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Staff & contributors

In The Beasts, the idyllic semi-retirement that a French couple seeks in the Galician countryside — growing organic vegetables, fixing up abandoned farmhouses — devolves into a terrifying slow-burn nightmare. This beautifully shot yet spiritually ugly thriller plunges us straight into an atmosphere of crackling social tension that never abates. We begin after the event that turns local farmer Xan (Luis Zahera) and his brother Loren (Diego Anido) against French transplants Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and Olga (Marina Foïs): the latter two have vetoed the sale of land to a wind turbine company in favor of preserving the village’s rustic character. Incensed by what he sees as the theft of his birthright by an outsider, Xan orchestrates a steadily intensifying campaign of terror against the couple.

Though much slighter than the physically imposing Ménochet, Zahera makes for a profoundly menacing presence, and Xan’s seemingly endless appetite for hostility and vindictiveness charges the film with a deeply unsettling sense of inevitability. His performance alone would mark The Beasts as a standout, but an unexpected switch in character focus late on in the film wrests it out of Xan’s grasp and reorients the movie as a study of grim resolve — making it a film of two equally remarkable halves.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: David Menéndez, Denis Ménochet, Federico Pérez Rey, Luis Zahera, Luisa Merelas, Machi Salgado, Marie Colomb, Marina Fois, Xavier Estévez

Director: Rodrigo Sorogoyen

After receiving virtually unlimited funding from a wealthy businessman, Lola (played by the always excellent Penelope Cruz) sets out to mount an ambitious adaptation of a bestselling novel. To make her vision work, she employs renowned actors Ivan Torres (Oscar Martinez) and Felix Rivero (Antonio Banderas), knowing full well that their opposite philosophies in art and life will clash. What follows is a series of preps and rehearsals that play out like social experiments in their twistedness, which all in all speak to the outrageousness of film, art, and life itself.

In this Spanish dark comedy, no one is spared from satire—from the idiosyncratic auteur down to the sell-out actor, all are parodied in equal measure, each of their egos broken down in great and hilarious detail.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ana Belén, Antonio Banderas, Daniel Chamorro, Irene Escolar, Isabel García Lorca, José Luis Gómez, Juan Grandinetti, Ken Appledorn, Manolo Solo, María Guinea, Mary Ruiz, Melina Matthews, Mónica Bardem, Nagore Aranburu, Oscar Martinez, Penélope Cruz, Pilar Bergés, Pilar Castro, Sue Flack

Director: Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn

Rating: R