Posts Tagged ‘LFF’

1976 (2022)

Dir.: Manuela Martelli; Cast: Aline Kuppenheim, Nicolas Sepulveda, Hugo Medina, Alejandro Goic, Carmen Gloria Martinez, Gabriel Urzua; Vilma Verdejo, Yasna Ríos; Chile 2022, 97 min.

Another classically styled arthouse drama taking us back to the turbulent 1970s in Latin America seen through the eyes of a well to do Santiago woman, under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.

1976 is a first feature for Chilean director/co-writer Manuela Martelli who works with a predominantly female crew and seasoned actress Aline Kuppenheim (A Fantastic Woman) who gives a sensitive performance in this lowkey but thematically vibrant domestic drama as 49 year old Carmen.

Carmen is redecorating the family’s holiday home near the beach in time for the season. As she chooses paint for the walls the sound of gunshot is clearly audible in the nearby street. Back at the house, she meets the local priest Father Sanchez (Medina) who has been involving her in various charity efforts, and his latest suggestion is that she takes in a young homeless man called Elias (Sepulveda).

Elias has been classified as a fugitive from Pinochet’s ‘Secret Police’, and is currently sheltering in one of the out-houses. He seems mild-mannered enough although in need of medical attention for a bullet in his thigh. Carmen always wanted to be a doctor but her father would not allow her to follow in his path, but somehow Elias brings out her caring side, and her recent Red Cross stint certainly comes in handy to took after the young man.

Father Sanchez later reveals that Elias was put in charge of two children after the Pinochet putsch, but that he panicked and became traumatised when they were later murdered. Carmen’s three grandchildren arrive with their mother and the rest of the family, the kids complaining that their favourite TV programme has been interrupted by a broadcast from Pinochet, adds further context. During all this, Carmen looks after Elias, tending to his bullet wound, soon finding herself assisting Elias is some of his underground work. She meets Silvia (Ríos), a fellow conspirator who gives her the code name “Cleopatra”, and sets up a meeting with another link in the resistance chain, who want to spirit Elias away.

Carmen’s husband Miguel, a doctor in Santiago, arrives at the house, much more interested in his college Osvaldo, who has chosen Miguel (Goic) to “re-organise” the hospital where one of the doctors has already fled the country. But when a young girl is found dead near the beach, and the writing is on the wall. Carmen’s next rendezvous with a parish priest does not go according to plan, and she is followed in her car which is later ransacked. Carmen knows she is living on borrowed time, and her maid Julita (Verdejo) soon confirms Carmen worst fears in a rather spooky scene at dusk. Will Carmen’s status and marriage save her?

The main thrust of the story is the developing relationship between Elias and Carmen. Keeping her distance at first and seeing Elias as just another charge to take care of for father Sanchez, the memory of her thwarted career and the negligence and nagging by her husband (who sees her as a ‘trophy’ to show her off to family and friends) changes the dynamic between them.

The tipping point for Carmen is another dig by Miguel, due to her wearing a dress showing off her figure: Carmen cuts the dress into pieces, but also ends all emotional ties to her status. She asks Elias, jokingly, if she will be remembered after the downfall of the Pinochet regime, and he claims a hospital will be named after her. But Elias is also aware of the danger for Carmen: “Tell them you never saw me, that you did not know my name. They will believe you”.

DoP Yarará Rodgriguez lets the camera glide over the beautiful coastal landscape, but his close-ups of Carmen are equally impressive, highlighting her personal transformation. She is anything but a dutiful member of the underground: thanks to Father Sanchez, she has stumbled into something much more dangerous than she can imagine, but she also has a point to prove: her rebellion is personal, disobeying her husband and all he believes in has become her tool for resistance. Aline Kuppenheim is brilliant as Carmen, supporting by an impressive cast. 1976 is a small gem, made on a shoestring it brings together the personal and the political in a subversive way. Maria Portugal’s mournful score very much underlines the lyrical narrative. AS


Fragments of Paradise (2022)

Dir.: K D Davison; Documentary with Amy Taubinis, Allen Ginsberg, Hollis Melton, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Kent and Flo Jacobs, John Waters, Jim Jarmusch, Peter Sempel, Oona Mekas, Sebastian Mekas, Marina Abramovic; USA 2022, 98 min.

