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On this page: CUSTODY | THE INSULT
NICO, 1988 | THE THIRD MURDER
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last update 12.Sep.17
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Custody
4/5   Jusqu’à la Garde
dir-scr Xavier Legrand
prd Alexandre Gavras
with Denis Menochet, Lea Drucker, Thomas Gioria, Mathilde Auneveux, Mathieu Saikaly, Julien Lucas, Florence Janas, Martine Vandeville, Jean-Marie Winling, Martine Schambacher, Jean-Claude Leguay, Saadia Bentaieb
escobar and kolomyckis
release WP Sep.17 vff
17/France 1h33

venice film fest
TORONTO FILM FEST
london film fest
Custody A punchy drama that grips the audience with a complex situation and shifting characters, this French film only gradually reveals the truth about the dissolution of a marriage. Writer-director Xavier Legrand and his skilled cast take a bold and intense approach to a story that unfolds through a series of perspective-shifting encounters. It's often painful to watch, building to a confrontation that leaves us deeply shaken.

When Miriam (Drucker) accuses her husband Antoine (Menochet) of violence and demands custody of their 11-year-old son Julien (Gioria) and 18-year-old daughter Josephine (Auneveux), Antoine challenges her in court. He regains his rights as a father, but faces opposition from an ex-wife and kids who don't want him around. Julien is especially sly, lying to both of his parents in an effort to steer the situation. But the tension only continue to rise as Antoine feels cut out of his children's lives, and also as he tries to win Miriam back against all odds.

Legrand uses point of view to let the audience discover this story as it goes along, giving the film the tone of a mystery-thriller even though it's an entirely emotional one. The interaction between these people is layered and messy, continually eliciting judgement from the viewer as we witness each lie and manipulation. Each character's motivations remain fuzzy, with only moments of clarity. Even if we have the information, we're simply not sure who is telling the truth.

The clever performances make this work in often startling ways. Menochet and Drucker are opaque and steely, sometimes downright harsh, and yet both actors reveal increasingly more yearning undercurrents in every scene. As the scorned one, Menochet's Antoine is more sympathetic, but Drucker's Miriam is tough and smart. Meanwhile, Gioria is seriously impressive as an an observant boy who reacts to everything with a wariness that implies he's been in this war for far too long. And Auneveux's intriguingly wounded Josephine has her own trajectory with her own mysteries.

Along the way, there are some sequences that feel repetitive even as they push the story further and offer startling revelations. And a couple of moments seem dragged out further than necessary, although they offer deeper and deeper involvement. Legrand us skilfully building to a staggering final act that resolves things in ways we should have seen coming. It's a wrenching finale that leaves us wrung out, mainly because we can so vividly imagine ourselves right in the middle of it.

15 themes, language, violence
8.Sep.17 vff
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The Insult
3/5  
dir Ziad Doueiri
scr Ziad Doueiri, Joelle Touma
prd Rachid Bouchareb, Jean Brehat, Julie Gayet, Antoun Sehnaoui, Nadia Turincev
with Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha, Rita Hayek, Camille Salameh, Diamand Bou Abboud, Talal Jurdi, Christine Choueiri, Julia Kassar, Rifaat Torbey, Carlos Chahine, Georges Daou
karam and basha release Leb 14.Sep.17
17/Lebanon 1h52

venice film fest
TORONTO FILM FEST
The Insult A terrific personal Lebanese drama is somewhat swamped by much bigger issues, as filmmaker Ziad Doueiri floods the story with the complexities of the nation's history and politics. Everything in this film is important, but when it's overlaid on top of a courtroom drama, it tips the balance away from the more resonant story of two men having a face-off over a deeply personal clash.

As a construction crew tidies up a messy Beirut neighbourhood, the foreman Yasser (Basha) fixes a drain pipe outside the home of mechanic Tony (Karam) and his pregnant wife Shirine (Hayek). As a right-wing Christian, Tony freaks out that a Palestinian has touched his home, insulting Yasser. Attempts to calm the situation make it worse, and Tony loses his court case. Then he appeals, bringing in famous lawyer Wajdi (Salameh), while Yasser gets help from the slick, young Nadine (Abboud). As the judge weighs the evidence, old tensions erupt into riots outside.

The central story is strong enough to convey what filmmaker Doueiri is trying to say without piling so much detail onto the screen. Every time the characters launch into a long expository explanation (once including a video presentation), the plot screeches to a halt. These political speeches oddly belittle the central clash between Tony and Yasser, which has intriguing personal angles to it that are abandoned for the larger historical aspects.

Performances are earthy and real, narrowly avoiding tipping over into melodrama even when the script veers in that direction. This basically leaves Karam's Tony as the villain, a hothead incapable of thinking before he speaks or seeing anything from another point of view. Basha's Yasser isn't perfect by any means, but his position is far more rational. And the script's tilt into issue-based drama means that there isn't time to properly explore the far more engaging relational issues.

Basically, the film is a victim of its own subject matter: it's about how Lebanon has never dealt with its darker history, leaving people feeling rootless and vulnerable. Doueiri ambitiously and bravely sets out to take this one small step in the right direction, discussing topics that people simply can't speak about. And this fact alone makes the film more than worth seeing. Indeed, it's a vital document about the situation in Lebanon and beyond. Although it would have been even more powerful if the message had served the story, instead of the other way round.

