VA Film Fest: Luke’s Picks

November 7th, 2013 · 1 Comment · By


As you probably already know , the annual VA film festival begins today and goes until Sunday night.  My list intersects with Coogan’s at a couple points, but if you want to know about even more excellent films playing this weekend, just keep on reading!




7:00 p.m., The Paramount Theater

With films such as About Schmidt, The Descendants, and Sideways under his belt, director Alexander Payne has proven himself to be a master at getting audiences to laugh at the most dreary and depressing situations. With Nebraska he continues to meditate on the bittersweet themes of his earlier films.  Shot entirely in black and white, this film follows a father (Woody, played by Bruce Dern) and son (David Grant, played by Will Forte) on their road trip from Montana to Nebraska to claim a million dollars in prize money.  Bob Odenkirk, best known for his performance as Saul in Breaking Bad, makes an appearance as David’s tv-news-reporter brother.  Considering the cast and director, this looks like it will be an excellent film to go see.  Will Forte and Producer Ron Yerxa will lead a discussion at this viewing.

Stranger at the Lake

Thursday 10:00 p.m., Regal 4 Downtown Mall

I’m happy to see an ample helping of LGBTQ-themed films being served up this year, and the French thriller Stranger at the Lake looks to be one of the best playing at the festival.  The main character, Franck, witnesses another man name Michel kill his lover at a local cruising spot. Franck reacts with lust rather than repulsion, leading to an affair between the two men.  This film looks to be equal parts intense and sexy.


(Still from A Touch of Sin)

Tales From the Organ Trade

Friday 3:45 p.m., Regal 2 Downtown Mall

This HBO documentary focuses on the highly controversial and often sensationalized black market for human organs.  It tracks the multi-million dollar business from poorest areas of the Philippines, to the former Soviet Empire, to organ trading happening in Philedelphia.  David Cronenberg narrates the film.

Le Joli Mai

4:00 p.m., The Paramount Theater

Chris Marker, the director of this film, is probably most famous for La Jetee; half-hour long sci-fi masterpiece which was one of the major inspirations for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. Many of his films fall somewhere between documentary and tone poem, and  Le Joli Mai is no exception. In this film Marker captures the everyday life of people in post-war Paris through interviews with members of the city’s working class, while also pre-empting La Jetee’s dark science fiction with a dystopian evocation of the French capital. Le Joli Mai is an important film from one of France’s most idiosyncratic auteurs.

A Touch of Sin

10:00PM, Regal 3 Downtown Mall

Director Jia Zhangke has made some of the most fascinating films to come out of China in recent years; films like 24 City and Unknown Pleasures poetically capture how the lives of youth are altered by China’s economic transformation.  Like those films, A Touch of Sin follows multiple characters to evoke the effects of capitalism of Chinese society at large, but this time meditates more on themes of violence.  This should be one of the more fascinating foreign films at the festival, catch it if you can!

(Pic of Zizek from:


Blue is the Warmest Color

Saturday 2:00 p.m., Regal 4 Downtown Mall

Continuing the thread of LGBTQ-themed films is French film Blue is the Warmest Color, Which won the Palme D’Or at this year’s Cannes festival.  Based on a graphic novel, it follows Adele as she pursues a love affair with an art student in Northern France.  This has been one of the most talked about films of the year, and has been heralded one of the most genuine portrayals of a same-sex love to date.

Child of God

3:00 p.m., The Paramount Theater

Based one of Cormac McCarthy’s most disturbing novels (and that’s saying a lot), this James Franco-directed film promises to be a gritty portrayal of Lester Ballad’s murder spree in eastern Tennessee.  Scott Haze’s performance as the main character has been lauded by critics, so the actors discussion at the showing might make this a must-see on your film fest wishlist.

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

3:00 p.m., Regal 1 Downtown Mall

In this follow up the 2006 documentary Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, Zizek turns his attention less on film and more on ideology itself. Here ideology is defined as “[A]nything from a contemplative attitude that misrecognises its dependence on social reality to an action-orientated set of beliefs, from the indispensible medium through which individuals live out their relations to a social structure to false ideas which legitimate a dominant political power” (  Zizek branches away from the psychoanalysis of films that characterized the first Pervert’s Guide and uses the concept of ideology to analyze not just pop culture but the philosophical groundings of current events.  If you’re looking for an introduction to one of contemporary philosophy’s most groundbreaking and contentious figures, this documentary might be just your thing.



All That Heaven Allows

The Paramount Theater  11:00 AM

Many directors, including German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul)  and American director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, I’m Not There, Safe) have cited this 1955 film and other of Douglas Sirk’s melodramas as particularly influential on their respective styles. On the surface it is a Technicolor romance between Cary, a widow living in New England suburbia, and Ron, her gardener.  However the town’s negative reaction to the relationship and Sirk’s sense of irony give the film deeper resonances, commenting on ideas of conformity, sexuality, and gender roles in postwar suburban America.

Blue Ruin

Sunday 7:30 p.m., Culbreth Theatre

Blue Ruin is a revenge thriller, but certainly far and away from the gory excesses of many films focused on the topic.  Film uses more subtle techniques of building suspense, quietly drawing the audience into the dark world of a mysterious homeless man (Macon Blair) in his pursuit of justice.  The showing will feature discussion with the actor, even more incentive to catch this tightly wound thriller.

For more info on the showings, check out the official schedule here.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 James // Nov 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

    so far I’ve seen “Stranger at the Lake” and “La Joli Mai,” both of which were great. Definitely going to catch “All That Heaven Allows” tomorrow, and I may try to wait-list myself for the sold-out “Museum Hours.” Maybe I’ll wrap up with the Harry Dean Stanton doc?
    Not much on my radar today; “Warmest Color” is of course super-sold-out; I’m tempted to check out “7th Voyage” on 35, but it’s on the other side of town and I’ve already seen that movie on DVD at least 7 times, so we’ll see.
    What have y’all watched? What are you hoping to watch next?