This year’s New Directors/New Films boasts more fresh (or fresh-ish) talent

One of "The Double"'s two Jesse Eisenbergs takes Mia Wasikowska on a date. Credit: Dean Rogers
One of “The Double”‘s two Jesse Eisenbergs takes Mia Wasikowska on a date.
Credit: Dean Rogers

Not all of the directors in MoMA and the Lincoln Center’s annual New Directors/New Films series are new; a few are on their second, even third film. But they’re relatively still new at their jobs, and the series, as ever, captures exciting, promising and even already great artists when they’re still wet behind the ears. Here’s a few films worth putting in your schedule.

‘The Double’
England’s Richard Ayoade was once the nasal-voiced nerd on “The IT Crowd” (among other British comic greats). But look at him now — he’s doing Dostoevsky. Granted, it’s a loose, quasi-comic take on his novella, concerning a meek government clerk (Jesse Eisenberg) who dreams up a more confident version of himself (Jesse Eisenberg). It’s more Kafka than the Russian legend; set in a vaguely Eastern European purgatory of Ayoade’s devising, it’s an anxious machine of rust and creaks and comic-sinister superiors. Though Eisenberg is a scream as his alter ego, his director (“Submarine”) is less sure with the actual text, which too often feels like yet another tale about a sad manchild enamored with an unobtainable dream girl (Mia Wasikowska).

‘Return to Homs’
If “The Square,” about the Egyptian Revolution, stirs you up, “Return to Homs” will bring you down. Talal Derki’s first-person account of the Syrian Civil War witnesses a revolution in the titular city that’s quickly stomped into tiny fragments scattering about for shelter inside destroyed buildings. The hope comes in songs and the participants’ fierce dedication, though the film is most useful as a look at revolution at its lowest morale, and still kicking anyway.

‘A Spell to Ward off the Darkness’
Two of avant-garde cinema’s most ascetic titans — landscape surveyors Ben Russell and Ben Rivers — team up for this triptych that moves from a commune to remote nature to, of all places, a death metal show. (It makes perfect sense in context.) The general subject is man’s return to nature, and how it’s always a compromised effort, from the post-modern hippies who try to pretend they’re cool with orgies to our silent protagonist struggling to not read gossip magazines while playing Thoreau in the wildnerness. The tone is mind-clearing and contemplative, even — especially, actually — during a roaming long take close-up of our mysterious hero on stage.

The Italian giallo homage "The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears" is a non-stop procession of striking shots just like this. Credit: Shellac

‘The Strange Colors of Your Body’s Tears’
Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani love the Italian ’giallo slashers of the ’70s, but their films (“Amer”) aren’t straight-up homages. They’re abstractions that reduce the genre to its base elements — loud colors, blades running down bodies and/or cutting them, electrifying music — then stretch them out over feature length. Their second film is a nonsensical murder mystery that is all image and sound overkill, shuffling the same handful of items on infinite repeat. It’s tension then ecstasy over and over, a maddening reduction ad absurdum of both ’giallos and homages in general that, if anything, makes them more exciting as artists.

‘To Kill a Man’
An art house “Death Wish,” Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ drama tracks one bullied schlemiel’s journey to do away with the brute who’s been terrorizing him, his kids and his ex-wife, mostly to prove his manliness and self-worth. This isn’t the first time long master take cinema has been used to watch murder — the Romanian “Aurora” does it for serial killers — and Almendras has watched enough of them to use the style for deadpan, dark comedy.

‘The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga’
Similar to “A Spell to Ward off the Darkness,” Jessica Oreck’s fragmented whatzit ruminates over the death of fables and mystery in a modern world that’s come to believe in different, less imaginative and far more constricting myths. (Still: medicine. And iPods.) Using an animated telling of the Baba Yaga story as its base, it gets into Godfrey Reggio territory as it laments technology and traffic and cities, pining for a pre-civilization openness that’s disappeared. It’s unabashed hippieness with the right gnomic quotes to set the mind wandering, though Oreck doesn’t quite yet have the chops to beat this into a truly cosmic shape.

If you go:
New Directors/New Films
Through March 30
Museum of Modern Art and The Film Society of Lincoln Center
www.newdirectors.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.