The New York Film Festival has a habit of using Cannes Winners on Opening Night. “Pulp Fiction,” “Secrets and Lies,” and last year’s “All About my Mother” spring to mind. In this tradition, the 38th Annual Festival at Lincoln Center opened Friday, September 22, with Lars von Trier’s Palm D’Or winning “Dancer in the Dark”.
The paparazzi were in full force, standing behind the barriers, as cast members from the film turned up, entering Avery Fisher Hall for the Film’s U.S. Premiere. Fans also lined up outside for a glimpse of Bjork, who sported one of the overly showy dresses she’s well noted for.
Henry McGee, president of the Lincoln Center Film Society, gave the opening speech, praising Grand Marnier for sponsoring the gala event. Richard Pena, Chairman of the selection committee then gave emotional introduction for “Dancer in the Dark,” a film for which he has great admiration. Producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen walked across the stage, followed by cast members David Morse, Joel Grey, Catherine Deneuve, and Bjork. Pena apologized for the absence of director von Trier, who has never been to America, and has a fear of flying.
The Fujicolor 35mm print of “Dancer in the Dark” was particularly impressive, exceedingly crisp and sharp, the blown-up digital video-visage bearing all the stylistic fingerprints of von Trier; extreme close-ups, desaturated colors, and ruggedly hand-held camera work. Bjork’s melancholy musical tunes resonated with a haunting grace in the big theater. Despite the film’s overt anti-American sentiment, it seemed to go over well with the crowd, eliciting a great deal of applause. Catherine Deneuve, in her interviews, has been wary that it will get a sympathetic response from U.S. audiences.
In recent years, the New York Film Festival has gotten a lot of criticism for either lame programming choices or a lack of diversity among the films. Richard Pena suggests that this year’s selection is not only unique, but addresses a common theme: Theatricality. “Each year is a completely fresh slate,” Pena said. “There are a number of films and filmmakers who are addressing theatricality in cinema in interesting ways. Not only films that are direct adaptations of plays, but films that use theatrical traditions and styles…’Dancer in the Dark’ deals with the notion of theatricality.”
Two upcoming stage adaptations in the fest include the duo of Atom Egoyan’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” and Neil Jordan’s “Not I,” both from Samuel Beckett source material. “It’s a really unique event, the New York Film Festival, because it’s one of the few fests that makes no attempt to camouflage its exclusivity. It says, “Okay, we’re showing these twenty or so films, and that’s it,” said director Egoyan.
Other upcoming films boasted in the ‘elitist’ schedule include Takeshi Kitano’s “Brother” (his American debut), Agnes Varda’s “The Gleaners and I,” Liv Ullman’s “Faithless,” Ed Harris’s “Pollock,” Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love,” Im Kwon-Taek’s “Chunhyang,” and Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. In total there are 36 feature films being exhibited, and a scattering of shorts.
Get more info from the The Film Society of Lincoln Center, home of the New York Film Festival.