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

< <   F O R E I G N   > >
last update 10.Sep.14
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
In Order of Disappearance
4/5   Kraftidioten
dir Hans Petter Moland
scr Kim Fupz Aakeson
prd Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B Kvae
with Stellan Skarsgard, Bruno Ganz, Pal Sverre Hagen, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Peter Andersson, Tobias Santelmann, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Jakob Oftebro, Hildegunn Riise, David Sakurai, Kare Conradi, Jan Gunnar Roise
skarsgard and friend
release Nor 21.Feb.14,
US Apr.14 tff, UK 12.Sep.14
14/Norway Paradox 1h56

In Order of Disappearance About as pitch-black as comedies can get, this dryly amusing Norwegian thriller moves at a meandering, Scandinavian pace as a series of revenge attacks escalate out of control in a snowy rural community. Spiky characters and an unpredictable plot keep us both entertained and horrified by what happens.

Nils (Skarsgard) is a mild-mannered snow-plower in an isolated village who is unable to express his rage over the nasty murder of his adult son. His wife (Riise) copes by running away, but Nils tenaciously begins to track down the people responsible, quietly killing the thugs who made his son's death look like a drug overdose. With help from his ex-mobster brother (Andersson), Nils gets closer to swaggering hothead kingpin The Count (Hagen), inadvertently re-igniting war with rival Serbian boss Papa (Ganz). All while the body count grows inexorably.

The title refers to on-screen captions documenting every death along the way (the original title roughly translates as Superidiot, presumably referring to the racist/sexist Count). Yes, the film is very violent, although director Moland blinks from the most vicious moments, and often skips the grislier scenes altogether, leaving us to connect the dots ourselves. This approach extends throughout the story, adding witty ellipses to the narrative while drawing us in.

Skarsgard is a terrific presence at the centre of the film, calm and methodical in his eerily efficient approach, driven by a desire to see his son get some justice. But then two other dads also propel the story: Ganz adds ruthless pathos as the father of a foot-soldier caught in the crossfire, while Hagen is hilariously incorrect as The Count, a small man with a lot of power, a vicious ex-wife (Sorensen) and an oddly charming relationship with his son.

It's the way The Count callously murders other men's sons that sets the machinery in motion for the carnage that follows. The film never explodes into a full-on action thriller, although there is one rather desperately messy gunfight. And even though many of the deaths are played for laughs, there's also a sense that the deceased is a human being worthy of a moment of respect. Even more interesting is the quiet exploration of the nature of socialism in Europe, which says more than we expect from a movie like this.

15 themes, language, strong violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
The Keeper of Lost Causes
4/5   Kvinden i Buret
dir Mikkel Norgaard
scr Nikolaj Arcel
prd Peter Aalbaek Jensen, Louise Vesth
with Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, Soren Pilmark, Peter Plaugborg, Michael Brostrup, Troels Lyby, Marie-Louise Coninck, Marijana Jankovic, Eric Ericson, Anton Honik
laas and fares release Den 3.Oct.15,
US May.14 siff,
UK 22.Aug.14
13/Denmark Zentropa 1h37

See also:
The Absent One (2014)
The Keeper of Lost Causes This is the kind of solidly well-made Danish police thriller they don't make anymore, mainly because these stories are usually reduced to an hour for television. But cinema allows for much more interesting characters and plot wrinkles, so even if this film feels a bit like a pilot episode (a second film has already been shot), it's hugely entertaining.

After his partner is killed and his best friend (Lyby) paralysed, detective Carl (Kaas) is reassigned by his boss (Pilmark) to clean out Department Q, a basement filled with unsolved cases. Working with rookie Assad (Fares), he starts with a familiar case involving a young politician (Richter) who apparently leapt to her death from a ferry. But it seems odd that she'd leave her mentally injured brother Uffe (Folsgaard) on-board. So he starts re-interviewing witnesses, despite resistance from his boss and the cop (Brostrup) originally on the case.

Echoing Scandinavian dramas like Borgen and The Killing, the film is a finely crafted thriller that quietly cranks up suspense while deepening the characters. Director Norgaard and writer Arcel build complex, darkly unsettling desperation in these detectives who have nothing left to lose and can't bear the thought that this woman might still be alive after five years. But they're not your typical odd couple, because Kaas and Fares add a terrific sense of last-gasp fatalism: they know they're in trouble, yet they also know they can't stop.

Even with this rather gloomy tone, the movie is a lot of fun, thanks to robust and sure-handed filmmaking and a clever script that litters clues around each scene, so they can be gathered up and fitted into the overall puzzle. Along the way there are some stunningly well-staged sequences (a pivotal car crash is particularly haunting) and several literally breathtaking moments. And the combination of introspection and mystery creates a striking sense of urgency.

Ultimately, there may not be much subtext, but by allowing the events to unfold cinematically, the filmmakers capture the characters with unusual subtlety and detail. For example, as Carl charges around looking for information, Assad patiently befriends the non-communicative Uffe, which not only adds to this side-character, but also lays groundwork for the strong scenes that follow. And the twisty final act is genuinely scary and thrilling, leaving us wanting more.

