Archive for the ‘Venice 2014’ Category

Birdman (2014) **** MUBI

Dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu | Wri: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo | Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts  | Comedy/Drama, US  119mins

After Gravity comes Birdman, a breathless, funny, sad, esoteric meta-cinematical work that equals the former’s visual feat, but also an about-turn by director Alejandro González Iñárritu, the likes of which has rarely been seen. A return to the limelight comes in Michael Keaton’s great performance as Riggan Thompson, a former star of the superhero Birdman franchise, whose career has faltered into wilderness (comparison to Keaton’s real life are very much intended). He wants to stage a comeback on Broadway to direct and star in his own adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story. But it’s not plain sailing, even for a movie star, as he has to deal with ego-maniacal co-stars, a druggie daughter and disastrous previews. Oh, and he’s haunted by the voice of his Birdman character, and believes he can move things with his mind.

But that doesn’t begin to explain what watching the film is like. Directed to look like one continuous shot alongside Antonio Sánchez’s glorious free jazz score, but set over several weeks (following tricks out of Hitchcock’s Rope, it’s somewhere between the technical mastery of Russian Ark (2002) and the themes and styling of Synecdoche, New York (2008)– but in fact it looks almost like something that’s rarely been seen before. It’s far from Iñárritu’s previous works, which were grim, expansive world-is-connected films, shot with shaky steadycams and quick editing like Amores Perros (2000) and Babel (2006). And what a successful volte-face.

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Much of the thanks should go to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeski, whose redefined 3D in Gravity last year to critics who dismissed stereoscopy as dead on arrival, creating long, dazzling steadycam takes. The first shot is a levitating Michael Keaton, and there are some magic moments – Keaton walking through Times Square in his Y-fronts is just one of many highlights. But perhaps the style’s greatest feature is simplicity, how after a big moment – an argument, a fight, for instance – the film doesn’t cut, change scene, but we find out that rarest of things: what happens in those moments next.

The cast are dynamite together with Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zack Galifianakis on top form alongside Emma Stone as Riggan’s dagughter, who delivers a zeitgeisty rant about how Riggan’s play is of little importance in the modern world compared to the 350,000 YouTube visitors that have seen her father in just his underpants. In a way it’s not dissimilar in tone to Truffaut’s Day for Night, also about a dysfunctional troupe of directors and actors. But while that’s about a film set, it struck me how much Birdman is actually one of the great films about the stage, where Broadway’s St James Theatre is as much a character as the players and which reflects the theatre in the film’s very composition – no cuts is, well, like theatre.

It’s also a searing satire of ego-centric thesps, Hollywood and of popular culture, where top actors have been downgraded and are now hired in Hollywood only for superhero flicks (Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Renner are roll called). But also it credibly shows the foolhardiness of putting faith in dreams and the pitfalls of grand artistic pretensions – a hole into which Iñárritu himself fell in the past. Riggan says he went into acting because Raymond Carver gave him a personal note with a good review as a youngster, but, as we soon discover, it was on a bar napkin, meaning the author was presumably (as he often was) drunk. With the film’s subtitle “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance“, would knowing that have made Riggan more or less happy, more or less willing to plunge into his art? Perhaps ignorance is bliss. The film went on to garner four Oscars, in the Academy Awards of 2015: for cinematography, directing, and screenplay, it also won Best Motion Picture of the Year. Ed Frankyl.

NOW ON MUBI | BIRDMAN PREMIERED AT VENICE 2014 | DVD BLU-RAY IS NOW AVAILABLE

 

Court (2014)

Writer|Director: Chaitanya Tamhane

Cast: Vira Sathidar, Vivek Gomber, Geetanjali Kulharni, Pradeep Joshi

116min | Drama | India 2014

COURT is a mature and analytical debut for first time director Chaitanya Tamhane, and won him the Orrizonti Prize at Venice Film Festival (2014): Not only does it deal with the disturbingly inefficient court system in India, but also the confrontation of different social classes, cultures and generations.

In Mumbai, in the state of Maharashtra, a folksinger and political activist Narayan Kamble (Sathidar) is accused of causing the death by suicide of a sewer worker: allegedly, one of his songs called for “all sewer workers to commit suicide”. His lawyer, an upper class Gujurati, Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber, who also produced the film), tries to convince judge Sadavarte (Joshi), that his client is innocent since there is no proof of suicide. But prosecutor Nutan (Kulharni) is adamant about Kamble’s guilt: she uses colonial laws from Victorian times and all sorts of prejudice to convince the judge, asking for no less than twenty years imprisonment for the accused. And although Kamble is a native of Maharashtra, the folk singer is also a lower-caste Marathi. But Mumbai is a huge cosmopolitan city; home to people whose heritage is from other states, at both ends of the social scale. Nutan’s ideology is that of a petite bourgeoise, disliking Kamble for the simple fact that he is a Dalit (Untouchable), whether guilty or not, and she is afraid of any subversive activity (how ever far-fetched) the singer might engage in.

After the widow of the dead sewer worker testifies that her husband never talked about suicide, but was suffering from the sulphur gases of the sewage system, Vora at least gets bail for his client, paying the 100 000 Rupees himself, with no hope of seeing any of the money. But Kamble returns from prison to publish his poetry and is arrested again for breaking the rule of his bail conditions. With a whole month of court holidays coming, Vora tries to save the 65 year-old singer from another prison stretch.

Courtroom dramas are usually full of emotional confrontations and dramatic incidents, but COURT showcases the rather pedestrian system where postponements and archaic laws dominate proceedings. Tamhane claims the idea came about: “When I attended a non-descript lower court in suburban Mumbai, the sheer lack of drama, and the casualness with which life and death decisions were being made, sparked my imagination”. But COURT is much more than a matter of how the law is applied: Vora is clearly a member of the new upper-class, and whilst his parents are traditional and only interested in grandchildren, their son loves his bachelor life. In contrast, prosecutor Nutan is an ordinary, middle class mother who cooks for her family and talks non-stop about groceries.

COURT is an immersive and engaging film: DoP Mrinal Desai’s widescreen images are precise: in the courtroom scenes he uses a static camera, showing the rigid system in all its ponderings. On the outside, everything is lively and fluid, in contrast the courtroom sessions, with their biased rules and incompetent procedures, take up most of the day. Tamhane never forces the tempo, letting everything unravel gradually, including the well-drawn personalities who are full of contradictions arising from a society where the pre-colonial world view and the modern, enlightened but crass materialistic society collide. AS

OUT ON GENERAL RELEASE AT SELECTED ARTHOUSE VENUES FROM 25 MARCH 2016
Winner: Orizzonti Award for Best Film and Lion of the Future – Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Debut Film, Venice Film Festival 2014 | More info: www.day-for-night.org/court-film

 

Goodnight Mommy (2014) | Ich Seh, Ich Seh

Director: Veronika Franz/Severin Fiala  Producer: Ulrich Seidl

Cast: Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz, Susanne Wuest

99min Austria (German with subtitles)

The Austrians are very good at taking ordinary life and turning into horror at Venice this year. In the same vein as Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997), Ulrich Seidl’s (Im Keller) wife and collaborator, Veronika Franz, makes her directorial debut with, along with Seidl’s nephew, Severin Fiala, in this vicious and expertly-crafted arthouse piece full of malevolence and wicked twists, set in a slick modern house buried in the Austrian countryside.

In the heat of summer, nine-year-old Elias is enjoying the school hols with his twin brother Lukas (played superbly by debut actors of the same name). They appear normal boys: swimming, exploring the woods, and keeping giant cockroaches as pets. But in the pristine lakeside home, their TV exec mother has made some draconian changes. After a relationship breakdown, she is recovering from facial surgery and bandaged up literally like a  ‘mummy’, in a draconian new regime (to assist healing) she has banned all friends from visiting the house while her recuperation takes place in total privacy. Nothing wrong with that, but the boys misinterpret her behaviour as a sinister sign that things domestic are going downhill and start to wonder whether this is an imposter or really their mother. The more they question her for re-assurance, the more fractious and distant, though strangely vulnerable and scary, she becomes. Reacting against her instinctively, the boys become convinced that their former warm and affectionate parent is a strange intruder, and decide to take control of the situation with a series of unpleasant and downright vicious tests.

Franz and Fiala create an atmosphere of mounting suspense with clever editing, minimal dialogue and the use of innocent techniques that appear more sinister and unsettling when taken out of context: window blinds that appear to signal morse code; a bloodshot eye in the bathroom eye; crunchy biscuits that sounds like cockroaches – all harmless in themselves yet unsettling and this startling paean to unbequemlichkeit, in this context. Martin Gschlacht’s cinematography switches between lush landscapes, sterile interiors and suggestive modern art to inculcate a sense of bewilderment and unease. Susanne Wuest is perfectly cast as the icy, skeletal blond matriarch with menace. The use of several characters to enforce local religious traditions and sensibilities help to ramp up tension and subversive humour: the overweight Red Cross couple, the sinister Sexton and a Catholic priest. The innocent boys transform into everyday psychopaths due to their lack of early maternal love or support, bring to mind those terrible kids from The Shining, The Innocents and even Cronenburg’s The Brood. With the complex manipulation of sound and music, this is a very clever film which contrasts images of visceral revulsion with those of serene beauty, as reality and fantasy start to blur. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE | REVIEWED AT VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2014

 

 

 

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Olive Kitteridge (2014) |DVD RELEASE

Dir.: Lisa Cholodenko

Cast: Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Bill Murray, Peter Mullan, Zoe Kazan

USA (TV series) 2014, 232 min.

Based on the novel of the same name by Elizabeth Strout, HBO’s production of the TV series is carried nearly single-handedly by executive producer Frances McDormand in the title role. Bullying her way through 25 years of recent history in the small seaside town of Crosby in Maine, New England, this is peach of a role for a middle-aged woman who plays her cards close to her chest and whose strength lies in her depiction of a woman who is not weak, tearful or vulnerable.

Olive is a Maths teacher in Middle school, her long-suffering husband Henry (Richard Jenkins, in fine form as a beta male), a pharmacist. Their only son, Christopher, is treated by his mother with the same disdain as the rest of her family in particular – and the rest of Crosby in general. Olive is not able to empathise with any of the other characters – with the possible exception of her teaching college Jim O’Casey (Mullan), a melancholic, caustic, sullen alcoholic, who loves the same nihilistic poems and novels as Olive – and, like her, looks down on everyone. Unfortunately for her, O’Casey commits suicide, before she can declare his love for her: never in the film do we see her nearly as emotionally broken as when she learns about his suicide, camouflaged as an automobile accident.

Henry, owner and proprietor of the local pharmacy, meanwhile seeks solace in the company of his employee, young Denise Thibodeau (Kazan), a kind and shy child woman, whose husband is killed in a hunting accident. For a moment we wonder if Henry will make the break from Olive: he buys Denise a cat to console he, whereon Olive comments that “he bought the mouse a cat”. But Henry is a coward, and lets the opportunity slip by. Her negation of others is nothing but self-negation.Olive manages to fall out with everybody – apart from Henry who is unbelievably stoic in his approach to life with Olive, is this a brilliantly-observed and well-acted ‘soap opera’.

Even though made for TV, OLIVE KITTERIDGE does not cut corners, the character studies are detailed, the analysis of small town life realistic, and always with the right sort of humour. The souls of the American petty-bourgeoisie are looked at with a critical eye, but with warm understanding of their shortcomings. Olive herself is the monster, in spite of her superior intellect. The camera always tries to show life from different angles, and the colour palette, particular in the many autumns we witness, are particular impressive: the beauty of nature, is rather spoiled by many of the Maine denizens – but most of all by Olive. Lisa Cholodenko (The Kinds are Alright) keeps the same rhythm in spite of the four-hour length , which, despite its off-putting title, is grippingly watchable from start to finish. When was the last time, one could say that about a Hollywood film?

NOW ON DVD | REVIEWED AT VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2014 –

 

 

Black Souls (2014) Anime Nere

Director: Francesco Munzi

Writer: Francesco Munzi, Fabrizio Ruggirello

Cast: Marco Leonardi, Peppino Mazzotta, Fabrizio Ferracane, Anna Ferruzzo, Barbora Bobulova

Drama, Italy, France, 103 mins

Dubbed as the new Gomorrah in some circles, Francesco Munzi’s mafia family drama purrs with tension, taking the brutal Mafioso world to the rustic villages of the Calabrian foothills at the southern tip of Italy.

This is the heartland of the ‘ndrangheta, the biggest and furthest-reaching mafia group in Italy, far stronger than the Comorrah and the Sicilian mafia, but more secretive and rarely infiltrated by outsiders. It’s because the group is made up of family units that the ‘ndrangheta are so tight, but it also means that entrance to the group for descendants is tacitly obligatory. If you don’t want ‘in’, you’re asking for trouble.

That’s the case with Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane), a farmer whose brothers are long-standing members of the Carbone clan; he instead tends to his farmland of goats on the slopes of the Apennine Mountains. His son Leo (Giuseppe Fumo), however, is eager to join a group where he’ll gain respect, and in an age where Italian youngsters are frequently downtrodden by unemployment, this is something he is eager to commit to. His uncle Luigi (Marco Leonardi), a drug dealer who travels Europe, takes Leo under his wing, but after an altercation between Leo and a rival clan, events spiral to take the apparently peaceful town to gang war.

This is a slower, more composed film than Gomorrah, and doesn’t have that film’s electric socio-political edge. Instead, it works as a family drama that simmers with personal tragedy and works up to a powerful, gripping finale. Sumptuously filmed in the village of Africo, often said to be the home of the ‘ndrangheta, and with the peninsula’s craggy dialect, it convinces as a place where the state, the police, and perhaps conventional morality have trouble accessing. Among a cast of non-actors and professionals, Fumo, plucked from hundreds of local kids, is remarkable in his debut role as Leo, saying little but carrying a primordial terror with every retort at his disillusioned father.

Munzi’s script, co-written with Fabrizio Ruggirello, starts the film in Amsterdam and Milan, and perhaps could have done with setting the film more tightly in the insular ‘ndrangheta communities. Here it feels like there’s no escape, where every aspect of life is dominated by the mafia. The organisation helps local politicians gain election, bars and shops have to obtain ‘protection’ by one of the clans, and respect to members is non-negotiable. But that blinkered view of the world is also this family’s downfall, as the cracks in the foundations make the whole house fall down. Ed Frankl.

REVIEWED AT VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2014 | NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 30 OCTOBER 2015

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Manglehorn (2014) | dvd l blu-ray release

Dir.: David Gordon Green

Cast: Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Chris Messina, Harmony Korine; USA 2014, 97 min.

Director David Gordon Green seems to specialise in redemption movies: in 2013 he cast Nicolas Cage in the title role of Joe, a hard-hitting and drinking man who wants to save a young worker to replicate his own fate. Here too, Al Pacino’s small town locksmith AJ Manglehorn is certainly a boozer, but his violence is of the psychological kind: he is ageing very ungracefully, rotting from the inside, whilst perpetually spilling out monologues of self-pity. Who ever gets in his way (and some people don’t have a choice, if they want to regain access to their flats or cars), is overwhelmed by a torrent of third-rate philosophy and rather personal criticism regarding their shortfalls in locking themselves out.

Manglehorn is obsessed with emptying his post-box (the meaning of the bee’s nest underneath has eluded me), and we soon learn, that he is obsessed with a certain Clara, who left him some way back. She returns all his letters unread, which he collects in a special room, full of memorabilia to her name. His son Jacob (Messina) is a stockbroker, outwardly just the opposite of his dishevelled father, but equally dishonest with himself. When he gets into trouble with the law, his father tries his best to humiliate him even more. The same goes for Dawn (Hunter) a bank-cashier, who is naïve enough to believe that Manglehorn might have some feelings for her, instead she too is put in her place,by his long winded stories of the happy times he had with the blessed Clara. The only creatures Manglehorn has any positive feeling for are his grand daughter and his cat – since they do not talk back. Unsurprisingly, we finally learn, that Clara left Manglehorn because he was always emotionally distant.

Al Pacino hams his way through 97 minutes, of this one dimensional and repetitive drama. He makes the minutes stretch, and if Green tried to reign him in, he was totally unsuccessful. Pacino’s Manglehorn, centre-stage for the whole film, leaves very little space for the development of any other characters, who are simply reduced to card-board cut-outs. Worst of all, there is even hope on the horizon – a soppy ending in line with the countless other failings of Green. The camera shows a candy-coloured America, as undeserving of saving as AJ Manglehorn – a self-obsessed bore and misanthrope, whose obnoxiousness is mistakenly shown as riveting. AS

On DVD blu-ray from 2 November 2015 | Reviewed at Venince Film Festival | Showing at Edinburgh Film Festival 2015

Theeb (2014) | DVD release

Dir.: Naji Abu Nowar

Cast: Jacir Eid, Hassan Mutlag, HussainSalameh, Jack Fox, Marji Audeh

Jordan/UK/UAE/Quatar 2014, 100 min.

Set in Western Arabia in 1916 during the First World War, THEEB is the story of a young boy, caught up in the war between the British and the Ottoman Empire, surviving against adults in his attempt to avenge the killing of his older brother.

The brothers Theeb (Eid) and Hussein (Salameh) have recently lost their father – young Theeb taking his father’s name (which means ‘wolf’) – the older teenager Hussein takes care of Theeb, teaching him all means of survival important for Bedouins. One evening, Edward, a British soldier (Fox) and his Arab escort Marji (Audeh), arrive at the tent of the brothers’ family, asking for help to find the Ottoman railway track, which they intend to destroy. Even though the Bedouins have not taken sides in the conflict, their ancient laws regarding hospitality oblige them to help the strangers, so Hussein sets out with them to guide them to the tracks. Theeb is forbidden to join them, but he follows nevertheless. In the mountains, the four men are attacked by local bandits, who have joined the Ottoman army guarding the railway. Edward and Marji are killed, whilst the brothers escape into the mountains. Tragedy ensues and Theeb eventually teams up with a severely wounded man and, while never losing sight of his goal of revenge, the pair ride through the desert to an Ottoman military outpost.

THEEB works on multiple levels: there is the story of a young boy precipitated into adulthood way before his time; the the narrative of disappearing communities seen through the changing life of the Bedouins, who for centuries guided the pilgrims to Mecca, but who are now replaced by the railway. Due to the strict laws on hospitality for the Bedouins – even if they might not agree with the dealings of their visitors, they are obliged to offer a helping hand. Theeb becomes a victim of all these conflicting circumstances, and he pays doubly: suffering bereavement and the loss his childhood, way before time.

Shot in Jordan, DOP Wolfgang Thaler (usually working with Ulrich Seidl), has eschews folkloric images , allowing the wild landscape speak for itself. Equally, Nowar steers clear of any sentimentality, showing the Bedouins as proud warriors who follow their laws, even if they become their own victims. But most of the praise should go to Eid and the other non-professional actors, who are the soul of the story.  THEEB is aan intense journey into adulthood for a young boy in a changing world. He fights with the tenacity of the name he has been given. First time director Nowar is certainly deserving of the ‘Director’s Prize’ at last year’s ‘Orrizonti’ section at Venice. AS

NOW ON DVD

 

The Look of Silence (2014) | FIPRESCI | Venice 2014 | DVD release

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

Denmark, Indonesia, Norway, Finland & UK

Documentary, 98 mins

Joshua Oppenheimer’s extraordinary documentary The Act of Killing was such a left-field way of  presenting a documentary, exploring such harrowing events, it’s no wonder that The Look of Silence might disappoint as it follows a more established convention. But to say this latest work is orthodox would be grave mistake. Even as a companion piece, this further exploration of Indonesia’s sixties genocide remains a horrifying study: personal, shattering, and stunningly photographed.

Up to a million people were murdered in the purges of 1965-66 as the Suharto coup sought to take control by terror. Communists were the named enemy, but it was really anyone who was against the government at the time – dissidents, artists, intellectuals, as well as the Chinese minority in the country. Almost fifty years later, the perpetrators of appalling acts live in the open, and in all ranks of government, while the descendants of those killed, marked “politically unclean” have had to live in fear of reprisals.

In The Look Of Silence Oppenheimer follows Adi, an optician whose brother Ramli was murdered in 1965 in a gruesome attack that is boasted about by its smiling perpetrators. Adi, born several years after his brother’s slaughter, travels around fitting glasses to the those who were around, while asking questions of the past to the bemused interviewees we learn were subjects of Oppenheimer’s studies for Killing.

According to press notes (but not mentioned in the film), Oppenheimer set out to make a more straight-forward documentary than what was released almost ten years later in Killing, but if The Look of Silence was his final accomplishment, Oppenheimer could still boast an tremendous achievement. The wealth of research he pursued is just as clear here. Adi watches clips from unused interviews in stunned silence – just like the population featured throughout. How else, you might say, can you react?

Adi confronts the killers without desire for revenge, but that’s almost what happens. Nobody gets thrown prison, but instead they’re confronted with the dead coming back to life. One perpetrator calls it a “wound” that’s just been reopened, another asks “why should I remember if remembering breaks my heart?” Maybe that’s a form of revenge, or maybe revenge is best when, as in one scene, the daughter of a killer apologises on behalf of her obstinate father, as if to perform the reconciliation her country’s previous generation were too twisted to consider. Perhaps Oppenheimer is confronting the critics who said The Act of Killing didn’t give a voice to the victims. In fact, he did, but Killing was the wrong film for it.

Why is this important? Children at Indonesian school have been indoctrinated for decades that the killings were for the good of the country (as we witness in one harrowing scene), and former gangsters and paramilitary leaders are a backbone of society. We meet the head of the regional legislature, who dismissed his role in the massacres as: “That’s politics, achieving ones ideals in various ways, isn’t it?” Then he laughs, straight into camera. Indonesia, a country of 240 million people, with wide natural resources, has never reached the capacity it could reach – economically, socially or spiritually. For this sprawling, vast, but beautiful nation, it’s the future with which Oppenheimer’s films are most concerned. Ed Frankl

THE LOOK OF SILENCE was reviewed at VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

NOW ON DVD

 

The Reunion (2014) | Atertraffen |DVD release

Writer| Director: Anna Odell

Cast: Anders Berg, David Nordstrom, Erik Ehn, Fredrik Meyer, Sandra Andreis

89min   Drama   Sweden

Artist, director, writer, exhibitionist: Anna Odell is many things. In 2009 she caused a furore in her native Sweden with a university graduation-project entitled “Unknown Woman 2009-349701” that involved her staging a fake suicide attempt and was taken away by men in white coats before admitting that the whole thing was actually a stunt in the name of Art. Any publicity is good publicity, and despite a court case that ensued, she became a household name.

In her debut feature, she plays herself in a striking lead in a psychological drama exploring the dynamics of power and bullying within a group of friends. During a college reunion 20 years after graduation, Odell examines how individuals ostracised in the classroom can go on to suffer mental issues later on in life.

Anna has found her way into filmmaking via her conceptual art projects which have proved controversial in her native Sweden, but found little interest abroad. This disappointingly tepid outing sees her acting out this new provocative persona on the big screen. School reunions are the unavoidable consequence of social media, which has made sure that no one can successfully disappear into oblivion from the schoolfriends they never even liked in the first place. Odell’s drama opens with a really disastrous example of how these gatherings can descend into farce or even tragedy. With shades of Thomas Vinterber’g Festen (The Celebration), this gruesome gathering of forty somethings rapidly goes awry when perpetual outsider Anna’s  ‘goes off on one” unleashing a torrent of accusatorial abuse.

Odell’s drama takes on a film-within-a-film structure: in a demoralising showdown she is forced out of the premises after the initial ugly mêlée Part One: The Speech and in a considerably calmer version of herself follows (Part Two: The Meetings) undergoes further demoralisation as she shows her work to the people on whom her protags are based, in a disingenuous attempt to garner respect that results in further alienation from her peers.

What emerges is a fictional film about the making of a fictional art exhibition but fails to really excite the audience or attract sympathy for her work: it actually elicits embarrassment rather than shock. And as another film blowing the lid off Scandinavia’s outwardly prim and ‘sorted’ society, it pales in comparison with Winterberg’s Danish dogma piece, and feels attention-seeking than entertaining, Nor does it shed any new light on the situation despite solid performances and slick crafting. MT

SETTIMANA DELLA CRITICA | BEST DEBUT WINNER | Venice 2014 | Now on DVD

 

99 Homes (2014)

Dir.: Ramin Bahrani

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern

USA 2014, 112 min.

