7. Clouds of Sils Maria
Olivier Assayas’ movie about making movies is light and self-reflexive, but it also contains some fascinating analysis about making art versus making commercial fare, and about how someone’s public persona can affect how people see the their work. Assayas pulled off a real casting coup in getting Kristen Stewart to play Valentine, the personal assistant to the successful actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche). Clouds of Sils Maria would be worth seeking out just to see the Twilight star, in character, talking gossip and bad press versus good press — all the pressures she’s had to deal with during her career, applied to someone else.
Clouds of Sils Maria will be released in the United States by IFC Films on Dec. 1.
6. Mr. Turner
Beautiful art isn’t always made by beautiful people, as Mike Leigh’s biopic of British painter J. M. W. Turner attests. Timothy Spall, who takes on the film’s eponymous role, makes the most of an unusual turn in the spotlight — he even nabbed the festival’s Best Actor award for his performance as the gruff, squat painter, someone whose incredible talent didn’t make him easy to get along with. But Spall allows Turner to be difficult yet vulnerable, a man beholden to no one and not prone to letting people in to understand what’s going on inside his head. His late-in-life romance with Margate widow Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey) is sweet and halting, a glimpse of softness in a very prickly, very talented figure.
Mr. Turner will be released in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics.
Brash and exuberant, 25-year-old French Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s fifth (!) film is impressive as much for its sense of promise of greatness to come as for its poignant, funny depiction of a hard-to-control teenage boy Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) and his not-all-that-together single mom Die (Anne Dorval). Mommy feels messy, vital, and young, sometimes to its detriment, but no sequence at the festival felt as thrillingly alive as when, in the midst of a joyous montage set to Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” Steve reaches toward the camera and opens the 1:1 aspect ratio to widescreen, a glorious visual representation of the possibilities with which his life, at least for the moment, seems filled.
Mommy doesn’t yet have U.S. distribution.
4. Wild Tales
This blacker than black Argentinian comedy from Damián Szifron is made up of six separate stories that share themes of revenge and loss of control, as well as jaw-dropping outrageousness. As the title promises, these vignettes are filled with unexpected twists, presenting seemingly banal setups (like a pair of travelers on a plane who learn they know someone in common or a city dweller whose car gets towed) and taking them to some dazzling and dark places. The first sequence, which takes place entirely before the opening credits, seems to set the film up with someone that will be impossible to top, but the last matches it — and everything in between is very solid as well.
Wild Tales will be released in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics.
The world’s going to be hearing a lot more about Bennett Miller’s tragedy about wrestling, wealth, and murder — it’s destined to be a big awards season contender. But the film, which stars a very strong Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo alongside standout Steve Carell as the murderous, mentally ill John du Pont, is more than just Oscar bait. It’s a dark, profound story about America’s attitudes toward class, privilege, and talent, in which skill and training might nab you a medal, but you still have to indulge the whims of an oddball millionaire in order to operate in something other than poverty.
Foxcatcher opens in theaters on Nov. 14.
2. It Follows
David Robert Mitchell’s horror movie manages to be frightening and poetic at the same time, a suburban nightmare that gets its chills from thoughtful filmmaking rather than surprises and shocks. Actually, some of its more effective shots are the opposite of jump scares — they’re all about what you can see approaching at a distance, relentless and impassive. It plays off some classic genre tropes, like sex marking a character as a target for trouble, but it’s far from an homage. It Follows is its own beast, filled with dread that goes beyond the supernatural into fears of the unknown future.
It Follows doesn’t yet have a U.S. distributor.
1. Two Days, One Night
Belgian working class woman Sandra (Marion Cotillard) isn’t naturally scrappy or heroic. She’s recovering from a bout of depression and understands a little too well what it’s like to struggle. And that’s what makes the latest film from the Dardenne brothers so moving and bittersweet. Sandra is forced to ask her co-workers to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job. And in the process, she goes from humiliated and afraid to aware that they’ve been put in an unfair and cruel position. It’s uplifting in the most earned, gritty, and relevant way imaginable.
Two Days, One Night will get a U.S. release from Sundance Selects.