Venice festival in 2019 offered a fantastic lineup, and many of the festival’s titles will soon be on everyone’s lips. So fasten your seatbelts, heat up your pencils and add those 10 most intriguing films from Biennale to your 2019 watchlist.
This year’s La Biennale Di Venezia was a real treat to follow, as the festival flooded the Internet with swell reviews from all over the world. In this massive influx, I have taken the time to look closely at this year edition’s gems and best reviewed titles, which you should soon track in cinemas.
Without further ado, here’s the list of Top 10 Films from La Biennale Di Venezia 2019.
#1 Joker by Todd Phillips
After Todd Phillips’ “Joker” premiered in Venice, the critic response sketched a film far more complex than most blockbusters nowadays. The material is driven by psychology of its antagonist, and how the society forged a monster. And while some criticized its way of justifying Joker’s rise to crime, the praise for its gritty texture and outstanding performance of Joaquin Phoenix was unanimous.
It’s obvious that “Joker”, now awarded with a Golden Lion, received a boost at the right time, and Joaquin Phoenix will now be one of the frontrunners in the upcoming Oscar race. But setting the awards season aside, “Joker” should be a film to look forward to for more reasons. Phillips humanized the Clown Prince of Crime by proving the existence of man living under the make-up.
Why you should watch “Joker” by Todd Phillips?
Joaquin Phoenix is obviously marching for his Oscar. Moreover, “Joker” marks a gritty comeback to what DC nailed together with Christopher Nolan. And it’s Joker, goddamnit!
#2 An Officer and a Spy by Roman Polański
Controversy surrounding Roman Polański’s never put off, and the fire rose again when Jury’s lead Lucrecia Martel refused to acknowledge the director’s participation in the competition.
But Polański’s “An Officer and a Spy” still got its publicity and it even garnered the Grand Jury Prize. Polański’s film paints the image of lies, espionage and fear, and despite its until-now rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes, most critics agreed that its top-class craftsmanship floats over the sometimes dodgy narrative below the surface.
Why you should watch “An Officer and a Spy” by Roman Polański?
An established director like Polański almost never disappoints, and “An Officer and a Spy” focuses on what the Polish artist knows well – a historic epic which vivisects a particular period from a human perspective.
#3 The King by David Michod
David Michod’s lamentable “War Machine” should become a bad joke after this epic, second collaboration of the Australian director and Netflix. In “The King”, Michod looks at England’s ruler Henry V, as he’s subject to deceit and enemies smelling greenhorn on the throne.
Michod’s understanding of cinema’s based on deadly precision, but it surely tests one’s patience. The already unhurried “Animal Kingdom”, his outstanding debut, was followed by dystopian and even more slowcoach “The Rover”, and seems like “The King” joins the pack too. But given its tremendous cast, which includes Michod’s favorites (Ben Mendelsohn, Robert Pattinson, Joel Edgerton), as well as Timothee Chalamet and Sean Harris, this Netflix-produced film promises an epic adventure.
Why you should watch “The King” by David Michod?
I’m personally an ardent fan of Michod’s works, and I’d like to leave “War Machine” buried in the past. “The King” should do the work in that matter, thanks to its promising cast and Michod’s fastidious craft.
#4 Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach
“Marriage Story” received some of the most bewildering reviews, with critics chanting over and over about Driver and Johannsson’s outstanding performances.
In ‘Marriage Story”, Noah Baumbach ak.a. Hollywood’s expert on relationship close-ups and hectic dramas, visits a marriage on its eve of destruction, as two creative souls drag each other through mud and rocks, on a mutually painful road to divorce.
Why you should watch “Marriage Story” by Noah Baumbach?
“Marriage Story” will most likely put Netflix in the Oscar competition, and provide just another reason to love Adam Driver (and maybe one to change mind about Scarlett). Plus, you’ll soon find your work colleagues asking about it, because they watch independent cinema, right?
#5 Ad Astra by James Gray
Brad Pitt’s career’s pinnacle – that’s what critics unanimously praised “Ad Astra” for. Pitt’s turn as an emotionally ravaged astronaut who embarks on a space journey to locate his stranded father, was called both gripping and deeply heartrending.
Nothing short of brilliant is James Gray’s direction in “Ad Astra” too, which helps Pitt and other characters to powerfully resonate. From what the critics and viewers shared so far, “Ad Astra” sounds like the defining science fiction for 2019.
