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last update 16.Aug.11
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Beautiful Lies
3.5/5   De Vrais Mensonges
dir Pierre Salvadori
prd Philippe Martin
scr Benoit Graffin, Pierre Salvadori
with Audrey Tautou, Nathalie Baye, Sami Bouajila, Stephanie Lagarde, Judith Chemla, Cecile Boland, Didier Brice, Daniel Duval, Yilin Yang, Lan Qui, Patrice Bouret, Paul Morgan
tatou and bouajila
release Fr 8.Dec.10,
UK 12.Aug.11
10/France 1h45
beautiful lies Tautou reteams with her Priceless director Salvadori for another charming romantic comedy that plays with the stereotypical structure. Sure, we know exactly how it has to end, but getting there is thoroughly enjoyable.

Emilie (Tautou) runs a beauty salon with her friend Sylvia (Lagarde), but neither knows that their handyman Jean (Bouajila) has a crush on Emilie, who's intimidated by the fact that Jean used to work for the UN. When she receives an anonymous love letter, which she doesn't realise was written by Jean, she forwards it to perk up her lonely mother Maddy (Baye). But Maddy develops a correspondence with her "mystery lover" and eventually traces the letters back to Jean. So Emilie asks him to play along. Of course, he's not happy about this.

While the plot is pure farce, the film plays out in a gently sunny way, with brightly colourful photography and a constant sense of cheeky humour, even with Emilie's critical short temper and Maddy's wild fantasies. Neither of these women should be hugely likeable, but Tautou and Baye have such terrific screen presence that we sympathise with them even more when their characters do something wrong or stupid, which they do rather often. Meanwhile, Bouajila is simply adorable as the nice guy caught up in the mess, and yet he has a steely side that makes him more than a mere comical foil.

In other words, the film is so warm and happy that it's almost impossible not to enjoy it. While we know that Emilie and Jean are obviously destined to find each other, the script gleefully finds ways to push them further and further apart. These obstacles are actually believable for a change, and are sometimes rather heartbreaking. Even though this goes on a bit too long, it's entertaining to sit back and enjoy the increasingly messy journey.

Essentially the story is reminding us that we need to express our feelings, be truthful in our relationships and recognise love when we see it. Sure, these are things that everyone already knows, but if movie characters acted accordingly there wouldn't be any rom-coms on screen. And if we remembered them, we'd all live happily ever after ourselves.

12 themes, language
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Our Day Will Come
3.5/5   Notre Jour Viendra
dir Romain Gavras
scr Romain Gavras, Karim Boukercha
prd Vincent Cassel, Eric Neve
with Vincent Cassel, Olivier Barthelemy, Justine Lerooy, Vanessa Decat, Boris Gamthety 'Byron', Rodolphe Blanchet, Chloe Catoen, Jacques Herlin, Pierre Boulanger, Antoine Laurent, Anne-Gaelle Ponche, Jerome Mazure
cassel and barthelmy release Fr 15.Sep.10,
UK 29.Jul.11
10/France 1h30

edinburgh film fest
a separation Lurid and more than a little absurd, this wild road movie is a colourful combination of violence and humour. Its random, episodic structure makes it difficult to get involved in the story, but it's so unhinged that we never lose interest.

Teenager Remy (Barthelmy) is mercilessly teased by his football teammates for his red hair. At the end of his tether he meets jaded therapist Patrick (Cassel), who whisks him away on an adventure. Patrick's boldness inspires Remy to imagine a place where redheads are welcome, and they set out on a road trip across France. But things get increasingly crazed as Remy's obsession and Patrick's careless exuberance overflow in extremely unpredictable ways, from a stolen car to a decadent stay in a roadside hotel.

Filmmaker Gavras creates a darkly intense atmosphere, playing with textured camerawork, a foreboding score and lurid colours to keep us on edge. He also throws us straight into the premise, requiring us to believe that gingers are France's most despised minority while letting us work out back-stories on our own. It's clear that Remy is a lonely nerd; his only friend is an online buddy he has never met. And when he meets Patrick, both are liberated from their tedious lives.

Cassel has a ball chomping on scenery as Patrick gets increasingly scary. "Carrot-tops of the world unite!" he cries with messianic zeal. "We're a people without an army!" Meanwhile, Barthelmy effectively lets Remy slowly emerge from his shell, as he gains confidence and becomes even more deranged than his mentor. As he locks onto Ireland as the "land of dreams", we first laugh and then feel sad for him.

So it's a little frustrating that the plot continually takes off-putting twists, even as the startling comedy and violence keep us gripped. A late section that turns strangely mopey and gloomy is a let-down after the manic energy that went before. And the story becomes dizzying as the it touches on such a wide range of issues, including sexuality, obesity, disability and of course mental illness. Still, it's so manic that we don't have much time to think.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
15.Jun.11 eiff
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4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Lee Chang-dong
prd Lee Jun-dong
with Yun Jung-hee, Lee David, Ahn Nae-sang, Kim Hira, Kim Yong-taek
release Kor 13.May.10,
US 11.Feb.11, UK 29.Jul.11
10/Korea 2h19


31st Shadows Awards

sawako decides Is art about seeking beauty or honesty? Is it entertaining or emotive? Or is it about finding truth in an unfathomable situation? This ambitious drama asks big questions while telling a story that's both engaging and provocative. And in the end it's almost overpoweringly beautiful.

In a provincial Korean city, 66-year-old Mija (Yun) lives with her surly teen grandson Wook (Lee), whose mother has moved to find work. Mija is a carer for a grumpy stroke victim (Kim Hira) and, just as she's diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's, she learns that Wook is involved in a local schoolgirl's suicide. To take her mind off of these things, and perhaps to delay her illness, Mija enrols in a poetry class. And she begins to see her world in a new light.

Filmmaker Lee Chang-dong elegantly tells this story without gimmicks. Mija is a wise and friendly grandmother, always slightly overdressed and quietly keeping to her place as an irrelevant member of society. Although as Wook's guardian she's hardly that. She's also drawn into a group of five men, fathers of Wook's partners in crime, to pay hush money to the victim's family. But Mija's perspective on all of this is changing.

Yun's performance is a work of art as she brings Mija to wonderful life with attention to the tiniest detail. As Mija begins to explore this horrible crime, she notices that her mind has begun to let her down. And the complexity of this character echoes the film itself, which has a disarmingly gentle tone that belies the intense subject matter.

Lee's approach is bracingly realistic, grounded in Mija's perspective. Bright and sunny scenes are constantly interrupted by people or mobile phone calls. And Mija's heightened sensitivity opens her to some pretty shocking observations. Without ever boiling over into sentimental melodrama, the film tackles some outrageously sensitive issues. And by taking such an earthy approach, each scene is charged with meaning, no matter how quiet it may be.

Along the way, scenes are deeply inspirational, quietly devastating and eerily chilling, sometimes all three at the same time. And there's also a constant reminder that each of us carries poetry inside us everywhere we go. This is what helps us make sense of the world around us, especially in the face of seemingly irrational tragedy.

15 themes, language, sexuality, disturbing imagery
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dir Lee Sang-il
prd Genki Kawamura
scr Shuichi Yoshida, Lee Sang-il
with Satoshi Tsumabuki, Eri Fukatsu, Kirin Kiki, Akira Emoto, Masaki Okada, Hikari Mitsushima
fukatsu and tsumabuki
release Jpn 11.Sep.10,
UK 19.Aug.11
10/Japan Sony 2h19

edinburgh film fest
villain A difficult, realistic look at a complex situation, this film explores good and evil in a way that's far more thoughtful than we usually see in cinema. And its emotional crescendo is reminiscent of Anderson's Magnolia or Haggis' Crash.

The lonely Yuichi (Tsumabuki) is trying to find love in an online chatroom, but the chirpy Yoshino (Mitsushima) ditches him when she meets the much cooler Masuo (Okada). When Yoshino turns up dead, the police suspect Masuo of murder. Meanwhile, Yuichi meets Mitsuyo (Fukatsu), a girl who's clearly more on his wavelength. But he soon becomes the lead murder suspect. At the same time, Yoshino's father (Emoto) and Yuichi's grandmother (Kiki), who raised him after his mother left town, are both struggling to find peace with the situation.

Filmmaker Lee tells this story with a disarming attention to detail, capturing realistic rhythms of modern life while refusing to give in to movie cliches. There's no action, no melodrama and, most refreshingly, not a single moment in which we can moralise about the characters or events. Clearly, the title is an ironic reference to the way we search for a villain in every situation, even though there rarely is a clear-cut bad guy on whom we can pin our sorrow.

Indeed, the characters are textured and richly detailed, and each one surprises us along the way. Tsumabuki is terrific in a very difficult role as the ostensible desperado, but we see him through Mitsuyo's eyes as a troubled young man haunted by a past mistake. His chemistry with the layered Fukatsu is edgy and awkward; in other words, it's both authentic and evocative. And further emotional resonance comes from the tender, raw performances by Kiki and Emoto.

By contrast, Okada's heartless Masuo and Mitsushima's clingy-cruel Yoshino feel like the real scoundrels in the story, but even these characters are tempered by subtle acting and clever scripting. While the film lurches through an uneven structure, cast and crew continually undermine our desire to find a moral anchor. So film keeps challenging our simplistic views of the world around us, forcing us to find hope in more realistic, less comfortable places. And by the end, it's one of those very rare films that turns out to be both moving and provocative.

15 themes, violence, sexuality
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall