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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 19.Jul.19

Always Say Yes: A Mexican Picaresque   Siempre Sí: Una Picaresca Mexicana
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
Always Say Yes
dir-scr Alberto Fuguet
prd Arturo Oporto, Alberto Fuguet
with Gerardo Torres, Pavel Akindag, Anty de la Vega, Irvin Morlag, Franco Ruiz, Andres Sanchez, Effy Oropeza, Christo Cansio, Lalo Santos
release Mex May.19 mix,
UK 22.Jul.19
19/Mexico 1h44

torres and de la vega
Based on a true story, this loose, playful Mexican drama follows the adventure of a young Mexican in the big city. Chilean filmmaker Alberto Fuguet creates an almost experimental vibe, letting the story meander realistically, especially as it catches a sense of insistent sexuality. It's shot in an earthy, documentary style that's knowing, funny and sexy, and has a cute twist in the tale.
Wanting to pose naked for a noted photographer, Hector (Torres) heads to Mexico City alone after his buddy Carlos flakes out. In the capital, Hector is seduced by the lusty vibe in the streets, visiting a bathhouse for a massage and hooking up with strangers. He also snaps selfies, dances in a nightclub, indulges in a bit too much mezcal and wakes up in the bed of a helpful stranger (de la Vega). He loves everything about the city compared to his rural life. So he's surprised to meet a guy from his hometown (Akindag).
In his hat and boots, Hector so strongly evokes Midnight Cowboy that you expect to hear Harry Nilsson singing. The story is told nostalgically, as a memory from two years ago, marked with place and date stamps, song titles, photo filters and quotes from author Luis Zapata. There are also inter-titles commenting on Hector's journey, which is shot by a photography collective. The sexual encounters are explicit, presented artfully rather than as porn, exploring Hector's inner life.

Torres is so relaxed and earnest that he never seems to be acting. Hector may be a country boy, but he's not naive. Curious about everything, he boldly approaches each experience. He also gets likeably nervous now and then as he navigates this new world. The other characters enter and leave quietly as if they have no other life away from Hector, which of course is the point. But the actors bring quiet personality to each encounter, and these details add to the realism.

There's a sense that Fuguet has made this film by stringing together a series of gay bedroom fantasies (perhaps memories?), and the explicit sex can feel somewhat invasive. But that's perhaps due to the way movies usually shy so far away from such honest depictions. The film's pungent observation centres on Hector's diverging path from Carlos, who stays on the family ranch to find a wife and kids as expected. Hector wants to give the city a try, and also let the city try him.

cert 18 themes, language, sexuality 11.Jul.19

Consequences   Posledice
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

dir-scr Darko Stante
prd Andraz Jeric, Jerca Jeric
with Matej Zemljic, Timon Sturbej, Gasper Markun, Rosana Hribar, Blaz Setnikar, Lovro Zafred, Lea Cok, Dejan Spasic, Iztok Drabik Jug, Dominik Vodopivec, Urban Kuntaric, Matjaz Pikalo
release Svn Sep.18 fsf,
UK 15.Jul.19, US 2.Aug.19
18/Slovenia 1h35

flare film fest

zemljic, sturbej, markun
Diving straight into thug culture, this Slovenian drama is abrasive and often tough to watch as it depicts unapologetically brutal teens who have no respect for anything or anyone. But filmmaker Darko Stante also locates the central character's humanity beneath his anti-social persona. And the way the film takes on some darker, more fundamental elements of society is downright chilling.
Grappling with personal demons, 18-year-old dropout Andrej (Zemljic) ends up in reform school after his mother (Hribar) testifies against him in court. Cocky and violent, Andrej befriends his happy stoner roommate Luka (Zafred) before finding common ground with alpha-male Zele (Sturbej) and his goon Niko (Markun). As they go on a partying rampage around town, Zele and Andrej have a drug-fuelled sexual encounter. For Andrej there's a spark of attraction, which Zele exploits to control him. Eventually, Andrej is going to have to decide what he really wants to do with his life.
The title may seem rather obvious, but Stante's approach to the material is honest, never moralising about the reprehensible actions of swaggering young men who think that transgressive aggression is the only way to express their masculinity. The film is superbly shot to catch details of the settings while highlighting the rules of this subculture. The dynamic between these guys has remarkable complexity, from hazings and parties, to stealing cars and taking drugs.

Zemljic brings layers of texture to Andrej, letting the audience see his doubts about this violent lifestyle. This makes him intriguingly sympathetic, simply because it's clear that he's not as nasty as he pretends to be. Andrej's journey is often painful to watch, as he tries to fit in, ending up deeper and deeper in trouble. And the way Zemljic quietly reveals his doubts and insecurities is often wrenching. By contrast, Sturbej and Markun are playing charismatic, relentlessly vicious thugs with few redeeming qualities. Even their loyalty is cruelly conditional.

Where the film goes is rather bleak, especially as it begins to explore the issue of sexuality from a variety of angles that aren't often seen on-camera. This is an unflinching depiction of a segment of the population that simply has never got a grip on any sense of purpose in life. And the film quietly suggests that this perhaps isn't their fault, as their parents created this mess, then blamed the kids for it. It's a strikingly bold feature debut for the gifted Stante, definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye on.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs 19.Mar.19

Hidden Kisses   Baisers Cachés
Review by Rich Cline | 5/5   MUST must see SEE
Hidden Kisses
dir Didier Bivel
scr Jerome Larcher
prd Elizabeth Arnac
with Berenger Anceaux, Jules Houplain, Patrick Timsit, Barbara Schulz, Bruno Putzulu, Carole Richert, Lisa Kramarz, Catherine Jacob, Nicolas Carpentier, Jerome Pouly, Natacha Jasmine Djidel, Fabrice Lelyon
release Fr 17.May.17,
US 5.Dec,17, UK 22.Jul.19
16/France 1h27

houplain and anceaux
From France, this issue-based teen drama has an Afterschool Special vibe, honing in on an important topic. It's bracingly urgent without feeling forced, strikingly well-written as it sends each character on a distinct journey. There's a lot going on in this little drama, and the message is an essential one: it's not gay kids who need to change, it's the society that makes them feel despised.
Just about to turn 16, Nathan (Anceaux) has just changed schools, and his policeman father Stephane (Timsit) is hopeful that he'll find a nice girlfriend. But at his first party, Nathan meets Louis (Nouplain) and their private kiss is sent around the school on social media, sparking an outburst of cruel bullying and bigotry. Nathan is the only one recognised in the photo, and everyone wants to know who the other boy is. One teacher (Carpentier) tries to counteract the prejudice, but is reprimanded by officials who want the school to avoid the issue.
The film traverses the subject delicately but unflinchingly. When his widowed dad asks about the photo, Nathan casually lies, clearly used to hiding himself from everyone around him. Louis denies that he has feelings for the clearly lovelorn Nathan, but he's lying too. And their classmates are thoughtlessly ignorant ("If I was gay I'd kill myself"). Meanwhile, Stephane accepts but struggles with the truth, and also finds himself bullied by his colleagues.

Anceaux is superb as a teen blamed for a massive storm he had no part in creating. The actor beautifully underplays Nathan's isolation. Houplain skilfully portrays Louis as he navigates his hyper-macho father (Putzulu) while fighting a nasty internal battle and hiding in a relationship with Laura (Kramarz). Actors playing parents and teachers are also excellent, each on his or her own path. Standouts include Jacob as a teacher who knows this story too well. "It takes courage not to lie to yourself," she bravely tells her class. "Where's the courage of those who hit Nathan?"

Clearly the point is that homophobia must be taught from a young age, especially to children whose parents object to that idea. Ignoring the issue creates a toxic society that encourages violence and hatred based on fear. One of the most casually telling moments is when Louis' parents are talking about the new gay boy in school, and Louis' young brother asks what that means. "Eat your tomatoes," his dad says, then to Louis, "Keep your distance." And this is even more damaging than other, more violent homophobia this film presents with remarkable sensitivity.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 13.Jul.19

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