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10 films to see at the Philadelphia Film Festival this weekend

From ballet to jerks to this year's Palme d'Or winner, there's plenty up for grabs in the fest's final few days

‘Ballet 422’
4 (out of 5) Globes
Sat., Oct. 25, 8:30 p.m., Prince Music Theater

Ballet is traditionally depicted as a hotbed of outsized egos and shattered psyches. One of the most shocking things about Jody Lee Lipes’ documentary about the New York City Ballet is how non-shocking it is. The “star” is Justin Peck, a 25-year-old member who goes from the lowest rank to choreographing the company’s 422nd work. Lipes is a star cinematographer — he’s lensed “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Girls” — but he mostly stays loose and fly-on-the-wall. He borrows a touch from Frederick Wiseman, showing how an organization works. But where Wiseman’s films on the arts are about the financial side as well as the artistic, Lipes sticks with the latter. He painstakingly shows how much work goes into what amounts to relatively brief performance. Everyone, most of all Peck, stays calm; all the turmoil is trapped inside the constantly moving bodies. — Matt Prigge

‘Big Significant Things’
3 (out of 5) Globes
Fri., Oct. 24, 5:20 p.m. Ritz East; Sun., Oct. 26, 5:00 p.m., Ritz East

While his girlfriend is in San Francisco looking at houses, Craig (Harry Lloyd) is secretly traveling through the American South, visiting roadside attractions like the World’s Biggest Rocking Chair. He is searching, obviously, for a little meaning in his life; he is about to make a big commitment. Craig encounters various strangers on his journey, most notably, Ella (Krista Kosonen), whose singing in a bar transfixes him. The film’s small, quiet moments—like Craig eating pizza in his car—are wistful, and revealing. Lloyd gives a very expressive performance; his anxiety, loneliness, and desperation are all palpable. But while Bryan Reisberg’s modest film makes some predictable turns, it ends up going nowhere slowly. "Big Significant Things"wants to make some grand observations about life, growing up, relationships and responsibility, but ultimately, it is too slight to be completely effective. — Gary M. Kramer

‘Force Majeure’
4 (out of 5) Globes
Sun., Oct. 25, 3 p.m., Ritz East

Like the Gael Garcia Bernal-starring “The Loneliest Planet,” “Force Majeure” spins on a character, in a moment of mindless instinct, acting cowardly, revealing his true, pathetic self. Here, a father, with his family on an Alps skiing trip, flees from what looks like an avalanche, leaving his wife and children to perish. Turns out it was a false alarm, but now they know what a cad dad is. Writer-director Ruben Ostlund’s smart, faintly funny study asks all the tough questions, with mom at first trying to ignore it, then finding herself shocked to learn how little she knew about the man with whom she procreated. — Matt Prigge

‘Goodbye to Language’
3 (out of 5) Globes
Sat., Oct. 25, 1:15 p.m., Prince Music Theater

Even for Jean-Luc Godard, the latest from the French New Wave pioneer is impossible to adequately parse on first viewing; indeed, one of the best, most penetrating pieces on it, by David Bordwell, was only written after he saw it four times. That’s not to say there’s nothing to take away from a virginal brush with this typically fragmented late period Godard work, which fires off cranky, gnomic, playful pronouncements as a middle aged man gallivants with a younger woman. Shooting again in 3-D, Godard likes to mess with the audience, occasionally wounding eyes by laying two 3-D images on top of each other. Also there’s a dog. We’ll figure it all out later, but there’s surface pleasures all over.— Matt Prigge

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‘Listen up Philip’
5 (out of 5) Globes
Sun., Oct. 26, 1:15 p.m., Ritz East

Philadelphia area native Alex Ross Perry graduates to a name cast, but doesn’t change up the rough, scrappy, on-film style he’s used in “The Color Wheel” and the loose Thomas Pynchon take “Impolex.” Jason Schwartzman plays a young novelist who decides to step up his jerkishness with his coming second book, much to the shock of his girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss). Perry structures the film like a novel, abandoning its lead for a large stretch, then returning to watch as his plans to canoodle with some aging, old school, man’s man types (among them Jonathan Pryce) takes a turn for the sour. It’s a heartbreaking look at someone pining for a past that not only has passed, but maybe wasn’t that great to begin with.— Matt Prigge

‘Kumiko the Treasure Hunter’

