Unknown Pleasures, Berlin’s festival of American independent film programmed by Hannes Brühwiler and Andrew Grant, opens on New Year’s Day with Michel Gondry’s The We and the I and runs through January 16 at the Babylon. Among the highlights of this fifth edition is a special program dedicated to Whit Stillman, who’ll be on hand to present his landmark 90s-era trilogy—Metropolitan (1990), Barcelona (1994), and The Last Days of Disco (1998)—as well as his latest, Damsels in Distress, “another classic in the making from one of America’s greatest comic filmmakers,” as Calum Marsh declared in Slant in September. And Dan Sallitt will be in town to present The Unspeakable Act. The full schedule’s here; the lineup, with occasional notes and links:
Thom Anderson’s Reconversâo, fresh from Vancouver, where the festival noted that the documentary “portrays 17 buildings and unrealized projects by 2011 Pritzker Prize-winning Portuguese starchitect Eduardo Souto Moura, accompanied usually by his own writings, as narrated by Encke King, the inimitable voiceover artist from Andersen’s masterpiece Los Angeles Plays Itself.”
Rodney Ascher’s Room 237. “One of the true word-of-mouth sensations of the 2012 film festival circuit,” it “may be the greatest movie ever made about another movie,” wrote Adam Nayman here in Keyframe in October. “That film is The Shining, and it’s no slight to Stanley Kubrick’s towering 1980 cabin-fever-dream to say that Room 237 is very nearly its equal when it comes to spooking and unnerving audiences.”
Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. A second entry on one of the year’s best films is in the works.
Maiko Endo’s Kuichisan. La Di Da programmer Miriam Bale: “Gorgeous yet audacious documentary images of Koza—a town in Okinawa, Japan that is not quite Japanese and not quite American—are filmed in 16mm by Sean Price Williams in Maiko Endo’s breathtaking directorial debut.”
Michel Gondry’s The We and the I saw its premiere in Cannes, where it opened this year’s Directors’ Fortnight and met with mixed reviews. It does have its champions.
Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss, “a moss-colored geometry of small-town Texas (specifically, Conroe) where all humans are instigators of or touched by violent tragedy,” as Danny Kasman wrote last fall.
Mark Jackson’s Without. The Film Society of Lincoln Center: “Long after it has ended, this multiple prize-winning film still resonates: did we just live a love song, a ghost story, or a quiet thriller?”
Alex Ross Perry’s The Color Wheel. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in June of last year: “Schooled in film history but not beholden to it, treating style as expression rather than a given, taking its ambitions seriously, willing to explore unexplored or marginalized territory: the cinema of the future, I hope.”
Peter Bo Rappmund‘s Tectonics. Writing for Locarno, Mark Peranson notes that this “experimental portrait of the U.S.-Mexico boundary surveys this wide swath of land’s physical qualities and metaphysical quandaries with an artist’s gaze.”
David Redmond and Ashley Sabin’s Girl Model, an “absolutely riveting new documentary… set in a morally adrift culture in which the image of childhood is a globally traded commodity.” Says Filmmaker‘s Scott Macaulay.
Bill and Turner Ross‘s Tchoupitoulas, “a richly impressionistic evocation of the sights, sounds, and personalities of New Orleans at nighttime,” as Drew Hunt calls it in Slant. I caught it at AFI Fest last month, and yes, it’s rich, impressionistic, and evocative—but see it for William, the youngest of the three brothers who wander the city from dusk til dawn.
Amy Seimetz‘s Sun Don’t Shine. The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody: “In this wondrously accomplished and furiously expressive drama blending the moody rambles of a road movie with the tightly ratcheted criminal tension of a film noir the director Amy Seimetz, in her first feature, captures the wildly flailing energy and exhausted torpor of grinding frustration as well as the flickering grace of stifled dreams.”
Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse. Kevin B. Lee: “No director in the past three decades of American cinema has been as good at taking audiences where they don’t want to go as Solondz, who pokes at the ugliest of human behaviors and taps into an oozing vein of unexpected humor and pathos.”
Tim Sutton’s Pavilion, one of my own favorite films at SXSW earlier this year. At Filmmaker, Dan Schoenbrun calls it “a meditative, ethereal blend of documentary and narrative, united around the theme of youth in transition.”
Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Click the title for reviews, clips, and interviews.
Update, 12/30: The trailer: