Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...

< <   F O R E I G N   > >
last update 9.Nov.09
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
3.5/5   Barbe Bleue
dir-scr Catherine Breillat
with Lola Creton, Dominique Thomas, Daphne Baiwir, Marilou Lopes-Benites, Lola Giovannetti, Farida Khelfa, Isabelle Lapouge, Suzanne Foulquier, Laure Lapeyre, Luc Bailly, Adrien Ledoux, Jacques Triau
thomas and creton release US 26.Mar.10,
UK 16.Jul.10
09/France 1h20

berlin film festival
london film festival
kinatay Murky and cold, this retelling of the fairy tale has an effectively grim tone that cleverly plays with our expectations while examining some provocative themes. But it's not very engaging.

Sisters Anne (Baiwir then Giovannetti) and Catherine (Lopes-Benites then Creton) have grown up with the legend of local nobleman Bluebeard (Thomas), who notoriously marries pubescent girls who then go missing. As Catherine recounts the story to her sister, she imagines herself as one of Bluebeard's young brides, taken into his castle, where she demands her own bedroom until she comes of age. She also begins to wonder what happened to the women who came before her, and considers violating her husband's trust to find out the truth.

Breillat's usual themes are strongly present in this lush and dense fable, as she probes issues of power in society. The main struggle here is for women in a male-dominated household, but it's much more complex than that, as Bluebeard turns out to be a strangely modern man whose only real expectation is the loyalty of his wife. Even stronger is the issue of justice, with the wealthy lording their prosperity over the desperate poor.

The production design is clammy and often quite grisly, immersing us in the period. Clearly Breillat is trying to put on screen the full sense of living in a fairy tale. We're never quite sure if Catherine is actually having these experiences or just imagining them as a little girl fabricating the story for her sister. Perhaps both are taking place here, and this enigmatic style is one thing that does catch our imagination, even when the plot lurches to a rather sudden conclusion.

Throughout the story, Breillat finds moments of steely wit that vividly depict the strength of character, particularly for Catherine, who quietly refuses to meekly become yet another of Bluebeard's missing wives. This lets the cast members create intriguing characters who hold our interest even though the film feels almost painfully dry and quiet. And it's a bit odd that in the end it's Bluebeard who catches our sympathy as a rather hapless man just trying to find a woman he can trust.

15 themes, violence
8.Feb.09 bff
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Love Exposure
dir-scr Shion Sono
prd Yutaka Morohashi
with Takahiro Nishijima, Hikari Mitsushima, Sakura Ando, Makiko Watanabe, Atsuro Watabe, Yuko Genkaku, Koji Ohguchi, Itsuji Itao, Mami Nakamura, Jai West, Nana Nagao, Mitsuru Kuramoto
release Jpn 31.Jan.09, UK 30.Oct.09
08/Japan 3h57

berlin film festival
raindance film festival
love exposure It's impossible to properly explain how this film feels and what writer-director Sono has accomplished. The truth is that it's a colourful four-hour rom-com that feels both small and intimate. And it's never dull for a second.

Yu (Nishijima) is a teen whose father (Watabe) became a priest after his mother died, then relapsed when he was wooed by the outrageously mad Kaori (Watanabe). Meanwhile, Yu falls in with a gang that teaches him how to both fight and covertly take photographs up girls' skirts. He masters both skills, becoming a leader himself. One day when he's dressed in drag after losing a bet, Yu meets Yoko (Mitsushima), star fighter of the mysterious cult Zero, and both are immediately smitten. But the path to true love is virtually impenetrable.

Audacious filmmaker Sono somehow manages to make this story feel light and effortless through the epic running time, continually throwing problems at Yu and Yoko. There's the fact that Yoko knows Yu from school and dislikes him intensely; she's interested in "Miss Scorpion", his secret female alter ego. Also, Yoko is Kaori's dependant, so the two are living together as step-siblings. And even worse, Yoko's fellow cult member Aya (Ando) uses all of this to worm her way between them.

The film is impeccably shot and edited, with intriguing visual flourishes and vivid characters that instantly get us involved in the story. Scenes are packed with both comical wackiness and emotional resonance, as we are shown back-stories for the central figures. We see their small sins and unknowing transgressions, as well as the things they deliberately get up to, and all of this is echoed through the deeply religious settings, especially the running theme of Catholic confession (Yu starts acting out so he has something to confess to his dad).

Sono is cleverly blurring lines between love and hate, righteous and naughty, keeping the tone twisted and funny as he shows us deeply important events from varying perspectives. It's outrageously full-on at times, but watching it is a rich, immersive experience. Sure, he could perhaps have edited it down to two hours, but his filmmaking is so inventive and constantly surprising that it's hard to imagine a shorter version being this engaging and satisfying.

