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last update 2.Apr.12
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Pascal Arnold, Jean-Marc Barr
scr Pascal Arnold
prd Pascal Arnold, Jean-Marc Barr, Teddy Vermeulin
with Pierre Perrier, Lizzie Brochere, Jean-Marc Barr, Gray Orsatelli, Ionita Radu Georgescu, Akela Sari, Thomas Rouer, Djedje Apali, Astrid Vermeulin, Pierre-Yves Kiebbe, Marc Rioufol, Laurent Delbecque
release Fr 8.Jun.11,
Dark and involving, this extremely well-made French drama draws us in through its strong characters and intensely creepy story. Although it's not very clear what the filmmakers are trying to say.
Chris (Perrier) is a predatory young man who effortlessly seduces every woman he runs into. And when he finds Aurore (Brochere), he finally meets his match. Impulsively, they run off together in the van Chris calls home. Despite his consuming jealousy, Chris has a thing for young gay hustlers, which Aurore puts up with even when he "accidentally" kills one. As they travel, they meet up with people from Chris' shady past. And as the body count grows, Aurore gets more involved in his killing spree, but she also starts to soften him.
Despite his seductive charm, Chris is so unlikeable that it's hard to understand what Aurore sees in him. Besides his murderous actions, he's bossy and over-confident, as well as pathologically controlling and violent. The only explanation is that she's needy and unstable. No, these people are too messed up even to be anti-heroes, which kind of leaves the film with a gaping hole where sympathetic central characters should be.
Filmmakers Arnold and Barr illustrate Chris and Aurore's bond with set pieces involving explicit nudity and sex. But it's difficult to feel that the characters have a strong enough bond to sustain them when things turn increasingly nasty. That said, the film is so skilfully shot and edited that it draws us into the rhythms of Chris and Aurore's odyssey, quietly revealing information and secrets along the way. And both Perrier and Brocherie deliver superbly enigmatic performances that keep us at arm's length even as we want to know more.
Of course, the question is what the filmmakers are trying to explore here beyond the link between sex and violence. Chris claims to be preserving these young guys' innocence, so is he some kind of avenging angel, a self-hating homosexual or just a psychopath? And is Aurore so desperate for a boyfriend that she's willing to put up with a serial killer? While it's difficult to care about these damaged people, the film is still darkly entertaining.
18 themes, language, violence, strong sexuality
R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir-scr Maryam Keshavarz
prd Karin Chien, Maryam Keshavar
with Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, Reza Sixo Safai, Soheil Parsa, Nasrin Pakkho, Keon Mohajeri, Sina Amedson, Amir Barghashi, Fariborz Daftari, Amir Soleimani, Siro Fazlian, Milad Hadchiti
release US 26.Aug.11,
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
This Iranian drama was far too provocative to be filmed in Tehran, but shooting in Lebanon gave filmmaker Keshavarz the opportunity to inventively explore some hugely important themes in an unusually honest way.
Atafeh (Boosheri) is an upper-class teen living with her musician parents (Parsa and Pakkho). They're happy to see black-sheep son Mehran (Safai) return home after years of drug abuse, although his devout faith worries the liberal family. Most nights, Atafeh is out partying with her less well-off best pal Shireen (Kazemy), befriending a couple of guys (Mohajeri and Amedson) and helping them dub Milk into Farsi for underground distribution. But the morality police are on the prowl, so when Atafeh and Shireen's friendship shifts into a romance, they dream of escaping together.
Freed from the constraints of Iranian censorship, Keshavarz authentically portrays young life in Tehran with parties, drugs, underground art and a defiant sexuality, all tinged with the religious culture. Atafeh's more secular parents understand all of this, allowing their children considerable freedom, but Shireen's guardians are more tied to the old ways, presenting a series of suitors for Shireen's hand in marriage. Meanwhile, Mehran's growing fundamentalism adds a sting to the tale, showing a quiet shift that is shutting down what was once an open, lively culture.
These restraints are seen in quiet comments (such as Atafeh's father hoping that one day the men and woman can swim together in the sea) and more scary encounters with the cops and judges who seem to use the morality laws to justify invasive interrogations and line their own corrupt pockets. Yes, this is strong material, but the filmmaking approach is so off-handed that it never feels heavy-handed.
It helps that Boosheri and Kazemy are so natural, mixing their characters' life-loving personalities with the more edgy reality of their circumstances. intriguingly, their sexual encounters are portrayed as dreams, an escape to an idealised accepting world out there somewhere. Of course, these are themes that echo all over the world, and not just in obviously repressive places. It's telling - and terrifying - that the only characters who aren't troubled by what is happening are those who take a hardline religious approach.
15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Morten Tyldum
scr Lars Gudmestad, Ulf Ryberg
prd Marianne Gray, Asle Vatn
with Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnove Macody Lund, Julie Olgaard, Eivind Sander, Baard Owe, Reidar Sorensen, Kyrre Haugen Sydness, Joachim Rafaelsen, Gunnar Skramstad Johnsen, Lars Skramstad Johnsen, Daniel Bratterud
release Nor 26.Aug.11,
TORONTO FILM FEST
Based on Jo Nesbo's bestselling novel, this freewheeling action-thriller is hugely entertaining because, besides being unpredictable and suspenseful, it's also relentlessly hilarious. But in fine Scandinavian style, it's played dead straight.
Roger (Hennie) is a fast-talking Oslo recruitment agent who's secretly self-conscious about his diminutive height. Terrified that his leggy, blonde wife Diana (Lund) will leave him, he moonlights as an art thief so he can afford to buy her expensive gifts. Then she introduces him to the suave, tall Clas (Coster-Waldau), who is both looking for a high-powered job and owns a lost Rubens painting. But before he knows what's happened, Roger is running for his life from a relentless high-tech assassin. And the cops think he's a killer.
The plot propels Roger at full-speed through a series of outrageous situations that are amusingly deadpan while being genuinely thrilling at the same time. The title is a riot of puns relating to Roger's job, his pursuer and the idea that someone may have planted microscopic tracking devices in his hair. And while there's not much to the plot beyond the frenetic chase, the film is so much fun, and the hero is so easy to identify with, that we can't help but be hugely entertained.
Director Tyldum assembles this as a series of breathless set pieces, from art heists in broad daylight to a mind-boggling car crash. And the actors add insinuating layers , revealing glimpses of strength and vulnerability when we least expect them. The entire cast is excellent, and there's a range of terrific side-characters including Sander as Roger's scruffy partner in crime, Olgaard as Roger's lovelorn ex and Sorensen as the tenacious cop on the case.
At the centre, Hennie's Roger is an enjoyable action-movie hero who crushes every stereotype. Despite doing everything conceivable to lose our sympathy, we can't help but root for this idiot. As the events spiral out of control, Roger has no idea where he's going, only that he can't go back. But the film is so full of witty twists and turns that we just hold on for the ride, sure that the writer has something clever up his sleeve. Indeed he does.
15 themes, language, strong violence, sexuality
R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
North Sea Texas
MUST SEE Noordzee, Texas
dir Bavo Defurne
prd Yves Verbraeken
scr Bavo Defurne, Yves Verbraeken
with Jelle Florizoone, Mathias Vergels, Eva Van der Gucht, Katelijne Damen, Nina Marie Kortekaas, Luk Wyns, Thomas Coumans, Ben Van den Heuvel, Nathan Naenen, Noor Ben Taquet, Ella-June Henrard, Daniel Sikora
release Bel 16.Mar.11,
US Jan.12 psiff, UK 6.Apr.12
This gentle coming-of-age film is gorgeously shot and acted, sharply capturing those first feelings of love and loss. It's a powerful exploration of teen yearning, made even more remarkably by its sensitive approach to the characters' sexuality.
In a coastal Belgian town where his accordion-playing mother Yvette (Van der Gucht) is a minor celebrity, Pim (Florizoone) has a lively imagination, dressing as a princess while trying to find his place in the world. As he turns 15, his friendship with Gino (Vergels) shifts into something new, as they camp in the dunes and ride around on Gino's motorbike while exploring their sexuality. So when Gino ditches him for a girl, the devastated Pim retreats into his drawings. Then Yvette's achingly cool ex-lodger Zoltan (Coumans) returns to shake things up.
The gifted Defurne cleverly uses warmly textured cinematography, sound and editing to put us into Pim's perspective, so we see his fantasy and reality merging in ways he never expected. The film is packed with moments that truthfully reveal internalised feelings of joy and longing. And young actors Florizoone and Vergels give beautifully naturalistic performances that allow us to see into their souls regardless of what they say or do.This is a remarkably honest depiction of adolescence with a terrific range of sharp characters. The mothers - both Pim's mother and Gino's (Damen) - see what's happening but have worries of their own. Gino's sister Sabrina (Kortekaas) is obsessively in love with Pim, while Yvette's semi-boyfriend Etienne (Wyns) feels stuck on the sidelines. All of them have vivid, full lives even though the film remains tightly focussed on Pim.
As it covers a span of years, the story encompasses a remarkable range of experiences and emotions, all portrayed with both artistry and authenticity. There are moments that are heartbreakingly intense as well as beautifully hopeful. Defurne is a rare filmmaker who has the ability to combine life's light and dark moments in ways that force us to examine our own feelings and experiences. And while this film feels like it's heading for an unspeakable tragedy, it also has some pleasant surprises up its sleeve.
15 themes, language, sexuality
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall