The 16th edition of Film Comment magazine’s annual festival is back on February 17-24 with its customarily unpredictable blend of sublime wonders and hard-hitting visions.
The sublime is covered by in the opening and closing night selections—Terence Davies’s long-awaited Sunset Song and a revival of the late Chantal Akerman’s Golden Eighties—and among the hard-hitters is a pair of wrenching discoveries from Serbia and Iran and a harrowing yet serene vision of World War I. The festival also features new films by Benoît Jacquot, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Alexei German Jr., a spotlight on Charles Bronson, and a sidebar of works by the Polish master Andrzej Żuławski.
Sunset Song: Terence Davies returns to the territory of hardship, brutal family life, and romantic loss in this story of a young woman who inherits the family farm in northern Scotland on the cusp of World War I. A deeply felt and emotionally devastating passion project for the director, with a wondrous central performance by Agyness Deyn in the lead role.
Golden Eighties: Turning toward the pleasures of popular cinema in the 1980s, Chantal Akerman collaborated with the writer of Desperately Seeking Susan among others on this postmodern passion project, an utterly delightful multi-character musical set entirely in a shopping mall that looks at the romantic longings and tribulations of an assortment of store owners and workers.
Our Little Sister: Delicate, graceful, and beautifully acted, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest exploration of family ties centers on three twentysomething sisters who take in their teenage half-sister after the death of their estranged father. Before long, the siblings’ unresolved feelings about being abandoned by their parents and the frustrations that burden their unfulfilled lives finally come into the open.
Under Electric Clouds: Aleksei German Jr.’s Berlinale prize winner is a visually stunning portrait of near-future Russia filmed in elaborate sequence shots that is, of course, also a meditation on today’s Russia: torn apart by delusions of grandeur, corruption, an unquestioning belief in authority, and a fatal passion for the past that goes hand in hand with an obsession with the future—making for an empty present.
Cosmos: Andrzej Żuławski’s first film in 15 years, which won him Best Director at Locarno, is a Witold Gombrowicz adaptation suffused with the director’s trademark freneticism as it follows a failed law student whose reality mutates into a whirlwind of tension, histrionics, foreboding omens, and surrealistic logic. Includes a Q&A with Żuławski.
On the Silver Globe: This sci-fi epic about the emergence of a new human civilization on the moon was the most ambitious and difficult project of Andrzej Żuławski’s career, an inexhaustibly inventive and absorbing film maudit that is perhaps the grandest expression of his visionary artistry.
Breakout: This underrated thriller ranks among the highlights of Charles Bronson’s ’70s superstardom phase. Bronson plays a pilot hired to rescue a tycoon’s son (Robert Duvall) from a Mexican prison, aided by the imprisoned man’s wife (Jill Ireland) and an assortment of cohorts played by Randy Quaid, Sheree North, and Alan Vint. Featuring John Huston as Mr. Big.
Rider on the Rain: The best from Charles Bronson’s European phase, this stylish, small-scale Hitchcockian thriller by the director of Purple Noon sees Bronson as a mysterious American playing cat and mouse with a young woman (Marlène Jobert) who has killed and disposed of the body of a man who raped her.