Why you should watch “Ad Astra” by James Gray?
Brad Pitt’s best role in his career, in James Gray’s response to “Interstellar”. What’s not to wait for?
#6 Madre by Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Rodrigo Sorogoyen blissful “El Reino”, which I positively reviewed a year ago, encouraged me to patiently wait for Spaniard’s next move. And “Madre”, which tells a story of a woman who loses her kid only to relive this trauma years after, proves the director’s fine abilities to shock, hypnotise and move.
Why you should watch “Madre” by Rodrigo Sorogoyen?
Sorogoyen’s fine craft should be enough to give it a shot, but critics see Marta Nieto’s role as the film’s central character that leaves the viewer speechless. The actress received the main acting award at this year’s Biennale for that performance too.
#7 The Painted Bird by Vaclav Marhoul
This Czech title polarised the audience in Venice like no other film.
Marhoul’s “The Painted Bird” shocked viewers, who left the screening rooms half-way through the movie’s runtime, by its gruesome violence painted red on a canvas of Holocaust. Through the eyes of a Jewish kid, we get to witness atrocious crimes committed during the occupation. Some compared it to Elem Klimov’s traumatising “Come and See”, while others mentioned “Son of Saul” as most recent depiction of Holocaust horror.
Why you should watch “The Painted Bird” by Vaclav Marhoul?
Most controversial film of Biennale 2019, “The Painted Bird” will cause heated discussions all over the world. Child abuse and very graphic imagery, that’s been reported by most of those who watched it in Venice, will deter some viewers, but it’s surely a dominant topic in the independent circles.
#8 Balloon (Qiqiu) by Pema Tseden
I was introduced to Tibetan director Pema Tseden only a few months back, but his whimsical “Jinpa” stuck with me after New Horizons International Film Festival. During this edition of the Biennale, Tseden’s back with “Balloon”.
A quasi-documentary take on life in Tibet and its hardships, “Balloon” follows a family who lives in a rural area hit by an earthquake. The daily routine is what interests Tseden, and his highly elegant style of directing lets “Balloon” breathe within the tiny web of its few characters.
Why you should watch “Balloon” by Pema Tseden?
Tseden’s considered as one of the most powerful voices of Chinese contemporary cinema, and if you’re into slow cinema, as well as seeing more exotic sides of filmmaking, “Balloon” will be a thing to watch for.
#9 La Llorona by Jayro Bustamante
Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante took a horror folk story about La Llorona (explored in a viouscly bad Hollywood crapfest earlier this year), and relocated its setting to the country’s time of instability. As Robert Aronowski from Novela explained,
“Jayro Bustamante surprised in Venice with his second feature film this year. Director skillfully weaved the story of La Llorona – the weeping mother who killed her children – with the bloodbath of indigenous inhabitants of Guatemala, which took place during a civil war in 1960-1996. “La Lorona” combines drama, thriller and even drops of horror to tell a story about making peace with the past.”
Why you should watch “La llorona” by Jayro Bustamante?
To rest a bit from Hollywood and European big fish, you can support cinema of a small country like Guatemala. “La Llorona” sounds like a solid offering for horror and thrillers fans as well.
#10 About Endlessness by Roy Andersson
“About Endlessness” could be understood as a follow-up to the extravagant “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence”. Andersson explores loosely tied scenes, as if excavated from a fevered mind. It’s the Swedish director’s trademark too, to commingle particles in order to create a wholesome piece.
As written by Variety’s Guy Lodge,
“It’s a series of brief vignettes, mostly disconnected but for a couple of mournfully running threads, that look in with the same distant but dimpled gaze on scenes of banal everyday ennui, dark historical consequence and, once or twice, a disquieting conflation of the two.”
It is safe to assume that this unusual virtuosity of symbolic images and bone-deep reflections appeals to die-hard fans of Andersson, but thanks to its short running time (only 76 minutes), “About Endlessness” serves a more digestible form to those new to this Swedish director.
Why you should watch “About Endlessness” by Roy Andersson?
If you’re into existential cinema, “About Endlessness” will be your best bet.
Need more indie stuff to watch or read about?
- New Horizons International Film Festival 2019 Bible
- Reviews of festival darlings: “Parasite”, “Monos”, “Zombi Child” and “Koko-Di Koko-Da”.