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last update 3.Nov.15
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From Afar
4/5   Desde Allá
dir-scr Lorenzo Vigas
prd Guillermo Arriaga, Michel Franco, Rodolfo Cova, Lorenzo Vigas
with Alfredo Castro, Luis Silva, Jerico Montilla, Catherina Cardozo, Jorge Luis Bosque, Greymer Acosta, Auffer Camacho, Ivan Pena, Joretsis Ibarra, Yeimar Peralta, Scarlett Jaimes, Ernesto Campos
silva and castro
release UK Oct.15 lff
15/Venezuela 1h33

354th Shadows Awards


From Afar Twisty and unexpected, this Venezuelan drama stars acclaimed Chilean actor Alfredo Castro as a lonely man who strikes up a tentative relationship with a young street thug. It's a remarkably involving film, because the characters have so many sides that they lead the audience on a quest for understanding. Equally impressive is how first-time filmmaker Lorenzo Vigas never sensationalises the subject matter.

In Caracas, Armando (Castro) makes false teeth for a living and spends his evenings in lonely isolation, occasionally hiring male escorts to look at but never touch. But one of these guys, Elder (Silva), refuses to play along, savagely thumping him and stealing whatever he can grab. A few days later, they meet in the street, and it's clear that Elder needs help, although his machismo won't let him admit that he's also intrigued. Slowly they develop a sort of mentor-pupil relationship that no one around them is willing to accept.

Director Vigas tells the story beautifully, as clever camerawork draws the audience's eye, making scenes quietly riveting. This helps us see the events through Armando's perspective, sympathising with his feelings of isolation as a gay man in a culture that rejects him. Subtle sequences involving Elder's mother (Montilla) and Armando's sister (Cardoza) ripple with layers of disapproval. But even more intriguing is the way the filmmaking allows these two men to express themselves without words. Yes, their attraction is unspeakable, but it's not undeniable.

Castro is a wonderfully minimalist actor who can convey rivers of feeling in the tiniest flicker of movement. So everything he does suggests years of marginalisation, and probably violence as well. No wonder he's so observant, preferring to watch than touch. And he creates a beautifully expansive chemistry with Silva that feels like it could turn in any direction. This allows Silva to develop Elder's inner turmoil without all the usual movie histrionics, so where this goes feels unexpected for him. And also intriguingly natural.

Altogether, the writing, direction, editing and acting skilfully reveal these two men circling around each other like wounded lions in an environment that is threatening both of them. It also quietly captures elements of Venezuela's culture, from endemic crime and mistrust to lingering prejudice. This is a rare film that continually throws the viewer off balance, taking us places we certainly didn't expect to go and teaching us something about ourselves in the process.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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dir-scr Gaspar Noe
prd Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval, Gaspar Noe, Lourenco Sant'Anna, Rodrigo Teixeira, Edouard Weil
with Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock, Klara Kristin, Juan Saavedra, Jean Couteau, Isabelle Nicou, Vincent Maraval, Stella Rocha, Benoit Debie, Deborah Revy, Xamira Zuloaga
glusman and muyock
release Fr 15.Jul.15,
US 6.Nov.15, UK 20.Nov.15
15/France 2h14

love With his usual technical bravura, Argentine filmmaker Noe celebrates sex in this ironically named epic. It's a bold drama that cycles through its overlong story with energy and style, revealing its rather shallow characters in ways that are shamelessly romantic. Noe also indulges in explicit depictions of sexuality that are joyous and extremely full-on. In pristine 3D.

On New Year's Day, Murphy (Glusman) is feeling trapped in his relationship with Omi (Kristin), a once-casual girlfriend whose surprise pregnancy put an end to his deeply felt romance with Electra (Muyock). Alone for the day, Murphy thinks back over the years, working out how he got himself into this predicament. He explores his lusty relationship with Electra, with its intense passion and vicious rows, plus an interest in experimentation that led them to introduce Omi into their relationship to begin with. And he wonders if there's anything he could have done differently.

The fact that this is essentially an "if only" story creates the illusion that the film is rather pointless. But along the way, Noe cleverly explores just about every conceivable angle on love, lust and romance. Murphy and Electra's relationship is based on a spark of attraction that they simply can't deny. And yet when they confess their uncontrollable, undying love for each other, it's obvious that they don't know what that means, especially when confronted with restlessness, jealousy or disappointment.

Glusman makes Murphy intriguing and engaging despite being a blank slate who feels everything a bit too strongly and never quite knows when to stop. His entire being yearns for Electra, and yet he can't resist Omi's physicality (or any other woman's for that matter). Opposite him, Muyock is equally schematic, a strong-willed and openly passionate woman who has a nagging suspicion why great sex isn't quite enough, then snaps when she's forced to face it. And Kristin is like a wounded lioness.

Superficially, Noe gives the film a steamy sheen, with carefully staged scenes during which the camera seems to actually blink, making the audience voyeurs of both the emotional and physical intimacy. The sex is explicit without being pornographic (the only lascivious close-up is a witty 3D money shot), and each encounter expresses a key emotion in the journey these characters take. But the real kick is in the final sequence, when there's a glimpse of the true love of Murphy's tormented life.

18 themes, language, violence, strong sexuality
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Our Little Sister
4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Hirokazu Kore-eda
prd Kaoru Matsuzaki, Hijiri Taguchi
with Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, Suzu Hirose, Shinobu Ohtake, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Ryo Kase, Takashi Ikeda, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Jun Fubuki, Ohshiro Maeda
kaho,nagazawa,hirose and ayase
release Jpn 13.Jun.15,
UK 15.Apr.16, US 8.Jul.16
15/Japan Toho 2h08

london film festival
Our Little Sister Exquisitely observed, this warm and gentle drama prowls around generational relationships without too much plot but plenty of resonant impact. Filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda continues his astute depiction of family interaction with characters that are remarkably authentic. And the situations are lively and witty without ever tipping over into melodrama.

When their estranged father dies, the three Koda sisters travel to the funeral, where they meet their 13-year-old younger half-sister Suzu (Hirose) for the first time. Seeing that she's alone, eldest sister Sachi (Ayase), a nurse, invites her to move to Kamakura, just outside Tokyo, into the creaky family home their grandmother left them. Bank teller Yoshino (Nagasawa) and shop clerk Chika (Kaho) love the idea, and soon they're adjusting to the new mix of personalities. But more importantly, they're filling in bits of family history for each other.

As usual, Kore-eda avoids flashy filmmaking or pushy emotions, skilfully shooting scenes to quietly reveal the characters' internalised thoughts and feelings. This allows the dynamic between the sisters to reveal itself naturally, so the way it shifts becomes deeply involving. And the story plays out in seemingly irrelevant sideroads that continually add meaning, such as the plum wine the family has traditionally made from a tree in the garden. So the revelations that emerge in the final act carry a real kick.

There aren't any major incidents that push the plot forward. The story's one pivotal event is a visit from the three sisters' mother (Ohtake), who sweeps in 15 years after abandoning them expecting to be in control, but finds herself the outsider. In many ways, the film plays out largely in the eyes of Ayase and Hirose, the tightly wound eldest and the open-hearted youngest. Both are beautifully understated performances, while Nagasawa and Kaho have more colourful roles as the diva and free spirit, respectively.

Visually, Kore-eda maintains a soft-hued colour scheme and an Ozu-like stillness, nicely contrasting the girls' vividly lived-in old home with the more modern bustle of modern Japan. Yes, this is a film about the power of family to shape our lives, and even more importantly how individuals shape their families. These four sisters discover themselves as they work out how they fit together, which also helps them make sense of their relationships with various boyfriends. It may feel a bit simple and underpowered, but it's utterly charming. And masterfully observed.

PG themes, some language
13.Oct.15 lff
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4.5/5   Tatuagem   MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Hilton Lacerda
prd Joao Vieira Jr
with Irandhir Santos, Jesuita Barbosa, Rodrigo Garcia, Sylvia Prado, Silvio Restiffe, Deyvid Queiroz de Morais, Bruna Barros, Auriceia Fraga, Ariclenes Barroso, Nash Laila, Johnny Hooker
barbosa and santos release Br 15.Nov.13,
UK 23.Nov.15
13/Brazil 1h50

flare film festival
Tattoo Bursting with energy and passion, this lively Brazilian period drama expands to cover a variety of characters and storylines as well as both artistic and political themes. Writer-director Hilton Lacerda gives the film a wonderfully loose and unpredictable tone. And it comes together like a visceral symphony in which flawed people find their voices in ways we don't always expect.

In 1978 Recife, Clecio (Santos) runs an alternative theatre troupe that's often far too bold for the conservative dictatorship in charge of the country. As he raises his young son Tuca (de Morais) with his partner Deusa (Prado), he gently manages his super-diva drag star Paulete (Garcia). Then he meets Fininha (Barbosa), the 18-year-old soldier boyfriend of Paulete's sister (Barros). Clecio and Fininha click immediately, launching into a passionate romance neither of them expects, although Fininha's fellow soldiers have always teased him (or worse) about being gay.

The theme is that sexuality isn't cut and dried; putting people into boxes never works, and it's even more dangerous to force ourselves into one. These ideas play out in a plot that's messy and boisterous, allowing the characters to really grapple with their own journeys, which stubbornly refuse to travel in the usual directions. This lets the actors create almost unnervingly realistic characters who are textured and sometimes painfully honest. Even the intimacy between them feels authentic.

This uproarious atmosphere keeps the audience on its toes, providing a blast of real-life energy to go with the hugely entertaining musical numbers Clecio's cast presents to his enthusiastic audience. Adding to this is the way both Clecio and Fininha grapple with their fluid sexuality, beautifully played by Santos and Barbosa to bring out layers of resonance that transcend the place and time. And this collision of flamboyant artists and hyper-masculine military men is never over-egged. Even when violence flares up, everything has an almost documentary feel.

This movie has such a fabulous vibe of artistic freedom that we don't want it to end. Lacerda cleverly fills this cluttered film with unforgettable, telling moments. For example, after a scene of violent homophobia, he depicts two drag queens taunting a cute straight boy. The contrast says far more than any preachy drama. And Lacerda's cheeky approach keeps the audience laughing, sighing and bouncing to the music. Then in its depiction of these free spirits battling right-wing oppression, Lacerda reveals that he has something important to say to us right here and now.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
29.Mar.14 flare
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