Our mid-blockbuster break continues as we look at another half-dozen of the promising non-mainstream films that have been unwrapped out there but not yet delivered directly to us in E-town.
This time? Dramas. Even as Abbas Kiarostami’s Tuscan meditation on romance and truth, Certified Copy, is tentatively scheduled to arrive in late July, another acclaimed Iranian film is making waves beyond our shores. Plus a coming-of-age Britcom, a radical art-docudrama, a horror flick, and more. Track these down online or look for them at your local alt-video store or re-opening arthouse cinema come fall.
Nader and Simin, A Separation (Dir. Asghar Farhadi)
This past February, Farhadi’s fifth feature became not only the first Iranian film to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival but also picked up the Best Actor (for the four leading men) and Best Actress Prizes (for the four leading women), as well the Ecumenical Prize of the Jury. Simin wants to leave the country to pursue a better life for their 11-year-old daughter, but Nader wants to stay—he’s concerned for his father, suffering from Alzheimer’s. The difference of opinion turns into a demand for divorce, but the tragedy ripples onwards and outwards from the upper middle-class couple. Like most Iranian films, A Separation’s also allegorical, its domestic fray revealing larger rips in the country’s social and political fabric. Playing in the UK right now; hope for it to come here in the fall to the Edmonton Film Fest or the Garneau and hit disc come winter.
Submarine (Dir. Richard Ayoade)
Awkwardly trying to fit into the growing-up genre, somewhere between Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, comes this debut from comedian-actor-writer Ayoade. Adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel and featuring some songs from the Arctic Monkeys frontman, the story follows Oliver Tate, a super-imaginative outsider in love with classmate Jordana. Much dry teen erudition and some giddy camerawork ensue. Came out in the US last month, so should be on disc by fall.
The Arbor (Dir. Clio Barnard)
This unorthodox approach to an unorthodox playwright is more self-aware reconstruction than documentary, mixing archival doc footage, excerpts from one of her plays on the housing estate where she lived, and actors lip-synching to recorded interviews. Andrea Dunbar was a heavy-drinking playwright-prodigy from Yorkshire who premiered her first work (the title piece) in London by 1980 but was dead by 1990. She left three children, the eldest, a 10-year-old daughter, Lorraine, suffering through racism (for having a Pakistani father), drug addiction and prostitution. Critics have hailed Barnard’s “staged reality” approach. Played south of the border in May, so should be available on disc by the fall.
The Silent House (Dir. Gustavo Hernández/Chris Kentis, Laura Lau)
Declared the first single-take horror film (though that’s now debated) and shot on a photo camera, this 2010 Uruguayan chiller was soon remade, the American version garnering some good buzz also. The story occupies the last 78 minutes of a night that a girl spends in the cottage—soon full of eerie noises and happenings—she’s supposed to repair in the morning before putting it up for sale. Critics have been a bit mixed on its scariness and psychological realism, but either the original or remake should be out soon so you can decide for yourself.
My Perestroika (Dir. Robin Hessman)
Currently the highest-rated film of the year on Metacritic, Hessman’s doc uses a light, kaleidoscopic touch to document five different Russians’ reactions to living through the fall of the Soviet Union. Their various versions are highly personal and often unexpected; Hessman’s film has brought comparisons to Michael Apted’s classic doc series 7 Up in its sieving of personal memory through the hourglass of history. Recently aired on PBS, too, so should be on disc within the next few months.
Tuesday After Christmas (Dir. Radu Muntean)
The Romanian New Wave has ebbed a little in the past couple of years (although Cristi Puiu’s recent, three-hour Aurora has received some critical backing), but Muntean’s domestic drama has edged it back into the spotlight. When Paul, husband of 10 years to Adriana, brings daughter Mara to the dentist he’s been having an affair with for the past six months, a quirk of scheduling brings the two women face-to-face. Initially a suspenseful agony of surreptitious matrimonial crisis, this film becomes “more about well-observed moments of daily life than … about heightened melodrama.” Out in the US a month ago, so look for it at festivals, arthouse cinemas, or on disc by autumn. V