While our massive, 60-film fall movie preview gives a hint at what to expect this season, it’s time to dive deeper into September. With films from Ethan Coen, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Luca Guadagnino being ripped off the month’s release calendar because studios don’t want to pay actors and writers fairly, it means the fall’s first offerings are a bit lighter––thankfully giving some truly independent productions further room to shine.
12. The Storms of Jeremy Thomas (Mark Cousins; Sept. 22 in theaters)
What do films like David Cronenberg’s Crash, Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast, Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, Nagisa Ôshima’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, and (many) more have in common? They were produced by Oscar winner Jeremy Thomas. A new documentary by cinephile Mark Cousins, The Storms of Jeremy Thomas, explores the making of his most notable films.
11. Perpetrator (Jennifer Reeder; Sept. 1 in theaters and on Shudder)
Kicking off the fall movie season, Knives and Skin director Jennifer Reeder is returning with Perpetrator, a coming-of-age, feminist horror-noir feature. A selection at Berlinale and Tribeca, David Katz said in his review, “Just when you thought filmmakers and creators had exhausted everything worth saying in American high school-set comedies and thrillers, along comes Chicago-based independent Jennifer Reeder, who seems devoted to this subgenre as if by a monastic oath. The high school movie––with its classic, standby imagery of jocks, lockers, and losers––seems to have passed through three main cycles in the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, and in spite of its absolute specificity to the US education system, has found itself weirdly comprehensible and translatable in many different cultures. With Ghost World a notable exception, it’s also never felt especially feminist, which is what makes Reeder’s perspective fresh and novel.”
10. Invisible Beauty (Bethann Hardison, Frédéric Tcheng; Sept. 15 in theaters)
Following a premiere at Sundance and Tribeca, one of our favorite documentaries of the year arrives this month. Jose Solís said in his review, “With every step she took on the catwalk, Bethann Hardison broke new ground. She did it while strutting in Chester Weinberg’s A-line skirts across the private showrooms of Manhattan’s garment district, where clients believed her to be ‘out of line.’ She did it while dazzling audience members in Versailles in 1973, where she showed Europeans that girls of color brought personality to the runway and were not just human clothes-hangers. She did it ferociously, defiantly, and as shown in the documentary Invisible Beauty, she did it without ever planning to.”
9. Cassandro (Roger Ross Williams; Sept. 15 in theaters and Sept. 22 on Prime Video)
The same month Roger Ross Williams premieres his new documentary Stamped from the Beginning at TIFF, his first feature of the year will arrive across the world. Cassandro follows Saúl Armendáriz (Gael García Bernal), a gay amateur wrestler from El Paso who rises to international stardom, upending not just the macho wrestling world, but also his own life. Jose Solís said in his review, “Rather than reverting to a traditional biopic structure––i.e. a greatest hits (and losses) in someone’s life––Williams and co-screenwriter David Teague open almost in media res as we meet Saúl (Gael García Bernal), a wide-eyed young man who is head over heels in love with lucha libre. He spends his days crafting costumes to wrestle in and helping his mother Yocasta (a magnificent Perla de la Rosa) who does laundry and clothes-mending for locals. Unlike her namesake from Greek mythology, Yocasta dreams of nothing but a wonderful future for her adoring son, reassuring him he will make ‘a man very happy someday.’“
8. Fair Play (Chloe Domont; Sept. 29 in theaters and Oct. 13 on Netflix)
Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) are madly in love. Engendering sex at every possible opportunity, their passion is a burning one and, after a quasi-impromptu engagement, their bond has become even deeper. Heading off to work from their NYC Chinatown apartment, though, something feels off. We quickly learn they are both low-level analysts at an elite, high-pressure financial firm and, due to company policy forbidding such a romance, their relationship must be kept a secret from everyone else. Complications ensue when a promotion is up for grabs, and this secrecy plants the seed for what festers into a gripping thriller that juggles power and gender dynamics in ways both cuttingly real and gleefully absurd. Beginning with a Margin Call-esque icy slickness in this kill-or-be-killed financial world before morphing into Adrian Lyne-style battle-of-the-sexes camp, Chloe Domont’s feature debut Fair Play cuts deep even as it comes dangerously close to careening off the cliff of plausibility with a screenplay that dips into sophomoric. Continue reading my review.
7. Rotting in the Sun (Sebastián Silva; Sept. 8 in theaters and Sept. 15 on MUBI)
While A24 will release Dicks: The Musical this month, an alternate title for Sebastián Silva’s Rotting in the Sun could certainly be Dicks: The Meta Comedy Detective Journey. The gleefully nude-positive film follows a director (Silva) and an influencer (Jordan Firstman), both playing versions of themselves, who meet at a Mexican gay beach town and decide to collaborate on a new project––and things get wilder from there. Jose Solís said in his review, “From its hilarious use of social media montages to the oversized white Telfar bag that seems to almost swallow one of its characters whole, Sebastián Silva’s Rotting in the Sun is the kind of film that would be best served by a review comprised entirely of emojis. And I mean that as the highest of compliments. There isn’t a single frame in the film that hasn’t been meticulously manicured in order to achieve what social media tries to do: create a vision of uniqueness while relishing in manufactured mundanity. That Silva achieves to both criticize the overuse of online personas (particularly in the white gay world) while becoming a piece meant to be meme-d and TikTok-ed into oblivion is truly remarkable.”
6. El Conde (Pablo Larraín; Sept. 8 in theaters and Sept. 15 on Netflix)
As he bounces back and forth between English-language projects and Chilean features, Pablo Larraín is following Spencer with El Conde, which is shot by the great Ed Lachman and imagines Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) as an aged vampire who, after 250 years in this world, has decided to die once and for all from ailments brought by his dishonor and family conflicts. Check back for our review from the Venice Film Festival as Larraín preps to kick off production on his Maria Callas biopic starring Angelina Jolie.
5. Flora and Son (John Carney; Sept. 22 in theaters and Sept. 29 on Apple TV+)
The career of Once and Sing Street director John Carney is a curious one, reiterating the same theme in each of his most notable movies: the power of music to heal emotional wounds and reconnect broken bonds. As his latest feel-good musical dramedy Flora and Son proves, he’s got this simple yet winsome formula down pat. Despite the machinations to tug each heartstring and coerce each smile being apparent from a mile away, Carney’s lively energy, flippant humor, and embrace of earnestness makes his latest work sing. Continue reading my review.
4. The Creator (Gareth Edwards; Sept. 29 in theaters)
In a tentpole landscape painfully barren of original stories, we’ve been long-anticipating Gareth Edwards’ first original film since his debut Monsters. After his foray into the Godzilla and Stars Wars franchises, this September will see the release of The Creator, formerly titled True Love. Starring John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Ralph Ineson, Allison Janney, and Ken Watanabe, the film takes place in the future as humans are at war with artificial intelligence. With massive-looking setpieces bearing a grounded, practical feel, this kind of offering seems sorely needed in our current Marvel-ized, green-screen hellscape of entertainment options.
3. Remembering Every Night (Yui Kiyohara; Sept. 15 in theaters)
One of the most intriguing, well-accomplished debuts I saw at New Directors/New Films in 2018 was Yui Kiyohara’s mysterious drama Our House. The Japanese director returned to the festival this year with Remembering Every Night, a serenely beautiful and humorous ode to summer living near Tokyo following the journeys of a few women. Shot by Yukiko Iioka (Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy)––and, like Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Kiyohara is also a student of Kiyoshi Kurosawa––the Berlinale selection was picked up by KimStim for a theatrical release starting this month, alongside Our House.
2. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (Wes Anderson; Sept. 27 on Netflix)
While Wes Anderson’s first film of the year received quite a blitzed-out marketing campaign, less is known about his latest Roald Dahl adaptation, which brings together Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, Rupert Friend, and Richard Ayoade. Comprising four stories, running about 40 minutes, and debuting at Venice this month followed by a Netflix release, read our extensive interview with cinematographer Robert Yeoman.
1. Astrakan (David Depesseville; Sept. 1 in theaters and on VOD)
A standout among feature-length directorial debuts this year, David Depesseville’s Astrakan is one of the most piercing, enigmatic coming-of-age stories, proving there is still much to mine from the endless well of first experiences. Shot in stunningly vivid 16mm by Simon Beaufils (Knife+Heart), the Locarno and New Directors/New Films selection follows a orphan who goes to live with foster parents as he experiences first love, passions, and family secrets. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Astrakhan fur is unique: dark, beautiful, and stripped exclusively from newborn lambs, even ones killed in their mother’s womb. (Stella McCarthy once said it’s like wearing a fetus.) That ruthlessness––a sense of lost innocence; blood sacrifice––runs deep in Astrakan, a new film from France and one of the better in Locarno this year; and if that title isn’t enough to give pause, plenty else in the opening exchanges will. The first act is a procession of flags, both red and false: at the opening the protagonist, Samuel, lightly goads a snake in the reptile house of a zoo; moments later a rabbit is hung and skinned in his kitchen with all the ceremony of a boiled kettle; queasiest of all, an older lad is seen walking toward the house cradling berries in his shirt, just enough that the lip of his underwear and his midriff are left strikingly visible.”
More Films to See
- Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia (Sept. 1)
- The Mountain (Sept. 1)
- Amerikatsi (Sept. 8)
- Hello Dankness (Sept. 8)
- Radical Wolfe (Sept. 15)
- Robe of Gems (Sept. 15)
- It Lives Inside (Sept. 22)
- Mami Wata (Sept. 29)