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The New York Film Festival Closing Night Selection is Julian Schnabel’s “At Eternity’s Gate”

All week long, I’ve been waiting for the final New York Film Festival shoe to drop. Around this time every year, NYFF announces their Closing Night Selection, paving the way for the full slate to be revealed. Well, the festival has done so, tapping At Eternity’s Gate as the pick. Coming from Julian Schnabel, it represents the last of the big three titles for the fest. It joins The Favourite from Yorgos Lanthimos and Roma from Alfonso Cuarón. It’s a fascinating selection, and not my predicted pick of Ad Astra. Still, it’s a sensible choice, since sorry folks, The Irishman was never realistic. Now, we wait until the Main Slate is announced, which should happen before too long.

This is what the press release from the festival had to say, in part: “Julian Schnabel’s ravishingly tactile and luminous new film takes a fresh look at the last days of Vincent van Gogh, and in the process revivifies our sense of the artist as a living, feeling human being. Schnabel; his co-writers Jean-Claude Carrière and Louise Kugelberg, also the film’s editor; and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme strip everything down to essentials, fusing the sensual, the emotional, and the spiritual. And the pulsing heart of At Eternity’s Gate is Willem Dafoe’s shattering performance: his Vincent is at once lucid, mad, brilliant, helpless, defeated, and, finally, triumphant. With Oscar Isaac as Gauguin, Rupert Friend as Theo, Mathieu Amalric as Dr. Gachet, Emmanuelle Seigner as Madame Ginoux, and Mads Mikkelsen as The Priest.” Schnabel directs and co-writes with Jean-Claude Carrière and Louise Kugelberg, as mentioned above, with the rest of the cast including Niels Arestrup, among others. To also reiterate, Benoît Delhomme provides the cinematography.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, especially in terms of this particular festival, getting to be the closer is traditionally a pretty big deal for a flick. NYFF just seems to usually end on a bang. Unless this year turns out to be an anomaly like last year or two have been, it more or less launches you straight into the heart of the Oscar race. Over the past nearly two decades, almost nothing in this slot has failed to garner at least one citation from the Academy, with everything being true contenders in multiple categories, excluding a recent dry spell over the last three years. Beyond that, it’s a solid haul more often than not. In fact, we have one Best Picture winner, five Best Picture nominees, and over a half dozen that have taken home Academy Awards in one category or another. It’s probably even more important of a spot to be in than the Opening Night Selection, even if that one is a bit glitzier. Just look at what the pick to finish off the fest was three years ago…Birdman. Enough said (though yes, The Lost City of Z, Miles Ahead, and Wonder Wheel in recent years are the exceptions that prove the rule). Below you can see what the past 17 years have looked like with this slot at NYFF, for comparison’s sake:

2017 – Wonder Wheel
2016 – The Lost City of Z
2015 – Miles Ahead
2014 – Birdman
2013 – Her
2012 – Flight
2011 – The Descendants
2010 – Hereafter
2009 – Broken Embraces
2008 – The Wrestler
2007 – Persepolis
2006 – Pan’s Labyrinth
2005 – Caché
2004 – Sideways
2003 – 21 Grams
2002 – Talk to Her
2001 – In Praise of Love
2000 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

There’s some excellent taste on the part of the festival programmers on display here, isn’t there? There’s a distinct possibility that At Eternity’s Gate will fit in nicely with many of those honored titles, but that obviously remains to be seen as the year progress…

Thinking about awards for the film, At Eternity’s Gate could certainly make a play. Look for Amazon Studios to be aggressive, launching campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Schnabel), Best Actor (for Dafoe), Best Supporting Actor (for Isaac), Best Original Screenplay (for Carrière, Kugelberg, and Schnabel), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and maybe even more. Picture, Director for Schnabel, Actor for Dafoe, and Supporting Actor for Isaac seem like categories to keep an eye on. Some pundits are already bullish on this one, especially knowing how the Academy enjoys classy biopics.

All told, At Eternity’s Gate is yet another movie to really keep an eye on during this fall festival season. Schnabel is a unique filmmaker who has been in the Oscar race before, so perhaps heading home to the Big Apple will give this one an extra push? This wasn’t what many were expecting to see in this slot, but it is what’s playing, and in fact now has an even better spot to debut than previously anticipated. Time will tell how it does, of course, but this is without question another NYFF premiere to be very excited about. The festival’s latest announcement only has me more pumped for it. This is pretty exciting. Sit tight for potentially learning about the whole fest’s slate in the next few days…

Stay tuned for lots more on At Eternity’s Gate and NYFF in the near future!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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