Josh Hartnett, epic gardens: Check out these indie flicks screening in town this March

Yep, that's Josh Hartnett.

Yep, that's Josh Hartnett. Oh! Lucy

These days, big Hollywood focuses on massive comic-book movies or other sequel-friendly mega-epics.

A chill, delicate movie is almost exclusively indie territory.

The essence of indie filmmaking is not necessarily how small the budget is, but how independent the vision and financing. No, an indie movie can't come from a huge, popular studio, but a massive price tag is not necessarily a disqualifier. It's the "doing it anyway" part that's indie.

So if you need a break from big-budget blockbusters, consider stepping away from the cineplex and heading to an art house carrying calmer, artsier fare. Here's a roundup of indie films screening in the Twin Cities this month.

The Leopard
Trylon Cinema
7 p.m. March 2-3 and 7:30 p.m. March 4 

A huge, wildly expensive undertaking, The Leopard (1963), directed by Italian big-shot Luchino Visconti and starring Hollywood star Burt Lancaster, cost a shit ton of money.

But as mentioned above, an indie movie doesn't need to be cheap. Just independent. Though produced by the plucky family studio Titanus, the film was largely financed by Visconti and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, whose novel of the same name the movie was adapted from. Both had a singular vision for The Leopard, and a passion to carry it out. It probably also helped that both came from rich families.

The film is about a Sicilian aristocrat adapting to life during the Risorgimento, aka the 19th-century unification of Italy.

Sumptuously shot, every detail is richly textured and looks, well, rich. Each scene, be it in a lavish Sicilian manor, busy thoroughfare, or battle, is crowded with tons of people, fine garments, and elegant set design.

The Leopard is a beautiful, independent passion project. As visually delectable as it sounds, its aesthetic richness is matched by the varied and complex societal, familial, and personal themes of freedom and community, duty and safety.

It's also one of the most celebrated movies of all time. And the novel is reportedly going to be adapted again in a Downton Abbey-type miniseries for TV soon.

Oh Lucy!
Landmark Theaters for one week starting March 9

A deliciously dark comedy of Japanese manners, Oh Lucy! flashes stamps of indie recognition from the Cannes and Toronto film festivals.

Subtitles in English transcribe the Japanese conversations of Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima), whose sadness lends a sharp, droll perspective.

Setsuko is taking classes to learn English (her teacher is Minnesota’s own Josh Hartnett). Eventually, she goes to America with her sister to see the U.S., find her English teacher, and find herself.

Right away, the appeal of Terajima, whose work is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, is evident. She’s one of those performers with an effortless charm that’s a joy to just stare at.

Directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi, this is a movie that capably fixes its observant lens to transcend simple comedy. Oh Lucy! is about culture clashes, social commentary, and self-discovery.

Walker Art Center
7 p.m. March 23, 2 p.m. March 24

Directed by Alain Gomis, Félicité follows a singer (Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu) as she does everything she can to pay for a medical procedure for her son in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The film features settings ranging from tantalizing exotic locales to sobering third-world woes -- things that are foreign to the United States. However, the mad dash to procure funds for a medical procedure, in this case life-saving, is painfully relatable.

Mputu’s face is so descriptive, delivering full, exasperated emotion through her tired eyes and stoic lips.

Félicité is in French with English subtitles.

The Gardener
Edina Cinema
7 p.m. March 28 

Trailer The Gardener from Sébastien Chabot on Vimeo.

The Gardener is a documentary about Frank Cabot, an eccentric man who took great care of Les Quatre Vents, his epic private garden near Quebec City.

Directed by Sebastian Chabot, the movie is filled with majestic shots of the pristine, manicured garden. This is an indie doc that revels in a very indie thing: someone’s dogged pursuit in life. Films that share these singular, personal visions can create wonder in the things we didn't know we wanted or needed, like a huge garden painstakingly designed simply to enchant.