Mobsters, milk thieves, aging directors, portrait artists, private eyes, spies, dancers, booksellers, therapists, and one particularly evil clown, are just some of the characters that make up this year’s New York Film Festival. The premiere event for New York cinema lovers, the festival, in it’s 57th year, once again offers New Yorkers the opportunity to see some of the most acclaimed, challenging and ambitious films, on New York City’s grandest movie screens. One of the city’s own directors opens the festival, with one of the most anticipated films of the year.

A lot has already been written about the festival’s opening film, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which is making its world premiere at the festival. From its exuberant production budget ($160 million dollars), to the use of technology to de-age the main cast by 30 years, to its three-hour plus runtime. The New York Film Festival will be the first test for Scorsese’s 25th narrative feature, to see if it can join the likes of Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and The Wolf of Wall Street as top-tier Scorsese. With its premise and cast, expectations for this film are as high as they ever been for Marty.

From The Irishman by Martin Scorsese. Photo: Netflix 2019.

Based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 memoir “I Heard You Paint Houses,The Irishman tells the story of Frank Sheeran, a killer for hire who worked for the Bufalino Crime family; and whose nickname gives the film its title. Robert De Niro plays Sheeran, making this the two New Yorkers ninth collaboration together, and their first since 1995’s Casino. Al Pacino plays the infamous Jimmy Hoffa, the corrupt union leader who disappeared on July 30th, 1975, with The Irishman being the first time Pacino has been directed by Scorsese. A film promising De Niro and Pacino sharing the screen together, directed by one of the all time greats, would be enough for any film devotee to stand in line and pray for rush tickets. However, there is one added bonus, the return of Joe Pesci. Acting for the first time in nine years, the Academy Award winning actor, who can be dangerous and funny, “you know, like a clown,” will be playing the head of the Bufalino Crime Family, Russell “The Old Man” Bufalino.

From Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach. Photo courtesy Netflix

Another major New York City’s filmmaker’s latest will also be showing at the festival. The festival’s Centerpiece, Marriage Story, is the 11th narrative feature from Brooklyn filmmaker Noah Baumbach, and his second for Netflix. The film has been generating a lot of awards buzz thanks to successful showings at the Venice, Telluride, and Toronto International Film Festivals, with many critics praising the performances of the two leads, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, as well as Laura Dern. Inspired by interviews the director had done with people close to him who have gone through divorces, as well as mediators, divorce lawyers and judges, Marriage Story recalls one of Baumbach’s best, The Squid and the Whale, and will be releasing on Netflix in early December.

Alec Baldwin as Moses Randolph, aka Robert Moses with Edward Norton as Lionel Essrog. Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment 

Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn, based on the beloved noir mystery by Jonathan Lethem will feature a quintessential New York City story with an epic cast featuring Alec Baldwin playing a Robert Moses-inspired character, Cherry Jones as a Jane Jacobs-inspired character, Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Carnavale, and Norton himself in the title role as a tourette-inflicted private eye looking to find out what happened to his boss. The recreation of 1950s New York City is impeccable and Norton insisted on key historic details that will make our readers very pleased.

From First Cow, courtesy A24

Kelly Reichardt is one of our most undervalued and yet important voices in American independent cinema, and with her latest, First Cow, she continues to build upon her reputation as also being one of the best. What can best be described as a milk thief buddy drama, First Cow is about two men, one from Maryland, the other from Northern China, as they develop a strong and positive friendship in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1800’s; one that builds over jokes, comfort, and delicious oil cakes.

From Varda by Agnes, courtesy of Mk2 and Janus Films

This year’s festival is dedicated to the life and career of Agnes Varda, the French New Wave filmmaker who passed away in March at the age of 90. Her impact on cinema and cinema culture is too grand to write in a single preview, the festival will be showing her last film Varda by Agnes, which has the icon discuss her illustrious career using archival footage and clips from her best work. It serves as the ideal set up for the complete retrospective on Varda coming to Film at Lincoln Center later this year.

For other international fare, there is Bong Joon-ho’s Palm d’Or winning film Parasite, a film destines to become the first South Korean film in history to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Portrait of a Lady on Fire, winner of Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival as well as the Queer Palm, one of the most acclaimed films of the year and one of those art house films that actually live up to the hype it’s garnered thanks to months of positive festival runs. Pedro Almodóvar – who helped design this year’s festival poster, returns to the NYFF with Pain and Glory, which reunited him with his original muse, Antonio Banderas, the subject of a recent film series at the Quad Cinema.

Besides new releases, the New York Film Festival will also give audiences the opportunity to see older films, restored and remastered, the most intriguing is Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club Encore. Coppola’s historical drama received mixed reviews when it premiered in 1984, 25 years later Coppola is re-releasing the film not only remastered but re cut to its original runtime.

The 57th New York Film Festival runs from September 28th till October 13th. There are still online tickets for some of the films listed in the preview and many more over at the Film at Lincoln Center website.

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