Highlights from New York Film Festival’s First Weekend

The cornucopia of the New York Film Festival, which got under way Thursday night, is delightfully overwhelming. Between its main slate and its many sidebars, it’s impossible to see everything, but, in addition to the two films that I enthused about in The New Yorker this week—Claire Denis’s “Let the Sun Shine In” and Hong Sang-soo’s “On the Beach at Night Alone”—there’s a host of other films coming up in the festival’s first few days that are well worth the trip.

The director Serge Bozon is making his way, like a French Vincente Minnelli or Frederick Wiseman, through his country’s institutions. His 2007 musical, “La France,” focussed on the French Army during the First World War; the giddy comedy “Tip Top,” from 2013, delves into the professional and personal idiosyncrasies of the police; and the N.Y.F.F. is presenting his new film, “Mrs. Hyde” (October 1st), about a public high school in a desolate outer-suburban neighborhood. Isabelle Huppert plays Marie Géquil (notice how the name pairs with the one of the title), a meek and somewhat overwhelmed science teacher in a school where most of the students are nonwhite, and where she’s as bitterly put upon by grade-grubbing white girls and fussily bureaucratic white administrators as by rowdy male students of color. What starts off, with reckless ambiguity, as a sour indulgence in stereotypes of both the right and the left—though more of the right, with its lampooning of hip-hop culture and of moral decline—morphs into a wild science-fiction comedy, complete with simple but spectacular special effects. Mrs. Géquil performs an experiment on herself, becomes Madame Hyde, and turns into an extraordinarily effective teacher and a menace. With his antics, Bozon offers a philosophical vision, presenting a model of authentic progress that’s also a model of authentic regression. His speculations, involving the ultimate connection between enlightening education and violent…

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