer tries a change of pace with the 1930s-era spy story "Triple Agent." The best-known Chinese directors are well represented, with "House of Flying Daggers" from Zhang Yimou ("Hero"), "The World" from Jia Zhangke ("Platform") and "Cafe Lumiere" from Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Being released soon after the festival are Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake" and Alexander Payne's "Sideways."

    But an early hunch is that the standouts in this year's festival will be, like "Undertow," some of the less heralded films — the first-time finds and the sophomore efforts. Stay tuned to see what those might be.

    Festival articles



    Bad Education

    Pedro Almodvar loses his sense of humor — but finds a fitting leading man in Gael Garcia Bernal — in his earnest expose of priestly abuse and its drag-queen survivors.


    House of Flying Daggers

    "House of Flying Daggers" outdoes even Zhang Yimou's previous swordfighting epic, "Hero," in its sheer visual sumptuousness.


    Infernal Affairs trilogy

    This three-part Hong Kong mob informant thriller, much like the revered "Godfather" trilogy, is packed with thrills and intrigue for most of two installments while flattening out in the third.


    Look at Me

    Agnes Jaoui follows up "The Taste of Others," her warm take on the working class denizens of a local bistro, with a scathing attack on the lifestyles of the Parisian literati, as well as their parenting styles or lack thereof.


    Notre Musique

    Inspired by Dante, French intellectualism and brain-teasing wordplay, 74-year-old icon Jean-Luc Godard makes a topical statement on war.


    Or (My Treasure)

    This Israeli film about a level-headed teenage girl who has to take responsibility for her messed-up prostitute mom is too light on plot to support its weighty message.



    Wine worship suffuses this deep, slightly tart story about love and fellowship from the director of "About Schmidt" and "Election."



    Son of the South Jonathan Caouette has documented his life from performance-loving youngster with a camera in Texas to adult gay man in New York, using a lifetime of homemade films to construct the unorthodox documentary "Tarnation."


    Triple Agent

    Famed French director Eric Rohmer is more concerned with illustrating his characters' debates over Marxist ideology than with breathing life into a moribund spy yarn.



    David Gordon Green follows up "All the Real Girls" with a suspense smackdown that gets its chills not from special-effects gore but from genuine characters and the back-to-basics inventiveness of its creator.


    Vera Drake

    "Vera Drake" continues Mike Leigh's chronicles of the British working class, this time with an added cautionary element from the time before abortion was legal.


    Woman Is the Future of Man

    "Woman Is the Future of Man" is all title and no point — a time-shifting jumble of scenes that mostly end in dull sex.


    The World

    Globalization arrives in China, but halfway decent storytelling doesn't, in Jia Zhangke's "The World."

    OCTOBER 1, 2004

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