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Flavorwire's October Indie Movie Guide


Fall has fallen, festivals have come and gone, and Oscar Buzz ™ is in the air! Yes, folks, good movie season is full swing, and this October offers up an embarrassment of riches, from Cannes and TIFF winners to genre documentaries to welcome revivals. Here’s what we recommend this month:

‘Pain & Glory’


DIRECTOR: Pedro Almodóvar

CAST: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Penélope Cruz

If he hadn’t already used the title, Almodóvar could’ve called his latest film All About My Mother, so steeped is it in the memories of his childhood, and his complex relationship with his madre (here played by Penelope Cruz, in what’s delightfully billed as “la collaboracion special,” which, y’know, accurate). Antonio Banderas stars as an aging filmmaker with a more than passing resemblance to Almodóvar himself, looking back on his life in the twilight of his career, through the lenses of three relationships: that one, the estranged collaboration with a leading man, and the doomed romance with an impossible addict. Over the course of this introspective, moving, and often funny picture, he attempts to find peace with all of those relationships, and Pain and Glory is a deft examination of the courage it takes to face your own mistakes, and own them. And Banderas has never been better.

'Dolemite Is My Name'


DIRECTOR: Craig Brewer

CAST: Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key

Rudy Ray Moore was a lot of things – stand-up comedian, R&B singer, movie producer, action hero – but the one thing he wasn’t was a guy who took “no” for an answer. Eddie Murphy stars as Moore in this affectionate biopic, which covers his rise from hack nightclub emcee to recording sensation, and the production of his first, low-budget big-screen vehicle, Dolemite. As they did in Ed Wood, screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski adroitly capture the communal spirit of a no-budget film shoot, while director Brewer (Hustle & Flow) manages to replicate some of the gonzo energy of those scrappy little movies. But the real news here is Murphy’s delightful lead performance; in bringing this long-lost legend back to life, he seems to rediscover some of his own comic mojo.

‘Memory: The Origins of ALIEN’


DIRECTOR: Alexandre O. Philippe

CAST: Documentary

Mr. Philippe, director of the Psycho shower scene examination 78/52, is back with another deep-dive for film nerds, this time delving into the making of Ridley Scott’s influential 1979 sci-fi/horror classic. The more direct subject can make this one feel, at times, like a Blu-ray bonus feature, but Philippe keeps his fluidity and peculiarity intact, not only contextualizing the film’s creation and release, but delving into the many influences — everything from forgotten comic books to Greek mythology — that manifested themselves in Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett’s screenplay. Rich with new and archival interviews, rare footage and sketches, and enlightening comparison shots, it’s still definitely for fans (and fans with deep familiarity) of Alien. But boy are they gonna love this.


RELEASE DATE: October 11

DIRECTOR: Bong Joon-ho

CAST: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik

There was a moment, about two-thirds into Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’or winner, in which I realized my mouth was literally agape – literally, and I mean that in the proper sense, like my jaw was hanging open, so simultaneously baffled and delighted was I by the nutso events I was witnessing onscreen. That response is indicative of the wonderful “where are we going”-ness of the Okja director’s latest, which begins as a typically lighthearted con artist comedy and then transcends into the kind of movie where feral brutality and copious bloodshed seems not only possible, but inevitable. A lesser director might bauble such sharp tonal turns and storytelling spontaneity, but not this one; he’s one of the most exciting filmmakers of our time, and even better, in his films and his career, I have no goddamn idea what he’s going to do next.

‘In My Room’

RELEASE DATE: October 11

DIRECTOR: Ulrich Köhler

CAST: Hans Löw, Elena Radonicich, Michael Wittenborn

Armin (Löw) is a real piece of work: bad at his job, terrible with women, worse to his family. And then one morning, while he’s sleeping one off while parked under a bridge, he wakes up and finds he’s, inexplicably, all alone in this world. And after a brief contemplation of disappearing himself (seriously, why stick around for whatever comes next?), he decides to make the best of it. Ulrich Köhler’s inventive comedy/drama has the deadpan style of a German art film, but it has less in common with Fassbinder than Fox’s Last Man on Earth – or Groundhog Day, in which an it takes an act of God to turn an S.O.B. into a decent man.

