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last update 11.Oct.15
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Blood of My Blood
3.5/5   Sangue del Mio Sangue
dir-scr Marco Bellocchio
prd Beppe Caschetto, Simone Gattoni
with Pier Giorgio Bellocchio, Lidiya Liberman, Roberto Herlitzka, Fausto Russo Alesi, Alba Rohrwacher, Federica Fracassi, Toni Bertorelli, Bruno Cariello, Filippo Timi, Elena Bellocchio, Ivan Franek, Alberto Bellocchio
bellocchio and alesi release It 9.Sep.15,
UK Oct.15 lff
15/Italy 1h46

london film festival
Blood of My Blood Ambitious and assured, this Italian drama shifts between time periods to explore issues of morality and mortality through the filter of religion and, ahem, vampires. Using the same setting several hundred years apart, the film has an eerie, mesmerising quality that holds the attention, even if the plot isn't very easy to unpick.

In the 17th century, Federico (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio) arrives at the convent in Bobbio seeking revenge for his brother's death. But as the priest (Alesi) puts the suspect Benedetta (Liberman) through trials to see if she's in league with the devil, Federico begins to doubt the process. Jump forward to the present day, and Count Basta (Herlitzka) is hiding out in the now-abandoned convent, which was most recently a prison. Rumour has it that he's a vampire. But a tax inspector (Bellocchio again) is lurking, and a Russian (Franek) who wants to buy the building.

The film repeatedly features characters who are trying to stop the progress of time, such as the count, who has been secreted away in the convent for eight years. And in the past, Benedetta was walled into a tiny space in the convent for what seems to be decades. But it's the span of centuries that gives the film its magnetic force, playing with the lingering power of memory and history in this specific place.

Bellocchio writes and directs the film with precision, using Daniele Cipri's cinematography to make every scene look like a painting come to life, complete with witty touches around the edges. Much of the film is dark and murky, and yet there's texture and light everywhere. And the music is truly haunting, from a Carlo Crivelli's score to an eerie choral rendition of Metallica's Nothing Else Matters, anachronistically in English.

The cast members deliver gut-level performances that say even more in an impassioned glance than in the cleverly awkward dialog. And while some sequences are simply baffling (who are these two women Federico lives with?) and others seem merely teasing (such as Timi's clownish goofball), every moment of the film is so suggestive that it's impossible to remain passive while watching it. This is a movie that forces the audience to take a stand, to work with it and mine each scene for points of resonance. What lingers is an awareness of the scope of history and human longing.

15 themes, violence, nudity
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Everlasting Love
4/5   Amor Eterno
dir Marcal Fores
prd Alba Barneda, Jorge Llama
scr Marcal Fores, Vicente de la Torre
with Joan Bentalle, Aimar Vega, Sonny Smith, Joana Mallol, Miguel Rojas, Adrian de Alfonso, Oriol Vilalta, Kimberley Tell, Elsa de Alfonso, Antoni Amaya, Josep Peraire, Claudia Robert
vega and bentalle release Sp Oct.14 sff,
UK 14.Sep.15
14/Spain 1h09

flare lgbt film festival
Everlasting Love Arch and over-stylised, this clever film also manages to remain eerily natural, as writer-director Flores insinuates all sorts of freaky secret-society goings on. The idea is to trace love from that first flash of lust to something more eternal. And while the plot is undercooked, as it were, it's also involving, unnerving and ultimately haunting.

In the woods outside Barcelona, couples seek some privacy and gay men look for a stranger. But there's something lurking out there that's killing and eating people. Schoolteacher Carlos (Bentalle) watches what goes on with interest, then spots his student Toni (Vega) there. Toni plays all the right cards: "I've missed the bus," and "I've never been with an older guy." And soon they're in a sexual relationship that Carlos knows is wrong. But they're also falling for each other. And soon Toni's friends step in to take action.

Filmmaker Flores builds the tension gradually, opening with a classroom scene in which students learn that attraction begins in the eyes with a sense of curiosity, then grows until you have to evaluate the strength of the crush. And if you want to continue, your love must evolve; lasting love isn't inevitable. These ideas worm their way into the fabric of the story, as Carlos and Toni, and their friends and colleagues, circle around each other defining their connections. But where this is heading is a surprise.

The performances are both darkly realistic and subtly heightened. Bentalle plays Carlos as a man who can't help but eye up every twink he sees, wanting to try everything once without emotion until he falls under Toni's spell. Meanwhile, Vega's Toni is just as complicated, genuinely interested in Carlos even has he runs with a gang of lost boys who might be stalking and killing love rats. And eating them. But there's more to this cannibalistic twist than expected.

Oddly, the film almost seems to be a cautionary tale about romance: don't mess with love! As it gets enjoyably nasty, it also feels vaguely unconvincing (the police can't work this out?). And some dramatic scenes are moody and somewhat cheesy. But it's cleverly filmed in a voyeuristic style, including some long takes that skilfully prowl under the surface, augmented by a wacky industrial score by Don the Tiger. And while the finale is utterly bonkers, it's also refreshingly impossible to predict.

18 themes, language, sexuality, violence
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A Girl at My Door
dir-scr July Jung
prd Lee Chang-dong, Lee Jun-dong
with Doona Bae, Kim Sae-ron, Song Sae-byuk, Jang Hee-jin, Kim Jin-gu, Kim Min-jae, Moon Seong-geun
kim and bae release Kor 22.May.14,
US Oct.14 ciff, UK 18.Sep.15
14/Korea 1h59

london film festival
A Girl at My Door A chilling tale of social evils in small-town Korea, this drama centres on an offbeat friendship between two damaged women who draw the suspicions of everyone around them. Filmmaker Jung is playing with perceptions, letting the audience see things only slightly more clearly than the bigoted locals. It's a riveting film that never offers easy answers.

After a clash at work, Young-nam (Bae) leaves Seoul to become police chief in a seaside village. She quickly notices outcast teen Do-hee (Kim Sae-ron) being violently bullied by her stepdad Yong-ha (Song) and grandmother (Kim Jun-gu). So Young-nam steps in, raising eyebrows for interfering in family life. And she further enrages Yong-ha by challenging his dodgy importation of workers. Meanwhile, Do-hee clings to Young-nams' compassion, moving in with her and blossoming into a young woman over the course of the school holiday. But this only leads to more aggressive resistance in the village.

The screen is packed with quirky characters who have their own personal tics. Young-nam is a bundle of odd habits, from her bottled "water" to her loathing of workplace niceties. As the story progresses, details emerge about her past. And then her girlfriend Eun-jung (Jang) turns up, clearly still gripped by deep feelings for her. This of course adds another level of topicality to a film that already feels a bit long and unnerving.

Even so, the plot moves quickly, with a lively pace and plenty of astute subtext. The filmmaker and cast cleverly layer scenes with twisted elements, such as three striking kinds of drunkenness. Bae makes Young-nam both elusive and easy to identify with. Kim's Do-hee is even more complex, a smart kid who knows that acting simple gives her the upper hand. But is she a predator or merely suffering the effects of a lifetime of abuse? By contrast, Song's drunken thug feels almost one-note.

Issues like child abuse, human trafficking, bullying and endemic homophobia would be intense enough on their own, and they combine here with startling authenticity. As Young-nam dares to stand up for the oppressed, she is victimised in turn, both for being a woman and for being gay. And the pitch-black comical vibe cleverly subverts all of this, right to the perhaps too-shocking final act. But this is the kind of film that relentlessly challenges the audience's preconceptions in all the right ways, forcing us to re-evaluate simplistic patterns of thought that are far too easy to slip into.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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dir Cesc Gay
prd Diego Dubcovsky
scr Tomas Aragay, Cesc Gay
with Ricardo Darin, Javier Camara, Dolores Fonzi, Oriol Pla, Jose Luis Gomez, Eduard Fernandez, Elvira Minguez, Silvia Abascal, Alex Brendemuhl, Pedro Casablanc, Francesc Orella, Ana Gracia
camara and darin
release UK Oct.15 lff,
Sp 30.Oct.15
15/Spain 1h48

london film festival
Truman With vivid characters and a superb blend of comedy and drama, this story about two lifelong friends continually catches the audience off-guard, revealing layers of resonant detail that can't help but draw out a strong emotional response. It's a thoroughly likeable film featuring spiky characters who speak their minds. But it's what isn't spoken that carries the real punch.

At the urging of his wife, Tomas (Camara) flies from Montreal to Madrid to see his best friend Julian (Darin), who has decided to stop his cancer treatment. Julian's cousin Paula (Fonzi) wants Tomas to convince Julian that he has reasons to keep living. And as these old friends reconnect after years apart, they rediscover the things they love and hate about each other. Over four days, Tomas accompanies Julian has he arranges his affairs, visits his son (Pla) and tries to find a new home for his beloved hound Truman.

What makes this film unusual is the faith director-cowriter Gay has in his leading men. Both Darin and Camara shine in complex, tricky roles as men who say what they think, but conceal their emotions. Both are witty, smart and full of mischief, but they also feel everything very deeply, so the film continually finds moving moments in silent glances. The actors also effortlessy capture the bond between old friends who can pick up right where they left off and know each others' imperfections only too well.

Gay directs the film in an intimate style that focusses on the actors' faces. The plot may cycle through a series of mini adventures (visiting a doctor, checking out a mortuary, a drunken night out), but the attention is on what's happening inside men who are grappling for a way to express their friendship one last time. There's one rather odd late plot point, but otherwise the film evolves organically in ways that are earthy, warm and, refreshingly, never cliched or sentimentalised.

Basically, this is a story about the delicate balance of respect and self-interest that holds a friendship together. Tomas understands that the most important thing he can do for the determined Julian is listen and support him, even if he disagrees with his decisions. And Julian begins to understand the impact his decisions have on those he loves. With a light touch, the cast and crew carry the audience though this story in a flood of recognition. It'll make you want to call an old friend immediately.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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