As COVID continues to ebb and flow in the U.S., the film industry waits anxiously to measure the full impact. It’s hard to know when things will return to even a semi-normal state … a situation which makes it distinctly hard to predict what will be available for viewing in the next few months. With that in mind, I’m going to recommend my usual three different ways to enjoy films this month, substituting in an extra streaming option instead of a local film event.
Charlie Kaufman, writer of mind-bending films like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, tries his hand at his first adapted screenplay since the bizarre, circular Adaptation with upcoming Netflix horror film I’m Thinking of Ending Things. This effort should be a bit more straightforward than Adaptation, as Kaufman directs his own screenplay, based on a recent thriller by Iain Reid. While it might lack something of Kaufman’s usual twisty, meta-approach (though who knows what he has up his sleeves), the film should still provide plenty of thoughtful chills and scares as it follows a woman whose visit to her boyfriend’s parents goes terribly awry. A loaded cast, including Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis, should bring plenty of heft to the proceedings, and Kaufman’s knack for the weird and absurd should be a great fit for a horror film. Expect something offbeat, possibly even humorous, as well as scary.
This month, Criterion has me especially excited with a deluxe reissue of one of my favorite films, full stop: Claire Denis’ masterful 1998 film Beau Travail. If you’re not a fan of international cinema, you may not know Denis’ name, but she’s one of the most important female directors working today. Beau Travail marked her breakthrough internationally, and with good reason: a pulsing, hypnotic adaptation of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, transposed to postcolonial French Africa, Beau Travail is one of the most unsparing, ravishing portrayals of obsession ever put on film. The great Denis Levant stars as a French Foreign Legion officer undone by his cruel fixation on an underling, and Denis’ counterintuitive directing, alongside a haunting soundtrack pulled from Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd opera, combine to make a masterwork. The Criterion disc features new essays, both written and video, and a conversation between Denis and the American director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight).
Who knows if The King’s Man will actually screen in physical theaters this month? It should, at least, be available for digital rental – try to do so through your local theater, if you can, to lend them support. Matthew Vaughan’s brash film franchise, about a British secret service group filled with refined gentlemen – think James Bond meets Tarantino – gets a prequel in this third installment, which tackles the origins of the spy service in the run up to World War I. With ringers like Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hollander and Djimon Hounsou on board, the film should be brisk and entertaining, a great antidote to the September doldrums.