Posts Tagged ‘Cannes 2013’

The New Boy (2023)

Dir: Warwick Thornton | Cast: Kate Blanchett, Mezi Atwood, Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair | Drama, Australia

Kate Blanchett delivers another tour de force – this time as a nun in a remote outpost for orphaned boys in Australia’s outback.

This drama about a boy disrupting the delicate status quo in a remote Benedictine monastery run by a renegade nun has a definite ring of Matthew Lewis’ Gothic novel The Monk about it.

But this is Australia in the 1940s rather than 18th century Spain. And the themes of innocence and spiritual corruption are replaced by those of Colonisation and the survival of indigenous communities, namely the Aboriginals. There’s no sex, as in Dominik Moll’s The Monk  but there is some magic realism: by rubbing his fingers together the boy conjures up the healing force of a sparkling light.

Warwick Thornton’s narrative follows a well-worn formula: the mercurial stranger comes to town and works his magic – good and bad – on a sceptical community. The ‘new boy’ in question is 9 year-old Aswan Reid, an Aboriginal who, early on, saves another orphan from a fatal snake bite. He sleeps under the bed, gobbles down his porridge, and gets extra rations from Blanchett’s indulgent ‘Mother Superior’ Sister Eileen, who is mourning the recent loss of her partner Dom Peter. And while the nun slowly hits the bottle, questioning her own faith, the boy gradually navigates this new world without losing the vital ropes to his past.

The other boys remain bemused by their new housemate who tries to steal the jam belonging to the kindly caretaker George (Wayne Blair) from under the nose of buxom cook Sister Mum (Barbara Mailman). But the boy is thankfully diverted from these rather cheesy interludes by the arrival of a life-size crucifix from Europe, sent to Aussie to avoid it being damaged by the WWII hostilities. And this provides a source of endless fascination for the boy as he experiments by piercing his own hands to see if they bleed, as the crucifix does, miraculously. Eventually, Sister Eileen wonders if baptism could be the answer to the boy’s antics.

Naturally Blanchett is the star turn here but Reid certainly pushes above his weight in an impressive performance for an untrained newcomer in this welcome addition to the aboriginal sub-genre from indigenous director Warwick Thornton. MT





On a Magical Night, Room 212 (2019) ** Curzon World

Dir Christophe Honoré  | France, Drama 93′

What happens when a marriage goes plutonic? Christophe Honoré covers familiar ground in this Parisian drama that turns an old chestnut into a half-baked potboiler despite its arthouse pretensions and an award-winning turn from his regular muse Chiara Mastroianni as the leading star.

She is self-possessed and feisty as Maria married to Richard (her one-time partner Benjamin Biolay). Their relationship is as stale as an old baguette and nothing can warm things up between the sheets on frigid nights in their apartment in Montparnasse. Refreshingly, it is Maria who has strayed from the marital bed rather than Richard. And not just once: Maria has played the field with half a dozen handsome young studs during the course of her 25 year relationship with uber faithful Richard. After he discovers incriminating texts on her ‘phone, they have a low-key bust up that sees him crying into his cups, while she moves into the hotel opposite (hence the titular Room 212) to text pouty paramours who are then paraded before our eyes in an upbeat playful way as Maria revisits the past in this rather twee chamber piece.

On a Magical Night is Honoré’s follow-up to his sombre Sorry Angel, a gay melodrama that screened at Cannes 2018 in the competition section. Although Magical Night attempts to explore the theme of marital stagnation it doesn’t do so in a meaningful or entertaining way, actually looking more like a cheeky drama from the late 1970s. Mastroianni tries to liven things up but Briolay is rather tepid as her husband – this no melodrama – he simply mopes about tearfully as she secretly watches him from the 2 star hotel opposite.