‘Jojo Rabbit’

RELEASE DATE: October 18

DIRECTOR: Taika Waititi

CAST: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi

Screenwriter/director Waititi’s adaptation of Christine Leunens’s novel is, to put it mildly, a real high-wire act – a gleefully irrelevant, borderline farcical comedy set in Nazi-era Germany. (Or, as the dumb ads have put it, “an anti-hate satire.”) Considering the wide valley he’s working in, it’s not surprising that he can’t always navigate the turns, and some of the tonal shifts are jarring. But there’s nevertheless much to admire here, from the inventive direction to the power of the imagery to the precision of the performances (Rockwell is especially funny). And Waititi's signature comic juxtaposition, of contemporary attitudes and vernacular into incongruent environments, proves just as rich here as it has in his earlier works. It’s a film of risks, and most pay off.

‘Burning Cane’

ARRAY Releasing

RELEASE DATE: October 25

DIRECTOR: Phillip Youmans

CAST: Wendell Pierce, Karen Kaia Livers, Dominique McClellan

This story of dark secrets and buried violence in rural Louisana is one of those films seems to spend most of its running time meandering, and then snaps like a mousetrap. The source of most of its characters’ troubles is alcohol, upturning their lives and impairing their judgment, and one of writer/director Phillip Youmans’s keener gifts is his ability to dramatize the moment-to-moment scariness of being around an alcoholic, of trying to be agreeable, knowing an eruption waits patiently around the corner. Youmans’s storytelling style is elliptical and experimental, full of unexpected juxtapositions and strange detours. But it all pays off, beautifully.


RELEASE DATE: October 25


CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear

A great actor can recite a monologue with no words at all, and Isabelle Huppert has a moment at the end of this familial comedy/drama in which she does nothing more than smile a little smile, and it’s some of the greatest acting you’ve ever seen. Sachs (Love is Strange, Little Men) co-writes and directs this story of relationships beginning, ending, and continuing over a weekend in Portugal; it’s a shift from his usual New York setting, and the locale is sunny and sumptuous. Frankie is a tad stilted at times (perhaps due to the language hopping), and the laid-back, easy-breezy tempo and mood takes some acclamation. But it’s a film of genuine visual and verbal wit, and Huppert continues to confirm her standing as an international treasure.

‘Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound’

RELEASE DATE: October 25

DIRECTOR: Midge Costin

CAST: Documentary

“We talk a lot about the look of the film,” David Lynch explains. “We don’t talk a lot about the sound of the film.” Midge Costin’s documentary spends ninety-plus minutes doing just that, from the early days of sync sound to the art of effects and mixing, and if you’re the kind of movie nerd whose heart is set a-flutter by the mention of Walter Murch, this is the movie for you. It’s full of great stories about favorites and classics (Star Wars, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Jurassic Park, The Matrix, etc.), but ultimately, what’s most striking is the larger sense of history – how tightly the story of sound design’s evolution is intertwined with the story of Hollywood itself.

‘Downtown ‘81’

RELEASE DATE: October 25 (New York revival run)

DIRECTOR: Edo Bertoglio

CAST: Jean Michel Basquiat, John Lurie, Richard Weigand

Originally titled New York Beat Movie, this slice-of-life musical drama was shot by director Bertoglio and screenwriter Glenn O’Brien (both alums of the legendary public-access show TV Party) in 1980 and 1981, but was left unfinished due to financing issues; it was rediscovered, completed, and finally released in 2000, so what began as a snapshot of New York’s early-‘80s downtown scene became a time capsule. And it’s a wonderful one, capturing the griminess of the scene but the undeniable talent contained within – particularly in the form of Basquiat, then still an unknown and homeless street artist (he reportedly crashed in the film’s production office throughout the shoot). The loss of the film’s dialogue track in those intervening years means we don’t hear him, and the overdubbed dialogue and monologues aren’t entirely convincing. But his mere presence is astonishing, and Downtown’s images of a now-lost city and scene are priceless.