There’s nothing like lining up outside the State Theatre with your coat and your umbrella while trying to adjust the lighting on your phone app so your ticket will scan — it’s an annual Sydney ritual and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The bulk of the film festival program was announced this morning (more Cannes titles will likely be added to the program in a few weeks) and there are some crackers on the list, guaranteed to challenge and entertain you.
Here are our picks.
THE DEAD DON’T DIE
Jim Jarmusch has assembled some of his favourite players — Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Steve Buscemi, Adam Driver, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits — in this zombie comedy set in a small town in the US. If anyone is going to give you a new spin on the genre, it’s going to be the eclectic Jarmusch. The Dead Don’t Die will screen at Cannes.
Based partly on director Joanna Hogg’s own life, The Souvenir is the story of a privileged student (Honor Swinton Byrne) in the 1980s who wants to make social realism films in Thatcherite Britain. She meets an older man (Tom Burke) who claims to work for the Foreign Office, and the two embark on an affair. The Souvenir was well received on its premiere at Sundance.
PAIN AND GLORY
In what is said to be Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s most personal movie yet, Pain and Glory, starring frequent collaborator Penelope Cruz alongside Antonio Banderas, brings together cinema, love, family, art and sexual awakening. In other words, it’s very Almodovar. Banderas plays a main similar to Almodovar, who finds himself in a creative torpor, leading him to reflect on his life and work.
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
With Bohemian Rhapsody behind us and Rocketman and Yesterday not far off, movie studios have realised films based on the songs of iconic artists are exactly what audiences want. Blinded by the Light tells the story of a British-Pakistani teenager in 1987 England who finds escape from racial intolerance and social upheaval through the songs of Bruce Springsteen. It’s sure to be a stirring hit.
French filmmaker Claire Denis’s horror sci-fi stars Juliette Binoche and Robert Pattinson and has been compared to the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien. Set on a penal spaceship, Pattinson’s convict is locked into an odd, sex-games relationship with the ship’s doctor. When the ship approaches a black hole and time begins to warp, the crew and convicts abandon any sense of normality.
LAMBS OF GOD
Based on the book by Marele Day, this four-part gothic miniseries stars Ann Dowd, Essie Davis and Jessica Barden as three cloistered nuns on a rundown island. Their isolated, pastoral existence is shattered when a young priest (Sam Reid) finds the trio, forcing them to defend their eccentric way of life through unthinkable actions. If sitting through a three-and-a-half hour miniseries in the cinema sounds too much, Lambs of God will also air on Foxtel from July.
The Nightingale, the anticipated follow-up to Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, is taking a long, circuitous route to Australian screens after its Special Jury Prize win in Venice last year. It’s already screened at the Adelaide Film Festival but won’t be released widely until August so this is Sydneysiders’ shot at getting a look in before then. Set in 1825 on Van Diemen’s Land (Tassie), the gothic horror is the story of Clare, an Irish-born convict’s vengeance against a British officer’s abuse.
Acclaimed Korean director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, Okja) often uses fantastical elements to tell grounded stories about our world — they’re modern-day parables. A film about income inequality, Parasite follows a struggling family barely surviving when an intriguing offer comes their way that could change everything. Parasite will screen at Cannes this month.
A crowd-pleasing musical, this little Kiwi movie stars Kimbra as a singer telling the tale of her mother and father’s love story through song. The movie is mostly a flashback of when Rose and Eric met in the 1960s with the ups and downs of their relationship lived through New Zealand radio hits including ditties by Bic Runga, Crowded House and The Mutton Birds.
When you walk into one of director Rick Alverson’s movies, don’t expect anything resembling conventionality. In The Mountain, Jeff Goldblum plays a 1950s lobotomy-happy doctor who convinces an introspective young man to take photos of American hospitals on his field trip.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, COLIN BURSTEAD
The new movie from up-and-coming director Ben Wheatley (High-Rise, Free Fire), this movie features a great cast including Neil Maskell, Sam Riley and Hayley Squires and is about a man who hires a country house for his friends and family to ring in the new year. Unknown to him, his black sheep brother has been invited and the stage is set for a very awkward gathering.
THE WEDDING GUEST
Dev Patel leads Michael Winterbottom’s new thriller, described as a modern film noir, about a wedding guest with ulterior motives. British man Jay is in Pakistan, ostensibly for a wedding, but he knows his way around a gun and is carrying many passports. When he flees across the border with the bride, the two begin a deadly game of deception.
Rachel Ward’s dramedy has the honour of premiering as the film festival’s opening night spectacular. To mark a birthday, Frank and Charlotte decide to throw a three-day party at their house in Palm Beach with their closest friends. When the drink is flowing, it doesn’t take long for old grudges to be unearthed. The cast includes Bryan Brown, Richard E. Grant, Sam Neil, Greta Scacchi, Jacqueline McKenzie, Heather Mitchell and Matilda Brown.
SO LONG, MY SON
This Chinese movie from Wang Xioashuai won the Best Actor and Best Actress prizes in Berlin, an epic tale about one family during a time of great cultural change. When a couple’s young son dies in an accident, they adopt another child who struggle with his new identity and circumstances. Wang has crafted a story where the personal collides with the political.
AGNES VARDA RETROSPECTIVE
To celebrate the incredible career of visionary French filmmaker Agnes Varda, who died this year in March, the festival will screen 14 of her works throughout the schedule. The program includes her early documentary Dagguerreotypes, the Venice Golden Lion-winning Vagabond and her cinematic memoir, The Beaches of Agnes.
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