Posts Tagged ‘Silver Bear’

Fire – Both Sides of the Blade (2022)

Dir: Claire Denis | Cast: Juliette Binoche, Vincent Lindon, Grégoire Colin, Issa Perica, Bulle Ogier, Mati Diop | France Drama 116′

Claire Denis explores the intense dynamics of a love triangle in this coruscating character drama that reunites her regular cast of Juliette Binoche, Vincent Lindon, Gregoire Colin and Bruno Podalydes.

Sara (Binoche) and Jean (Lindon) have been in love for nearly a decade living together in a stylish penthouse in Paris where she runs a radio station while Jean, a former professional rugby player, is getting back to normal after serving time. Despite his impulsiveness and potent physicality, Jean offers warmth and stability to Sara who can be controlling and neurotic, rather like his demanding mother Nelly (Ogier) now confined to the family home in the suburb Vitry where she barely manages his troubled teenage son Marcus (Perica) who is slowly going off the rails.

The opening sets the tone for this torridly sensual romantic drama with its elegantly ecstatic sex scenes: Jean and Sara are pictured cavorting in the sea on a winter break. Back in Paris grey skies call time on their idyllic romance when Sara’s saturnine former lover Francois comes back on the scene, offering Jean a new start as a talent coach in his rugby start-up. Sara has certainly found contentment with Jean but catching sight of Francois for the first time in ages leaves her breathless and ready for another dose of the intoxicating chemistry they once shared. Caught in the emotional crossfire between the two men in her life, she probes Jean obsessively for details about Francois and the new venture. But Jean keeps her in the dark while he processes his own feelings, fully aware of the dangers that lie ahead.

Cleverly adapting Christine Angot’s novel, Un tournant de la Vie, for the screen, Denis keeps the camera close and intimate but retains her distance, avoiding sentimentality in charting the emotional volatility and shifting moods with laser sharp intensity as a baleful score hints at turmoil and heartache for the star-crossed lovers. At this point ad libbing takes over between Lindon and Binoche as their onscreen relationship starts to falter and fall apart amid scenes of barely controlled hysteria as powerful emotions surface. Sara, in denial, tries to contain her turbulent thoughts and real motives, becoming defensive: Jean gives her tenderness and security but it is Francois who really sends her wild with his mercurial charm. Jean knows this love is out of control and he prepares to leave only just suppressing the hurt and fury he really feels inside.

The final scenes of enduring love imploding on the rocky shores of passion are revealing and compulsive to watch. Denis keeps us guessing right up to the devastating denouement which is left open to interpretation, satisfying in its ambiguity. MT


Closed Curtain | Parde (2013) | Silver Bear Best Script | Berlinale 2013

Director: Jafar Panahi
Cast Kambozia Partovi, Maryam Moghadam, Jafar Panahi, Hadi Saeedi

106min Drama

Both the dog and his master are being tracked by the authorities in Closed Curtain, Jafar Panahi’s oblique existential piece of meta filmmaking from contemporary Iran which follows on from his documentary This Is Not A Film.

Opening with an extended static shot of a seaside window barred by security gates, it’s a sober and bewildering set-up brought to life only by ‘the man’, played sensitively here by Panahi himself, and his lovely little dog who he is at pains to hide in this modern villa on the shores of the Caspian Sea.  When a strange couple appear from nowhere pleading to be given shelter a reign of attrition sets in with each character eyeing the other suspiciously and the dog aware that something isn’t right.

With its ambient feel of menace, Closed Curtain is a disorientating film that alienates its audience and generates a strong feeling of claustrophobia as, understandably, it never moves outside the villa but is nevertheless atmospherically shot in a palette of soft seaside hues and terracotta: you could almost be on the Mediterranean were it not for the echoes of ambient hostility from local Police and some intruders who ransack the property. Our sympathies lie with the gentle man and his clever dog rather than the passive aggressive provocative who has purportedly attended a party and is seeking refuge from rebuke.

What develops is exactly what you imagine would happen if you asked a group of students to produce a film about creative expression in a repressed society: heavy-handed and amateurish in style. Not one of Panahi’s stronger outings then but considering he was purportedly under house arrest for “committing propaganda crimes against the Iranian Government” not a bad effort and certainly worth watching for devotees of this inventive and resourceful director’s work. MT


An Episode in the Life of an Ironpicker (2012) Bergamo Film Meeting 2022

Dir/wri; Denis Tanovic | Cast: Senada Mujic, Nazif Mujic, Semsa Mujic, Sandra Mujic | Drama, Bosnia Herzegovina, 75min

A piece of social realism that offers slim pickings in the way of entertainment or standout performances, despite the non-pro lead winning Best Actor in Berlin. That said, this is a genuine and passionate story that raises the plight of Roma gypsies in Europe today.  Traditionally they have wandered all over Eastern Europe pursuing their own moral and social code, living in enclaves without engagement with the mainstream.

Tanovic takes a poor couple who live with their two little girls a Roma gypsy camp in Bosnia Herzegovina. Nazif Mujic is an ironpicker, or scrap metal man, to you and me. He scavanges for metal and gets ready cash in return from a local dealer while his wife (on and off screen) Senada runs the home.  One day she feels unwell and has a miscarriage,  without medical insurance so are left to illegally ‘borrow’ a cousin’s medical card and receive treatment just in the nick of time.

Denis Tanovic’s trick of using non-professional actors lends authenticity to this simple story with its largely improvised dialogue. Senada Mujic appears totally at ease and philosophical about her plight showing not a shred of fear of worry and trusting in her husband to provide for her and the kids. There’s something to be said for the closeness of their community and the genuine love and respect they demonstrate in the community: borrowing, bartering and lending rather than engaging in consumerism.  They have nothing to envy or covet and seem genuinely content in their lives drawing, comfort from each other in their close-knit families.

Denis Tanovic makes a strong evolutionary point: the Roma have inadvertantly discovered sustainability by running their own show in a political regime where many feel marginalised, uncared-for and ultimately disenfranchised in the organised mainstream. On the other hand, they needed access to emergency medical care through the state system and couldn’t provide it within their own resources. A simple tale offers stimulating food for thought. A much better film and more appealing view of the Roma is to be had in The Forest is Like the Mountains (2014). MT


Gloria (2012)

Dir: Sebastian Lelio | Cast: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez | 110min Drama Chile/Spain

Paulina Garcia won Best Actress at Berlin for her sunny portrayal of a mid-lifer who hasn’t reached old age but is contemplating the future and starting to see the long shadows of her mortality slowly edging into sight.

Sebastian Lelio’s third feature opens with a palm-fringed panorama of Santiago de Chile, the sophisticated capital of his thrusting South American homeland. Gloria, in her fifties, is a positive and happy divorcee looking love.

Lelio’s crisp, clear direction and a wealth of glossy locations and interiors, make this a mature and insightful drama for a director in his late thirties. Gloria offers gives plenty of positive food for thought without a touch negativity or self-doubt: a refreshing look at second-time love for the older generation. Gloria examines her hopes and reassesses her life through the encounters she experiences. Sebastian Lelio shows us the positives of his Latin culture without being judgemental or maudlin: strong family links, dancing, music and laughter, Chilean wine and socialising are the keynotes. There’s a touchingly romantic vignette of a man and woman singing a Brazilian love song round the piano.  The dating scene throws up rich pickings  most of which are rotten and a graduall realisation that life is good and there is future for Gloria and for Chile set against a background of political uncertainty and forty years of strife and unrest. MT


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