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Critic’s Choice: ‘The Souvenir’ and ‘Last Black Man’ bring true stories to delicate life

Honor Swinton Byrne in “The Souvenir.”
Honor Swinton Byrne in “The Souvenir.”
(Nikola Dove / A24)

“The Souvenir” and “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” both prize-winning standouts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, are also both exquisite models of semi-autobiographical storytelling. In “The Souvenir,” now available for home viewing, the English director Joanna Hogg revisits her early years as a filmmaker in 1980s London. Her younger self, Julie (a remarkable Honor Swinton Byrne), confronts the challenges of her artistic medium even as she falls into a love affair with an older man (Tom Burke) that is passionate, funny and ultimately heartbreaking.

In “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” which will be released Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray, the director Joe Talbot pulls off a remarkable collaboration with his lead actor and longtime friend, Jimmie Fails. The story, about a beloved home, a lost legacy and a city overrun by sweeping gentrification, happens to be Fails’ own, told here with great visual beauty and melancholy humor. You may emerge from these pictures unsure of what did or didn’t really happen, but you will have little doubt that you’ve seen something true.


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