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10 Films To Watch Before MVFF 39 Ends

Despite being half over, there are still films at the 39th Mill Valley Film Festival (hereafter MVFF 39) to check out. Gorge yourself on two great performances by Isabelle Huppert. Welcome back director Barry Jenkins. Celebrate the story of the case that made marriage equality possible. Whether you go to San Rafael or Larkspur for MVFF 39, you can find something intriguing.

Aquarius

Retired music critic Clara (Sonia Braga) is the last remaining tenant of the Aquarius apartment complex. But greedy real estate developers eye the Recife seaside land that Aquarius sits on. They want to knock down the old building and create yet another soulless and hermetically sealed apartment tower. Clara is not opposed to present-day change. But she draws the line at destroying the analog treasures that make life worth living.

California Typewriter

Doug Nichol delivers a cinematic love letter to the typewriter in this documentary. It braids together the titular Berkeley repair business, a Canadian collector, and a Bay Area artist to praise the machine’s tactile joys. Manual typewriters offer a pleasure that’s increasingly disappearing from our digital age.

Elle

The Christmas season proves gloomy and miserable for video game company CEO Michele (Isabelle Huppert in an amazing performance). She’s been brutally raped, yet acts as if nothing has happened. But her traumatic past makes her a pro at bottling emotional responses to traumatic events. When Michele finally learns the identity of her rapist, she acts to reclaim her life. Director Paul Verhoeven proves at the top of his game with this film.

Gimme Danger

The amazing Jim Jarmusch takes another dip into the rock documentary pool with a raucous portrait of music legend Iggy Pop. The film follows Iggy and his band The Stooges from early days through lineup shake-ups to the recording of their classic album Raw Power. Given that Iggy Pop has previously appeared in a couple of Jarmusch films, expect a very detailed behind-the-scenes look at a notorious rock icon.

Loving

The MVFF 39 Closing Night Film begins in the late 1950s. Lovers Richard and Mildred (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) had a simple plan. They’d get married in Washington, DC, build their house near their families’ homes, and live happily ever after. However, their plan had a couple of problems. Richard and Mildred’s families lived in Virginia. That Southern state had a law making illegal the interracial unions of couples such as Richard and Mildred Loving. Soon enough, the Lovings were arrested and jailed. The interracial couple’s fight against their arrest would eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special) directs the story of the case whose impact would reach all the way to the recent marriage equality fights.

A Monster Calls

The new dark fantasy film from J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) begins early on with lead character Connor’s recurring nightmare. A chasm opens in the land near Connor’s house, and his mother is in danger of falling in. Despite the boy’s best efforts, the worst happens. In real life, Connor’s Mum (Felicity Jones) is getting worse from a lingering illness and his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) isn’t big on providing comfort. Now a gravelly voiced monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) emerges from an elm tree to complicate the boy’s life.

Moonlight

Acclaimed Medicine For Melancholy director Barry Jenkins finally debuts his second film. It’s an adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The story begins in Reagan-era Miami, as young Chiron deals with school bullying, parental neglect, and the crack epidemic. His attempts to understand where he fits in the world is complicated by lack of a masculine role model and his confusion over his own sexuality.

Neruda

Pablo Larrain (No) directs an anti-biopic about famed Chilean poet and Communist Pablo Neruda. In 1948, Neruda is forced to go underground with wife Delia after the Chilean president orders a purge of Communists. Police inspector Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal) has been assigned to “harass and humiliate” Neruda. But between the cop’s near-misses and his personal demons, is the inspector’s story one of pursuer and pursued…or master and puppet?

Things To Come

Isabelle Huppert plays Nathalie, a tough philosophy professor whose life is unraveling. She’s lost faith in her field, her textbook isn’t getting reprinted, her husband wants a divorce, and her mother’s sinking into dementia. The professor’s friendship with a gifted student and his bohemian friends offers the possibility of living a more sensuous lifestyle. Mia Hansen-Love (Goodbye, First Love) directs in the second of two MVFF 39 films featuring a lead performance by Huppert.

Toni Erdmann

Acclaimed director Maren Ade goes into comedy territory in this tale molded in part by Andy Kaufman’s comedy. Winfried is a practical joker who wants to re-connect with his highly career focused daughter Ines. An initial effort at reconciliation by Winfried falls flat. So the jokester father decides to don a goofy wig and fake teeth and pose as Ines’ work colleague Toni Erdmann. Will Winfried’s plan succeed or end in disaster?

About the Author

I'm a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film...but don't tell anyone.

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