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Glory
4/5  
dir-prd Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov
scr Kristina Grozeva, Decho Taralezhkov, Petar Valchanov
with Stefan Denolyubov, Margita Gosheva, Kitodar Todorov, Milko Lazarov, Mira Iskarova, Ivan Savov, Stanislav Ganchev, Decho Taralezhkov, Deyan Statulov, Dimitar Sardzhev, Georgi Stamenov, Hristofor Nedkov
Taralezhkov and Denolyubov release Bul 2.Dec.16,
US 12.Apr.17
16/Bulgaria 1h41

EDINBURGH FILM FEST
glory This satirical drama from Bulgaria fits well alongside other Eastern European stories of endemic corruption (such as Romania's Graduation). There's an almost Kafkaesque quality to the odyssey of a simple, honest man who gets caught up in a maze of vile bureaucratic mayhem. What this man goes through is painful to watch, mainly because it's so easy to identify with what he faces.

When railway worker Tzanko (Denolyubov) finds a bag of cash on the line, transport ministry PR boss Julia (Gosheva) kicks into action. Tzanko may be inarticulate, but Julia thinks his story will distract the public from a corruption scandal that's brewing. Everyone looks right through Tzanko, ignoring whatever he says to use him as a prop. Tired of being mistreated, he considers talking to Julia's nemesis, truth-telling journalist Kiril (Lazarov). Meanwhile, Julia doesn't want anyone to know that she's going through IVF with her extremely patient husband Valeri (Todorov).

Tzanko is a fish out of water in this media circus. His open approach to life is ridiculed behind his back, while officials portray him as a hero. Of course, he's being ruthlessly exploited by government cronies who dismiss him when he asks about his delayed paycheque or exposes that they know fuel is being stolen in vast quantities. And Julia certainly has no interest in finding the "Glory" watch she took from Tzanko, which was given to him by his father.

Denolyubov is terrific as the woolly veteran worker trying to do the right thing in a sea of sharks. The worst of the lot is Julia, and Gosheva plays her unapologetically as an ambitious woman who takes advantage of everything and everyone. She's witty and charismatic, but heartless. And as she pushes her team to increasingly vile reprisals, Julia hasn't a clue that she's as trapped in this system as Tzanko is. So it's easy to see why Todorov's Valeri is struggling to cope with her.

Even with its archly comical tone, the film feels like a rather forensic dramatisation of a system that's badly out of whack. But there's an even more potent angle here, as the filmmakers explore the chasm between the haves and have-nots, something that will resonate in any society. The reaction to Tzanko speaking the truth is horrific enough, but the people trying to silence him are so privileged that they have lost the ability to see what's actually important. And it's even more horrifying that the public buy into their lies.

12 themes, language, violence
31.Dec.17

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Jupiter’s Moon
3.5/5   Jupiter Holdja
dir Kornel Mundruczo
scr Kata Weber
prd Viola Fugen, Michel Merkt, Viktoria Petranyi, Michael Weber
with Merab Ninidze, Zsombor Jeger, Gyorgy Cserhalmi, Monika Balsai, David Yengibarian, Sandor Terhes, Akos Birkas, Peter Haumann, Farid Larbi, Mate Meszaros, Szabolcs Bede-Fazekas, Soma Boronkay
Ninidze and Jeger release Hun 8.Jun.17,
UK 5.Jan.17
17/Hungary 2h09

CANNES FILM FEST
Jupiter's Moon With a stunning sense of surrealism, Hungarian filmmaker Kornel Mundruczo takes on one of the biggest issues in Europe: the flood of immigrants from war-torn Syria. This is bravura filmmaking, visceral and urgent, with lively characters and hyper-real situations. Its imagery is exhilarating, and the plot surges forward with a loopy energy, challenging us to hang on for the ride.

While desperately trying to make his way through Serbia into Hungary with his father (Yengibarian), 20-something Syrian refugee Aryan (Jeger) is shot by border police. But he miraculously survives and is taken to a detention camp. Immediately, the cynical Dr Stern (Ninidze) smuggles him out, because he sees a chance to profit from the fact that Aryan now has the ability to float up into the air. But camp director Laszlo (Cserhalmi) is on their trail as they try to raise money to rescue Aryan's father. And Laszlo has his own need for the cash.

This opens like a war movie, as soldiers hunt down terrified refugees with big guns blazing. Later on, the film resembles a blockbuster spy thriller with jaw-dropping chases. The title itself is ironic: Europa, one of Jupiter's 67 moons, has conditions that could sustain life. Indeed, Hungry's border region has been turned into a battleground not by immigrants but by a gung-ho military force that doesn't see these desperate people as humans. Through all of this, Mundruczo plays with perceptions, twisting scenes beyond the literal, giving the film a loose, askance energy that's infectious.

Ninidze is terrific as the mercenary humanitarian, a sardonic drunk who has clearly lost faith in the world and sees Aryan as perhaps an angel in the flesh. The plot may centre on Aryan's extraordinary odyssey, but it's Stern's surprising journey that draws the audience in with its complex ideas and offbeat touches. Opposite him, Jeger is a terrific counterpoint as a true innocent overwhelmed by what's happening but determined to reunite with his father. And he knows that he must have a purpose.

Cinematographer Marcell Rev skilfully orchestrates long, complex takes augmented by eye-catching effects and stunts that build atmosphere without distracting from characters or themes. There are several audacious sequences, often set around Aryan's flights. But the dramatic and thriller-style scenes each carry a properly pointed kick. And the messy narrative never shies away from thorny topics like terrorism, corruption or the way the media twists the truth to stoke paranoia.

15 themes, language, violence, nudity
30.Dec.17

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