Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe in 1954’s River Of No Return (20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

Excitement is in the air for cineastes as the 55th New York Film Festival (NYFF) kicks off its 18-day showcase on September 28 with the world premiere of Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying, starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne.

Presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and with NYFF director Kent Jones at the helm, the highly selective lineup includes early Oscar favorites, international festival winners, and new work by beloved auteurs and emerging talent. Pristine prints in vivid color projected in their proper aspect ratio and screened for discerning audiences in velvet darkness—this event is the quintessential movie viewing experience.

Linklater’s film (a quasi-sequel to Hal Ashby’s 1973 military buddy movie, The Last Detail), along with the festival’s centerpiece Wonderstruck, Todd Haynes’ tale of youthful journeys, and the closing night world premiere of Wonder Wheel, Woody Allen’s homage to Coney Island, are courtesy of Amazon Studios. An increasingly key player for prestigious films, the company leverages the benefits of big screen debuts in a rarified setting to promote its eventual online presentation.

With first-rate world cinema on the docket, the NYFF regularly features films that are submitted for the best foreign language category at the Academy Awards. Among those put forth this year are Ruben Östlund’s art world–set comedy, the Cannes Palm d’Or–winning The Square, from Sweden; Robin Campillo’s AIDS activism drama, BPM (Beats Per Minute), and the Cannes Grand Prix winner from France; from Poland, Agnieszka Holland’s animal murder mystery, Spoor, which won the Berlin Silver Bear; as well as Joachim Trier‘s psychological horror thriller, Thelma, from Norway.

Female filmmakers directed eight of the 25 films in the main slate—a great improvement in representation at this festival, at long last. Topics include coming of age, in actress Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, Lady Bird; male rivalry and bonding in Bulgaria from Valeska Grisebach in Western; and farm life in racially charged 1940s Mississippi in Mudbound from Dee Rees, whose previous film, Pariah garnered her accolades in 2011 as a breakthrough director.

Other highly anticipated work includes Luca Guadagnino’s gay romance, Call Me by Your Name; Arnaud Desplechin’s director’s cut of Ismael’s Ghosts, about a troubled director (20 minutes longer than the version screened at Cannes); Noah Baumbach’s intergenerational comedy, The Meyerwitz Stories (New and Selected); as well as Sean Baker’s motel-centered The Florida Project.

Documentary highlights feature a plethora of personalities in director Rebecca Miller’s portrait of her playwright father in Arthur Miller: Writer; Brett Morgen’s Jane, on the primatologist Jane Goodall; BOOM FOR REAL: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, from 1970s downtown denizen Sara Driver; and Griffin Dunne’s Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold. Susan Lacy examines the career of one of the most popular filmmakers in Hollywood history in the world premiere of Spielberg.

Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast, a documentary-in-progress on Robert Mitchum by photographer Bruce Weber, accompanies a 50-year retrospective on the tough guy actor, from his first major role in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945), which earned him an Academy Award nomination, to one of his final roles in Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, in 1995.

In intensive one-on-one conversations with film personalities, Kent Jones will sit down with Richard Linklater in a conversation on Last Flag Flying, as well as his entire oeuvre, from Slacker to Boyhood and beyond. The always-entertaining Kate Winslet, star of Wonder Wheel, will discuss her career and achievements, and Vittorio Storaro and Ed Lachman, the cinematographers for Wonder Wheel and Wonderstruck, respectively, will expound on their experiences as masters of motion picture photography.

Two celebrated festival veterans associated with the French New Wave will be on hand for extended conversations, and they will also present classics in addition to their latest work. Agnès Varda, with her younger co-director, JR, of Faces Places, will discuss their new film, and Varda will also present her 1977 feminist musical One Sings, the Other Doesn’t. Philippe Garrel, in a rare public appearance, will discuss his latest, Lover for a Day, as well as his body of work, including the retrospective screenings of Le Révélateur, a moody silent from 1968, and L’Enfant Secret, four chapters on the birth of a child, from 1979.

For more details, visit the festival’s website.