The second and final weekend of the Miami International Film Festival now approaches, and there is still so much to see.
This year has proven especially rich in finely executed cinema, but no sane person can see it all, especially since many screenings overlap (it's no easy task coordinating close to a hundred feature films in 10 days). In fact, some of the films in the list below have already screened.
Thank God for second chances because with the heavy amount of sell-outs this year and the usual tricky schedule made complicated by covering the distances between spread out venues, you're sure not gonna want to miss Florida Film Critics Circle member Hans Morgenstern's picks of five must-see films closing out the final weekend of MIFF 31.
None of these films overlap, so you can theoretically see them all. Give it a shot and remember to buy your tickets early lest you be relegated to the rush line. Fingers crossed you make it in to any of these screenings.
Imagine you're half-assing your work and love-life when suddenly a guy who looks just like you takes a job at your office and succeeds in impressing the boss and scoring with your office crush. The idea of the sudden appearance of a doppelganger is a surreal concept that's worked great in literature in the past (see the similarly titled book by José Saramago and the Dostoyevsky novella, which loosely inspired this film). Sometimes, it's even worked in cinema (see Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Doppelganger). No one does milquetoast as well as Jesse Eisenberg, so The Double, should bring some interesting acting gymnastics by the guy most famous for playing Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Showing Thursday, March 13, at 9:15 p.m. at Regal South Beach; and Saturday, March 15, at 6:45 p.m. at Paragon Grove 13. Tickets.
Bound to be one of the most unsettling films at MIFF 31, Heli took the director's prize at Cannes last year. It's a brutal take on the cost of the war on drugs to an innocent family in Guanajuato, Mexico. Director Amat Escalante has crafted a powerful film that takes no prisoners. It's heart-breaking, horrific, and utterly essential. Escalante strips cinema narrative to a strange deadpan delivery for heightened affect. That one of the most brutal torture and death scenes happens in a room where children play video games and a mother cooks in an open doorway speaks to the twisted ordinariness and the devaluation of life in a once vibrant nation. Showing Saturday, March 15, 9:30 p.m. at O Cinema Wynwood. Tickets.
Is it the streets? Is it these things together?
Nothing here ever changes, till it does.
It's already had its sold-out world premiere at MIFF, but now is your second chance to see it before it surely goes to other film festivals. Ectotherms' director, Monica Peña, is a local filmmaker who the MIFF executive director called "startling" (read my interview with her). Come to this movie with an open mind, as the film defies a straight narrative structure and features meandering scenes that seem about little more than young people wasting time. In the end, however, it will leave you with a creeping sense of place and a Miami many do not know. The voice of a neglected Cuban grandmother recalling a life gone by will leave you heartbroken, while a tour of an Everglades swamp with a young dreadlocked man will leave you revitalized. Showing Sunday, March 14, at 4 p.m. at Regal South Beach. Tickets.
Marking his English-language directorial debut, Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo is bound to gain a wider following with his new film Open Windows. The film follows the fan of a Hollywood starlet who wins a twisted contest to watch her on surveillance cameras. What will he do when the stakes turn from voyeurism to a life or death struggle? Starring that famous hobbit Elijah Wood and the porn star turned mainstream actress Sasha Grey, this film could very well go anywhere. Vigalondo isn't likely to disappoint, as those familiar with Vigalondo's brilliant time-travel murder mystery Timecrimes and his bizzarr-o, alien-invasion dramatic comedy Extraterrestrial, already know. Showing Sunday, March 16, 6:30 p.m. at Olympia Theater. Nacho Vigalondo will be present as will celebrity guest host John Leguizamo. Tickets.
Only Lovers Left Alive
One of the original modern indie directors, Jim Jarmusch, offers what is sure to be a unique take on the vampire genre. Only Lovers Left Alive features Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as lovers Adam and Eve (ha!) dealing with the now mundane complications of immortality. The cast also includes Mia Wasikowska playing an anarchic younger sister to Swinton's character, and John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe who apparently faked his death in the 16th century. The film has a wry sense of humor and is beautifully shot. It's the first time the existentially-obsessed Jarmusch has taken on explicitly supernatural themes and vampires seem to fit the challenge well. Showing Sunday March 16 at 9:15 p.m. at Regal South Beach. Tickets.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.