Next week, the San Francisco International Film Festival will celebrate its 55th year. Running from April 19 to May 20, the festival will showcase hundreds of films in over forty languages and offer prizes hitting the $70,000 mark. With such a cinematic smorgasbord, such little time to wade through so many reels and a major chunk of change on the line, here are three of Intermission’s top picks you should be sure to hit up.
Oslo, August 31st
Joachim Trier’s melancholic ode to urban life and the city of Oslo, “Oslo, August 31st” is one of the very best films of the last year and a must-see. The film centers around the charming Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), a former drug dealer and addict, who gets a one-day leave from rehab to return to the city for a job interview and to make a few personal stops. Over the course of the day in Oslo, he journeys to his favorite haunts, seeing friends of present and former days and tying up loose ends. It’s a celebration of all the things the city has to offer and how even a neighborhood can have its own memories and cast.
As a drug dealer, Anders, of course, knew everyone. Trier carefully shows us how Anders’s relationships have developed, and, in so doing, the film becomes an exploration of growing up from carefree twenty-somethings to more responsible thirty-year-olds. “Oslo, August 31st” is a dialogue-heavy film about smart people, so the conversations are interesting, real and resonant. If you’ve ever lived in and loved a city, “Oslo” will movingly touch on familiar themes, friendships and feelings.
The latest film by Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, “I Wish,” is a quiet, mature and astute exploration of childhood, hope and broken families. “I Wish” is the story of two young brothers torn apart by divorce, each living with a different parent and grasping onto the hopeless prospect of reuniting their parents. Bullet trains are being constructed through their cities, and they hear that if you make a wish while two bullet trains pass each other for the first time, it will come true. The two brothers set out with their group of friends, each with his or her own wish (including one as far-fetched as to resuscitate a cat), to meet up and make these wishes properly.
“I Wish” successfully walks the fine line between showing childhood as painful and full of helplessness and idyllic, simple and joyous. As far-fetched as this journey is, we can’t help rooting for the children to have their simple wishes granted, and we are as heartbroken as they are when the trip leads to a loss of innocence. Much like “The Kid with The Bike” and “Tomboy,” two other great films about childhood, this is a film about kids that resonates deeply with adults and is not to be missed.
The Loneliest Planet
“The Loneliest Planet” is a quiet study of a couple’s relationship—Nica (Hani Furstenberg) and Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal)—revealed subtly during their multi-day hike while on vacation in the country of Georgia. They have hired a local guide for their hike, and we watch as his presence shakes up their relationship and hinders them from communicating because they have an audience. After a startling incident on the hike, the film explores the fallout for the couple and the strength of their relationship. The dialogue in the film is sparse, which lends greater meaning to all of the seemingly small and insignificant body language: when and how close they stand together, the pace of their walk and the simple games they do or do not play. It is a slow film, but it’s not slow in the league of “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” The acting is very perceptive and nuanced, and the scenery unfamiliar and beautiful.