Metropole’s 10 Films to Watch At the Viennale 2020

Austria’s premier film festival enters the pandemic age with extra screens and a great selection of world cinema.

So far, 2020 has given Vienna’s cinephiles little to smile about, with movie theaters shut down for months on end, this year’s Diagonale Festival of Austrian films cancelled and Vienna Shorts moved online – to say nothing of the near total stop put on film production. 

But a silver lining is on the horizon – shimmering all the more for our fear of losing it: The Viennale, Austria’s largest film festival is going forward today, with its signature mix of local and international features, shorts and documentaries, as well as a special program honoring the late German filmmaker and enfant terrible Christoph Schlingensief and even several films salvaged from this spring’s Diagonale. The usual festival center at the MQ may be closed due to COVID-19, but with five additional cinemas – Admiralkino, Blicklekino im Belvedere21, Filmcasino, Le Studio and Votivkino – to aid in social distancing and a comprehensive safety plan in place, moviegoers are in for a treat. Here are METROPOLE’s 10 picks for the 58th Viennale: 

10. Le Sel des Larmes (The Salt of Tears) 

Philippe Garrel(France/Switzerland) 2019; French with English Subtitles. Oct 24, 20:30, Votiv; Oct 25, 20:30, Admiral; Oct 30, 23:00, Gartenbau; Oct 31, 17:30, Gartenbau; Nov 1, 18:00, Stadtkino im Künstlerhaus

Fitting seamlessly into his nouvelle vague background, veteran French director Philippe Garrel’s latest relationship drama explores the tribulations of a young carpenter who travels to Paris for a few days, falls in love with three women and is eventually torn asunder by the consequences of his actions.

Siberia/(C) Viennale

9. Siberia

Abel Ferrara (Italy/Germany/Mexico) 2020; English with German subtitles. Oct 26, 14:30 & Oct 27, 20:30, Gartenbaukino; Oct 31, 18:30, Urania

Inspired by Carl Jung’s Red Book and starring frequent collaborator Willem Dafoe, celebrated American director Abel Ferrara embarks on a feverish, 92-minute sojourn into dreams, beginning in a decrepit bar in Siberia and escalating into visually powerful, highly symbolic explorations on family, regret, desire and life in general. Director Abel Ferrara will attend the screening.

(C) Filmgalerie 451

8. Schlingensief – In das Schweigen hineinschreien 
(Schlingensief – A Voice That Shook the Silence)

Bettina Böhler (Germany) 2020; German with English Subtitles. Oct 23, 17:15, Gartenbaukino & Oct 25, 12:30, Stadtkino im Künstlerhaus

Gone far too soon after succumbing to lung cancer in 2010 at age 49, German filmmaker, theater director, and all-around agent provocateur Christoph Schlingensief endures as one of the most visible and divisive artists of the early 2000s. If you missed him, Bettina Böhler’s thoughtful cinematic portrait is a good place to start: featuring only the voice of the artist himself, it showcases his career from Bürgerschreck to national treasure, outlining his love-hate relationship with Germany and bourgeois values.

Director Bettina Böhler and producers Irene von Alberti and Frieder Schlaich will attend the screening.

7. Aufzeichnungen aus der Unterwelt (Notes From the Underworld)

Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel (Austria) 2020;Viennese with English subtitles. Oct 23, 20:30, Gartenbau; Oct 24, 20:45, Stadtkino im Künstlerhaus; Oct 25, 14:30, Gartenbau; Oct 29, 20:30, Votiv; Nov 1, 18:00, Admiral

Drawing from the not-so-distant past, Austrian directors Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel take on the seedy underbelly of 1960s Vienna in this series of interviews with the retired Heurigen musician Kurt Girk and his friend, the infamous gangland figure Alois Schmutzer – both put away for involvement in illegal gambling and prostitution. A look at a rapidly-disappearing part of the city’s history. The directors will attend the screening.

