Ten Fall Indies

With the prestigious fall movie season almost underway, here are but ten (and in a few cases, relatively) independent films I’m looking forward to. Release dates are New York ones (so we might not see a few of the December releases in Boston until Jan. or beyond) and as always, subject to change.

BALLAST
Since I’ve missed it at two local film festivals, will some daring programmer in Boston please book a run of Lance Hammer’s acclaimed, purportedly visually stunning, self-distributed debut feature? If not, I’ll attempt to make a one-off screening with the director in person on September 29 at the Harvard Film Archive. (Oct. 1)

RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
The plot sounds like a retread of last year’s MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, but great reviews from Toronto say otherwise—a long awaited return-to-form (and return to relatively low-budget filmmaking) from Jonathan Demme? A great role for Anne Hathaway? The triumphant return of Debra Winger? (Oct. 3)

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY
Mike Leigh’s last two features haven’t exactly been a barrel of laughs, so I anticipate his upbeat tale of a relentlessly optimistic London schoolteacher (Sally Hawkins), and also approach it with a little caution, for Leigh’s sharpest work has only the faintest rays of hope struggling through all the gloom and dysfunction. (Oct. 10)

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
I missed this supposedly sweet, Swedish, coming-of-age vampire film when it played Provincetown this year, and I don’t intend to do so if it plays here again—after all the lurid, sexed-up stuff we’ve seen on the subject, this alternative take sounds refreshing. (Oct. 24)

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
In his directorial debut (and first film since ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND), Charlie Kaufman gives us Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theatre director building a life-sized replica of New York City inside a warehouse. Sounds like it’ll be either mind-blowing or completely inscrutable, but not boring. (Oct. 24)

A CHRISTMAS TALE
Arnaud Despelchin follows KINGS AND QUEEN with this holiday-set ensemble piece that received more than a few raves when it premiered in Cannes last May. Promisingly, the cast reprises a few faces from the earlier film, including Mathieu Almaric, Emmanuelle Devos and Catherine Deneuve. (Nov. 14)

MILK
High expectations for this biopic to be the next BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN—it just might work if Sean Penn (as slain gay elected official Harvey Milk) proves his mettle while not overacting, and if director Gus Van Sant transforms the instinctual feel of his last few films into a more approachable (but not too conventional) narrative. (Nov. 26)

WENDY AND LUCY
Kelly Reichardt’s OLD JOY suggested a lot of potential I hope her new film fulfills. It sounds like another deceptively simple but carefully constructed story, involving a woman (Michelle Williams), her dog and an impoverished economic milieu most American movies overlook or ignore. (Dec. 10)

THE CLASS
Winning the top prize at Cannes doesn’t necessarily equate a great film. Laurent Cantet’s (HEADING SOUTH) French classroom drama will hopefully be a worthy successor to last year’s winner. (Dec. 12)

WALTZ WITH BASHIR
Unusual, innovative animated features that manage to find an audience always intrigue me. This Israeli film, which straddles the line between fiction and documentary and looks like a cross between WAKING LIFE and PERSEPOLIS, may be the next. (Dec. 26)