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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 28.Sep.19

Emma Peeters  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
Emma Peeters
dir-scr Nicole Palo
prd Alon Knoll, Serge Noel, Gregory Zalcman
with Monia Chokri, Fabrice Adde, Stephanie Crayencour, Andrea Ferreol, Anne Sylvain, Jean-Henri Compere, Jean-Noel Delfanne, Romain David, Aran Bertetto, Herve Piron, Frederic Clou, Kengo Saito
release Bel 17.Apr.19,
US May.19 siff, UK Jun.19 eiff
18/Belgium 1h30

raindance film fest

adde and chokri
There's jazzy sensibility to this cheeky Belgian film, which follows an actress who feels like she has missed her chance. Comedies about suicide are difficult to balance, so thankfully writer-director Nicole Palo keeps the tone light, making it clear without saying so that this isn't likely to end in tears. But the issues it touches on are real, and the gimmicky stylistic touches are good fun.
In Paris, 34-year-old Emma (Chokri) is deeply frustrated that she has never made it as an actress. Working in an electronics store and caring for a pensioner (Ferreol), she and her friend Lulu (Crayencour) still study acting with a pompous teacher (Bertetto). Emma also secretly decides to kill herself on her 35th birthday. So she visits the neighbourhood mortician Alex (Adde) to make plans, telling him she's terminally ill. She then creates a to-do list, and is only momentarily thrown when her parents (Sylvain and Compere) arrive for a surprise visit.
From the start this feels like a romantic-comedy involving Emma and Alex, but Palo never uses the formula, shaking things up with a plot that meanders amiably through the details of Emma's carefully orchestrated plan. The only tricky question is what to do with her cat Jim. But Emma has a blind spot when it comes to looking at any future she hasn't imagined for herself, as she sees moments in her life play out like movie genres, from classic silents to La Nouvelle Vague.

Chokri is perfectly cast as a lively young woman who is unable to enjoy what she has rather than worry about what she doesn't. Her friends are lively and basically ridiculous, only here for comic relief. And her parents are pretty humiliating too. By contrast, Adde plays Alex as quirky and eccentric, kind and attentive, clearly just what she needs. But their interaction is hilariously awkward from the start.

The breezy tone helps make up for the oddball collection of random sequences, including the wacky visions that guide Emma's perception. Palo stages these nicely, and never overplays them, but they do momentarily throw the audience out of the central story. And then there's Emma's indifference to the idea of her own death, which is more than a little disturbing, especially when combined with her brusque manner with the people around her. So it's nice that the final act is complex enough to make us think, and also to keep a smile on our face.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 25.Sep.19 rff

Review by Rich Cline | 5/5   MUST must see SEE

choi, song, chang and jung
dir Bong Joon-ho
scr Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won
prd Kwak Sin-ae, Moon Yang-kwon, Jang Young-Hwan
with Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Chang Hyae-jin, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Lee Jeong-eun, Jung Ziso, Jung Hyun-jun, Park Myeong-hoon, Park Seo-joon, Park Keun-rok
release Kor 30.May.19,
US 11.Oct.19, UK 7.Feb.20
19/Korea 2h12

39th Shadows Awards


Masterfully spinning a blackly comical thriller, Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho recounts a riotously inventive story that touches on financial disparity, as a grifting poor family wraps its tentacles around a wealthy one. The story is twisty and shocking, with continual moments of quirky comedy, crazed action and carefully orchestrated suspense. And where it heads feels like a terrifying prediction of impending global carnage.
Living in a basement and stealing free wifi, the Kim family folds pizza boxes for cash. The 20-something Ki-woo (Choi) has his sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam) forge credentials so he can become a tutor for Da-hye (Jung Ji-so), the dim teen daughter of the wealthy Park family. He quickly wins over her mother (Cho), convincing her to hire Ki-jung to tutor younger son Da-song (Jung Hyun-jun) in art. In turn, she gets their father Ki-taek (Song) hired as the family driver. Getting rid of the housekeeper (Lee) for their mother Chung-sook (Chang) is another issue.
These siblings are terrific at playing up to expectations, evoking intelligence and civility to impress the Parks. They demonstrate street-smarts in a variety of situations, cleverly manipulating this wealthy family by passing each other off as casual acquaintances who can help. Watching the kids coach the parents in their elaborate scam "performances" is hilarious. And their glee is infections. "At a time when a security guard job attracts 500 university graduates," Ki-taek says, "our entire family has work!" And this is just the set-up before the wild ride begins.

The actors are terrific, investing characters with layers of personality. At the film's centre, Choi is the standout. The Kims don't regard themselves as con-artists, but as survivors. They're earthy and funny, utterly unbothered by scruples as they look at further ways to infiltrate the Parks' life. Their sense of entitlement also makes them both cruel and lazy. By contrast, the Parks are generous and oblivious, so comfortable that they can't see their own bigotry.

This is such an original story that it's impossible to predict what might happen next. Bong plays merrily with the narrative, spinning it in ways that add clever observations on the themes while deepening characters and keeping the audience both amused and unnerved. The spiralling narrative threatens to veer out of control at any point, but there's a method to the way Bong is skilfully slicing through the layers of society in ways that resonate around the world. See it before the requisite watered-down American remake.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 17.Sep.19

World Beyond My Mind   Draussen in Meinem Kopf
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Draussen in Meinem Kopf
dir Eibe Maleen Krebs
prd Verena Grafe-Hoft
scr Eibe Maleen Krebs, Andreas Keck
with Samuel Koch, Nils Hohenhovel, Eva Nurnberg, Lars Rudolph, Wieslawa Wesolowska, Mario Fuchs, Bastian Trost, Franziska Arndt, Harald Schwaiger, Kammerchor St Rochus, Pari Garvanos, Lukas Furch
release Ger 26.Apr.18,
UK Sep.19 rff
18/Germany 1h39

raindance film fest

koch and hohenhovel
Dark and provocative, this intense German drama explores a complex friendship between two young men who begin to desperately need each other. It's jagged and often difficult to watch, simply because the material is so pointed. Filmmaker Eibe Maleen Krebs skilfully avoids claustrophobia even though the entire story takes place in one room, using the camera, lighting and a cast of vivid characters to challenge the audience's imagination in perhaps dangerous ways.
As his muscular dystrophy reaches its final stages, the 30-ish Sven (Koch) is assigned 18-year-old Christoph (Hohenhovel) as his new volunteer carer. Surly and confrontational, Sven doesn't make Christoph's life easy, but regular nurses Louisa and Beate (Nurnberg and Wesolowska) encourage him to stick with it. Eventually, they begin to connect, even amid distractions from perhaps too-lively neighbours Larry and Laus (Rudolph and Fuchs), who enjoy getting Sven drunk. And as Christoph begins to understand more about Sven's most twisted thoughts, he struggles with how to respond.
Inspired by a true story, the script features remarkably telling moments that refuse to make things easy for the audience. Ideas gurgle everywhere, but Krebs refuses to preach, allowing characters to have their own integrity and forcing the audience to respond individually. When Christoph admits that he's a virgin, Sven teases him cruelly. But later he admits that he has never been able to have sex himself and longs for just one kiss from Louisa. But she only has eyes for Christoph.

The handsome Koch (who was paralysed in a reality TV show accident) delivers a raw performance bristling with anger, frustration and disappointment at the course of his life. He expresses emotions powerfully through his voice, eyes and indeed his entire physicality. He and Hohenhovel develop a wonderfully prickly chemistry between them, hinting at all kinds of subtext as they get closer, fall out, reconcile and speak with increasing honesty. Several of their interactions are literally breathtaking.

Krebs leaves many of the ideas in this film open-handed. For example, she never tries to explain why Christoph struggles to connect with women, never openly exploring the idea that he might be gay. She allows the characters to exist in the present, prodding the audience to experience their feelings rather than to explain them away. Even Sven's love of Bach's music has a complexity that subverts expectations. So while the film may be a bit vague and mopey, it's also unforgettable.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 21.Sep.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall