Despite some attempts to set the record straight, the story persists that Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst as the Austrian girl who becomes the Queen of France, was generally despised at this past spring’s Cannes Film Festival, and that the French particularly hated it. The movie did draw some scattered boos at the press screening, but the French film magazines Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif, which nearly never agree, both raved about the film and put it on the cover. Who knows how it is? Antonia Fraser, whose superb biography was the film’s basis, loves it. And Ms. Coppola’s decision to score the movie with contemporary rock seems true to the youthful disdain for convention that got Marie in trouble at Versailles. It might turn out to be a daring idea that doesn’t come off. But I’d have an easier time believing the bad reviews if they weren’t full of the same naked resentment for Ms. Coppola that has dogged her since The Virgin Suicides—or if they appeared to know anything about history.
A few New Yorkers will get a chance to see Marie Antoinette (which opens Oct. 20) early: It’s been selected for this year’s New York Film Festival, which also includes Stephen Frears’ The Queen (Sept. 29), starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in a drama set during the week that followed Princess Diana’s death. The festival also brings some movies that have not yet found a distributor, like David Lynch’s new Inland Empire, shot over the last two years with a cast that includes Laura Dern and Jeremy Irons, and Syndromes and a Century, the new film from the brilliant Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady). If that name stumps you—as he tells everyone—you can call him Joe.
For the cineaste event of the fall, though, you have to go to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, where the first-ever complete U.S. retrospective of the great French director Jacques Rivette gets under way on Nov. 11. Rivette’s most famous film, the great 1974 Celine and Julie Go Boating, will be shown, along with lesser-known gems like the 1995 musical Haut Bas Fragile (Up Down Fragile) and the 1984 melodrama Love on the Ground. The centerpiece, though, is undoubtedly only the third-ever showing of Rivette’s 1971 Out 1: Noli Me Tangere over Dec. 9 and 10. It clocks in at 12 hours and 40 minutes.
Literary adaptations are a dependable part of every fall movie season. December brings us the film of Zoe Heller’s comic novel Notes on a Scandal, with Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Nighy. The director is Richard Eyre, who made Iris and the woefully underrated Stage Beauty. Ms. Blanchett also stars in another book-to -film translation, Steven Soderbergh’s film of Joseph Kanon’s terrific spy thriller The Good German (Dec. 8), set in Berlin in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Ms. Blanchett is an anti-Nazi German who survived the war and is reunited with her lost love, an American journalist played by George Clooney. A knockout cast—Diane Lane, Thomas Jane, Mickey Rourke, Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt—star in the film of Elmore Leonard’s book Killshot (Oct. 20). And Gary Winick, whose last film was the delightful comedy 13 Going on 30, directs a live-action and animatronic version of Charlotte’s Web (Dec. 20), starring Dakota Fanning and the voices of, among others, Julia Roberts and Steve Buscemi.
And while Chicago did not usher in a spate of wonderful film versions of hit stage musicals (smell that? It’s The Producers), Bill Condon, who wrote the screenplay for Chicago, takes the helm of Dreamgirls (Dec. 21), in which Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Beyoncé star. Not a musical, but with much the same cast you can see for a little while longer on Broadway, is the film of Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys (Nov. 24). And no matter what looms large in year-end 10-best lists and awards, Christopher Guest and his wonderful troupe—Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard and added guest jester Ricky Gervais—satirize the quest for award-season recognition in their latest mockumentary, For Your Consideration (Nov. 17).
It’s always a little troubling when the producers of the James Bond franchise start talking about returning the series to its gritty roots, mainly because Ian Fleming was a lousy writer. If anything, Bond movies need to stop being thought of as action movies and return to the dirty, luxurious adult comic books they originally were. But Bond fans are becoming like Red Sox fans, and I’ll be there to see Daniel Craig make his Bond debut in Casino Royale (Nov. 17), and especially to see the luscious Eva Green, who was so astounding in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers.
An action movie that stands a good chance of being terrific is Ronny Yu’s Fearless, starring Jet Li in what he says will be his last martial-arts role. Mr. Li is not just an amazement to watch in action, but his performance in last year’s Unleashed was simply astounding. Martin Scorsese turns to Asian filmmaking, the terrific Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs to be exact, which he has remade as The Departed (Oct. 6), starring Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson. And one of the directors of Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau—not to be confused with that film’s star, Andy Lau—makes his American debut with The Flock (Nov. 3), starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes. Mr. Gere also stars as Clifford Irving in Lasse Hallström’s The Hoax (Nov. 17), the story of Irving’s attempt to peddle the phony memoirs of Howard Hughes.
And to top it all off, Dec. 8 brings us Mel Gibson’s Mayan epic Apocalypto. Guess Disney couldn’t wait for Hanukkah.