The Bad Batch – Hollywood Theater
The latest from filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) follows Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) after she’s left in a Texas wasteland fenced off from civilization. While trying to navigate the unforgiving landscape, Arlen is captured by a savage band of cannibals led by the mysterious Miami Man (Jason Momoa). With her life on the line, she makes her way to The Dream (Keanu Reeves). As she adjusts to life in ‘the bad batch‘ Arlen discovers that being good or bad mostly depends on who’s standing next to you. The Bad Batch opens on July 7 at the Hollywood Theater.
The Big Sick – Manor Theatre
Based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick tells the story of Pakistan-born aspiring comedian Kumail (Nanjiani), who connects with grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) after one of his standup sets. However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents. When Emily is beset with a mystery illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), while dealing with the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart. The Big Sick opens July 7 at the Manor Theatre.
Manifesto – Harris Theater
The film from artist Julian Rosefeldt features actress Cate Blanchett playing 13 different roles – a housewife, a factory worker, a TV anchor – in vignettes about the words that have inspired art movements. Manifesto opens on July 7 at the Harris Theater.
Maudie – Manor Theatre
The reclusive Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) hires a fragile yet determined woman named Maudie (Sally Hawkins) to be his housekeeper. Maudie, bright-eyed but hunched with crippled hands, yearns to be independent, to live away from her protective family and she also yearns, passionately, to create art. Unexpectedly, Everett finds himself falling in love. Based on a true story, the film charts Everett’s efforts to protect himself from being hurt, Maudie’s deep and abiding love for this difficult man and her surprising rise to fame as a folk painter. Maudie opens on July 14 at the Manor Theatre.
Like Crazy – Hollywood Theater
Beatrice is a motor-mouthed fantasist, a self-styled billionaire countess who likes to believe she’s on intimate terms with world leaders. Donatella is a tattooed introvert, a fragile young woman locked in her own mystery. They are both patients at the Villa Biondi, a progressive but secure psychiatric clinic. Director Paolo Virzì’s new film tells the story of the unpredictable and moving friendship that develops between the two women as they flee the mental institution in search of love and happiness in the open-air nuthouse – the world of sane people. Like Crazy opens on July 21 at the Hollywood Theater.
Churchill – Hollywood Theater & Manor Theatre
In June 1944, Allied Forces stand on the brink: a million soldiers are secretly assembled on the south coast of Britain, poised to invade Nazi-occupied Europe. One man stands in their way: Winston Churchill (Brian Cox). Fearful of repeating, on his disastrous command, the mass slaughter of 1915, when over 500,000 soldiers were killed on the beaches of Gallipoli. Exhausted by years of war and plagued by depression, Churchill is a shadow of the hero who has resisted Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. Should the D-Day landings fail, he is terrified he’ll be remembered as the architect of carnage. Only the unflinching support of Churchill’s brilliant, unflappable wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson) can halt the Prime Minister’s physical and mental collapse. Churchill opens on June 2 at the Hollywood Theater and on June 5 at the Manor Theatre.
My Cousin Rachel – Manor Theatre
Rachel Weisz stars in the dark romantic story of a young Englishman who plots revenge against his mysterious, beautiful cousin, believing that she murdered his guardian. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms. My Cousin Rachel opens on June 9 at the Manor Theatre.
I, Daniel Blake – Regent Square Theater
The new film by British filmmaker Ken Loach won the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. In it, 59-year-old Daniel Blake has worked as a joiner most of his life in Newcastle. Now, for the first time ever, he needs help from the State. He crosses paths with single mother Katie and her two young children, Daisy and Dylan. Katie’s only chance to escape a one-roomed homeless hostel in London has been to accept a flat in a city she doesn’t know, some 300 miles away. Daniel and Katie find themselves in no-man’s land, caught on the barbed wire of welfare bureaucracy as played out against the rhetoric of ‘striver and skiver’ in modern-day Britain. I, Daniel Blake opens on June 16 at the Regent Square Theater.
The Transfiguration – Hollywood Theater
Writer/director Michael O’Shea’s chilling, atmospheric debut feature follows troubled teen Milo who hides behind his fascination with vampire lore. When he meets the equally alienated Sophie, the two form a bond that begins to challenge Milo’s dark obsession, blurring his fantasy into reality. The Transfiguration opens on June 16 at the Hollywood Theater.
The late-1970s was a magical time for American film, with directors like Steven Spielberg spurring the blockbuster age and shaping generations of cinephiles. But on May 25, 1977, George Lucas created a massive pop culture phenomenon with the release of his epic space opera Star Wars. On May 25, the Hollywood Theater will mark the 40th anniversary of the influential hit with the Pittsburgh premiere of 5-25-77.
Writer/director Patrick Read Johnson spins a semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age tale about an aspiring young filmmaker (John Francis Daley of Freaks and Geeks) growing up in 1970s rural Illinois, falling in love, and becoming the first fan of Star Wars.
5-25-77 begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $8-10.
Risk – Hollywood Theater
Filmed over six years including through the 2016 presidential election and up to the present moment, Risk takes viewers closer than they have ever been before to Julian Assange and those who surround him. With unprecedented access, director Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) captures the WikiLeaks story from the inside, allowing viewers to understand the current era of massive leaks, headline-grabbing news, and the revolutionary impact of the internet on global politics. Risk opens on May 12 at the Hollywood Theater.
Hounds of Love – Harris Theater
The debut from writer/director Ben Young takes place in suburban Perth during the mid-1980s, where people are unaware that women are disappearing at the hands of serial killer couple John and Evelyn White. After an innocent lapse in judgment, Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted by the disturbed couple. With her murder imminent, Vicki realizes she must find a way to drive a wedge between Evelyn and John if she is to survive. Hounds of Love opens on May 19 at the Harris Theater.
The Lovers – Manor Theatre
Debra Winger and Tracy Letts play a long-married and completely dispassionate husband and wife. Both are in the midst of serious affairs and are increasingly committed to their new partners. But on the brink of officially calling it quits, a spark between them suddenly and unexpectedly reignites, leading them into an impulsive romance that forces them to navigate the hilarious complications of “cheating” on their respective lovers. The Lovers opens on May 19 at the Manor Theatre.
Norman – Regent Square Theater
A small-time operator named Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) befriends a young politician at a low and lonely moment in his life. Three years later when that politician becomes an influential world leader, Norman’s life dramatically changes. For better. And for worse. Norman opens on May 19 at the Regent Square Theater.
For over two decades, JFilm Festival has worked to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of modern Jewish culture and history. From April 20-30, the event will present new films from around the world, along with complementary programming such as visiting filmmakers, guest speakers, and more. See below for highlights and details:
The 2017 JFilm Festival will present a variety of documentaries, including the Pittsburgh premiere of Take My Nose…Please. Directed by veteran journalist Joan Kron, the film looks at the role comedy has played in exposing the pressure on women to attain physical perfection. From Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers to Roseanne Barr and Kathy Griffin, female comedians have been unashamed to talk about their perceived flaws, and the steps taken to remedy them. The film follows two women – up-and coming improv performer Emily Askin and seasoned headliner Jackie Hoffman – as they deliberate about going under the knife.
Also showing in the documentary category is There Are Jews Here, a film about the struggle to keep small-town synagogues open; The Last Laugh, an exploration of how comedians deal with the horrors of the Holocaust and World War II; and On the Map, a look at how, in 1977, an Israeli basketball team gave the country hope.
The festival will also present narrative films such as The Exception. Filled with espionage and romance, the star-studded World War II thriller features Jai Courtney as a German soldier on a mission to investigate exiled German Monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer). As he begins to infiltrate the Kaiser’s life in search of clues, he finds himself drawn into an unexpected and passionate romance with one of the Kaiser’s maids (Lily James of Downton Abbey) who is secretly Jewish. Their relationship becomes even more complicated when SS leader Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan) suddenly shows up with a large platoon of Nazis in tow.
Other narrative selections include The Jews, a dark satire about anti-Semitism in France; Fanny’s Journey, a WWII-era tale about a 13-year-old girl on the run from the Nazis; and Family Commitment, a screwball comedy about an Arab-Jewish gay couple and their dysfunctional families.
Personal Shopper – Regent Square Theater
Actor Kristen Stewart reteams with Clouds of Sils Maria director Olivier Assayas for the story of Maureen (Stewart), a young American in Paris making her living as a personal shopper for a celebrity. Also, she may have the psychic ability to communicate with spirits, just like her twin brother, Lewis, who recently passed away. Maureen soon starts receiving mysterious messages coming from an unknown source. Personal Shopper screens from March 31–April 6 at Regent Square Theater.
Queen of the Desert – Harris Theater
Nicole Kidman and director Werner Herzog bring to life the extraordinary true story of a trailblazing woman who found freedom in the faraway world of the Middle East. Gertrude Bell (Kidman) chafes against the stifling rigidity of life in turn-of-the-century England, leaving it behind for a chance to travel to Tehran. So begins her lifelong adventure across the Arab world, a journey marked by danger, a passionate affair with a British officer (James Franco), and an encounter with the legendary T.E. Lawrence (Robert Pattinson). Stunningly shot on location in Morocco and Jordan, Queen of the Desert reveals how an ahead-of-her-time woman shaped the course of history. Queen of the Desert opens on April 7 at the Harris Theater.
The Void – Hollywood Theater
When police officer Carter discovers a blood-soaked man limping down a deserted road, he rushes him to a local hospital with a bare-bones night shift staff. As cloaked, cult-like figures surround the building, the patients and staff inside start to turn ravenously insane. Trying to protect the survivors, Carter leads them into the depths of the hospital where they discover a gateway to immense evil. The Void opens on April 7 at the Hollywood Theater.
Frantz – Manor Theatre
Set in Germany and France in the immediate aftermath of World War I, the latest drama from director François Ozon recalls the mourning period that follows great national tragedies as seen through the eyes of the war’s “lost generation.” Anna (Paula Beer in a breakthrough performance), a bereft young German woman whose fiancé, Frantz, was killed during trench warfare, and Adrien (Pierre Niney), a French veteran of the war who shows up mysteriously in her town, placing flowers on Frantz’s grave. Adrien’s presence is met with resistance by the small community still reeling from Germany’s defeat, yet Anna gradually gets closer to the handsome and melancholy young man, as she learns of his deep friendship with Frantz, conjured up in evocative flashbacks. Frantz opens on April 14 at the Manor Theatre.
The Red Turtle – Regent Square Theater
Through the story of a man shipwrecked on a tropical island inhabited by turtles, crabs, and birds, The Red Turtle recounts the milestones in the life of a human being. The Red Turtle opens on March 3 at the Regent Square Theater.
XX – Hollywood Theater
The all-female helmed horror anthology features four dark tales written and directed by fiercely talented women. Annie Clark, also known as the musician St. Vincent, rocks her directorial debut with The Birthday Party. Karyn Kusama (The Invitation, Girlfight) exorcises Her Only Living Son. Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound) screams Don’t Fall. Jovanka Vuckovic (The Captured Bird) dares to open The Box. Award-winning animator Sofia Carrillo (La Casa Triste) wraps together four suspenseful stories of terror featuring a cast including Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool and Christina Kirk. XX opens on March 4 at the Hollywood Theater.
Kedi – Manor Theatre
Hundreds of thousands of Turkish cats roam the metropolis of Istanbul freely. For thousands of years, they’ve wandered in and out of people’s lives, becoming an essential part of the communities that make the city so rich. Claiming no owners, the cats of Istanbul live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame — and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could. Kedi opens on March 24 at the Manor Theatre.
Raw – Hollywood Theater
Everyone in Justine’s family is a vet. And a vegetarian. At 16, she’s a brilliant and promising student. When she starts at veterinary school, she enters a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world. During the first week of hazing rituals, desperate to fit in whatever the cost, she strays from her family principals when she eats raw meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences of her actions as her true self begins to emerge. Raw opens on March 24 at the Hollywood Theater.
The Hollywood Theater will finish off the month with Janu-Scary, a selection of five independent horror films from the US and around the world. See details and schedule below:
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
In the latest from director Andre Ovredal (Trollhunter), coroner Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch) run a family-owned morgue and crematorium in Virginia. When the local Sheriff brings in a dead Jane Doe it seems like just another open-and-shut case. But as the autopsy proceeds, Tommy and Austin discover that her insides have been scarred, charred and dismembered — seemingly the victim of a horrific yet mysterious ritualistic torture. As they piece together these gruesome discoveries, an unnatural force takes hold of the crematorium. While a violent storm rages above ground, it seems the real horrors lie on the inside.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe screens at 7 p.m. from January 31–February 2.
The Eyes of My Mother
Set in a secluded farmhouse and shot in crisp black and white, writer/director Nicolas Pesce’s feature debut follows a mother, formerly a surgeon in Portugal, as she teaches her daughter, Francisca, to understand anatomy and be unfazed by death. One afternoon, a mysterious visitor horrifyingly shatters the idyll of Francisca’s family life, deeply traumatizing the young girl, but also awakening some unique curiosities. Though she clings to her increasingly reticent father, Francisca’s loneliness and scarred nature converge years later when her longing to connect with the world around her takes on a distinctly dark form.
