Three Indies to See in October

As the Covid-19 pandemic extends toward the seven-month mark, some California multiplexes are starting to welcome back moviegoers at 25% capacity in their auditoriums, under the state’s blueprint for re-openings.

But even if you might be feeling up for returning to your favorite theater, there aren’t a lot of new first-run movies available to see. With that in mind, here are a few of my personal picks you can look for, now playing from your couch, in Virtual Cinemas and from various streaming services.

“Bacurau” on Kanopy (with library card)
This genre-bending Brazilian thriller from filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho (“Aquarius,” 2016) is an impeccably made slice of surrealism, blending equal parts spaghetti western, crime drama, b-movie horror flick, and Latin American historical epic. After the death of her grandmother, the village matriarch, a young woman returns to a near-future Brazil to witness a series of sinister events that mobilizes all the residents. The suspense is palpable from the sweeping opening sequence to the dizzying denouement.

Also on Kanopy
“The Booksellers” (with library card) — This charming little documentary, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the NYC book world, was originally scheduled as April’s Filmworks movie, before el pandemico.

“Dick Johnson is Dead” on Netflix (with subscription)
Filmmaker Kirsten Johnson (“Cameraperson,” 2016) is a veteran indie cinematographer, but her recent turns as director have quickly made her one of my favorites. In her latest feature, Johnson “helps” her father, Dick, who suffers from dementia, prepare for the end of his life. I put “helps” in quotation marks because throughout the film, Johnson and her dad find new and inventive ways to stage his death that are both comical and emotionally devastating. As they face the inevitable, curiosity and care are in equal measure.

Also on Netflix
“The Devil All the Time” (with subscription) — You don’t really have to think much about this film to enjoy the wild acting antics and linguistic lavishness of Robert Pattinson, who gets more and more interesting by the movie.

“Still Life” at the Smith Rafael Film Center ($12)
Filmworks regulars will recognize Chinese master filmmaker Zhang-ke Jia (“Mountains May Depart,” 2015; “The World,” 2004). Following his stunning 2018 drama, “Ash is Purest White,” the distributor Big World Pictures has re-released Jia’s 2006 masterpiece, which won the Golden Lion at Venice, in Virtual Cinemas. Like many of Jia’s films, “Still Life” plays as an empathetic portrait of those left behind by a modernizing society, this time in a hybrid of documentary and fiction, a meditation on history at the moment it’s being lost.

Also at the Smith Rafael
“Nomad” ($12) — I always enjoy watching Werner Herzog in action in a documentary. The director intertwines his vision this time with the vision of travel writer Bruce Chatwin, author of “In Patagonia,” as a nomadic filmmaker and a nomadic writer move together.