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  • Don’s Favorite Undistributed Films of 2013 | Part Two

    Best of 2013

    By | December 22, 2013

    It seems as though every year we have been presented with an increased quantity (and quality) of independent films. So many of these films end up having strong festival runs, then disappear into cinematic limbo; but as more boutique distributors pop up, more of these films are ending up getting some sort of a theatrical and/or VOD release. With this year coming to a close, I want to highlight some of the best films that I saw in 2013 that — to the best of my knowledge — have yet to announce a U.S. distribution deal. I say that, however, with total confidence that they will be distributed one way or another in the next 18 months.

    Rather than ranking these films, this is an alphabetical list that has been broken up into three posts: Part One, Part Two & Part Three.


    Forty Years from Yesterday

    Forty Years from Yesterday is a gorgeously minimalist meditation on the moods and tones experienced shortly after a loved one’s death. We observe the characters — all of whom are non-actors — as if they are subjects of a cinema verite documentary. (Check out my full review of Forty Years from Yesterday.)



    Hopefully the audience will recognize the true genius of Frames, which is how Brandon Colvin uses Peter’s idiosyncratic approach to filmmaking to deconstruct his own production. By observing Peter, we become increasingly aware that we are essentially observing Colvin’s avatar. They both abide by the same theories of composition, constructing their stories purely by framing the images in a particular manner. (Check out my full review of Frames.)



    In his debut feature, writer-director Harry Patramanis channels the existential and psychological moodiness of classic Michelangelo Antonioni, Nicholas Roeg, Peter Weir and Wim Wenders, as Fynbos cares more about people’s actions and reactions, than plot development or action. Patramanis avoids drama as he quietly studies the divisions between people — whether definitively drawn by race or class, or existing in a purely psychological realm. (Check out my full review of Fynbos.)


    Grow Up, Tony Phillips

    For me, Emily Hagins’ youthfulness and gender give her a very unique perspective on coming of age comedies. Whereas directors like Hughes are reflecting upon their past, Hagins is writing about her near-present. The immediateness of her perspective is very exciting to me, if for no other reason than its unfiltered authenticity. There are very few directors who can reflect upon high school as honestly as Hagins, and especially not as skillfully as a film like Grow Up, Tony Phillips. (Check out my full review of Grow Up, Tony Phillips.)


    Hide Your Smiling Faces

    Reminiscent of David Gordon Green’s George Washington and Matthew Gordon’s The Dynamiter, Hide Your Smiling Faces relies heavily upon its mood and tone to drive the narrative. The sporadic dialogue is mostly inconsequential, though necessary in order to maintain the high level of realism. Even the characters are almost, dare I say, unimportant; though excellently portrayed by Nathan Varnson and Ryan Jones, the brothers seem to be mere pawns who are leading us towards something…but only Daniel Patrick Carbone knows what. (Check out my full review of Hide Your Smiling Faces.)


    It Felt Like Love

    Writer-director Eliza Hittman’s It Felt Like Love takes an observational perspective on teenage sexuality, never explicitly telling us what to think… First and foremost, I love the visual elements of It Felt Like Love: Lila’s geisha-like face, whitened by sunscreen; her not-quite-form-fitting, one-piece swimsuit; the props she chooses to look more mature. Concepts like self-expression, self-confidence and identity are photographed with a dreamlike gaze as It Felt Like Love beautifully captures burgeoning sexuality and the brevity of youth; it is like a reminiscence of the past that takes place in the present. (Check out my full review of It Felt Like Love.)


    Kelly + Victor

    Based on Niall Griffiths’ novel, Kieran Evans’ Kelly + Victor is an intense study of the fine line between tenderness and aggression in romantic relationships. Kelly + Victor also showcases the importance of communication during sex, especially in developing a clear and simple way of understanding each other’s limits. Evans plays with stereotypical gender conventions, specifically with Kelly who reveals both feminine and masculine traits. The casting of Antonia Campbell-Hughes as Kelly is truly inspired for this very reason. Campbell-Hughes’ girlish charm exudes a sweet innocence of someone who could never hurt a fly, let alone strangle or cut someone out of pleasure. We would never expect someone of her size to be able to control someone of Julian Morris’ build; then again, I think Campbell-Hughes’enrapturing wide-eyed gaze alone could probably convince most men to do just about anything she wants.



    Whether purposefully or not, Lily’s Jean Seberg-esque (circa Breathless) natural hairstyle and the Chantal Goya-esque (circa Masculin Féminin) wig help transform Lily into an iconic Godardian heroine; though, Lily’s situation and personality seem a bit more in line with Anna Karina’s characters in A Woman Is a Woman and Vivre Sa Vie. (Check out my full review of Lily.)


    Little Black Spiders

    Patrice Toye’s Little Black Spiders is an alluring piece of cinema that exists in an almost dreamlike state of consciousness, as if the story is being told via the fantastical lens of Katja’s romanticized memories…until the story transforms into a horrible nightmare. With images that are drenched in sensuality, the film visually reflects the raging hormones of the teenage girls. Little Black Spiders is an emotional rollercoaster for Katja and for us, the audience. The highs are like pure ecstasy, while the lows soak our eyes in salty tears. (Check out my full review of Little Black Spiders.)


    OXV: The Manual

    Like Shane Carruth’s films, Darren Paul Fisher’s OXV: The Manual firmly grounds itself in a perplexing web of seemingly convincing scientific logic; but just like time travel (Primer) and psychotropic maggots (Upstream Color), the reality of OXV: The Manual boils down to pure science fiction. It is a blessing and a curse associated with being compared to Shane Carruth. For me, this analogy means that Carruth and Fisher share the ability to present hyper-intelligent stories in complex worlds on an impressively modest budget, but others seem to perceive Carruth’s (and possibly Fisher’s) unique narrative approach to be overtly oblique and impenetrable. (Check out my full review of OXV: The Manual.)


    Continue to Part Three / Return to Part One

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