Joseph Pomp on four more films in the main slate of the 50th New York Film Festival.

Camille Rewinds

Camille Vaillant (Noémie Lvovsky, also the film’s writer-director) is hurting from her divorce.  After a long day on the set of a film called The Butcher’s Revenge, she makes her way to a New Years’ Eve party where she has a few too many drinks, passes out, and wakes up in 1984, back in high school.  It’s understandable that this remake of Peggy Sue Got Married (NYFF ‘86) is mired in ’80s nostalgia (expressed in both flamboyant production design and a jukebox soundtrack featuring Nena’s “99 Luftballons” and Bananarama’s “Venus”).  Less understandable, though, is its vaguely manic-pixie-dream-girl-circa-2006 ethos.  (A song or two by She & Him never hurt anyone, but a Shins track from Garden State?)  Campy and cliché-ridden though the film may be, it’s quite funny in moments, particularly when Lvovsky interacts with her rich Rolodex of cameos, from Jean-Pierre Léaud as a cranky horloger who facilitates Camille’s time-travel to Mathieu Amalric as a schlemiel who teaches at her high school.  Screening Wednesday, October 10 at 3:30pm at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Beyond the Hills

“I thought you chose your path in life,” the Priest (Valeriu Andriuta) tells Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), one of the nuns in the convent he leads, when she asks for a leave of absence to help her best friend Alina (Cristina Flutur), visiting Romania after spending a few years in Germany, figure things out. This tension between cloistered religious devotion and moral imperatives deemed outside the confines of piety is the powerful subject of the new film by Cristian Mungiu. Alina overstays her welcome as Voichita’s guest at the nunnery. Hoping to convince Voichita to leave with her, Alina pries at Voichita and the Priest’s devoutness by questioning their customs. Her impatience soon leads her into a state of hysteria that spreads like wildfire through the place. Mungiu enlivens the nimble drama with masterful shot compositions that expand the style he put forth in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

Although it is indeed Mungiu’s first feature since 4 Months, it would be wise not to think of Beyond the Hills too much as a follow-up to that 2007 Palme d’Or winner. Whereas 4 Months depicts the harsh pressures that outside forces (specifically Nicolae Ceausescu’s socialist regime in 1980’s Romania) exert on the characters, Beyond the Hills deal with characters that put themselves under great duress with the implicit hope of reaching toward something greater than themselves. Yes, both films deal with two female friends grappling with oppressive circumstances, but their respective subject matters and settings call for fundamentally different visions of the world. The tightly composed shots that Mungiu used in 4 Months to give the viewer a visceral sense of the squalor and claustrophobia of Communist Romania are replaced by panoramas of the Romanian countryside and shots inside the convent that expertly use blocking to develop the characters and their interrelationships. Beyond the Hills screens Sunday, October 7 at 2:30p.m. in Alice Tully Hall (Mungiu in person!) and Thursday, Oct. 11 at 3:30p.m. in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Ginger and Rosa

The family drama set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis is becoming a bit of a hackneyed subgenre.  What distinguishes Ginger and Rosa is that it is also a coming-of-age tale that manages to be starkly unromantic. The new film by Sally Potter stars Elle Fanning and Alice Englert (Jane Campion’s ravishing 18-year-old daughter) as the eponymous characters, who are best friends rapidly becoming politically aware and engaged in 1962 London.  Their primary cause of concern is the rise of nuclear weapons. Originally titled Bomb, the film places equal focus on their activism and their emerging sexuality.

Rosa (Alice Englert) catches the attention of Ginger’s father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), and his growing interest in her inevitably complicates Ginger and Rosa’s friendship as well as his relationship with his daughter, who so admires him. A famed professor, Roland surrounds himself with role models for the girls, including two Yankee intellectuals, played by Oliver Platt and Annette Bening. Charming though the pair may be, their presence can make the film feel a little too American (especially alongside Fanning and Christina Hendricks, who plays Ginger’s mother). But, good news: Potter has cast Timothy Spall, too.

Like the recent films of such other female Anglophone directors as Andrea Arnold, Kelly Reichardt, and Sofia Coppola, Ginger and Rosa is anchored by an attention to tactile details—the girls’ hair, for example, or their preferred toys from the past and present: teddy bears and record players. Also like those three filmmakers, Potter occasionally chooses music that serves as a compelling counterpoint to the film’s visual style.  The lush, exploratory cinematography by Robbie Ryan works at a much more sedate pace than the jazz tracks by Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, et al. Although not entirely satisfying, the film remarkably inspires you to start imagining the film you would make about you and your own best friend and the times you grew up in. Potter in person at all screenings: Monday, October 8 at 9:30p.m. in Alice Tully Hall, Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 6:15p.m., and Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 9p.m.

Bwakaw

This delightful film’s premise—a solitary pensioner wanders through life with his dog always at his side and his eyes fixed on the shores of death—is nearly identical to Umberto D.’s, but its emotional resonance comes as much from comedy as the De Sica film’s comes from tragedy.  The protagonist, Rene (Eddie Garcia), lives in a semi-rural Filipino town with his canine pal Bwakaw and only recently came out as gay.  Though an octogenarian, he is still in the throes of working out his identity.  If his grumpy way of dealing with people (especially the local drag queens who want him to get laid) brings to mind Walt Kowalski, you’re not so far off the mark.  In a Skype Q&A, writer-director Jun Robles Lana called Garcia, a very prolific actor and director, “the Clint Eastwood of the Philippines.”  Lana in person at all screenings: Sunday, October 7 at 6p.m. in Alice Tully Hall, Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 6:30, and Friday, Oct. 12 at 3:30, both in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.