The Best International & Indie Films of 2013

by PopMatters Staff

23 December 2013


5 - 1

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The Great Beauty

Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso, Iaia Forte


The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty is the most ambitious film of 2013, and the fact that filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino allows us to make some sense of his strange world is a major accomplishment. Although there isn’t much of a plot, the film revolves around Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a man who is self-described as the king of Rome’s nightlife, as he reminiscences on his youth and the major changes Rome has undergone over the years. Sorrentino’s film is rooted in deep nostalgia for a time and a place gone by, and it pays homage to Italian filmmakers like Fellini and the themes of ennui and decadence Italian cinema explored in the 1960s and 1970s. Littered with breathtaking visuals and wildly inventive set pieces, The Great Beauty is a momentous achievement. Jon Lisi


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The Past

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa


The Past
Memento Films

Acting like an unofficial sequel to A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s The Past picks up where his Oscar winner ended. This time around we follow Marie (Bérénice Béjo) and Ahmad (Ali Mossafa), a couple who are about to finalize their divorce but get tangled in a dramatic postmortem of their relationship which includes secrets being kept by all the parties involved. A tense work from one of cinema’s greatest humanists, Farhadi’s film is an exploration of forgiveness and atonement through both pragmatism and implied spiritualism. Infused with brilliantly subversive touched of melodrama, it might be the finest moment in Farhadi’s already illustrious career. Jose Solis


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Upstream Color

Director: Shane Caruth
Cast: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins


Upstream Color

Imagine Eraserhead, in color, without said film’s anti-procreation attitude or mechanical post-apocalyptic feel, or better yet, a twist on the typical drama where everything is spelled out in allegory, not monologuing black and white. This is Upstream Color, the latest from writer/director/actor/producer/editor and composer Shane Carruth. Known best for his time travel cult classic Primer, as well as the frequency of his role as filmmaker (twice only in the last decade), he is the heir apparent to Terrence Malick, a man who makes movies bursting with sound and image as well as ideas and insights. Bill Gibron


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Stories We Tell

Director: Sarah Polley
Cast: Rebecca Jenkins, Michael Polley, Diane Polley John Buchan, Mark Polley


Stories We Tell
Roadside Attractions

Sarah Polley’s borderline-perfect documentary about her family history could have played as another solipsistic look into mundane domestic dramas. But the focus on her mother, who died when Polley was young, turns into a memory game, as she interviews siblings and friends, who offer up different and sometimes conflicting pieces of the puzzle. Using real and invented footage, Polley starts in playful wistfulness and ends up with a perspective about the past being a constantly moving target that’s unnervingly wise for such a young artist. Chris Barsanti


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Short Term 12

Director: Destin Cretton
Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield


Short Term 12

Short Term 12 is filled to the brim with the highs and lows that define misfit youth culture. Set in a foster care facility, writer/director Destin Cretton depicts the lives of different teenagers who have been bruised and battered in their childhoods, and he provides a perceptive glimpse into the selfless adults who work tirelessly to brighten up their days. One of the leaders of the facility is Grace (Brie Larson), a hardworking young woman who still suffers from old wounds well into her 20s. Short Term 12 is moving without being sentimental and funny without straying from the sad reality that some children in this world are in desperate need of love. Take note, future independent filmmakers: This is how it’s done. Jon Lisi

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