15 themes, language, violence
31.Aug.17 vff

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Nico, 1988
4/5  
dir-scr Susanna Nicchiarelli
prd Marta Donzelli, Gregorio Paonessa
with Trine Dyrholm, John Gordon Sinclair, Anamaria Marinca, Sandor Funtek, Thomas Trabacchi, Karina Fernandez, Calvin Demba, Francesco Colella
dyrholm
release It Aug.17 vff
17/Italy Rai 1h33

venice film fest
london film fest
Nico, 1988 This biopic about the final years of the iconic German-born musician-actress strikes an intriguing tone, diving into firsthand accounts of people who worked with her. It feels remarkably personal, with a bold, gritty edge that echoes the intensity of both Nico's singing and Trine Dyrholm's thunderous performance. Some elements feel a little undercooked, leaving the audience perhaps misled about details. But it's an involving film packed with rivulets of emotion.

In 1986 Christa, better known as Nico (Dyrholm), hits the road in Europe with agent Richard (Sinclair), tour manager Laura (Fernandez) and a band including a gifted Romanian violinist (Marinca) and a junkie guitarist (Demba). But the press is less interested in her new music than her days with Velvet Underground 20 years ago. Amid adventures in France, Italy and Czechoslovakia, Nico is worried about her son Ari (Funtck), in hospital after a near-fatal overdose. There's also the problem that, once they cross into the Eastern Bloc, Nico must go cold turkey from heroin.

Writer-director Nicchiarelli gives the film a superbly rock-n-roll sensibility, mixing in in swirling, disorienting archive footage. Glimpses of Lou Reed and Andy Warhol add context to her yearning to put her it-girl past behind her and get on with making new music. And her struggles with addiction are never belittled. Unlike some others, she is a functioning junkie and doesn't like to admit that she's a better musician when she's sober.

The story is largely told through Richard's eyes, which gives Sinclair intriguing layers as a man slowly falling in love with her, then settling for second-best since anything else is unlikely. This is rather distracting to Nico's far more engaging storyline, but it never steals screen time from Dyrholm, who is a force of nature as she struts and growls, then purrs through the songs (the actress does her own singing). It's a showy role, and she runs with it, beautifully underscoring everything with a mother's yearning for her son.

By focussing on just these few years, the film avoids trying to tell all of Nico's story, alluding to her past without indulging in it. So it's odd that the script leaves out important details like the fact that her death had nothing to do with heroin or suicidal tendencies. It just mentions that she died at age 49, hinting that she was ready to turn over a new leaf and reinvent herself once again. And this film makes us long to see who that version of Christa Paffgen might have been.

15 themes, language, sexuality, drugs
30.Aug.17 vff
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The Third Murder
4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr-prd Hirokazu Kore-eda with Masaharu Fukuyama, Koji Yakusho, Suzu Hirose, Isao Hashizume, Mikako Ichikawa, Izumi Matsuoka, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Yuki Saito, Kotaro Yoshida fukuyama release Jpn 9.Sep.17 17/Japan 2h04
venice film fest
TORONTO FILM FEST
The Third Murder Expertly orchestrated by master filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, this is on the surface a police procedural thriller. Except that it's actually a detailed exploration of intertwined characters who may or may not be telling the truth. Which is kind of the point for what turns out to be a provocative look at the nature of justice in a world full of imperfect people. It's also a movie that demands close attention from the audience.

When he's arrested for murder, Misumi (Yakusho) is assigned as his lawyer the meticulous Shigemori (Fukuyama), son of the judge who spared his life when he was convicted of a double homicide 30 years earlier. Having confessed to killing his boss, Misumi's case seems open-and-shut. And then he changes his story, saying that his boss' wife was behind the whole thing. Then it emerges that Misumi knew his boss' 14-year-old daughter Sakie (Hirose), and his story shifts again. But Shigemori is determined to get to the truth of the matter.

Intriguingly, the truth doesn't seem quite so important to Kore-eda, who delights in pulling the rug out from under each character with revelations that are possibly inaccurate. Parallels between these very different men are fascinating: Shigemori has a teen daughter who is always in trouble, and he struggles to be himself against expectations to be like his father; Misumi strains against his troubles, never finding the happiness others seem to enjoy, and he wonders if he'll ever be able to do something positive with his life.

While dropping clues about what actually happened, Kore-eda keeps the cameras close to Fukuyama, who is superbly textured as a man who isn't quite sure what he's trying to prove. He's desperate to find the facts, but as he looks into various interrelationships, things begin to come into focus only to be muddled by yet another surprise. Fukuyama underplays this to draw the audience in deeply, providing especially strong emotional kicks in conversations with Yakusho's more expressive but also much more slippery Misumi.

Kore-eda is such a great storyteller that he rewards audience members who are paying attention with little gifts all along the way. Amusing details and tiny pleasures surprise at every turn, and the film is gorgeously shot and edited, with an emotive but never pushy score by Ludovico Einaudi. Viewers who, like Shigemori, prefer to have their endings as tidy as possible might find this film a bit frustrating. But that's the point. Kore-eda is reminding us that trying to force perfection on people is a pointless exercise.

12 themes, violence
4.Sep.17 vff

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