US director/producer KD Davison has chosen the avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas (1922-2019) as the subject for her first feature documentary scooping the Best Documentary prize at Venice Film Festival in the process.

Jonas Mekas – the “Godfather of Avant-garde Film” – was a prolific filmmaker as the architect of the movement. Told in four chapters this is a chronicle of a life-long odyssey, and Davidson clearly worships at his alter, an approach that is the film’s only flaw.

Born in Lithuania, Jonas and his brother Adolfas eventually arrived in the USA settling in Williamsburg, Brooklyn after leaving Lithuania for Vienna in 1944 via the German Labour Camp of Elmshorn near Hamburg. Jonas had become a published poet in his homeland and became obsessed with cinema after visiting Amos Vogel’s ground breaking “Cinema 16”.

In 1954 Mekas founded the alternative “Film Culture Journal”, four years later he became the first film critic of “The Village Voice”. He was co-founder of the “Filmmakers Cooperative” (1962) and – perhaps his greatest contribution to film history – he started the “Anthology Film Archives” in 1964. That same year, with Lionel Rogosin, Mekas began to organise filmmakers in the “New American Cinema Movement.” 1964 was a proactive year for Mekas but the downside was his arrest for screening Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures and Jean Genet’s Un chant d’Amour.

Kenneth Anger and Allen Ginsburg were often guests in Mekas’ chaotic house, as was Jim Jarmusch, who filmed his short Coffee and Cigarettes in the dilapidated “Anthology” building, before it became the functioning centre for the production and distribution of about 600 avant-garde features. A miracle then that Jonas still found time to shoot his own films, Guns of Trees (1961) and Walden (1969) were the most successful of the early period.

Ironically Mekas’ The Brig (1964) had found admirers in the Soviet Union who lauded him for his critique of the USA. Mekas was invited to show his feature in Moscow in exchange for a visit to his family in Lithuania. There are moving images in Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972) showing a reunion with his mother who had waited 25 years to see her son again.

In 1974 Mekas married Hollis Melton and his two children Oona and Sebastian serve as executive producers of this documentary. Oona’s birth was filmed on camera and she is moved to tears when shown images of her childhood, very much aware that her father never stopped being a poet, his obsession with spending at least ten minutes a day with his camera was his way of creating a daily poem. Later we see him filming his granddaughter.

The filmmaker Pete Sempel shot a trio of Mekas features: Jonas in the Desert, Jonas at the Ocean and Jonas in the Jungle. There are extremely sad songs, and Mekas is seen still traumatised by his youth. Scorsese called him “the prophet, he showed us the way”. Mekkas also became firm friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but he never stopped filming his family: Out-takes from the Life of a happy Man, As I was moving ahead occasionally and Paradise not yet Lost (aka Oona’s third Year). Cats also grab the limelight occasionally challenging humans with their beauty and grace.

In 1999 Hollis Melton was adamant about having her own independence and started to move out – a process which took until 2004. The scenes of her gradually taking her belongings are heart-breaking, throwing Jonas into a life he did not want: “What is my life all about, 30 years – now this empty space. Do I still have time to do something with my life. Nobody but the camera, she is my only friend?”.

On film, a ladybird crawls around the rim of a glass and Mekas comments: “this is the human condition”. But his camera rolls on, for at least ten minutes a day. And suddenly there is worldwide recognition, exhibitions all over the place. He had turned the trauma into energy. In old age, he had found a new form of relationship with his son, they had become best friends. Oona is seen rummaging around Jonas’ flat, looking for Christmas decorations. “We always find little fragments. Intimate things from his heart and soul. Poetry is his films, he managed to catch some of the beauty.”

DoP Bill Kirstein creates rather conventional images that reflect the structure of the narrative. But it would have been too much to ask for a ‘Mekas’ style’ film. In this way the documentary is accessible for newcomers to Mekas’ work. A filmmaker who was also clearly in love with his family and his cats. AS



The Gravedigger’s Wife (2021)

Dir.: Khadar Ayderus Ahmed; Cast: Omar Abdi, Yasmin Warsame, Kadar Abdout Aziz Ibrahim.Somalia/Finland/Qatar/Germany/France 2021, 82 min.

The Gravedigger’s Wife was the first Somali film ever to be nominated for the Oscars in the Foreign Features category. It takes place in Djibouti City, the capital of the smallest country on the African continent, where employment – or the lack of it – is a major issue for nearly a million who live in and around the capital.

Guled (Abdi) and his wife Nasra (Warsame) are true romantics: they eloped as teenagers, Nasra’s family wanting her to marry an older, wealthy man. Even now, they only have eyes for each other, their teenage son Mahad (Aziz Ibrahim) has the freedom to roam the streets with his mates, but his truanting only comes to light after he has missed months of school.

Guled competes with his friends for the ‘bounty’: they are all lined up at the gate of the local hospital, ready to chase the arriving ambulances. Guled and Nasra never had much money, he left his herd of goats to his brother in their home village, after he and Nasra were expelled for disobeying the wishes of the elders.

The couple light-heartedly “borrows” a goat, presenting it as a wedding gift at a wedding they gate-crash. But their playful attitude has to stop, when Nasra develops a kidney infection requiring surgery at a specialist hospital in Ethiopia at the cost of $500 000

When Nasra’s condition worsens, the doctor has good and bad news: On a positive note the surgery can be managed locally by a visiting anaesthetist, but the price tag remains the same. So Mahad and his friends take on all kind of jobs to contribute to the staggering costs, Guled swallowing his pride, as he sets off for his home village to reclaim his goat herd.

You could call Khadar Ayderus Ahmed’s first film a road movie, as most of the action plays out in the streets of suburban Djibouti and the long desert road between the city and his home village. But the most intimate scenes are set in the modest family home where hope fades with day that passes, Nasra’s presence a pale comparison with her former strength in the local community, she now stays at home, her pain all too visible.

DoP Arttn Peltomaa contrasts the sun-dappled colours of the desert surroundings with sombre earthy colours of the intimate domestic interiors where the family fears for the worst.

In his passionate feature debut Ahmed adopts a less is more approach to the narrative, but the way he deals with conflicting emotions augurs well for the future.  AS


Boiling Point (2021)

Dir.: Philip Barantini; Cast: Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson, Alice Feetham, Ray Panthaki, Jason Flemyng, Lourdes Faberes; UK 2021, 92 min.

Stephen Graham is a budding star chef in this adrenaline fuelled single-take drama that powers non-stop through the hectic kitchens of a top restaurant where staff and owner could lose their livelihoods at any minute.

Graham’s Andy is a committed workaholic, a ‘business before family’ kind of guy. But his dedication to the job is clearly not paying off. Boiling Point gets off to a simmering start with a visit from the food hygiene inspector who downgrades his restaurant’s kitchen from a five to a three, point-wise. Andy takes it all out on the staff, particularly his sous-chef Carly (Robinson) and commis chef Freeman (Panthaki). To be fair, Andy is not the only person responsible for restaurant’s shaky reputation: front-of-house maître Beth (Feetham) overplays the role of social media, particularly Instagram, and this has a detrimental affect on proceedings.

Everyone has a story to tell about Andy’s classy eaterie; there are reports of self-harm and drug misuse. And that bottle Andy carries with him seems to contain more than just water.  The fractious evening comes to a climax when TV chef Alastair Skye (Flemying) arrives with capricious food critic Sara Southworth (Faberes): A female guest is apparently feeling the affects of her nut allergy, even though the staff had been informed of her condition at the start of the evening. The ambulance arrives, and Skye puts the blame unjustly on Beth for the incident. But Andy refuses to “throw” Beth “under the bus”, leaving Skye in deep water over his £200K investment. But that’s not the end of it, new developments will test Andy to breaking point, again.

Everyone plays their part in keeping the tension going, and credit to DoP Matthew Lewis for making the best in a limited environment with his use of crane shots to break up the intensity of person-to-person conflicts. Often in these kind of films staff are either demonised for being jealous, or pushed into the eternal victim role by well meaning middle-class script writers. But in Boiling Point the focus is on competent professionals doing their jobs while falling victims to a boss on the downward spiral. AS



Earwig (2021)

Dir:  | Wri: Lucile Hadžhalilović, Geoff Cox | Cast: Paul Hilton, Romola Garai, Alex Lawther, Romane Hemelaers | 114′

French auteuse Lucile Hadžhalilović offers another bizarre but compulsive arthouse psychodrama, this time in the surgical horror sub genre, upping her game with a star cast of Romola Garai and Alex Lawther.

Arcane and edgy Earwig is immaculately crafted with its surreal Lynchian credentials that subtly inveigle us into the horror bound story of little Mia (Romane Hemelaers) who is forced to undergo the painful daily procedure of having her teeth surgically replaced by ice-cubes due to some unexplained medical condition. Yes, this is not for everyone but fans of her quirky style will thrill to Earwig’s macabre charm.

The Lyonnaise filmmaker’s previous film Evolution (2015) saw a young boy hospitalised and subjected to strange interventions performed by a series of female cyphers dressed as nurses. Once again writing with her Evolution collaborator Geoff Cox, Hadžhalilović keeps the storyline enigmatic in a dialogue-starved scenario: no explanation is offered for the procedure as we peer at the screen desperately looking for clues, our own teeth almost twinging with the agony of expectation. Ken Yasumoto’s scraping soundscape recalls the abject terror of the dentist’s chair, brought to cinematic life in Marathon Man, but there are also echoes of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’ Goodnight Mommy (2014).

Closely based on a book by sculptor and performance artist Brian Catling, the film actually takes its title from the male central character Albert (Paul Hilton), a singularly morose carer who tends to Mia in the confines of a squalid flat in mid century Liege, Belgium, redolently captured in Jonathan Ricquebourg’s dingy visuals where the weather is as grim as the storyline.

Part of Albert’s misery is being under the cosh of a telephone taskmaster, a mysterious man who hounds him unpredictably, demanding updates on Mia’s condition. Meanwhile he continues the meticulous molar replacement mission until forced into the outside world with Mia on a hospital visit which ends in more pain, this time in a local bar where Romula Garai is another hapless victim. MT



Border (2018) *****

Dir : Ali Abbasi | Fantasy Drama | Sweden | 104’

BORDER is one of those bracingly original films. Melding fantasy and folklore while teetering on the edge of Gothic horror it manages to be cleverly convincing and unbelievably weird at the same time. Fraught with undercurrents of sexual identity and self-realisation this gruesome rites of passage fable is another fabulous story with enduring appeal for the arthouse crowd and diehard fans of low-key horror. Based on a short story by Let the Right One In creator John Ajvide Lindqvist it is Ali Abbasi’s follow up to Shelley and his first with writing partner Isabella Ekloff.

Tina (Melander) has always been an outsider because she suffers from her neanderthal physical appearance of flaring nostrils and a facial gurning movement that marks her out to have the heightened sensory perception of an animal. She feels a particular affinity to the wildlife near her comfortable cabin in the heavily forested woods between Finland and Sweden, and can sense when deer or moose are about to cross the country road. As a customs officer, she also has a keen awareness for criminality but feels diminished by her ‘otherness’ and is desperately lonely, Meanwhile, her live-boyfriend Roland (Jorgen Thorssen) treats her like a pair of old carpet slippers and is more interested in his pack of dobermans.  

One day Tina spots an unusual traveller going through customs. He looks like her male double and Tina feels a palpable attraction to Vore (Eero Milonoff). Judging from the contents of his luggage he could be an entomologist, but on further examination this is not all he appears to be. Has Tina found love for the first time, or just somebody who feels familiar? There’s a tone of optimism on the romantic front, and also workwise as Tina’s sensory talents see her becoming the key investigator in the hunt for a local paedophile.

Abbasi masterfully manages the subtle strands of his storyline while keeping the tension taut and a dark humour bubbling under the surface. Melander’s Tina is a gentle and almost submissive character who keeps her tale between her legs, and we feel for her even when her confidence makes her more assertive after meeting Vore. This confidence enables her to confront her elderly father – who has clearly duped her since childhood – and her useless boyfriend. A rare curio that keeps you guessing all the way to its unexpected finale. MT


Destroyer (2018 **

Dir: Karyn Kusama | US Thriller | 121’

You will gawp at Nicole Kidman’s transformation in this rather bleak and messy crime thriller cum character study of a lovelorn woman whose desperate past derails her future. It comes as a shock from an actor who is used to playing vulnerable and smart but always beautiful women.

Karyn Kusama has finally given Kidman the chance to play a broken, badass bitch in Destroyer. And it’s a dynamite performance that may look unappealing but certainly strikes home. As Erin Bell, her baleful, sinister stare haunts nearly every frame and coiled anger springs out unexpectedly – this antiheroine is not out to please anyone. After a messy opening act where Kusama establishes the storyline, a fractured narrative seesaws backwards and forwards from the late 1980/90s to present day LA, Destroyer pictures Kidman as hapless antiheroine Detective Erin Bell, whose youth was spent going undercover with her partner/lover Chris (Sebastian Stan) to infiltrate a band of robbers, headed up by glib psycho Silas (Toby Kebbell). But when Silas reappears on the scene, she’s determined to put an end to his antics, which have been carrying on since back in the day. But something else happened – Erin fell in love, madly. And that love, or loss of it on a fateful day that unspools in the satisfying final act, has made her into the woman she is in the current day.

And while her character is utterly believable in both the past and the present, it’s in the unravelling of the story – particularly in fin de siècle LA, that things sometimes feel unconvincing and rather anodyne, given the nature of crime-ridden LA. But Kidman’s detective is hard-hitting, intelligent and unafraid to be unpopular – easier when you’ve got nothing to lose, or live for. And that’s the essence of her character. And although occasionally she overstates her violent vehemence in the context of what’s going on around her, teetering on the edge of caricature, it’s a corruscating performance and one to be proud of.

Sadly this is a step back for Kusama whose brilliant thriller The Invitation (2015), was a shocker with a humane face. Here the band of brigands are almost laughably louche and lightweight, in complete contrast to Kidman’s detective character. And although they try to inject menace into proceedings, all we feel from them is disdain. The only refreshing contrast is a vignette from arch villain who sparks out interest, but not for long.

Kidman is so hard-bitten and bitter you start to feel uncomfortable watching her. Especially in scenes with her daughter’s nasty boyfriend, or jerking off a terminally ill low-life when she’s desperate for a lead. At the end of the day, Destroyer is an unpleasant, empty kind of film. It goes through the motions, but leaves you cold – and glad it’s all over.  MT


Beautiful Boy (2018) ****

Dir: Felix van Groeningen | Drama | 110’ | US 2018

Based on a best-selling memoir by journalist David Sheff, BEAUTIFUL BOY explores a teenage boy’s descent into crystal meth addiction. It’s a film that pulls no punches, but which avoids excessively wallowing in the physical misery of drug use. Instead, the focus is on the wider circumstances of the boy’s addiction and, specifically, the impact that it has on his father. It’s a personal, refreshing approach which makes the boy’s decline all the more moving.

An intelligent teenager with a bright future, Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet) is nevertheless anxious and alienated, and he starts using drugs to help him fill the void that he feels inside. Sensing a problem, his father (Steve Carell, playing David Sheff) checks Nic into a rehab facility, but the success of the treatment is short lived – ‘relapse is part of recovery’, we’re repeatedly told, and Nic’s sense of emptiness makes him a repeat user. His choice of drug doesn’t help – as an expert explains to David, the recovery rate for crystal meth addicts, as a percentage, is in the single figures.

Playing Nic, Chalamet brings a sympathetic charm to a role which borders a little on cliché – that of the tortured, gifted artist-turned-junky – but the film belongs to Steve Carrell, who excels as the caring father who feels increasingly helpless in the face of his son’s steady decline. Following his turn as a grieving father in Richard Linklater’s recent masterpiece Last Flag Flying, Carrell seems to be moving away from the comedic roles which made his name and carving out a specific dramatic niche all for himself.

Given that it’s the relationship between father and son, rather than son and drugs, that forms the core of Beautiful Boy, the film’s scope widens out, becoming a study of family dynamicsand the way that David’s preoccupation with Nic consumes him, dominating his life and impacting his relationship with his younger children (Nic’s step-siblings): scenes such as the one showing a distracted David failing to watch his younger son swimming reach beyond the drug-addition narrative. But as David struggles with his guilt and his inability to pull Nic from the gutter, the major question that arises is: can you ever really help other people, or can they only help themselves?

Quiet and understated, the film deserves praise for its non-sensationalist approach. Though at times he brings in a touch too much sentiment (including the use of the John Lennonsong which gives the film its title), director Felix Van Groeningen handles the non-linear, elliptical narrative with a commanding efficiency. If the film’s factual closing titles make its ultimate message all too clear, one can’t help but feel it’s an effective film which serves as a pertinent reminder of the devasting and wide-reaching effects of drug use – not only on the users themselves, but also on those who love them. ALEX BARRETT


Won’t you be my Neighbor? (2018) **** LFF2018

Dir: Morgan Neville | US | Doc | 94′ | With Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, Al Gore, Robert F Kennedy. 

In his latest documentary Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom) looks back on the legacy of US TV presenter Fred Rogers (1926-2003) , whose programmes during the 1950s were popular with young kids, introducing them to a broad educational agenda as well as providing light entertainment. While the nation changed around him, Fred Rogers stood firm in his beliefs about the importance of protecting childhood. And Neville pays tribute to this legacy with the latest in his series of highly engaging, moving documentary portraits of essential American artists.

Looking like a cross between Val Doonican (he donned a different cardy in each episode) and William Rees-Mogg, Fred had a calm and kindly manner in explaining, in an accessible way, contemporary political issues as well as more complex concepts such as love and divorce. He was married with his own children and advocated the government funding of children’s television before a US Senate committee.

Rogers started out as an academic with a background in child development and after ordaining as a Presbyterian minister he headed for a church career, but felt an overriding need to reach out to kids through the medium of television. A pioneer of popular culture, he cared deeply about protecting the emotional needs of the nation’s children. His pre-school programme Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968 – 2001.

His onscreen manner had nothing to do with preachy didacticism. He talked touchingly about loving one’s neighbour and respecting the community. And while it’s easy to sneer about his caring approach and these fluffy ideals, the man comes across as a really genuine character, and buy no means a pseud – unlike Jimmy Saville. Whereas nowadays kid’s attention spans are short, and TV time is precious and expensive – with a need for frequent commercial breaks, Rogers’ programmes had a leisurely pace to them, and a spontaneity that allowed time and space for contemplation, and he always made sure to repeat that his young viewers were ‘loved, and lovable’ just as they were. He created characters such as Captain Friday (who hated change) and his own alter ego Stripey Tiger.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor also engages with the idea that Rogers’ fostered narcissism and a sense of entitlement by doting on his child fans, but this was hardly the case – he was simply at pains to ease their fears and anxieties so they could develop their own sense of self-esteem. In fact, it emerges that Rogers had his own share of heartache, and actually worried about whether his programmes would make a difference to children’s lives in America’s increasingly violent culture. Neville draws on a wealth of archive footage as well as contemporary interviews to create this warm and informative portrait of a remarkable man and his legacy, whether or not you know of this humane and public figure. 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



Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia