Best of the fest

Fill out your Denver Film Festival dance card with these choice cuts


It’s the most common question you get as a film critic: “What’s good?” Variants include: “What do you like?” “What excites you?” “What should I see?” And if you’ve asked me any one of those in the past two months, the answer always comes easy: Perfect Days.

Set in modern-day Japan, Perfect Days follows a Tokyo toilet cleaner on his rounds. But these are no ordinary toilets. Maybe you’ve heard of them; the Japanese government recruited a dozen world-renowned architects and designers to fashion public restroom facilities so state-of-the-art, so welcoming and beautiful, that the workers servicing them and the patrons using them would treat them with reverence.

Septuagenarian filmmaker Wim Wenders photographs these lavatories with wide-eyed curiosity, much in the same way he follows Hirayama (Koji Yakusho) on his daily rounds. Yes, the toilets are impressive to behold — particularly the block of neon-colored transparent boxes that discreetly frost the instant you lock the door — but so is the man tasked with keeping them shipshape. A quiet man, Hirayama speaks little but wonders much. His dedication borders on religious ritual that spans every aspect of his life from his tidy home to his love for rock ’n’ roll, which he listens to via cassette tapes as he traverses the city.

Perfect Days might be the best depiction of Buddhism on screen I’ve ever seen. It’s also one the best movies of the year, and it’s coming to the 46th Denver Film Festival (DFF) on Sunday, Nov. 5, for a special 6:30 p.m. screening at the Denver Botanic Gardens. What a treat that will be.

And treat might be the word that rolls through your mind while you peruse DFF’s schedule with more than 160 features and shorts playing multiple venues Nov. 3-12. The lineup includes some of the year’s most anticipated releases, alongside exciting offerings from up-and-comers and local filmmakers. Passes and single tickets are on sale and going fast. In addition to Perfect Days, here are four more you want to put on your DFF dance card. 

Fill out your Denver Film Festival dance card with these choice cuts

Bad Press  
6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3 and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, AMC 9 + CO 10, 826 Albion St., Denver. 

Freedom of the press is a liberty we take for granted in these United States. But on the sovereign nations of Indian reservations, surprisingly few councils recognize a free press with a constitutional amendment. Directors Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler follow Mvskoke Media of Oklahoma’s Muscogee (Creek) Nation as they try to do their job while the chief and council they cover are allowed to edit and revise their reporting. Bad Press is a perceptive work that shows how quickly bad actors can control the narrative if accountability is suddenly tossed out the window.

. . .

 La Chimera 
7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St. 

The Italian landscape is pocked with tombs, crypts, graves, tunnels — you name it. Hundreds of years of history are underfoot, and Arthur (Josh O’Connor) and his merry band of grave robbers are here for the plundering. They’re all working-class people armed with little more than shovels and Arthur’s almost supernatural ability to find the crypts. Directed by Alice Rohrwacher, La Chimera plays like a fairy tale with a social conscience and plenty of humor. The scene where Arthur and his crew argue with an auctioneer about the value and the potential implications of selling stolen artifacts is a delight.

. . .

 Join or Die
7:45 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10 and 4:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, AMC 9 + CO 10, 826 Albion St., Denver. 

Though he didn’t invent the phrase, political scientist Robert Putnam put “social capital” on the map when his Bowling Alone, about the decline of clubs and organizations, became one of the most talked about books of the 1990s. Directed by brother and sister Pete and Rebecca Davis, Join or Die is a lively approach to Putnam’s work, his personality and the myriad communities putting his findings to good work.

. . .

6:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, Sie FilmCenter, 2510 E Colfax Ave., Denver.

It wouldn’t be a film festival without a tribute, and DFF tips its hat to the recently departed filmmaker William Friedkin. With hits like The French Connection and The Exorcist, Friedkin flourished in the 1970s. But when Sorcerer came out in ’77, it had the dubious distinction of debuting the same weekend as Star Wars. It’s a shame, because Sorcerer is a forgotten masterpiece with one of the most gripping sequences you’ll ever see. 

ON SCREEN: Denver Film Festival. Nov. 3-12, multiple venues. Passes and tickets for Denver Film Festival here.


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