Highlights From the 39th Annual New York Film Festival

From the opening-night showing of 73-year-old Jacques Rivette’s Va Savoir to closing night’s In Praise of Love by 70-year-old Jean-Luc Godard, the new work of old masters set the pace for the 39th annual New York Film Festival. ”See, sonny, this is how it’s done,” the elders seemed to say in this eccentrically selective boutique of world filmmaking. While Rivette strung together a charming chain of romantic relationships, his new-wave colleague took a typically God(ard)like stance, meditating with irritable passion not only on love but also on the pull of history.

From vital 92-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira, the secrets of longevity were peeled to their basics in I’m Going Home: Mourn when you need to, but live in the present. The lesson from 75-year-old Shohei Imamura in his fanciful, half-magical Warm Water Under a Red Bridge: Sex is the life force…plus, it’s fun! Prolific 75-year-old Egyptian director Youssef Chahine demonstrated he’s still intoxicated by movie musicals in the zany, soapy Silence…We’re Rolling. Eighty-one-year-old Eric Rohmer showed you can teach an old gent new digital filmmaking tricks in the exquisitely composed, surprisingly suspenseful historical drama The Lady and the Duke.

Which is not to say the younger American filmmakers in the festival felt cowed by their formidable elders. Richard Linklater blew animation and narrative wide open in Waking Life (see review on page 89). David Lynch tunneled into his copyrighted underworld in Mulholland Drive. Todd Solondz stared down all who call his worldview curdled in his bluntly dyspeptic Storytelling (slated to open early next year). And then there’s this: Wes Anderson — the sculptor of Rushmore — created another utterly original artwork in The Royal Tenenbaums (opening on Dec. 21), a love letter to glamorously oddball New York City — and a movie about which Rivette and Rohmer too would surely sigh, Oui.