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

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last update 29.May.13
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Atomic Age
3.5/5  L’Âge Atomique
dir-scr Helena Klotz
prd Alexandre Perrier
with Eliott Paquet, Dominik Wojcik, Niels Schneider, Mathilde Bisson, Luc Chessel, Clemence Boisnard, Arnaud Rebotini, Cecilia Ranval Cedric Diomede, Simon Jard, Valentine Carette, Pauline Marchetti
wokcik and paquet release Fr 28.Nov.12,
UK 27.May.13
12/France 1h07

london festival
atomic age For the two teens in this one-night odyssey, every encounter feels like the end of the world. While it's somewhat meandering and underplotted, the film is also skilfully shot and edited to peel back the central duo's layers until they are forced to confront the truth about themselves.

Buddies Victor and Rainer (Paquet and Wojcik) have travelled into Paris for a night out, chugging Red Bull before arriving at the nightclub where they start eyeing up the girls. Victor pounces on the first one who shows some interest, locking in on Cecilia (Bisson). Meanwhile Rainer gently fends off the advances of a flirty young guy (Chessel). Then they meet Theo (Schneider), a posh bully who taunts them over their working-class origins. But they give it right back to him. And as the night continues, they begin to share their secrets.

Victor and Rainer are long-haired and pasty, as if they don't get out much or are trying to look like vampires; these guys clearly think they're achingly cool. The dense dialog between them reveals life-long friendship, and their banter with other people is packed with confidence and wit. They can't help but charm anyone they meet, but they are still struggling to figure out their sexuality. So there are constant emotional outbursts and surprising self-revelations.

The film is extremely stylised, with dark moody cinematography in the inky club, lit up by flickering colours and soulful faces that look almost attractive in the mood-lit shadows. And the soundtrack is a haunting mixture of soft-spoken dialog, pulsating music and even voiceover anecdotes from Ronald Reagan. Writer-director Klotz shoots the whole film like a fantasy, keeping the camera close to reveal the internal workings of characters who don't necessarily say what they mean.

This approach may feel rather indulgent, but it holds our interest. The actors are so raw that we almost feel invasive as they grapple with such important personal issues. Rainer is still hurting after leaving his Polish homeland behind, while Victor yearns to feel physical intimacy. Together they wonder if they'll ever be able to escape from each other and find the expected first love. But right now they have each other.

15 themes, language, violence
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dir Regis Roinsard
prd Alain Attal
scr Regis Roinsard, Daniel Presley, Romain Compingt
with Romain Duris, Deborah Francois, Berenice Bejo, Shaun Benson, Melanie Bernier, Nicolas Bedos, Miou-Miou, Eddy Mitchell, Frederic Pierrot, Feodor Atkine, Dominique Reymond, Sara Haskell
duris and francois release Fr 28.Nov.12,
UK 31.May.13
12/France 1h51
Populaire Cheeky and endearing, this shameless crowd-pleaser is predictable and silly, but it's packed with hilarious little touches that continually catch us off guard. And in Duris it has a charming but oddly prickly rom-com leading man.

In 1959, Rose (Francois) applies for a secretarial job in a nearby town to get out of the tiny village where she works in her father's (Pierrot) shop. Her new boss is insurance broker Louis (Duris), who clearly has relationship issues since his best friend, former American Marine Bob (Benson), married his childhood crush Marie (Bejo). In Rose he spots an unconventionally gifted typist, so he sets about training her to enter competitions. And as she rises through the ranks, she begins to fall for him even though he refuses to let his guard down.

OK, so a typing competition isn't a very thrilling premise for a movie, let alone a romantic comedy. But the film's retro vibe is infectious, simply because director Roinsard goes for it with such gusto, playing with costumes, sets, attitudes and music to the same level of detail as an episode of Mad Men. It looks absolutely gorgeous, with sharp colours, stylish hair-dos and characters who seem rather adorably old fashioned even as they shock everyone around them.

Indeed, the film's main theme is that a strong women needed to do something really astonishing to be taken even remotely seriously in post-War Europe. And in this case, that extraordinary achievement was in a strictly female field. But Francois plays Rose as such a feisty character that we can't help but fall for her. She refuses to play the game, knows her strengths and is only insecure when faced with her romantic urges. Although she gets the hang of that in the end.

Duris once again (see Heartbreaker) reveals unexpected charisma: he's not typically handsome enough to be a leading man and he's willing to play roles that make him unlikeable, but we always root for him. And his scenes with costars, especially a pivotal moment with Bejo, add genuine feeling to the film that draws us further in. So even if it's ultimately little more than a frothy bit of fun, there are elements that stick with us.

12 themes, innuendo, brief violence
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The Visitor
3.5/5   Cibrâil
dir-scr Tor Iben
with Sinan Hancili, Engin Sert, Martina Hesse, Peter Beck, Volker Figge, Oliver Weidner, Deniz Kara, Murat Urun, Ingmar Skrinjar, Niklas Peters, Paula Melina Moller, Volker Waldschmidt
hancili and sert release Ger 20.Apr.11,
UK 27.May.13
11/Germany 1h10
the visitor It may look rather simplistic, but this German drama's low-fi approach makes it feel organic, almost Weekend-style. So even if the plot is somewhat contrived, the raw honesty in the performances makes it resonant. And the simple filmmaking style puts us right in the middle of the situation.

Young beat cop Cibrail (Hancili) has an easy life in Berlin with his girlfriend Christine (Hesse), training for the marathon and patrolling the neighbourhood with his partner (Beck). Then Christine's cousin Marco (Sert) comes to visit, joining Cibrail on his training runs. And when Cibrail discovers that Marco is secretly gay, he begins to reveal his own repressed sexuality. And they start a slow dance around each other, flirting with the idea of confronting their mutual attraction. But it's not until Marco decides to return home to Rome that the feelings come to the surface.

Made on an obviously low budget, the film has a relaxed pace and minimal dialog, simply observing the characters as they go through their days. These are believable realistic people, not remotely over-dramatised, and their conversations are genuinely awkward, revealing connections and divisions between them. And Hancili and Sert play Cibrail and Marco as insecure men, perhaps because of the potentially troublesome mixture of their sexuality and their Turkish heritage.

Director Iben makes the most of his simple production values. He has a strong director's eye, even though the photography is sparse and rather basic, roughly assembled with fairly basic settings and some dodgy lighting and sound. The actors' energy levels are a bit low, and a few scenes feel irrelevant or inconclusive. But the characters are strong enough to make up for this. And the off-handed performances hold our interest.

All of this makes the film feel old-fashioned, as if it was made 30 years ago when even talking about homosexuality was forbidden. So subtle flirtation between men becomes hugely melodramatic, and actually expressing it is deeply transgressive. From today's perspective, everyone seems to overreact when just talking would make them happier. But the film's final act is quietly (almost silently) revelatory as Cibrail is forced to live his life with honestly for a change, and it clearly isn't easy for him. Even in today's more enlightened world, this rings strikingly true.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
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The Wall
2/5   Die Wand
dir-scr Julian Roman Polsler
prd Wasiliki Bleser, Rainer Kolmel, Antonin Svoboda, Bruno Wagner
with Martina Gedeck, Karlheinz Hackl, Ulrike Beimpold, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Julia Gschnitzer, Wolfgang M Bauer
gedeck with lynx
release US 31.May.13,
UK 5.Jul.13
12/Austria 1h48

The Wall Based on Marlen Haushofer's 1963 novel, this offbeat Austrian variation on Robinson Crusoe is an intriguing story, beautifully shot and grippingly acted. But the script retains too much of the novel in an annoyingly unnecessary voiceover. And writer-director Polsler visually botches some of the key events.

Driving into a spectacular Alpine valley for a weekend, a woman (Gedeck) stays behind in the cabin while her friends (Hackl and Beimpold) walk into the village for a drink. But they never come back. And in the morning she discovers that she's blocked off from an eerily still outside world by an inexplicable invisible wall. Her only company is the dog Lynx, who gives her a sense of responsibility. She also adopts a stray cow and a couple of cats, and moves to a glorious meadow for the summer.

This story is framed with scenes that seem to take place years later. "I never expected to write this, but I must: I am alone," she says in the incessant narration that continually states the obvious with existential ramblings about how she feels so, erm, alone. But this voiceover undermines both the suspense and Gedeck's performance. And it's a fundamental flaw that the film never overcomes: this is more like an audio book with pretty pictures than a proper movie.

Frankly, it would be much better without narration at all, because Gedeck is a fine actress who can convey everything wordlessly. The voiceover notes that she finds solace by talking to Lynx, but we never see her do it. Instead, it turns preachy as time passes and she begins to accept her new life, reaching some sort of "mute comprehension" between her and nature. But in Gedeck's subtly expressive face we've already seen all that and more.

At least the imagery is beautiful, capturing both the intimate performance and the grandeur of nature. There are a few freak-outs along the way, including a tense meeting with another survivor (Bauer), but these scenes are shot and edited in ways that leave us cold. And we are consumed with nagging questions. Why doesn't she follow the wall to find its edge? Why does she never check on the state of the neighbours (Rehberg and Gschnitzer) on the other side? So in the end, the film becomes trapped by its own contrived pretence.

12 themes, some grisliness
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall