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last update 2.Jun.11
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Angels of Evil
3/5   Vallanzasca: Gli Angeli del Male
dir Michele Placido
prd Elide Melli
scr Kim Rossi Stuart, Michele Placido, Antonio Leotti, Toni Trupia, Andrea Leanza
with Kim Rossi Stuart, Filippo Timi, Moritz Bleibtreu, Paz Vega, Francesco Scianna, Valeria Solarino, Gaetano Bruno, Nicola Acunzo, Stefano Chiodaroli, Lino Guanciale, Paolo Mazzarelli Federico Pacifici
timi and stuart release It 21.Jan.11,
UK 27.May.11
10/Italy Fox 2h08

angels of evil Stylish filmmaking and an energetic pace help carry us through this complicated true story from 1970s and 80s Italy. There are a few too many characters to keep straight, and some irrelevant sideroads, but it's a gripping ride.

As Renato Vallanzasca (Stuart) grew up, he graduated from petty crime to full-on bank robberies and kidnapping, eventually becoming one of Milan's most notorious criminals with a gang that included two childhood friends, Enzo and Sergio (Timi and Bliebtreu), and their "little sister" Antonella (Vega). Through brazen crime sprees, prison terms and escapes over some 20 years, he fathers a child with Consuelo (Solarino) and befriends a suave archrival (Scianna). But his ongoing problem is whether or not he can trust those who are closest to him.

Renato's story is thoroughly gripping, yet the filmmakers continually add side characters and details. This means that the movie gallops full-speed without pausing for breath. We really want to get to know Renato better, and watch his relationships develop with old and new friends, plus a series of women who come and go rather suddenly. But the film is edited like an entire TV series chopped into feature-film length.

This means that it's often difficult to keep everyone straight, since we don't have time to get to know them. And it doesn't help that the men look the same, with their big 70s hair and moustaches, while the women change hair-dos in every scene. This gives the film the zing of realism, as the period design is vivid and earthy, with skilled camerawork, music and editing to match.

In the end, it's the fine performances that carry is through the story. Stuart is terrific, diving body and soul into a hugely demanding role. Timi's Enzo also emerges as a fascinating man who is troubled by the excesses of money and drugs. And Scianna is superb as the groovy charmer who knows that unity is more effective than competition. Everyone else kind of blurs into the background, which is a bit of a shame. Because focussing more tightly on Renato might have made them more interesting.

15 themes, strong violence, language, drugs, sexuality
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dir-scr Benoit Delepine, Gustave de Kervern
prd Jean-Pierre Guerin, Veronique Marchat
with Gerard Depardieu, Yolande Moreau, Isabelle Adjani, Miss Ming, Benoit Poelvoorde, Anna Mouglalis, Philippe Nahon, Albert Delpy, Catherine Hosmalin, Dick Annegarn, Bouli Lanners, Blutch, Sine
adjani and depardieu release Fr 21.Apr.10,
US Jan.11 psiff, UK 3.Jun.11
10/France 1h32

london film fest
mammuth Mixing warm drama with hilariously deadpan comedy, this is one of the most unusual road movies you'll ever see. But the filmmakers' approach is clever, artful and often very funny as it makes profound observations about human nature.

Serge (Depardieu), better known as Mammuth, is a long-haired biker dude who has retired from working in a slaughterhouse. His sharp-tongued wife Catherine (Moreau) has no idea how he'll fill his time and, when his pension doesn't come through, she starts to worry that her supermarket job isn't enough to make ends meet. So he dusts off his old motorbike and heads off in search of the papers he needs to claim his pension. But riding it sparks memories of his lost love (Adjani), who haunts him as he travels from town to town.

Low-key and meandering, the film is packed with dry humour. Filmmakers de Kervern and Delepine infuse each scene with an unpredictable absurdity, both background sight gags and much broader slapstick, although it's all played dead straight. It's similar to Napoleon Dynamite in the way it observes the lumbering Serge, but it has a sharper sense of self-awareness: Serge knows he's a mess, and his bluster is an expression of his feelings of uselessness.

Obviously, the nickname refers Serge's (and Depardieu's) elephantine physicality, And the filmmakers are also noting how this loyal and skilled but uneducated blue-collar worker is like some sort of extinct creature in the modern world. Depardieu is terrific in the role, pretty hideous to look at but utterly endearing. His increasingly surreal quest seems maddeningly futile, and yet we can tell that it's helping him come to terms with who he is and where life has taken him. As Serge's journey progresses, a plaintive, emotional quality emerges in scenes that are funny, strange, outrageous and sometimes thrillingly beautiful. His efforts to locate documentation of his life are constantly thwarted, and his reunions with his distant family members are strange and a bit twisted. Both indulgent and episodic, the film's skilfully assembled with attention to the smallest of details. Everything that happens gives us more insight into this man's soul. And it helps him figure it out too.

