MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 24, 2020: BEANPOLE

Settings don’t get much bleaker than 1945 Leningrad, decimated after the ravages of WWII, but even the darkest times have moments of intimacy and beauty in Kantemir Balagov’s spare, unflinching Russian drama Beanpole. The film tells the story of the intense, complicated friendship between gangly, awkward Iya — the titular Beanpole — and impulsive, yearning Masha as they struggle to find happiness in a post-war world.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 17, 2020: CHICHINETTE: THE ACCIDENTAL SPY

Telling your story — bearing witness to your own life and those of the people you’ve loved (and lost) — is one of the most powerful things someone can do, especially when they’ve lived through historic events. But it’s not always easy, as we learn from watching Nicola Hens’ engaging documentary Chichinette: The Accidental Spy about former WWII spy Marthe Cohn, who, now nearly 100 years old, still travels the world sharing her experiences with others.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 3, 2020: SPEED OF LIFE

What if, instead of being a space oddity, the infinitely creative David Bowie was actually a time and space oddity, and his passing literally ripped a hole in the universe? That’s the intriguing premise of Liz Manashil’s charming indie dramedy Speed of Life, which centers on an avid Bowie fan named June whose life takes a very unexpected twist after Bowie’s untimely death in 2016.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 13, 2019: THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN

A chance encounter brings two women together for a day that neither could have anticipated in Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ drama The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open. Authentic in every way, from the gritty cinematography to the convincing performances, it’s documentary-like in its frank honesty.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK Dec 6, 2019: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

A picture is worth a thousand words — and leads to a thousand longing glances — in writer/director Celine Sciamma’s passionate drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Set in remote mid-1700s Brittany, it follows the increasingly intense relationship between painter Marianne (Noemie Merlant) and her unknowing subject, Heloise (Adele Haenel), who has just left sheltered convent life.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 22, 2019: SHOOTING THE MAFIA

Anyone who’s ever winced at the mob violence and manipulation in The Godfather will quickly realize it has nothing on the real-life crimes of the Italian Mafia, as captured through Letitzia Battaglia’s talented eye and focused lens. The fearless photographer is the subject of Kim Longinotto’s fascinating documentary Shooting the Mafia.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 15, 2019: ATLANTICS

Dreamy and full of unexpected twists, Mati Diop’s narrative debut Atlantics — Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival — is simultaneously a tender tale of star-crossed lovers, an eerie ghost story, and a gritty procedural. That unusual combination keeps it surprising and engaging throughout and underlines writer/director Diop’s notable talent.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 8, 2019 – HONEY BOY

Part coming-of-age drama, part father-son story, and part therapy, “Honey Boy” is a compelling take on actor Shia LaBeouf’s troubled childhood and controversial behavior as a Hollywood star. Working from LaBeouf’s own script, director Alma Har’el builds sympathy for both LaBeouf and his father without excusing either for their actions.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 1, 2019: PARADISE HILLS

Alice Waddington’s lush, imaginative directorial debut builds such a convincing dystopian world that you’d be forgiven for assuming it must be based on some intricate, “Hunger Games”-like series of YA novels. But Brian DeLeeuw and Nacho Vigalondo’s tale of privileged young women at a very unusual “finishing school” called Paradise Hills is a true original.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 11, 2019: DILILI IN PARIS

Michel Ocelot’s Dilili in Paris isn’t your standard animated kids’ fare — not by a long shot. And that’s a good thing. With its sophisticated Belle Epoque setting and parade of cultural and artistic figures and references, it’s almost like taking a trip to a colorful, informative, interactive museum. Which is somewhat apropos, given that we first meet young Dilili (voiced by Prunelle Charles-Ambron) when she’s participating in a living cultural exhibit of the Kanak people.

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