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last update 12.Oct.16
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4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir Francois Ozon
scr Francois Ozon, Philippe Piazzo
prd Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Stefan Arndt, Uwe Schott
with Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stotzner, Marie Gruber, Johann von Bulow, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair, Alice de Lencquesaing, Axel Wandtke, Rainer Egger, Rainer Silberschneider, Merlin Rose
niney and beer
release Fr 7.Sep.16,
UK Oct.16 lff
16/France Universal 1h53

venice film festival
london film festival
Frantz French filmmaker Francois Ozon tackles another genre with this historical drama, which has shades of Haneke in its multi-layered story of forgiveness and redemption. Shot in black and white with moments of blossoming colour, the film harks back to period war dramas due to the visual style and the way the story evolves. But of course, Ozon puts his own subtle spin on everything. And the result is darkly moving.

In 1919, residents of a small German village are angry about losing a generation of young men at war. So they're not happy to see Frenchman Adrien (Niney) tearfully putting flowers the grave of fallen local boy Frantz (von Lucke). Then he visits Frantz's parents (Stotzner and Gruber), who have taken in their son's fiancee Anna (Beer) as a daughter. After a rough start, Adrien explains that Frantz was his friend in Paris before the war. But theres's something that he's hiding. And when Anna learns the truth, it's her turn to keep some secrets.

Everyone in this story is in need of some soul-cleansing, and Ozon sets them circling around each other with all of the best intentions. Small lies creep in to help others feel better, which plants a kernel of guilt that requires more attention. The question is whether this is the true nature of happiness: remaining ignorant of the painful truth. Intriguingly, there's no self-deception here. Just yearning desires, benevolent thoughts and suicidal tendencies.

The cast deliver beautifully stylised performances, echoing movie classics while adding present-day edginess. Niney is superb as a lanky, sad-looking man who isn't quite grown up yet and wants to make things right. Opposite him, Beer is strikingly alert as a young women who's open to life even amid doubts. Side characters also are vivid, including Stotzner and Gruber, plus Clair in a small-but-spicy role as Adrien's larger-than-life mother. And in flashbacks, von Lucke shows why Frantz's memory so haunts these people. In

all of his films, whether they're funny or sexy or weepy, Ozon cuts through to motivations people don't realise they have. This approach gives him plenty of scope to lead audiences down all sorts of trails, with hints and suggestion as well as glimpses of true feelings in the tiniest gesture. And he never betrays the format with whooshy modern camerawork or sarcastic wit. It's a reminder of how movies used to resonate so strongly, and that they still can.

12 themes, violence
2.Sep.16 vff
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The Handmaiden
dir Park Chan-wook
prd Park Chan-wook, Syd Lim
scr Park Chan-wook, Chung Seo-Kyung
with Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong, Kim Hae-suk, Moon So-ri
manshadi and rashidi
release Kor 1.Jun.16,
US 21.Oct.16, UK 17.Feb.17
16/Korea 2h24

london film festival
The Handmaiden Korean maestro Park Chan-wook adapts Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith into a stylish, twisty drama set in Korea and Japan during WWII. It's a visually ravishing film about passion and subterfuge, told in three chapters that flip the perspective in unexpected directions. So even if the themes are a little thin, the film looks so amazing and has such a wickedly labyrinthine plot that it's thoroughly riveting.

With Korea under Japanese occupation, Tamako (Kim Tae-ri) takes a job as a handmaiden to Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee). The Japanese heiress is pledged to marry Kouzuki (Cho) the creepy widow of her aunt (Moon), who recently committed suicide, but Tamako is in league with Count Fujiwara (Ha) to steal the lady's away from her uncle. Actually, Tamako and Fujiwara are petty criminals embarking on a grand con to fleece Hideko of her fortune and have her declared insane. But Hideko isn't as clueless as she seems to be.

The story is told in a swirl of flashbacks and revelations, with three parts that reveal new information by changing the point of view. All three of the central characters have their secrets as well as their unknown connections to each other. Even the young aristocrat's bizarrely eclectic mansion contains stories no one should hear, as young men arrive to be entertained by women reading ancient porn. Architecture, literature, poetry, art, fashion: all of these things collide in Park's sumptuous approach.

At the centre, both Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri deliver remarkable performances that deepen with each scene. Tamako and Hideko are women with unknown depths, refusing to be manipulated by the strictures of their society even as they maintain the sheen of propriety. They're also not nearly as helpless as the men wish they were. By contrast, both Ha's count and Cho's uncle have one-track minds that ultimately fail to grasp anything that's actually going on here.

The setting offers Park a chance to make a comment on Korea's history with Japan, mixing the two cultures on-screen and the two languages in the dialog (subtitles are colour-coded). But as the film progresses, the thematic elements actually narrow. This may be about two women who subvert their expected powerlessness, taking control of their lives. But it never gets around to saying anything very profound. Still, with its series of double-bluffs and secret relationships, and Park's bravura filmmaking (yes, a squid makes an appearance), this is exhilarating, transgressive stuff.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
5.Oct.16 lff
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3/5   Indivisibili
dir Edoardo De Angelis
prd Attilio De Razza, Pierpaolo Verga
scr Nicola Guaglianone, Barbara Petronio, Edoardo De Angelis
with Angela Fontana, Marianna Fontana, Massimiliano Rossi, Antonia Truppo, Gaetano Bruno, Marco Mario de Notaris, Toni Laudadio, Peppe Servillo, Gianfranco Gallo, Antonio Pennarella
angela and marianna fontana
release It Sep.16 vff
16/Italy 1h40

venice film festival
london film festival
Indivisible A brittle sense of humour drives this offbeat drama set in a gritty seaside town in southern Italy. The central story is a bit too quirky to believe, but the gimmick provides enough of a hook to hold the audience's interest and provide some emotional resonance as well. Even so, once things are set in motion, there aren't many places this story can go.

Viola and Dasy (Angela and Marianna Fontana) are 18-year-old twins literally joined at the hip. As local pop stars, they're earning a decent living for their gambling dad Peppe (Rossi), gadget-buying mum Titti (Truppo) and two uncles/roadies (de Notaris and Laudadio) who live with them. While Viola goes with the flow, Dasy is dazzled when starry manager Marco (Bruno) comes on to her. And when a doctor (Servillo) suggests that they could be separated, she becomes determined to find the cash to pay for the operation.

The obvious hitch here is that, being a conjoined twin, Viola has little choice but to go along with Dasy's persuasive plans. Director De Angelis plays up this family's white trash ethos, with their utter lack of taste or manners. The twins actually have a terrifically engaging pop-music presence, and the songs Peppe writes for them are very catchy. But fascination with the girls' joint physicality is generating lots of cash for everyone around them, so no one seems to care what they might want.

The eclectic cast creates a variety of characters that don't always gel naturally. The Fontana sisters are likeable and gorgeous, easily grabbing the audience's sympathy. And as their mother, Truppo has a kind of worn-down charm. Otherwise, no one feels like a real person. Rossi's Peppe is a rather uncomplex villain, vehemently opposing the separation without admitting that his true motivation is purely selfish. And then there's Bruno's slick jet-setter with his circus-porn yacht and Gallo's cool-but-cruel priest.

As the girls' odyssey progresses, the screenwriters kind of dodge any important issues in the rather contrived set-up in lieu of either an edgy gag or a bit of overwrought emotion. This leaves the film feeling rather simplistic, especially in the drawn-out final act. It's energetic enough to hold the attention, and the Fontanas are engaging protagonists, but the only real message in this movie is that quirky dramas about conjoined twins are risky business.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
4.Sep.16 vff
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Into the Forest
3/5   Dans la Forêt
dir Gilles Marchand
scr Gilles Marchand, Dominik Moll
prd Valerie Donzelli, Jeremie Elkaim
with Jeremie Elkaim, Timothe Vom Dorp, Theo Van de Voorde, Mika Zimmerman, Sophie Quinton, Mireille Perrier, Frederik Carlsson, Carl Lindberg, Anna Lindberg
van de voorde, elkaim, vom dorp release UK Oct.16 lff 16/France 1h43 ***

london film festival
into the forest Clearly a riff on Zvyagintsev's The Return by way of Kubrick's The Shining, this dark thriller evokes considerable dread, mainly in its sound mix. But director Guy Marchand also has some visual tricks up his sleeve to freak out the audience. There doesn't seem to be much to the film beyond insinuated nastiness, but it's enjoyably spooky.

Leaving Paris, 8-year-old Tom (Vom Dorp) and his 13-year-old brother Ben (Van de Voorde) fly to Sweden to visit their father (Elkaim), who takes them out hiking through the woods to an isolated wreck of a cabin on the edge of a picturesque lake. But Tom is having visions of a deformed man (Zimmerman) he thinks is the devil, and Ben is stoking his fear, as big brothers do. Meanwhile, Dad seems to be engineering all of this rather sinister tension in order to probe what he thinks is Tom's mind-reading ability.

Filmmaker Marchand stirs the foreboding from the start, as Tom discusses his premonitions of doom with a therapist. There's never an explanation of why he's seeing a shrink, although he's an unusually sensitive young boy, and much of the film is seen through his hyper-perceptive eyes. It doesn't help that Dad never seems to sleep. Or that Marchand punches even the mildest moment of suspense with a swell of sound. Further disorientation comes from bright, crisp photography that takes in spectacular landscapes as skilfully as expressive performances.

Vom Dorp shines as the young Tom, offering insight into his thoughts at every moment. His sharp eyes catch everything, and his interaction reveals both crippling fear and some wise-beyond-his-years insights. Van de Voorde is just as solid as his boorish sibling, who takes advantage of any sign of weakness but also kicks into action when he begins to question his father's motives. And Elkaim holds the film together by suggesting all kinds of possibilities in every scene.

There's no way to predict where this film is going, as each scene is packed with implications and red herrings. Every time it looks like it's going to take a big twist, something subversive happens. But while Marchand maintains the simmering tension, he never lets the story boil over to be properly unnerving or harrowing. It stays right at that same level, keeping the audience off-balance about what's really going on under the surface. It's enjoyably creepy but, by never quite pulling back the curtain, the movie ultimately feels like a con.

15 themes, language, violence
3.Oct.16 lff
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