In Ramin Bahrani’s gripping sub-prime thriller, we meet Dennis Nash (Garfield) for the first time in court, where he fights an eviction order. He lives with his mother Lynn (Dern) and son in a bungalow in Florida. Next day, the property “developer” Rick Carver (a brilliantly glib Michael Shannon) arrives to evict him with local sheriffs. The family has two minutes to pack their belongings – the furniture is dumped on the front lawn – Nash has 24 hours to remove them, before all will be trashed. Tearful farewells from the neighbours are followed by a move into a shabby motel. But Carver is not finished with Nash, he has done his homework: both men come from working class background, only Carver chose a career to sell houses, unlike Nash, who has worked on building sites, before his employers went bankrupt.

Carver offers Nash a way out: a job. First Dennis does the manual jobs for the ever increasing evictions, than Nash starts to be an enforcer like Carver. The money rolls in, and Nash is about to buy his house back, when a chance encounter with one the families he has evicted, lets Nash’ family into the secret he tried to hide from them. When Lynn takes his son away to her brother, Dennis has to make a decision.

In a contempo Faustian’ bargain: the devil (Carver) offers Nash the existence he would have had in the motel. Initially, Nash is only after getting his house back, than he is stung by the ever increasing profits as he becomes the devil’s apprentice. Step for step he looses his decency, represses the guilt with the excuse that he only does it for his family. He could be any of us. The mortgage crisis in the USA cost too many families their homes, families who paid their mortgages on time – as long as they could. But nobody is save from this fate, everyone is just a step away from this catastrophy.

This is a middle-class nightmare with some outstanding turns from three actors at the top of their game: Shannon is undestated, not painted as a bad person, just one who made the wrong decision. Garfied stumbles into the abyss, always looking over his shoulder to his former self. Dern is the sensitive but film matriarch: staying with her roots, unfazed by the opportunities her son might conjure up. The camera remains un-judgemental, showing the wealth and the poverty, neutral, like a true. 99 HOMES is a frightening film, because it could be all our tomorrows. AS

REVIEWED AT VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 24 SETPEMBER 2015

Pasolini (2014) |

Dir.: Abel Ferrara

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Ninetto Davoli, Maria de Medeiros, Adriana Asti, Riccardo Scamarcio

USA 2014, 85 mim.

November 2nd 1975: the final day in the life of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italian poet, novelist and filmmaker. After returning from Stockholm, were he met Ingmar Bergman amongst others, Pasolini’s day starts with a letter to his friend and fellow writer Alberto Moravia, asking him for advice on his nearly finished novel “Petrolio”. Later he is interviewed by a journalist and then dines with friends in a restaurant for supper, before setting off on his last journey to Ostia, having picked up the 17 year-old male prostitute Pelosi. In Ostia, on an abandoned football pitch, he is attacked by a gang, beaten to death. His Alfa Romeo driven over his prostrate body.

Abel Ferrara’s enigmatic portrait reigns back on any sensationalism to cover Pier Paolo Pasolini’s last day with dignity and sobriety. We see a refined man in love with writing and films; planning future projects on both fronts. We also see a man fearful of the future. “We are all in danger” – he tells a journalist. This is hardly surprising since the seventies in Italy was a decade fraught with politically motivated violence, kidnappings of industrialists and attacks by the “Brigate Rosse” (Red Brigades). Pasolini, a fervent Marxist, had many enemies.

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Unlike Giordana in his 1995 film Pasolini, an Italian Crime, Ferrara does not dwell on the conspiracy theories, he simply shows a man who thrived on the streets of the Roman underworld. Cruising in his sports car, behind dark glasses, he diced with danger, enjoying casual sex with young adonises, often from the wrong side of the tracks. The film includes a part realisation of Pasolini’s film project “Porno-Teo-Kolossal“, where on one day of the year, the gay and lesbian denizens of the city have intercourse together, in order to procreate.

In a dynamite performance, Willem Dafoe not only looks like Pasolini, but brings him to life with integrity, sparse gestures; an economy of movement. Overall, PASOLINI is a film worthy of its subject, showing the two sides of the man: a sometimes aloof intellectual who loses his cool (and finally his head) in dangerous liaisons. In the end, Pasolini became a victim of the society he portrayed. AS/MT

REVIEWED AT VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL RUNS UNTIL 2014. ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM SEPTEMBER 2015

The President (2014)

Dir.: Moshen Makhmalbaf

Cast: Misha Gomiastvili, Dachi Orvelashvili

Georgia, France, UK, Germany, 115 min.

Moshen Makhmalbaf’s THE PRESIDENT is a collaborative affair with his filmmaking family. It tells the story of a deposed dictator, running for his life in a seemingly naïve way, with his grandson in tow – only when the story develops do we appreciate the wisdom and humanism Makhmalbaf is famous for.

The film begins with the president’s family still in absolute control with the power to switch the lights on or off in the capital to his heart’s content. When a mass uprising by the impoverished population of this nameless country sees the entire ruling family clan fly away to safer shores – the stubborn patriarch digs his heels in with his equally tenacious grandson: the two of them are made for each other. With servants and friends deserting or being shot, soon the odd couple is alone: running from the opposition forces and a vengeful nation who want the ever growing price put on their heads. The tyrant poses as a political prisoner and joins a band of them, many of whom are tortured, on their way home. We ask ourselves, how long it will take for the two to be captured, but when this happens, it us under the most extraordinary circumstances.

Told in the style of a fable, THE PRESIDENT contrasts the before/after effect of the dictator’s existence: cold and cynical when in power, he changes into something more human after he is deposed – and not only because he is now on the receiving end of life. His love for his grandson is unconditional, and his machiavellian cunning is used for the benefit of another human being, for the first time in his life.

THE PRESIDENT is a parable on what a revolution does to a nation: how quickly liberation gives way to revenge and the hunt for new enemies. Wonderfully performed, with sweeping cinematography of this magnificent, unknown country and of  the misery of the displaced. A mature and passionate film that finds humour n the most precarious situations. AS

OUT ON GENERAL RELEASE | CURZON BLOOMSBURY | AUGUST 15 2015

She’s Funny that Way (2014) | DVD release

SHES_FUNNY_THAT_WAY_DVD_3DDirector: Peter Bogdanovich

Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans, Tatum O’Neal

93min   US   Comedy

Peter Bogdanovich made his long-awaited return at Venice 2014 with this blast of humour that feels quaintly dated but welcome nonetheless amongst an array of, frankly, second-rate festival dramas. Co-scripted with his ex-wife Louise Stratten in her screenwriting debut, it has a solid comedy cast of Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and Imogen Poots. Not to mention Rhys Ifans.

Although set in a contempo Manhattan, this has the classic feel of a Woody Allen film from the early eighties and it also shares the rich, honeyed visuals of the era. The narrative, too, feels dated; locked in a bygone era of the casting couch, which is the thrust of its central duo, played by Imogen Poots – as spunky wannabe actress cum call girl Izzy –  who finds herself involved with a married film director, Arnold Albertson (a reticent Owen Wilson), after entertaining him in her bedside manner the night before she gives him an audition for a play. So smitten is he (and so wealthy), in his plausible, but gentlemanly midlife crisis, that he offers to take her off “the streets”.

It just so happens that Izzy has another andropausal admirer in the shape of Judge Predergast (Austin Pendleton) who shares the same shrink, Jane Claremont (a fabulous Jennifer Aniston) whose own lover (Will Forte) is the playwright of the piece that Izzy’s trying for. The delightfully dotty Kathryn Hahn plays Arnold’s wife who’s keen on Seth (Rhys Ifans), the main star of this play in question. As so the twisty tale goes on with a few too many plotholes to mention, but a few laughs too on the way.

This is old-fashioned but good-value entertainment, as long as you don’t take it too seriously – there’s even a cameo appearance from Bogdanovitch himself. Aniston and Poots act their socks off to great effect and the support performances are more than decent. SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY is pleasant, light-hearted comedy. And for a simple night out, it does certainly does the trick. MT

REVIEWED AT VENICE 2015 LA BIENNALE 71 EDITION | ON DVD FROM 10th AUGUST

 

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) | Leone D’Oro | Venice International Film Festival 2014

Writer/Director: Roy Andersson

Holger Andersson, Nisse Vestblom

101 mins, Sweden, Germany, Norway, France

To paraphrase Chaplin, life is a tragedy in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. That’s the spirit of Roy Andersson’s latest, dizzy, brilliant film. The film’s first three scenes offer slices of death: a man suffers a heart attack opening a wine bottle; a dying, wailing mother prizes her handbag of jewellery from her money-grabbing kids; a dinnerlady offers up the abandoned beer of a gentleman who has just collapsed and died in front of her. They’re all ferociously funny scenes. Why? Because we’re only human.

Pigeon’s characters may be acting a tragedy of their own making, but it makes for a warm, funny and beautiful movie, of the kind that reflects our own trials and tribulations and forces us to put them perspective, to laugh in their face. Yes, it’s that good.

The film concludes Andersson’s ‘Living’ trilogy (after Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living), each film released seven years apart. His latest has a similar series of related vignettes, most comic, contemplating something greater through the banality of everyday existence. If there is a through-line, it’s led by a pair of travelling salesmen Jonathan (Holger Andersson) and Sam (Nils Westblom), skating in and out of their own miserable lives amongst the memories and dreams of those they meet. Selling novelty gifts:“extra long” vampire teeth and “laughter bags”, as well as the latest “Uncle One-tooth” mask that they hope will be the next big thing. They know as much as we do that it won’t, their products so absurd they mock themselves.

Andersson meticulously crafts each set-up – he took four years to make the film – and yet each scene catches something serendipitous, as if captured by magic of the camera’s apparently arbitrary medium-shot length (of course, it isn’t). Some sequences are stunning: Jonathan and Sam are lost trying to find a shop called “party” (the existential joke is surely intended), and enter a shabby café to ask directions. While there, the huge army of King Charles XII march outside on their way to defeat at Poltava. Here’s a Swedish national hero reduced to a simple man asking for sparkling water. Later, in another period scene, 19th century English colonists load slaves into a furnace. Their screams squeeze through a series of trumpets into beautiful brass music.

There’s also a haunting repetition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic (better known as “Glory, Glory Alleluia”), translated to suit various settings from war marches to the melody of a barmaid asking for a kiss. The original song was about the American civil war – is the director contemplating a split in man’s soul between hope (that characters here show) and the reality that exists? Who knows, but it’s unquestionably moving.

Pigeon is an absurdist drama for today, and Andersson an heir to Ionesco or Beckett on film. To the director, we’re a tragicomic race: we so long for company and gratification, but dying alone is our lot – again, it’s what makes us human. But he’s asking us to take heed of another of Chaplin’s timeless quotes: “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it”. Ed Frankl.

REVIEWED AT VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2015 | NOW ON DVD BLU

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Line of Credit (2014) |Kreditis Limiti

Director: Salomé Alexi

Cast: Nino Kadradse, Salome Alexi, Koka Tagonidze,

90min  Comedy Drama  Georgia

Georgian filmmaker Salome Alexi’s LINE OF CREDIT is a finely-tuned and delicately rendered comedy teetering on the brink of tragedy to paint a tense yet elegant picture of a well-to-woman family forced into debt in penny-pinching post Soviet Georgia.

Purple-tinted pastel visuals and careful mid-distance framing echo Miss Violence but this is lighter in tone lacking the glowering menace of Avranas’ outing , despite its serious undertones. A predominantly female affair, it sets off with a large family gathering to celebrate an elderly woman’s birthday in the faded grandeur of the upmarket apartment she shares with her middle-aged daughter Nino and her husband in Tbilisi. It emerges that Nino had pawned her mother’s wedding ring to pay for the party. Close friend Lili (Alexi) reveals, in a discrete post prandial tête a tête, the need for an operation but can’t afford the medical cost but there is a crafty way round this involving her joining a drug programme. Meanwhile the aristocratic Nino (Nino Kadradse) and her mother are quietly selling off the family porcelain to cover expenses.

Graceful and soignée, Nino keeps up her appearances while constantly scrimping and saving to run her small cafe in a quiet corner of the bustling capital. Enlivened by occasional bursts of local music, this intimate domestic drama depicts a close knit community that cares for each other in frequent encounters and conspiratorial chats but the debt-ridden duos invariably focus on money matters and will resonate with art house audiences experiencing the need to tighten their belts. Alexi’s well-crafted and watchable debut gradually builds towards a shocking climax and by the end we feel thoroughy au fait with contempo middle class Tbilisi and its subtle yet far-reaching political undercurrents. MT

LINE OF CREDIT is screening during East End Film Festival on 9 July 2015

The Goob (2014)

Director/Writer: Guy Myhill

Sean Harris, Sienna Guillory, Hannah Popplewell, Marama Corlett, Oliver Kennedy, Liam Walpole

Drama  UK

In his enigmatic debut, Guy Myhill evokes the open spaces of the Norfolk countryside veiled in golden summer. This unsettling coming of age story pits a young man’s burgeoning sexuality against that of his mother’s boorish boyfriend – an avid stock-car racing champion and local grower.

Simon Tindall’s ethereal camera-work captures the rough and ready allure of this farming landscape and its gutsy inhabitants recalling that motorcycle opening sequence of Lawrence of Arabia with a soft-focus arthouse twist that contrasts well with a pumping score of hits that include Donna Summer. Bristling with sexual tension and dreamy awakenings from childhood to young adulthood in the Fens, it teases with an enigmatic storyline that weaves into focus then departs again in a different direction, never quite revealing itself but conjuring up a family in turmoil.

‘The Goob’ is newcomer Liam Walpole who lives with his single mother Janet (Sienna Guillory) and her vicious partner Gene (Sean Harris) in a run down shack of a roadside cafe. Gene Womack dislikes the boy and makes no bones about showing it. Matters worsen when the Goob and his brother crash Gene’s prize-winning car in a boy-racing moment, which results in forced labour on the beet farm for the Goob, threatening to curtail a potential relationship. He does however stoke up new friendships with gay farm-hand Elliott (a buzzy Oliver Kennedy) and Eva (Marama Corlett) another picker who takes a shine to him during an impromptu midnight party in one of Gene’s fields.

This is a story that brims with intrigue and erotic tension not only between the Goob and Eva, but also in enigmatic subplots where there’s a constant suggestion that Gene (a spiteful, mincing Harris) is drawn to the other female characters – but quite why Janet is involved with him remains a mystery. Guillory’s character remains unexplored – a shame for such a brilliant actress. The intensity of the racing fraternity adds a rough machismo to the narrative, adding grit and texture and placing it firmly in Swaffham and the locale. The cast is also almost entirely drawn from Norfolk. Liam Walpole has a gangly vulnerability about him which brings a unique appeal and gentleness and contrasts well with the otherwise hard-bitten, rough-edged masculinity of Sean Harris. This is a spectacular debut for Myhill with some great ideas that could be expanded upon in future. A really watchable indie Britflick. MT

THE GOOB – reviewed at VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 27 August – 6 September 2014 is coming to British screens from May 28, 2015.

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Birdman (2014) | DVD blu-ray

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Writers: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo

Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts

Comedy/Drama, US  119mins

As festivals go, Venice has nailed the opener. After Gravity comes the much hyped Birdman, a breathless, funny, sad, esoteric meta-cinematical work that equals the former’s visual feat, but also an about-turn by director Alejandro González Iñárritu the likes of which has rarely been seen. A return to the limelight comes in Michael Keaton’s great performance as Riggan Thompson, a former star of the superhero Birdman franchise, whose career has faltered into wilderness (comparison to Keaton’s real life are very much intended). He wants to stage a comeback on Broadway to direct and star in his own adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story. But it’s not plain sailing, even for a movie star, as he has to deal with ego-maniacal co-stars, a druggie daughter and disastrous previews. Oh, and he’s haunted by the voice of his Birdman character, and believes he can move things with his mind.

But that doesn’t begin to explain what watching the film is like. Directed to look like one continuous shot alongside Antonio Sánchez’s glorious free jazz score, but set over several weeks (following tricks out of Hitchcock’s Rope, it’s somewhere between the technical mastery of Russian Ark (2002) and the themes and styling of Synecdoche, New York (2008)– but in fact it looks almost like something that’s rarely been seen before. It’s far from Iñárritu’s previous work, which were grim, expansive world-is-connected films, shot with shaky steadycams and quick editing like Amores Perros (2000) and Babel (2006). And what a successful volte-face.

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Much of the thanks should go to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeski, whose redefined 3D in Gravity last year to critics who dismissed stereoscopy as dead on arrival, creating long, dazzling steadycam takes. The first shot is a levitating Michael Keaton, and there are some magic moments – Keaton walking through Times Square in his Y-fronts is just one of many highlights. But perhaps the style’s greatest feature is simplicity, how after a big moment – an argument, a fight, for instance – the film doesn’t cut, change scene, but we find out that rarest of things: what happens in those moments next.

The cast are dynamite together with Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zack Galifianakis on top form alongside Emma Stone as Riggan’s dagughter, who delivers a zeitgeisty rant about how Riggan’s play is of little importance in the modern world compared to the 350,000 YouTube visitors that have seen her father in just his underpants. In a way it’s not dissimilar in tone to Truffaut’s Day for Night, also about a dysfunctional troupe of directors and actors. But while that’s about a film set, it struck me how much Birdman is actually one of the great films about the stage, where Broadway’s St James Theatre is as much a character as the players and which reflects the theatre in the film’s very composition – no cuts is, well, like theatre.

It’s also a searing satire of ego-centric thesps, Hollywood and of popular culture, where top actors have been downgraded and are now hired in Hollywood only for superhero flicks (Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Renner are roll called). But also it credibly shows the foolhardiness of putting faith in dreams and the pitfalls of grand artistic pretensions – a hole into which Iñárritu himself fell in the past. Riggan says he went into acting because Raymond Carver gave him a personal note with a good review as a youngster, but, as we soon discover, it was on a bar napkin, meaning the author was presumably (as he often was) drunk. With the film’s subtitle “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance“, would knowing that have made Riggan more or less happy, more or less willing to plunge into his art? Perhaps ignorance is bliss. ED FRANKL.

BIRDMAN WAS REVIEWED AT VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. DVD BLU-RAY IS NOW AVAILABLE

 

Sivas (2014)

Director|Writer: Kaan Müdjeci | Cast: Dogan Izci, Okan Avci, Cakir, Ozan Celik, Ezgi Ergin, Banu Fotocan | Drama  Turkish with subtitles

Kaan Mujdeci’s brave feature debut has a fresh and feral feel to it, but don’t expect a shaggy dog story: this is about the powerful Kangal breed of working mountain dogs who are fierce and fearless in their work of protecting cattle and guarding the local farming folk who occupy this remote part of Turkey.

Set amidst the masculine world of dog-fighting in the wild open landscapes of eastern Anatolia, this stunningly photographed coming of age tale is about a boy of eleven with a strong personality despite his tender years. And it’s an astonishing performance for Dogan Izci, who plays Aslan, the boy in question. He has more ‘attitude’ and bravado than most adult men (we see him chucking stones at his father), yet he is still a child with his blue and white-collared school uniform peeping over his anorak. (Aslan appropriately means Lion in Turkish). His mutt, the eponymous SIVAS, whom he rescues from a savage local dog-fight, is named after one of the local cities in the region.

Mudjeci’s hand-held camera sketches out the the daily life of the village where Aslan lives with his parents and older brother, Sahin (Ozan Celik). A competitive and feisty character, Aslan considers it his right to play the principal part in the school production of Snow White, and yet there is still a cute vulnerability to his inchoate machismo: he has already an eye for the local girls, particularly Ayse (Ezgi Ergin) who has won the part of the Princess in the play.

But as the story develops, a more sinister vibe creeps in as the cruel and heartless world of dog-fighting is explored through Sivas’s meetings with other local kangal dogs. This is a serious sport. If these people lived on an estate in London, they would probably have ‘no fear’ tattooed across their muscled chests and own pit-bulls, but this is primitive rural Anatolia and Mudjeci gives the impression of a harsh, yet close-knit community where men are men and women remain behind closed doors. Although in reality some dogs will lose their lives, we are assured that this doesn’t happen during filming.

Eventually Aslan’s accompanies the older members of the village, including the head honcho (Muttalip Mujdeci), to the ‘National Championships’ of illegal dog-fighting in nearby Ankara. And this where the tone becomes more sinister and less intimate, the camera shifting into widescreen mode to capture the dangerous fights as darkness falls over the Anatolian countryside, lit only by roaring firelight as the macho crowd cheer noisily into the night. MT

PREMIERED AT VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2014

 

 

The Lack (2014) |Cinema Made in Italy 2015

Directors: Nicolò Massazza and Iacopo Bedogni

70mins  Experimental | Drama |  Italian

Women’s suffering has long been the subject of World cinema and particularly in Italy. Curiously titled The LACK is a semi-experimental mood piece that plays a tune with four different themes: abandonment, separation, courage and exertion and their effects on six isolated female characters. With minimal dialogue and some sumptuously inventive camera effects, a visual narrative explores their inner journey of loneliness, discovery and eventually, self-healing in natural surroundings.

Best known for their work as video artists, directing duo Nicolò Massazza and Iacopo Bedogni call themselves THE MASEBO. A metaphor for survival, their film concentrates on sound and visuals to express the palpable emotions of their female protagonists as they grapple with the reality of life. The opening scenes play out like a slick advert for Volvo:, a woman wakes up abandoned in a bedroom and tries desperately to call her lover without success. In tears and distraught, she takes to the road and drives recklessly through a vast and frozen snowscape with only a flimsy white gown to protect her from the elements. As she leave sthe vehicle, the camera follows her in close-up and slow-mo, painting an ethereal picture of ice blue alienation against the windswept wasteland.

The second segment studies an Oriental beauty alone inside a massive ferry boat. Seawater gushes against ancient rock formations and craggy cliffs as waves wash over the echoing steel plates of the hull. Escaping to the shoreline she is warmed by the setting sun. Only her sighs of exertion and the mournful sound of the seagulls are audible in the marine wilderness as she installs a large searchlight on the cliff face, illuminating the approaching night.

Part 3 is set in remote Steppes of Russia where an enormous pipeline is carrying oil or gas from an inland refinery, belching smoke creates puffy clouds into the endless skyline. A woman flights for survival swaddled in furs. Another woman floats flotsom-like in the aftermath of flood desperately clinging to domestic detritis in possibly the most conceptual segment which is intercut with images of a little girl dressed in white. The final segment is probably the most bleak. The weaker sex emerges tough yet vulnerable, suffering throughout.

MASEBO have exhibited their work in museums and film festivals as well, such as Venice, Locarno, Rome, Istanbul, Lisbon, Athens, Miami and Reykjavik. Since 2002 they have been working with the French writer Michel Houellebecq with whom they have written and produced 11.22.03 and THE WORLD IS NOT A LANDSCAPE, video art piece with Juliette Binoche, it had its premier in Paris at the Grand Palais.

REVIEWED AT VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2014. SCREENING DURING CINEMA MADE IN ITALY

 

I Nostri Ragazzi (2014) The Dinner | Venice International Film Festival

Dir.: Ivano de Matteo

Cast: Alessandro Gassman, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Luigi Lo Cascio, Barbara Bobulova

Italian with subtitles, Drama, 92 min.

Two brothers, Massimo (Gassman), a doctor and Paolo (Cascio), a glib lawyer, meet regularly with their wives, whilst their teenage children Benedetta and Michele go to parties together. The adults actually despise each other: Massimo is self-congratulatory, looking down on his more down-to-earth brother and trying to bend the law in favour of his clients. No love is lost between the women either: Massimo’s wife Clara (Mezzogiorno), a practical hands-on woman, finds the fashion-conscious Sofia (Bobulova) rather trivial, despite her responsibility for Benedetta, whose mother died very young.

But of the blue, the parents find out that their kids have killed a homeless woman, apparently just for fun. All but Paolo, want to cover up the crime so as not to destroy their future. But when Paolo insists on handing the pair over to the police, Massimo reacts with violence.

Ivano de Matteo delivers a moral, character-driven fable, with some unexpected twists. These are, by no means, the people we thought they were to begin with: Massimo starts out as the moral apostle, doing good in his profession, full of love for mankind (apart from his brother and his wife). Paolo is only interested in success, the means do not matter to him. But when it comes to the crunch, he is the only one to ask for justice – the other man wants to cover up for the children. Nowadays, over-protection of kids in the middle classes is the norm; parents buy (or cheat) to get their “mini-me’s” a good place in life (this author being no exception); trying to resolve all problems for them; making them dependent on the older generation; often forgetting to teach responsibility and self-reliance.  Sure, the outcome is not often so cruel as in this fictional case, but the root of Benedetta and Michele’s coldness lies in their own upbringing.

The cast is brilliant, the camera vividly tries to find the protagonists in the concrete jungle, or in their work places. The grown-ups seem always on the run; the teenagers are indolent. A very gloomy but perceptive indictment on a social class who, on superficial appearances, seems to have everything.

REVIEWED AT VENICE 2014. LONDON FILM FESTIVAL RUNS UNTIL 19 OCTOBER 2014

 

Italian film | London Film Festival 2014

At this year’s LONDON FILM FESTIVAL Alice Rohrwacher presents her Cannes-award-winning drama THE WONDERS. Sister Alba Rohrwacher, joins her as star of both THE WONDERS and HUNGRY HEARTS, that won her Best Actress at Venice Film Festival. Other Venice winners, Directors Saverio Costanzo (HUNGRY HEARTS) and Ivano De Matteo (THE DINNER) will also grace the Red Carpet for the festival.

LEOPARDI (Il Giovane Favoloso) by Mario Martone Il_giovane_favoloso_4-Elio_Germano,Michele_Riondino,Anna_Mouglalis-_Mario_Spada

Mario Martone (Amore Molesto) takes on the crippled 18th Century literarary genius, Giacome Leopardi, in this ambitious but rather worthy biopic. Sumptuously set in the verdant countryside of Tuscany and The Marche it stars Elio Germano (A Magnificent Haunting) as the lonely poet and child prodigy who struggles to break into fashionable circles despite a disciplinarian father and poor health. Leopardi did not score heavily on the romantic front, unlike Lord Byron, who, despite his club foot, enjoyed a great deal of erotic attention from the opposite sex; Ippolita di Majo’s screenplay dabbles with some of his female fantasies in the shape of a young illiterate girl who dies early on and a ravishing Florentine countess, played superbly by Anna Mouglalis who lights up this otherwise rather dry biopic with her charm and elegance. Sadly she falls for his more good-looking and glamorous friend Antonio Ranieri (Michele Rondino). The only aborted action he has between the sheets is with a Naples prostitute, but this episode ends cruelly in humiliation. As the drama progresses to Rome and Naples, it opens out visually with some magnificent landscapes of southern Italy and further opportunities to discover Leopardi’s moving poetry and learn about his ideas as a philosopher. This is an ambitious and watchable film and Elio Germano gives a strong and convincing performance as a tortured artist wracked with pain and mental anguish who was wiser of the human condition than his elders gave him credit for: “People are ridiculous only when they try or seem to be that which they are not”.

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BLACK SOULS (Anime Nere) by Francesco Munzi

Dubbed as the new Gomorrah in some circles, Francesco Munzi’s mafia family drama purrs with tension, taking the brutal Mafioso world to the rustic villages of the Calabrian foothills at the southern tip of Italy. This is the heartland of the ‘ndrangheta, the biggest and furthest-reaching mafia group in Italy, far stronger than the Comorrah and the Sicilian mafia, but more secretive and rarely infiltrated by outsiders. It’s because the group is made up of family units that the ‘ndrangheta are so tight, but it also means that entrance to the group for descendants is tacitly obligatory. If you don’t want ‘in’, you’re asking for trouble. That’s the case with Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane), a farmer whose brothers are long-standing members of the Carbone clan; he instead tends to his farmland of goats on the slopes of the Apennine Mountains. His son Leo (Giuseppe Fumo), however, is eager to join a group where he’ll gain respect, and in an age where Italian youngsters are frequently downtrodden by unemployment, this is something he is eager to commit to. His uncle Luigi (Marco Leonardi), a drug dealer who travels Europe, takes Leo under his wing, but after an altercation between Leo and a rival clan, events spiral to take the apparently peaceful town to gang war.

This is a slower, more composed film than Gomorrah, and doesn’t have that film’s electric socio-political edge. Instead, it works as a family drama that simmers with personal tragedy and works up to a powerful, gripping finale. Sumptuously filmed in the village of Africo, often said to be the home of the ‘ndrangheta, and with the peninsula’s craggy dialect, it convinces as a place where the state, the police, and perhaps conventional morality have trouble accessing. Among a cast of non-actors and professionals, Fumo, plucked from hundreds of local kids, is remarkable in his debut role as Leo, saying little but carrying a primordial terror with every retort at his disillusioned father. Munzi’s script, co-written with Fabrizio Ruggirello, starts the film in Amsterdam and Milan, and perhaps could have done with setting the film more tightly in the insular ‘ndrangheta communities. Here it feels like there’s no escape, where every aspect of life is dominated by the mafia. The organisation helps local politicians gain election, bars and shops have to obtain ‘protection’ by one of the clans, and respect to members is non-negotiable. But that blinkered view of the world is also this family’s downfall, as the cracks in the foundations make the whole house fall down.

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THE WONDERS (Le Meraviglie) by Alice Rohrwacher – GRAND PRIX, CANNES 2014

The follow up to her acclaimed debut Corpo Celeste, The Wonders, 33-year-old Alice Rohrwacher, won the Grand Prix at Cannes this year. Set in her native Italy, the film explores the impact of a stranger upon a dysfunctionally hermetic family living in the Umbrian countryside where they cultivate delicious wild honey from their native bees. As with Corpo Celeste, the film focuses on a young girl’s coming of age. This delicate and gently tragic coming of age tale is told with tenderness and respect to the traditions of a country where communities still live from the land, threatened by the ever-increasing presence of “Heath and Safety”. A magical narrative with some touching performances from Alba Rohrwacher and a star turn from Monica Bellucci.

Hungry_Hearts_6HUNGRY HEARTS by Saverio Costanzo

BEST ACTRESS AND BEST ACTOR, VENICE 2014

Severio Costanzo’s Venice ‘Best Actor and Actress” winner, Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) proved divisive amongst critics’ circles.  It’s a weird and quirky drama that’s not quite a thriller but feels it ought to be. It centres on a couple who remain cloistered in their apartment after the birth of the baby boy. Mina, who has been anorexic during the pregnancy, is also germo-phobic and does not want to leave, or take the baby outside. Well cast in the role, Rohrwacher, makes for a subtely unhinged Mina while American, Adam Driver’s, feels somewhat out of place as Jude. With the help of a social worker, he more or less kidnaps his son, who goes to live with his mother (Maxwell) in the countryside outside New York. But Mina does not give up, she tries to regain custody of her son, and after Jude hits her, she manages to regain custody. The desperate grandmother can only think of a very radical solution. Half way through the film, the fish-eye lense is introduced, turning the narrative even more into a real life horror story. Mina is a frail and emaciated creature, just skin and bones, a fanatical gleam in her eyes. Jude is geeky and ambivalent – for much of the film, he tries to mediate between Mina and reality. His mother is made of much sterner stuff, and does not fall for Mina’s passive-aggressive schemes. However harsh the denouement appears, it’s clear that somebody had to make a stand – and Jude was much too feeble to be this person. Despite a weak script with gaping potholes, the superb cast handle the action masterfully. Not a film for the faint-hearted, but a convincing story of ordinary madness

I nostri ragazzi 4 - Giovanna MezzogiornoTHE DINNER (I Nostri Ragazzi) by Ivano De Matteo,

Another Venice Film Festival Winner, THE DINNER is very much a family-focused drama. Two brothers, Massimo (Gassman), a doctor and Paolo (Cascio), a glib lawyer, meet regularly with their wives, whilst their teenage children Benedetta and Michele go to parties together. The adults actually despise each other: Massimo is self-congratulatory, looking down on his more down-to-earth brother and trying to bend the law in favour of his clients. No love is lost between the women either: Massimo’s wife Clara (Mezzogiorno), a practical hands-on woman, finds the fashion-conscious Sofia (Bobulova) rather trivial, despite her responsibility for Benedetta, whose mother died very young.

But of the blue, the parents find out that their kids have killed a homeless woman, apparently just for fun. All but Paolo, want to cover up the crime so as not to destroy their future. But when Paolo insists on handing the pair over to the police, Massimo reacts with violence. Ivano de Matteo delivers a moral, character-driven fable, with some unexpected twists. These are, by no means, the people we thought they were to begin with: Massimo starts out as the moral apostle, doing good in his profession, full of love for mankind (apart from his brother and his wife). Paolo is only interested in success, the means do not matter to him. But when it comes to the crunch, he is the only one to ask for justice – the other man wants to cover up for the children. Nowadays, over-protection of kids in the middle classes is the norm; parents buy (or cheat) to get their “mini-me’s” a good place in life (this author being no exception); trying to resolve all problems for them; making them dependent on the older generation; often forgetting to teach responsibility and self-reliance. Sure, the outcome is not often so cruel as in this fictional case, but the root of Benedetta and Michele’s coldness lies in their own upbringing. The cast is brilliant, the camera vividly tracks the protagonists in a concrete jungle, or in their work places. The adults seem always on the run; the teenagers indolent. A very gloomy but perceptive indictment on a social class who, on superficial appearances, seems to have everything.

THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 9-19 OCTOBER 2014

 

No One’s Child (2014) Niceje Dete | Venice International Film Festival

NICEJE DETE/NO ONE’S CHILD

Dir.: Vuk Rsumovic

Cast: Denis Muric, Pavle Cemerikic, Milos Timotijevic, Isidora Jankovic

Croatia 2014, 96 min. Drama  Serbian with subtitles

Based on true events, Vuk Rsumovic’ debut feature NO ONE’S CHILD, a variation on Truffaut’s L’Enfant Sauvage, tells the story of a young boy of about eight, who is found in the woods near Travnk, (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) by Serbian hunters. Sent to an orphanage in Belgrade, the prognosis of re-integration into human society is not that good. Haris (Denis Muric), as he has been called randomly, kicks and spits, moves on all fours, hates wearing shoes and eats with his bare hands. His language skills are non-existent and he dislikes all human contact. It is up to Ilke (Timotijevic), one of the guardians in the orphanage, to lure him into the human world.

Ilke makes certain progress, particularly teaching Haris words by showing him objects drawn on big posters, but the real breakthrough happens when of the boys, Zika (Cemerikic), takes a liking to Haris, who is called by the derogative name “Puchke” by the rest of the boys. Zika and his girl friend Alisa (Jankovic), take Haris to a fair, and show him around the city, gaining his confidence. But later Zika decides to go back to his violent father, and Haris regresses. When Zika returns, having been beaten up badly by his father again, he can’t stay in the orphanage any more, because he is over the age limit. For a short time, Haris is looked after by Alisa, who has left the orphanage and makes money as a part-time call girl. But disaster strikes for Haris, with the outbreak of the civil war in Yugoslavia. Because of the name given to him by the men who found him, the Bosnian authorities claim him, and soon the young teenager is seen fighting with adults in the trenches.

Muric is outstanding and his physical exploits are as brilliant as his acting skills. Rsumovic avoids pathos and sentimentality, showing the case with the eyes of a documentary filmmaker. Damjan Radovanovic’ widescreen photography captures the panoramic  landscapes and intimate close-ups alike with brilliant originality. Far from having the look of a debut film, NO ONE’S CHILD is a mature, but nevertheless a stunningly fresh achievement. Without being judgemental, the director lets the viewer decide which world is the more humane one: nature or the world of human relationships, fraught with permanent conflicts, build on an imaginary hierarchy, in constant flux with haphazardly changing values. Rsumovic’ elliptical parable is stunningly beautiful, and emotional harrowing, it fully deserved the FIPRESCI prize for the “Settimani di Critica” section of the Festival. AS

REVIEWED AT THIS YEAR’S VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL SEPTEMBER 2014

 

The Postman’s White Nights (2014) | BEST DIRECTOR | Venice International Film Festival

Belye_nochi_pochtalona_Alekseya_Tryapitsyna_5The Postman’s White Nights (Belye nochi pochtalona Alekseya Tryapitsyna)

Director: Andrei Konchalovsky

Aleksey Tryapitsyn, Irina Ermolova, Timur Bondarenko

Russia, 110 mins, Drama

Just when it appeared that the Venice film festival was winding up the red carpet for another year, in comes Andrei Konchalovsky’s remarkable small-town docudrama to set the cat among the pigeons (of St Mark’s Square). With his film warmly received at yesterday’s press screening, the veteran Russian filmmaker could prove a late Golden Lion winner after a 50-plus year directing career.

Konchalovsky takes us to the outer reaches of Russia to a remote, serene lakeside community where boat is the only means of entry. Their sole connection to the outside world is the postman Aleksey, a sprightly middle-aged man who brings not only the daily post, but supplies, food, fuel and the daily gossip. He chats with the locals and helps them with their chores and has a deep longing for outsider Irina and is a father figure for her son Timur.

The postman is played by Aleksey Tryapitsyn, a real-life postman who joins with the rest of the community in playing versions of themselves, following a similar fly-on-the-wall used in Kurochka Ryaba and House of Fools. Yet nothing seems overtly staged or recognisably false: this pastoral idyll has a glorious, charming, lived-in sensibility.

Tryapitsyn doesn’t falter with his grand role in the proceedings. He has an uncanny ability to convey emotional power in the slightest of reactions, and has a witty comic timing that belies his non-professional origin. His unrequited love for Irina (one of the few professional actors in the show) has elements of Checkov (particularly The Seagull), the playwright Konchalovsky recently directed for the stage in London.

A greater conflict comes when his boat’s engine is stolen, and Aleksey engages in a Gogol-esque encounter with an uncaring municipal representative on the mainland. Without a means of work, and a route to the island (it’ll take a month for a replacement to come from Arkhangelsk, he’s told), he seeks out his friend to deal with the situation, a general at a near-by military base. It’s revealed this is no normal base, but a space port – the absurdity of modest country life next to interstellar industry is barely recognised by locals – and the payoff is a glorious final, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot to close the film.

The best work happens in the quieter, contemplative moments. A moving scene comes at a village elder’s funeral, when the community talk of the “socialistic romanticism” of her era, a time unlike, apparently, a present Russia in which their humble roles in society seem almost obsolete. Why should Russians pay for humble fishermen in rural villages for their fish, rather than modern, faceless dragnet fishing, as one sequene depicts? And as the young Timur is wont to say to Aleksey, do we need postmen when we can email? Konchalovksy’s art reveals a beauty to a rustic life that is being lost – as if this is the last chance to witness this kind of small-town life. If it is, Konchalovsky has crafted a beautiful record of this world. Ed Frankl

VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL RUNS UNTIL 6 SEPTEMBER 2014. FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE UNDER THE FESTIVALS BANNER

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Red Amnesia (2014) – Venice International Film Festival

Red Amnesia (Chuangru zhe)

Director: Wang Xiaoshuai

Lü Zhong, Feng Yuanzheng, Amanda Qin, Qin Hao, Shi Liu

China, 115 mins

China’s past weighs heavily on the characters of Red Amnesia, Wang Xiaoshuai’s slow burning family drama that carries a quiet, subtle, but combative denouncement of the country’s treatment of recent history. This is a ghost story that unearths pains of the past that leading to tragic consequences, a thoughtful allegory of China’s contemporary relationship with its cultural revolution and, unquestionably, Tiananmen Square protests and beyond.

In a dearth of leading female performances at this year’s Lido, Lü Zhong is a top bet for a Best Actress win at the end-of-festival awards. At 73, she is tremendous as Deng, a lively grandmother who herself cares for her ageing mother, while being barked around by her affluent children who symbolise a faceless notion of China’s new rich. There’s something of Ang Lee’s early comedy of manners in the opening sections of the film, but the film turns out to be more politically minded and challenging.

Deng begins receiving anonymous phone calls in which nobody replies. Her kids think she’s dreaming, and she herself begins to have vivid nightmares of her own situation. Lü’s performance is just poised enough to suggest that she may or may not be losing her mind, especially when she starts talking to her recently deceased husband, even laying out a seat for him at the dinner table.

She begins seeing a young boy, at first worried he’s following her, but later engaging with him as he helps her one day with her daily chores. Is he real, or ghost? Deng suggests he might be the reincarnation of a mysterious man, Zhao, from her past, suggesting she makes good on her “debts”, and the film gives us only hints at her sanity. “Since his death it’s as if a shadow has been following me,” she says.

There’s something of Hidden in the set up, and like Haneke’s film, the whole situation unearths some terror of the past that cannot be rectified. That’s Wang’s intention: setting up a film that raises the issues of China’s lack of admission of past mistakes. In that way it’s a remarkable film – the title reveals to be ironic as, in China, the past hasn’t been forgotten; it’s the people in factories and the farmers in the countryside that the Chinese government have let down. Late in the film, we travel with Deng to the countryside where she grew up and where workers speak out against the authorities who say the government has given “No prestige for the workers”. Indeed, in the film’s sucker-punch ending, her past, and so China’s past, drives the guilt Deng so profoundly feels. Ed Frankl.

VENICE INTERNATIONL FILM FESTIVAL RUNS UNTIL 6 September 2014.  Follow all our  coverage under the FESTIVAL banner.

Le Dernier Coup de Marteau (2014) – Venice International Film Festival

LE DERNIER COUP DE MARTEAU (The Third Hammer Blow)

Dir.: Alix Delaporte

Cast: Clotilde Hesme, Romain Paul, Gregory Gadebois

France 2014, 82 min.

Set in Montpellier, Delaporte’s simple narrative (Angel and Tony) centres on a football-obsessed teenager, Victor, and his mother Nadia, who is suffering from cancer. The family lives in a caravan, next to Spanish emigrants, in the open seascape of the Camargue in southern France.

Victor has the usual teenage worries, but he is well-behaved and trying to teach the little Spanish neighbour French, whilst hoping to get into an elite football academy. Out of the blue, Victor’s father, the famous conductor Samuel Rovinski, turns up. He is  rehearsing Mahler’s 6th in the opera house at Montpelier. Father and son get on surprisingly well, and whilst Nadia’s condition is getting worse, Victor manages to get into the academy, somehow helped by the fact he has a famous father, and discovers a liking for classical music.

Le_dernier_coup_de_marteau_1-_JC_Lother

Delaporte often asks us to suspend any sense of reality, but nevertheless, she delivers a stunningly original narrative: with scenes of football played to Mahler’s music. Furthermore, she makes us really believe in this co-existence. Victor takes to classical music like a fish to water, he is his father’ son and the two share a palpable chemistry; yet Victor is proud to be independent with his mother. Despite living a simple existence, Delaporte shows mother and son enjoying themselves: jumping from a height into a cold lake, and trying to get as much fun out of life with their Spanish neighbours as possible. And despite their difficult circumstances, Victor and Nadia are never cast in the victim’s role, neither does Delaporte glorifies Rovinski’s world.

Hesme and Paul are perfect, Rovinski good at hiding his sensitive side. Camera work is unobtrusive, colours and landscapes vibrant and emotive.  LE DERNIER COUP DE MARTEAU is a very original and moving film.

VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL runs until 6 September 2014. Follow our coverage under the FESTIVAL banner

Il Giovane Favoloso (2014) – Venice International Film Festival

Director: Mario Martone

Cast: Anna Mouglalis, Isabella Ragonese, Elio Germano, Michele Riondino

137mins  Drama Biopic  Italian with English subtitles

Mario Martone (Amore Molesto) takes on the crippled 18th Century literarary genius, Giacome Leopardi, in this ambitious but rather worthy biopic.  Sumptuously set in the verdant countryside of Tuscany and The Marche it stars Elio Germano (A Magnificent Haunting) as the lonely poet and child prodigy who struggles to break into fashionable circles despite a disciplinarian father and poor health.

Leopardi did not score heavily on the romantic front, unlike Lord Byron, who, despite his club foot, enjoyed a great deal of erotic attention from the opposite sex; Ippolita di Majo’s screenplay dabbles with some of his female fantasies in the shape of a young illiterate girl who dies early on and a ravishing Florentine countess, played superbly by Anna Mouglalis who lights up this otherwise rather dry biopic with her charm and elegance. Sadly she falls for his more good-looking and glamorous friend Antonio Ranieri (Michele Rondino). The only aborted action he has between the sheets is with a Naples prostitute, but this episode ends cruelly in humiliation.

With some clever editing to the earlier scenes this is, however, an art house drama that could appeal to audiences outside Italy, or those who are interested to discover more about Italian literature beyond Dante, Ovid and Catullus. Indeed, Giacomo Leopardi’s work embraces many of the tenets of Romanticism and there are some allusions to this in Renato Berta’s dreamlike cinematography although Sascha Ring’s contemporary music feels strange and incongruous in a scene by the waterside where Leopardi’s collapses in sheer desperation at his blighted existence and health problems.

As the drama progresses to Rome and Naples, it opens out visually with some magnificent landscapes of southern Italy and further opportunities to discover Leopardi’s moving poetry and learn about his ideas as a philosopher. This is an ambitious and watchable film and Elio Germano gives a strong and convincing performance as a tortured artist wracked with pain and mental anguish who was wiser of the human condition than his elders gave him credit for: “People are ridiculous only when they try or seem to be that which they are not”. MT

VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL runs until 6 September 2014. Follow our coverage under the FESTIVALS banner.

 

The Cut (2014) – | London Film Festival 2014

Director: Fatih Akin

Cast: Tahar Rahim, Akin Gazi, Simon Abkarian, George Georgiou, Kevork Malikyan

138 mins, Drama Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, Poland, Turkey

One of the hot picks for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Turkish-German director Faith Akin’s Armenian genocide epic is sweeping, if rather anodyne affair, starring Tahar Rahim as a (primarily) mute father searching for his missing daughters.

Taken out of the running for Cannes by Akin for “personal reasons” might have proved an omen, but Akin is able to rely on an old-fashioned sensibility, which only disappoints because he’s been so irreverent elsewhere. His Berlin winner Head On and Edge of Heaven were exciting indie films that talked about culture clashes and integration in a very modern and sophisticated way, but in making a historical epic in such a conventional fashion, The Cut misses out what was previously so refreshing about his work.

The film begins in 1915 in the Anatolian city of Mardin, as Ottoman troops tear away Rahim’s Nazaret from his wife and daughters under the auspices of conscription. In fact, like other ethnic Armenians, he’s dragged to lay roads for the Ottoman forces in the First World War. The slave labour is all right for some, who believe it’s better than being on the battlefield, but those who survive the dehydration and exhaustion are later faced with death marches. Nazaret narrowly survives after a civilian executioner feigns his death, leaving instead a tear in his throat that makes him unable to talk. After spending the war in soap factory – a metaphor for ethnic cleansing if you needed one – he discovers that his daughters survived, and proceeds to cross the Atlantic in search, from Havana to the plains of North Dakota.

The 1915 atrocity which killed 1.5 million remains a hotly politicised issue, which makes Akin’s conventional exploration of the story all the more baffling. This is an event that Turkey denies took place, and even Britain, unlike, say, France and Germany, also refuses to call a genocide. Directing aside, there are strong overtones with crises in the region today: at one point Ottoman soldiers order Nazaret and his fellow Armenians to convert to Islam to be set free – only a few accept the offer.

Rahim has a shaggy charm in the role, although when he stops communicating through words, he doesn’t quite have the physicality as an actor to really excel in the part. It’s strange, since his excellent performance in A Prophet depended so much on the presence he brought to the role, something found wanting here. One of the film’s more moving moments has Nazaret stop to watch Charlie Chaplin in The Kid in a town square screening, and you can’t help but regrettably compare the two actors – Rahim is even made to look like Chaplin.

The dialogue in English is not so much stilted but terribly naff, and the decision to have Armenians speak English in the film proves problematic when the film reaches, well, America. But perhaps concentrating on dialogue is taking away something from the film. This is a film about images – like when Nazaret, desperate for water, looks down a well to find piles of dead bodies – and, indeed, about silence. Silence about how the world has reacted, shrugged, at the history of the Armenian genocide that was an example to the Nazis two decades later. In that way Akin is speaking about today: while Chaplin’s job was to take people away from the horrors of the First World War, Akin and Tahar Rahim’s silent tramp is doing the opposite about today’s conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Ed Frankl

VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL RUNS UNTIL 6 SEPTEMBER 2014. READ ALL OUR COVERAGE UNDER THE FESTIVALS BANNER.

Loin des Hommes (2014) – Venice International Film Festival

Writer/Director: David Oelhoffen

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Reda Kateb

110 mins, France,  Historical Drama, French with English subtitles

Albert Camus’s short story ‘The Guest” becomes a thrilling Western-orientated road movie, in which Viggo Mortensen adds French and Arabic to his screen repertoire of various European tongues.

Mortensen is Daru, a Pied-Noir schoolteacher educating village kids in French language and customs in the midst of the Algerian war high in the haute plaines of the Atlas Mountains, during the 1950s. In a desolate part of the country, on the northern fringe of the Sahara, his choice of profession is to the chagrin of people on both sides of the conflict now brewing: the French don’t see the point in educating ordinary Algerians, while the natives are irritated at the instruction in French rather than Arabic.

One evening, a French gendarme hands Daru an Algerian (Reda Kateb) accused of murder and asked to transport him to the French authorities at a village a day’s walk away. However, Daru has no wish to deliver a man to a certain death (either because of his real guilt, or the prejudices of the colonial establishment). Instead, he initially chooses to do nothing, allowing the prisoner to sneak out on his first night, only to return. Daru has no easy way out, and instead is forced to make some significant moral decisions about the welfare of his charge.

Mortensen is eminently watchable as the craggy-faced Daru (it’s a face that paints a thousand unknown memories) who develops a strange rapport with Kateb’s Mohamad that is unexpectedly warm. Crossing the barren wastelands, they find themselves fleeing Mohammad’s vengeful townsfolk and freedom fighters before rebels fighting for independence capture them. Some of the soldiers recognise Daru as their unit’s leader from the Second World War, commenting that now every Algerian in his unit is fighting for independence – and he must now pick his own side. Where once he was the teacher, now he is the prisoner. Is this what happens when, as Burke would say, good people do nothing?

A terrific scene sees Mortensen’s Daru become a hostage as the rebels take fire from a French brigade, and even though the film’s political slant might be slightly blunt, this is effectively-told filmmaking with a ravishing visual style. Camus’s story is given a new life here and Oelhoffen has provided one of the best adaptations of the author’s work. While Camus’s ‘L’Exil et le Royaume’ short story hints the outbreak of a coming divisive war in the country, Oelhoffen sets his film just as the independence conflict took hold. It provides the text with a renewed sense of moral purpose that finds parallels with the troubles rocking the north African country today. Photographed with an eye for stark and barren scenery (actually filmed in Morocco) and with another great score written by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis; it looks, sounds, and thinks like an epic with big ideas. Ed Frankl.

VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 27 AUGUST UNTIL 6 SEPTEMBER 2014. FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE UNDER THE FESTIVALS BANNER.

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Hungry Hearts (2014) – Venice International Film Festival

Director: Severio Costanzo

Cast: Adam Driver, Alba Rohrwacher, Roberta Maxwell

USA/Italy 2014, 109 min.

In Severio Costanzo’s second Venice offering, Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) have an inauspicious meeting in a Chinese restaurant in New York, where they are locked in the bathroom together. It takes a while to free the couple, who then lose no time in slipping between the sheets. Mina is working for the Italian embassy and, when she is transferred, Jude asks her to stay. Soon they are expecting a baby. Mina consults a psychic who predicts this will be an ‘indigo’ with paranormal powers.

The audience, like Jude, shrugs off Mina’s conviction – but it is the first of many indications that Mina is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. After lengthy weddings celebrations champagne glasses are packed away as they couple hunker down in this weird and quirky drama that’s not quite a thriller but feels it ought to be. A feeling of claustrophobia descends on their cramped flat that seems to made of little boxes where nobody is able to breathe – but it is clearly a place were Mina really thrives. After the birth of the baby boy, the couple remain cloistered in the apartment.

Mina, who has been anorexic during the pregnancy, loses even more weight, and the baby, fed only on vegan food like her mother, is neither gaining weight or growing. Finally Jude wakes up to this fact, and takes his son to a doctor, who advises a radical change of food for the baby. Whilst Jude is only too willing to follow the advice, Mina fights him all the way. She is also germo-phobic and does not want to leave, or take the baby outside. Finally Jude, with the help of a social worker, more or less kidnaps his son, who goes to live with his mother (Maxwell) in the countryside outside New York. But Mina does not give up, she tries to regain custody of her son, and after Jude hits her, she manages to regain custody. The desperate grandmother can only think of a very radical solution.

Half way through the film, the fish-eye lense is introduced, turning the narrative even more into a real life horror story. Mina is a frail and emaciated creature, just skin and bones, a fanatical gleam in her eyes. Jude is geeky and ambivalent – for much of the film, he tries to mediate between Mina and reality. His mother is made of much sterner stuff, and does not fall for Mina’s passive-agression schemes. However harsh the denouement appears, it’s clear that somebody had to make a stand – and Jude was much too feeble to be this person. Despite a weak script with gaping potholes, the superb cast handle the action masterfully. Not a film for the faint-hearted, but a convincing story of ordinary madness. MT

REVIEWED AT VENICE 2014

The Goob (2014) – Venice International Film Festival 2014

Dir: Guy Myhill | Cast: Liam Walpole, Sienna Guillory, Oliver Kennedy | UK Drama | 90′

In this enigmatic debut, Guy Myhill evokes the open spaces of the Norfolk countryside veiled in golden summery softness -wild flowers, drifting corn – and steeped in a an unsettling coming of age story, that pits a young man’s burgeoning sexuality against that of his mother’s boorish boyfriend – an avid stock-car racing champion and local grower.

Simon Tindall’s ethereal camera-work captures the rough and ready allure of this farming landscape and the gutsy inhabitants recalling that motorcycle opening sequence of Lawrence of Arabia with soft-focus art house twist contrasted with a gutsy song selection including Donna Summer. This is social realism that bristles with sexual tension and dreamy awakenings from childhood to young adulthood in the Fens, teasing with an enigmatic storyline that weaves through the fields but then departs in a different direction through never quite reveals itself.

The Goob is newcomer Liam Walpole who lives with his single mother Janet (Sienna Guillory) and her vicious partner in a run down shack of a roadside cafe Gene Womack dislikes the boy and makes no bones about showing it. Matters worsen when the Goob and his brother right the car off in a boy-racing moment, resulting in forced labour on the beet farm that threatens to curtail his social life. He does however meet hired farm-hand Elliott (Oliver Kennedy) and Eva (Marama Corlett) another picker who takes a shine to him during an impromptu midnight party in one of Gene’s fields.

This is a story that brims with intrigue and erotic tension not only between the Goob and Eva, but also in other enigmatic subplots where there’s a constant suggestion that Gene (a spiteful, mincing Harris) is drawn to other female characters and quite why Janet is involved with him remains a mystery. The intensity of the racing fraternity adds a rough machismo to the narrative, placing it firmly in Swaffham and the locale and the cast is almost entirely drawn from Norfolk. Liam Walpole has a gangly vulnerability about him which brings a unique appeal and gentleness to the otherwise hard-bitten, rough-edged Harris. MT

 

The Humbling (2014) – Venice International Film Festival

Director: Barry Levinson

Cast: Al Pacino, Greta Gerwig, Nina Ariadna

USA 2014, 112 min.

In Levinson’s adaptation of the novel by Philip Roth, Simon Axler, a famous actor on the wrong side of 60, loses his craft and his love of the theatre. After a black-out he collapses into the orchestra pit and ends up in a posh sanatorium. There he meets Sybil, one of the patients, who wants to pay Simon handsomely to kill her husband, who has molested their daughter. Simon declines, but Sybil returns during the rest of the film, to talk him into the killing. Simon could do with the money, because he is broke. After returning home to his country mansion in Connecticut, he is visited by Pegeen (Gerwig), the daughter of an actress Simon had an affair with more than 30 years ago. Megeen, who is a lesbian, had a life long crush on Simon, and they start a rather one-sided relationship, in which the aging actor plays the role of a sugar-daddy, while Megeen still sleeps with women – hardly surprising when one considers Axler’s physical state. Finally, Simon has the choice between a hair replacement commercial and the title role in King Lear on Broadway. Choosing the latter, and wanting to father a baby with Pegeen, brings Simon again too close to the abyss.

This is a glossy, beautifully crafted drama in which Levinson shows us that leaving the sanatorium makes no difference to Simon: inside he had only Sybil to contend with, but in his own home he has Megeen on his hands, who literally drives him even more crazy. She wants all, material and attention-wise, and her moods are violent. Axler is caught between his own loss of reality, his wishful phantasies and his rapidly declining body. A crippled man, playing the teenager in an old body and a disturbed mind. Pacino is superb, he fights the dying of the light for far too long, always wanting a little stay from execution. He is so caught up in himself and his delusions, that he can not see what Pegeen is doing to him. In his mind he is still a much younger man, able to cope. Gerwig is dominance personified, crushing Simon, like her former lovers.

Shot in only 20 days near Levinson’s own house in Connecticut, THE HUMBLING has a freshness that suits the narrative: we are rushed through the last rites for Axler, his life violently fragmenting around him: past and present, all the stories of life and theater merging into one in the old actor’s mind. His fears and wishes are dangerously close, his imaginations haunting him. The vivid and innovative camera supports his descent into a private hell. AS

THE HUMBLING IS SHOWING AT VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FROM 27 August to 7 September 2014. Follow our coverage under the FESTIVALS banner.

Im Keller (2014) In The Basement – Venice International Film Festival 2014

Director: Ulrich Seidl

Writers: Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz

81min  Doc  Austria

After exploring the sex lives of a three contemporary women (Love, Hope, Paradise), Austrian maverick, Ulrich Seidl, plumbs the domestic cellars of his homeland for more outrageous material in his latest documentary Im Keller (In The Cellar).  A word normally applied to horror film ‘unheimlich’ describes these underground ‘cribs’ that are the total opposite of cosy: translating as ‘uncanny’ but literally meaning ‘unhomely’ – it seems a particularly appropriate way to describe Seidl’s discoveries. The opening sequences make increasingly bewildering viewing, as we meet group of characters who appear only too happy to share with us their unusual habits and hobbies in this subterranean world. With his regular collaborator Veronika Franz, Seidl’s preoccupation with obesity, nudity and S&M goes hand in hand with religious bigotry and undercover Nazis (Hitler was, of course, Austrian) – all are alive and kicking in the homes of everyday Austrian folk.

Indie and art house audiences with a penchant for the macabre and Seidl’s dark brand of humour will certainly flock to see Im Keller even though it is, in parts, a sight for sore eyes. It certainly proves that in Austria as well as Yorkshire there’s ‘nowt so queer as folk”. One woman hides a series of baby-like dolls in cardboard boxes. As she mollycoddles and soothes them in the basement of the house, her Nazi husband sits upstairs under a prized portrait of Hitler, given as a wedding present: “unwrapping it, I nearly went out of my mind”, he comments with zeal. Another man uses his cellar to house his collection of ‘small game’ trophies (of antilope, kudu etc) and hones his skills at shooting with some target practice and a series of lethal firearms.

As we progress through the ranks of weirdos indulging their obsessions below stairs, Seidl moves onto more x-rated material. A couple who enjoy extreme sexual role-play (BDSM) explain and demonstrate the ethos behind their proclivities: “trust is the most vital element”.  Another woman takes us through the bondage routines involved in being a sexual masochist – it emerges, ironically, that during the day she works in a centre for abused woman.  All this is captured through Martin Gschlacht’s cold-eyed lens, with Seidl’s eerie trademark fixed framing, seen in previous outings. The phrase ‘cognitive dissonance’ springs to mind all through this odd documentary.  Seidl’s treatment of his subject-matter is completely dead pan and non-judgemental and the juxtaposition of these grotesque images and the gallows humour will make you squirm in your seats. MT

IM KELLER is showing at the VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL from 27 August until 6 September 2014.  FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE UNDER THE FESTIVALS BANNER.

 

 

One on One (2014) | London Korean Film Festival 2014

Director/writer: Kim Ki-Duk

Don Lee, Kim Young-min, Lee Yi-kyung, Cho Dong-in, Yoo Teo, Ahn Ji-hye, Jo Jae-ryong, Kim Joong-ki

Drama, South Korea, 122 min

Kim Ki-Duk hasn’t been given a competition berth at Venice since he controversially won the Golden Lion in 2012 (beating off The Master almost by proxy), so it’s to the second-string Venice Days strand that the veteran Korean prankster goes. And it’s a shame if he’s completely side-lined by the critical fraternity here, even if One On One is a lesser film than his grisly but hilarious Moebius (2013), which premiered here last year out of competition. His latest somehow remains an intriguing skew-eyed look into the pain of violence n the giving as well as in the gruesome receiving.

Moebius began with a castration and got grislier from there, and alarm bells start ringing from the off as Kim launches into a brutal murder of a teenage girl in the opening frames. But even with its lot of ultra-violence and extended torture sequences, there’s a more nuanced tone at work as the narrative gathers momentum. Months after the murder, a group of mysterious mercenaries abduct the killers and those who authorised the murder one by one, torturing them through rusty nails, hammers, pincers, and electrocutions. But they only torture until the perpetrators admit their part in the plot, letting them live with any shame or indeed pride they might’ve held. It starts with dogsbodies, and the film takes us up the chain of command to the top of a web of gangsters. At first the men are apologetic and say they only did what they were told, but later the top men say they did it because it was a just action – one whose motives are never conclusively revealed. But when one character tells its leader (Don Lee) that there is “something sad in you”, he reflects a man whose viciousness is as painful to him as it is to those he gives it out to (well, almost).

At first the film’s kill-list narrative suggests we’re in the territory of a genre flick, but Kim plays with the ideas that the film present and it becomes a more than adequate allegory on the echoes of genocide, where culprits at different points of the chain of command have different explanations for unforgivable crimes. The paramilitary group themselves disguise themselves in various garbs – from an anti-communist brigade to a shady government organisation, as if to heighten the sense that this story cold play out on different levels in different settings.

The film’s violence becomes so routine that it may well bore some, but that’s part of the point, so numbed are these characters to a world where violence begets violence. One of the members of the paramilitary is a victim of domestic violence, raped in a scene that might’ve just have crossed an exploitative line here. But as one character says, “dictators are in families just as much as countries”, and I found myself considering, among the expected bloody finale, the implications of how violent men are often as much troubled as troubling.

SCREENING DURING THE LONDON KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL 2014 | ONE ON ONE PREMIERED AT THE VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL |

Q&A with the Director at the Villa Degli Autori, Venice Lido [youtube id=”ergRH05lqnw” width=”600″ height=”350″]

LA RANÇON DE LA GLOIRE (2014) – Venice International Film Festival 2014

LA RANÇON DE LA GLOIRE

Dir.: Xavier Beauvois

Cast: Benoit Poelvoorde, Roschdy Zem, Chiara Mastroianni, Nadine Labaki

France/Belgium/Switzerland, 114 min.

1977: Eddie, a 40 year old Belgian small-time crook, is released from prison in Vevey, Switzerland. He is going to live with his friend Osman, looking after his daughter Samira, since her mother is in hospital. Whilst Eddie gets on well with Samira, his relationship with Osman (whose life he once saved) is strained, since Eddie is still not going straight, even stealing the lights for the Christmas tree and a TV. But soon Osman has to rely on Eddie’s ‘profession’, because of a legal loophole means he has to pay over 50 000 Swiss Francs for his wife’s  operation. Eddie comes up with a master plan: Charlie Chaplin had just died, and Eddie proposes to steal his corpse and ask for a ransom from the family. Osman is so desperate, that he agrees to the mad scheme. The two commit all sorts of amusing blunders along the way but Beauvois makes sure of a happy ending.

Xavier Beauvois tells his story like a fairy-tale, with the seven year old Samira being much more of an adult than the two men. Caroline Champetier’s photography is stunning, never falling to re-create the postcard-idyll of Switzerland, but showing us the grim places as well the the contrasting beauty. Performances are very convincing but Benoit Poelvoorde leads with his suberb portrait of a likeable ex-con whose heart is in the right place but can’t help slipping back into crime. Chiara Mastroianni, is shoe-horned in as the glamorous owner of the local circus, although as a love interest for Eddy, she doesn’t quite make the grade in a rather underwritten part. Michel Legrand’s music (plus Chaplin soundtracks) often help us over the the sagging middle of the film. A colourful B-Picture for children and grown-ups alike. But Beauvois makes sure of a happy-ending for Eddie in the arms of Chiara Mastroianni AS.

VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 27 AUGUST UNTIL 6 SEPTEMBER. FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE UNDER THE FESTIVALS BANNER

 

Venice Film Festival 2014 – preview

_AF_6405.CR2With a focus on World premieres from maverick directors from France, Italy and the USA, this year’s Venice Film Fesitval (27 August until 7th September) may yet prove to be a treasure trove of gems. Stars gracing the Red Carpet at the 71st Edition of the Italian Lido’s most glamorous event will include Ethan Hawk and Al Pacino. Composer, Alexandre Desplat, heads up the Competition jury that includes Tim Roth, Jessica Hausner, Sandy Powell.

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The Festival opens on 27th August with BIRDMAN, or the UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) starring Michael Keaton and Ed Norton and closes on 6th September with Ann Hui’s THE GOLDEN ERA, that looks back at Japanese Imperialism in China.

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The Competiton line-up at the World’s oldest film festival looks at new work from Abel Ferrara with a biopic on the Italian filmmaker  PASOLINI, (his Welcome to New York recently shocked critics at Cannes) Swedish director, Roy Andersson brings his existential film A PIGEON SAT ON BRANCH and Fatih Akin’s THE CUT, starring Tahar Rahim as a father looking for his lost daughters, promising to be a contraversial year with hardly any offerings from Eastern Europe or the Far East . Most noticeably, Venice agent provocateur of the past two festivals, Kim Ki-duk, has been side-barred to Venice Days with his latest outing ONE ON ONE. 

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Five American films feature in the competition line-up among them: R Bahrani’s subprime mortgage drama 99 HOMES, with Laura Dern and Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary THE LOOK OF SILENCE, a welcome follow-up to his critically-acclaimed The Act of Killing. Last year David Gordon Green brought Joe to the Lido, this year his film MANGELHORN stars Al Pacino as a small-town Texan locksmith suffering from unrequited love. Ethan Hawke appears in Michael Almereyda’s modern take on Shakespeare’s CYMBELINE.

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From France, Benoit Jacquot’s drama THREE HEARTS stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Catherine Deneuvre. THE PRICE OF GLORY is a seventies-set comedy involving the imaginary theft of Charlie Chaplin’s coffin, starring Peter Coyote. Viggo Mortensen plays a teacher in David Oelhofften’s LOIN DES HOMMES that centres on the French war in Algeria.

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From Italy comes Francesco Munzi’s mafia thriller ANIME NERE, Saverio Costanzo’s New York love story HUNGRY HEARTS starring Alba Rohrwacher and Adam Driver and Mario Martone’s historical biography IL GIOVANE FAVOLOSO that tells the fascinating story of the poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi.

Il_giovane_favoloso_4-Elio_Germano,Michele_Riondino,Anna_Mouglalis-_Mario_SpadaAnother Turkish director vying for the Golden Lion in this year’s competition is Kaan Mujdeci who makes his debut with SIVAS, that tells the story of an 11-year-old boy and his dog on the steppes. Already we have two contenders for the “Golden Dog” along with Vittorio De Sica’s Neo Realist drama UMBERTO D‘s mutt who appears in the Venice Classics strand this year. Meanwhile British outings are thin on the ground (in the Horizons (Orizzonti) sidebar) and include Duane Hopkins’s social-realist crime thriller BYPASS and Guy Myhill’s Norfold-set debut drama THE GOOB, starring Sienna Guillory and Sean Harris.

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Other highlights from the East include Andrei Konchalovskiy’s POSTMAN’S WHITE NIGHTS that depicts an isolated community that live a neolithic lifestyle in contemporary Russia. Iranian director, Rakhshan Bani-Eternad’s TALES, Shanghai director, Xiaoshuai Wang’s thriller RED AMNESIA (Chuang ru zhe) and, finally, not to be missed in the competition line-up is,  WWII epic drama FIRES ON THE PLAIN (NOBI) – the original 1959 version involved the starvation and privation of its entire crew and cast and is said to be one of Roman Polanski’s favourite films. Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s remake is one of the most anticipated dramas, starring Riri Funaki (Like Father Like Son) in the lead role and is a fitting tribute to this year’s WWII commemorations.

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Debut films competing for the Lion of the Future
“Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a Debut Film

Kaan MÜJDECI, Sivas (Turkey) (Venezia 71)
Naji ABU NOWAR, Theeb (Jordan/U.A.E./Qatar/United Kingdom) (Orizzonti)
Michele ALHAIQUE, Senza nessuna pietà (Italy) (Orizzonti)
Salome ALEXI, Kreditis limiti (Line of Credit) (Georgia/Germany/France) (Orizzonti)
Veronika FRANZ, Severin FIALA, Ich Seh / Ich Seh (Goodnight Mommy) (Austria) (Orizzonti)
Chaitanya TAMHANE, Court (India) (Orizzonti)

Suha ARRAF, Villa touma (Palestine) (SIC)
Stéphane DEMOUSTIER, Terre battue (40-Love) (France/Belgium) (SIC)
Ivan GERGOLET, Dancing with Maria (Italy/Argentine/Slovenia) (SIC)
Timm KRÖGER, Zerrumpelt Herz (The Council of Birds) (Germany) (SIC)
Hoàng Điệp NGUYỄN, Đập cánh giữa không trung (Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere) (Vietnam/France/Norway/Germany) (SIC)
Vuk RŠUMOVIĆ, Ničije dete (No One’s Child) (Serbia) (SIC)
Yukun XIN, Binguan (The Coffin in the Mountain) (China) (SIC)

Shawn CHRISTENSEN, Before I Disappear (USA/United Kingdom) (Venice Days)
Mario FANFANI, Les nuits d’été (France) (Venice Days)
Peter HOOGENDOORN, Tussen 10 en 12 (Between 10 and 12) (Belgium/France/Holland) (Venice Days)
Guy MYHILL, The Goob (United Kingdom) (Venice Days)
Adityavikram SENGUPTA, Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love) (India) (Venice Days) ”

THE 71ST INTERNATIONAL VENICE FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 27TH AUGUST UNTIL 6TH SEPTEMBER 2014

 

French Film at Venice 2014

Near_Death_Experience_2This year’s Venice International Film Festival has a distinctly French flavour along with its French Jury President – the well-known composer Alexandre Desplat. Five of the competition films are from France (with one Out of Competiton) as established auteurs (Benoit Jacquot, Xavier Beauvois, Abel Ferrara, Amos Gitaï) rub shoulders with emerging talent in the shape of Alix Delaporte, David Oelhoffen), whose second outings have also been selected. Hungry_Hearts_4

The Orizzonti side-bar offers features from the latest wave of filmmakers Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine (Near Death Experience). Over the past ten years the pair have built up some interesting work and invited author Michel Houellebecq to join them this time, as well as the new film by Quentin Dupieux, Réalité, that offers something quite different from the usual French cinema landscape.

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The Giornate degli Autori (Venice Days) strand will screen four world premieres: Metamorphoses by Christophe Honoré, Return to Ithaca by Laurent Cantet, Les Nuits d’été by Mario Fanfani, and The Smell of Us by Larry Clark and Céline Sciamma’s Cannes hit, Girlhood is in the running for the Lux Prize.

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The 29th International Film Critics’ Week will show Terre battue, the debut feature by Stéphane Demoustier, starring Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi while Venice Classics invites Lido spectators to rediscover three classics of French cinema: L’Amour Existe by Maurice Pialat, Mouchette by Robert Bresson, and Stolen Kisses by François Truffaut. And if you can’t get to Venice Lido this year, don’t worry: a selection of the competition films will be heading for UK cinemas during the course of this winter. MT

VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FROM 27 – 6 AUGUST 2014

 

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