”Parasite”, 2019 | Barunson E&A, CJ Entertainment
Nothing like an Almodóvar film and a noir thriller to get the conversation started. One of the best things about autumn just has to be the films released (strategically or not) this time of year. Here is my very select list of some of the most noteworthy movies arriving in cinemas this fall.
”Dolor y gloria”, 2019 | El Deseo, Canal+
Dolor y gloria, directed by Pedro Almodóvar
The film reunites Almodóvar and Antonio Banderas in what the filmmaker deems a deeply personal story. Banderas plays film director Salvador Mallo (writing this name, I’ve realised the resemblance to Almodóvar’s name – it includes all the letters in the director’s surname) whose life is falling apart in middle age. I am a fan of Almodóvar’s films and after all the accolades Pain and Glory has received so far (it premiered at Cannes and Banderas won the award for best actor) and after hearing the director talk (scroll down to the episode with Almodóvar) about the film, I don’t think I am setting my expectations high for no reason. From the set design and visual style to the musical score by Alberto Iglesias, his longtime collaborator, from the journey into his own psyche to Antonio Banderas’ possibly best performance to date, Almodóvar has certainly prepared for us something difficult to predict and most likely one of his key films.
”Joker”, 2019 | BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance
Joker, directed by Todd Phillips
When I first heard that they were making Joker, the villain origin story, I immediately connected it with the Batman franchise and bearing in mind Heath Ledger’s performance in Dark Knight, which I consider no less than the best film performance of all time, and although I admire Joaquin Phoenix’s acting tremendously, I just thought it was a very bad idea. But things seem to be a little different. I’ve only watched the trailer, but it gave me the goosebumps. Joker seems to be more like a distinctive, character-driven drama that has nothing to do with Batman and more to do with Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy (Robert De Niro appears in Joker, too). Every once in a while there comes a film which you have a certain feeling about. I wonder if Joker is one of them. At first sight, it appears that way. And it has just won the Golden Lion in Venice. And that song, Jimmy Durante’s “Smile” (which originally appeared as an instrumental track in Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 Modern Times) that plays in the trailer… And talking about the music department, I just have to add that the composer for the movie is Hildur Guðnadóttir, who is also known for collaborating with Jóhann Jóhannsson (see note end of article) on the scores for Arrival (2016) and Sicario (2015). Everything looks and sounds good so far.
”La Gomera”, 2019 | 42 km Film, Bord Cadre Films
La Gomera, directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
The Whistlers (the English distribution title) is actually the only film of the ones in this list that I have already watched and it is one of the best movies of the year. “El Silbo” is a whistling language, a whistled version of Spanish used by the locals on the island of La Gomera in the Canaries. Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu said that a few years ago he watched a documentary about “El Silbo”, and that this fascinating language, on the verge of disappearance, was being rediscovered and used again on La Gomera, and it inspired him to write this story. In the film, Cristi is a corrupt Romanian cop who becomes involved with the mob and he is brought to La Gomera to be schooled in the tradition of silbo whistling so that he can get a crooked business man out of prison. “Good luck trying to sort it all out, because in the grand tradition of “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Big Sleep,” Porumboiu treasures the chemistry between his characters over the meandering scenario that grows around them,” wrote Eric Kohn for IndieWire. A neo-noir thriller with a flashback narrative, ambiguous characters who all have something to hide, a femme fatale with a mysterious past, each chapter built around a main colour (just have a look at the film poster), motel sequences that remind of Hitchcock, an abandoned film studio that reminds of westerns, a winding scenario and a stylized world that pull you in and keeps you guessing until the end credits.
”Les plus belles années d’une vie“, 2019 | Les Films 13
Les plus belles années d’une vie, directed by Claude Lelouch
Claude Lelouch, who won the Palme d’Or in 1966 with Un home et une femme, returned to Cannes this year with the film Les plus belles années d’une vie which brings back the mythical couple Jean-Louis Trintignant and Anouk Aimée from 53 years ago. If only for that reason alone, I want to watch the movie.
”The Irishman”, 2019 | Netflix
The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese
Based on Charles Brandt’s true-crime book “I Heard You Paint Houses”, The Irishman tells the story of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a World War II veteran who became a mob hitman and played a role in union boss Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance. Al Pacino (in his first Scorsese film!) plays Hoffa. The cast also includes Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. Yes, it looks like the good old times. And as a matter of fact I have been re-watching some of the director’s classics after listening to Edith Bowman’s great interview with Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese’s long-time collaborator. But I have to admit that I will go see The Irishman with mixed feelings. The de-aging technology used in the film on De Niro, Pacino and Pesci, who play their characters across decades, does not sit well with me. Does a Scorsese film really need extensive visual effects?
”Marriage Story”, 2019 | Heyday Films, Netflix
Marriage Story, directed by Noah Baumbach
The film addresses parental separating and its effects on children. But it’s not the story of every divorce, as director Noah Baumbach draws on his own experience, both as a child and a parent, to tell a very personal story. Adam Driver plays Charlie, a playwright, and Scarlett Johansson plays Nicole, an actor, and they are going through unsettling divorce proceedings, fighting for the custody of their son. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and both Johansson and Driver have been praised for their tremendous performances.
”It Must Be Heaven”, 2019 | Abbout Productions, Possible Media
It Must Be Heaven, directed by Elia Suleiman
Elia Suleiman’s image-making talent and slapstick auteurship have been compared to the films of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton. In It Must Be Heaven, the filmmaker-actor Elia Suleiman hardly speaks a word. He emigrates from Palestine to Paris then New York in search of a new home, but the promise of a new life soon transforms into a human comedy. Suleiman explores notions such as nationality, identity and belonging and is a smart and ironic observer of human behaviour in a world filled with tension and paradoxes.
”Parasite”, 2019 | Barunson E&A, CJ Entertainment
Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho
The winner of this year’s Palme d’Or, Parasite has even been compared to Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, the last year winner, to some extent. It deals with class difference, movement up and down the economic ladder and a poor family which resorts to whatever necessary to make ends meet. It is a “tragy-comedy”, in the director’s own words, and it seems to have all the elements – a world defined by structural inequity, a comedy of errors, narrative unpredictability, dark layers, craftsmanship – to win my interest and to qualify as a contender as one of the best films of the year.
Note*: In the initial edition of this article I had not mentioned Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Note**: “Les plus belles années d’une vie” and “It Must Be Heaven” were not initially included in my list because I am not sure if they will have a general release in cinemas this autumn, but they will play at various small festivals around the world, so you may have the chance to catch them in your town by the end of the year.