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last update 25.Feb.15
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Force Majeure
4/5   Turist
dir-scr Ruben Ostlund
prd Philippe Bober, Erik Hemmendorff, Marie Kjellson
with Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius, Karin Myrenberg Faber, Brady Corbet, Johannes Moustos, Josef Lattof, Adrian Heinisch, Michael Breitenberger
kuhnke, kongsli and kids release Swe 15.Aug.14,
US 24.Oct.14, UK 10.Apr.15
14/Sweden 1h58

Force Majeure Told with unblinking honesty, this Swedish drama delves deep into the fissures of a marriage after a flaw is revealed in a moment of panic. This razor sharp exploration of gender roles is strikingly shot and performed, bristling with jangling nerves as a family grapples with the possibility that they might splinter due to a split-second instinctual reaction.

In the French Alps on a skiing holiday, a Swedish family is enjoying the spectacular landscape and freshly fallen snow when, while having breakfast on an outdoor terrace, a startlingly large avalanche heads right toward their resort. Tomas and Ebba (Kuhnke and Kongsli) have very different reactions as their children Vera and Harry (real siblings Clara and Vincent Wettergren) stand frozen in panic. It may have been a false alarm, but the crucial moment reveals things neither Tomas nor Ebba can cope with. And they wonder whether their marriage will survive the week.

The title is the insurance term for an unavoidable event for which no one can be blamed. And filmmaker Ostlund cleverly refuses to make anyone the villain, quietly revealing how a family reacts when they see their happy life go off the rails. The confusion eats away at each character, as does the sense that there's no going back. "I want us to have a shared view of what happened," Ebba says, knowing that may never be possible. The kids begin acting out. And talking with friends (Faber, Hivju and Metelius) only seems to spread the "infection".

Each actors is terrific at playing strong, positive people eaten away by nagging doubts. Emotions run very deep, surging to the surface at the worst possible times, raising unexpected fears. Ostlund shoots this in unblinking long takes, thankfully finding layers of dark wit amid the squirm-inducing conversations. He also cleverly contrasts this with the grandeur of the setting: snow flurries outside, ice growing between them, fog obscuring the piste.

Of course, this isn't actually about the incident; it's about hidden fissures in any relationship. More pointedly, it's grappling with the pressures of male and female roles. So even if it feels somewhat pointed, the film forces us to ask whether we can ever be sure how we'll react in a moment of panic. And whether that reveals something about us or not. So who we identify with in this story tells us more about ourselves than we'd care to admit.

15 themes, language
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Futuro Beach
4/5   Praia do Futuro
dir Karim Ainouz
scr Felipe Braganca, Karim Ainouz
prd Georgia Costa Araujo, Hank Levine
with Wagner Moura, Clemens Schick, Jesuita Barbosa, Savio Ygor Ramos, Sophie Charlotte Conrad, Fred Lima, Thomas Aquino, Demick Lopes, Natascha Paulick, Sabine Timoteo, Yannik Burwieck, Emily Cox
moura and schick
release Br 15.May.14,
US 27.Feb.15,
UK Mar.15 flare
14/Brazil 1h46

BFI Flare
Futuro Beach Intense and foreboding, and yet deeply human and emotional, this offbeat Brazilian drama explores the lives of three young men who are unsure about where they are headed. Shot and edited for a maximum visceral kick, the movie resists standard filmmaking structures for something much looser, forcing the audience to get involved in a story that remains intriguingly elusive.

On a turbulent beach in Fortaleza, Donato (Moura) is a lifeguard who so loves the sea that his water-phobic little brother Ayrton (Ramos) calls him Aquaman. Donato calls Ayrton Speed Racer, and their close bond shifts when Donato begins a relationship with Konrad (Schick), a German motorcyclist whose biking partner (Lima) was the first swimmer to drown on Donato's watch. Later, Donato travels to Berlin to visit Konrad, and has to decide whether he wants to start a new life there or return home. And eventually Ayrton (now Barbosa) comes looking for him.

Filmmaker Ainouz keeps the dialog to a minimum, often resolving scenes with actions or editing rather than words. This can sometimes leave the film feeling incomplete, except that the emotional energy is so strong that it's impossible not to understand the depth of feelings between the characters. The push and pull of attraction and connection are so vivid that, even though many thoughts remain unspoken and important scenes are unseen, the through-story can't help but hold us in its grip.

The central actors are remarkably transparent. Moura has a lovely openness as Donato, quietly shifting to become more opaque after he arrives in Europe, closing off from the people he needs the most. His scenes with the superbly understated Schick bristle with unusually masculine passion, as these two beefy young men resist even a hint of a gay stereotype. And both Ramos and Barbosa offer fascinating textures as Ayrton, who also changes dramatically from 10 to around 18.

Ainouz depicts the settings with as much detail as the characters, showing the colourfully wild beauty of Brazil in contrast to the grey mist of wintry Germany. Both settings feature both modern and derelict landscapes, putting the characters in stark context as they struggle against the tide of fate. These guys think they know what they want, but are drawn to each other in ways they don't yet understand. And maybe they never will.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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El Niño
dir Daniel Monzon
scr Jorge Guerricaechevarria, Daniel Monzon
prd Alvaro Augustin, Ghislain Barrois, Borja Pena, Edmon Roch, Javier Ugarte
with Luis Tosar, Jesus Castro, Jesus Carroza, Saed Chatiby, Mariam Bachir, Eduard Fernandez, Sergi Lopez, Barbara Lennie, Ian McShane, Moussa Maaskri, Maria Garcia, Jose Manuel Poga
release Sp 29.Aug.14,
UK 22.Dec.14
14/Spain 2h16

london film festival
El Nino While the film is shot and edited like a cheesy TV cop show, the twisty plot focusses on the human element to make the story of drug trafficking between Spain and Morocco startlingly involving. By getting under the skin of the characters, the film is not just entertaining: it also finds some important things to say.

Jesus (Tosar) is a rather too-tenacious drug-enforcement officer in Spain, willing to bend the rules to chase a suspect into Gibraltar, which is British territory. His patient partner Eva (Lennie) goes along with it, but his boss Vicente (Lopez) transfers him to helicopter patrol with old pal Sergio (Fernandez). Meanwhile, smart young Nino (Castro) and his buddy Compi (Carroza) are trying to raise cash to start a beach bar, approaching Halil (Chatiby) and his contacts in North Africa to start drug-running across the 10-mile straits. This puts them on a collision course with Jesus.

There's more than a whiff of Miami Vice about this film, from the cool jet-skis and speedboats to the electronic TV-thriller score. But even though it sometimes looks rather corny, it's superbly well-staged, including two great showdowns between a boat and a helicopter. There's also an unnerving increase in violence, including beheadings, warring African hash gangs and Eastern European coke dealers. And the blunt tone ("will you visit me in prison if this one last big job goes wrong?") is nicely undermined by throwaway scenes including a naked romantic beach romp.

For what it is, the film is overlong and unnecessarily complicated by a dirty-cop subplot. But the performances are solid, especially from the always reliable Tosar and the hot young people at the centre of the mayhem. Castro is a charismatic antihero, generating spark both with Carroza's chucklehead and Bachir's underdeveloped romantic interest. And McShane offers some sardonic spark in a lively cameo role.

More interesting is how the film realistically depicts an enormous industry in Morocco that thrives on its proximity to Europe's drug demand. Which creates dangers for innocent or naive people caught in the crossfire. So our sympathy remains with the characters even when the plot becomes rather obvious and inevitable, leading to an overstated moral message. But the fact that we're rooting for the criminal says something about how messed up the system has become.

15 themes, language, violence
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dir Abderrahmane Sissako
prd Sylvie Pialat
scr Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall
with Ibrahim Ahmed, Toulou Kiki, Abel Jafri, Fatoumata Diawara, Hichem Yacoubi, Kettly Noel, Mehdi AG Mohamed, Layla Walet Mohamed, Adel Mahmoud Cherif, Salem Dendou, Cheik AG Emakni, Zikra Oualet Moussa
kiki, ahmed and layla walet mohamed
release US 28.Jan.15,
UK 22.May.15
14/Mauritania 1h37

london film festival
abu dhabi film festival
Timbuktu Set in Mali and filmed in Mauritania, this drama is a heartfelt cry for humanity and reason in a world that seems to be abandoning both. And as it comes from Sissako (Waiting for Happiness), it's also blessed with a quirky sense of humour, which sometimes sits uneasily in a story about violent jihad. While the film has a lot of important things to say, and is beautifully shot and acted, it sometimes seem to be smirking at what's happening behind horrific news headlines.

A gang of foreign fundamentalists ride into Timbuktu merrily shooting up ancient cultural sites and imposing a random system of laws under their caliphate flag. But the feisty residents are happy with their diverse community. As they resist the new rules, the disorganised opportunists begin to react with violence, banning music, football and bare hands and feet. Just outside of town, a nomadic cattleman (Ahmed) and his strong-minded wife (Kiki) watch all of this peacefully from a distance until a twist of fate lands them in the middle of the fray.

Intriguingly, Sissako initially depicts these interlopers as benign, hapless goofballs who haven't a clue what to do with the town once they've occupied it. Their imposed laws feel haphazard, based on little more than whim. So the locals naturally ignore them. But each restriction hits a nerve. How can the town singer (Diawara) abandon her music? How can the kids stop playing? How can the colourful local madwoman (Noel) avoid a clash with new rulers who are intent on ridding the community of anyone who stands out from the crowd?

All of this is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Sofian El Fani, capturing both the natural beauty and the ordinary quality of life for these extraordinary people. Each actors finds details in his or her character, so even the jihadists are lively and complex, unsure why they must level such harsh punishments. This is more than a little unsettling given the hideous news of what these kinds of fanatics are doing all over Africa.

Sissako keeps the film tightly focused on the humanity of these people, beautifully capturing the clash of cultures and languages as this eclectic community's open-handed ways are undermined by outsiders. In this sense, his real achievement is in the casting, as the film is packed with astoundingly naturalistic performances from actors who create memorable characters, giving a haunting, sometimes sassy voice to the victims of this kind of warfare.

12 themes, violence
25.Oct.14 adf
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