Mainstream/(C) Viennale

6. Mainstream

Gia Coppola (USA) 2020; In English. Oct 27, 21:00, Urania; Oct 28, 23:00, Gartenbau; Oct 30, 11:00, Urania; Nov 1, 11:30, Gartenbau

After turning heads with her directorial feature debut Palo Alto in 2013director (and granddaughter of Francis Ford) Gia Coppola takes on social media and public/private personas in this scathing satire featuring Andrew Garfield as an over-the-top guru who achieves internet stardom and unprecedented influence via a series of Youtube videos.

Epicentro, Hubert Sauper, …Österreich/Frankreich/USA 2020, V’20, Features

5. Epicentro

Hubert Sauper (Austria/France) 2020; in Spanish with German or English subtitles. Oct 25, 17:30, Gartenbau (German); Oct 26, 15:15, Stadtkino im Künstlerhaus (German); Oct 27, 11:00, Urania (English)

Academy-award nominated documentary filmmaker Hubert Sauper (Darwin’s Nightmare) captures contemporary Cuba at a pivotal time, picking up the many clichés, contradictions, hopes and dreams of an island caught between the great revolutionary experiment, emerging mass tourism and dreams of Florida and Disneyland. The director and several crew members will attend.

(C) Viennale

4. First Cow

Kelly Reichardt (USA) 2019; In English. Oct 24, 23:00, Gartenbau; Oct 26, 20:30, Gartenbau; Oct 28, 15:30, Stadtkino im Künstlerhaus; Oct 30, 18:30, Urania; Oct 31, 18:00, Filmcasino

One of American independent cinema’s most prominent filmmakers, Kelly Reichardt offers a quiet and visually stunning meditation on friendship and the American Dream: Set in 1820s Oregon, the down-on-their-luck pioneers Cookie and King-Lu start their own biscuit-baking business, by stealing milk from the only cow in the territory.

3. Sheytan Vojud Nadarad
(There is No Evil)

Mohammad Rasoulof (Germany/Czechia/Iran) 2020; Farsi with German or English Subtitles. Oct 24, 21:30, Urania (German); Oct 28, 20:30, Votiv (German); Oct 30, 11:30, Gartenbau (English); Oct 31, 17:30, Blickle 

Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale film festival, dissident filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof has crafted a stark appeal against the death penalty by showing its far-reaching implications within Iranian society through four standalone stories – particularly compulsory military service, which sometimes includes aiding in executions. 

2. Kajillionaire

Miranda July (USA) 2020; English with German Subtitles. Oct 26, 21:15, Urania; Oct 28, 13:00, Stadtkino im Künstlerhaus; Oct 29, 18:00, Filmcasino; Oct 31, 23:00, Gartenbau; Nov 1, 16:00, Urania

Quirky and emotionally complex, American multi-talent Miranda July’s low-stakes heist comedy follows a family of grifters and con-artists around Los Angeles on their decidedly unglamorous schemes, exploring family and intimacy with an excellent cast featuring Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger and Gina Rodriguez.

(C) Viennale

1. Druk (Another Round)

Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark) 2020;Danish with German or English subtitles. Oct 23, 14:30, Gartenbau (English); Oct 25, 23:15, Gartenbau (German); Oct 29, 6:30, Gartenbau (German); Oct 30, 18:00 (English), Admiral; Nov 1, 18:00, Votiv (German)

Best known for co-founding the minimalist Dogme 95 movement and making its first film, Festen (The Celebration), Danish director Thomas Vinterberg revisits the little white lies the bourgeoisie like to tell themselves in this comedy about a group of male friends that seek to escape the monotony of their lives by keeping their blood alcohol levels consistently at 0.05% to measure the social and professional effects of being constantly buzzed. Initially highly successful, their “experiment” predictably goes off the rails, creating a darkly hilarious take on humanity’s favorite drug, starring a brilliant Mads Mikkelsen – magnetic even when absolutely hammered. 

Binu Starnegg
Manila born, Brooklyn bred and a longtime resident of Vienna, Binu Starnegg is currently managing editor for Metropole, where he completes myriad tasks with style and aplomb. Photo: Visual Hub

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