(Photo courtesy of IFC Films)
Young & Beautiful
Swimming Pool director FranÃ§ois Ozon's intriguing new film, which was undeservedly slammed at Cannes, begins with Isabelle (the sullenly gorgeous Marine Vacth), losing her virginity on a beach vacation with her family on the eve of her 17th birthday. Her sexual awakening takes a bizarre turn when she returns to school in the fall and begins meeting a series of anonymous men in hotel rooms for money. This slide into prostitution has serious ramifications but gives her an illicit thrill and power that normal dating does not. There is a superb scene at the end with the great Charlotte Rampling that sums up the movie; it's tender, melancholic and magnificent.
Cold in July
In this sensational slice of American Gothic-noir, based on a novel by Joe R. Lansdale, Michael C. Hall plays Richard Dane, a decent husband and father who shoots and kills a burglar in his home one night. The local police in the small Texas town give Dane a pass, but the intruder's vengeful, recently paroled father (Sam Shepard) is suspicious of the night's events and is determined to know the truth about what happened to his boy. Jim Mickle (Stake Land) directs this twisted tale of crime, porn, corruption and revenge with artful simplicity and blazing intensity, and Don Johnson gives a phenomenally good performance as a flashy detective.
Director Jeremy Saulnier's rawboned tale of revenge stars Macon Blair as Dwight -- a bearded, scraggly vagrant who lives in his blue Pontiac on Virginia's seaside. When he finds out the man responsible for his parents' murder is being released from prison, he gets motivated to seek bloody retribution, a plan that eventually puts his sister (Amy Hargreaves) and her children in danger. Dwight is a bit of a cipher, which makes dramatic sense -- his family tragedy has fatally unmoored him -- but revenge is like a snowball rolling down a mountain, and in this taut thriller it buries everything in its path.