Posts Tagged ‘Raindance’

Little Axel (2021) Raindance Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Fabien Greenberg, Bard Kjøge Rønning; Documentary with Axel Joachim Jensen, Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen, Nick Broomfield, Axel B. Jensen; Norway 2021, 57′

A new and heart-breaking documentary about Axel Joachim Jensen (*1960), who has spent more than forty years in Oslo’s Gaustadt Psychiatric Hospital, being treated with anti-psychotic drugs. Best known for being the son of Norwegian writer Axel Buchardt Jensen (1932-2003), aka the Norwegian Jack Keouac, and Marianne Ihlen, muse of Leonard Cohen, who both died a few months apart in 2016, his life has been tragic, to say the least.

In the 1960s, the Greek island of Hydra was a paradise for sex, alcohol and drugs and haven where artists and would-be artists had the time of their lives. When Marianne Ihlen and her new-born son Axel Joachim Jensen arrived on the island, Marianne presumed that Axel sr would be there to raise his son. But the author had already left with another female admirer leaving Marianne and Axel in the lurch. Enter Canadian writer and poet Leonard Cohen, who would for over twenty years be Axel’s more or less caring father. Cohen paid Alex’s eduction at the anti-authoritarian Summerhill in Suffolk, and later in a much stricter Swiss boarding school.

But Axel, like many children in the artist colony, roamed free from an early age. Kids were present at the parties, and the partner changes, and Axel started smoking when he was seven. Later he turned to hashish and, when he met his biological father Axel sr for the first and last time as a young teenager, Axel sr then introduced him to LSD, profoundly affecting his emotional development.

When Axel jr was nine, he and a friend of his – just three years older – travelled 260 km around Greece without any supervision. India was his next traumatic playground, at the tender age of fifteen. By his late teens he was institutionalised in Gaustadt after spending time with Cohen in New York where the international star spent the nights at the famous Chelsea Hotel. His relationship with Ihlen had ended after eight years, but the two remained friends ’til the end of their lives.

Filmmaker Nick Broomfield, who directed Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love, is one of many witnesses interpreting the environment where Axel jr and other children grew up. But the main reason why Axel went off the rails was his father, author Axel. B Jensen, whose comments on marriage and child-rearing are bizarre to say the least. He was a patient of the anti-establishment psychiatrist David Cooper, who rated his mental state as borderline.

As for Axel Jensen’s legal guardian, who encouraged his ‘participation’ in the documentary, one can only guess for motives: Axel comes across as a shell of a person, after being prescribed forty years (and counting) of mind-altering drugs. His mother was the only person who regularly visited him in Graustadt, but she too had a new family to look after.

Little Axel’s childhood may have had an enviable childhood but his personality was simply too sensitive to withstand the abrupt changes his life took. This is one of most depressing documentaries for a long time exploring unintentional childhood neglect leading to lifelong psychiatric care. Poor Axel was well-nourished and provided for materially but deprived of the stable and unconditional love he deserved. AS


A Certain Kind of Silence (2019) **** Raindance Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Michal Hogenauer; Cast: Eliska Krenkova, Jacob Jutte, Monic Hendrickx, Roeland Fernhout, Jiri Rendl, Matthis Ijgosse; Czecj Republic/The Netherlands/Latvia 2019, 95 min.

This stylish Czech thriller centres on a secretive religious sect known as the Twelve Tribes. It is the impressive feature debut of Czech filmmaker Michal Hogenauer who offers up a cleverly crafted piece of evil in the guise of a domestic drama filmed in the forested stillness of suburban Riga, beside the Daugava river.

Eliska Krenkova plays Mia a young au pair who has emigrated from Prague to work in the pristine household of a formal professional couple (Hendrickx and Fernhout) who have one precocious little son, Sebastian (Jutte). Their house is immaculate, sterile even and Mia is not encouraged to become familiar with the parents or the boy. And although she stands her ground and refuses to be intimidated by their frigid demeanour, she soon becomes more and more worn down. Hogenauer employs a clever plot device that adds suspense and intrigue as the story plays out, by intercutting the action with scenes of Mia being interrogated by a faceless authority, presumably the police. It’s as if a crime has already been committed.

Sebastian is being trained to become a professional tennis player, and his parents take his progress very seriously. Their controlling behaviour also extends to Mia – who is actually called Mishka until they force her to accept a new nickname, just to add to her discombobulation. Mia’s presence is also required at unsettling social get-togethers (which turn out to be cult meetings) where she meets and becomes involved with a new boyfriend (Ijgosse). Soon the plucky and confident Mia finds herself drawn into a strange and sinister set-up where the gaslighting couple coerce her into doing things against her will, as they manipulate her mind. They force her into beating Sebastian, who eventually stabs Mia in retaliation. The flesh-wound is not life-threatening, but Sebastian is suddenly replaced by Daniel (Rendl), who wears a five-digit number on his back – we have already witnessed that Sebastian’s school is Number 23, and the school bus, which takes the children ‘off piste’ to school in a mystery destination. DoP Gregg Telussa captures the clinical atmosphere in the house with slickness doing justice to Laura Dislere’s immaculate set design, a paradise for those with OCD. All this is amplified by Filip Misek’s minimalist sound design which echoes something Philip Glass might compose. Hogenauer directs with great sensibility, never going over the top, by showing this ghastly utopian reality with restraint and admirable rigour. AS

The Twelve Tribes is a new religious movement founded by Gene Spriggs and was originally founded in Tennessee with the aim of raising 144,000 pure boys, so that Jesus can return to Earth. The children are corporally punished when showing emotion, playing or committing a disobedience. A raid in September liberated over 40 children from the organisation, who also run youth hostels, farms and restaurants. 

RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL | LONDON | 18 – 29 September 2019 


Major Arcana (2018) *** Raindance Film Festival 2018

Dir: Josh Melrod | US | Drama | 82’

A simple back to nature tale but none the worse for that, what MAJOR ARCANA really needs is a shot in the arm – ironic considering one of its central themes is addiction. Josh Melrod’s low budget indie sees a jobbing carpenter Dink (Ujon Tokarski) seek solace back in his home town in Vermont where building a wooden cabin serves as a kind of therapy for his long-term drug and money problems. Serendipity has him meeting up with an ex-girfriend Sierra (Tara Summers) who seems to share his troubled past – and is clearly glad to see him again despite their rather frosty surprise re-encounter which will provide the only spark in this gently smouldering tale. Dink’s father has left him a sizeable chunk of property including 52 acres of land that provides the film’s bosky location and cinematographer Ramsey Fendall’s freshly limpid visuals make best use of the lushly verdant landscape with a river running through it. The only thorn in Dink’s side is an alcoholic mother desperate for cash in this everyday story of countryfolk where life goes on but nothing really happens. MT


Love Tomorrow 2012

Director/Writer:  Christopher Payne   Prod: Stephanie Moon

Choreographers:  Michael Nunn, Billy Trevitt

Starring: Cindy Jourdain, Arionel Vargas, Max Brown

Romantic comedy

Love Tomorrow is purportedly a love story between two dancers, Evie and Oriel, whose eyes meet in the underground and who spend the ensuing time criss-crossing London’s landmarks getting to know each other. Eva (Cindy Jourdain) is evidently hurt and upset and it’s down to Oriel (Arionel Vargas) to tease her story out of her as the film unspools.

Unfortunately, Love Tomorrow fails comprehensively and on several levels. Something like this storyline may have had legs back in the late eighties, but it feels extraordinarily toothless now. The direction is truly unimaginative, leaden, lacks grammar and, considering 8-months was spent working with the dancers, presumably on their acting, there is precious little to show for it.  The script is slow and very basic; much of the dialogue is stilted, magnified by the leads not being natural actors. They do however come alive, with some relief, in the brief moments when they dance. But there are also elementary plot holes that test the viewers patience even further; she sleeps away from home and some random girl’s clothes and trainers fit her perfectly, so she wears them, leaving all her own clothes behind. They then hop on bicycles, which also get forgotten and left somewhere, as they later travel on by cab.

The long-awaited main plot point hangs on a key performance by a qualified actor, Max Brown, but he singularly fails to deliver, for one reason or another, denying the already thin plot any remaining depth or gravitas at all.

The cinematography is dull and flat, although I’m not going to blame the cinematographer, whom I can only imagine was clamouring for some lights, any lights, to help, but the budget didn’t allow. There are also listed two editors and indeed an additional editing consultant, but the pace was excruciatingly slow and I again assume no editor was actually allowed to ‘edit’.

All in all, it very much comes across as a student effort; the sort where one experiments enthusiastically, only to realise in hindsight why one does indeed need proper actors, comprehensive professional lighting, an editor who is listened to and, most importantly, a damn good script, before it is worth going to all the trouble of actually making a film and asking an audience to sit through it.

There was without doubt a huge amount of trust and goodwill afforded this project, which makes it all the more sad that it is so poor. Considering this is the writer director’s second feature and having advertised some sort of pedigree and a huge amount of varied and illustrious support, I am all the more disappointed. You never go through all the effort of going to the cinema in the hope that a film is bad. Andrew Rajan.

LOVE TOMORROW is on general release from 8 November 2013

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