15 Must-See Films from Venice 2013
A look at some of the best movies screened at Venice, including films from Alfonso Cuarón, Miyazaki, Jonathan Glazer, Ming-liang Tsai, Kelly Reichardt and a new generation of the Coppolas.
With this year's diverse Toronto International Film Festival underway, and both the New York and London fests soon to follow, summer blockbuster malaise has given way -- for critics, anyway -- to the beginning of that months-long circus known as awards season. To get things rolling, here's a look at 15 of the most buzzed-about titles to look out for from the just-wrapped Venice film festival -- with the critics weighing in on new stuff from the likes of Miyazaki, Glazer, Gilliam, Cuarón and (yes, yet another) Coppola.
Though it screened out of competition, Alfonso Cuarón's long-overdue return was met with arguably the loudest critical applause, and with the raves now extending to Toronto, the buzz on the Children of Men director's tense space thriller Gravity is nearing fever pitch. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as astronauts cut adrift in the void after their shuttle is destroyed, with Cuarón delivering an experience that has thus far left critics breathless. When no less than James Cameron declares it "the best space film ever done," you can consider the stakes effectively raised.
2. The Wind Rises
It goes without saying that a new Miyazaki will be at the top of any must-see list, but this time it's all the more compelling -- and terribly bittersweet -- given the director's shock announcement at Venice that The Wind Rises will be his final film. And this time he really, really means it. Miyazaki's first feature since 2009's Ponyo is a more personal, mature affair, continuing the director's obsession with flight in its story of the designer of Japan's WWII fighter planes. It's already been an enormous hit in Miyazaki's home nation, and reviews so far are strong. One can only hope he changes his mind about retiring. Again.
3. Night Moves
With Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, Kelly Reichardt has been on a major roll -- and it looks as though the director's latest, the eco-action thriller Night Moves, is set to continue her critical winning streak. Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Saarsgard play environmentalists en route to demolish a dam, a premise that, by most accounts, has been elevated by the filmmaker's trademark touch. Reichardt "takes this volatile story," writes Xan Brooks in The Guardian, "and handles it with care and precision, as if transporting unstable nitroglycerin."
4. Under the Skin
In what surely comprises some of the more inspired casting of late, Scarlett Johansson plays an alien in human form, wandering through Scotland in search of men to prey upon. If the pitch sounds like B-grade sci-fi, then director Jonathan Glazer -- who hasn't made a feature since 2004's Birth -- has by many accounts crafted a distinct original, with Film.com's William Goss calling it a "surreal study of an outsider examining our world with a clinical fascination, driven by a cryptic purpose, more akin to David Bowie's visitor in The Man Who Fell to Earth." Under the Skin has proved otherwise divisive with Venice critics, however, which only makes it more exciting to see.
5. Tom at the Farm
Still just 24 and with four feature films to his name, French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan will be hearing the label "precocious" for some time to come -- and with good reason. Last year's epic, hyperstylized melodrama Laurence Anyways upped the director's ambition and creative ante, and Tom at the Farm seems to have pared back the indulgence but not the talent. "A kinky queer noir detailing the dangers awaiting a gay Montreal hipster as he journeys to the homophobic heartland for his lover's funeral," writes Guy Lodge at Variety, "it's an improbably exciting match of knife-edge storytelling and a florid vintage aesthetic." Let's hope the film gets a wider theatrical release in the US than Dolan's last.