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The 7 Indie Films You Must See This December

By Indiewire | Indiewire December 5, 2013 at 10:26AM

Here's 7 indie films we think you should see this December.
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Inside Llewyn Davis

The final weeks of 2013 are upon, and while that also means the weather outside is a bit frightening (at least for a good half of America), what better reason to hit the warmth of the movie theater? While the studios are bringing out their big guns for December -- from "American Hustle" to "Her" to "Saving Mr. Banks" to "The Wolf of Wall Street" -- there's plenty en route from indie and specialty distributors that's just as deserving of your time.

As an extension of our fall indie preview, Indiewire is offering the last of four monthly fall "must-see" lists to make cinematic decision-making amidst this alleged month or months as easy as possible. From the latest from the Coen brothers to another sure fire bet for Meryl Streep to nab an Oscar nominations, here's 7 films you should definitely try and see this December:

1. Inside Llewyn Davis (December 6)
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham
Distributor: CBS Films
Criticwire Grade: A-

Why is it a "Must See"? Light on plot, heavy on melody and feeling, "Inside Llewyn Davis" takes some inspiration from the career of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, but avoids the trappings of a biopic or making broad pronouncements about the era. Instead, the nomadic Llewyn's fleeting misadventures -- somberly embodied by Oscar Isaac in the title role -- which find him drifting from one couch to the next while struggling to justify his career, lead to a delicate, restrained portrait that results in a different kind of movie than anything else the siblings have produced. Even so, it works as a a sort of musical companion piece to "O Brother Where Art Thou," trading bluegrass for melancholic folk melodies (once again shepherded to fruition by T. Bone Burnett) to explore a very specific breed of American discontentment. But in spite of all the bad vibes, "Llewyn Davis" is often quite funny and remarkably poignant as it careens from one tune to the next, aided by considerable supporting turns from Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake…and Ulysses the cat, who deserves an awards campaign of his own.

Check out the trailer below:


2. The Past (December 20)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Criticwire Grade: A-

Why is it a "Must See"? "The Past," Asghar Farhadi's first movie produced outside Iran, is a wrenching, relentlessly intelligent drama in which characters shield their feelings with unspoken motives and actions. Like last year's Oscar-winning "A Separation," Farhadi's new movie confirms his unique ability to explore how constant chatter and anguished outbursts obscure the capacity for honest communication. Ahman (Ali Mosaffa) arrives in Paris from his native Iran four years after separating from wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo) in order to finalize their divorce. He finds the family at an uneven crossroads: While Marie plans to marry Samir (Tahar Rahim), Lucie (Pauline Burlet) -- her teen daughter from an earlier marriage -- maintains distance from her mother, frustrated by the older woman's string of fleeting romances. Meanwhile, she must contend with the presence of preadolescent Fouad (Elyes Aguis), Samir's son, who lives with the family in the suburbs while Samir works in the city. Arriving at the center of this turmoil, Ahmad uncovers its most troublesome aspect through casual discussion: Samir's wife lies comatose in a hospital after a botched suicide attempt. Farhadi's screenplay slowly reveals its puzzle pieces with a patient rhythm developed through long takes, no soundtrack and frequent conversation. Not once does any character show signs of unadulterated affection until the memorable closing shot -- the sole glance of an intimate bond in the entire movie. Despite all that talk, only in the quietest moments does the truth come out.

Check out the trailer below:


3. The Last of the Unjust (December 13)
Director: Claude Lanzmann
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
Criticwire Grade: A-

Why is it a "Must See"? Claude Lanzmann's sprawling 1985 documentary "Shoah" deserves its slot as the definitive non-fiction Holocaust movie, but even its eight-hour running time can't fully encompass the director's years of research. Lanzmann spent a decade gathering interviews exploring virtually every angle of that tumultuous period, wisely relying on first-hand testimonies and the haunting quality of contemporary locations where the genocide took place to give his chronicle weight. With "The Last of the Unjust," he proves the approach maintains its gripping power. Now in his late eighties, Lanzmann continues to unload the footage he gathered during his initial production. In 2011, a half-hour interview with concentration camp whistleblower Jan Karski aired on French television as "The Karski Report," but that was little more than a slim profile compared to Lanzmann's current achievement. "The Last of the Unjust," a 218-minute look at the Czech ghetto Theresienstadt and one of the Jewish men tasked with running it, magnifies a previously underexplored tale of persecution with incredible dexterity. By unearthing a series of interviews conducted in 1975 with the elderly Benjamin Murmelstein, the only survivor of the so-called "Elder of the Jews" in charge of the ghetto, Lanzmann resurrects the aesthetics of "Shoah" while extending its narrative into a new chapter.

Check out the trailer below:

This article is related to: List, The Crash Reel, August: Osage County, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Past , The Last of the Unjust, The Invisible Woman





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