10 Must-See Films at the Philadelphia Film Festival 2014
Ticket film critic Piers Marchant combed through the around-100 films playing at this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival to come up with 10 that you absolutely must get a ticket for. His choices comprise flicks he saw at the Toronto International Film Festival, and ones that have generated buzz on the year’s film festival circuit.
Art & Craft: A fascinating doc from Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman about a gifted art forger who plies his craft not for financial gain but to convince museums that his bogus works are the real deal. Insight into art museum curation abounds, but it’s the peculiar mystery of supreme forger Mark Landis and the former museum curator who dedicates his life to stopping him, that powers the film.
Birdman: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s previous film was the heartbreaking Biutiful. Here he lightens the mood considerably and in great style. The film stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up former Hollywood star who pours everything he has into his own Broadway production of a Raymond Carver adaptation, with comedic, tragic, and enervating results.
The Duke of Burgundy: A surprise hit up at the Toronto International Film Festival, Peter Strickland’s followup to the well-received Berberian Sound Studio, involves the exploration of a couple’s encoded sexuality, and the emotional layers that contour around it. Critics lucky enough to have seen it on the festival circuit have absolutely flipped for it (it currently has a 100 percent rating on rottentomatoes.com).
Force Majeure: Half telling drama, half dark comedy, Ruben Östlund’s film, set in the stunning French Alps, follows the travails of a married couple and their family after the panic of a false-alarm avalanche leads the husband to grab his cell phone and desert his family cowering under a table of an outdoor restaurant at their luxury hotel.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter: Imagine watching the Coen brothers’ Fargo for the first time and assuming its fictionalized reality is, in fact, some kind of twisty treasure map leading to a very-real satchel of cash buried somewhere in a Dakota field. Then picture yourself leaving your home country (in this case, Japan), traveling to the high plains in the U.S. and searching for said treasure. That’s essentially the gist of David Zellner’s peculiar drama, and you may color us more than intrigued.
Listen Up, Philip: With a dynamite cast (Jason Schwartzman, Elizabeth Moss, Krysten Ritter, Jonathan Price) and a much-venerated writer/director (Alex Ross Perry, The Color Wheel) at the helm, this film sounds like a winner. It follows the trials and travails of a sullen novelist who gets an opportunity to escape his girlfriend and the rest of the city to head off to a cabin by himself. Can we hope for Greenberg in the Catskills?
Mulholland Drive: One of David Lynch’s most satisfying sagas of bizarre ephemera. The film stars Naomi Watts (in her first lead role), as a young woman who moves to Hollywood to live with a relative and make her way as an actress. Instead, she gets embroiled in a Lynchian nightmare world where she and an amnesiac woman targeted for murder, attempt to unravel the complex, enigmatic conspiracy against her.
The Tribe: Among the most fascinating releases of the year, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s drama about a young student having to fit in at a specialized boarding school is shot entirely in un-subtitled sign language. It’s a testament to the filmmaker and the actors that one does not need to know sign language to fully understand what’s going on. It, too, has earned raves on the festival circuit (including the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes.)
Two Days, One Night: The Dardenne brothers already enjoy a sterling reputation amongst critics and cinephiles, but this film—concerning a depressed mother (Marion Cotillard) who loses her job while on a medical leave of absence, but is given one weekend to convince her co-workers for her reinstatement—is among their very best work. It’s also the single best movie I’ve seen this year, if that wasn’t enough of an endorsement.
Winter Sleep: This year’s Palme D’Or winner, celebrated Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylon’s deliberately paced, dyspeptic drama concerns a former actor turned small-town hotel owner, and the slow unraveling of his very public persona over the course of a particularly frigid season.
The Philadelphia Film Festival starts Thursday, October 16 and runs through October 26th. Tickets and full schedules can be found right here.