Azazel Jacobs’ “French Exit” starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges and Tracy Letts as the voice of a house cat will make its world premiere as the closing night film of the 58th New York Film Festival, Film at Lincoln Center announced Tuesday.
Pfeiffer stars in “French Exit” as Frances Price, an imperious, widowed New York socialite whose once-extreme wealth has dwindled down to a nub. Facing insolvency, she makes the decision to escape the city by cruise ship and relocate to her friend’s empty Paris apartment with her dyspeptic son, Malcolm (Hedges), and their mercurial cat, Small Frank (voiced by Letts). There, Frances and Malcolm reckon with their pasts and plan for an impossible future, all while their social circle expands in unexpected and increasingly absurdist ways.
Sony Pictures Classics is releasing the film that’s based on a novel by Patrick DeWitt, who also wrote the screenplay. Film at Lincoln Center describes “French Exit” as a “rare American film of genuine eccentricity” and that features a “bewitching” and “brilliant performance of stylish severity” by Pfeiffer.
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“We’ve been watching New York filmmaker Azazel Jacobs for more than a decade, since his film ‘Momma’s Man’ screened in our New Directors/New Films festival in 2008,” New York Film Festival director Eugene Hernandez said in a statement. “Now, we’re honored that he’ll make his NYFF debut with closing night selection ‘French Exit,’ a tour-de-force collaboration with Michelle Pfeiffer that we can’t wait to share with audiences in NYC and beyond.”
“Jacobs is one of the most distinctive voices in American cinema, and it’s a thrill to see him working with new registers and tones in his most ambitious film yet,” Dennis Lim, New York Film Festival director of programming, said in a statement. “It’s rare to encounter a film so wholly surprising. Moment to moment, ‘French Exit’ is a destabilizing delight, as strange and dark as it is playful, thanks in no small part to Michelle Pfeiffer’s career-best performance.”
“NYFF is the film festival I grew up attending,” Jacobs said in a statement. “I remember seeing ‘Night On Earth’ for the first time, and waiting afterwards to hand Jim Jarmusch a fan letter. I remember that same year seeing Gus Van Sant’s ‘My Own Private Idaho’ and having my aim to become a filmmaker only more solidified. I’m grateful to the NYFF for allowing ‘French Exit’ to premiere in the city I was raised in, and love, and to all who are undoubtedly working tirelessly to make this event happen.”
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Jacobs most recently directed episodes of “Sorry For Your Loss” and “Mozart in the Jungle,” and his last feature was 2017’s “The Lovers” starring Debra Winger and Letts.
NYFF 58 kicks off on September 25 with opening night film “Lovers Rock,” one of five films from Steve McQueen as part of his “Small Axe” anthology, two more of which are also playing at the festival. The full main slate for the New York Film Festival will be announced in the coming weeks.
NYFF this year will host outdoor and virtual screenings with some indoor screenings as possible as directed by state and health officials. And some movies will also for the first time screen at two drive-in theaters: the Queens Drive-In at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, created by Rooftop Films, the New York Hall of Science, and Museum of the Moving Image; and the Brooklyn Drive-In at The Brooklyn Army Terminal, created by Rooftop Films and the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Specific dates, along with programming and ticketing details for these screenings, will follow in the coming weeks.
The NYFF Main Slate selection committee, chaired by Dennis Lim, also includes Eugene Hernandez, Florence Almozini, K. Austin Collins and Rachel Rosen.