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October 2013

Your Wish Is Its Command

Her (2013)

Warner Brothers Pictures

These days, neither Spike Jonze nor Charlie Kaufman seems to have much fun working apart from the other. At first glance, the premise of Mr. Jonze’s “Her” suggests a return to zany form following “Where the Wild Things Are”: The new film concerns Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com writer who is in the midst of a divorce and developing romantic feelings toward Siri version 20.0, here known as Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). While parts of it are hilarious just as one would expect, the rest of the film takes on a surprisingly somber tone.

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Being Robin Wright

The Congress (2013)

57th BFI London Film Festival

A divisive entry in Cannes Director’s Fortnight back in May and now a polarizing presence at 57th BFI London Film Festival, Ari Folman’s almost dementedly ambitious film could well antagonize some viewers with its scattershot approach to a variety of 21st-century concerns, from modern culture, to science, technology, aging and more. But for its sheer audacity and willingness to approach both philosophical concepts and a bewildering animation style, I’d argue it’s a film to be dissected and admired.

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A Seasoned Paramour

Jeune & jolie/Young & Beautiful (2013)

57th BFI London Film Festival

Prolific, dependable and remarkably consistent, François Ozon has built up an impressive body of work since his arrival onto the cinematic scene more than 20 years ago. His latest film certainly suffers in comparison to its predecessor, “In the House,” now seen as one of Mr. Ozon’s strongest and most successful works. But while “Jeune & jolie/Young & Beautiful” may be modest and even frustrating, it would probably be seen as a highly creditable drama from most other talents.

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Life Swap

Like Father, Like Son (2013)

Sundance Selects

Family lies at the center of much of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s work. It’s at once the most personal and familiar subject matter, but is one that is riddled with nuance and unbounded complexity. Nature versus nurture is a story as old as the hills, but rarely has it been told with such heartfelt craft as in Mr. Kore-eda’s latest picture, “Like Father, Like Son.”

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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Aunt

Ida (2013)

38. Gdynia Film Festival

Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young nun on the brink of taking the vows that will sequester her from the world indefinitely. Her mother superior (Halina Skoczynska) generously advises her that she may want to connect with her only known living relative before being cloistered, so Anna subsequently acquaints herself with Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a hard-drinking, straight-talking 40-something dropout.

In the process Wanda reveals that Anna is in fact Ida, a Jew who was left on the convent’s doorsteps amidst the carnage of World War II. Thus begins a road movie in which two strikingly different characters embark on a journey of discovery, uncovering facts about their family history which have been concealed up by years of guilt, denial and obfuscation.

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