Vincent Lacoste plays a younger puppyish version of Briolay, and his piano teacher ex, Irene, is Camille Cottin, who also breaks into charmless impromptu song. Decent at first this soon becomes tedious, leaving us checking our watches after an hour of frivolous nonsense, Mastroianni parading in various states of undress and in different positions as she attempts to straddle Lacoste in faux love-making. An interesting idea, but forgettably frothy in execution. MT




Matthias and Maxime (2019) ***

Dir: Xavier Dolan |

French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan directed his first film in 2009 at the age of just 20. He was back at Cannes this year with a coming of drama, set again in Montreal where a young man at the cusp of his working life is stuck at home looking after his abusive addict of a mother. He also has a facial blemish that saps his confidence. At a friend’s garrulous get-together Matthew finds himself play-acting a gay role with a young lawyer Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas), who is in a committed relationship and a settled career, albeit a boring one. Sparks fly. Although the two have met before in their childhood, clearly things have moved on and the chemistry between them is now palpable. But the path to love never runs smoothly.

The camerawork is all close up and personal. And in common with Dolan’s dialogue-heavy previous films (It’s only the End of the World) there is that shouty, rowdy restless vibe that some might find objectionable while to others  this tender playfulness will be intoxicating. The performances are strong and convincing across the board and genuinely heartfelt, and once again Dolan is in the thick of it all – as Maxime. MT




Memoir of War (2018) ****

Dir: Emmanuel Finkiel | Cast: Melanie Thierry, Benoit Magimel, Benjamin Biolay | France, 127′

Memoir of War (La Douleur) was France’s entry to the Oscars this year. It didn’t win but is eminently worth watching for Melanie Thierry’s hypnotic performance as Marguerite Duras in an elegant adaptation of the writer’s semi-autobiographical novel “The War: A Memoir”, set in Paris during German occupation.

Emmanuel Finkiel (Voyages) takes a conventional approach to this stunningly filmed cool classic that dramatises the writer’s life in Paris under German occupation in the final years of the war. After her husband Robert Anselme, a major figure in the Resistance, is arrested and deported, she is forced to live by her wits in order to get him back. And this involves a cat and mouse game with a French Nazi agent collaborator called Rabier (a stout Benoit Magimel with a dark wig).

Duras, who wrote the Oscar-nominated script for Alain Resnais’ drama Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), was an intellectual of the highest order, and this is reflected in Thierry’s contemplative, nuanced gaze, as she chain-smokes her way through one of the best performances of the Oscar nominations. Finkiel completely eschews melodrama in taking us into Duras’ intimate thoughts and recollections, often blurring the focus to suggest enigmatic events, and using her own stream of consciousness to drive the narrative forward as she struggles to survive the intrigue going on around her. Tortured by self-doubt and anxiety, she yearns for Robert but emerges obdurate and determined to find him.

Meanwhile, Robert (Emmanuel Bourdieu) barely makes an appearance despite the anguish surrounding him. The first hour deals with Duras’ efforts to keep Rabier onside, although clearly finding him rather repellent in many ways — and she may even be wasting her time. He is rather taken with her bluestocking beauty and literary credentials, and two enjoy a series of clandestine tête à têtes in discreet venues. But Finkiel’s film flows impressively as the focus shifts away from the couple and increasingly on to Duras’ fraught and internalised musings about Robert, as she gets closer to his colleague Dionys (Biolay).

The final denouement is as unexpected and it is slightly unsatisfactory. Robert is liberated and brought back to Paris by the skilful negotiations of Francois Mitterand and the film is suddenly brought to a conclusion that some may find brusque given the slow-burning nature of the early scenes. That said, Thierry is mesmerising to watch in a graceful tour de force of controlled anguish. This is Finkiel’s second feature with Thierry, and he clearly knows how to make the most of her. MT



Sauvage (2018) ***

Dir.: Camille Vidal-Naquet; Cast: Felix Maritaud, Eric Bernard, Marie Seux, Philippe Ohrel; France 2018, 99 min.

Felix Maritaud blazes through this stunning sortie into the life of young rent boys in Strasbourg, focusing on their aimless, dangerous and lonely lives. The harsh psychological realism is complimented by explicit sexual encounters, which often border on the abusive.

He plays Leo a rent boy in his early twenty who lives purely for the moment, using drugs, clients, petty crime and lots of day-dreaming to get through each day. That changes when he meets Ahd (Reinard), a fellow male prostitute and falls in love with him. Leo is not worried that Ahd is actually looking for a ‘sugar-daddy’ long term, and asks Leo to do the same: “That’s the best that can happen to us”. But Leo is stubborn, chasing Ahd down and endangering his relationship with an older man. After being sexually assaulted by two others who cheat him out of his money to boot, Ahd does Leo a last favour, beating up one of them and stealing his money, which he shares with Leo. But all the stress has taken its toll on Leo’s health, and a female physician (Seux), one of the few women in the feature, consoles him with maternal affection. This scene stands out in contrast to the film’s opener, when Leo is examined by a ‘doctor’, who turns out to be a client working for the IRS, who enjoys the role play. After Ahd has left for Benidorm with his lover, Leo finally follows his advice- after a particularly brutal (off-screen) encounter with a client known for his sadistic tendencies. His middle-class ‘protector’ Claude (Ohrel) wants to take him to Montreal for a new start in life – but does Leo really wants to be saved?

Leo shows all the symptoms of emotional regression due to neglect: he is a doleful child looking for love in all the wrong places, because society has marginalised him. Sauvage is not just about sex: it also shows the tenderness in a gay relationship, particularly when Leo goes with a man old enough to be his father: Leo cuddles him, both men getting more out of the encounter than penetration alone would have provided. But Leo is already a very fragmented character: he spends hours alone in the woods near the male gang’s pick-up place, and then over-compensates with hectic behaviour at parties and in dance clubs. His day dreams of emotional security are shattered in reality – and he has himself to blame. Solitude is his way back into childhood, while his waking hours are a nightmare of humiliation and deception. Leo doesn’t know how to connect these two selves, and the lack of concurrent identity makes him alien to himself.

SAUVAGE is an impressive first feature for writer and director Camille Vidal-Naquet. DoP Jacques Girault contrasts Leo’s dual existence with nightmarish images of the time spent with his clients, the aimless wandering in the streets, and the haven of tranquillity in the sunny woods. Vidal-Naquet is always non-judgemental, avoiding sentimentality at all costs. The result is a rather melancholic walk on the wild side. AS


Bergman: A Year in the Life (2018) ****

Dir: Jane Magnusson | Doc | Sweden | 116’

Documentarian Jane Magnusson takes a swipe at Ingmar Bergman’s memory in her sprawling in-depth documentary that marks this year’s centenary of the birth of the Swedish legend. It is an informative expose that lays bare the lesser known side of Bergman and follows on from her 2013 outing Trespassing Bergman where Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen appraised the filmmaker’s staggering oeuvre.

In this current climate of moral rectitude, your judgement of the film will be guided by whether or not you think an artist’s work should stand apart from their personal life. Predicably it emerges that Ingmar was his father’s favourite and  his brother Dag Bergman reveals other intimate details about their childhood together, including his brother’s neurosis that led to stomach pains and sleepless nights.

Opting for a thematic rather than chronological narrative allows Magnusson to zoom in on Bergman’s personality, family and the women in his life in a revealing expose of a man who seemed entirely focused on his own needs. Yet he also emerges as a director who worked closely and intensively with his actors creating female roles that were appealing as well as emotionally and intellectually challenging.

So many documentaries about Bergman have been hagiographic tributes to the national hero, and when a filmmaker reaches these heady heights it becomes difficult to be critical. Since the dawn of time, creators have been philanderers and poor parents, driven by their obsession with emotionally consuming work. Does this mean that they should be metaphorically ‘taken out and shot’ or have their work shunned and demonised?

