Film at Lincoln Center’s Introductory Notes on One Fine Morning: Few filmmakers are as adept at exploring the contours of modern love and grief as Mia Hansen-Løve (Bergman Island), whose intensely poignant and deeply personal latest drama stars Léa Seydoux as Sandra, a professional translator and single mother at a crossroads. Her father (Pascal Greggory), rapidly deteriorating from a neurological illness, will soon require facility care, and her new lover (Melvil Poupaud) is a married dad whose unavailability only seems to draw her nearer to him, despite—or because of—the fact that she’s going through an overwhelming time in her life. Hansen-Løve, so finely observant of the small nuances of human interaction, creates, in harmonious concert with a magnificent Seydoux, a complicated portrait of a woman torn between romantic desire and familial tragedy that is a marvel of emotional and formal economy.
Film at Lincoln Center’s Introductory Notes on Aftersun: In one of the most assured and spellbinding feature debuts in years, Scottish director Charlotte Wells has fashioned a textured memory piece inspired by her relationship with her dad, taking place over the course of a brooding weekend at a coastal resort in Turkey. The charismatic Paul Mescal and naturalistic newcomer Francesca Corio fully inhabit Calum and Sophie, a divorced father and his daughter often mistaken for brother and sister, who share a close and loving bond that creates an entire world unto itself. Wells employs an unusual and gorgeous aesthetic that brings us into the interior space of this parent and child, even as she judiciously withholds details, an approach that finally grants the film a singular emotional wallop. Aftersun reimagines the coming-of-age narrative as a poignant, ultimately ungraspable chimera, informed by the present as much as the past.
Film at Lincoln Center’s Introductory Notes on Alcarràs: Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale Festival, Carla Simón’s follow-up to her acclaimed childhood drama Summer 1993 is a ruminative, lived-in portrait of a rural family in present-day Catalonia whose way of life is rapidly changing. The Solé clan live in a small village, annually harvesting peaches for local business and export. However, their livelihood is put in jeopardy by the looming threat of the construction of solar panels, which would necessitate the destruction of their orchard. From this simple narrative, pitting agricultural tradition against the onrushing train of modern progress, Simón weaves a marvelously textured film that moves to the unpredictable rhythms and caprices of nature and family life.
Film at Lincoln Center’s Introductory Notes on The Novelist’s Film: For his playful and gently thought-provoking 27th feature, Hong Sangsoo takes on the perspective of a prickly middle-aged novelist, Junhee (Lee Hyeyoung, the magnetic star of Hong’s In Front of Your Face). After revisiting an old friend who now runs a bookshop outside of Seoul, she embarks on a restorative journey that leads her to a chance encounter with a famous actress and former movie star (Kim Minhee); the two make an instant connection that stokes both women’s dormant creative impulses. Within this simple, loose-limbed premise, Hong locates a deep well of emotional truth, and poses a bounty of questions about the necessities and expectations of art-making, leading to a poignant, entirely unexpected, mode-shifting climax.
Film at Lincoln Center’s Introductory Notes on R.M.N.: Cristian Mungiu, whose bravura films such as 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days and Beyond the Hills dramatize the tensions of a modern Romania still beholden to dangerous traditions, returns with a gripping, mosaic-like portrait of a rural Transylvanian town riven by ethnic conflicts, economic resentment, and personal turmoil. Matthias (a glowering Marin Grigore) has returned to the village after an altercation at his job in a German slaughterhouse, only to find that his estranged wife has grown more distant and his young son has stopped talking after witnessing something disturbing in the forest near their home. Meanwhile his former lover, Csila (Judith State), with whom he hopes to rekindle an affair, has become involved in an escalating controversy when her local bread factory hires Sri Lankan migrants. These strands converge in increasing combustibility, building to an unsettling climax and a bravura town hall sequence that ranks with Mungiu’s best work.
Film at Lincoln Center’s Introductory Notes on Showing Up: Continuing one of the richest collaborations in modern American cinema, director Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women) reunites with star Michelle Williams for this marvelously particularized portrait of a sculptor’s daily work and frustrations in an artists’ enclave in Portland. Lizzy (Williams) struggles to put the finishing touches on her latest pieces for a gallery show, all the while juggling admin work at the local art school; dealing with the neglect of her well-meaning landlord (a funny and nuanced Hong Chau), who also happens to be a rising-star conceptual artist; and tending to the emotional well being of her increasingly fragmented family. Christopher Blauvelt’s patient camerawork, Reichardt’s precise cutting, and Williams’s physically transformative performance coalesce to create something remarkable in Showing Up, a delicately humorous drama of the experience of being a creative person that avoids all clichés that plague films about artists.
Film at Lincoln Center’s Introductory Notes on Triangle of Sadness: Cinematic mischief maker Ruben Östlund liberally applies his customary playfulness to the wide canvas of his wildly ambitious, frequently hilarious latest film, which won the Swedish director his second Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Kicking off as a satirical romance, following the bickering, money-soured relationship between two hot young models (Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean), the three-part film escalates into increasing absurdity after they are invited on a luxury cruise, where they rub elbows with the super-rich, as well as a disheveled and disillusioned, Marx-spouting sea captain (Woody Harrelson). To tell more would ruin the Buñuelian twists of this poison-dipped farce on class and economic disparity, which doesn’t skewer contemporary culture so much as dunk it in raw sewage.
Film at Lincoln Center’s Introductory Notes on Walk Up: Hong Sangsoo uses a delicately radical structure in his latest exploration of the complexities of relationships, growing older, and artistic pursuit. Successful middle-aged filmmaker Byungsoo (Kwon Haehyo) drops by to visit and introduce his daughter to an old friend, Mrs. Kim (Lee Hyeyoung), the owner of a charming apartment building that houses a restaurant on the ground floor. After Mrs. Kim tries to persuade him to move into one of the walk-up units, the film and Byungsoo’s future take a series of unexpected turns, as the various floors of the apartment come to contain different stages of his romantic and professional lives—or perhaps they’re different realities? Hong’s playfully existential drama consistently surprises, asking provocative, unresolvable questions about desire, illusion, and satisfaction and what we need—and take—from one another as we seek our own answers.