The Ultimate Culture Guide 2009: N

Netflix Cue

This short list of small-release films may not make it to your local multiplex. Go ahead and put them on your Netflix queue (or to-rent list) now.

1 Departures

Directed by Yojiro Takita

A cellist loses his position with an orchestra and returns to his hometown, where he ends up in the funeral business. It sounds dour, but Takita, who in recent years has been better known for big action films, also has a knack for mixing comedy and heavy subjects. This is no exception, which is why it was the surprise winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Opens May 29

2 Face

Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang

The award-winning Taiwan director (he’s taken prizes at Venice, Cannes, and Berlin) casts New Wave favorites Fanny Ardant, Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Pierre Léaud, plus supermodel Laetitia Casta (barely) clad in Christian Lacroix. It’s a Truffaut tribute, with Tsai regular Kang-sheng Lee playing a director trying to shoot a movie version of Salome at the Louvre. Expect languid, surreal, and exquisite. Opens in Taiwan and parts of Europe in the fall; no U.S. dates yet.

3 The Limits of Control

Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Isaach De Bankolé plays an enigmatic figure trying to complete a mysterious (most likely criminal) task in Spain. Along the way he has cryptic encounters with Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, and Gael García Bernal. Longtime Wong Kar-Wai collaborator Christopher Doyle is behind the camera, so the film will be gorgeous and the acting will be great, even if the plot is mystifying to the end. Opens May 22

4 Moon

Directed by Duncan Jones

Okay, this isn’t such a small release, but we’re including it anyway. Sam Rockwell plays an astronaut who’s spent three years on the dark side of the moon with a robot named Gerty (Kevin Spacey provides the voice) as his sole companion. At least that’s what he thought. It’s tough to discuss without giving too much away, but the Sundance hit—whose director is also known as Zowie Bowie—marks a return to the kind of smart science fiction made before CGI took over. Opens June 12