It was a scandal when, in 1969, the New York Film Festival showed Paul Mazursky’s extramarital romp “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” in its Lincoln Center sanctuary, but these days few doubt that art can issue from Hollywood. Several industry notables will grace this year’s edition of the festival, which kicks off tonight and runs through Oct. 15, including Todd Haynes, whose drama “May December”--featuring Natalie Portman as an actor preparing to portray a subject of a long-ago scandal (Julianne Moore)--is the opening-night offering.
But N.Y.F.F. is largely a celebration of movies that likely won’t be on hundreds of multiplex screens and yet are no less worthy of attention, such as the idiosyncratic and intimate comedy “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed”--written and directed by Joanna Arnow, who also stars as a thirtysomething Brooklyn woman whose quest for a romantic relationship conflicts with her desire to be sexually dominated--and “In Water,” one of a pair of films by the veteran South Korean director Hong Sangsoo, about a young independent filmmaker’s reckless effort to shoot an improvised drama. Many of Hong’s images are intentionally out of focus, to surprising emotional effect, emphasizing the force of the film’s confessional and confrontational dialogue.
But pride of place regarding long dialogue scenes of wondrous intensity goes to the Japanese drama “Evil Does Not Exist,” directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (whose 2021 film “Drive My Car” was nominated for four Oscars and won one, for Best International Feature Film). It’s the story of a rural village of artisans and farmers whose way of life is threatened by a businessman’s plan to open a glamping lodge there. Discussions among the villagers and the developers—as at a contentious public hearing—display a depth of practical knowledge and introduce a twisty succession of subjects that seem borrowed from the institution-probing documentaries of Frederick Wiseman. Hamaguchi flaunts his quasi-documentarian sensibility in wordless scenes, too, including an extraordinary long take of a woodcutter at work which is among the cinematic thrills of the year.