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The Best Films at the 2018 Toronto, Venice, and Telluride Film Festivals

Written by on September 16, 2018 

Ray & Liz (Richard Billingham)

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If there is an image to best introduce audiences to the grimy cinematic world of Ray & Liz–the remarkable debut feature of Turner prize-nominated visual artist Richard Billingham–it might be, fittingly, the very first one to hit the screen: that of a cracked, burnt-out light bulb filmed dangling beneath a nicotine-stained ceiling. Billingham has spent much of his career as an artist documenting and, in his short films, dramatizing the lives of his father Raymond (a chronic alcoholic played here by Patrick Romer and, as a younger man, by Justin Salinger ) and mother Elizabeth (Deirdre Kelly and–best of all–Ella Smith) and Ray & Liz could be viewed as a culmination of that work. It’s an immersive poetic-realist dive into the artist’s fractured memories of his parents during the time he spent growing up in Birmingham in the ‘70s and ‘80s. – Rory O. (full review)

Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)

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Roma is comprised of a series of richly detailed vignettes, shot in deep-focus, in which the viewer can glance around, pluck out the most vibrant signs of life and thus string the narrative together. Despite the echoes of Fellini, the result feels almost new in a way and given the immersive nature of Roma it doesn’t seem so radical to consider experiencing its cinematic beauty with a clunky headset on. Granted, it’s rather hackneyed to use a term like “immersive” in film criticism these days, but we should note that Cuarón may be chief amongst those responsible for its ubiquity in film marketing. – Rory O. (full review)

Sunset (László Nemes)

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“Let’s see what’s behind this.” That’s the very first line we hear in Sunset, László Nemes’ masterful follow-up to his 2015 breakout Son of Saul, a daring debut that followed the trials of a Sonderkommando member at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The pointed phrase is spoken by the host of a world-famous Budapestian millinery shop during the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian empire. You may think that all sounds about as far away as one can get from the infamous Nazi death camp, yet Sunset somehow proves to be no less nerve-shredding a descent into hell for its lead character, and like Saul it is another film during which the frightening rumble of war can be heard in the not-so-distant background. – Rory O. (full review)

Too Late to Die Young (Dominga Sotomayor)

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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)

The Tree of Life: Extended Version (Terrence Malick)

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How can you improve upon one of the greatest films of all-time? Terrence Malick’s “Extended Version” of The Tree of Life–188 minutes long and now available on The Criterion Collection following a premiere at the Venice Film Festival–is less a radical reinvention and more a gratifying expansion, giving a deeper imprint to various threads of the original, ultimately sculpting a more affecting, fleshed-out picture of a story that remains boundlessly evocative in its ambition. – Jordan R. (full review)

Vox Lux (Brady Corbet)

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In 2015, Brady Corbet released The Childhood of a Leader, a flawed and somewhat immature movie but arguably one of the most bombastic directorial debuts of recent years. Now we have Vox Lux, his deliriously incendiary follow-up, a film about a teenage girl who survives a shooting and becomes a national symbol of hope only to later descend into dissolute pop-stardom. It’s pleasing to note that the actor-turned-director seems to have forgone none of Childhood‘s aesthetic swagger and misanthropic bite in the process of making his second feature. He has, however, significantly fine-tuned his nose for satire in that time and what we have as a result is not only a thrilling examination of fame and violence in the 21st century and how the two are intrinsically linked, it might also be 2018’s most blistering cinematic provocation this side of Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built–but more on that guy later. – Rory O. (full review)

The Rest

All Good (B+)
Arrivederci Saigon (B+)
At Eternity’s Gate (B+)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (B+)
The Biggest Little Farm (B+)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (B+)
Capernaum (B+)
The Chambermaid (B+)
A Faithful Man (B+)
A Family Tour (B+)
Giant Little Ones (B+)
Halloween (B+)
Introduzione all’Oscuro (B+)
Let Me Fall (B+)
M (B+)
Monrovia, Indiana (B+)
The Most Beautiful Couple (B+)
Non-Fiction (B+)
Screwball (B+)
Shadow (B+)
Sibel (B+)
A Star is Born (B+)
Suspiria (B+)
The Third Wife (B+)
Widows (B+)

Consequences (B)
Destroyer (B)
Endzeit – Ever After (B)
In Fabric (B)
The Fireflies Are Gone (B)
Freaks (B)
The Front Runner (B)
Girls of the Sun (B)
Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy (B)
Jessica Forever (B)
A Land Imagined (B)
Maya (B)
Memories of My Body (B)
Mouthpiece (B)
The Old Man & the Gun (B)
Peterloo (B)
Phoenix (B)
Retrospekt (B)
Saf (B)
The Sisters Brothers (B)
Skin (B)
Where Hands Touch (B)
White Boy Rick (B)

Angels Are Made of Light (B-)
Angel (B-)
Dead Souls (B-)
Duelles (Mothers’ Instinct) (B-)
Dragged Across Concrete (B-)
Float Like a Butterfly (B-)
The Good Girls (B-)
Heartbound (B-)
Les Salopes or The Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin (B-)
Mid90s (B-)
Stupid Young Heart (B-)
The Truth About Killer Robots (B-)
Twin Flower (B-)
Tumbbad (B-)
The Vice of Hope (B-)

Beautiful Boy (C+)
The Dig (C+)
Hotel Mumbai (C+)
Kingsway (C+)
Loro (C+)
Monsters and Men (C+)
The Predator (C+)
Rojo (C+)
Teen Spirit (C+)
What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? (C+)

American Dharma (C)
Blind Spot (C)
Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (C)
El Angel (C)
Greta (C)
Helmet Heads (C)
The Hummingbird Project (C)
Life Itself (C)
The Mountain (C)
Our Time (C)
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (C)
Why Are We Creative? (C)

Out of Blue (C-)

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan (D+)
The Lie (D+)

22 July (D)
As I Lay Dying (D)
Hold the Dark (D)
Soni (D)

Interviews

Ethan Hawke on Dreaming of a Fourth Before Film, Why He’s Not Having a McConaughey Moment, and the Necessity of Film Festivals

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Tsai Ming-liang on Your Face, the Cinematic Power of Close-Ups, and Teaming with Ryuichi Sakamoto

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Dominga Sotomayor on Too Late to Die Young, Growing up in a Chilean Commune, and Cinema as Recollection

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Bruno Dumont on His Sequel to Jeannette, the Spirituality of Cinema, and the Myth of Freedom in Filmmaking

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