NYFF top picks

Time Out New York Project: Issue #730, September 24-30, 2009

Ghost Town
Zhao Dayong’s three-part documentary is one of the fest’s prime discoveries, a rewarding portrait of the rundown Southwest Chinese town of Zhiziluo. The more time we spend with the residents, the more we come to realize that there are no easy arcs to their lives. A statue of Mao in the town center is emblematic: Does it point the way forward, or to nowhere in particular? Sun 27 at 2:15pm.KU

Like Josef von Sternberg’s island adventure Anatahan (1953), Raya Martin’s weather-beaten melodrama is a hallucinatory emotional hothouse. A Filipino mother and son eke out a living during the 1898 American invasion of their country; the arrival of another woman turns the family dynamic even more feral. But Martin saves his biggest flourish for the finale, when color intrudes on the elegant black-and-white aesthetic with an enlightening, blood-red vengeance. Sun 4 at 3pm.KU

Wild Grass
The NYFF’s Opening Night selection traces the ripple effect that occurs after a woman’s purse is stolen. Psychodrama, sex farce, tragedy, comedy: Alain Resnais’s masterpiece is all these things and more, with Sabine Azéma and André Dussollier effortlessly navigating the many tonal shifts. The film is just as playful as the director’s famed head-scratcher Last Year at Marienbad (1961), but it’s even more worldly and wise. Fri 25 at 6pm.KU