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Indie Focus: Fall Sneaks plus 'The Little Stranger,' 'Destination Wedding' and 'Let the Corpses Tan'

Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

This week the Los Angeles Times movies team published another fall preview full of interviews and info on upcoming movies. It’s a terrific survey of titles you need to keep an eye out for in the coming months.

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Amy Kaufman visited Lady Gaga at her home in Malibu to talk about her role in the new version of “A Star Is Born,” directed by and co-starring Bradley Cooper and easily one of the most anticipated films of the year.

Gaga spoke about the difference between herself and her character in the film.

“When I wanted to become a singer, I hit the concrete running,” she says. “I really believed in myself that I could do this and that I wasn’t going to stop until I made it .… The truth is, when we meet Ally, she’s given up on herself. And that’s very different from me.”

Jen Yamato spoke to some of the filmmakers behind the new versions of horror classics “Suspiria” and “Halloween” about the challenges of finding something fresh inside a beloved title.

Tre’vell Anderson talked to some of the team behind “The Hate U Give,” author Angie Thomas and director George Tillman Jr.

Josh Rottenberg talked to Ruben Fleischer about his dark adaptation of the comic book “Venom,” starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed.

I spoke to five female filmmakers — Nicole Holofcener, Susanne Bier, Haifaa al-Mansour, Sara Colangelo and Tamara Jenkins — who all have work coming about via Netflix about the streaming platform and its impact on their work.

Anderson also spoke to Cynthia Erivo, who will be transitioning from her Tony-winning Broadway career to the movies with roles in “Widows” and “Bad Times at the El Royale.”

Sonaiya Kelley talked to Tiffany Hadish about her three upcoming movies, “Night School,” “The Oath” and “Nobody’s Fool.”

I also spoke to filmmakers Jacques Audiard, Felix Van Groeningen and Yann Demange about their respective movies “The Sisters Brothers,” “Beautiful Boy and “White Boy Rick,” all of which find the European filmmakers working for the first time on stories set in America.

And as a preview to the Telluride Film Festival, Rottenberg wrote about Netflix’s strong showing on the fall festival circuit, with a broad slate of movies including Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” Holofcener’s “The Land of Steady Habits” and Orson Welles’ newly completed “The Other Side of the Wind.”

We’re working on bringing some exciting titles and Q&A guests to you later in the month. For info and updates on future screenings, go to events.latimes.com.

Domhnall Gleeson and Ruth Wilson in "The Little Stranger."
Domhnall Gleeson and Ruth Wilson in "The Little Stranger." (Nicola Dove / Focus Features)

‘The Little Stranger’

As a follow-up to “Room,” director Lenny Abrahamson has returned with “The Little Stranger,” an odd, offbeat movie that mixes the chilly feeling of a ghost story with the reserved emotions of a tale of class friction and romantic struggle. In the movie, Domhnall Gleeson plays a rural English doctor who takes an interest in a family, particularly a young woman played by Ruth Wilson, living in semi-seclusion in what was once a grand stately home.

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After calling it “a slow-burning shiver of a movie,” in his review for The Times, Justin Chang wrote that “Abrahamson’s weapon of choice is understatement. There are no whooshing camera movements, no cheap shocks, no sudden bursts of computer-generated ectoplasm. A pervasive gloom is achieved and sustained using little more than meticulous underlighting, moldering production design and stately compositions that capture the house’s long-faded beauty and its cavernous emptiness. “

At the New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote, “The twisting and cracking of the British class system is always fascinating to observe, and ‘The Little Stranger’ traces the details of its chosen moment of social change with precision and subtlety, and with its own layers of somewhat dubious nostalgia. Since it’s also a horror movie, subtlety can go only go so far, and the past becomes a trunk mined for spooky costumes and effects.”

For the Village Voice, Bilge Ebiri said the movie “hints unsettlingly at high emotions, corrupting passions, and bloody memories; the fact that we fail to see these things onscreen doesn’t entirely mean that they’re absent. This makes the movie mostly gripping, and only occasionally frustrating.”

Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder take off to an unexpected place in "Destination Wedding."
Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder take off to an unexpected place in "Destination Wedding." (Robb Rosenfeld / Regatta)

‘Destination Wedding’

Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves star as a pair of self-styled misanthropes who are thrown together in “Destination Wedding,” written and directed by Victor Levin. The two extremely likable stars with a palpable chemistry between them have essentially the only two speaking roles in this oddball experiment of a movie.

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Reviewing the film for The Times, Michael Rechtshaffen noted that this Ryder/Reeves pairing, “a painfully indulgent anti-romantic comedy about a pair of miserable misanthropes who bond over their shared contempt of the universe, forces their screen chemistry well beyond any reasonable limits of tolerance.”

At Vulture, Emily Yoshida wrote, “Levin’s dialogue is relentless. Every line and retort is a punch line, and every punch line more or less amounts to Lindsey and Frank telling each other how much they stink.”

A scene from "Let the Corpses Tan,"
A scene from "Let the Corpses Tan," (Kino Lorber)

‘Let The Corpses Tan’

The latest from the Belgian filmmaking team of Hélène Catte and Bruno Forzani is “Let the Corpses Tan,” a brutal evocation of 1970s Italian crime thrillers. A pair of thieves with a truckload of gold bars hope to hide in a remote village that is home to a reclusive artist (Elina Löwensohn) and that soon becomes a nexus of shootouts and double-crosses.

In his review for The Times, Justin Chang called the film “a feverish, obsessive act of cinematic rehabilitation, a shoot-’em-up conceived in tribute to a peculiar strain of blood-spattered B-movies from the 1960s and ’70s.”

In her review for the New York Times, Manohla Dargis put it another way in noting, “[N]arrative isn’t of interest to the directors. They are Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, and what interests them, at least in ‘Corpses,’ is everything but the story. Stuff does happen. Bullets fly, people die. But the directors are most concerned with their own style. They foreground every camera angle and close-up, calling attention to how they’re doing what they’re doing.”

For the Village Voice, April Wolfe added, “More times than I could count I had no idea what the hell was happening, and also just didn’t care that I didn’t know. ‘Let the Corpses Tan’ is that strange and beautiful.”

Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter @IndieFocus.

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