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Indies, foreigns, docs, revivals and shorts...

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last update 14.Mar.18
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3.5/5   Sobre Nós
dir Mauro Carvalho, Thiago Cazado
scr Thiago Cazado
prd Bruno Campello, Marina Falcao
with Thiago Cazado, Rodrigo Bittes, Carmem Moretzsohn, Andressa Lee, Rodrigo Bezerra, Leandro Menezes
 cazado and bittes
release UK 26.Feb.18
17/Brazil 1h14
about us With a melancholic, nostalgic tone, this lovely Brazilian drama explores the nature of a relationship in hindsight, mixing a sense of giddy happiness with quiet regret. It's a charming, likeable film that captures a vivid sense of relational complexity, quietly revealing the truth beneath the happy memories. It sometimes feels a little fatalistic and indulgent, but it's also an earthy, honest look at how we remember each other.

Young filmmaker Diego (Cazado) is writing a script based his romance with architect Matheus (Bittes) before he left Brazil for film school. Back then, Diego was a photographer tired of shooting portraits, longing to capture more spontaneous moments. With an intention to make movies, Diego finds the perfect four-year filmmaking course in California, but decides to study locally instead to remain with his husband Matheus, who nevertheless feels increasingly left out. And Diego is afraid to tell him that he's taken the entrance exam for the American course. Can their relationship survive four years apart?

Sensitive and internalised, the film has a warm, gentle tone that quickly cuts through the characters' surfaces to reveal deeper interests and longings. Their interaction is a relaxed mix of conversation, silliness and physicality that explores the intensity of the bond between them. This creates a striking sense that, as Diego recalls, he and Mateus never began, but just always were. Which of course adds a poignancy to the framing scenes of Diego writing his script years later, when their relationship is a distant memory.

Cazado and Bittes create a striking sense of chemistry, both in their earthy conversations and their uninhibited, cuddly physicality. This isn't about fireworks between them, instead they kiss and touch each other softly, completely at ease, expressing love and companionship rather than lust. They shift beautifully from playfulness to more thoughtful conversations. Much of their interaction feels improvised, and has a hilariously youthful cheekiness to it. When Diego's mother (Moretzsohn) visits, that goofiness goes a little over the top.

Director Carvalho and actor-filmmaker Cazado skilfully capture the mixture of emotions that swirl through this happy relationship, two young guys who simply can't imagine themselves without each other. So like them, it's hard for us to think of them not being together forever, even though we know their days are numbered. Watching these events unfold is genuinely wrenching, shot and acted with real sensitivity, with the present-day narration offering an emotional charged perspective. The film may ultimately be a bit slight, but the truths are deep and raw.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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My Golden Days
3./5   Trois Souvenirs de Ma Jeunesse
dir Arnaud Desplechin
prd Pascal Caucheteux
scr Arnaud Desplechin, Julie Peyr
with Quentin Dolmaire, Lou Roy-Lecollinet, Mathieu Amalric, Andre Dussollier, Pierre Andrau, Theo Fernandez, Elyot Milshtein, Lily Taieb, Raphael Cohen, Cecile Garcia-Fogel, Olivier Rabourdin, Clemence Le Gall
Dolmaire and Roy-Lecollinet release Fr 20.May.15,
US 18.Mar.16, UK 9.Mar.18
15/France 2h03

london film fest
My Golden Days A fine sense of time and place gives a kick of energy to this long, complex journey through a man's memories of his youth. French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin has a tendency to over-egg the themes with talky dialog and unnecessary tangents, which eliminates any sense of momentum in the plot. But it's packed with lovely moments and vivid nostalgia for youthful passion.

For professor Paul (Amalric), heading home to France after a decade living in Tajikistan is sparking memories of his childhood with his crazy mother (Garcia-Fogel) and angry father (Rabourdin). There's also his trip to the Soviet Union in the late-80s as a teen (Dolmaire), where he participates in a secret mission with his best friend Marc (Milshtein). Back in small-town France, he hangs out with his pal Kovalki (Andrau) and falls for Esther (Roy-Lecollinet) at first sight. But things get tricky when he heads off to study in Paris.

The story is told as a swirl of memories as the adult Paul travels back to France and is interrogated by a border official (Dussollier) over his stolen identity. The amount of detail is often distracting; it's one of those French films in which gaps in dialog are filled in by unnecessary voiceover narration. But this is a portrait of the complexity of life through a variety of distinct encounters and relationships. It's skilfully assembled on every level, beautifully shot and edited.

Naturalistic performances add to the realism, especially as the teen cast dives into a variety of ill-considered adventures. Dolmaire anchors the film nicely as the adolescent Paul through a pivotal span of years, grappling with love, lust, art, family and his own ambitions. But neither he nor the excellent Amalric can make Paul very likeable. So it's Roy-Lecollinet's yearning Esther who steals the spotlight throughout their on-off relationship, which falters whenever Paul is away.

The film's rambling structure is ambitious and often engaging, touching on a wide range of themes and feelings. It's so varied that there never seems to be a through-line, aside from teen Paul's messy journey to work out who he is. But the film is so overloaded that it never becomes much more than an anecdotal journey through a life that's colourful without ever being particularly notable. And the script spends so much time talking at us that it only lets us feel the occasional pang of recognition.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence

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4/5   Pihalla
dir Nils-Erik Ekblom
prd Marko S Eronen
scr Nils-Erik Ekblom, Tom Norrgrann
with Mikko Kauppila, Valtteri Lehtinen, Sanna Majuri, Sami Huhtala, Amanda Virolainen, Mirja Oksanen, Kaisa Saarakkala, Juho Keskitalo, Ossi Agren, Jukka Federley, Miika Karlsson, Nils-Erik Ekblom
kauppila and lehtinen
release US Jun.17 fff,
UK 26.Mar.18
17/Finland 1h37
Screwed Shot in a sundrenched, bracingly contemporary style, this Finnish drama takes an authentic approach to a young man's coming of age. The film's technical quality might be rough around the edges, and the plotting is a little clunky, but it more than makes up for that with a resonant sense of interaction between characters who are easy to identify with.

With the house to himself, shy 17-year-old Miku (Kauppila) is coerced by his womanising big brother Sebu (Keskitalo) to throw a party. Sebu invites Miku's cool classmate Sanna (Saarakkala), pushing them together. But things get out of hand, and his furious parents (Majuri and Huhtala) punish Miku by forcing him to spend the summer with them at the family's countryside cottage. Things perk up when neighbour Elias (Lehtinen) invites Miku to get a beer, and a tentative conversation leads to blossoming romance. But both know the summer's end is approaching.

The film quietly and honestly explores Miku's dawning sexuality, which he has been concealing from everyone, including himself. Filmmaker Ekblom shoots this without any flourishes in an up-close, almost documentary style, and his camerawork is skilful at capturing the perspectives of the characters as they circle around each other. Like most filmmakers, he's also timid about depicting a gay couple on-camera, but the movie's likeable tone and resonant characters overcome both this and the obvious budgetary limitations.

Kauppila is superb as a young man who is frightened of the desires within him, charmed by the confident, sexy Elias, played with charisma by Lehtinen. Both actors have an engaging presence, and it's easy to root for them to work out their issues. When they finally come together, it's a scene of urgency and tenderness, powerfully shot in complete silence. Other characters are nicely played in ways that suggest that each is grappling with his or her own issues, without weighing the audience down with the details. Majuri's angry mum and Huhtala's narcoleptic dad are superb in their own subplot.

There are much bigger issues swirling around in the background, from everyday relationship themes to the way these young men talk about how they have been bullied for being different. These things are depicted in offhanded ways that speak the truth without preaching. Ekblom's edgy, naturalistic approach helps paper over story elements that are constructed to drive the narrative. Indeed, every scene feels powerfully truthful, as if we're voyeurs watching these young men work out who they are.

15 themes, language, violence
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dir-scr Coralie Fargeat
prd Marc-Etienne Schwartz, Marc Stanimirovic
with Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Guillaume Bouchede, Vincent Colombe
lutz and janssens release US Jan.18 sff,
Fr 7.Feb.18, UK 11.May.18
17/France 1h48

Revenge There's a fierce energy at the heart of this bonkers vengeance thriller that helps the audience suspend rather a lot of disbelief. It also helps to make up for some badly mixed messaging, as the story has a distinctly female perspective and yet the one woman in the cast is the only person fetishised on-camera (even if it's a man who gets naked). But the film is so outrageously cool that genre fans will love it.

In a gorgeous house in the middle of a vast desert (played by Morocco), a helicopter lands carrying Richard (Janssens) and his mistress Jen (Lutz). Their idyll is interrupted by calls from his wife and, even worse, the arrival of Richard's hunting buddies Stan and Dimitri (Bouchede and Colombe). A drunken evening ensues, and the next morning Stan assumes Jen's flirtatious dancing meant something. When she rebuffs him, he assaults her. And things go from bad to worse when Richard returns home. So all Jen can do is plot violent vengeance against these three predators.

There really isn't any more to the plot than that, and any sense of realism evaporates as the intensity rapidly escalates, mainly because each character is called upon to do something blatantly superhuman. Jen's actions are so beyond the realms of plausibility that the film essentially becomes a fantasy, indulging in quantities of blood that make Kubrick's The Shining look like a drizzle. Viewers who love being grossed out will be in their element here.

Lutz is terrific in a very physical role that has a nice sense of emotional depth. She plays Jen as a sexy woman who isn't as stupid as the men think she is. And she certainly isn't as weak either. Janssens also dives into the physicality, stripping off for two extended sequences in which his nudity has everything to do with the plot, including the increasingly crazed action. That said, Richard's personality is never terribly coherent. And Bouchede and Colombe are excellent as chuckleheads who definitely know they've crossed a line.

Aside from each character's miraculous healing powers, the film has an earthy quality to it that playfully mixes colourful pop references with edgy naturalism. Writer-director Fargeat gives the film buckets of visual style long before she paints the sets fifty shades of red, and she also adds surprisingly witty touches to both the characters and the grisliest situations. Which makes it the kind of movie that continually makes you flinch from the screen, even as you stifle an evil chortle.

18 themes, language, violence

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