Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...

< <   F O R E I G N   > >
last update 13.Oct.13
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Child’s Pose
3.5/5   Pozitia Copilului
dir Calin Peter Netzer
scr Razvan Radulescu, Calin Peter Netzer
prd Calin Peter Netzer, Ada Solomon
with Luminita Gheorghiu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Natasa Raab, Ilinca Goia, Florin Zamfirescu, Vlad Ivanov, Mimi Branescu, Cerasela Iosifescu, Adrian Titieni, Tania Popa, Leontina Vaduva, Ion Grosu
gheorghiu release Rom 8.Mar.13,
UK 1.Nov.13, US 19.Feb.14
13/Romania 1h52


london film festival
Child's Pose Romanian filmmaker Netzer takes a strikingly intimate look at the layers of control within families and society. And while some of the details are a little heavy-handed, witty touches and rippingly honest acting hold our attention. As does the unusually intimate, urgent filmmaking.

Cornelia (Gheorghiu) is a force of nature, a wealthy, middle-aged busy-body who feels like she's losing control of her son Barbu (Dumitrache) to his girlfriend (Goia). Then Barbu's involved in a car crash in which a teen is killed. So Cornelia siezes the moment, calling in favours and meddling in the police officers' work to make sure he isn't charged with manslaughter. This extends to deploying experts to contradict the official story and even tampering with evidence and the key witness (Ivanov). Clearly this is the only way things get done in Romania.

Yes, all of this is a pointed jab at the corruption that still runs rampant long after the fall of Soviet rule. Even sharper is the portrayal of a society in which women run the show while the men passively comply. So Cornelia's husband (Zamfirescu) calls her "Controlia", while Barbu is a spoiled brat who wants mummy to take care of it (this is the childish position of the title). Gheorghiu is superb in the role, storming into drab rooms wrapped in fur questioning everything that happens. Her lack of sympathy is chilling.

Meanwhile the actors around her bring plenty of weight to their roles. And the film is expertly photographed with restless cameras darting around various conversations to reveal links between characters who are strikingly detailed. We follow everything through Cornelia's imperious perspective as she tells people what to do. And once people realise her power, they start bartering for other favours.

Intriguingly, as the story progresses we begin to sympathise with Cornelia's interfering ways, because she's just trying to keep her only son from throwing away his life. That everyone is willing to be bought off isn't her fault. On the other hand, we feel rather pushed around by filmmaking that dips into melodrama but remains emotionally distant. But this is an astute exploration of a global issue, and the powerhouse acting makes it worth a look.

15 themes, language
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Floating Skyscrapers
4/5  Plynace Wiezowce
dir-scr Tomasz Wasilewski
prd Izabela Igel, Roman Jarosz
with Mateusz Banasiuk, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Bartosz Gelner, Katarzyna Herman, Olga Frycz, Izabela Kuna, Miroslaw Zbrojewicz, Mariusz Drezek, Katarzyna Maciag, Michal Grzybowski, Michal Podsiadlo, Aleksandra Bednarz
banasiuk and nieradkiewicz release Pol 22.Nov.13,
UK 6.Dec.13
13/Poland 1h33

london film festival
Floating Skyscrapers Exploring a very dark side of Polish society, which echoes in many parts of the world, this drama is compelling and involving. As well as rather overwhelmingly bleak. But it's so beautifully shot and edited, with sharply naturalistic performances, that we can't help but be drawn in.

Kuba (Banasiuk) is a 20-something in training to compete as a swimmer. He's fit and manly, with a sexy girlfriend, Sylwia (Nieradkiewicz), who has moved in with him and his mother Ewa (Herman). Then on a night out he sparks a friendship with Michal (Gelner). Or is it something more than that? As Kuba begins to wonder, Michal is clearly smitten. His biggest worry is coming out to his father (Zbrojewicz), although his mother (Kuna) is helping him navigate that. On the other hand, Kuba can't even admit to himself that he might be gay.

Writer-director Wasilewski shoots the film with an intense physicality, playing on the machismo that infuses Polish culture. Banasiuk is often naked on-screen: in bed with Sylwia or showering at the pool, Kuba is confident in his masculinity but feels betrayed by his deeper emotions. He can't escape the fact that he wants the love of a man, and his struggle to cope with his internal conflict is portrayed with sensitivity and honesty. As is Gelner's exploration of Michal's own identity and home situation.

Where things get a bit tricky is in the female characters. All of them are very well played, with layers of complexity that continually catch us by surprise by adding provocative textures to the premise. But their roles are more tied to the machinations of the plot, which sometimes feels contrived as it takes a couple of extremely nasty turns. So by the time we get halfway into the film, the sober tone has told us that this isn't a story of happy endings.

Thankfully filmmaker Wasilewski isn't just trying to send us into depression; he's exploring a thorny side of Polish society, including a clash of generations about the issue of sexuality. With gorgeous photography (the underwater sequences are particularly dreamlike) and grounded characters, the film paints a rather desolate picture of love in present-day Poland. But it also finds hope in the human soul.

18 themes, language, sexuality, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Like Father, Like Son
4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Hirokazu Kore-eda
prd Chihiro Kameyama, Tatsuro Hatanaka, Tom Yoda
with Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Franky Lily, Yoko Maki, Keita Ninomiya, Hwang Sho-gen, Jun Kunimura, Kirin Kiki, Isao Natsuyagi, Jun Fubuki, Megumi Morisaki, Hiroshi Ohkochi
Fukuyima and Ninomiya release Jpn 28.Sep.13,
US Sep.13 nyff,
UK 18.Oct.13
13/Japan 2h02

london film festival
Like Father, Like Son Japanese filmmaker Kore-eda is an expert at telling sentimental stories in a way that's genuinely involving but never remotely sappy. By catching tiny details in characters who are cleverly underplayed by the cast, he draws us into the events in an uncanny way that's utterly disarming. And wonderful.

Keita (Ninomiya) is a lively 5-year-old growing up with his demanding well-off father Ryota (Fukuyama) and his quietly observant mother Midori (Ono). When they're notified that Keita was swapped with another baby at birth, Midori wonders why she didn't see it. But Ryota says, "Now it all makes sense!" But what should they do about it now? Their biological son is Ryusei (Sho-gen), raised by the poor shopkeeper Yudai (Lily) and his wife Yukari (Maki) alongside two younger siblings. Do they just swap the boys back? Or are their parental bonds already too strong?

Kore-eda layers big themes into the premise without turning this into an issue-based film. Class consciousness is very strong, as Ryota initially feels like he should buy the other couple off and raise both boys himself. But other factors prove even stronger, such as how Ryota echoes the strong-armed parenting style of his own father (Natsuyagi), while Yudai's chief joy in life is playing with his kids. And the young boys have their own perspectives, using their distinct skills to cope with a situation that's never explained to them.

The film's centre is Ryota's journey to fatherhood, and Fukuyama plays the character beautifully. At first, we see him as a cold, harsh presence almost reluctantly enjoying his time with Keita, but there's a lot more going on. And as the story progresses, we see the situation through his intelligent eyes, pushed by his wife, this other couple and, most pointedly, these two adorable little boys. Yes, both Ninomiya and Sho-gen shamelessly win our hearts.

So it's a good thing that Kore-eda keeps the emotions in check, because it's moving enough without manipulating the audience (ominously, Steven Spielberg has the English-language remake rights). This is a remarkably honest, complex exploration of the real meaning of parenthood, looking knowingly at the connections we form based on longevity, personality and genetics. It never shouts its message, instead letting us see ourselves in every interaction and realise for ourselves what's truly important.

PG some themes
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Tom at the Farm
4/5   Tom à la Ferme
dir Xavier Dolan
scr Xavier Dolan, Michel Marc Bouchard
prd Xavier Dolan, Charles Gillibert, Nathanael Karmitz
with Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu, Manuel Tadros, Jacques Lavallee, Anne Caron, Oliver Morin
release Can Sep.13 tff,
UK Oct.13 lff
13/Canada MK2 1h42


london film festival
Tom at the Farm Dolan once again impresses with his robust filmmaking style, this time with a creepy twist on the Hitchcockian thriller. In addition to creating vivid, enticing characters, he keeps the atmosphere warm and witty, so we're not sure whether the next scene will make us laugh or chill us to the bone.

Tom (Dolan) drives from his home in Montreal to a rural farmland for his boyfriend's funeral. But his mother Agathe (Roy) thinks her son had a girlfriend, so Tom stays quiet. On the other hand, her older son Francis (Cardinal) knows the truth and immediately threatens Tom with bodily harm if the truth comes out. But there's an odd mix of menace and eroticism in the way the beefy, unpredictable Francis bullies him, so Tom is intrigued. Then as he reluctantly starts helping out around the farm he finds Francis' violent mood swings oddly soothing.

Dolan and Cardinal certainly make a striking duo, with their polarised physiques and contrasting demeanours. But both actors cleverly let their masks slip, revealing all sorts of conflicting details under the surface. We sympathise with Tom, and we are both repelled by and drawn to Francis. With Roy's Agathe in the mix, as well as another interloper (Brochu), the shifting dynamic is layered and unpredictable.

Meanwhile, Dolan's direction tells us we're watching a thriller long before anything creepy happens, with Gabriel Yared's Herrmann-style score and North by Northwest landscapes photographed in aggressive soaring takes. So the script only needs to drop hints while tightening the screws. The blood-soaked birth of a calf. Razor-sharp autumn fields of corn. A disassembled car. A tango lesson that isn't quite as clandestine as expected. And finally an anecdote from the past that corrects our suspicions.

This is bracingly clever filmmaking that playfully adapts formal compositions and plotting for a more openly tolerant generation. There are still pockets of society in the most progressive countries where backwoods prejudice mixes with personal frustration in the most dangerous ways. Dolan never lets these much bigger themes overtake the intimate focus on specific characters caught in a dangerous game. But the fact that the ideas are gurgling underneath everything gives this twisted little freak-out an extra kick.

15 themes, language, violence
10.Oct.13 lff
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< <   F O R E I G N   > >

© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall