It’s been four years since Andrew Haigh blew us away with
his SXSW award-winning love story “Weekend.” He’s since helped launch
the HBO show “Looking,” which is also fantastic, so anticipation is high
for his follow-up feature “45 Years” to deliver. The filmmaker is
tackling a very different type of story in “45 Years,” by adapting a
short story by poet David Constantine about a long-married couple’s
relationship that’s put under severe stress by the discovery of the body
of the husband’s long lost first love. With Charlotte Rampling
headlining his cast, Haigh is in good hands. This has the makings of
Romanian director Radu Jude’s dark comedy of domestic abuse, “Everybody in Our Family,” was a sleeper hit on the festival circuit following its Berlin premiere in 2012. Now he returns to the festival with a far more sophisticated effort, the period drama “Aferim!,” a black-and-white tale set in feudal Europe. Peppered with folklore and boisterous music, “Aferim!” also holds suggests another dark comic edge that satirizes the social mores of its setting. The images in the trailer look lush, but with Jude, nothing is sacred.
Chilean director Pablo Larraín made a name for himself with a trio of movies that confront his country’s past dictatorship, the chilling allegorical thrillers “Tony Manero” and “Post Mortem” followed by the Oscar-nominated historical drama “No.” Following the widespread acclaim for that movie, Larraín returns to the allegorical front with this minimalist tale set in a remote house on the Chilean coast. Said to involve a set of priests and a nun facing down the arrival of an invasive new priest, “The Club” suggests another frightening and strange tale of societal and religious customs pushed to their breaking point, through the filter of the director’s typically shrewd lens.
Bill Condon disappointed with his last limp effort, the Julian Assange profile “The Fifth Estate.” For his latest, he’s reunited with his “Gods and Monsters” star Ian McKellen for a hopeful comeback. The premise is too juicy to ignore. In “Mr. Holmes,” McKellen stars as, you guessed it, Sherlock Holmes. 93 and long-retired, “Mr. Holmes” picks up with the former detective as he reflects on his life and deals with deterioration of his once incredible mind. Laura Linney, who worked wonders in Condon’s “Kinsey,” reunites with the director to play Holmes’ housekeeper Mrs. Munro. With this cast and the beloved source material — the novel “A Slight Trick of the Mind” by Mitch Cullin — signs point to a return to form for Condon. We’ll know soon enough.
As soon as it was announced as part of this year’s lineup, Terrence Malick’s latest became the must-see of the festival. Shot by “The Tree of Life” DP Emmanuel Lubezki, “Knight of Cups” stars Christian Bale as a “slave to the Hollywood system” desperate to escape. Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett co-star as two of the women in his life. The trailer hints at a dark and hallucinatory experience, edgier in tone than Malick’s last two features (“The Tree of Life” and “To the Wonder”).
Portraying British explorer and political officer Gertrude Bell in the upcoming epic biopic “Queen of the Desert” from Werner Herzog is exactly the type of challenge that actress Nicole Kidman needs after the less-than-stellar “Grace of Monaco.” What’s more is that it will be interesting to see what Robert Pattinson brings to his portrayal of the iconic T.E. Lawrence a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia — a character that most cinephiles associate with the late Peter O’Toole.
“Queen of Earth”
Not to be mistaken with Herzog’s latest, “Queen of Earth” marks Alex Ross Perry’s second film with “Mad Men” star Elisabeth Moss, following their last (and first) collaboration together, “Listen Up Philip.” Moss delivered one of her best performances in “Philip”; it’s no wonder she reunited with the acerbic filmmaker for another modestly budgeted indie. In “Queen of Earth,” Moss pairs up with “Inherent Vice” breakout Katherine Waterston to play Catherine, an insecure young woman reeling from a sudden and unexpected breakup, plus the death of her father. Waterston plays her best friend, who has Catherine over to her family’s home to lend support. Moss is said to descend into a “downward spiral of decision and madness” over the course of the feature, according the press notes. This dark, emotional terrain sounds like new territory for Perry and we can’t wait to see how he pulls it off with Moss and Waterston leading the way.
Alba Rohrwacher, who most recently starred in the festival hits “The Wonders” and “Hungry Hearts,” receives another showcase in this first-time feature from Laura Bispuri. The story follows a young woman forced to adhere to traditional expectations of her gender in the isolated Albanian mountains — until she abandons them to become a man. The bulk of the narrative is said to take place a decade later, as the protagonist confronts her past decisions in a climate far less hospitable to her decision than it once was. The tragic setting and ace performer at its center suggest a compelling drama along with the discovery of a new talent behind the camera.
In 2010, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was banned from making movies for 20 years. That didn’t stop him. Following the fascinating docudrama “This is Not a Film” and the metaphorical drama “Closed Curtain,” Panahi continues this fascinating anti-authoritarian stage of his career with another clever means of working around the restrictions on his life — by driving a cab. Last year, in an interview with Indiewire, Panahi described the project, which finds him driving around in a cab and talking with customers, as an attempt “to stay connected with life…I knew I would be tempted to take a camera inside the cab.” But, he added, “I don’t want to do it with a hidden camera.” As always with Panahi, the deceptively simple premise suggests rich material lurking beneath the surface. Expect a wry blend of humor and tragedy as the filmmaker probes the society that keeps him stationary, but not unproductive.