Though we’ll likely have to wait until AFI FEST rolls around this autumn to catch some of the notable entries from this year’s Cannes, there’ll be plenty of enticing titles from the international festival circuit at this summer’s Los Angeles Film Festival. Here are the five I certainly won’t miss:
Our Beloved Month of August
Portugal’s improbable ’09 Oscar submission is a category-defying double-album film about filmmaking set in the land-locked municipality of Arganil and performed largely by locals. This second feature from Miguel Gomes places everything onscreen—the equipment, the crew—and fictionalizes a summer’s tale while documenting the season’s bustling surplus of disarray. Here’s the trailer, and an interview with Gomes.
Embodiment of Evil
Brazil’s maestro of rhapsodically gory, bargain-basement bloodbaths José Mojica Marins, pushing 70, returns as atheist gravedigger Zé do Caixão (“Coffin Joe” is the decent and ubiquitous translation) for his only directorial effort in two decades. Certainly a first—has a ZdC title ever screened in a US film festival?—this Gran Torino of sorts is flush with hardcore surrealism and baroque terror. Visit the official site.
The Silence Before Bach
A few years older than Marins, Catalan filmmaker Pere Portabella is a comparable force of subversion, with a voracious ear and even a slight taste for the gothic (see his 1970 Vampir Cuadecuc). Positing Bach as a conduit of modernity, this elegant collage is lucidly “experimental” in John Cage’s sense of the word: “inclusive rather than exclusive.” Visit the official site.
United Red Army
A contemporary of Nagisa Oshima and the third filmmaker on this list north of seventy, Kōji Wakamatsu is perhaps best know for his pinku eiga efforts—furious low-budget spasms of pornography and anarchy—but United Red Army will certainly tower over the pulp. This three-hour-plus treatise on the titular, doomed left-wing paramilitary revolutionaries features an original score by the newly Japan-based Jim O’Rourke and concludes with a show-stopping snowbound climax set in the filmmaker’s own mountain lodge.
35 Shots of Rum
Claire Denis can always be relied on for some rumpled warmth. 35 Shots of Rum is her first feature since the sublimely elliptical L’Intrus in 2004, and this father-daughter duet is comparatively more conventional. But the luminous cinematography of Agnes Godard and Denis’s almost trancelike sense of rhythm should let it linger like a waking dream (or a hangover).
But if all the above just seem far too plot-heavy, there’s a whole day to be swallowed in the 840-minute Crude Oil. Screening for free inside a gallery at the Hammer Museum—which notably sits on land owned by Occidental Petroleum Corporation—this slab of real time from eminent docu-minimalist Wang Bing is a persistent, panoramic look at a drilling station and its workers in the Gobi Desert.