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On this page: ALPS | GANDU

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last update 25.Oct.11
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4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir Giorgos Lanthimos
scr Giorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
prd Giorgos Lanthimos, Athina Rachel Tsangari
with Aris Servetalis, Aggeliki Papoulia, Ariane Labed, Johnny Vekris
release Gr 27.Oct.11,
UK Oct.11 lff
11/Greece 1h33


london film fest
Alps After Dogtooth, it's impressive that Lanthimos has actually upped his game with this remarkably involving drama. It takes its time revealing to us what's happening, but the story takes several provocative twists and turns, and carries a surprising emotional kick.

Four people meet up in a gymnastics practice room, where the coach (Vekris) berates a gymnast (Labed), telling her she's not ready for pop music. The other two work at the local hospital as a nurse (Papoulia) and an emergency worker (Servetalis). They call themselves Alps, because it's a name that's both singular and deliberately misleading. And what they do is help people come to terms with the death of a loved one.

To say much about the plot wouldn't be fair, since even this much only comes into focus about halfway into the film. But it's where Lanthimos and Filippou take us from here that is truly extraordinary, as they challenge our ideas about grief and identity. This is an examination of how we all play roles in our lives, both at work and at home, and how telling the difference between who we want people to see and who we really are gets increasingly blurry as time goes by.

Amongst these increasingly sharply focussed characters, these issues are magnified in surprising ways when two of them break the rules. The film is shot from the women's perspectives, which adds another layer of gender roles to the mix. In some ways this simplifies the film, showing the women as more compassionate than the by-the-books men, but it's far more complicated that that. And the filmmakers quietly keep us curious about the full nature of these people and their work, as the pieces fall gradually into place.

And it's in the details that the film really gets under our skin: the repeated question about who their favourite actor is, the clients' extremely specific scenarios, the punishments for straying from the script, the distinct inner yearnings of everyone in the film. With fiercely inventive camerawork and strikingly gutsy performances, this is a funny, moving, creepy, sad exploration of very big themes. And it'll make you see a bit more clearly which parts of your own life are just an act.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
16.Oct.11 lff
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3.5/5   A**hole
dir-prd Kaushik Mukherjee
scr Kaushik Mukherjee, Surojit Sen
with Anubrata Basu, Joyraj Bhattacharya, Rituparna Sen, Kamalika Shilajit Majumder, Kaushik Mukherjee, Tina, Susmit, Sarkar Da, Suparna, Liyaqat Ali, Guddu. Arka Das, Soumyajit, Tublu, Abhishek
Bhattacharya and Basu
release US Oct.10 saiff,
UK Oct.11 lff
10/India 1h25

london film fest
gandu Using the name Q, filmmaker Mukherjee violates Indian cinema taboos to tell a lively story about an angry young man who wants to make it big as a rapper. It's worth seeing for its brio even if there isn't that much more to it.

In West Bengal, the aspiring rapper Gandu (Basu) lives with his mother (Kamalika). Gandu's nickname means "loser" or "a**hole", which gives him fuel for his raging music, as does the fact that his mother is sleeping with a businessman (Majumder) to pay the bills. Then he meets rickshaw driver Ricksha (Bhattacharya), a die-hard Bruce Lee fan. The two become inseparable, indulging in drugs and porn until they end up on an epic trip.

With an urgent energy, the film is beautifully shot in black and white (plus one brightly coloured sex scene) and edited kaleidoscopically to capture Gandu's frustration at his limited life. The cast and crew take on Bengali society head-on, packing the film with things that are forbidden in Bollywood, from explicit sex to scandalous references. Even the film's title is unmentionable in its homeland.

While this presents a view of India we've never seen on screen, this film isn't as resonant as two similar classics: Spike Lee's hyperactive She's Gotta Have It crossed with Francis Coppola's scrappy youth drama Rumblefish. But as the story gets increasingly surreal, falling further into Gandu's rage-fuelled delirium, it touches on important themes about both modern life and social inequality.

There's little actual dialog, instead expressing Gandu's anger through his one-man music videos and inner fantasy life. This vividly captures his feelings of helplessness, as well as how someone's world view can be warped by too much porn and internet. And while Gandu and Ricksha are often funny, they never really develop any real complexity as characters.

As Gandu and Ricksha's odyssey continues, the film spirals into surrealism to depict their feverish drug trips, combining lusty images, Bengali mythology and even a cameo from the director as himself making a film called Gandu. And while the energy keeps us interested, Gandu's one-note anger starts to get a bit dull. And the filmmaker's deliberate attempts to crush barriers begin to feel rather superficial.

18 themes, language, drugs, strong sexuality
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The Monk
3.5/5   Le Moine
dir Dominik Moll
prd Michel Saint-Jean
scr Dominik Moll, Anne-Louise Trividic
with Vincent Cassel, Deborah Francois, Josephine Japy, Sergi Lopez, Catherine Mouchet, Jordi Dauder, Geraldine Chaplin, Roxane Duran, Frederic Noaille, Javivi Gil Valle, Martine Vandeville, Pierre-Felix Graviere
release Sp 30.Sep.11,
UK Oct.11 lff
11/Spain 1h41

london film fest
The Monk This 16th century freak-out is ravishingly beautiful to look at, but it's also turgid and relentlessly grim. So what's essentially a dark supernatural thriller will only really appeal to arthouse audiences.

Left on the steps of an isolated Spanish monastery as an infant, Ambrosio (Cassel) has grown up to be a celebrated priest, wowing the population of nearby Madrid with his radical sermons. But he's haunted by visions, as well as a dark secret kept by an oddly powerful woman (Francois). Meanwhile, young Antonia (Japy) is being wooed by the sexy Lorenzo (Noaille), a match her mother (Mouchet) approves but worries about. And no one has a clue that all of their fates are intertwined.

Based on the 18th century English gothic novel by Matthew Lewis (and set in Spain with French-speaking characters), the story is seriously intense. Besides the tortured account of Ambrosio's increasingly dark temptations, there's also a sideplot about a disgraced young nun (Duran) cruelly punished by her Prioress (Chaplin). And from the start it's clear that there's something not quite right about Antonia's romance with Lorenzo. Meanwhile, the Father Superior (Dauder) is making pronouncements that the devil has arrived, while a shifty parishoner (Lopez) lurks around the edges.

Moll assembles this in deep shadows with flickering candlelight and a surging score by Alberto Iglesias. There's some black wit in the way it's directed and edited, but this is a sombre film packed melodramatic glances and supernatural creepiness. It looks so fantastic that we're willing to follow it into some extremely grisly places, including ghostly apparitions and black miracles. And as the story progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that it probably won't have a cheerful ending.

The acting is subtle and involving, with Cassel holding things together as the increasingly anguished Ambrosio, who never suspects that his troubled past has any relevance in his present life of holy devotion. But the various plot strands don't merge coherently, leaving us on the outside as things get progressively nasty, perhaps because Ambrosio begins to lose himself as well. So by the time we reach the unsettling climax, we recoil at the horror of it all, but shrug and leave the cinema unmoved.

15 themes, violence, sexuality
24.Oct.11 lff
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Outside Satan
3.5/5   Hors Satan
dir-scr Bruno Dumont
prd Rachid Bouchareb, Jean Brehat, Alexander Emmert, Muriel Merlin
with David Dewaele, Alexandra Lematre, Christophe Bon, Valeria Mestdagh, Juliette Bacquet, Sonia Barthelmy, Aurore Broutin, Sominique Caffier
clindon and kiberlain release Fr 19.Oct.11,
UK Oct.11 lff
11/France 1h49


london film fest
Outside Satan Ever the provocateur, Dumont fills this story with religious iconography, blurring the lines between Jesus and the devil. It's about the thin veil between good and evil, suggesting that positive actions must sometimes involve violence. And the filmmaking is both bold and elusive.

On the scrubby French coastline, a drifter (Dewaele) lurks near a small town, where he's helping a young woman (Lematre) deal with her abusive stepfather. By shooting him. The woman becomes devoted to the drifter, praying with him and following him as he helps a sick girl (Bacquet). She clearly wants more, but he rebuffs her advances, even as he protects her from a guard (Bon) who tries to steal a kiss. When a wildfire rages, perhaps some water-walking is required. And when someone commits a violent act, something even more drastic.

Yes, most scenes are taken from the Gospels, as the drifter performs acts of kindness and rough justice, healing the sick and even exorcising a backpacker (Broutin) in a rather startling way. Depending on your interpretation, much of this is utterly profane. But perhaps Dumont's point is that the only difference between holiness and sacrilege is a person's intention.

The film is shot in Dumont's usual minimalistic style, with elegant camera work capturing the earthy grit of the setting and the craggy faces of these too-real people. There isn't a moment of movie gloss, and yet the harsh landscapes and rather rough-looking characters all have raw beauty. And the actors perform their roles with unsettling naturalism, letting us see into their characters even with very little dialog. Each character has a surreal familiarity, since we've seen them in Bible stories, and yet they also surprise us at every turn.

As the title suggests, this is a movie for adventurous audiences. It's far too slow and vague for mainstream cinemas, as usually there's only ambient sound on the audio track. And very little happens in Dumont's long takes, which sharply link his characters with the world they inhabit. But few filmmakers are daring enough to even touch on religious themes, let alone grapple with them in such a challenging way. And whatever Dumont is saying, he certainly knows how to push our buttons.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
21.Oct.11 lff
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