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
International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

National

Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…