Joseph Pomp highlights three of the Main Slate films screening during the first week of the 50th New York Film Festival.  Thanks to Columbia Spectator, where a version of these reviews first appeared.

Frances Ha

Probably the NYFF film with the most obvious appeal to Columbia students, the latest from Noah Baumbach is a black-and-white celebration of being young (specifically in one’s twenties, fresh out of a liberal arts college) in New York City.  Greta Gerwig, who plays the titular character with her typical verve and intelligence, also co-wrote the script, balancing out Baumbach’s jaded voice with youth and warmth.  The film is unsurprisingly drawing comparisons to Lena Dunham’s show “Girls,” with whom it shares the excellent actor Adam Driver, but it has more in common with the Gordon Willis-Woody Allen collaborations and the French New Wave.  Not just because of the oft-used compositions by Georges Delerue.  The cuteness and vivacity that characterize many of the interpersonal relationships in the film are heavily Truffautian.  Still, with the carefully curated pop culture references, timelessly cool soundtrack, and neurotic, smart dialogue, this is unmistakably a New York picture.  Sun, Sep. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall, Thu, Oct. 4 at 9 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall, and Wed, Oct. 10 at 4 p.m. at Francesca Beale Theater; standby tickets only for all shows, which will be followed by Q&As with Baumbach and Gerwig.

BARBARA  Regie Christian Petzold

Barbara (image courtesy of Adopt Films)

A female doctor finds herself tending to the locals in a small town outside of Berlin, but feels oddly alienated by and suspicious of those around her. Miss the opening titles of the film, in which we learn that the setting in East Germany in 1980, and you’d have no idea it’s a period piece.  Indeed, the plot, when combined with the lush cinematography of the town’s pastoral landscape, makes “Barbara” appear to be a standard contemporary European art film. Over time, though, details like Barbara’s secret meetings with her lover in the woods reveal the film’s complex treatment of life in the GDR. Directed by Christian Petzold, one of the leading talents in the so-called “Berlin School,” “Barbara” is elegant, subtle, and very smart, much like its star, Nina Hoss.  Tickets available for Mon, Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. and Sat, Oct. 6 at 12:15 p.m., both at Alice Tully Hall; Petzold in person on Oct. 6.

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!

The new film by 90-year-old French master Alain Resnais begins with a series of actors being called with the sad news that a theater director they collaborated with has died.  “Is this Michel Piccoli?” “Mathieu Amalric?” The list of iconic French actors playing themselves goes on.  To mourn the director’s death, they congregate in his living room which becomes a theater itself, as the actors spontaneously start performing the play in which he directed them (a different production of which happens to be playing on a TV screen in the room).  At first, the conceit feels pretty canned, but, directed by such a major innovator of narrative cinema, it naturally becomes a compelling experiment.  An adaptation of two plays by Jean Anouilh, the film assumes prior knowledge of the story of Eurydice and Orpheus, but even the uninitated will enjoy watching the all-star cast bring it to life.  Tickets still available for Tue, Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall; standby tickets only for Wed, Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m. and Tue Oct. 9 at 3:45 p.m., both at Francesca Beale Theater.