Background viewing for the 2018 Wisconsin Film Festival
Pointers for streaming work from some of the filmmakers featured in this year's fest.
The few short weeks between the announcement of the Wisconsin Film Festival schedule and the festival itself can feel like a full-on sprint to digest a pileup of premieres, documentaries, rediscoveries, and shorts. To help prepare local cinephiles, we saved you the legwork and put together something of a pre-fest program to get you caught up on some of the noteworthy filmmakers represented in this year's event, which officially kicks off on April 5 and runs through April 12.
Films screening this year are in bold, and you can click through the links and you'll end up on either Amazon Prime or Netflix pages; you can also head over to Four Star Video Heaven or the Madison Public Library to find dozens if not hundreds of other related titles that aren't streaming.
It's also worth noting that when anything is referred to as "sold out" here, it only means that the online and box office tickets have been bought up. There are still rush tickets available for every film at the fest, but they're limited and on a strict first come / first served basis, so get there early if you slept through the pre-sale or got jammed up by the WFF site crashing or whatever else might have kept you from locking in a seat to one thing or another.
Director Jason Reitman, writer Diablo Cody, and star Charlize Theron are the big names on the marquee for Tully, a comedy about motherhood that sold out pretty fast when WFF tickets went on sale. This is actually the second time the stars have aligned to bring those three together, and the fruits of that earlier labor, the slightly bitter tasting belated-coming-of-age-comedy Young Adult (with Patton Oswalt in a memorable supporting role) have held up nicely in the seven years since it was released.
Excited for WFF four-timer Andrew Bujalski's breastaurant dramedy Support The Girls, the first screening of which will be followed by a Q&A with Bujalski? Catch up on his ouvre with his feature debut Funny Ha Ha, his 2013 breakthrough Computer Chess, and his most recent feature, 2015's Results, so you can be ready to bother him with questions about which lenses he used.
Filmmaker Morgan Neville looks to continue his sterling track record as a documentarian with the Mr. Rogers doc Won't You Be My Neighbor, which will be making a big splash at the festival this year (and *just* added a second screening). Fans of Neville's can play catchup with Best Of Enemies, which breaks down the relationship between noted (and notorious) debaters Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, as well as The Music Of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma And The Silk Road Ensemble, both of which came out in 2015. And if you're just looking to get a leg up on the rest of the audience with another film about Mr. Rogers, you can check out the uneven-if-still-heartwarming Mister Rogers & Me.
Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here was an early sell-out this year, which leads me to believe that most WFF-goers who'd be interested are up on her filmography, but if not, you can get up to speed with 2002's Christmas "classic" Morvern Callar or 2011's bleak school-shooting drama We Need To Talk About Kevin.
One of Canada's best-known cerebral-cinema standard bearers, Guy Maddin, pops up from time to time in Wisconsin Film Festival lineups. His My Winnipeg played the fest in 2008, and Bring Me The Head Of Tim Horton (co-directed with Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson) made our list of can't-miss films in 2016. That trio of filmmakers are back this year with The Green Fog, a somewhat experimental-sounding work recreating Hitchcock's Vertigo using only spliced together footage from other films set in San Francisco. Anyone looking to get a handle on Maddin and co.'s aesthetic can get their feet wet with 2015's surreal "romantic mystery comedy-drama" The Forbidden Room.
South Korean director Hong Sang-soo somehow managed to release three features in 2017 alone, one of which, the romantic comedy The Day After, will be making its Wisconsin premiere at the festival this year. Intrepid festival attendees who might not have been in attendance when he personally presented three of his then-recent films for the fest in 2001 can get ahead of the curve and check out the two films dropped in 2010, Oki’s Movie and Hahaha. Did I make it clear enough that the guy is prolific?
Local spaghetti-Western aficionados are surely excited to see the presumably gorgeous new DCP restoration of Sergio Corbucci's The Great Silence on the big screen, and hear its (surprisingly pricey) Ennio Morricone soundtrack on a good soundsystem. Newbies to Corbucci's body of work, and old-timers for that matter, can re/acquaint themselves with his masterpeice Django ahead of wandering a little deeper down the rabbit hole of his body of work at the fest.
Whelp, both screenings of Let The Sunshine In, Claire Denis' adaptation of Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, are sold out. Regardless of whether you're one of the lucky ones who landed tickets, or if you're putting your hope in the very good odds of some rush tickets, you can re/discover her 2001 erotic thriller Trouble Every Day, which is operating in a decidedly different gear, but is no less a great way to prep for the fest.
Are you a parent looking forward to bringing your youngster(s) along to age-appropriate screenings like Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert's The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales and Jan Lachauer, Jakob Schuh, and Bin-Han Tocan's Roald Dahl adaptation Revolting Rhymes? Well, prime those kiddos with inventive animation including Renner's Ernest & Celestine, Lachauer's Room On The Broom, and Schuh's The Gruffalo.
One of my most hotly anticipated films this year is Good Manners, by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, which will be making its Wisconsin premiere at the fest. I don't know anything about the film other than that it's a Brazilian werewolf movie, but c'mon, what else do you need to know? If you're looking for an example of the duo's earlier work, help yourself to 2011's creepy Hard Labor, about a haunted grocery store.
Experimental documentarian J.P. Sniadecki's entry in the 2018 film festival, El Mar La Mar, which he co-directed with Joshua Bonnetta, grapples with refugees and immigration. For those in search of more formative work from Sniadecki, assuming you missed his examination of the Chinese railway system The Iron Ministry when it was programmed as part of the festival a few years back, can check out 2010's Foreign Parts on Amazon Prime to gear up for the filmmaker's panel discussion following El Mar La Mar's screening this year.
Erle C. Kenton is probably best known as the director of 1932's still quite creepy Island Of Lost Souls, but he balanced out the horror in his career (a handful of mid-'40s monster flicks for Universal) with some comedies, including the W.C. Fields gem You’re Telling Me!, which was hand-picked for the fest this year by comedian, actor, Wisconsin Film Fest veteran, and slapstick aficionado Josh Fadem, who will be in attendance to talk about it afterwards. For anyone interested in acclimating themselves to Kenton's comedic side, you can check out 1942's Who Done It?, a goofball murder mystery starring Abbott & Costello.
Personally speaking, Barbara Albert's Mademoiselle Paradis, in which 18th century Viennese musician Maria Theresia von Paradis is forced to choose between keeping her eyesight or her musical abilities, doesn't do much for me. In the very likely event that your mileage varies, Albert's 2003 film Free Radicals, which follows a mother and daughter through accidents and death and ultimately questions the meaning of life, might also suit your taste and I might just watch instead.
Baltimore, Maryland and its associated social decay plays a major part in Matthew Porterfield's film Sollers Point, but the fruits of that film are partly harvested from seeds sown in his earlier film, 2013's I Used to Be Darker. Wow your friends by asking about it when Porterfield takes questions following the Sollers Point screening at this year's festival.
Making its Wisconsin premiere, 12 Days, the latest film from documentarian Raymond Depardon, is set in a French psychiatric ward and deals with the heavier aspects of mental illness. If that sounds like something you might need to wade into, then Modern Life, Depardon's look at the ways farmers in the French countryside are handling the high paced modern advancements in agriculture, might be a great place to get your toes wet.