Alex Sitaras: Last summer I felt was a little flat in regards to independent and auteurist films, but I’m pretty optimistic about this summer. There are a lot of films I’m looking forward to this month, let alone in July and August. The first title I want to bring up is It Comes at Night (dir. Trey Edward Shults). The film stars Joel Edgerton as the head of a family housed in the middle of the forest. They shelter there in response to an unknown threat, thought of as being a disease, before taking in another family that seeks refuge. In laying the rules, Edgerton’s character says that they only enter and exit the house through a red door and that no one is to leave the house under any circumstance at night.
Matt Schlee: I’d agree, last year didn’t really pick up until the fall, but there’s some exciting stuff coming this month. The plot alone for It Comes at Night is enough to compel me to watch. Add on the fact that this is Shults second feature, and his debut Krisha was little seen but pretty exclusively coveted in the circles that took the time to view it. He’s a very young guy and has a shot to be a major break out star if this film is a success.
Alex: Krisha was an odd film, one that’s not an easy view. It’s a family drama that centers around Thanksgiving dinner (who hasn’t had a uncomfortable one of these?) with a theme of addiction and I’m hoping Shults will be able to discomfort us similarly in It Comes at Night by taking advantage of the family dynamic of the two families. It Comes at Night is also the first of a bunch of films that I’m looking forward to coming out in late ’17-early ’18 that feature Riley Keough.
The Death of Louis XIV (dir. Albert Serra) is a film that has been loftily praised ever since it premiered at Cannes last year. The title describes the film exactly. The cinematography and aesthetic of the film have been praised and I in particular admire the grandeur captured through architecture and furnishing in European and Russian films that is distinct from American films. We just don’t have the same history that these countries do. Jean-Pierre Léaud, known for his Antoine Dionel character in Truffaut‘s films, stars in an interesting role as Louis XIV in that it appears almost all of his acting in the film involves him sitting in bed.
Matt: This is a movie that I’m particularly excited for. Among the few people I’ve talked to who have seen this, they all consider it to be an absolute masterpiece. The seeming immobility of Leaud’s character should lend him an opportunity for a great performance. Given that he is one of the most celebrated actors in French film history, I can only imagine that this will be a late career standout. Generally my expectations are low for biopics, but I’m on the lookout for a masterful work of art on this one.
The other new release that I’m really looking forward to this month is Sofia Coppola‘s new film The Beguiled. We discussed the film in our discussion about the Cannes Film Festival which concluded this past week. Coppola took home Best Director honors for the film. It is partly based on a 1971 film (also called The Beguiled) which starred Clint Eastwood. I find it particularly fascinating to imagine this story told through the eyes of three women given that the original was shown through the eyes of Eastwood, one of the most masculine figures in film history.
Alex: The Beguiled looks gorgeous based on the trailers and the Best Director award tends to be given to directors that made a film that is a bit ‘out there’ or creatively distinct from other directors (Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive, Carlos Reygadas for Post Tenebras Lux, Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper, etc).
For those concerned about women’s representation in films, The Beguiled, along with Wonder Woman, are the two big films to see this summer. However I can see many viewers deeming The Beguiled to be ‘hateful of men’ or ‘sexist’. But, given the violence against females by males in countless films like Irreversible, Psycho, Under the Skin, Taken, etc, I challenge men when viewing The Beguiled to not discount the film based on account of its violence against Colin Farrell‘s character. Judge the film based on the quality of the filmmaking and its narrative. Like you said, the film should prove to be an interesting counterpoint against the Clint Eastwood version given that the protagonists are opposite.
Matt: I think it’s worth mentioning the Criterion Collection lineup for the month as it’s probably their best month so far this year. One film I’d like to mention in particular is the new 4K restoration of the Japanese classic Ugetsu, which happens to be one of my favorite films of all time. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, it tells the story of two aspirational men and the women who bear the burden of that aspiration, but it takes place in a folklore setting outside of the traditional reality of early Japan. It is a ghost story like no other, and for my money is one of the most beautiful examples of black and white cinema ever created. I had the opportunity to see this restoration in theaters and it is truly breathtaking.
Alex: Like I said in last month’s discussion I’m not the best at Asian cinema, but I’m working on that. Since then, I’ve seen a few Bong Joon-ho films and I’ve seen The Handmaiden. I have seen one film from Ozu as well, come to think of it. So, I’m slowly working my way through Asian cinema. Ugetsu does look like an interesting film, and I’m curious about the fantasy elements. I saw Valerie and Her Week of Wonders last year, and I was really impressed on it being able to weave in fantasy in a way that is relatable to viewers, but also be able to provide a unique spin on a coming-of-age story. There’s relatively few fantasy films in comparison to other genres.
Matt: Well I’m a fan of Asian cinema, and Mizoguchi’s work has always personally resonated with me. I’ve been waiting for a restoration of Ugetsu for a long time so it was pretty exciting for me when it was announced.
Another exciting release from the Criterion Collection this month is the second installment of the Martin Scorsese World Cinema Project. A few titles in the set have drawn particular excitement amongst fans. Edward Yang‘s Taipei Story is the title that has generated the most buzz. It’ll be Yang’s third Criterion title (Yi Yi and A Brighter Summer Day). It is a relatively early work in Yang’s oeuvre.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul‘s Mysterious Object at Noon is another title that has drawn sufficient interest. It’s an experimental documentary that blends truth and fiction. The film is a rare Thai addition to the collection.
The other titles in the set include Lino Brocka‘s Insiang, Ermek Shinarbaev‘s Revenge, Mario Peixoto‘s Limite, and Litfi O. Akad‘s Law of the Border. I don’t really have a lot of familiarity with these films but if it’s anything like the first World Cinema Project set, it’ll be a fascinating exploration of lesser known international films. These are definitely valuable sets for anyone interested in learning about films from around the world.
Alex: A number of these films, being films from countries that either didn’t have a tradition of filmmaking at the time of their release or the same resources utilized in films from countries such as the US and France, provide some sort of social commentary on themes such as family and poverty, I think one film out of the set in particular that caught my attention was Revenge. It’s a multi-generational story that reflects on how trauma is passed down through generations. I find stories involving multiple generations such as The Place Beyond the Pines to be interesting from a cinematic point of view. Those kinds of films tend to be a little heavy in symbolism, foreshadowing, etc and unrealistic in plot (family life is never so logical or predictable) but they make pleasing stories to watch and think about. Usually some statement on fate or prevailing social environment is made.
Note: We mistakenly included Martin Scorsese World Cinema Project No. 2 in this month’s selection. The collection of films was released May 30th by the Criterion Collection. Rather than choose a different title, we decided to keep its mention in this month’s selection.