Review: Directors offer up visual feasts at New York Film Festival

What a delight – for the first time since 2019 – to celebrate the excitement of film with in-theater (and COVID-compliant) audiences at the 59th annual New York Film Festival.

Following a thrilling opening weekend, the festival sustains its high quality with wondrous films from remarkable moviemakers. Here are a few of my favorites as the festival continues.

The Power of the Dog

Jane Campion – well-remembered for directing “The Piano” – creates a visual and emotional feast with this haunting story of an intense, mysterious rancher who grasps with his brother’s decision to bring a new wife (and her son) to the family ranch. With a cinematic sweep reminiscent of legendary directors John Ford and George Stevens, Campion reminds us how great it feels to experience such a rich widescreen experience.

The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal explores layers of parental denial in a magical drama that marks her debut as a screenwriter and director. Playing a professor on holiday in Greece, Olivia Colman carefully reveals secrets and scars that can take years to solidify and seconds to reveal. The actress reaches beyond her previous highs to again confirm that she may be, simply, the best working in film today. And Colman is perfectly supported by Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson.


Julia Ducournau creates an outrageous thriller that stuns as effortlessly as it entertains. While the filmmaker follows movie traditions for frightening audiences, she breaks new ground with bold content and characters. As the film shocks in a series of highly visual sequences, its respect for the genre makes this inventiveness even more effective. And Agathe Rousselle delivers a breathless performance as a woman living the impact of a childhood car accident.

Red Rocket

Sean Baker follows the magnetic “Florida Project” with a fascinating look at a washed-up man who tries to reconnect with his life in a small town in Texas. That the character – perfectly played by Simon Rex – once experienced fame and fortune as a porn star only adds to his challenges to go back home. Once again, Baker captures the fringe of communities with care and sensitivity that make us think about today and hope for better tomorrows.

The French Dispatch 

Wes Anderson – who can do little wrong on screen – delights again with his daffy details about eccentric life in a fictional French village. Told in a series of sequences that model articles in a publication, the filmmaker reminds us how entertaining human folly can be especially when brought to life by such luminaries as Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. And, like every Anderson film, this movie looks and sounds beautiful.


Jonas Poher Rasmussen brings a true story of heroism to life in a most unusual way in this documentary as he animates most of the visuals. Using actual interviews as the soundtrack, the filmmaker creates a unique visual language to make his story accessible. This daring choice makes for one the year’s most memorable non-fiction films as Rasmussen both suspends and enhances reality. And, like the best of documentarians, the filmmaker makes us think too.

The New York Film Festival runs through October 10. For information and tickets, go to