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last update 16.Oct.11
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After Fall, Winter
dir-scr Eric Schaeffer
prd Edward Flaherty, Zachary James Miller, Eric Schaeffer
with Eric Schaeffer, Lizzie Brochere, Deborah Twiss, Heather Aitken, Rebecca Jameson, Jimmy King
brochere and schaeffer
release UK Sep.11 rff,
US Sep.11 bff
11/US 2h10

raindance film fest
after fall winter It's not necessary to see Schaeffer's 2007 film Fall to enjoy this sequel. Although "enjoy" perhaps isn't the right word, as this is a remarkably honest and sometimes rather grim look at the dark side of love and sex.

After a bestselling first novel, Michael (Schaeffer) watches his career fizzle; his agent can't find a publisher for his latest book. So he sells his New York flat and accepts an invitation from friends to move to Paris, hoping to find a reason to go on with his life. On the streets of Montmartre, he meets the sparky Sophie (Brochere). It wakes a while, but they begin to lower their guard and fall in love. But both have a secret interest in S&M, Michael as a client and Sophie as a dominatrix.

These two characters are immersed in pain and death. At 40, Michael is contemplating suicide after his career failure and feels like he deserves to be humiliated and punished. Meanwhile, Sophie keeps herself distant as inflicts pain on her S&M clients, while in her day job she helps terminally ill patients cope with their fear of death. As the film progresses, she gets increasingly involved in the life of an isolated, straignt-talking 13-year-old girl with leukaemia.

Intriguingly, the developing romance between Michael and Sophie is sweet and sexy, with lively jabs of comedy and emotion. Both are casually hiding their lurid fetishes from the other, but it's clear that this will have to emerge somewhere along the line. And Schaeffer handles this plotting with ease, quietly merging all of the elements of these characters' lives in the background before almost unbearably intense final act.

This is extremely bold filmmaking exploring huge issues of pain and death without wallowing in them. Along the way, Schaeffer knowingly highlights the differences between American and European culture, both everyday things and much bigger ideas about loneliness and purpose in life. It's somewhat indulgent, with rather too much dialog and a plot that lurches in fits and starts, but the film is packed with gorgeous moments that make us stop and look at ourselves. And as these two people begin to see into each others' souls, it gets surprisingly unnerving.

18 themes, language, violence, strong sexuality
15.Sep.11 rff
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dir-scr Eldar Rapaport
prd Alexander Brodzki, Samantha Manalang
with Murray Bartlett, Daniel Dugan, Adrian Gonzalez, Hillary Banks, Bernhard Forcher, Brad Standley, Mike Vaughn, Edward Conna, David LeBarron, Tod H Macofsky, Massimo Quagliano, Amy Clites
dugan and bartlett release US Jun.11 siff,
UK Oct.11 ipf
11/US 1h39

See also:
iris prize fest
august Sharp direction and understated performances make this drama far more evocative than we expect. And its resonance goes beyond the sexuality of the characters, as it beautifully captures the emotions that linger long after a relationship ends.

After living in Spain for a few years, Troy (Bartlett) is back in Los Angeles looking for work. He gets in contact with his ex, Jonathan (Dugan), and they discover that they still feel strongly attracted and connected. Troy encourages this, but Jonathan feels guilty because he has a new boyfriend, Raul (Gonzalez). Over the next few weeks, they become increasingly preoccupied with thoughts of each other, meeting up now and then and eventually falling into bed. Meanwhile, Raul is pressing Jonathan for a stronger commitment and beginning to suspect that something's up.

The story moves in authentic rhythms with fits and starts, fecund pauses and sudden intimacy. Fleshing out his 2004 short Post Mortem, writer-director Rapaport take a thoughtful approach to a situation that's usually played with much more melodrama. But here there's a striking sense of understated realism, as the film slices through the culture of L.A. happiness and contentment to explore undercurrents of unfinished business, emotional neediness and residual desires. "It's all about timing, synchronicity," Troy observes. And Jonathan may be right when he says, "You know, I think you're the devil."

Beautifully shot in widescreen, we really feel the California summer light and heat, and the vivid sense of physicality between the characters is even sexier because it's honest without being gratuitous. Meanwhile, an intriguingly Middle Eastern score (by Surque) adds unexpected textures, and Rapaport's subtle, often elusive direction catches tiny, telling details as these men try to cope with an oppressive heatwave, both literally and figuratively.

All three actors give relaxed, realistic performances that are packed with tentative, awkward dialog. This makes it extremely easy to identify with the complex characters and the messy lives they create for themselves. And as the plot starts drifting in unexpected and slightly vague directions, we never have a clue what will happen. Rapaport grapples with gay community cliches head-on, challenging and subverting them without ever moralising. Instead, this is an honest, mature exploration of emotional interaction.

15 themes, language, sexuality, drugs
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Sleeping Beauty
dir-scr Julia Leigh
prd Jessica Brentnall
with Emily Browning, Rachael Blake, Ewen Leslie, Peter Carroll, Michael Dorman, Eden Falk, Tammy McIntosh, Jamie Timony, Robin Goldsworthy, Mirrah Foulkes, Chris Haywood, Hugh Keays-Byrne
browning release Aus 23.Jun.11,
UK 14.Oct.11
11/Australia 1h41

sleeping beauty Somewhere between a fairy tale and a fever dream, this suggestive film takes us on a sleek, twisted journey into a young woman's life. It raises questions that we have to answer ourselves and leaves us shaken by our own reactions.

Lucy (Browning) is a university student working three jobs to make ends meet and sleeping whenever she can while also caring for her dying friend Birdmann (Leslie). When she answers an ad to work as a lingerie server at private parties, she's thoroughly inspected by new boss Clara (Blake). The work is easy enough until she gets promoted to be a sleeping beauty: gently drugged unconscious before a rich man joins her in bed, with a strict "no penetration" rule. But she can't help but wonder what happens while she's asleep.

Writer-director Leigh takes us on Lucy's odyssey with gorgeously shot scenes that are eerily minimalistic. Much of the film is silent, as we observe Lucy using her delicate physicality to get through life. With this new job, she's tested, buffed and waxed into the perfect virginal ideal, even as we already know that she has a cavalier attitude toward sex. And the glassy filmmaking style reflects her cool attitude to everything; only Birdmann seems able to elicit an emotional response, although we're not sure why.

This distance makes watching the film a strangely empty experience, even though the acting is startlingly layered. Browning is especially riveting; we want to rescue her from this life even though she's clearly happy with it. We see three clients with her as she sleeps: the first (Carroll) is soulful and haunted, while the other two are sadistic and clumsy. But while we get mysterious glimpses beneath the surface of each character, we never have a clue what anyone's back-story is.

Without this history or context, the film becomes almost experimental in the way it explores physicality, gender and even addiction. With its slowly panning camerawork and insinuating glances, it often starts to feel like a Lynchian thriller, but it never generates any visceral tension. Instead, it maintains a sleepy, dreamy pace until the oddly abrupt conclusion: a wake-up that feels strangely moralistic compared to the offhanded depravity of everything else we've just seen.

18 themes, language, nudity, drugs
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Wuthering Heights
dir Andrea Arnold
scr Olivia Hetreed
prd Robert Bernstein, Kevin Loader, Douglas Rae
with Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Shannon Beer, Solomon Glave, Steve Evets, Oliver Milburn, Nichola Burley, Lee Shaw, James Northcote, Paul Hilton, Simone Jackson, Amy Wren
gave release UK 11.Nov.11
11/UK 2h08


london film fest
wuthering heights Emily Bronte's novel is one of the most unsettling books you'll ever read, so it's about time a filmmaker made a darkly disturbing movie out of it. And Arnold's movie is like no other period adaptation we've ever seen: gritty, messy and thoroughly involving.

When the farmer Earnshaw (Hilton) brings a street urchin (Glave) home after a trip to Liverpool, he adopts him as a son and has him christened Heathcliff. He bonds quickly with Earnshaw's daughter Catherine (Beer), but her older brother Hindley (Shaw) continually abuses him. This only gets worse after Earnshaw's death, and when Cathy decides to marry the rich neighbour Linton (Northcote), Heathcliff runs away. Years later, he returns (now Howson) to confront Cathy (now Scodelario) about her true feelings.

Arnold films this like a documentary shot on the bleak 19th century Yorkskire moors. We can feel the gusty wind and driving rain, not to mention the mud squishing under our feet. The contrast between the Earnshaws' windswept farm and the Linton's elegant manor is almost oppressive. And in this time and place, a black orphan boy is the lowest of the low; no wonder Cathy can't consider him as husband material. Even faithful farmhand Joseph (Evets) feels superior.

The script and camerawork are almost overpoweringly earthy. As are the performances. Beer and Glave are simply amazing in their roles, letting us see the life behind their eyes while building a powerful sense of chemistry. After this, Scodelario and Howson are a bit of a letdown, with their characters' more-repressed adult attitudes and their own less-naturalistic performances. But the story holds us in its grip right to the bitter end, cleverly relying on aching physicality rather than arch dialog.

Unlike most period adaptations, this film is more about the dark emotions than sets and costumes. Arnold continually cuts to telling details — little annoyances, dark memories, confusing emotions — all of which get us deeply under the characters' skin. The whole film exists in the moment, so we sometimes have to guess what's happening in the plot. But this also makes it feel urgent and intensely intimate, capturing the mystery and grim beauty of Bronte's novel in a way we never thought we'd see on screen.

12 themes, language, violence
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