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10 to See at the Ptown International Film Fest

by Jake Mulligan
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Tuesday Jun 18, 2013
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There’s no film festival like Provincetown. While other festivals focus on independent films, or genre films, or foreign cinema; The Provincetown International Film Festival casts a wider net. They program their festival based not on arbitrary specifications but based on a mood; each film achieving some semblance of the fierce authorial vision that defines the festival itself.

The collection of new release films on offer this year includes some of our greatest working filmmakers; Pedro Almodovar and Brian De Palma among them. But this years ’Filmmaker on the Edge’ award, given yearly to a director of high acclaim, is going to someone who may finally be able to claim a spot among the world’s best.

Fresh off his masterpiece "Spring Breakers," Harmony Korine will be in town to screen some of his own films, and to have the annual ’On The Edge’ conversation with festival stalwart John Waters (a legend in his own right.)

The lineup at this year’s festival is as eclectic, and as intimidating, as always. So in between the parties and the awards and the panels, here are ten films you absolutely have to see while by the sea.


Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Independent filmmaker David Lowery’s mystical crime film has been the talk of the festival circuit since its Sundance Premiere; and is gearing up for a large release this summer. Starring Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara; the film chronicles "an outlaw who escapes from prison, and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with the wife and daughter he never met." The plot sounds very 30s-redemtion-narrative, but the aesthetic treatment has been compared to no less than Terrence Malick. That’s a combination that demands to be checked out.


Crystal Fairy

Michael Cera stars in this incisive takedown of the Tumblr generation; the former-and-future Bluth once again the avatar for our floppy-haired collective self. He’s gone to Chile with director Sebastian Silva, and, in this film, he’s searching for the best drugs he can possibly find (in Provincetown, he surely won’t be the only one.) His quest for a hallucinogenic cactus leads him out to the beaches; and the visions that ensue are almost enough to make him realize all his pleasure searching has caused him to miss out on pleasure itself. The 3rd-act platitudes are played out, but come for the tone-perfect satire of the milieu.


The Hunt

Director Thomas Vinterberg has previously defined the Dogme movement, and shifted the entire aesthetic of international cinema. Now he just wants to tell a story. The irreproachable Mads Mikkelsen ("Hannibal," "Valhalla Rising,") stars in this story of a teacher, single, a father; whose recent upswing in luck - his job is going well, his son is spending time with him - is demolished by a erroneous accusation. Vinterberg’s approach is occasionally manipulative; but there’s not a single contour on Mads’ face that doesn’t sell us on the tragedy.


I’m So Excited

Pedro Almodovar (his first name has back,) has been fairly serious over the past ten years, or at least, he’s kept his tongue planted firmly within his cheek. His last effort, "The Skin I Live In," was among his slyly satirical best. But where’s the screwballin’ Almodovar of "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," the one we all fell in love with? He’s here, directing this farce-like escapade about a bunch of passengers, stranded in "a world that bears no resemblance to reality," and stuck on a plane doomed to go down. As always, a lot of sex ensues.


Laurence Anyways

Xaiver Dolan’s latest feature may be the most ambitious in the entire festival. For 3 hours, he follows the relationship between a transsexual man in the process of becoming a woman, and his girlfriend. Dolan’s eye is audacious and understanding in equal measure. While the film’s uneven construction is impossible to deny, he ably creates sequences both operatic (a series of un-contextualized close-ups truly astounds,) and down-to-earth. He’s still a filmmaker to watch; rather than a filmmaker who has arrived; but this is his best work yet.


Passion

Brian De Palma’s latest film doesn’t open until August, but fans of the Hitchcockian auteur will surely flock to P-Town to see his latest, "Passion" - it’s his best picture in over ten years. Not since "Femme Fatale" has the "Carrie" auteur had this much fun; setting up Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace here as two flirty PR executives engaged in a Parisian battle-of-wits. It’s De Palma, so the sexual tension quickly amplifies into actual sex, and then violence, and then total madness. But the real beauty is in the compositions, in the return of his trademark split-screen, and in his completely visual style of storytelling. "Passion" doesn’t just show that De Palma is back, it shows that he never went anywhere in the first place.


Prince Avalanche

The best film I saw at Boston’s independent film festival was this transcendent entry into the teen-genre; a painful, melodramatic, searing investigation of one drunken boy (Miles Teller,) forced to wake up to the realization that his behavior actually affects other people. While playfully remaining within the archetypes and plot-beats of a teen movie, "Spectacular" cuts out all the bullshit. The filmmakers know that high school is more like a Douglas Sirk movie than "Ferris Bueller." Actually, this is like "Margaret" - but made for an audience the same age as the characters.


Drugstore Cowboy

Out filmmaker Gus Van Sant has had one of the most eclectic careers of any filmmaker working. He turned out Oscar gold with "Milk," he turned "Psycho" into a critically-eviscerated piece of experimental filmmaking; he paid tribute to Bela Tarr with the ’Death Trilogy,’ and he let his id loose on wild projects like "To Die For." But he’s never been better than in this lyrical reverie, shown in tribute to awards recipient Matt Dillon. We’ve always known that Gus Van Sant was a poet; but this film is the proof.


Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine will be on hand to accept the ’On the Edge’ award, and so will his latest, and best, film. A neon-splattered trance equally indebted to Michael Mann, Tony Scott, and softcore pornography; "Breakers" is still the best movie that’s come out this year. Because Korine doesn’t try to philosophize, or sympathize, or anything else. He doesn’t want to deconstruct the younger generation. He just wants to find the pulse.


The Spectacular Now

The best film I saw at Boston’s independent film festival was this transcendent entry into the teen-genre; a painful, melodramatic, searing investigation of one drunken boy (Miles Teller,) forced to wake up to the realization that his behavior actually affects other people. While playfully remaining within the archetypes and plot-beats of a teen movie, "Spectacular" cuts out all the bullshit. The filmmakers know that high school is more like a Douglas Sirk movie than "Ferris Bueller." Actually, this is like "Margaret" - but made for an audience the same age as the characters.


Comments

  • Anonymous, 2013-07-06 20:02:59

    There’s an error here. Two films with different titles and photos have the same description.


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