18 themes, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Sweet Rush
3.5/5   Tatarak
dir-scr Andrzej Wajda
prd Michal Kwiecinski
with Krystyna Janda, Pawel Szajda, Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak, Julia Pietrucha, Jan Englert, Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Skonieczny, Roma Gasiorowska, Pawel Tomaszewski, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Marcin Luczak, Jerzy Mizak
szajda and janda release Pol 24.Apr.09,
US Sep.09 nyff,
UK Oct.09 lff
09/Poland 1h25

berlin film festival
london film festival
sweet rush Poetic, surreal and somewhat difficult to unpeel, this artful exploration of life and death is often very moving. Wajda boldly uses a three-sided, prism-like structure, although there might be too much going on for it to be fully satisfying.

In a small post-war Polish town, Marta (Janda) is a poised, articulate middle-aged woman married to the local doctor (Englert), who hasn't told her that she is terminally ill. One day she meets Bogus (Szajda), a young man who's around the same age as her two sons who died in the war. As their friendship develops, they spend summer days at the river collecting sweet rush. Meanwhile, we also see Krystyna the actress, struggling to make this film as she deals with the tragic death of her husband.

The three layers of the story add considerable depth to the film, as Marta/Krystina grapples with the issue of death as a wife, mother, lover, friend and colleague. And there's also the twisty conundrum that she's a grieving actress playing a grieving woman who's also dying, but doesn't know it. In other words, Wajda is creating cinematic art here, drawing together the plots of two short stories and Janda's own monologs. And he shoots and edits it with aching beauty.

He's also blurring the boundaries of filmmaking, showing the crew (and himself) as they shoot key scenes in which Janda goes in and out of character. This playful, insightful approach is exhilarating, even as the central theme about the unpredictability and cruelty of death takes on increasingly gloomy, emotional tone. Essentially, what Wajda is exploring is the difference between just showing a story, telling it in a specific way and making a commercial movie about it.

It's also, of course, a look at the extremely thin line between life and death, symbolised by the two sides of the sweet rush. This also echoes the tension between love and lust in the crossed wires of Marta and Bogus' relationship, which take on new meaning in the face of death. The truth is that love doesn't stop just because a loved one dies. And perhaps it's this fact that makes death both unbearable and just a tiny bit hopeful.

15 themes, language, some violence
12.Feb.09 bff
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Philippe Lioret
prd Christophe Rossignon
scr Olivier Adam, Emmanuel Courcol, Philippe Lioret
with Vincent Lindon, Firat Ayverdi, Audrey Dana, Thierry Godard, Selim Akgul, Firat Celik, Derya Ayverdi, Murat Subasi, Olivier Rabourdin, Patrick Ligardes, Mouafaq Rushdie, Behi Djanati Atai
ayverdi and lindon release Fr 11.Mar.09,
US May.09 siff, UK 6.Nov.09
09/France 1h50

berlin film festival
welcome Beautifully shot and played, this detailed immigration drama tells a story that's not easy to watch, as it implies that Western society has lots its ability to be compassionate. And for that reason, it can't be ignored.

Bilal (Firat Ayverdi) is a 17-year-old Iraqi Kurd who has travelled by foot to Calais, in the hope of crossing the channel to England, where his friend Mirko (Subasi) and his longed-for girlfriend Mina (Derya Ayverdi) have emigrated. But his first attempt to stow away on a truck goes horribly wrong, and now he's in limbo: unable to establish legal residency in France and unable to return home. He decides to swim for Dover, which he can see on a clear day, and begins training with coach Simon (Lindon).

The point here is that Simon is actually engaging in illegal activity by helping Bilal in any way, including the provision of a place to stay and clean clothing. But we know that Simon is on his own difficult journey, sparked by a wrenching divorce from his wife (Dana), whom he still loves. So helping Bilal reunite with the girl he loves in London becomes a personal quest, and this is what draws us strongly into the story and makes the final act so powerfully moving.

These are such recognisably real people that we can't help but feel outrage at the injustice (and raw bad luck) that surrounds their lives. As the film progresses, we really root for both Bilal and Simon to overcome the obstacles that stand in their way; and more than just getting the girls, we want them to find peace and justice in their lives, since both seem so elusive.

Lioret directs the film with an earthy style that keeps the story feeling almost eerily realistic. This also allows the cast to give remarkably grounded performances that never try to generate artificial emotion or manipulate the themes. It's such a straightforward approach that the tension, when it arises, becomes genuinely harrowing, and we start to search with Simon and Bilal for a glimpse of humanity in such an inhumane situation. How can we think that outlawing kindness actually makes our society a better place?

15 themes, language, violence
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< <   F O R E I G N   > >

© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall