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40 Films to See This Summer

Written by on April 24, 2019 

Photograph (Ritesh Batra; May 17)

Street photographer Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) makes a living snapping tourists in front of the Gateway of India. He has a simple sales pitch: the sun you feel, the wind you hear, and the people around you will be gone when you leave, but you can keep the feeling with a single photograph. This detailed attention to the environment is also the greatest strength of Ritesh Batra’s Photograph, a lush, willfully low-key romantic drama that explores the age-old tale of how the class divide is a barrier for what the heart may desire. – Jordan R. (full review)

The Wandering Soap Opera (Raúl Ruiz; May 17)

Tackling this posthumous release from renowned experimental filmmaker Raúl Ruiz with limited knowledge of telenovelas and the subtleties of early ‘90s Chilean politics is like trying to eat a rough cut of meat with a butter knife: there’s every chance it’s delicious — it might even be good for you — but it remains difficult to pin down. Indeed, there is a lot going on in The Wandering Soap Opera (La telenovela errante), a previously unfinished project that has been completed for release by Ruiz’s widow and long time editor Valeria Sarmiento. – Rory O. (full review)

Booksmart (Olivia Wilde; May 24)

While Olivia Wilde’s SXSW hit and directorial debut Booksmart was praised mostly for its laughs from its festival premiere, it certainly has its moments in that category, but it’s most endearing as a story of friendship. Starring Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, the coming-of-age, R-rated comedy follows a pair of studious high school friends trying to let loose on the day before graduation. The film certainly owes a debt to Superbad and the others that came before it, but after a rocky, over-the-top first half, it blooms into a something entirely and beautifully its own. – Jordan R.

Diamantino (Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt; May 24)

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If the protagonist of Diamantino reminds you of a certain celebrity it is, as we can only presume, not accidental. The character in question–for whom this hallucinatory tale is named after–is a professional footballer who plays up front for the Portuguese national team. He sports diamond stud earrings (one in each ear), has a glow best described as maintained bronze, and apparently has yet to find a greater joy in life than pulling off his jersey after scoring a winning goal in order to better share with the world his rippling abs. Are we there yet? – Rory O. (full review)

Too Late to Die Young (Dominga Sotomayor; May 31)

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Halfway through Dominga Sotomayor’s movingly tender coming-of-age tale Too Late to Die Young(Tarde Para Morir Joven), my mind jolted back to a movie I saw and instantly fell for a couple of months prior, Carla Simón’s Summer 1993. It took me a while to figure out why. Summer 1993 is set in early 1990s Catalunya; Sotomayor’s takes place at the decade’s outset, but on the opposite side of the world: a commune nestled in the arid cordillera towering above Chile’s capital, Santiago. Yet at some fundamental level, the two films speak the same language. Underlying Sotomayor’s follow-up to her 2012 feature debut and Rotterdam Tiger Award winner Thursday Till Sunday is a deep-seated nostalgia – the same longing for a long-gone era that rang achingly true in Summer 1993. – Leonardo G. (full review)

Domino (Brian De Palma; May 31)

Only Brian De Palma would make a terrorism thriller in which he’s most interested in their filmmaking methods. His latest and long-awaited, Domino, is hugely entertaining in spurts (mostly setpieces and high melodrama), if noticeably compromised elsewhere (transitional scenes perhaps hacked up in editing and standard crime drama machinations). Another bombastic Pino Donaggio score layers nearly every moment and José Luis Alcaine’s cinematography is a peculiar mix of buoyantly colorful and DTV-esque flatness. Capping things off with an I-can’t-believe-he-did-this banger of an ending, De Palma may not have had full control over the production, but what’s left has enough of his mark to make for what’s sure to be one of the summer’s most entertaining films. – Jordan R.

The Image You Missed (Donal Foreman; May 31)

A few minutes into Donal Foreman’s The Image You Missed, a voice-over comes to an abrupt stop: “each film is a mission impossible, but this one here, it was the most…” It’s a truncated snippet from an interview given in French by Foreman’s father, Arthur “Art” MacCaig, the late Irish-American director who raised to fame after his resolutely partisan documentary on Ireland’s Troubles, The Patriot Game (1979), and who here acts as the epicenter of a deeply personal and powerfully moving documentary-essay that weaves together an estranged parent-son relationship with a two-handed portrait of a country the two both filmed and experienced – in markedly different ways. – Leonardo G. (full review)

Leto (Kirill Serebrennikov; May 31)

At a time when freedom of expression titters on the brink in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, there’s something thrillingly contemporary about Kirill Serebrennikov’s Soviet-set musical drama. Early 1980s St. Petersburg proves a breeding ground of underground music as rebellion, however tacit, emerges in home-grown rock and punk. Leto’s melancholic ode to rough-and-ready counterculture proves ever more relevant as Serebrennikov, himself an avant-garde theater director, remains under house arrest in Moscow. – Ed F. (full review)

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (Martin Scorsese; June 12)

Martin Scorsese continues his long, strong tradition of music-focused docs by focusing once more on Bob Dylan, but don’t expect something kin with his more strait-laced (and excellent all the same) No Direction HomeRolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese is described as “part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream” that “captures the troubled spirit of America in 1975″ and earns the designation of “story” rather than “portrait” or some such. (Let’s just open a dialogue about how documentary films are also narrative films, it’ll be fun.) Appearing in one of his only interviews this decade, Dylan is joined by “many of the alumni of that period” — a list that could, reasonably, include Joan Baez, Sam Shepard, Joni Mithcell, T-Bone Burnett, Ringo Starr, and Patti Smith. While no one is confirmed — to say nothing of the fact that Shepard died in 2017 — the film has apparently been in development for some number of years, perhaps as many as ten. – Leonard P

The Chambermaid (Lila Aviles; June 12)

Set entirely within the confines of a luxurious Mexico City hotel, mostly in rooms and service corridors, The Chambermaid is a fascinating observational drama and occasional allegory for the haves and have-nots. Gabriela Cartol stars as Evelina, a 24-year old single mother working on her GED in a program provided (and later canceled) by the hotel’s union. Like Blue Crush, another film that contained explicit scenes of hotel maids cleaning up after guests, The Chambermaid doesn’t shy away from the usual demands of the job, from a guest who insists on having his room stocked with five times the amenities he needs to a wealthy Argentina woman who calls Eveline to her room to essentially babysit. When her son takes to Eveline, she’s given a tentative offer to leave the hotel behind for a new life in Argentina. – John F. (full review)

The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch; June 14)

I don’t need to further sold on a Jim Jarmusch, but when it’s a zombie comedy and it stars Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, Austin Butler, Luka Sabbat, and Tom Waits, consider our hype through the roof. Set to open Cannes Film Festival, it’ll thankfully arrive quickly in theaters, hopefully being one of the spooky bright spots of the summer. – Jordan R.

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