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last update 14.Apr.11
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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec
4/5   Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec
dir-scr Luc Besson
prd Virginie Silla
with Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche, Nicolas Giraud, Jacky Nercessian, Jean-Paul Rouve, Philippe Nahon, Laure de Clermont, Gerard Chaillou, Serge Bagdassarian, Claire Perot, Francois Chattot
matsu release Fr 14.Apr.10,
UK 22.Apr.11
10/France Europa 1h47
Adele Blanc-Sec Lively and raucously entertaining, this female Indiana Jones romp makes little sense but keeps us engaged due to its sparky characters and a bit of deranged subtext. And writer-director Besson clearly has fun adapting comic book imagery to the big screen.

In 1911 Paris, Adele (Bourgoin) is a novelist who travels the world in search of adventures to write about. Her latest quest takes her to Egypt, where she uncovers a Pharaoh's tomb and sneaks off with his physician's mummy, who she plans to resurrect with help from her mad-scientist friend Esperandieu (Nercessian), all in an attempt to cure her badly injured twin sister (de Clermont). But the doctor's experimentation has brought to life a hatchling pterodactyl, which is now menacing Paris. Apparently surrounded by incompetents, Adele will have to fix everything herself.

This is a busy, energetic film populated by a huge number of colourfully wacky characters, most of whom are caught in Adele's chaotic wake. A blustering, lazy cop (Lellouch) is on the case, hiring a trigger-happy big-game hunter (Rouve) to catch the pterodactyl. Adele's arch-nemesis (an unrecognisable Amalric) doggedly torments her. And a charming young scientist (Giraud) follows Adele like a lovelorn puppy dog. But Adele is so self-assured that she ignores everyone, moving like a tornado with blind focus on her task.

Besson seems a little too enthusiastic about the story's supernatural elements, which are actually the least interesting things on screen. But at least he plays it all for laughs, rather than trying to scare us or impress us with the effects work, which is generally solid. He also wedges in a very funny look at government bureaucracy, as everyone from the President down passes the buck on dealing with this crisis.

The cast is terrific, bringing plenty of sassy attitude to each hilarious role. Everyone is so impulsive that the plot seems completely out of control from the start, and things get increasingly silly as it continues, with some genuinely ridiculous twists and turns along the way. Adele's repeated cry "Into my arms!" usually results in something both corny and amazing. Yes, it's hugely imaginative, but it also feels somewhat made up as it goes along.

12 themes, violence, some language
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Going South
4/5   Plein Sud
dir Sebastien Lifshitz
prd Alexandra Henochsberg, Judith Nora
scr Stephane Bouquet, Vincent Poymiro, Sebastien Lifshitz
with Yannick Renier, Lea Seydoux, Theo Frilet, Nicole Garcia, Pierre Perrier, Samuel Vittoz, Romain Scheiner, Ludo Harlay, Quentin Gonzalez, Marie Matheron, Micheline Presle, Gerard Watkins
seydoux and renier
release Fr 30.Dec.09,
US Jun.10 siff,
UK 2.May.11 dvd
09/France AdVitam 1h27

BERLIN FILM FEST london l&g film fest
going south With his usual light touch, Lifshitz again concentrates on feelings rather than plot for this involving road movie. This may annoy viewers looking for something tight and tidy, but it captures the moods of its central character in a remarkably honest way.

On a trip to Spain to sort out his life, Sam (Renier) picks up brother-and-sister hitchhikers Lea and Mathieu (Seydoux and Frilet). When Sam rebuff's Lea's advances, she finds another hitcher, Jeremie (Perrier), to join them, starting a tentative romance. When Jeremie confronts Mathieu about his sexuality, Mathieu makes his move on Sam, who doesn't push him away. Eventually, Sam is forced to deal with his troubled childhood and intense mother (Garcia) when he meets up with his brother (Vittoz) along the way.

Shot and edited with a sense of urgency, we can feel the sexual tension between the characters from the start. Each is clearly on a specific journey, secretly carrying his or her own bundle of hopes and fears. This fills the movie with possibilities, especially with such an intriguing mix of male and female, gay and straight characters. And while the gorgeous young actors are earthy and natural, Lifshitz is especailly good at cutting through the surface to let us see how they are feeling.

The film also features extensive flashbacks to Sam's childhood (played by Harlay) and adolescence (Scheiner), as well as that old chestnut: a gun hidden in Sam's car. Fortunately, the plot isn't the most important thing, so we can relax into the sundrenched physicality as these four young people lounge on the beach, horse around and fall in lust with each other. And maybe love too.

As the film progresses, we begin to realise that Lifshitz is perhaps telling a different story than we were expecting. And indeed, instead of a sexy road movie, the film turns out to be a deeply internal journey as Sam finally confronts his mother. Even if the conclusion doesn't tie everything up in a neat bow for us, this punchy film leaves us thinking about how our own past influences the way we deal with the people around us.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
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Man at Bath
4/5   Homme au Bain
dir-scr Christophe Honoré
prd Justin Taurand
with François Sagat, Chiara Mastroianni, Omar Ben Sellem, Dustin Segura-Suarez, Rabah Zahi, Kate Moran, Dennis Cooper, Lahcen el Mazouzi, Andreas Leflamand, Ronald Piwele, Sebastian D'Azeglio, Sebastien Pouderoux
mastroianni and sagat
release Fr 22.Sep.10,
UK Apr.11 llgff
10/France 1h12

london l&g film fest
man at bath This odd experimental film has only the loosest sense of narrative, merely letting us observe the wrinkles and twists of a relationship between two men who are apart for a week. It's difficult to pin down, but still manages to engage us.

When his filmmaker boyfriend Omar (Ben Sellem) says he has to leave for a week, Emmanuel (Sagat) doesn't want to let him go. And when the discussion turns nasty, Omar gives Emmanuel the week to move out. Emmanual's profession seems to be letting people look at him, usually naked. One client (Cooper) wants to hire him to beat up a young man, friends come round for sex, and he desperately misses Omar. Meanwhile, Omar is with the actress (Mastroianni) from his movie at a New York festival, having a fling with a film student (Segura-Suarez).

Sagat maintains an eerily impassive expression on his face, sometimes looking vaguely surly, petulant or blissful. As Cooper's character observes, he's "kind of like a sculpture", with his thick legs, tattooed head and heavily muscled torso. He's certainly not conventionally beautiful, but you can't take your eyes off him. So it's understandable that he would have such a dramatic impact on everyone he meets, whether he has known them for a long time or not. And even with his blank expression, we get a real sense of what he's thinking.

Most of the dialog and interaction feel improvised, with conversations that explore relationships and perceptions. This is seen most strongly through the scenes shot on Omar's video camera, as he's clearly trying to forget about Emmanuel by having an affair. And then there's the strange dream/fantasy sequence with Sagat and Mastroianni, which touches on love, tenderness and forgiveness.

The most striking thing about the film is an approach to nudity that's never self-conscious. This intimate style infuses the way the film looks at its characters and the relationships between them. So as it progresses, we get an intriguing sense of the deep connection between Omar and Emmanuel, even as they are apart and indulging in their own needs and desires. But there's never a question about what is really important to each of them.

18 themes, language, sexuality, violence
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4/5   Saša
dir-scr Dennis Todorovic
prd Ewa Borowski
with Sasha Kekez, Tim Bergmann, Predja Bjelac, Zeljka Preksavec, Ljubisa Lupo Grujcic, Jasin Mjumjunov, Yvonne Yung Hee, Arno Kempf, Yu Fang, Petra Nadolny, Stefan Preiss, Rolf Berg
hee and kekez
release Ger 24.Mar.11,
UK Apr.11 llgff
10/Germany 1h42

london l&g film fest
sasha This film's light, comical tone is slightly misleading, as something much more dramatic is going on under the surface. And this makes it an entertaining, sensitive exploration of a young man trying figure out a way to be himself.

After a family holiday back home in Montenegro, 18-year-old Sasha (Kekez) returns to Cologne even more disturbed by his secret sexuality. Despite the openness in German society, his parents (Bjelac and Preskavec) live as if they're still in the old country, where blind machismo rules. They're also pushing him to win a piano scholarship, which is complicated by his debilitating crush on his sexy teacher Gebhard (Bergmann). Meanwhile, his best friend Jiao (Hee) is in the same boat, with a father (Yu) hounding her to practice the violin.

The film's farcical structure continues as Sasha tells his family that Jiao is his girlfriend, just to relieve that pressure. Although his sport-mad younger brother Boki (Mjumjunov), who has a more Western outlook, knows something is up (he's also in love with Jiao). Into this staggers their goofy Uncle Pero (Grujcic), visiting from Bosnia to ostensibly help redecorate their bathroom, but he ends up renovating the whole family instead.

This final turn of events is the film's only false note, with one clunky coincidence and that tired chestnut: an early glimpse of a hidden gun. But the resolution is surprisingly intricate. And before these jarring plot points, the film has a freewheeling vibe that really captures the life of expats who don't realise that they have a culture-clash right inside their home. Todorovic writes and directs with a relaxed touch, playing with stereotypes while constantly delving beneath the surface.

This of course gives the actors a lot to work with. Kekez is terrific at the centre as the young man grappling with how to live his own life, terrified of disappointing his parents, best friend and teacher. His various encounters are funny, scary and sometimes powerfully moving, allowing the terrific supporting cast to shatter each stereotype. Even though it's essentially a comedy, everyone in this story has layers of complexity to reveal. And the striking production values, with an especially clever song score, adds weight to the story's emotional kick.

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