Here's what to see at Phila. Film Festival

"Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey" will be shown Oct. 28.
"Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey" will be shown Oct. 28.
Posted: October 21, 2011

THE FALL Philadelphia Film Festival returns this weekend, kicking off a festival with more than 150 feature films over the next two weeks. While some of these movies are scheduled to come to a theater near you, others will only see the light of day in this city at the fest. Here's where we suggest you spend your time in the dark.

For showtimes, locations and tickets, visit the PFF Main Box Office (2101 Chestnut St.) or

The big tent

"The Descendants" (Oct. 29) marks the return of director Alexander Payne, who was last seen behind the lens directing the vino-centric dramedy "Sideways." It stars George Clooney as a man who finds out that his wife, before falling into a coma, was unfaithful to him.

Notorious Danish director Lars Von Trier may have put his foot in his mouth by comparing himself to Adolf Hitler while promoting "Melancholia" (tomorrow-Sunday), but don't judge the film on Von Trier's statements alone. Kirsten Dunst's performance, as a bride on her way to the altar as a new planet is set to hit the earth, has received across-the-board acclaim. Von Trier fanatics can also catch a 20th-anniversary rep screening of "Europa" (Sunday).

For those looking for something lighter, there's "Butter," (Sunday, Oct. 30) a political satire starring Jennifer Garner as a former beauty queen trying to take home another crown: champion butter carver.

"It" boy Michael Fassbender makes two major appearances this year playing wildly different characters. The chameleon-like actor reteams with Steve McQueen ("Hunger") in "Shame," (today) in which he plays a sex addict who must confront his own compulsions after his troubled sister (the similarly buzzy Carey Mulligan) moves in with him. Next he takes on famed psychiatrist Carl Jung in David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method," (tomorrow) about Jung's fraught relationship with Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). "Naked Lunch," Cronenberg's decidedly strange take on a decidedly strange book gets the 20th-anniversary treatment tomorrow.

Classical Hollywood comes to the big screen in the form of "The Artist" (today, Thursday), a black-and-white French silent film about an actor's fall from grace that was a favorite at the Cannes Film Festival. Michelle Williams takes on Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn," (Oct. 28-29) about the screen goddess' follies filming "The Prince and Showgirl."

More for the arthouse

Actor Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut with a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" (tomorrow-Sunday). Character actor Paddy Considine also steps behind the camera for the first time with his dark, violent love story "Tyrannosaur" (Oct. 29, Nov. 2).

Elizabeth Olsen, sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley, makes her own mark with a critically lauded turn in cult drama "Martha Marcy May Marlene" (Monday).

Foreign masters the Dardenne brothers bring their newest, "The Kid with the Bike," (tomorrow, Sunday) about a precocious orphan who escapes from his group home, to the fest. Finnish master Aki Kaurismaki presents "Le Havre" (Sunday-Monday), a deadpan comedy about a novelist who feels a renewed sense of purpose helping a young African refugee. Bela Tarr's "The Turin Horse," (Oct. 27, Oct. 29) is a visual masterpiece composed of only 30 long shots.

Although it was shot in the Balkans in Albanian, "The Forgiveness of Blood" (Oct. 30) comes from American Joshua Marston, who wowed with his debut feature "Maria Full of Grace." This time, Marston takes on a land dispute between two families.

Get local

"The Collector" (Thursday-Friday) profiles the late Albert Barnes, whose art collection has caused much controversy in recent years.

Philly's roots as a boxing town are highlighted in "Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears" (tomorrow, Sunday) about the Philly-based boxing icon. The basis of another local icon similarly gets the profile treatment in "The Real Rocky" (today, Wednesday), a documentary about "Bayonne Bleeder" Chuck Wepner. (Another sports documentary, "Undefeated," about an underdog Memphis football team, may not be local but certainly deserves the attention.)

Rising rap star Meek Mill stars in Jamal Hill's "Streets," ( Oct. 21, Nov. 1) about newcomer to the city, Nicole (Nafessa Williams), who get mixed up in the city's 'hood culture.

Although not set in Philly, Peter Berg's "Friday Night Lights" (Wednesday), based on the book by occasional Daily News columnist Buzz Bissinger, gets a special-event-screening spot.

What's up, doc?

It seems as if director Jonathan Demme's heart has moved from features to documentaries. Demme's entry in this year's fest is "I'm Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad and The Beautiful," (Monday) about the unsinkable spirit of a retired mother in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Demme classic "The Silence of the Lambs" gets the big-screen treatment on Halloween.

Werner Herzog, another feature director who has found a calling with docs, dives into a decade-old triple murder in "Into the Abyss" (Oct. 30). Wim Wenders' "Pina" (Sunday) is more dance film than doc.

Jay Duplass has one doc and one feature in this year's festival. His fictional entry, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" (today, Sunday), co-directed with brother Mark, is a day in the life of philosophical stoner Jeff (Jason Segel). His documentary entry is "Kevin," (Oct. 30) in which the director goes in search of his musical hero, Kevin Gant, who disappeared 15 years ago.

Another Kevin we're excited to hear about is Kevin Clash, the subject of "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey," (Oct. 28- 29) about the man behind the lovable red Muppet.

Perhaps the most au courant of this year's flicks is a triple bill of the "Paradise Lost" films (Thursday). Directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky took on the case of the West Memphis Three, three teenagers convicted of murdering three boys despite little evidence to prove their guilt. The West Memphis Three were recently released from prison. The filmmakers have tacked a new epilogue to the third entry to wrap up the trio's stunning release.

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