Three Summer Indies to See in August

As the Covid-19 pandemic creeps toward the five-month mark, most U.S. movie theaters remain closed. Fortunately, lovers of independent and international films can still get their fix of first-run movies thanks to Virtual Cinema offerings that are ongoing from art-house exhibitors nationwide.

After screening “John Lewis: Good Trouble” online during the month of July, Fresno Filmworks will take a break from Virtual Cinema in the month of August. If you missed seeing JL:GT with us, you can still watch it for $12 by supporting our friends up the 99 at The State Theatre in Modesto.

Here’s a few of my personal picks you can look for, now playing in Virtual Cinemas.

“Deerskin” ($5) at The State Theatre (Modesto)
This French film, starring Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) and Adèle Haenel (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”), is billed as a “black comedy of middle-aged masculinity gone awry.” The premise: A recent divorcee becomes obsessed with a vintage deerskin jacket that has unlikely powers over him, as he adopts the disguise of an independent filmmaker and befriends a bartender in a sleepy Alpine village, who joins him in making a surprising and surreal movie. This was a must-watch summer indie for me, directed by Quentin Dupieux, one of my favorite music video makers.

Also at The State
“Waiting for the Barbarians” ($12) — The latest dramatic epic from Colombian director Ciro Guerra (“Birds of Passage” and “Embrace of the Serpent”) stars Robert Pattinson and Johnny Depp.

“First Cow” ($15) at Film Lincoln Center (NYC)
Hands down, Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff”) is one of my top-5 filmmakers of the past 20 years. The premise of her latest: Two loners seeking fortune join a group of fur trappers in 19th Century Oregon, forming an unlikely bond that relies on a clandestine friendship with a wealthy landowner’s prized possession. Reichardt’s uncanny ability to capture quiet and sensitive connections between men, in this case against the hardscrabble conditions of frontier life, rightly challenges the very foundations of cinema’s depictions of American masculinity.

Also at Film Lincoln Center
“A Girl Missing” ($12) — The latest from Japanese master filmmaker Kōji Fukada (“Harmonium”) stars frequent collaborator Mariko Tsutsui in a stunning, deftly unfurled psychological drama.

“Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour” ($10) at The Roxie (San Francisco)
Featuring 6 short films from 5 different countries, this year’s installment of the Sundance short film tour goes fully virtual for this first time. Filmworks screened the Sundance shorts package back at our 2015 Fresno Film Festival, and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. This year it is easier than ever to see them online while they’re in their first run, and the program is eclectic and diverse as ever.

Also at The Roxie
“We are Little Zombies” ($12) — This debut feature from Japanese director Makoto Nagahisa is a critics’ favorite. It’s a black comedy about four recently orphaned 13-year-olds who form a pop band to ease their grief.