Tomorrow creeps in its petty pace in the first image from Joel Coen’s Macbeth

Denzel Washington assays the Scottish noble and Frances McDormand is his scheming wife in the NYFF opener.


Charles Bramesco


As pandemic conditions start to loosen, everyone’s cataloguing their own little signs that “nature is returning,” and there’s no surer omen that normalcy has resumed for film obsessives than the revival of a proper festival season. Toronto seems to be full steam ahead, and now the New York Film Festival has signaled their confidence by selecting an opening night title with fitting A-list names attached.

The Tragedy of Macbeth, Joel Coen’s solo-directed take on the immortal Shakespearean tragedy, will kick things off at the 59th NYFF. Today also brings a first look at the film in the image below, a more expressive chiaroscuro depiction of a lover’s embrace than one might anticipate from promotional material for a Bard adaptation.

Though Coen loyalists should know better than to expect the expected, the brothers’ irreverent takes on history (as seen in Hail Caesar and The Hudsucker Proxy, to name only a couple) foretelling a revisionist interpretation of this oft-mounted text. For starters, Denzel Washington will portray the famed Scot, making him the first Black man to play Macbeth in a feature film, with the great Frances McDormand portraying his scheming wife.

The rest of the cast will be filled out by Corey Hawkins (as the suspicious Macduff), Brendan Gleeson (as the aging king Duncan), and the Queen’s Gambit breakout Moses Ingram (as Lady Macduff). To make matters even more intriguing, Coen eschewed location shooting on the rolling Scottish hills and situated the entire production in soundstage sets to create a look “untethered from reality.”

Though distributors Apple and A24 have yet to set a release date either in the States or abroad, this nonetheless presents an encouraging portent for this year’s NYFF, primed after a year spent online to return in grander fashion than ever. As for their Closing Night and Centerpiece picks — would it be too much to hope for a gander at the new Paul Thomas Anderson?

The 59th annual New York Film Festival will begin on 24 September and conclude on 10 October.

Published 23 Jul 2021

Tags: Brendan Gleeson Denzel Washington Frances McDormand Joel Coen

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