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The 5 Indie Films You Must See This January

By Peter Knegt and Eric Kohn | Indiewire January 7, 2014 at 10:48AM

After the first two months of 2013 offered in large part an opportunity to catch up on the best of the 2012, this year's specialty market is finally rolling with some of the most anticipated films from recent film festival circuits.
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"Stranger By The Lake"
"Stranger By The Lake"

January usually brings to mind two things when it comes to specialty film: Catching up on Oscar hopefuls from late 2013, and the Sundance Film Festival, which will bring a slew of new films into the marketplace for the coming year. But this January seems truly exceptional for films that (mostly) fall into neither category: Three remarkable foreign language films that are out of the running for the Oscars, and two great documentaries (notably one of which could very well end up with an Oscar nomination).

From murderous gay cruising at a lake to recreating a Vermeer painting to a Chilean woman trying to get her groove back, check out Indiewire's picks for January 2014's best:

1. Stranger By The Lake (January 24)

Director: Alain Guiraudie
Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d'Assumçao
Distributor: Strand
Current Criticwire average: A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a "Must See"? At Cannes last year, a sexually explicit, queer-focused French film with two extraordinarily beautiful leads won over critics and audiences alike before heading to US theaters -- and we're not talking about Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme d'Or winning "Blue is the Warmest Color." While that film has been getting most of the attention, its male-centric counterpart of sorts (though think more "Blue Is The Coldest Color") -- Alain Guiraudie’s stunning "Stranger By The Lake" -- is just as deserving of it and finally hits theaters this January (after adding Sundance to its epic list of festival screenings that also includes Toronto and New York). Featuring a narrative very much like what its title suggests, the film is set at a cruising spot by a lake, where Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) meets Michel (Christophe Paou). Despite being certain Michel is a murderer (he witnesses the man drown one of his lovers), Franck pursues their intense sexual relationship anyway, leading him -- and us as the viewer -- down a psychologically complex and dangerously sexy path. Don't miss it.

Watch the trailer below:


2. Gloria (January 24)

Director: Sebastián Lelio
Cast: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Coca Guazzini, Antonia Santa María
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Current Criticwire average: A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a "Must See"?  The first and last time we see the main character, a 58-year-old Chilean divorcee who gives writer-director Sebastián Lelio's touching midlife crisis drama its name, she's lost in the shuffle of the dance floor -- at once buried by the world and free to roam it. With actress Paulina Garcia's cryptic expressions saying much more than her words, "Gloria" explores this fragile state of being with extraordinary astuteness. It's an open-ended question whether Gloria ever finds the happiness she seeks while dodging the current of middle-aged isolation, but her constant search is a valiant and deeply involving one. Lelio reveals her fluctuating mindset through sudden outbursts, solemn asides, brilliant music cues and one utterly memorable dancing skeleton puppet — whose symbolic power only slightly bests the peacock that arrives later on. Visually, "Gloria" is alive with the vivid mindset of its eternally young protagonist. Read Indiewire's review from the Berlin Film Festival -- where Garcia won best actress -- here.

Watch the trailer below:


This article is related to: Stranger by the Lake , Tim's Vermeer, Like Father Like Son, Gloria, 12 O’Clock Boys, Lists