Photograph by Andrew Eccles
For the first time in a long while, the New York Film Festival, which opens this Friday, is truly a New York film festival. The 45th NYFF has drafted a whopping ten New Yorkers—a lineup so stacked they could take on the Yankees. Wes Anderson has the opening-night slot with The Darjeeling Limited. The Coen brothers follow with No Country for Old Men as the centerpiece. To round out the scorecard: Noah Baumbach, Peter Bogdanovich, Abel Ferrara, Murray Lerner, Sidney Lumet, Ira Sachs, and Julian Schnabel. Filmmakers from Hollywood: one. You may not have noticed that you are living in a new heyday of New York film, but you are.
Unlike the seventies, though, this new era is indeed a stealth golden age, since our filmmakers (Ang Lee, Spike Lee, Michel Gondry, Julie Taymor, and Michael Moore, among them) often seem to have nothing but Zip Codes in common. They’re not part of any movement, but they do recall earlier glorious moments in our city’s film history: the ferocious indie trailblazing of Elia Kazan in the forties and fifties, the transgressive cinema of Warhol, the mainstreaming of art films in the nineties by studios like Miramax, and, of course, the great decade of Mean Streets and Taxi Driver.
And so to mark this new age, we’ve stepped inside the worlds of five New York directors—and one actress whose collaborative ties with a filmmaker couldn’t be closer. We’ve entered the stylized bubble of Wes Anderson; asked David Edelstein to analyze the Coens’ “biosphere”; talked with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Noah Baumbach about their work-marriage; and toured the West Village palazzo of New York–icon–turned–Cannes hero Julian Schnabel. Whether we end up falling in love with all of their latest offerings or not, we await these directors’ films excitedly, the way we used to eagerly anticipate the new Woody Allen movie: In this they are, indisputably, our new auteurs.
As for the old ones, 43 years after his last New York Film Festival appearance—and 30-odd since Dog Day Afternoon—Lumet, 83, reminds us that he and the other guys from the seventies “never hung out” anyway. The whole notion of a golden age is a nostalgia trip, he says, and the filmmaker, who shot his new movie in HD video, is too busy to reminisce. “It’s a great time right now for New York film,” Lumet tells us. “This is one of those times when everyone will look back and say, ‘It’s not so hot now, but look at those first New York films of the 21st century—weren’t they wonderful!’ ”