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Fall 2015 Preview: The 30 Best Films We’ve Already Seen

Written by on August 25, 2015 

The Keeping Room (​Daniel Barber; September 25th)


Simply stated in the title cards of ​Daniel Barber‘s bleak and understated narrative, “War is cruelty​.” And at the start of ​his film, ​Barber spends little time getting to the needless and hateful violence of people all but removed from morals and the gravity of their actions. While the talented cast is small and the pace is anything but cinematic, The Keeping Room is a stunning film for what it sets out to do. Barber, from a once-Black-Listed script penned by Julia Hart​,​ tells a female-led story where three women, left nearly defenseless, survive the first in a series of marauding attacks ​​at the end of the Civil War.​ Hardships and loneliness for women abound, and The Keeping Room is but a small sampling of how vulnerable wives, daughters and the like can be with a war on. ​Yet these women are hard and driven when their lives are at stake. There is always pain and misery on the battlefield, but the same hardships spill out and affect those left to fend for themselves in uncertain times. The Keeping Room floats in and out of conventional editing and exposition, but, while laconic in delivery — and not to be confused ​or associated ​with a Terrence Malick style of filmmaking — the message comes across clear and powerful. – Marc C.

Mississippi Grind (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck; September 25th)


After breaking out with the bleak, masterful character study Half Nelson, filmmaking duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck took on baseball with the under-appreciated Sugar and mental illness with It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Some five years later, they are back with the freewheelin’ fun of Mississippi Grind, a good-natured but ultimately conventional exploration of the sadness and loneliness that comes with a gambling addiction. – Jordan R. (full review)

Taxi (Jafar Panahi; October 2nd)


The first image of Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, a POV shot looking out through a car’s windshield, immediately calls to mind the opening of his previous film, Closed Curtain. The latter also began with a shot from behind a window, though there, the view of the outside was partly obstructed by the window’s security bars. This revision signals a shift of tone for the director. While Closed Curtain represented a howl of despair at his situation – living in an authoritarian state that banned him from exercising his profession for 20 years without permission to leave – in Taxi Panahi considers the same reality with more serenity, even humor, though his protest results no less trenchant. His third film since receiving the ban in 2010, Taxi is a perfect complement to its predecessors, adding another chapter to Panahi’s exceptional and thoroughly stirring exercise in meta-filmmaking. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Partisan (Ariel Kleiman; October 2nd)


Whether it’s Martha Marcy May Marlene or Sound of My Voice or this year’s The Wolfpack, we’ve seen a number of films at Sundance deal with communes and closed communities, but few bring the level of danger found in Partisan. The directorial debut of Ariel Kleiman (Sundance jury winner for the short Deeper Than Yesterday) is a patiently unfolding drama that displays the lengths one will go to provide shelter and community, and what happens if you step out of bounds. – Jordan R. (full review)

The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson; October 7th)


Dense and lacking the playful quality of his more straightforward work, this represents a new multi-narrative direction for Maddin, and a kind of rabbit hole. Working within the art world verses the film world, Maddin’s work, style and influences have a tremendous amount of power applicable to cinema within the space of a gallery installation. Night Mayor, his first collaboration with the NFB, fictionalized the tension between the NFB’s mission and government controls, capturing the inherently cinematic story of an immigrant inventor who dreams of transmitting images made by Canadians to Canadians. The Forbidden Room, while often brilliant upon first viewing, seems to overstay its welcome. A challenging feature representing a new ambition for Maddin, it’s a step forward, a reinvention, and a difficult film to describe and process. I imagine my admiration for it may grow upon future viewings, but I also fear it lacks substance beyond the disjoined narrative. – John F. (full review)

In My Father’s House (Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg; October 9th)


Amongst the national conversation we’re having about race is a topic often glossed-over amongst the conservative talking point of “accountability.” Yes, there are fathers who lie, cheat, steal, break the law, go to jail, abuse drugs, and the sort. Breaking the cycle of poverty is critical: a generation of men are lost to the system, either in prison or dead, thus repeating said cycle. One who broke the cycle and is mentoring young men to do so as well is Che “Rymefest” Smith, perhaps best known on mainstream radio for writing Kayne West’s “Jesus Walks” and most recently for the Oscar-winning song “Glory” from Selma. –  John F. (full review)

Victoria (Sebastian Schipper; October 9th)


A two-hour-and-eighteen-minute thrill ride from joyous celebration to abject despair, Sebastian Schipper‘s one-take wonder Victoria is a must-see. This isn’t a formal gimmick, like with Birdman, but instead a conscious effort to truly understand the visceral and emotional experience had by the titular Spaniard and her new Berliner friends. From burgeoning love to life-or-death stakes as these clubbers are tasked with robbing a bank, we’re given an unfiltered look at regular people thrust into a dangerous situation without escape. Adrenaline pumps as instinct replaces control for an adventure lacking the latitude for even one false move. – Jared M.

The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-Hsien; October 16th)


The Cannes Film Festival represents the pantheon of arthouse cinema, so it does raise eyebrows when a wuxia movie is included in its official selection. After all, this is a genre known for superhuman speed and loud, physical forms of expression, stuff that fantasies are made of but not exactly traits one associates with fine arts. That’s until Taiwanese maestro Hou Hsiao-hsien came along to deliver his version of kung fu. The resulting The Assassin (translated from Nie Yinniang) turns out to be the quietest, most introspective and deliberately-paced film in competition, a feat so rare and radical it casually revolutionized decades of filmmaking tradition. – Zhuo-Ning S. (full review)

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