Empire of Light
A valentine to the movies from 1917 and Skyfall director Sam Mendes (here taking a solo screenplay credit for the first time), set in and around an English seaside cinema in the early 1980s. For Hilary (Olivia Colman), it’s not the most glamorous job in the world, shoveling popcorn and warmed over dogs for a dwindling number of punters, and sordid backroom fumblings with her manager (Colin Firth) don’t make her feel any better about herself. But when young, good-looking Stephen (Micheal Ward) joins the team, her outlook soon brightens. Indeed, the two of them forge an unexpectedly intense bond.
Colman must be odds-on favourite to make it four Academy Award nominations in five years for her deeply affecting and acutely nuanced portrait of an unhappy woman rediscovering her sense of joy. But there is another story going on here: Stephen is Black, and not likely to forget it in the racially entrenched and divisive surroundings of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. Small wonder the lovers seek refuge in their dreams.
Master cinematographer (and Mendes regular) Roger Deakins conjures all his wizardry here, and the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross score pulls everything together. Mendes has helmed a transformative movie.
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Robert Irwin: A Desert of Pure Feeling
No artist instills a sense of sublime awe like the legendary Robert Irwin, Elusive yet down to earth, Irwin is a true original. His extraordinary work is honored in this stunning portrait of one of the most influential contemporary artists of our age.
Veteran director Marco Bellocchio (The Traitor) returns with a passionate historical drama about a Jewish child abducted by Pope Pius IX in 1865 on the grounds that he had been secretly baptized. This is a rich, operatic film that resonates strongly.
The Mother of All Lies
As her parents and grandmother prepare to leave the Casablanca home they have lived in for decades, Asmae El Moudir takes the opportunity to probe the past, unraveling repressed truths buried within her own family and Moroccan political history.
A Cooler Climate
In a recollection of veteran filmmaker James Ivory's unfinished film about Afghanistan. Old footage provides a pronounced air of mystery to compliment its rough beauty, setting the scene for a look back into Ivory's life.
Winner of Cannes Critics' Week Grand Prix, Tiger Stripes is a coming-of-age body horror film set in a Malaysian girls' school. 12-year-old Zaffan’s body starts to change before everyone else’s, and she becomes convinced she's turning into a monster.
Michael Lerman, Julie Pastor
Pippa Harris, Sam Mendes
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross