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last update 23.Sep.12
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4.5/5   MUST must see SEE  
aka: Love
dir-scr Michael Haneke
prd Margaret Menegoz
with Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud, William Shimell, Ramon Agirre, Rita Blanco, Carole Franck, Dinara Drukarova, Laurent Capelluto, Jean-Michel Monroc, Suzanne Schmidt
trintignant and riva release Fr 24.Oct.12,
UK 16.Nov.12, US 19.Dec.12
12/France 2h07

32nd Shadows Awards

london film fest
Amour Haneke never makes easy movies, and this is no exception. But as he explores the relationship between an ageing couple, Haneke avoids the bleakness that has characterised most of his films. And without even a hint of manipulation or sentimentality, he moves us deeply.

Georges and Anne (Trintignant and Riva) are enjoying their golden years in Paris. Then one day after attending a concert by Anne's former piano student, she has a small seizure that signals a slide into partial paralysis. But Georges is happy to care for her, and they find moments of joy together even under the meddling eye of their daughter Eva (Huppert). As Anne's condition deteriorates, Georges struggles to cope with the demands of her care, even with the help of a nurse (Franck) and his neighbours (Agirre and Blanco). But it's never a chore.

Haneke shoots this with his trademark long takes, letting the camera capture the scene and then hanging around perhaps a little too long for comfort. As a result, we not only get a vivid sense of what these people are going through, but we also learn telling details about them. It's unfussy and straightforward, with no musical score and a continual sense of pragmatism in the face of increasing anxiety. In other words, we feel like we're living through this with Georges.

Because of a tone-setting prologue, we know exactly where the film is heading. But Haneke still has the power to shock us. Several scenes jolt us out of our seats with surprising twists and turns, while other moments are gorgeously tender. And internalised dreamlike sequences offer further insight. All of this is exquisitely played by Trintignant and Riva; her role might be more visually staggering to watch, but his quiet transformation is just as forceful.

All of this is so realistic that we are carried right in to the middle of the drama. The plot lurches forward a few times, throwing us out of the story until we can catch up. And there are a couple of contrived touches (such as the pigeon scenes). But every moment is played with a quiet authenticity as Haneke cleverly fills the frame with telling images that help us experience each event with haunting power.

12 themes, language, disturbing images
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Four More Years
3.5/5   Fyra År Till
dir Tova Magnusson
scr Wilhelm Behrman
prd Martin Persson
with Bjorn Kjellman, Eric Ericson, Tova Magnusson, Andre Wickstrom, Sten Ljunggren, Inger Hayman, Iwar Wiklander, Jacob Nordenson, Richard Ulfsater, Christina Stenius, Lisbeth Johansson, Elisabeth Falk
kjellman and ericson
release Swe 26.Nov.10,
US Jun.11 fff, UK 24.Sep.12
10/Sweden 1h27
four more years From Sweden, this politically slanted romantic-comedy combines astute themes with likeable characters. And even if it never breaks the surface, and gets bogged down in its plotting, it touches on serious issues while keeping us enjoyably entertained.

Liberal Party leader David was in line to be prime minister when his coalition collapsed in the general election, leaving him in political limbo. Although his wife-manager Fia (Magnusson) and assistant Jorgen (Wickstrom) insist that he'll get there in four years. Then rival politician Martin (Ericson) catches his eye. Martin has just split from his boyfriend (Ulfsater), and his effortless flirting appeals to the awkwardly repressed David, who comes from a strict Catholic family. Despite his reluctance to admit that he might be gay, David can't help from falling for Martin.

Magnusson's brightly comical direction and nicely underplayed performances keep the romance gentle and sparky. Behrman's script astutely pokes fun at backroom politics, as David's team tells him what to say and even how he feels about each issue. Meanwhile, the banter between David and Martin mixes politics with personal themes to cleverly show how well-suited they are to each other despite the political gulf between them.

Fortunately the political details are fairly superficial, so non-Swedes won't get lost in the discussions. And the side characters have huge personalities, which adds a lot of distracting colour. There are also plenty of dark edges around the comedy, most notably in the way David refuses to be honest about his relationships. So the film's main strength is cleverly subtle, as it confronts head-on the issue of repressed sexuality.

By contrast, David's sneaking around with Martin is warm and funny, even though we know it all must come out of the closet once we get through the standard rom-com story structure, which is somewhat annoying as it combines David's deep-seated insecurities and Martin's politically motivated lifestyle. But there are some nice surprises along the way, especially in David and Fia's relationship, which is dealt with in a way that's blends warm realism with spiky comedy. And even if we know where it's headed, once we get through the murk of the second act, it's a gratifying journey.

15 themes, language, sexuality,
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3.5/5   Intouchables
dir-scr Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
prd Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky, Laurent Zeitoun, Yann Zenou
with Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Thomas Soliveres, Dorothee Briere Meritte, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Gregoire Oestermann, Josephine de Meaux
sy and cluzet
release Fr 2.Nov.11,
US 25.May.12, UK 21.Sep.12
11/France Gaumont 1h52
Untouchable A sparky sense of humour livens up what could easily have been a relentlessly heartwarming true story about unlikely friends. The writing and direction sometimes get rather indulgent, but it's consistently engaging and entertaining. And also important.

Philippe (Cluzet) is a wealthy Parisian who, as a quadriplegic, can't cope with the pity and condescendence from everyone who applies to work as his carer. Then the burly Driss (Sy) turns up, merely needing a refusal so he can claim unemployment benefits, and Philippe is impressed by his honest, teasing manner. On the other hand, Driss has a criminal record, so Philippe's minders (Le Ny and Fleurot) worry he won't fit in. Well of course he won't: he's from the roughest part of town and has no experience in health care.

The main theme is that there are more important things than experience and efficiency: namely true compassion and friendship, especially when combined with honesty even in the touchiest situations. So both men continually challenge each other in uncomfortable ways. Driss is so unexpectedly frank that he brings Philippe out of his self-imposed shell. And Philippe helps Driss develop the self-confidence he badly needs.

Cluzet and Sy are superbly cast as men who have nothing in common yet develop a singular bond that goes far beyond employer-employee. It's great fun watching them find similarities in their senses of humour while helping each other discover a new aspect to life. Both actors add tiny details while also shining in the bigger physical scenes and the darker emotional moments. And both Le Ny and Fleurot contribute some feisty zing to their roles.

Nakache and Toledano write and direct this with considerable skill, keeping the images slick and smooth while shaping the story into a fairly traditional movie structure. Sometimes this feels clanking and obvious, with some sudden plot points, over-the-top comedy and surging musical montage scenes that get our adrenaline pumping even as we can see the artificiality of it all. But this is a feel-good story about how pity has no place in the way we treat each other. And we leave the cinema looking at people just a little bit differently.

15 themes, language, drugs
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You Are God
3/5   Jestes Bogiem
dir Leszek Dawid
scr Maciej Pisuk
with Marcin Kowalczyk, Tomasz Schuchardt, Dawid Ogrodnik, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Katarzyna Wajda, Magdalena Kacprzak, Piotr Nowak, Malgorzata Zajaczkowska, Miroslaw Neinert, Przemyslaw Bluszcz, Halina Bednarz, Elzbieta Karkoszka
release Pol/UK 21.Sep.12
12/Poland 1h50
you are god Hotly anticipated in Poland, this is the well-known true story of one of the nation's most popular hip-hop artists. But since no one has heard of him outside Poland, the film feels somewhat fragmented and confusing.

Magik (Kowalczyk) is a young rapper who is so lost in his artistic world that he's pretty oblivious to everyone around him. So when two other rappers, Fokus and Rahim (Schuchardt and Ogrodnik) suggest that they form the band Paktofonika, he goes along with it. After their first songs are stolen and released, they begin to become a sensation. And manager Gistaw (Jakubik) helps push them even further into the spotlight. But Magik is struggling to deal with fame, especially as his thoughtless behaviour jeopardises his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend Justyna (Wajda).

Set in the late 1990s, the film has a gritty, grey sheen that reflects the gloomy struggle of working class characters who have little going for them beyond their impressive musical talent, and even that is stolen from them. Yes, it's a pretty dark drama, and the events unfold with infighting, outside pressures and only occasional high points, all of which are reflected in their songs.

The cast is excellent, creating believable characters we can sympathise with in rather unexpected ways. At the centre, Kowalczyk gives a terrific debut performance as a troubled young man who is unable to balance the various pressures of his life, which are considerable. It's hard not to see Magik's life as a bit mythologised by this film, which leaves the excellent Wajda in the film's most thankless role.

By contrast, Jakubik offers some light relief as a guy who flies by the seat of his pants. And Schuchardt gives the most textured performance, investing Fokus with raw intensity. But it's difficult to identify with anyone in the story, since the narrative is riddled with gaping holes. Audiences familiar with Paktofonika won't have any trouble following it, but the story lurches past key events while over-playing some more emotive moments to build a legend around Magik that he clearly could never live up to.

15 themes, language, drugs, violence
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