By Roger Costa
As the world remains on quarantine, theaters closed, and film releases being postponed, the only option remaining is looking up via streaming. As of now, the first week of Spring, I saw 82 new titles so far. Here are my favorite picks:
1- YOUNG AHMED
Masters of Neo-realism, the Dardenne Brothers won the coveted Cannes’ Best Director Award for their suspenseful depiction of dysfunctional teenhood and terrorism inclinations. Following the routine of a fanatic Muslim boy, which includes long prayers and preparations to exterminate his “impure” teacher, the pair created a triumphant character study, a masterly crafted thriller about precocious violence, but mostly a celebration of compassion and forgiveness.
2- THE WILD GOOSE LAKE
An electrifying mobsters-on-bikes, ultra violent revenge tale, Chinese director Diao Yinan composes one of the most stylish films in years. Through the story of family/gang rivalry willing to take control of the crime scene, he brilliantly showcases his visual skills, conceiving each frame as a piece of art in movement, with lyrical, glamorous observations on the details, on the silent moments embracing the unexpected, the subtle eroticism, the rain, the neon lights on the roads, but most impressive, how he extracts poetry from the bloody confrontations and its uncontrollable shootings.
The most celebrated Brazilian film in years, Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ hallucinating and politically-charged western is a mind-bending exploration on the country’s inner issues. Smart and irreverent, the film brings together a bunch of eccentric figures, residents of the town of the title, ready for a brutal battle involving a water crisis and the mayor pursuing re-election. Among the metaphorical circus for this “soon-to-come” war, there are foreign and internal terrorists, social workers and doctors, a corrupt mayor, hookers, and others dealing with political divisions. Inventive and intensely violent, it’s an efficient portrait of a humble community forced to battle enemy forces.
Fresh, irresistible and truthful, Award-winning director Sam de Jong’s sophomore feature film is a colorful, vibrant, realistic portrait of youth in the Bronx, addressing the struggles of impoverished Millennials and the tendency to criminality. Model Slick Woods plays an aspiring free-style, hip-hop dancer, running through the streets of the borough, claiming her right to be free and young, while flirting, shoplifting, meeting associates and preparing herself to dance on a music video. The result is an engrossing and unashamed survivalist concrete-jungle tale.
5- THE TRAITOR
A sensational Mafia epic spanning decades in the life of Tommaso Buscetta, one of Cosa Nostra’s Mafia organization most prolific associates, Marco Bellocchio’s stunning drama exposes the consequences of the criminal activities with intensity and preciseness. Delivering a powerful performance by Pierfrancesco Favino, the film is a detailed, ultra violent and well-structured character study, challenged by moral values, principles, family bond, a strong romance and greed. It narrates the fame, glory and decline of Buscetta, the first informant responsible to dismantle the crime organization. Explosive and seductive, it’s a mesmerizing take on the genre.
A heart rendeering true story about spiritual and social transformation of a young KKK leader who finds shelter at a black pastor’s home, as he struggles to leave his brutal, racially-inflicted past. Filled with moving performances from Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker and Andrea Riseborough, director Andrew Heckler’s directorial debut is a shocking and timely account on racial issues in America as well as an inspirational testimony of faith, determination and redemption.
7- FIRST COW
Delicate, intimate and ambivalent, Kelly Reichardt’s latest goes back to Oregon’s 1820’s desert landscapes, where a mysterious cook wandering the lands in seek of a fortune, befriends a Chinese immigrant on the run. Beautifully observational and deeply naturalistic, it’s a perceptive and inclusive depiction of friendship in rural America.
Two young women share an intense, ambiguous bond after fighting together in the front line during World War II in Russia. Director Kantemir Balagov’s sophomore project is a visually-arresting psychological drama centered on the turbulent emotions of the pair as they deal with reversal roles: men become objects of use in their process to achieve. Masterly crafted and shot with gorgeous, rustic saturated colors, it delivers profound performances from the two newcomer actresses, while maintaining a heart-pounding sense of eroticism and mystery with its subtle feminism.
9- CORPUS CHRISTI
Jan Komasa’s intense, controversial drama depicts the personal conflicts of a young man battling the flesh against the spirit. Actor Bartosz Bielenia gives a fascinating, complex performance as Daniel, an ex-con who assumes a priest’s identity right after he leaves a youth detention center. A poignant canvas of youth in trouble and in crisis of identity, Komasa crafted an affecting and scandalous story about faith, compassion, resilience and human values.
10- SORRY WE MISSED YOU
A father arrives home, exhausted, drained after a 16-hour shift work, humiliated by his boss, pressured by his competitors, and smitten by unjust policies, just to find more tempest under his own roof. A master of storytelling with focus on the struggles of the British struggling communities, 83-year-old director Ken Loach’s new drama observes the stirred emotions of a family dealing with economic despair and miscommunication. Heartbreaking, naturally absorbing and perfectly convincing, Loach continues to be one of our greatest filmmakers with this powerful meditation on the strength of family resilience.
STAY WELL AND HEALTHY EVERYONE !!!