15 themes, language, sexuality, some grisliness
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Point Blank
4/5   À Bout Portant
dir Fred Cavaye
scr Fred Cavaye, Guillaume Lemans
prd Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont
with Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem, Elena Anaya, Gerard Lanvin, Mireille Perrier, Claire Perot, Moussa Maaskri, Pierre Benoist, Valerie Dashwood, Brice Fournier, Patrice Guillain, Adel Bencherif
anaya and lellouche
release Fr 1.Dec.10,
UK 10.Jun.11, US 29.Jul.11
10/France Gaumont 1h24
point blank Lean and fierce, this French thriller wastes no time getting our adrenaline pumping. It throws us straight into a frantic situation and continually asks us what we'd be willing to do to survive.

Samuel (Lellouche) is a hospital orderly trying to become a qualified nurse just as his wife Nadia (Anaya) has been bed-bound in her last months of pregnancy. Then Hugo (Zem) arrives in the emergency room after a road crash, and everything changes. Nadia is kidnapped, and Samuel finds himself in the middle of a war between criminal thugs and a dirty cop (Lanvin). And the one detective (Perrier) who's trustworthy thinks Samuel's involved in a murder. At this point Samuel realises it's useless to clear his name; he just needs to rescue Nadia.

Besides a few establishing scenes, which efficiently deepen the characters in very little time, the film is structured as a nonstop chase that feels increasingly desperate and hopeless. And Cavaye manages to make each high-risk sequence remarkably believable as Samuel is forced to work with the mysterious criminal Hugo if he has any hope of survival. As played by Lellouche, we can easily identify with him as a guy whose only knowledge about guns comes from watching movies like this one.

This film is so much fun to watch that we barely have time to notice how clever the script and direction are. They seamlessly guide our sympathies, building an almost unbearable level of tension as the stakes get higher, and constantly shock us with sudden, terrifying violence. Many of the most important scenes in the film convey everything without a single line of dialog; it's a striking display of expert acting, directing, camerawork, editing and sound.

Cavaye orchestrates all of this so skilfully that we never mind some of the more outrageous plot turns. He also doesn't waste a single frame of film, throwing everything at us in under 90 minutes, including a brilliantly concise climax and a barbed epilogue. The film may not have much to say beyond making the point that human beings are more resilient than anyone suspects. But it makes that point in a wonderfully entertaining way.

15 themes, language, violence
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dir-scr Francois Ozon
prd Eric Altmeyer, Nicolas Altmeyer
with Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godreche, Jeremie Renier, Sergi Lopez, Evelyne Dandry, Bruno Lochet, Elodie Frege, Gautier About, Jean-Baptiste Shelmerdine
godreche and deneuve release Fr 10.Nov.10,
US 18.Mar.11, UK 17.Jun.11
10/France 1h43


potiche A sense of barbed optimism infuses this 1977-set French comedy. Not only does it keep a smile on our faces, but it also quietly says some potent things about old prejudices that still linger in Western society.

Life-loving Suzanne (Deneuve) is married to uptight umbrella factory manager Robert (Luchini). Their daughter Joelle (Godreche) is fed up with her controlling husband, determined not to become a trophy wife like her mother, while their son Laurent (Renier) is marrying someone Robert feels is unacceptable. Meanwhile, the union is on strike for better conditions, and when Robert refuses to give his workers anything, Suzanne starts negotiating with a union-friendly local politician Maurice (Debardieu) with whom she has a past. Soon the children and Robert's secretary (Viard) are in the middle of a farce.

Cheeky and charming, the film has a hilarious 1970s vibe, with colourful visuals and groovy music. Deneuve is clearly having a ball, breezing through each scene as if she's about to break into song or dance (she does both). Suzanne is a terrific character, a woman who has always been underestimated and sidelined finally getting the chance to let her intellect out of its cage. The title refers to a French expression about the final drop in the vase that makes it overflow (potiche means both vase and trophy wife).

As a director, the versatile Ozon keeps the source play's limited perspective: the larger action happens off-screen while we watch the characters react. Besides keeping the film brisk and breezy, this heightens the comedy and keeps us personally involved without being distracted by union riots or side relationships. Instead, Ozon tightly controls the freewheeling plot, revealing outrageous secrets with a smirk and setting characters up for sparky confrontations.

Along the way, the film explores class-consciousness from several angles while poking fun at sexism and snobbery. Suzanne is forced to confront both, and Deneuve's effortless performance means that the film never feels preachy. Her interaction with Luchini and Depardieu crackles with subtext that keeps us chuckling even as the story grapples with these big, relevant issues. But then, it's all so light and charming that most viewers won't even notice, merely seeing it as a quirky period in the past. If only.

15 themes, language,sexuality
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