I’ve just returned from a couple fall film festivals (the fantastic Philadelphia and AFI fests), and if what I’ve seen at festivals is any indication, we’re going to have a great fall/winter for movies. Here are my five picks for what you should be excited for the next few months.
1. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (dir. Sean Durkin): This one has already opened, but I’ll be singing it’s praises for a long time. One of the most stunning debut features of the young decade, Durkin’s brilliantly edited and conceived mediation on cults and post-traumatic stress is one of the most beautiful and disturbing films of the year. It also features a hypnotic, star making turn from Elizabeth Olsen, and adds to my argument that John Hawkes should be considered a national treasure. Precise and powerful, it’s not one to miss. (Playing now at the Alamo Drafthouse)
2. MELANCHOLIA (dir. Lars von Trier): The Danish enfant terrible returns with one of his most personal, and most affecting, films to date. In a revelatory performance Kirsten Dunst plays a young woman suffering from crippling depression. As she and her family try to deal with this emotional turmoil, they must also confront the fact that a huge planet is hurtling towards the earth and there may not be much of a future left for any of them. (Opens in Austin 11/18 at the Violet Crown and Alamo Drafthouse)
3. A SEPARATION (dir. Asghar Farhadi): One of the most powerful and well written dramas of the last several years, Iranian director Farhadi’s film begins from the simplest of setups: though still in love, Nader and Simin are seperating after 14 years of marriage. She wishes to leave Iran for the sake of their young daughter, he cannot bring himself to leave his father who is in the advanced stages of Alzheimers. From this simple character drama comes a story of amazing complexity, one helps you to understand the lives of average Iranians in a rare way while at the same time speaking to universal truths about the ways we all construct our lives. (Opens in Austin 2/10 at the Violet Crown)
4. HAYWIRE (dir. Steven Soderbergh): An eternal genre chameleon, the fantastically talented auteur’s newest film is a cerebral deconstruction of the spy-action film, which just happens to contain some of the most badass fight scenes in recent memory. Staring the MMA fighter Gina Carano and backed up with a veritable whos-who of international character actors (Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Mathieu Kassovitz, Michael Arangano, Channing Tatum), this film is a delight to watch. Deserving special note is the clean, evocative HD cinematography by Soderbergh himself. (Opens 1/20, theaters TBD)
5. ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan): Both a murder mystery where the “whodunit” part is never in doubt and a keen dissection of how we rationalize the past to justify the present, this Cannes prizewinner by Turkish master Ceylan is simply stunning. A photographer before he started his career in filmmaking, Ceylan’s use of the crispness of the HD images put him at the forefront of filmmakers using digital technology. I’m a film purist, but if all digital cinema looked like this I’d have much less of an issue with the transition from film. (Opens next year, theaters TBD)
BONUS! I’m going to be honest here: I don’t like “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. A minority opinion I know, but I’ve never cared for the books or the Swedish film versions (outside the very good performance of Noomi Rapace). However I am wildly excited for David Fincher’s American film version this December. Like Ceylan, Fincher is at the very forefront of figuring out the artform of digital cinema. It only takes one look at THE SOCIAL NETWORK or the brilliant ZODIAC to figure out there is something very different going on here than in 35mm film, from color to texture to the very way you can frame an image. Plus his own dark, perfectionist takes on the thriller genre seem to make him perfect for this disturbing tale, and he’s cast his new protege Rooney Mara as the lead to boot. Definitely the most intriguing film I’ve yet to see this year.