4 (out of 5) Globes
Fri., Oct. 24, 7 p.m., Roxy; Sat., Oct. 25, 7:15 p.m., Roxy

Here's a quirky premise: A shy Japanese woman (Rinko Kikuchi) thinks the hidden loot from the Coen brothers' "Fargo" is real and travels to Minnesota to find it. But filmmakers David and Nathan Zellner treat this with a disarming mix of absurdism and spacey seriousness, following their hero to the far side of her delusions. It’s “Nebraska” as told from Bruce Dern’s side, if Bruce Dern was a young Japanese woman who wants to divorce herself from society. — Matt Prigge

‘Point and Shoot’
3 (out of 5) Globes

Sun., Oct. 25, 5:25 p.m., Ritz East

A tall tale told from a human level, Marshall Curry’s doc hangs tight with one Matthew VanDyke, a Baltimorean who went from only child with OCD to an adrenaline junkie fighting in the 2011 Libyan revolution. Told mostly from his hair-raising footage, “Point and Shoot” gets as lost as its subject, who winds up as invested in rebellion as the friends he makes, even becoming international news when he’s taken prisoner. Most of all it’s a harrowing portrait of life among war, one where a nice, shy boy suddenly finds himself — with cameras rolling — worked up enough to almost take a life. — Matt Prigge

‘10,000 Km’
4 (out of 5) Globes
Sat., Oct. 25, noon, Ritz Bourse

The fantastic first 20 minutes of the intimate, affecting two-hander "10,000 Km,"introduces Sergi (David Verdaguer) and Alex (Natalia Tena) in bed in their Barcelona apartment. They are hoping to make a baby. However, when Alex gets an email to move to Los Angeles for a residency, Sergi is reluctant, but he agrees to maintain a long distance relationship. "10,000 Km"chronicles the couple episodically—sexing over Skype, fighting, confessing their emotions, and examining their relationship as it changes over time. They make compromises that these their love for one another. The two leads are alternately funny, sexy, sweet, and insecure, and the performances are wonderfully natural. Their contemplative moments of being “together apart” resonate deeply. Writer/director Carlos Marques-Marcet’s film is exquisitely controlled, but the parts somehow seem greater than the whole.— Gary M. Kramer

‘Traitors’
4 (out of 5) Globes
Fri., Oct. 24, 4:30 p.m., Ritz East; Sun., Oct. 26, 4:55 p.m., Roxy

In this absorbing and atmospheric drama, Malika (Chaimae Ben Acha) is a punk singer who needs money to make a demo. To earn fast cast, she gets a job driving a car into the mountains for a drug dealer. While Malika knows how to hustle, her savvy is tested when she meets Amal (Soufia Issami), a fellow drug mule whose troubles are perhaps greater than her own. As urgent as it isauthentic, "Traitors"benefits from having a feisty, determined young Arab woman at its center, and viewers will root for her. Malika is grace under pressure under some intense interrogation. Writer/director Sean Gullette tackles a few too many issues in the film’s 82 minutes, and the editing is choppy at times, butTraitorspresents an interesting slice of life in Morocco, and Ben Acha is absolutely captivating.— Gary M. Kramer

‘Winter Sleep’
4 Globes
Sat., Oct. 25, 12:15 p.m., Ritz East

The first thing one notices about the latest from Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan (“Distant,” “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”) is the length. (Well, that or the uncommonly beautiful, burnished cinematography — a Ceylan staple.) This portrait of a grumpy actor-turned-remote-hotelier (stage actor Haluk Bilginer) is the longest film to ever win top prize at Cannes; moreover, most of it is a series of unhurried arguments between he and his brutally honest sister (Demet Akbag) or his younger, bitter wife (Melisa Sozen). Still, it’s impossible to imagine it any shorter. Length is key to its power, forcing us to stew in lengthy hangtime with people who aren’t going anywhere, much as they’d wish to. It has the density and the texture of a good, long novel; one emerges full, and of course, happily depressed.—Matt Prigge

Not yet seen:Closing night film “Wild” finds Reese Witherspoon hiking a rather shocking number of miles, and was directed by “Dallas Buyers Club”’s Jean-Marc Valee to boot. And “The Duke of Burgundy,” the latest from “Berberian Sound Studio” probably genius Peter Strickland, does a riff on the Eurotrash sex movies of the 1970s.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter@mattprigge

 
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