Patti Smith hosted a New York screening of Corsage last week, one of many showings since the Oscar-shortlisted Best International Feature contender premiered to a warm welcome in Cannes, where it won Best Performance, Un Certain Regard, for star Vicky Krieps as the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Sisi for short. It’s fitting that Smith, royalty of the avant-garde, came out to support a film about an iconoclastic princess.
The musician, poet and artist, “has been a fan of Vicky since Phantom Thread” — Krieps’ 2017 breakout role as muse to a haute couture designer played by Daniel Day-Lewis. “She even has a Phantom Thread club. She saw the [Corsage] trailer and kind of fell for it,” says Corsage writer-director Marie Kreutzer.
In her film, Krieps is muse to an empire as the stunning, slightly off-kilter, fashion-forward wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I in the latter 1800s. She died in 1898, remaining one of Austria’s most popular historical figures. Kreutzer and Krieps excavate the revolutionary modern thinker and flouter of social norms behind Sisi images on coffee mugs and candy boxes as well as older on-screen fairytale adaptations.
It’s unusual to see the heroine of a 19th century costume drama exercising to a sweat with stationary rings, or weighing herself daily. It’s all “true to what I read about her as a person,” said Kreutzer. “The books that were most important to me were the diaries of her daughter, and lady in waiting, Marie…She was really a great, very smart woman and a good observer. And the way she writes about her [is] very tender, loving, but so critical at the same time. I could reread it again and again.”
Sisi is having a moment, including two recent series and another film project on the way. “When we were in financing, suddenly there were Sisi everywhere. I don’t know why. There’s no anniversary or anything that would explain it,” Kreutzer says. “I just think we’re always drawn to the stories” — from Spencer to Blonde – “of a tragic, beautiful woman who’s trapped in her role.”
IFC Films presents Corsage at the IFC Center and Film at Lincoln Center in NYC today, arriving in LA next weekend ahead of a national expansion. Other notable openings this weekend include Women Talking from United Artists Releasing, and Living from Sony Pictures Classics.
The film, Deadline review here, is an Austria-Luxembourg-Germany-France co-production, Kreutzer’s biggest project yet. It opened in Austria in July and is still in theaters. “That’s something I’m so happy about, because Austrian people don’t really go to see Austrian films.”
“Cinema is in a difficult position” at the moment, she acknowledged, as theaters struggle to move past Covid and compete with streaming. “I think it’s like, yeah, that’s how it is. And we have to make the best of it.” Streaming creates opportunity for “the numbers of people who see my film, which I could never make with a theatrical release.” Personally, she only streams series, keeping feature films for the big screen. “When I want to see a certain actor or actress, or what a director did, I have to see them in theaters.”
Also in theaters: UAR presents Sarah Polley’s Women Talking from Orion Pictures in eight locations in NYC, LA, Chicago, Austin, and Toronto, expanding thereafter with a wide release set for Jan. 20. Based on the book by Miriam Toews with Brad Pitt as an executive producer, the film premiered at Telluride. Deadline review here. Scores 98% with critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The starry cast includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey and Sheila McCarthy, with Ben Whishaw and Frances McDormand. A group of women in an isolated religious colony struggle to reconcile their faith with a series of sexual assaults committed by the men there.
Sony Pictures Classics presents Oliver Hermanus’ Living on three screens in New York (Angelika, New Plaza Cinema) and LA (Royal). Written by Nobel Prize-winning writer Kazuo Ishiguro, and starring Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Tom Burke, the film is the story of an ordinary man reduced to a shadow existence by years of oppressive office routine, who makes a supreme effort to turn his dull life around. This reimagining of the 1952 film Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa premiered at Sundance. A 93% critics score. See Deadline review.
Magnolia Pictures presents Emer Reynolds Joyride in five theaters including the Glendale Laemmle in LA, and on VOD. Olivia Colman, Charlie Reed, Lochlann Ó Mearáin. A complicated middle-aged mother (Colman) and troubled adolescent (Reid) meet under unusual circumstances and end up traveling together across Ireland.
Netflix opens Scott Cooper’s historical crime drama The Pale Blue Eye in 55 theaters in 35 cities including the Paris and the Quad in NYC, the Landmark Westwood, Los Feliz and the Bay in LA, ahead of a Jan. 6 streaming date. A New York City detective Augustus Landor (Bale) investigates a gruesome murder at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, circa 1832, aided by a young Edgar Allen Poe (Harry Melling). Deadline review here.