What are festival insiders, tastemakers and creatives most looking forward to during IFFR 2021? What films are marked in their agendas? We asked Jack Moulton from social film platform Letterboxd for recommendations by the Letterboxd community.
From a missing film by late horror maestro George A. Romero, to a marxist vampire comedy, to a celebration of Hong Kong filmmaking great Ann Hui, Letterboxd’s West Coast editor Jack Moulton makes nine must-see recommendations for the June edition of IFFR 2021.
The Amusement Park
“The missing film by the late horror maestro George A. Romero will finally be unearthed! It was commissioned in 1973 as a PSA from the Lutheran Society about ageism and elder abuse, but true to Romero form, it was shelved for its disturbing content — so we have to see it. Resident horror-honcho Cinemonster caught its debut screening in 2019 and felt it was ‘affecting, unsettling and a bit depressing’. Shudder obtained the streaming rights and will release the film on June 8th for North America, the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.”
“Billed as a ‘marxist vampire comedy’, Julian Radlmaier’s Blutsauger is pitched by Letterboxd member Luke Gorham as ‘the orgy baby of [Cristi] Puiu, [Wes] Anderson, [Roy] Andersson, and [Jim] Jarmusch’. We have another sun-drenched summer horror movie to add to the pile with Midsommar. The film follows a Soviet refugee falling in love with a young German vampiress (and by the way, the capitalists are the vampires). Noted for its lush production, the film has charmed those who got to see its Berlin Film Festival premiere.”
Chess of the Wind
“Another recent rediscovery and restoration is featured at this year’s June leg of the festival. Banned upon the Iranian Revolution in 1979 for its takedown of class politics, Chess of the Wind was presumed lost until director Mohammad Reza Aslani’s children uncovered the original negatives in a junk shop in 2014. Featuring Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo’s debut performance, Letterboxd members who witnessed its virtual New York and London Film Festival screenings last year claim that ‘this is a stately and formally immaculate piece of work’.”
“Encapsulating the Finnish film industry via one controversial director, The Dinosaur explores the life and career of the late Finnish director Rauni Mollberg, who directed The Earth is a Sinful Song and The Unknown Soldier and passed away in 2007. The documentary was shared with Finland and screened on Finnish television in March. Tottituominen notes in their Letterboxd review that documentarian Veikko Aaltonen ‘illustrates the contradictions inside Mollberg and the contradictions of making art and the problems with it very well’.”
Fabian oder Der Gang vor die Hunde
“Another German attendee lauded for its rich production and astute politics after Blutsauger, Golden Bear contender Fabian oder Der Gang vor die Hunde explores Germany on the brink of the Third Reich. The film is an epic romantic melodrama about a young copywriter whose world begins to fall apart after he falls in love with an actress. ‘[It] achieves in just under three hours the rare and crowning title of worthy successor to Berlin Alexanderplatz’s fifteen’, applauds Morris Yang, adding that it’s ‘aesthetically liberated and politically invigorating’.”
“Filipina director Antoinette Jadaone’s latest film, Fan Girl, took the Letterboxd community by storm upon its initial screening in the Philippines late last year and subsequently swept the Metro Manila Film Festival awards. The story follows Jane, an obsessed teen, who experiences the disturbing consequences after she finds the opportunity to meet her celebrity hero. Though the ending has ostensibly already not aged well, the performances have been praised and it remains an ‘unflinching look at both obsessive fanaticism and toxic masculinity and chauvinistic entitlement’.”
“Orson Welles is truly the gift that keeps on giving! A sit-down with the two legends captures a transitional moment in film history as Dennis Hopper was hot off the heels from the radical Easy Rider which would ignite the New Hollywood era. The stark black-and-white frame stays squarely on the cool-as-cucumber Hopper while Welles bellows from behind the camera, candidly chatting politics, sexuality, and cinema. Nicolò found that ‘it's exactly as fun, enlightening, and meandering as it sounds’, and it’s also a fitting revival for the age of the podcast.”
Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché
“Documentaries about musicians rarely get this personal. Co-directed by the daughter of the late Marianne Joan Elliott-Said — aka Poly Styrene — Celeste Bell retraces her mother’s footsteps, presenting her research and reconciliations for a heartfelt record of the singular punk icon, one of the first black female singer-songwriters of the early punk scene. FilmFan1971 praised the film as ‘a moving, intimate rock doc with a wealth of terrific archive footage.’ Prior knowledge of Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex is not necessary — you’ll walk out a fan nevertheless. Oh bondage, up yours!”
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
“An academic epic for those missing your most compelling film school classes. Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched may breach the 3-hour mark, but this is only because it is an utter embarrassment of riches — director and Letterboxd member Kier-La Janisse could have easily continued for another 194 minutes. It takes both a historical and geographic approach to its topic and will promptly inspire motivation to watch all 209 films it features. Simply put: ‘In-depth, comprehensive, bad ass.’ Don’t miss Janisse’s Magic Hour episode with In the Earth director Ben Wheatley.”