The Eyes of My Mother screens at 7 p.m. from January 27–January 30.
Under the Shadow
Tehran, 1988: As the Iran-Iraq War rumbles into its eighth year, a mother and daughter are slowly torn apart by the bombing campaigns on the city coupled with the country’s bloody revolution. As they struggle to stay together amidst these terrors, a mysterious evil stalks through their apartment.
Under the Shadow screens at 7 p.m. from January 29–February 1.
In the middle of a routine patrol, officer Daniel Carter happens upon a blood-soaked figure limping down a deserted stretch of road. He rushes the young man to a nearby rural hospital staffed by a skeleton crew, only to discover that patients and personnel are transforming into something inhuman. As the horror intensifies, Carter leads the other survivors on a hellish voyage into the subterranean depths of the hospital in a desperate bid to end the nightmare before it’s too late.
The Void screens at 7 p.m. on January 28.
We Are the Flesh
A young brother and sister, roaming an apocalyptic city, take refuge in the dilapidated lair of a strange hermit. He puts them to work building a bizarre cavernous structure, where he acts out his insane and depraved fantasies. Trapped in this maddening womb-like world under his malign influence, they find themselves sinking into the realms of dark and forbidden behavior. A visionary and bizarre slice of Mexican arthouse cinema, We Are The Flesh is an extraordinary and unsettling film experience, a sexually charged and nightmarish journey into an otherworldly dimension of carnal desire and excess, as well as a powerful allegory on the corrupting power of human desire.
We Are the Flesh screens at 9 p.m. from January 27–February 2.
Tickets are available for purchase online or at the door. Guests can also buy a $30 festival pass for all five films.
Goodnight Brooklyn - The Story of Death By Audio – Hollywood Theater
The feature-length film brings viewers inside the last underground venue for music and art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a neighborhood once defined by its cultural contributions to the city of New York. It chronicles the origins, community-building, influence, and ultimate closure of one of Brooklyn’s best DIY venues, ironically at the hands of a former champion of their efforts. Goodnight Brooklyn - The Story of Death By Audio opens on January 6 at the Hollywood Theater.
Silence – Regent Square Theater
The latest feature from Martin Scorsese tells the story of two Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) — at a time when Christianity was outlawed and their presence forbidden. The celebrated director’s 28-year journey to bring Shusaku Endo’s 1966 acclaimed novel to life. Silence opens on January 13 at Harris Theater.
20th Century Women – Manor Theatre
Acclaimed filmmaker Mike Mills presents a richly multilayered celebration of the complexities of women, family, time, and the connections we search for our whole lives. Set in 1979 Santa Barbara, the film follows Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), a determined single mother in her mid-50s who is raising her adolescent son, Jamie (newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann) at a moment brimming with cultural change and rebellion. Dorothea enlists the help of two younger women in Jamie’s upbringing — via Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a free-spirited punk artist living as a boarder in the Fields’ home, and Julie (Elle Fanning), a savvy and provocative teenage neighbor. 20th Century Women opens on January 20 at the Manor Theatre.
Elle – Harris Theater
When Michelle (Isabelle Huppert), the CEO of a gaming software company, is attacked in her home by an unknown assailant, she refuses to let it alter her precisely ordered life. She manages crises involving her 75-year-old sex kitten mother, her imprisoned mass murderer father, her spoiled and immature son, her ex-husband and her lover, all with the same icy equanimity. This is the approach she brings to the situation when it appears that her assailant is not finished with her. As the mysterious stalker hovers in the shadows of her life, taunting her, Michelle cooly stalks him back. What emerges between Michelle and her stalker is a kind of game, a game that soon spirals out of control. Elle opens on January 20 at the Regent Square Theater.
Paterson – Manor Theatre
Paterson (Adam Driver), a New Jersey bus driver, adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, observing the city as it drifts across his windshield and overhearing fragments of conversation swirling around him. He writes poetry into a notebook. He walks his dog. He stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer. He goes home to his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). By contrast, Laura’s world is ever changing. New dreams come to her almost daily, each a different and inspired project. The latest feature from Jim Jarmusch quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details. Paterson opens on January 27 at the Manor Theatre.
Filmmaker Anna Biller has created quite the buzz with her second feature The Love Witch, a horror-thriller about magic, madness, and murder. Described as a “tribute to 1960s Technicolor thrillers” that “explores female fantasy and the repercussions of pathological narcissism,” the film follows Elaine (Samantha Robinson), a modern-day witch who uses spells and potions to get men to fall in love with her. The work has garnered critical praise for its sumptuous throwback style and bold take on feminism, as well as for Robinson’s strong breakout performance.
It’s also been touted as a treat for cinema buffs that recalls the style of French filmmaker Jacques Demy, 1960s sexploitation films, and Hammer horror.
As The Love Witch prepares to make its Pittsburgh premiere at the Hollywood Theater, Biller talked to Steel Cinema about the film’s personal significance, her extremely varied cinema diet, and having total creative control.
What inspired you to make The Love Witch?
It was a lot of things. I always like to make films about interior female experience, and I thought the figure of the witch was a good vehicle for that since the witch is a figure of so much projection and hysteria. I also was going through a rough period in my personal life, and I wanted to put that feeling of personal heartbreak on the screen. I joke that the movie is an autobiography, but people who know me well know that that’s really not that much of a joke! It’s a film that combines many aspects of my personal life, and it’s very coded.
You said in an interview that you’re influenced by Pre-Code Hollywood films and exploitation films of the 1960s and 70s. What about their style and themes resonate with you?
Well, I don’t think that I said I was interested in exploitation films; that’s what everyone else says. I did look at one exploitation film in preparation for the film – Mantis in Lace – but that film deals with similar themes as The Love Witch and was shot by the great László Kovács. I do like some of the color of giallo films, but I wasn’t watching giallo films to prepare for this movie — I was watching Hollywood Technicolor films, especially [Alfred] Hitchcock.
The themes that interest me most are from Pre-Code and noir films, because they’re often about women getting by in a man’s world. I’m not interested in misogynistic films, even when they’re visually arresting. My brain just sort of shuts down when women are being grossly objectified and especially when they’re being senselessly murdered. So I’m not into Beyond the Valley of the Dolls for instance, which is a film people often insist I was influenced by. I’m much more influenced by a film like [Carl Theodor] Dreyer’s Gertrud, which has the same theme my film has of a woman being disappointed with the men in her life who fail to love her properly, or a film like John Brahm’s The Locket, which is about discovering the roots of a woman’s psychopathology.
Are there other films or filmmakers you’re influenced by?
My first loves in cinema were the old Hollywood musicals, noir films, Pre-Code films, dramas, and screwball comedies. Later I came to appreciate foreign cinema, especially European and Japanese cinema. My parents were cinephiles, so as a child I was taken to films in the theater such as Murder in the Cathedral or The Seven Samurai or Satyricon, as well as nitrate prints of films such as Dames and Gold Diggers of 1933. All of that had a huge influence on my later tastes.
How do you maintain your own style while still paying homage to a certain era of filmmaking?
What I would say is that using classic cinematography and design techniques is my style. I was bottle-fed on classic films and they’ve always been part of my DNA. I don’t set out to create a retro look actually, or to pay homage to the past. I’m always just trying to learn my craft better, and I learn it from the films I love best, which are mostly from a few decades ago.
You occupy a lot of roles in your films, including directing, producing, writing, editing, and scoring, right down to costuming. What do you find the most challenging?
I think composing music is the most challenging since I have the least experience in it. I sometimes wish I had more than one life so I could spend 100 percent of one of my lives just studying music. But design is always the most difficult in terms of just how insanely time consuming it is. I would say that on any given film, I spend 90 percent of the time designing and making things, and 10 percent on everything else. The most difficult thing technically is the writing.
It’s probably no coincidence that, given our current political and social climate, empowered or resilient female characters are becoming more prominent in film right now. Where do you think The Love Witch fits in this new wave?
Just within the past week, since the election, The Love Witch has suddenly become more relevant. I used to get reactions from people where they’d think gender was an irrelevant thing to talk about since we’ve already achieved gender equality. Now suddenly everyone sees the enormous significance of the gender issues in the film, and that they are not obsolete but extremely timely. I’ve been creating these types of female characters in films for years, but it’s only now that people are taking that seriously, which is fantastic.
Hollywood has banked on emerging indie filmmakers for a lot of projects lately. If you were ever approached for a big-budget film, do you think you’d accept? If so, what would you want to direct?
If someone wanted to hire me to direct a big budget film, I’d probably demand to write the script and to get final cut. But it’s a very abstract question, since without knowing the specifics of an offer I can’t really answer how I’d respond.
The main question for me is the question of control. No one wants to spend their time doing something when they’re not going to like the final result. So I’d have to have a lot of control to have it work for me or work with people with similar artistic goals.