Alex Sitaras: A film I’ve been looking forward to for a few years now has been The Lost City of Z (dir. James Gray). I saw Gray’s The Immigrant back in my freshman year of college and I really admired the way the film was shot as well as its color usage. It was a visually impressive film. The Lost City of Z is about a British explorer Percy Fawcett who attempted to find an ancient lost city in the Amazon rainforest, but disappeared along with his son on an exploration in 1925. James Gray typically uses the same actors in each of his films, but The Lost City of Z marks his first time working with Charlie Hunman, Robert Pattinson, and Sienna Miller.
Matt Schlee: It’s definitely intriguing. The way that the rainforest is shot, in the trailers anyway, really reminds me of Embrace of the Serpent excluding the black and white cinematography. The cast is pretty strong too. I think he thing that excites me most here is that it’s an Amazon Studios movie. Amazon, in their first year in the market last year, really came out swinging with Manchester by the Sea, The Salesman, and The Handmaiden. It’s pretty incredible how quickly they’ve become a major player. They definitely have an eye for identifying good work.
Alex: Not to mention Paterson. On the production side, Plan B Entertainment, Brad Pitt‘s production company, invested in The Lost City of Z. After Moonlight won Best Picture, they now have produced three Best Picture winners in just over 10 years of producing movies. It’s impressive for an almost unheard of production company, and Plan B’s and Amazon’s support are probably vital to any potential success of The Lost City of Z since his films don’t exactly draw in a huge box office.
In watching the trailer, I was impressed with how many locations they use in the film (the more locations, the more budget required). My only worry after watching the trailer is dialogue- I hope Gray doesn’t opt for more ‘mainstream’, non-subtle dialogue about destiny, exploration, etc, all the ‘big ideas’, in attempt to pull in a larger audience, but rather creates an exploration movie with more subtlety in the veins of Aguirre or Embrace of the Serpent.
Matt: Another film coming out this month is Terence Davies‘s A Quiet Passion. It’s an Emily Dickinson biopic ranging over pretty much her entire life. I’m not incredibly familiar with Davies’ filmography, but his last film, Sunset Song, was very visually appealing. Though I found it to be flawed, the visual appeal was undeniable and I’m sure that Davies could bring similar pace and sensitivity to a story about one of the greatest writers and poets to ever live.
Alex: Davies is a director I need to look more into. He’s known to have experienced difficulty in generating funds for his films since he is uncompromising with producers. This isn’t out of arrogance- each of his films has been critically acclaimed with A Quiet Passion receiving positive reception as well when it premiered. What appears interesting to me about A Quiet Passion is that even though it is a period drama, the shots, lighting, and framing it uses looks more modern, not like how directors usually shoot period dramas.
One of Romania’s favorite sons returns this month with his next film Graduation (dir Cristian Mungiu). The film is about a doctor in a small Romanian town who is respected for his honesty. Yet when his daughter is attacked and wounded prior to her final graduation exam, he resorts to conducting a series of favors in hopes that her score can be tweaked so she can receive a scholarship that is at stake. Graduation looks to be the next valuable entry in the Romanian New Wave, joining films such as The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu, California Dreamin’, and Mungiu’s very own 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
Matt: I’m definitely with you on that. Mungiu has made a name for himself on the world stage and has really helped to boost Romanian film to the forefront of the international film conversation. Based on what I’ve read about the film, it sounds like it could be very emotionally trying.
One movie I’m especially intrigued about this month is Dash Shaw‘s animated film My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea. This will be Shaw’s first feature, and the rough, hand drawn look is very different from the typical animated films that we see drawing big names like Lena Dunham, Jason Schwartzman, and Susan Sarandon. It’s an understatement to say that this film looks wacky and weird, but I’m very excited to see it nonetheless.
Alex: MEHSSITS (if the acronym-hungry populous could accept an acronym so hideous sounding) does look like a very interesting film. As you pointed out, there is a hand-drawn aesthetic which is different than the greater majority of animated films released today. Dash Shaw is a young animator, but he prefers to work mostly by hand rather than relying on programs like Photoshop to create the bulk of his work. He’s somewhat of an anomaly for a young artist in that he doesn’t own a drawing tablet either.
His debut film revolves around a high school that is built on a fault line. Once the high school collapses into the sea, the students must move to the top floor in order to be saved. Likely fitting anyone’s expectations, there looks to be a good amount of high school-related and dark humor.
Matt: I will say that the reviews I’ve heard from critics have been all over the map, which has really only built my anticipation.
I’m also very excited to see Bruno Dumont‘s Slack Bay. It is a comedy revolving around a pair of detectives exploring a series of disappearances along a beach, largely involving a peculiar family. The film seems to take place around the tale end of La Belle Epoque, which is a historical period that fascinates me. I wish it were explored more in film. Though I’m not familiar with Dumont’s other work, this one has been well received and I’m looking forward to it.
Alex: Dumont is a controversial figure as part of the French cinéma du corps (cinema of the body), which includes other directors such as Claire Denis, Gaspar Noé, and François Ozon. Dumont’s prior films appear dark and serious but Slack Bay, his first film made as a comedy, looks to be more Wes Anderson-esque or akin to a comedy of manners rather than like a Lars Von Trier film.