Magnusson’s film is observational in style, cleverly focusing in on 1957, Bergman’s most prolific year as a filmmaker on television and the big screen, with the release of Wild Strawberries and the Seventh Seal, his most autonomous work. It was also the year of his involvement in four theatre productions – including the massive almost unstageable endeavour that was Peer Gynt. 1957 heralded the arrival of his sixth child, with wife Gun Grut, and romances leading to marriage with Käbi Laretei and Ingrid von Rosen, including an affair with actor Bibi Andersson, who starred in the year’s two films.

Enriched by a wealth of personal photos and footage, there are informative talking heads from the world of film, theatre and literature making this a definitive and ambitious piece of work that reveals a complicated but endearing genius, despite its provocative stance. MT


Ash is Purest White (2018) ****

Dir: Zhangke Jia | Cast: Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Xiaogang Feng | Drama | China | 140’

ASH IS PUREST WHITE portrays the eventful relationship between a Chinese petty criminal and the woman whose loyalty to him never dies. This rolling contemplative saga occasionally veers off the beaten track with its indulgent running time of 141 minutes but will still appeal to the director’s ardent followers, featuring the same rough-edged characters who we first meet in 2001 and follow until the bittersweet denouement on New year’s Eve 2018.

Star of Shanxi’s creative community Jia Zhang-ke trained as an architect near his native mining town of Fenyang, just South of Beijing, and brings his aesthetic flair and some magnificent landscapes to this lasting love story set in a dying era. The director’s forte is his graceful way of portraying China’s traditional way of life with its penchant for ceremonial drumming and white-gloved officials, with the chaotic new era vibrantly captured in Eric Gautier’s resplendent camerawork.

Opening in 2001 in his Shanxi homeland, his wife and regular collaborator Zhao Tao plays the confident delicate local beauty Qiao, who frequents the nightclub of her boyfriend Guo Bin (Liao Fan/Black Coal, Thin Ice). And she is no arm candy, establishing herself as a keen advocate of the traditional jianghu codes of loyalty while embracing the modern world, spryly dancing to Village People’s YMCA.

Respectful of her ageing father she is more playfully assertive with Bin, and when he is assaulted by thugs on motorbikes, she manages to save him by firing shots into the air in a brutal scene that really takes our breath away, but also secures her a spell in prison where she is unwilling to grass on her boyfriend about the ownership of the firearm.

The second act is an upbeat affair that follows Qiao’s release in 2006, and treats us to a sumptuous journey down the Yangtze River in another nod to the sinking glory of the old China versus the brash new world. Qin has proved a feckless boyfriend and is no longer on the scene, but Qiao is keen not to let him slip away so easily, after her sustained loyalty. And when she is robbed of her cash and passport, she bounces back cleverly in some amusing scenes where she gate-crashes a wedding to enjoy the banquet, desperate for food. Qiao finally confronts Bin in a soulful and moving episode that is visually captivating for its exquisitely calm contemplation of the end of their romance.

As we leave Qiao she is running a gambling hall, and Bin is back in her life, attracted to her strength of character and tenacity. The two actors are mesmerising to watch in their commandingly restrained yet natural performances, exuding a fascinating chemistry that will remain in the memory for a long time after the credits have rolled. MT



Fanny (2013) | DVD release

Director: Daniel Auteuil      Writer: Daniel Auteuil    FROM THE THE WORKS OF MARCEL PAGNOL

Cast: Jean-Pierre Daroussin, Victoire Belezy, Raphael Personnez, Marie-Anne Chazel

104min     Drama   French with English subtitles

Marcel Pagnol’s work is still popular in France, especially among older viewers who made up the lion’s share of the audience at the Cannes Film Festival screening.  FANNY is the second film in the trilogy and the last segment (CESAR) is still in development.

Daniel Auteuil directs and acts (as Cesar) using the same cast and crew as for MARIUS (the first part – which deals with his longing to be a sailor) namely Victoire Belezy as Fanny, Jean-Pierre Daroussin as Panisse and Raphael Personnaz as Marius.

Marseilles accents and the maritime setting gives this light-hearted ‘chamber piece’ a very French feel but the classic plot line is universally satisfying, marking Pagnol out as one of the last century’s most renowned dramatists. Alexandre Desplat’s elegant score carries the dialogue-driven narrative through its paces, most of the action taking place in the confines of Cesar’s bar in contrast to the resplendent summery visuals of the wedding scene.

Fanny’s good-looking boyfriend Marius has set off to the South Seas on a 5-year contract, leaving her in Marseilles where she discovers her pregnancy.  Distraught at the idea of being an unmarried mother, Cesar secretly organises to marry her off to Panisse, a wealthy local manufacturer and drinking buddy, on the condition that the child will become his heir and inherit a considerable fortune.

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Auteuil and Daroussin are convincing in their roles as traditional French men: Daroussin is sensitive and unassuming as the dowdy and much older suitor to the sultry young girl. Auteuil’s character is more ‘rough and ready’ but with a tender heart of gold. The coquettish Bezey does her best to conceal her disappointment at the marriage particularly as she’s still in love with Marius, who eventually re-appears in a showdown that pits the evergreen theme of wealth and social suitability against passion, love and sexual desire.  MT






Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013) NOW ON DVD/BLU

Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche | Writers: Ghalia Lacroix and Abdellatif Kechiche Cast: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Jérémie Laheurte | 179’ France   Drama

On her way to meet her would-be boyfriend Thomas, Adèle passes a girl with bright blue hair. The world seems to slow around her: Adèle is transfixed. In class she discusses a such fleeting glances, to love at first sight. Could this be what Adèle is experiencing? It certainly seems like it. It’s one of the weaker moments in Abdellatif Kechiche’s heart-breaking romantic drama, but it’s also a defining moment for Adèle.

During lunch with Thomas, Adèle will question whether it’s better to study books in class, or read them alone for pleasure. She likes to read, Thomas doesn’t. But later, when Adèle reconnects with the blue-haired girl – Emma – in a gay bar, we learn that her knowledge doesn’t extend to art. In fact, the only artist she knows is Picasso, in sharp contrast to Emma’s expansive knowledge as a Fine Art student. Their meeting in the bar seems, perhaps, a little too coincidental – but Emma doesn’t believe in chance, and maybe we shouldn’t either.

As a relationship begins to form between the two women, Adèle becomes uncomfortable around Emma’s friends, feeling she is not their equal culturally. Adèle might know literature, but not art or philosophy, and Emma’s knowledge in the latter area allows the girls a cover story: to Adèle’s parents, Emma is a friend who is helping her learn philosophy. There is truth in this alibi. Emma is broadening Adèle’s horizons: sexually, culturally and socially. Emma’s values, and her sense of freedom (both as a lesbian and as an artist), come from Sartre, who has taught her that humans are defined by their actions.

Sartre’s ideas, then, become the philosophical underpinning of a tale about the journey into womanhood, sexual awakening and the construction of human identities. Adèle’s reaction to Emma’s cultured friends mirrors her earlier conversations with Thomas, but with the tables turned. Culture and society form a part of who we are, who we become. As Adèle grows, becoming a woman, the film’s protracted duration allows Kechiche to leisurely build a detailed portrait, both of her personal development and her relationship with Emma – which Kechiche portrays with warmth, humour, drama and sex.

Julie Maroh, author of the graphic novel on which the film is based, has condemned the explicit nature of the sex scenes, labelling them ridiculous and unconvincing – and there’s certainly no denying that they are graphic and prolonged (their duration often seems excessive). At times, too, the camera lingers or pans over bodies in a gratuitous manner. When Emma teaches Adèle to enjoy the taste of shellfish, one can’t help but wonder if it’s all a cheap, sleazy metaphor.

But, the sex scenes aside, the film is a convincing and moving exploration of romance. Kechiche’s camera catches much of the action in close up and, if the visuals themselves at times seem rather unexceptional, the sterling work of lead actors Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle) and Léa Seydoux (Emma) more than makes up for it. The film’s original French title translates literally as Life of Adele: Chapters 1 + 2, and the thought of seeing further parts would be extremely tantalising, were it not for the reports of the ‘horrible’ experiences that Kechiche put his actors through on set. In response, Kechiche has even said the film shouldn’t be released, that it’s ‘too sullied’ – but that’s too far. The shoot may have been gruelling, but the results speak for themselves. Blue Is The Warmest Colour, now ten years old, is a film that deserves to be seen. Alex Barrett


Nebraska (2013) Mubi DVD

Dir.: Alexander Payne; | Cast: Bruce Dern, Bill Forte, June Squibb, Stacey Keach | USA 2013, 115 min.  Drama/Comedy

Bruce Dern won Best Actor at Cannes for his portrayal of Woody Grant in Alexander Payne’s sixteenth outing NEBRASKA. In common with all his features this is a dry comedy, and a road movie. But this time there is nothing to explore, nothing to find.  Anyone with ageing parents will appreciate the banal humour that can be found in simple exchanges between close members of a family who have grown up together and found their roles evolving from son to parent, lover to carer. Bob Nelson’s spare screenplay captures the caring, sympathy of David Grant (Will Forte) for his father’s predicament and the occasionally snarling ridicule that Bruce Dern’s Woody has for his youngest son.

Nebraska copy

The vastness of the countryside and the broken emptiness of the towns during the journey from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska are captured meticulously in the black and white landscapes: this not a journey into any future, but a glum portrait of the past and, in some ways, America’s past glory now reflected in the desolate urban spaces.  But also a lack of hope for the future, both socially and economically, as seen through the younger generation’s lack of real substance. And, like the main protagonist, the ageing alcoholic Woody Grant, this America is dying. The vastness of the abandoned land and the dilapidated streets and ramshackle buildings of small town America are dying a slow death. NEBRASKA is close to The last Picture Show, only even more moribund.

Woody is married to Kate, and their marriage is full of nagging (from her side) and blatant egoism from his. As Kate, June Squibb is hilarious without intending to be so and captivates with her strength of personality and self-belief. They live a small flat that looks like a night shelter. Sons David and Ross, are decent and kind men, the latter being more adjusted to modern life than his brother, who is in a dead-end job, can’t commit to his girlfriend and living in a bed sit that makes his parents’ place look grandiose.

Woody, like most men in his late eighties has reverted to a kind of childhood: hearing and memory are selective  – he stumbles around on the foothills of dementia – with a yen for booze. One day he gets hold of a flyer telling him that he has won a million dollars – he only needs to collect it with a company in Lincoln, Nebraska. Whilst Kate is dead against the idea; David, out of empathy and partly selfish reasons – agrees to take his father – hoping (in vain)  for increased bonding and a chance to get away from his own depressing life . On the way there they meet Woody’s family and friends in Woody’s hometown Hawthorne, Neb. Here David learns about his father’s youth, his trauma in the Korean War, and also about the greed of his so-called friends, lead by Ed Pegram (Keach), who suddenly remember vast amounts of money Woody’s them in the light of his prospective fortune. The money is a scam but the trip offers catharsis; laying bare all the hidden hopes, aspirations and desires between father and son.

NEBRASKA is never sentimental, the bleakness is unrestrained. It’s a world where parents have now proved more successful than their children in every way and despite a positive ending we know how short-lived that will be. The narrative is driven forward by sublime camerawork, intense images staying with us longer than the simple but rewarding plot. Acting veteran Bruce Dern as Woody is tough yet vulnerable and Will Forte’s David has just enough naivety to make himself believable and appealing. But the star is the camera. When panning over the presidents at the monument of Mount Rushmore, (looks unfinished – says Woody) we see a desperate yearning for a past long lost and a people interested only in religion, guns and cars. MT



Only God Forgives (2013)

Dir: Nicolas Winding Refyn | Cast: Kristen Scott Thomas, Ryan Gosling, Vithaya Pansringarm, Rhatha Phongam, Gordon Brown, Tom Burke | 90mins    Denmark/France


For sheer cinematic brilliance and artistic style, Nicolas Winding Refyn’s Bangkok-set revenge tale really set the night on fire at its Cannes premiere back in 2013, dividing critics and polarising opinion.  Some derided it for its cold brutality and lack of emotion but Heli was equally violent, gratuitously so, and won an award.  

Only God Forgives is all about controlled emotion, seething under the surface of Refyn’s glittering jewel-box of visual tricks: brooding resentment, latent anger, moody scorn and dysfunctional lust also join the party in a thriller seething with a pervasive sense of dread,  heightened by a dynamite score.

The performances are stylised, mannered and supremely elegant: Ryan Gosling, who runs a Thai boxing club, very much serves the film rather than stars in it, wearing a sharp suit and the expression of a frightened rabbit as the submissively loyal son of Kristen Scott Thomas’s vampish mother and drug baroness, Crystal.  She’s a woman at the top of her game, her two sons are trophies she toys with dispassionately.


We first see her arriving in Bangkok to demand retribution for the murder of her ‘first son’ Billy (Tom Burke) on the grounds of his raping and killing a local teenager. “I’m sure he had his reasons” she claims, very much her own woman.  It’s a superbly entertaining performance and one which should have won her Best Actress. Sporting a long blond wig and killer heals, she is every bit as sexy, poised and alluring as any actress half her age, or less.

Against advice, she hires a hit man to take out Chang (Pansringarm), the local police chief responsible for the killing of her son Billy. But the plan backfires and Chang turns the tables on Crystal and her agent (Gordon Brown) who is tortured and killed in possibly one of the most inventive and exquisitely painful deaths in cinema history, all playing against a glimmering back-drop of the lacquered night club interior.  Glamorous hostesses look on motionless and expressionless in compliance with their oriental culture of self control.

Only God Forgives glides gracefully along, each frame an expertly composed, perfectly balanced, a shimming masterpiece. Punctuated by brusque episodes of savage violence, it epitomises a world of clandestine doings and shady characters suggested but not fully fleshed-out, adding an exotic mystique to the piece rather than detracting from it, leaving room for the imagination to wander, to speculate and to dream.  It’s a world where evil meets evil and no one is up to any good.

Nicolas Winding Refyn’s points out “We must not forget that the second enemy of creativity, after having ‘good taste’ is being safe”.  This is not a safe film, it’s a daring, exciting and malevolent. MT



Tulpan (2008)

Dir: Sergei Dvortsevoy | Drama | Kazakhstan | 120mins

If you thought that Borat had Kazakhstan sewn up then think again. Dvortsevoy won the Prix Un Certain Regard for this endearing picture of life on the windswept southern Steppe for a family of nomadic herders.

This film is so cute you’ll want to pick it up and cuddle it but preferably with gloves on. Apart from a touching script and great performances not least from the animals it features mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with a newborn lamb and gets down and dirty with camels, a real tornado, endless sandstorms and some very grim weather indeed. Powerful wide-angled visuals combine with the cosy interiors of the yurt, the tent where the all live.

Asa, the gentle boy with a vivid imagination, has completed his navel service and wants to join his family of herders. In order to become a shepherd he must find a wife and women are thin on the ground in this part of the world. Infact the nearest one for several hundred miles is Tulpan. She doesn’t fancy Asa largely because of his ears but it may be because he talks too much. With the help of his friend Boni he tries to win her over. The alternative is a move to the city where he wouldn’t have his family’s love and support let alone a reliable job.

In contrast to the incredible hardships that the herders suffer they are entirely without anger or aggression. Their gentleness and perseverance is totally inspirational. There is no alternative but to learn to live in harmony with each other and with nature as a whole and therein lies the magic of their existence. Dvortsevoy succeeds with skill and patience in eliciting both humour and compassion in this exquisite debut feature.


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