15 themes, language, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
My Straight Son
4/5  MUST must see SEE   Azul y No Tan Rosa
dir-scr Miguel Ferrari
prd Rodolfo Cova, Miguel Ferrari
with Guillermo Garcia, Ignacio Montes, Hilda Abrahamz, Carolina Torres, Socrates Serrano, Alexander Da Silva, Elba Escobar, Juan Jesus Valverde, Beatriz Valdes, Arlette Torres, Juan Carlos Lares, Aroldo Betancourt
release Ven 27.Nov.12,
US Jun.14 fff, UK 15.Sep.14
12/Venezuela 1h54
My Straight Son From Venezuela, this sharply well-made drama balances real-life humour with some very dark emotions. This grounded approach makes the themes remarkably resonant, even if the film feels overstretched by big issues. But it's so personal that it becomes an involving, moving pean to diversity and acceptance.

In Caracas, photographer Diego (Garcia) has a happy life with his closeted boyfriend Fabrizio (Serrano), and their relationship is getting serious. Diego's days are further livened up by his two best friends: transgendered choreographer Delirio (Abrahamz) and drama-queen Perla Marina (Carolina Torres). Then his childhood girlfriend (Arlette Torres) sends their surly 15-year-old son Armando (Montes) from Spain to live with him for a few weeks. And as Diego struggles to get to know his fiercely straight son, Fabrizio is hospitalised after a brutal homophobic attack.

The main focus is on deep-seated prejudice that human society all over the world. Gifted writer-director Ferrari opens the film with one of Delirio's dramatic dance sequences, which has a strong life-and-death theme, then uses cross-cutting continually throughout the film to juxtapose joy and tragedy, cleverly weaving music and dance into each character's journey. This would be far too intense if the actors weren't so grounded, offering riotous humour, earthy warmth and visceral emotion, and creating terrific chemistry between each other.

Ferrari's filmmaking is assured and skilful, catching telling details in each character's arc of self-discovery, using genres from comedy and musical to thriller and road movie. Fortunately, these strands are all strongly engaging, so the fact that there isn't a central focus doesn't weaken the film too much. Every plot thread is twisty and packed with important comments on a wide range of themes, mainly exploring Venezuelan society's conservative feelings about homosexuality, its potent Catholic influence and the constant threat of hate crimes.

The film's original title (Blue and Not So Pink) is itself a comment about gender stereotyping, but this is just one aspect of a film that also takes on domestic violence, body dysmorphia, same-sex marriage, mortality and police complicity. Sometimes this is a bit on-the-nose, and the succession of plotlines sometimes feels neverending. But taken together, this is a powerful depiction of just why hateful attitudes can't be tolerated. And why everyone should be able to say, "I am who I am: so what?"

15 themes, language, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
aka: A Man, His Lover and His Mother
dir Marcel Gisler
prd Susann Rudlinger
scr Marcel Gisler, Rudolf Nadler
with Fabian Kruger, Sibylle Brunner, Judith Hofmann, Sebastian Ledesma, Eric Hattenschwiler, Alexis Haupt, Anna-Katharina Muller, Margot Godros, Hansrudolf Twerenbold, Bodo Krumwiede, Marietta Jemmi, Marlise Fischer
brunner and kruger
release US Apr.13 sfiff,
Swi 30.May.13,
UK 25.Aug.14
13/Switzerland 1h46

flare film festival
Norte, the End of History An intriguing exploration of past regrets and bad decisions in relationships, this Swiss drama drags a bit as it tells its story, but remains introspective and involving. And it has a lot to say about facing up to the truth and allowing yourself to move on with life.

When his mother Rosie (Brunner) has a minor stroke, 39-year-old Berlin-based novelist Lorenz (Kruger) and his sister Sophie (Hofmann) struggle to put their lives on hold to help her recover. But the feisty Rosie bristles against living with Sophie and her quiet-cop husband (Hattenschwiler). So she convinces Lorenz to take her back to the small town in eastern Switzerland where he grew up. Meanwhile, Lorenz is struggling to repeat his early success as a writer. And when he reconnects with young family friend Mario (Ledesma), he shies away from romance.

Rosie is a force of nature, expressing her opinions without editing anything. She's dismissive of Lorenz's single lifestyle and thinks he should settle down now that he's approaching 40. Hilariously, Lorenz injures his back shortly after arriving, so Rosie has to take care of him instead. And despite doctor's orders, Rosie carries on drinking and smoking as if nothing is wrong, which causes no end of problems for Sophie and Lorenz, who each have plenty of issues in their personal lives.

The film has a warm, realistic tone, never pushing the melodrama and infusing every conversation with offhanded humour that helps us feel the connections between the characters. Brunner and Kruger create a terrific sense of mother-son chemistry, while Kruger and Ledesma generate a realistically awkward mixture of lust, admiration and affection that might possibly turn into something serious.

Intriguingly, Lorenz treats Mario like a groupie, insulting him and acting sullen when he discovers that Mario has begun watching out for Rosie when he returns to Berlin. So as she regains her health, Lorenz begins to feel like she's pushing him away. All of this raises some strongly resonant issues, as the film urges us to face up to the complexities of our lives. On its twisty, revelatory journey, the narrative becomes repetitive, circling around before it ultimately arrives at a series of darkly moving scenes. And there are some tough, honest moments along the way.

15 themes, language, sexuality
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< <   F O R E I G N   > >

© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall