Weirdos, murders and the mafia. Blood and bones. Beyond reality, beyond the law.

The Angel (2018)

Cinema has always romanticized the sexy young serial killer, driven to savage extremes by raging hormones in righteous revolt against adult authority. In [El Ángel], Argentinean director Luis Ortega makes the latent erotic subtext explicit by training an adoring lens on his sexually ambiguous antihero’s androgynous beauty, luscious strawberry lips and cascading blond ringlets. Imagine if the puppyish Tadzio from Visconti’s Death In Venice grew up to be a trigger-happy psychopath. Co-produced by Pedro and Augustin Almodovar, [El Ángel] dramatizes the true story of Argentina’s most infamous and longest-serving convicted killer, Carlos Robledo Puch. [El Ángel] is […] a stylish period piece boasting solid performances, colorful visuals and a terrific vintage soundtrack. […] [It] hits the target as an effortlessly palatable aesthetic experience, more shiny period pageant than probing character study. The retro fashions, cars and hairstyles are reliably vivid cosmetic details in classic Almodovar style. Likewise the busy soundtrack
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Arctic (2017)

Arctic, a notably quiet and captivating slow-build adventure film, starring Mads Mikkelsen as a researcher-explorer who has crash-landed in the frozen wilderness, is the latest example of a genre we know in our bones, one that feels so familiar it’s almost comforting. It’s the first feature directed by Joe Penna, the protean Brazilian video auteur who became a sensation on YouTube, so you might expect it to be made with a touch of 21st-century flash. On the contrary: Penna tells this tale of self-rescue with a plainly carpentered austerity […]. There are no cut corners, no overly blatant only-in-the-movies gambits. Mikkelsen’s stranded pilot has little to rely on beyond his will, so we feel at every step that he could truly be us. Penna works in what you might call a gratifyingly prosaic style. He doesn’t wow you (though the film, in its level way, is elegantly shot). But he
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Boys Cry (2018)

Gomorrah comes to the Roman outskirts with a twist in the muscular Italian debut feature Boys Cry (La terra dell’abbastanza), from self-taught filmmaking twins Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo. After two best buddies without much hope for a future accidentally kill a pedestrian with their car, they end up becoming lowly hirelings for a local criminal clan. What sets this story of two smartass kids in the criminal underworld apart from many of its brethren is the brothers’ keen perception of the psychological and moral issues that inform the duo’s behavior, as they try to tame the pain of their unfortunate incident by turning what threatens to destroy them – namely, a killing – into the very thing that dominates their lives. The D’Innocenzos display a fine grasp of cinematic language, frequently opting for what could be considered counterintuitive shots that heighten the scenes’ visceral impact. […] The confidence of the
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Diamantino (2018)

Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt rustle up one of the year’s most singular debuts with this winningly bizarre, genre-melding political satire. The pro-European Union lobby just got the silliest, sexiest cinematic endorsement it could hope for in Diamantino, and that’s merely one of the surprises nested in [this] deranged satire […]. Part loopily queer sci-fi thriller, part faux-naive political rallying cry, glued together with candyfloss clouds of romantic reverie, it’s a film best seen with as little forewarning as possible: To go in blind is to be carried along by its irrational tumble of events as blissfully and buoyantly as its empty-headed soccer-star protagonist. Mixing grainy 16mm passages with lurid oil slicks of advertising-style varnish, and merging deliberately shoddy practical effects with puffy CGI dreamscapes, the film’s aesthetic is made to seem as wild and haphazard as its storytelling, though Abrantes and Schmidt […] have plainly conceived and designed even
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Good Manners (2017)

The semi-moribund werewolf genre gets a flavorsome injection of Brazilian blood in Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas’s enjoyably ambitious Good Manners. [T]he picture itself is a hybrid of art house and genre cinema, combining sharp social commentary with grand guignol fantasy. Clara (Isabel Zuaa) is an independent-minded, self-possessed professional caretaker from a favela in the teeming mega-metropolis’ poorer suburbs. She’s taken on as a live-in nanny by wealthy expectant mother Ana (Marjorie Estiano), and as the big day approaches Clara’s role shifts from servant to confidant/friend to lover. Meanwhile, Ana displays some decidedly unusual behavior during her pregnancy, her full-moon somnambulism nudging Good Manners steadily closer to fright-cinema territory. Dutra and Rojas draw extensively and sensitively from previous werewolf capers of both literary and cinematic origin. They incorporate nods to classics such as John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London in a manner that will delight horror geeks […]. [Cinematographer]
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The Green Fog (2017)

The Green Fog compiles bits from about 100 San Francisco-set movies and TV shows into a quasi-narrative pastiche that ostensibly pays tribute to Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Only faint echoes of that classic can be detected here, but this ingenious gizmo will nonetheless delight Maddin fans, or anyone else who enjoys games played with and about old movies. […] While there’s only one fleeting, incidental actual shot from Vertigo here, The Green Fog is suffused with a very Hitchcockian sense of intrigue, romance and suspense. Divided into nominal chapters, the movie is more thematic than linear, as we move from clips personifying preliminary action (which underline how many rooftop foot chases have been shot in San Francisco) to scenes that emphasize familial torment among the rich […] and so forth. The Johnson siblings’ witty editing tends […] to mostly avoid dialogue, cutting around it in eccentrically shaved excerpts. This results in bizarre
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Mandy (2018)

Have you ever drifted to sleep on a couch, an open copy of Métal Hurlant on your lap, as your friends play Dungeons & Dragons and a Slayer record spins? If not, don’t worry, Panos Cosmatos will recreate this moment for you. […] Mandy is set in that most futuristic date, the year 1983. But this story is a little more steeped in demonic myth than microchips. Red (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) […] are in a love haze in their strange woodland cabin beneath lava-coloured skies. […] Then: trouble. A biker gang (or are they hippies?) with a messiah-complex leader (Linus Roache) soaked in hallucinogens spies Mandy and “must have her”. His Hellraiser-esque minions capture her and, when she does not submit to his advances […], she is set on fire while Red, tied in barbed wire, is forced to watch. Though left for dead, Red frees himself
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Museum (2018)

Made of dazzle and wit and melancholy, Alonso Ruizpalacios’ fabulously entertaining Museum is loosely inspired by the tale of Mexico’s most infamous museum heist: the theft of 140 Mayan and Mesoamerican objects of inestimable value from the National Museum of Anthropology on Christmas Eve, 1985. This is a film of wildly different moods and segments, but Ruizpalacios is equally invested in every facet of his prismatic story: the family drama, the knockabout buddy road movie, the lovable-loser arc […]. He finds bewilderingly clever and refreshingly new ways to deliver each strand […]. And so it marks not only the definitive establishment of Ruizpalacios as an exciting talent. Half the technical team, too, have tumbled through the arrivals gate with him. It’s difficult to adequately convey the elastic brilliance of Damián García’s dextrous cinematography, which remains stylistically coherent even while constantly inventing and switching itself up. Where in his debut, [Ruizpalacios]
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Pig (2018)

The surreal black humor underlying Mani Haghighi’s ironic studies of middle-class Iranian life – Men At Work, Canaan, Modest Reception – bursts out in his new Berlin competition entry Pig (Khook), a truly kooky story about a frustrated film director unable to make movies because he’s on the black list. When a serial killer starts beheading the country’s finest filmmakers, our vain hero is horrified that he’s not been murdered – doesn’t he deserve it? […] In the grand tradition of movies about narcissistic film directors, Pig does a convincing job exposing the vanity and insecurity of the fellow behind the camera. The tale obviously brings the government’s reprehensible practice of blacklisting filmmakers and other artists out in the open for all to see, though Haghighi (who also wrote the screenplay and produced) steers clear of controversy as much as possible. […] Nevertheless, one of the first three directors found
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Pity (2018)

Even when he’s sobbing […], the unnamed lead character in Babis Makridis’ sun-drenched, pitch-black comedy has a robotic quality, stiff-limbed and blank-faced. His ultra-mannered eccentricity might be attributed to his being partly the creation of Efthymis Filippou, the foremost screenwriter of the Greek Weird Wave, with Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer among his credits. [The film is] [p]ropelled by the winningly odd deadpan performance of Yannis Drakopoulos (Chevalier). Called simply “the Lawyer” in the film’s credits, Drakopoulos’ character is a hybrid of mournful silent-movie clown and loathsome pretender. His wife (Evi Saoulidou) has been hospitalized since an accident, her prospects of recovery from a coma looking increasingly dim. Or at least that’s how he prefers to see it, inviting others to do the same. He wears his pain with the same proud precision as his crisp lawyerly suits. His unapologetic sadness can feel like a
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The Real Estate (2018)

[The Real Estate is a] bracingly grotesque character study, which explores the Swedish housing crisis from the point of view of the new owner of a run-down tower block […]. A tour-de-force performance from Léonore Ekstrand, as Nojet, the 68-year-old party girl who inherits the block from her father, is compellingly monstrous. And the filmmakers, Axel Petersén and Måns Månsson, display technical flair. Nojet returns to Sweden, after a lifetime of self-absorption in Spain, to claim her inheritance. But the cash cow she expected turns out to be run down and disastrously managed by her half-brother and his alcoholic son. […] Tonally, [the film] has elements of Ulrich Seidl at his cruellest and least forgiving, combined with a lurid B movie bombast. Nobody in this film has a good side. Aggressive as it is as an aesthetic decision however, the brutal photography serves to highlight the monstrous qualities of the
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Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

When you’re surrounded by death every day, it begins to blur into life, the distinction between the two becoming less and less clear. You have to be like a tiger, reflecting on what you have already survived and setting aside fear. This is what Estrella (Paola Lara) tells herself when she’s lying on the floor of her classroom hoping that the gunmen whose shots are echoing through the building don’t get too close. The performances that director Issa López gets out of the children, most of whom are new to acting, are extraordinary – natural and raw, immediately immersing the viewer in what’s happening. […] Bluntly realistic yet shot through with fantasy elements which illuminate the way even this world looks through children’s eyes, Tigers Are Not Afraid interweaves folklore with the law of the jungle. A hit at [several] festivals where it has screened, it has marked out its
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