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While the 2020 SXSW Film Festival has been canceled due to the coronavirus, IndieWire is covering select titles from this year's edition.
A viewer experiencing “Cargo” with no expectations might spend the movie's first few minutes assuming it hails from the “2001” school of near-future odysseys, as lonely astronaut Prahasta Vikrant Massey goes about his routine in a brightly-lit vessel while floating through an endless starry night. Instead, the imaginative first feature from Indian writer/director Arati Kadav offers a much stranger concept, one that merges the aesthetics of a low-budget space epic into a clever conception of the afterlife, made all the more intriguing by the way she plays the whole thing straight.
It turns out that Prahasta is actually a “rakshasa,” a type of demon from Hindu mythology that guides recently departed humans through the underworld before recycling their souls and returning them to life. That's right: “Cargo” actually takes the Grim Reaper into the cosmos, as Kadav endeavors to merge minimalist space opera with supernatural world-building. That unseemly combo doesn't always click, but she often gets away with it on the basis of ambition alone.
There's much to absorb about this backdrop, though the basic premise doesn't take long to settle in. Eons ago, the rakshasas operated under the archaic terms of Hindu lore, but have since evolved into a technologically advanced race that sends a select few operatives off-planet to absorb the newly departed, wipe their memories, and send them back to life with state-of-the-art technology. Prahasta may be a celebrity, but he's been at this game for 75 years and mostly feels like a cog in the machine, forced into an aimless routine by his employers at the aptly-named Post-Death Transition services. Its tagline: “Let's make afterlife better.”
Like Sam Rockwell's woeful lunar miner in “Moon,” Prahasta has settled into his isolation even as he struggles to find much purpose in his routine. His only companion, the paternal mission control operative Nitigya Nandu Madhav, pipes into the ship through an antiquated TV set to urge Prahasta to get with the changing times and develop a social media presence to entertain his fans. But Prahasta's a creature of habit, who would prefer to stick to the script — processing new arrivals with his clunky equipment and issuing dry explanations about their situation as if reading an insurance clause.
All of that makes it hard to process the unexpected arrival of new assistant Yuvishka Shweta Tripathi, a plucky and curious young graduate of the Post-Death Transition school, who admires Prahasta but presses him to consider newer...
The Morning Watch is a recurring feature that highlights a handful of noteworthy videos from around the web. They could be video essays, fanmade productions, featurettes, short films, hilarious sketches, or just anything that has to do with our favorite movies and TV shows.
In this edition, the cast of Steven Soderbergh‘s pandemic drama Contagion has delivered a set of PSAs about how to stop the spread of coronavirus. Plus, a video essay takes a look at the symbols and motifs of the Best Picture winner Parasite to express the film’s powerful thematic elements, and Parks & Recreation star Nick Offerman runs through everything he does in a day.
First up, Contagion cast member Kate Winslet provides some helpful advice on the best way to wash your hands and the science behind cleanliness and hygiene in a series of videos from Columbia Public Health. At their YouTube channel, you can also see videos from fellow Contagion stars Matt Damon, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, and Jennifer Ehle.
Next up, Parasite surprised everyone back in February by becoming the first foreign language film in Hollywood history to take home Best Picture. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, make sure you check it out before watching this new video essay from Lessons from the Screenplay, which dives into the way Parasite cleverly utilizes symbols and motifs to express its theme.
Finally, right now you can catch Nick Offerman in the FX on Hulu series Devs, so Vanity Fair brought him in to describe what a traditional day in his life looks like. Nick Offerman starts his morning at 6am, has a disappointing lack of meat for breakfast, heads to his woodshop in Los Angeles, exercises with his wife Megan Mullally, and more.
Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” is having its theatrical release delayed from July 24 to October 16. The move shifts Anderson’s latest into the thick of awards season. The majority of Anderson’s recent releases have all been in the spring or summer, including “Isle of Dogs,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” The original July 24 release date led many in the film industry to believe Searchlight would world premiere “The French Dispatch” at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, but that event has been postponed until future dates that still haven’t been determined.
“The French Dispatch” is being billed as Anderson’s “love letter to journalists.” The comedy-drama is set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th Century French city. The newspaper’s editors gather to pick three stories from their publication to republish in tribute of their late editor in chief. Anderson brings the three news stories to life in what is his first anthology movie. The ensemble cast includes Bill Murray, Timothee Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Elisabeth Moss, Tilda Swinton, Lea Seydoux, Owen Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, Tony Revolori, and more.
Variety reported in January “The French Dispatch” carries a $25 million production budget, which puts it at the same cost of “Grand Budapest Hotel.” The $25 million budget makes it one of Anderson's priciest live-action films. The project boasts regular Anderson collaborators like cinematographer Robert Yeoman, composer Alexandre Desplat, and editor Andrew Weisblum. Anderson’s Oscar-winning “Grand Budapest” production designer Adam Stockhausen is also on board, and he revealed last month the crew took over a felt factor in France and turned it into a movie studio for the production.
“Outside of town, we found this derelict felt factory, which sounds absurdly appropriate in retrospect but at the time, it seemed perfectly normal like, 'Yeah! Felt factory!’” Stockhausen said in a statement. “So we took this place over and turned the entire thing DIY style into a movie studio, and we took over the different rooms of it and we made one of them a prop storage and another one became a carpentry mill and another one became the sculpture room, and another one became set dressing, and the three biggest ones became our stages.”
“The French Dispatch” will open in theaters October 16.