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last update 9.Nov.09
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About Elly...
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE  
dir-scr-prd Asghar Farhadi
with Golshifteh Farahani, Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Merila Zare'I, Mani Haghighi, Peyman Moaadi, Ra'na Azadivar, Ahmad Mehranfar, Saber Abbar
hosseini and friend
release US Apr.09 tff,
Irn 6.Jun.09, UK Oct.09 lff
09/Iran 1h59

berlin film festival
about elly Bursting with energy, this ensemble drama from Iran is raucous, chaotic and packed with strong emotion as the story twists its way to a startling final act. And it feels so real that you can't help but identify with the characters and situations.

After her friend Sepideh (Farahani) insists that she comes along, Elly (Alidoosti) reluctantly agrees to go away for a weekend with three couples and their children. But the plan is actually to hook her up with their single friend Ahmad (Hosseini), who's visiting from Germany. And the weekend at a seaside villa starts well, even though Elly is deeply conflicted. Then on the second day she goes missing and, in order to deal with the situation, the entire group will have to confront the truth that they've so carefully avoided.

With his cleverly constructed script, Farhadi probes a number of big issues without being heavy-handed about it, keeping us completely engrossed in the lively characters and sometimes frightening mystery. At the centre is the question of whether Elly has disappeared in an act of cowardice or heroism, and perceptions are continually challenged and shifted as more information emerges. All of this not only creates a hugely engaging movie, but also gives us remarkable insight into Iranian culture.

As a director, Farhadi lets his ensemble cast create recognisable, likeable people who are smart, funny and also flawed. As they have a typical weekend of food, swimming, volleyball and charades, they also make some terrible mistakes. But it's great to see film characters who interact with such honesty, recognising their own responsibility to the group and trying to work together to find a solution. As the secrets get bigger and more entangled, we know it'll be much more difficult to straighten things out. But we also know that these are the kind of people who will really work at it.

And in the end, it's the truth that is the most important thing here, even when it means that someone's reputation might be damaged. As one character observes, "A bitter ending is better than endless bitterness." This is a bracingly complex collection of people in extraordinary circumstances, and the film makes us consider our own moral values in ways that are refreshing and provocative. And strikingly resonant.

PG themes, language, some violence
21.Oct.09 lff
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Enter the Void
dir-scr Gaspar Noé
prd Olivier Delbosc, Vincent Maraval, Marc Missonnier, Gaspar Noé
with Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander, Masato Tanno, Ed Spear, Sara Stockbridge, Jesse Kuhn, Emily Alyn Lind, Edward L Papazian, Janice Beliveau-Sicotte
brown and de la huerta release Fr May.09 cff,
UK 24.Sep.10
09/France Wild Bunch 2h40


london film festival
johnny mad dog Ambitious Argentine-French filmmaker Noe is back with another gimmick (see the reverse-order Irreversible): this epic-length odyssey is told completely through the eyes of its central character. It's a gruelling film, but is packed with moments of filmmaking genius.

Oscar (Brown) is a young Westerner living in a one-room flat in Tokyo, where his life is a blur of drug-taking. He's utterly devoted to his sister Linda (de la Huerta), who's also in Tokyo working as an erotic dancer. While on a risky drug deal with his friend Alex (Roy), Oscar meets Victor (Alexander) at the seedy club Void. But they're caught in a police raid, and Oscar is shot, travelling out of his body into the night. Perhaps he can still watch over Linda from beyond the grave.

Noe's boundless inventiveness unleashes astounding visual flourishes from the time-lapse credits to the jaw-dropping finale. He stirs in animation and digital trickery to create a mesmerising stream of consciousness, assembled like a single take in which even the flashbacks seem to emerge organically as they fill in the back-story and add a powerful emotional kick. The only other movie you could even begin to compare this to is 2001, with its similarly episodic structure, swirling colours and life-after-death theme.

What sets this film apart is the way Noe puts us right into Oscar's consciousness, first roaming the streets and then floating through walls and over the city. Each scene is packed with telling details, especially as we see characters interacting in ways that continually demand reinterpretation. Much of this is deeply disturbing (like dipping into the head of one of Linda's clients), extremely graphic (drifting through the rooms of a sex hotel) or full-on horrific (continually reliving the crash that killed his parents).

Images and sounds echo from scene to scene, and it's utterly riveting. Even when things start feeling endless and repetitive in the final hour, there are constant surprises along the way. Within each concentric circle (of hell?), Oscar discovers something else about his own life and how he really feels about his sister. It's simply astonishing filmmaking, and there's a lot of it.

18 themes, language, strong sexuality, violence, drugs
15.Oct.09 lff
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dir Patrice Chéreau
prd Bruno Levy
scr Anne-Louise Trividic, Patrice Chéreau
with Romain Duris, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Alex Descas, Gilles Cohen, Hiam Abbass, Michel Duchaussoy, Xavier Robic
the rhino crew
release UK Oct.09 lff,
Fr 9.Dec.09
09/France 1h40

london film festival
persecution Dark and unsettling, this urban drama captures a remarkable sense of personal rootlessness and entitlement: nothing is quite right and it's certainly not my fault! Yet despite Duris' ripping central performance, the film struggles to make sense.

Daniel (Duris) is angry at everything. He works own doing odd construction jobs while fixing up his own rambling loft. He rarely sees his girlfriend Sonia (Gainsbourg), because she's often travelling. And he's continually dismissive of his best friend Michel (Cohen). To add insult to injury, a stranger (Anglade) is stalking him and confessing his undying love. Through all of this, Daniel believes everyone else has a problem, not him. And there's only so much of his constant grumping that his friends can take.

Filmmaker Chereau is an expert at catching his characters' personalities warts and all while helping us sympathise with their humanity. And he certainly has a challenge with the abrasive, scowling Daniel. But Chereau never gives up on him, and we eventually begin to see the fragile man inside the sourpuss. This is due as much to Duris' committed performance as to Chereau's telling direction, Yves Cape's intensely close-up photography and Eric Neveux's steely score. While the wonderful Gainsbourg gives us another pair of eyes through which to see him.

Even so, much of the film remains elusive, with dialog that's virtually impenetrable since we're not sure who these people are or what they're talking about. Daniel has an eclectic gang of acquaintances who hang out in a cafe discussing politics, philosophy and each other, and we feel like outsiders in this world. Which is essentially how Daniel feels as well, since he sees everything as a slight against him.

And this put-upon sensibility continues with the presence of Anglade's stalker, who at one point is found lounging naked in Daniel's flat. This scene is echoed later when Daniel sneaks into Sonia's flat while she's asleep; of course he fails to see the parallel, and as her anger softens into affection the film once again finds honesty in an unusual situation. In the end, the essence of the story is a question: Why are other people important to us? And only a few of the dark, sad people in this moody, enigmatic film can even begin to answer that.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
29.Oct.09 lff
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dir Sergei Dvortsevoy
scr Sergei Dvortsevoy, Gennadi Ostrovsky
prd Karl Baumgartner, Thanassis Karathanos
with Askhat Kuchinchirekov, Samal Yeslyamova, Ondasyn Besikbasov, Tulepbergen Baisakalov, Bereke Turganbayev, Amangeldi Nurzhanbayev, Tazhyban Khalykulova, Mahabbat Turganbayeva, Nurzhigit Zhapabayev
Kuchinchirekov release Kaz 9.Apr.09,
US 1.Apr.09, UK 13.Nov.09
08/Kazakhstan 1h40


london film festival
tulpan A thoroughly charming slice of life from an isolated part of the world, this film features situations that are recognisable simply because the people involved are so realistic. It's also remarkably warm and funny.

Asa (Kuchinchirekov) is a young guy just out of his naval service and wanting to settle down with a wife and a flock of sheep on the remote steppes of Kazakhstan. He's living with his sister (Yeslyamova) and her husband (Besikbasov), and the only eligible girl nearby is Tulpan. But her parents (Nurzhanbayev and Khalykulova) are fiercely protective, so Asa tries everything to get through to her. Meanwhile, he's busy caring for sheep that are struggling to find enough grass to stay healthy.

What makes this film so endearing is Kuchinchirekov's likable, puppy-dog performance. As Tulpan resolutely stays out of sight, sometimes making rude comments through the curtains, Asa must develop another plan with the help of his brother-in-law and his chucklehead pal Boni (Baisakalov). Stirred into this are the pressures of daily life and hopes for the future. And it's refreshing to see that, despite his travels, Asa's desire is to return to his dusty, windswept home.

But of course, even here his dream is thwarted, because he can't start a life here without a wife. And it's in this simple premise that filmmaker Dvortsevoy finds real resonance. Even if we can't imagine life in this place, we can sympathise with Asa's longing to move forward against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. And it's not just the elusive Tulpan; the world itself seems to be changing as lambs are stillborn and even the local vet (who transports a sick camel in his motorcycle's sidecar) can't fix this.

The film is packed with documentary-style footage of life in this environment, which adds lovely texture to the bittersweet and comical slice-of-life story. One strikingly long take of a sheep giving birth is both vividly detailed and intriguingly telling as it gives us further insight into the characters and their daily challenges. And in the end, we feel like we've experienced just a bit of what it's like to live in this remote place, including an understanding of what we all have in common.

12 themes, language, some violence
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall