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last update 6.May.12
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Angel and Tony
3.5/5   Angèle et Tony
dir-scr Alix Delaporte
prd Helene Cases
with Clotilde Hesme, Gregory Gadebois, Evelyne Didi, Jerome Huguet, Antoine Couleau, Patrick Descamps, Patrick Ligardes, Lola Duenas, Elsa Bouchain, Marc Bodnar, Corine Marienneau, Antoine Laurent
gadebois and hesme
release Fr 26.Jan.11,
UK 4.May.12
10/France 1h27

Angel and Tony This sensitive French drama has a sharp eye for sparky people trying to overcome past issues and move forward with their own lives and relationships with others. It's engaging on a variety of levels, even as we cringe to see ourselves in each character.

In Normandy, the blunt young Angel (Hesme) has sex with a stranger on her way to a blind date with Tony (Gadebois), a gentle fisherman who lives with his mother Myriam (Didi). Despite his kindness, she ditches him. But while trying, and failing, to work up the courage to reconnect with her young son Yohan (Couleau), who lives with his grandfather (Descamps), she decides to give Tony another go. He's not sure what to do about her forward ways, but helps her get a job and offers her a spare room in his mother's house.

The film's slow, meandering pace belies the prickly undercurrent of the story, and especially Angel's impulsive, sexualised manner. But it also offers insight into her troubled past and highlights the precarious nature of her desire for custody of Yohan. It's intriguing to see Tony patiently putting up with her while Myriam struggles against her wilful detachment. And things come further into focus when Tony's rabble-rousing younger brother Ryan (Huguet) turns up.

There's nothing flashy about the adept, observant filmmaking, as writer-director Delaporte focusses on the awkward interaction between these very different people. They all have similar hopes and desires, but express them in contrasting ways. Watching them learn to cope with each other is fascinating thanks to superb actors who underplay each scene beautifully while drawing out layers of subtext in their interaction.

As a result, some scenes are shocking while others are warm and achingly tender, all in a realistic way that never manipulates. Delaporte consistently refuses to smooth the tetchy interaction into the kind of redemptive sentimentality we usually see in the movies. No, these clashes look more like things we've all experienced in real life, even as the cast and crew approach them with a glimmer of hope. It also makes us think that maybe, if we meet the right people and open up to them, there might be hope for us too.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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dir Aleksandr Sokurov
prd Andrey Sigle
scr Aleksandr Sokurov, Marina Koreneva
with Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinskiy, Isolda Dychauk, Georg Friedrich, Hanna Schygulla, Antje Lewald, Florian Bruckner, Maxim Mehmet, Sigurdur Skulason, Joel Kirby, Eva Kurz, Katrin Filzen
release Rus 9.Feb.12,
UK 11.May.12
11/Russia Proline 2h20


london film fest
faust Sokurov's fractured version of the Goethe play is something of an oddball masterpiece. It's meandering and fairly impenetrable in its madcap excesses, but is packed with eye-popping imagery and challenging ideas about human nature.

In a medieval German town, Dr Faust (Zeiler) is struggling with the meaning of life and the idea of God. Frustrated by the limits of his knowledge, he embarks on a quest that takes him to a chattery old moneylender (Adasinskiy), who gets his autograph and then follows him everywhere, pushing him into a variety of situations. Along the way, Faust falls for the young Margarete (Dychauk), although his chances with her are somewhat lessened when he kills her brother (Bruckner). But the moneylender can help. For a price.

The elaborate animated opening shot descends from the heavens to the village where the doctor is performing a seriously grisly autopsy, looking for a dead man's soul. Blackly comical interaction sits at odds with the doctor's darkly existential thoughts and the moneylender's manipulative bustle. So as the story progresses, moments of Pythonesque absurdity blend with provocative philosophical insight along the road to hell. Sure, money can buy almost anything, but sometimes people want to be bad.

The film is designed like an epic fairy tale, with sets that are packed with fascinating details and dreamlike sequences that angle and squeeze the images as if reality is shifting. Claustrophobic and crowded, scenes bristle with both silly slapstick and sinister foreboding. People literally climb the walls and each other. And the period is intriguingly timeless, with costumes that seem to span the past 500 years. At the centre, Zeiler has a terrific world-weary intelligence mixed with curiosity, while Adasinskiy's freakish physicality keeps everything off-balance.

Sokurov takes a rambling, askance approach to the traditional Faust narrative, and it's not particularly easy to follow. The actors never stop talking in circles, and keeping track of who's whom is a challenge. But the film is a visual feast, shot (by Bruno Delbonnel) and designed (by Elena Zhukova) with artistry and wit, allowing the actors to create vivid characters. We may not quite be able to follow everything they do or say, but their energy and emotions are unforgettable.

15 themes, nudity, grisliness
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Goodbye First Love
3.5/5   Un Amour de Jeunesse
dir-scr Mia Hansen-Love
prd Philippe Martin, David Thion
with Lola Creton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Havard Brekke, Valerie Bonneton, Serge Renko, Ozay Fecht, Max Ricat, Arnaud Azoulay, Louis Dunbar, Philippe Paimblanc, Patrice Movermann, Charlotte Faivre
urzendowsky and creton release Fr 6.Jul.11,
US 20.Apr.12, UK 4.May.12
11/France 1h50

Goodbye First Love Beautifully observed, this warm and spikily emotional drama traces a young woman over a decade during which she tries to come to terms with the truth about her first romance. The plot meanders a bit over the years, but the film is packed with resonant themes.

Camille (Creton) and Sullivan (Urzendowsky) are teenagers in love, unable to keep their hands off each other. They are planning a future together, but that's interrupted by Sullivan's decision to travel to South America with his friends. Camille can't bear to be alone, but knows she has to get on with her life. Years later, she finally opens up romantically to her architecture professor Lorenz (Brekke), and they become a couple. But Sullivan is never far from her mind and eight years later she runs into him again.

Writer-director Hanson-Love vividly captures the flush of young love, using minimalist dialog to emphasise the couple's physical intimacy. "Let's make the most of our youth," they say, and they're not referring to education or travel. Creton and Urzendowsky play these scenes beautifully, and find intriguing layers of meaning when the characters are reunited so many years later. We can see that the attraction is still there, as is the pain of their separation. So as their expectations collide with reality, we feel everything they do.

As the years pass, the film's constantly moving timeline never allows Hanson-Love to luxuriate in the moment. And constantly shifting relationships on and off makes the film drag, as the characters are never able to settle down and live the life they long for. Camille and Sullivan feel bored if they're not together, and so do we. So the plot's continual efforts to part them start to wear us down.

But as an exploration of the powerful emotional bond between people, the film is strongly moving. Even as they try to move on when logistics make their relationship impossible, these are people who simply can't imagine their life without each other. Meanwhile, all around them, other relationships are faltering, parents separate, and every other romance they attempt feels somehow fake. An effective, haunting film, but it's also rather idealistic.

15 themes, language, some nudity
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Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai
dir Takashi Milke
scr Kikumi Yamagishi, Yasuhiko Takiguchi
prd Toshiaki Nakazawa, Jeremy Thomas
with Ebizo Ichikawa, Eita, Koji Yakusho, Hikari Mitsushima, Naoto Takenaka, Kazuki Namioka, Munetaka Aoki, Hirofumi Arai, Baijaku Nakamura, Takashi Sasano, Ayumu Saito, Takehiro Hira
release US Sep.11 paiff,
Jpn 15.Oct.11, UK 4.May.12
11/Japan 2h06

london film fest
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai Using muted colours and dark emotions, Miike takes a remarkably restrained approach in this 3D remake of the 1962 samurai classic. It's a slow-burning 17th century Shakespearian tragedy with an astonishing attention to detail and a huge emotional kick.

Aimless without a master to serve, the ronin Hanshiro (Ichikawa) turns up in the courtyard of a great house asking to commit ritual suicide and die with honour. Before granting permission, the house prefect Kageyu (Yakusho) recounts the story of the similarly penniless Motome (Eita), who made the same request in the hopes of receiving a compassionate payout and pardon from the nobleman. But Kageyu called Motome's bluff, leading to a horrific seppuku with Motome's bamboo blade. What Kageyu doesn't know is that Hanshiro knew Motome.

The story is revealed through extended flashbacks that depict Motome's fall from grace and the connection he has with Hanshiro. Each scene is a vital piece of an increasingly twisty story that sharply explores the issue of honour in Japanese society. It also, of course, is a strikingly timely story of a world caught in economic troubles as people's lives are ruined by unemployment and class inequality. And as we begin to understand exactly what's at stake for both men, the film grabs hold of us.

Miike uses the 3D to give the sets an intriguing depth, never indulging in samurai-sword gimmickry, which is perhaps a little frustrating, especially as the glasses leave the film looking rather murky. But then, that's rather appropriate for a story like this, which hinges on finely tuned performances from actors who hold the screen with their steely stillness and betray their characters' feelings with the tiniest movements.

As the plot thickens, we slowly begin to understand a much bigger story. There's very little action until the final scenes, which are a shocking collision of tragedy and violence. And because of all the painstaking work in the film's earlier acts, it resolves into a deeply moving story of love and revenge. Not only is this an engaging, fascinating exploration of the Japanese caste system, but it's also a resonant exploration of what's happening in today's equally desperate times.

18 themes, strong language
17.Oct.11 lff
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