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Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...

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last update 20.May.13
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Beyond the Walls
4.5/5   Hors les Murs
dir-scr David Lambert
prd Jerome Dopffer, Daniel Morin, Jean-Yves Roubin
with Matila Malliarakis, Guillaume Gouix, David Salles, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin, Flonja Kodheli, Carmela Locantore, Matilda Perks, Ingrid Heiderscheidt, Juliette Bouly, Adonis Danieletto, Albert Jeunehomme, Jean-Yves Lewillion
malliarakis and gouix
release Oct.12 fffn,
US Jan.13 psiff,
UK 26.Aug.13
12/Belgium 1h38

london l&g festival
Beyond the Walls While it may seem like a trip into a more extreme side of sexuality, this beautifully played Belgian drama is actually a revealing exploration of the push and pull of relationships. Whether or not you can identify with the story and setting, the ideas and interaction resonate strongly.

After a drunken night out, Paulo (Malliarakis) is rescued by barman Ilir (Gouix), an Albanian immigrant who flirts gently while hiding his true desire. But Paulo has a girlfriend (Desormeaux-Poulin) who is finally fed up with him messing around with other guys. When she throws him out, he turns up on Ilir's doorstep and pesters him into starting a relationship. And just as this blossoms into what might be real love, a twist of fate changes everything, testing their newly formed bond to the limit.

Writer-director Lambert captures the nature of relationships in a way we rarely see on screen, as these men go through cycles of dominance, devotion and helpless adoration. From the first flush of attraction to darker questions about what they're willing to do for each other, the film digs deep beneath the surface. And while it gets pretty dark, a warm sense of humour keeps it grounded. For example, one gently telling scene shows them working out how to play a duet between a piano and bass guitar.

The actors keep every scene raw and natural, and neither is a traditionally handsome romantic lead. Malliarakis is gawky and awkward, while Gouix has a rugged charm; they make an odd couple and know it, but we understand the growing attraction. Much trickier is Paulo's connection with Gregoire (Salles), a sex-shop owner who offers help at a key moment. Even as they explore a kinkier kind of relationship, the issues of control are constantly blurred.

Lambert impressively refuses to allow us to put these characters into boxes, which gives the film a blast of honesty. Some elements of the narrative feel somewhat under-developed, but this allows us to fill in the gaps from our own understanding, which makes everything that happens feel startlingly personal. And the way Lambert plays with the boundaries of relational power is so truthful that it haunts us long after the story ends.

15 themes, language, sexuality
23.Mar.13 llgff
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Everybody Has a Plan
3/5   Todos Tenemos un Plan
dir-scr Ana Piterbarg
prd Mariela Besuievski, Gerardo Herrero, Viggo Mortensen, Vanessa Ragone
with Viggo Mortensen, Soledad Villamil, Sofia Gala, Daniel Fanego, Javier Godino, Oscar Alegre, Carolina Roman, Joaquin Daniel
arslan release Arg 30.Aug.12,
UK 31.May.13
12/Argentina 1h58

london festival
Everybody Has a Plan Moody and atmospheric, but lacking a compelling plot, this film holds our interest because of the fascinating settings and a striking dual performance from Mortensen. But it's difficult to see the point of the meandering filmmaking style.

Buenos Aires doctor Agustin (Mortensen) is unsettled in his life with his wife Claudia (Villamil), who's insisting on adopting an orphaned infant. As they decide to separate, his twin brother Pedro (also Mortensen) arrives to tell him that he's in the final stages of cancer. So Agustin assumes Pedro's identity and heads back to their family home in an isolated river system, where Pedro and childhood friend Adrian (Fanego) are involved in a botched kidnapping. But sorting out the mess is complicated, especially when Agustin finds himself drawn to Pedro's bee-keeping assistant Rosa (Gala).

Filmmaker Piterbarg has an artful eye for the settings, creating contrasts between the city and swampy backwoods that are so jarring that we sometimes feel like we're watching a dream. And the story is darkly unnerving as Agustin discovers that Pedro has become a local pariah for his dodgy involvement with Adrian. Each scene bristles with awkward interaction that's ramped up because of the secrets everyone is hiding. Although we never quite understand why.

Mortensen's transition from clean-cut doctor to scruffy woodsman is striking because Augustin must rediscover things about himself he thought he'd left behind. the performance is internalised, only revealing his thoughts in his flickering eyes. And the people around him are equally enigmatic and sometimes creepy. Gala's luminous Rosa thinks she can reduce evil in the world by being nice to everyone. Villamil's Claudia has an aggressive edge that amplifies when she investigates Agustin's disappearance. And Fanego's Adrian is an unstable monster.

So it's frustrating that the film is so relentlessly dull, drifting through the story without a sense of purpose. We're mesmerised by the lush settings and Mortensen's quiet intensity, but aside from a couple of wrenching moments nothing really grabs our interest. And we never really believe Agustin and Rosa's romance. In the end we're not sure what Piterbarg is trying to say. That you have to return to your roots to find yourself? That you'll only find true peace after you die? Either way, the film leaves us cold.

12 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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The Hidden Face
4/5   La Cara Oculta
dir Andi Baiz
scr Andi Baiz, Hatem Khraiche Ruiz-Zomilla
prd Andres Calderon, Cristian Conti
with Quim Gutierrez, Martina Garcia, Clara Lago, Alexandra Stewart, Marcela Mar, Humberto Dorado, Julio Pachon, Juan Alfonso Baptista, Marcela Bejumea, Maria Soledad Rodriguez, Jose Luis Garcia
gutierrez and garcia
release UK 20.May.13
11/Colombia Fox 1h43
The Hidden Face Stylish filmmaking makes the most of this relatively simple thriller, which has touches of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King in its story of flawed people suffering excessively for their sins. And the sleek approach to the inventively nasty story keeps us hooked.

Adrian (Gutierrez) is a Spanish conductor working for a Bogota orchestra. While struggling to get over being abandoned by his girlfriend, he drinks rather too much whiskey and is rescued by barmaid Fabiana (Garcia). But when he invites her back to his country home, she feels like something isn't quite right. Flash back to his life with previous girlfriend Belen (Lago), who grows increasingly annoyed at Adrian's flirtatious ways. So when their landlady (Stewart) shows her a secret room in the house, she hatches a plan that couldn't possibly go horribly wrong.

Filmmaker Baiz ramps everything up exponentially with gorgeously fluid widescreen cinematography by Josep M Civit and a lush score by Federico Justid that stirs in some florid Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Baiz also uses plenty of old-school movie trickery, including trapped perspectives, sudden thunderclaps and blackouts, and a dog that seems to know what's really going on. Not to mention several entertaining red herrings, including a rather too-interested detective, a sexy-flirty violinist and the landlady's Nazi past.

Even so, it's all fairly superficial. And the plot isn't hugely complicated, even though its twists and turns are sometimes unexpected and nasty. What makes the film involving is the way the characters come to life. Each of the women does something deeply reprehensible, and the screenplay makes them pay for it. Still, Garcia and Lago manage to find the pathos in Fabiana and Belen: we understand why they make their decisions even if we wish they had done it differently. Meanwhile, Gutierrez quietly underscores Adrian's essential innocence, even if he's the one who causes all of the grief.

Through it all, Baiz maintains a balance of first-rate production values and B-movie fun, which echoes the way Brian DePalma played with Hitchcock's style in his early films. Lurid and unsettling, the movie gets under our skin using every cheap trick in the book. But when they're deployed in such a skilful, entertaining way, we don't mind at all.

15 themes, language, grisliness, sexuality
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The Stoker
dir-scr Aleksey Balabanov
prd Sergey Selyanov
with Mikhail Skryabin, Aida Tumutova, Aleksandr Mosin, Yuriy Matveyev, Anna Korotayeva, Vyacheslav Pavlyut, Vyacheslav Telnov, Varvara Belokurova, Alina Politova, Petr Semak, Sayan Mongush, Roman Burenkov
release Rus 13.Oct.10,
UK 17.May.13
10/Russia 1h27
The Stoker Balabanov makes filmmaking look effortless, cleverly juggling a series of complex characters, plot-threads and themes. The way he maintains the balance is impressive artistically, and thoroughly engaging too. And his recreation of a period barely 20 years in the past is strikingly inventive.

In snowy 1990s St Petersburg, Ivan (Skryabin) stokes the city boiler-room fires and spends his spare time writing a novel on an old manual typewriter. An ethnic Yakut, he's an ageing, shell-shocked veteran of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He quietly allows his old military colleague Mikhail (Mosin), who's now a gangster, to dispose of bodies in his fires while he updates him on the progress of his book. Meanwhile his daughter Sasha (Tumutova) is in love with Bison (Matveyev), a hulking soldier who's also having an affair with her friend Masha (Korotayeva), Mikhail's daughter.

With the help of a perky guitar-based score, Balabanov maintains a gently comical tone as all of these colourful people circle around each other. Scenes are packed with telling pauses, dispassionate violence and quiet observation. Two young girls (Belokurova and Politova) love to watch Ivan work, staring into the fire as if it's a television show. And two gangsters (Pavlyut and Telnov) are locked in a battle involving hitmen who carry kalashnikovs in guitar cases and cheat at card games.

The actors are hilariously deadpan, moving to their own internalised rhythms through the Wild West streets of St Petersburg. Everyone seems resigned to their work and relationships rather than enjoying any of it. Even Ivan's book is something he simply can't help but write. And as the farcical strands become increasingly intertwined, the film is a collection of immaculately orchestrated subplots and set-pieces. Much of this shocks us with a combination of irony and subdued emotion: the callous disregard for human life is heartbreaking.

Balabanov quietly weaves in an underlying theme about injustice, as Ivan's novel follows Yakut characters in the 19th century who were treated appallingly by the Russians. Ivan misses his wife, who now lives in Detroit, and gives his daughter what cash he has, which is never enough for her. And in every room someone enters, there's a fire burning to remind us that the Russian empire was stolen from suppressed ethic groups. And Balabanov suggests that they won't always take it so quietly.

15 themes, violence, sexuality
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall