Two experimental films executive produced by Steven Soderbergh — Eddie Alcazar’s Divinity and Godfrey Reggio’s Once Within A Time – join Neon’s anticipated Anatomy Of A Fall, Cannes Palme d’Or winner, in theaters today, a bit of counter-programming on a weekend dominated by Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.
Divinity, in a dark and creepy future populated by bodybuilders hooked on an elixir for eternal life, “was always made for the theater,” said Alcazar. “But it’s kind of a roll of the dice of what a distributor wants to do with it.” Utopia, which acquired the black-and-white romp — set mostly in a mansion on a desert that looks like the moon — after its Sundance premiere (see Deadline review), opens Divinity at Regal Union Square in NYC, expanding to Los Angeles next week, with a national rollout on 11/3. Opening weekend Q&As with Alcazar, Soderbergh, star Stephen Dorff and DJ Muggs. Muggs’ soundtrack (with Dean Hurley) is central to the otherworldly story of twins from space (Jason Genao, Moises Arias) who land on earth to punish the scientist (Dorff) behind the droppers of liquid Divinity that is destroying humankind. Also stars Bella Thorne, Jaxxon Pierce, Karrueche Tran.
Low-budget horror (Skinamarink, Terrifier 2) is one genre that can surprise at the box office. “Hopefully, people go to see it, and then it just stays out there,” said Alcazar, who directed The Vandal, a short executive produced by Darren Aronofsky that premiered at Cannes in 2021. He helmed the 2018 sci-fi feature Perfect, executive produced by Soderbergh. With Vandal, the former prolific videogame artist developed a technique called Meta-Scope, which incorporates live action, LED walls, and stop-motion, used to particular effect in a Divinity fight sequence. His aesthetic is 1980s sci-fi horror, as in Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator. “These are films that don’t really take themselves seriously and just have fun in the process. And because we don’t really have answers, it’s just posing questions about the ideas.”
Once Within A Time from by Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi) presented by Oscilloscope is running a full schedule at the IFC Center, expanding to LA next week. Soderbergh, who has a busy weekend is hosting a Q&A tonight with co-director Jon Kane. The anarchic, multidisciplinary short comedy told without words features Mike Tyson in, as per the notes, “a bardic fairy tale about the end of the world and the beginning of a new one, tinged with apocalyptic comedy, rapturous cinematography, unforgettable vistas, and the innocence and hopes of a new generation.”
Featuring a score by Philip Glass, Reggio’s longtime collaborator.
A big one. Neon is opening Justine Triet’s Anatomy Of A Fall — which took the top prize at Cannes and just screened at the New York Film Festival — in NYC (Angelika), LA (Century City, The Grove) and San Francisco (Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, Kabuki). Limited expansion next week. See Deadline’s Cannes review.
Written by Triet and Arthur Harari, it stars Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann), who also stars in The Zone Of Interest, the Jonathan Glazer film that took second place at Cannes. Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado Graner and Samuel Theis also star.
Hüller is Sandra, a German writer living a secluded life in a remote town in the French Alps with her husband Samuel and their eleven-year-old son. When Samuel is found dead in the snow below their chalet, the police question whether it was suicide or murder. They fix on the latter, and Sandra becomes the main suspect.
Strand Releasing opens Fantastic Machine by Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson in New York (IFC). The film took the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Creative Vision at Sundance. The duo turn their cameras directly on society to explore, explain and expose how an unchecked obsession with image has grown to change our human behavior. From Camera Obscura and the Lumieres Brothers to Youtube, the film chronicles a 200-year transition from the invention of photography to today’s massive content industry.
Edinburgh Film Festival winner The Road Dance from Music Box Films, by Richie Adams, opens day and date with a handful of runs: New York (Quad Cinema), Los Angeles (Laemmle Royal), Chicago (Music Box Theatre), Phoenix (Harkins Shea 14) and Kansas City (Glenwood Arts). The Scottish adaptation of John McKay’s 2002 novel stars Hermione Corfield as Kirsty MacLeod, who dreams of a better life away from her isolated village on an island in the Outer Scottish Hebrides. Suppressing these aspirations, she sees her lover Murdo (Will Fletcher) conscripted for service in WWI, soon to set off and fight alongside the other young men from the village. A road dance is held in their honor the evening before they depart — a night Kirsty’s life takes a dramatic and tragic turn.
National Geographic Documentary Films presents The Mission on the shocking murder of young American missionary John Chau, who was shot by arrows while attempting to contact one of the world’s most isolated Indigenous peoples on remote North Sentinel Island. Directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss (Boys State) with producers Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn of Lightbox. Opens at the the Angelika and Jacob Burn Film Center in NY, Laemmle Monica in LA, Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. Premiered at Telluride, provoking a strong reaction amid debate over the ethics of Christian missionary work.
Kate Mara and David Lowery (The Green Knight) are executive producers on doc The Smell Of Money, opening in LA (Laemmle Monica Film Center) this week and NYC next. Directed by Shawn Bannon. Self-distributed. The story of Elsie Herring who led a rural North Carolina’s community’s fight to protect their land from the deadly pollution of neighboring corporate hog farms after the multibillion-dollar pork industry had been spraying animal waste on their homes and land for decades. Written by Jamie Berger.