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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 6.Oct.19

Don’t Look Down   Haut Perchés
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Don't Look Down
dir-scr Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
prd Cyriac Auriol
with Manika Auxire, Geoffrey Couet, Simon Frenay, Francois Nambot, Lawrence Valin
release Fr 21.Aug.19,
UK Oct.19 lff
19/France 1h29

london film fest

valin, auxire, nambot, frenay, couet
Like a stage play, this film puts five characters in an apartment and watches them over the course of a single night as they talk to each other. French filmmakers Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau use deep colourful lighting to give the film a lush look and feel, and each of the cast members has a vivid sense of physicality. This is a seductive, mysterious little film that pulls the audience in.
Five strangers, a woman and four men, meet for some wine and food in a modern flat that looks out over Paris. After brief introductions, they speak about what they have in common: each of them fell in love with the same man, but ended up feeling used. Lawrence (Valin) is surprised that Veronika (Auxire) is there, because the man is gay. Marius (Couet) finds it amusing, Nathan (Nambot) is intrigued, and Louis (Frenay) is too uptight to relax. Indeed, the man is in the bedroom, and they take turns visiting him.
As the night progresses, each person reveals his or her story about how this man loved then hurt them. Veronika speaks about how he created the illusion that they were a couple. Lawrence remebers his seductive eyes, while flirting shamelessly with Nathan. They discover that he lied to them about being allergic to different foods, and he treated each of them very differently in the way they expressed affection in public and in private. The conversation swirls around, switching focal point and revealing details that are funny and telling.

The ensemble cast is uniformly solid, underplaying their roles even when the dialog begins to turn outrageously sexy. As the conversation slides from jokey camaraderie to much more intimate details, each person expresses a distinct emotional inner life, opening up in ways that seem to surprise even them, especially when they reveal their fantasies. There isn't a stand-out character, as all are equal within the premise. The flat belongs to Louis, but the lingering question is how they found out about each other.

When they're speaking to each other, the camera stays very close, drifting from face to face to reveal the person talking and the others reacting. There's a sensuality to the way the film is shot, almost fetishising the food and catching moments when a look or touch is exchanged. Recurring themes centre on the nature of sex and relationships, including feelings abut intimacy and commitment. It's an intriguing look at the idea of toxic relationships, as well as how quickly strangers can connect if they're willing to open up.

cert 15 themes, language 5.Oct.19

I Lost My Body   J’ai Perdu Mon Corps
Review by Rich Cline | 5/5     MUST must see SEE
I Lost My Body
dir Jeremy Clapin
prd Marc Du Pontavice
scr Jeremy Clapin, Guillaume Laurant
voices Hakim Faris, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick d'Assumcao
English cast Dev Patel, Alia Shawkat, George Wendt
release Fr 6.Nov.19,
US 15.Nov.19, UK 22.Nov.19
19/France Netflix 1h21

39th Shadows Awards

london film fest

naoufel with his cousin
With a spectacular visual sensibility, this animated French thriller tells a strikingly original tale that inventively sparks the viewer's imagination. Offbeat and fiendishly clever, the film has been designed in a way that looks fully cinematic, offering vivid perspectives and a fully formed experience that appeals to all the senses. It's also a refreshingly grown up movie that will connect with the childish dreamer inside.
Breaking out of a lab refrigerator, a disembodied hand begins an epic crawl across Paris, encountering pigeons, rats, dogs and other surprises. Meanwhile, it is remembering its life with Naoufel (Faris), an orphan from Morocco who was raised by an uncle in France. Along with memories of his childhood, he recalls working as a pizza delivery boy, meeting Gabrielle (Du Bois) and getting a new job as an apprentice carpenter with her uncle (d'Assumcao). But wooing Gabrielle is harder than he thought it would be, and the carpentry shop is full of very sharp saws.
The animation is gorgeous, combining hand-sketched images with digital-quality motion. Flashbacks to Morocco are rendered in lovely shades of black and white, while the hand's incredible journey plays like a heart-stopping adventure blended with an emotive monster movie. Details add texture to the story as well as cleverly creating running themes and imagery. Pesky flies are everywhere, Naoufel's obsession with recording sound is echoed throughout the plot (and sound design), and there are several outsiders trying to find their way.

The imagery is of such high quality that it's easy to forget that it's animated, even as this allows the filmmakers to create wonderful otherworldly moments. Each character in the story has such a full inner life that he or she feels fully organic, which adds meaning to the relationships. Their individual hopes and fears are strongly conveyed by both the animators and vocal cast. And even the hand itself takes on a personality through its ordeal.

Of course this is what gives the movie its distinctive kick, and its weirdly gripping to root for this disembodied hand (which walks like Thing from The Addams Family) as it navigates a series of heart-stopping challenges. And Naoufel's yearning is just as involving. This is a pungent story about how each part of society relies on the others, how migrants are important in any culture and how love and connections arise where least expected. Frankly, it's a masterpiece that's worth making the effort to see on a big screen.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 24.Sep.19 lff

Werewolf   Wilkołak
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir-scr Adrian Panek
prd Magdalena Kaminska, Agata Szymanska
with Kamil Polnisiak, Nicolas Przygoda, Sonia Mietielica, Danuta Stenka, Werner Daehn, Jakub Syska, Helena Mazur, Krzysztof Durski, Maksymilian Balcerowski, