What to Watch at Miami Film Festival 2023 | Miami New Times

Miami Film Festival

Here's What to Watch at Miami Film Festival 2023

Here's our guide on the attractions to see and what to skip at this year’s festival.
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This year, Miami Dade College's Miami Film Festival celebrates its 40th edition with more than 140 films from 30 countries throughout downtown Miami and Coral Gables. With such a mammoth offering from global and homegrown cinema, a map may be needed to navigate. While you're encouraged to take in all you can this year, here is our guide on the attractions to see and what to skip at this year's festival.

Sick of Myself

Too bad Joachim Trier already used the title The Worst Person in the World, because Kristoffer Borglie's Sick of Myself centers around a woman worthy of the title. After an adjacent near-death experience, Signe (Krsitine Kujath Thorp), an aimless young woman, finds herself addicted to attention. Finding her life meaningless and her prospects dwindling, Signe starts with weird white lies and exaggerations before succumbing to a horrifying and self-destructive narcissistic tendency.

A pitch-black dark comedy, Sick of Myself will not be to everyone's taste; it may make many sick to their stomachs. A cross between brutal social satire and body horror, Borglie's film has crafted one of cinema's most repugnant characters brought to empty life by Thorp's stellar performance. If the film has one fault, its crescendo is so intense that it becomes a little tedious toward its conclusion. However, it would be a shame to hold that against such bold and provocative filmmaking. Before an understandable level of ennui sets in, Sick of Myself and its narcissism-meets-Munchausen's narrative crafts a cinematic anti-hero for the ages. 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 3, at Bill Cosford Cinema.
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Full Time

If you cross the Safdie Brothers' Good Time with Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money," you might get a film like Eric Gravel's pulsating Full Time. Revolving around Julie (Laure Calamy), a single mother balancing shaky child care, late alimony, debt, and a demanding job as the head maid of a five-star Parisian hotel who strives for a better life. Her difficulties are exacerbated by a transport strike that makes her commute from the suburbs to the city a nightmare. Julie's circumstances are matched by an unrelenting and kinetic pace underlined by the editing, cinematography, and electronic score. Full Time is pure cinema.

The film captures the perfect mix of craft and performance. Unsurprisingly, it won "Best Director" and "Best Actress" in the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival. The film's tension is anchored by a breathtaking, tour-de-force performance from Laure Calamy, one of France's greatest actresses. Perhaps best known stateside for her hilariously neurotic assistant in the Netflix series Call My Agent!, Calamy proves to be a grounded and electrifying everywoman in Full Time. Supported by the surrounding filmmaking, Calamy's performance is the final ingredient that makes Full Time lift off. While the film is nearly too stressful to recommend in good conscience, it is simply too thrilling to be missed. Get a ticket to Full Time, but bring a paper bag in case you hyperventilate. 7 p.m. Monday, March 6, at Bill Cosford Cinema.
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Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, is a fascinating subject for a historical biopic. As a Black virtuoso violinist and composer navigating the Machiavellian power struggles of the 18th-century French court, the premise is ripe with intrigue and drama. However, Stephen William's historical biopic is hardly intriguing or dramatic. Despite the best intentions and a fresh angle, Chevalier surrenders to the stale traps of its tired genre. At best, the film will inspire audiences to learn more about the composer; at worst, audiences will see the film and decide he's not that interesting.

As with most historical dramas, the production design is the real star. However, the beautiful costumes and ornate sets struggle to mask the plodding plot. Throughout Chevalier, there is a looming proscenium arch. The entire film feels limp and lifeless. Kelvin Harrison Jr., one of the great actors of his generation, does his best with the material, and Minnie Driver, who is delicious when playing wicked, are hindered by a lackluster script and paint-by-numbers story. Despite an attempt to tie Bologne's account of resistance to a political one of the French Revolution, the story has no sense of dramatic tension. Without the cold dissecting stare of Kubrick's Barry Lyndon or the raunchy grime and decadence of 2021's Lost Illusions, Chevalier plays it far too safe to take notice. 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, at Coral Gables Art Cinema.
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In downtown Tehran, Fanzaneh (Taraneh Alidoosti), a pregnant driving instructor expecting her first child, spots her husband Jalal (Navid Mohammadzadeh) where he should not be. What might have been a story of marital indiscretions turns into something infinitely more complex and slippery in Mani Haghighi's Subtraction. What Fanzaneh really sees defies explanation when she learns that she has encountered her husband's doppelgänger. Numerous films have dealt with the figure of the double, but Subtraction exponentially explores the concept with a double couple. Fanzaneh soon meets her own double. This is far from a spoiler (it's all in the trailer) since the film focuses on how these individuals come to terms with their double, their partner's double, and their own existence in a world that no longer makes sense.

While lesser known than his past collaborators like Abbas Kiarostami and Asghar Farhadi, Hagahighi's film is a great entry point to investigate his provocative, absurdist brand of Iranian cinema. While it is easy to obsess over the daring plot, which feels Lynchian, Hitchcockian, and Crongenbergian, it's the performances that fuel the film. Subtraction offers Alidoosti and Mohammadzdeh, who can also be seen together in Leila's Brothers, an actor's dream to play two wildly different but equally nuanced roles in a single film. Rooting his absurdist premise with rigorous realism and pitch-perfect performances, Hagahihgi crafts a thrilling slow-burn existential thriller that infuses the uncanny with thought-provoking commentary on gender, class, and identity in contemporary Iran and abroad. It's a haunting film that promises to make post-screening discussions as fascinating as Subtraction. 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, at Coral Gables Art Cinema.
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Sadly, acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura died this year. During his illustrious career, he demonstrated an affinity for dance in cinema, as seen in his Flamenco trilogy. The center of that trilogy is a revered adaptation of George Bizet's classic opera Carmen. One thing that is certain from French dancer-choreographer turned filmmaker Benjamin Millepied's latest version of Carmen is that he is not the heir apparent to Saura's brand of dance cinema. Beyond the curious decision to interpret Bizet's Carmen with neither the score nor the plot, the resulting film is a nearly unbearable collection of ponderous missteps. What should be light on its feet is weighed down by heavy-handed imagery and pretense.

There is a sense that Carmen desperately wants to be cinema in all caps, but none of its elements – including the cinematography, editing, score, performances, or writing – work together, or separately for that matter. The film lacks any sense of desire or passion in its making or between its two doomed lovers. Led by rising stars Melissa Barrera and Oscar-nominee Paul Mescal, their utter lack of chemistry leaves Carmen stagnant. However, the film's greatest sin might be the lack of connection between the dancers and the camera's movement. It's equivalent to the camera constantly stepping on the feat of the dancer. The only real response Carmen elicits is snide laughter or exacerbated groans. 7:15 p.m. Thursday, March 9, at Silverspot Cinema.
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