The 42nd Denver Film Festival (DFF) concludes Nov. 10, but there are still plenty of movies to see. Here are three not to be missed.
Directed by Matthew Rankin, The Twentieth Century (Nov. 8) is one-half quirky bio-pic about the rise of Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, and one-half spoof of King and the notion that a bio-pic can be a truth delivery device.
Shot entirely on stylized, off-kilter sets — looking like leftovers from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse — and with a gender-bending approach to casting a la Monty Python, The Twentieth Century looks at the waning years of the 1800s and the dissent between Canada’s two political parties. The one in power is imperialistic and miserable; the challenger wants to pull out of foreign wars and embrace kindness and compassion. It’s absurd, comic and blunt in regards to gender and class, life and death. You won’t know what hit you.
Moving south and to the modern-day, Premature (Nov. 10) is set among the streets, parks and apartments of Harlem, New York. Seventeen-year-old Ayanne (Zora Howard, who co-wrote the movie with director Rashaad Ernest Green) has hopes and dreams, but they all hit a sizeable bump in the road when she meets and falls for Isaiah (Joshua Boone).
The romance of Premature starts typical — even hewing toward ’90s Cinemax after dark — but when Ayanne learns an unsavory truth about Isaiah, their soft-focus love turns harsh, raw and cold. How quickly the sheen of love can be stripped.
But Premature’s best moments come not from the relationship of Ayanne and Isaiah, but of Ayanne and her friends — a rowdy group who talk too loud, drink too much and party too hard. As the movie’s signature song suggests: We were too young to act so old. Premature is honest and true, and between Howard and Green, it creates hope for future collaborations.
But there is little hope in Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You (Nov. 9), a movie that strikes both the most distressing and resonate chord of DFF.
Set in present-day London, Sorry We Missed You follows a working-class family, the Turners, as they try to keep their head above water financially and emotionally in the freelance and gig economy.
Sorry We Missed You is a harrowing look at what it takes to survive in a world that has little interest in seeing you succeed. Loach’s films have long advocated for the working class, but they seem worse off today than ever before. Sorry We Missed You reflects that. There is nothing glamorous, stylish or attractive about this world. And why should there be? The characters don’t want any part of it either. Watching the final shot of the movie calls to mind one of Kurt Vonnegut’s signature aphorisms: “Life is no way to treat an animal.”
The Turners deserve better. So do Ayanne and her friends and all those Canadians who refuse to enslave Africans. It’ll take more than just watching a few movies, but you got to start somewhere.
ON THE BILL: 42nd Denver Film Festival, through Nov. 10. Multiple locations. Denverfilmfestival.denverfilm.org.