June brings new “specialty” films to this region’s theaters and performance spaces as well as some unusual and fascinating one-off screenings. [See my recommendations for May here. Some of those films might still be showing in area theaters.]
Leading off our lineup of recommended specialty/art films is Past Lives, which is receiving the best reviews of any movie this year according to Indiewire.com. And it doesn’t even start its theatrical release until this weekend.
The early raves for the film (directed and written by Korean-Canadian playwright Celine Song) are due to the fact it premiered at January’s Sundance Film Festival and then went on to the Berlin Film Festival, so critics had a chance to take it in. According to New York Times critic Jessica Kiang, who saw it at Berlin, the story concerns how Nora (played by Greta Lee), a Korean-Canadian playwright living in New York City, reconnects with a childhood sweetheart from Seoul, Hae Sung (Teo Yoo). Nora knew him before her marriage to American writer Arthur (John Magaro).
“It sounds like a standard love-triangle setup,” Kiang writes. “In fact, it is anything but, unfurling into a gorgeous, glowing, aching thing that connects with viewers from every conceivable background, so universal are its highly specific observations on love and friendship.”
[Watch the trailer. Showing at 12:55 p.m. June 3 at Cinemark Oakley Station, AMC Newport, Cinemark Western Hills 14, Springdale Showcase Cinemas, Milford 16, and Regal Deerfield Town Center. Encores on June 7 at Oakley, Newport, and Deerfield.]
The Metropolitan Opera’s hugely popular Live in HD programming simulcasts its New York City theatrical productions. A new production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte from the heralded British director Simon McBurney promises to use projections, sound effects, acrobats, and 100 speakers along with the cast to achieve an immersive experience. The opera already merited a major New York Times feature, headlined “Winds Whisper, and the Birds Sing. It’s Kind of Magical.” The most popular Met Operas tend to sell out at local movie theaters, so consider buying tickets in advance for this one.
Gender dysphoria—the unease one can feel with their biologically assigned gender identity—has become an important health/cultural concern and political issue in this country, so we need more dramatic movies considering the topic with sensitivity and depth. Word is that we may have such a film with director/co-writer Emanuele Crialese’s L’immensità, an Italian/French coproduction that’s in Italian. That the title translates to “the immensity” gives some indication as to how important this issue can be for young people who feel it.
Luana Giuliani plays Adriana/Adri/Andrea (the latter is a predominately male name in Italy), a 12-year-old assigned female who identifies as male. The child’s parents (played by Penélope Cruz and Vicenzo Amato) are having marital problems; a young girl, Sara, spends time and draws close with Andrea. At last year’s Venice Film Festival, this film was nominated for both the Golden Lion and Queer Lion awards.
The Eight Mountains
Finally, this very promising movie is on the “Coming Soon” section of the Esquire’s and Mariemont’s websites, but without an opening date. A contact there says it’s likely for June, so keep a look out.
The Eight Mountains is an Italian language drama with a sweeping narrative structure to match the sweepingly breathtaking views of the Italian Alps, where much of it was shot. It’s directed by Belgian filmmakers Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch and is based on a novel by Paolo Cognetti. According to Wikipedia, the title comes from a Buddhist concept that the world is composed of nine mountains and eight seas.
The film’s main characters are Pietro, who as a boy from Turin visits an Alps village one summer and begins a friendship with Bruno, a boy his age who lives there. The movie takes a richly complex, novelistic approach to following their lives and friendship as they become adults, face challenges, and meet women they love. (Luca Marinelli plays the older Pietro; Alessandro Borghi is Bruno.)
“It isn’t just the movie’s visual grandeur that wows you; it’s the scale of it, the way it merges the epic and the intimate,” writes Justin Chang for an NPR review. “At times the camera will pull back and show us the characters from a distance, dwarfed by the sheer magnificence of their surroundings, as if to suggest how small we all are in the scheme of things. But then it will cut to Pietro and Bruno, letting their faces and bodies fill the screen, and their lives suddenly don’t seem so insignificant. Their love story is beautiful—and unforgettable.”
The Melt Goes on Forever: The Art & Times of David Hammons
[Showing June 9-11 at Speed Art Museum, Louisville.]
One of the 20th Century’s greatest works of conceptual/performance art occurred in New York City’s East Village on a winter day in 1983. David Hammons, an African-American artist slowly gaining attention, laid snowballs on a sidewalk and tried to sell them. Weird and funny, yes—like Duchamp’s “Fountain”—but also ineffably touching in its dream that fleeting beauty can be held onto forever. Few people saw the artwork at the time, but with the passing of decades it’s become so legendary that it provides the title for this new documentary about Hammons, now one of our most important active artists. I saw the film in New York recently (in a sold-out theater) and think it’s a must for fans of contemporary art.
American Hospitals: Healing a Broken System
[Screens at 5 p.m. June 11 at Esquire Theatre.]
There’s an interesting creation story behind this new documentary that’s traveling the U.S. for special screenings. It’s from Fix It Films, part of the Easton, Pennsylvania-based Unfinished Business Foundation, which Charity Navigator lists as being a nonprofit founded by Richard Master, CEO of the home furnishings designer and manufacturer MCS Industries.
According to online information about this movie, Master was shaken by a double-digit increase in healthcare insurance costs for his employees and wondered how long such increases were sustainable for employers. That prompted him to commission this look into the “money-driven big business with out of control costs” that he thinks hospital care has become; a lot of people would agree with him. This is his fourth documentary, following Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point, Big Pharma: Market Failure, and Big Money Agenda: Democracy on the Brink.
Incidentally, Master isn’t alone among wealthy business leaders concerned about health issues. The website statnews.com recently had an article about “a cadre of billionaires … mounting an unorthodox campaign against hospitals.” (It doesn’t feature Master; I don’t know if he’s a billionaire or not.)
Sundance Film Festival 2023 Short Film Tour
Incredibly, almost 11,000 shorts were submitted for this past January’s highly influential Sundance Film Festival, but only 64 were accepted. From those, Sundance jurors have put together a traveling 90-minute program showcasing seven outstanding award winners and nominees, and it’s coming to Cincinnati World Cinema’s Garfield Theatre this month. Sundance often is where our future great directors get their earliest recognition, so you might well be seeing the auteuerist superstars of tomorrow here.
Chunky Shrapnel / Sleeping Monster
It’s amazing how every now and then a jam band catches fire, breaks through that crowded musical niche, and becomes a big international draw. That seems to be happening to a prolific Australian psychedelic-rock band known as King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, co-led by guitarist Stuart Mackenzie. Their current tour covers some of the best international festivals and coolest venues (including three nights at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheater) as well as a package of music-filled docs in theaters. Chunky Shrapnel, a full-length feature, covers their 2019 European tour; the shorter Sleeping Monster offers us their adventures building a Melbourne studio during the COVID lockdown in order to record the album Changes, released to widespread praise last year.
[Watch the trailer. Opens at multiple theaters on June 22.]
Wes Anderson is without rival in mixing together the strangest of ingredients to create his post-modernist films: museum-quality set design, sterling and artful cinematography, cool music, erudite comedy, and A-list actors clashing with deadpan, put-on, and slapstick humor in service of plots that sometimes twist and turn pleasingly and sometimes wind up running in exasperating circles. They can work beautifully (The Grand Budapest Hotel) or feel archly artificial (The French Dispatch). But I wouldn’t miss one, and never have.
Asteroid City is set in a small desert town in 1955, where a group gathers for a Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention. Unexpected events cause an emergency (an early review reveals that an alien pays a visit). The cast features Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Jeff Goldblum, Liev Schreiber, and on and on.
Anderson films have been a quintessential indie-theater experience since his wonderfully offbeat first movie, 1996’s Bottle Rocket. The Esquire or Mariemont (it’s unclear yet which will play the film) will have it, but there will be plenty of competition when Asteroid City opens for evening screenings on June 22. The distributor, Focus Features, is treating the film like a mainstream summer crowd pleaser—it will also be at AMC Westchester, Cinemark Milford 16, Cinemark Western Hills 14, AMC Newport, Cinemark Oakley Station, and Regal Deerfield Town Center. It’s also opening at downtown Dayton’s cozy and hip The Neon cinema beginning June 22; tickets are now on sale.
[Screens June 24-25 at Speed Art Museum.]
This 2022 documentary by Alexandre O. Philippe looks at the influence the classic Wizard of Oz has had in shaping the surreal aesthetic of perhaps America’s greatest living director, David Lynch. The program notes from the cinema at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum, which is presenting the show, explain it eloquently: “Arguably, no filmmaker has so consistently drawn inspiration—consciously or unconsciously—from a single work. If so, can we derive a new appreciation for Lynch’s body of work from taking a closer look at how it intersects and communicates with The Wizard of Oz?”