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A still from the film Revenge, the ultimate feminist revenge thriller, screening at the Hong Kong International Film Festival which opens next week.

The movies you shouldn’t miss at 2018 Hong Kong International Film Festival

The third instalment of a yakuza trilogy, a spaghetti western with a feminist makeover, a 4K restoration of a 40s classic, and a portrait of a controversial Buddhist monk are among the must-sees from 60 countries

Featuring more than 230 films from 60 different countries, the 42nd Hong Kong International Film Festival is set to bring the finest cinematic delights from around the world to the city’s hungry throngs of dedicated cinephiles. Here are 15 films that are not to be missed:

Hong Kong International Film Festival 2018: full programme line-up announced

The Green Fog.
1. The Green Fog

A new film from esoteric Canadian Guy Maddin is always cause for celebration, but this project, again co-directed by Evan Johnson, sees him take on Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest work.

Using footage from old films, newsreels and television shows shot in and around San Francisco, Maddin attempts to recreate Vertigo as only he knows how. Expect the unexpected, embrace the unknown and welcome the all-enveloping Green Fog. (March 20 and 25)

You Were Never Really Here.
2. You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay’s follow-up to We Need to Talk About Kevin won the best screenplay award at Cannes, as well as best actor for Joaquin Phoenix, who plays a war veteran and former FBI agent wrestling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Boasting an atmospheric score from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, the film is a breathtaking descent into drug-addled madness, following an unhinged, hammer-wielding soul as he searches for his sanity and redemption. (March 20 and April 2)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos follows up his Oscar-nominated English language debut The Lobster with this existential mystery thriller. Colin Farrell plays a respected heart surgeon, whose peculiar relationship with a teenage boy leads to the collapse of his seemingly happy family.

Nicole Kidman also stars, but it is young Barry Keoghan, last seen in Dunkirk , whose performance of cold, clinical detachment will chill you to the bone. (March 21 and 24)

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts.
4. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

The traditionally macho spaghetti western genre is given a resounding feminist makeover by Indonesian filmmaker Mouly Surya. When a simple woman’s life is turned upside down by a gang of marauding bandits, Marlina (Marsha Timothy) finds herself thrust onto a new path littered with bodies and bloody vengeance.

Gorgeously photographed and stylishly executed, Marlina’s success on the festival circuit shows no signs of letting up. (March 21 and 24)

Takeshi Kitano delivers the third, and presumably final, instalment of his yakuza trilogy, which finds his exiled lieutenant character working on the South Korean island of Jeju.

When a minor altercation at a massage parlour pulls him back into the violent Osaka underworld, a labyrinthine tale of underhand plotting, betrayal and revenge unfolds. Shot through with Kitano’s signature dry wit and deadpan style, the results are hugely rewarding. (March 22 and 27)

The Death of Stalin.
6. The Death of Stalin

Armando Iannucci, creator of Veep, trains his satirical eye on the Soviet Union, as it reels from the death of its most ruthless dictator. As a vicious, paranoia-fuelled power struggle unfolds, the film whips viciously from absurdist humour to genuine horror.

At a moment when traditional structures of leadership and governance are being defaced and disregarded by those in control, The Death of Stalin could not be more tragically timely. (March 23 and 30)

A Matter of Life and Death.
7. A Matter of Life and Death

One of the greatest films of all time returns to the big screen in a stunning new 4K restoration. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, at the height of their cinematic powers, spin the enchanting tale of David Niven’s second world war pilot, who cheats death and falls for Kim Hunter’s American radio operator. But it was his time, so he must fight for his life in heaven’s celestial courts. (March 24 and 28)

8. Loveless

Russia’s submission for this year’s best foreign-language film Oscar, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s latest is as bleak and masterful as we have come to expect from the man behind Leviathan and The Return.

As a quarrelling couple prepare to separate, they realise to their horror that their young son has disappeared. Forced to brave a brutally unwelcoming winter, we venture into an urban wilderness as starved of love and compassion as their broken home. (March 24 and April 1)

An Elephant Sitting Still.
9. An Elephant Sitting Still

Destined to be a future classic if it isn’t already, this soul-shattering, four-hour drama follows a disparate collection of lost souls as they search for meaning and connection to the world around them.

Populated by murderers, bullies, the heartbroken and the rejected, Hu Bo’s sensitive debut is all the more tragic because the 29-year-old filmmaker took his own life soon after its completion. (March 24 and April 5)

10. Zama

One of four films from Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel to screen at the festival, Zama is her first film in nine years and proves a lustrous and meditative experience.

Based on the novel by Antonio di Benedetto, it is about an 18th century Spanish officer who desperately seeks a transfer out of his remote colonial outpost. His impatience leads to more philosophical speculations, as he embarks on a futile quest for some kind of pyrrhic victory. (March 25 and April 2)

The Venerable W.
11. The Venerable W.

Continuing his fascination with monstrous human beings, Barbet Schroeder follows General Idi Amin Dada and Terror’s Advocate with a startling portrait of controversial Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu.

Unlike most other benevolent followers of a similar calling, “the Venerable W” is the leader of Myanmar’s anti-Muslim movement, who speaks openly about his racist and violent beliefs, and has advocated a terrifying wave of ethnic cleansing. (March 25 and April 5)

12. Lucky

Harry Dean Stanton, star of Paris, Texas, Alien and many more, was one of the great American character actors, and died last September aged 91. His final starring role was also to prove one of his very best, as Lucky, a nonagenarian Navy veteran forced to re-evaluate his beliefs, capabilities and values in the twilight of his time on Earth.

The result is touching, warm-hearted and a worthy swan song for a quiet screen titan. (March 28 and April 3)

13. Revenge

Forget Kill Bill. French director Coralie Fargeat has made the ultimate feminist revenge thriller with this electric debut. Matilda Lutz plays the trophy girlfriend, brought along on a guys hunting trip in the desert, only for her beau’s sleazy friends to attack her and leave her for dead.

But they didn’t finish the job and now she’s coming for them all. Wickedly funny and gorgeously photographed, Revenge is a killer midnight treat. (March 29 and April 3)

14. Thelma

Unfolding like a Scandinavian version of Carrie, this beautifully realised adolescent nightmare features an incredible performance from Eili Harboe, as she ventures out from under the protection of her fiercely religious parents.

New to university, Thelma must deal with homesickness, strange surroundings, and the unexpected advances of a female classmate, while her suppressed telekinetic abilities start manifesting in increasingly violent ways. (March 31 and April 2)

15. 78/52

Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho remains one of the most influential horror films ever made, and no single sequence, perhaps anywhere in cinema, has had a greater impact on audiences or filmmakers than its infamous shower scene.

Documentarian Alex Philippe slashes open the 78 different camera set-ups and 52 cuts that make up those seminal three minutes, investigating their execution, influence and legacy on all who’ve dared to watch. (March 31 and April 5)

The Hong Kong International Film Festival runs from March 19 to April 5 at various venues around town. For full programme details, visit

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This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Festival gems are not to be missed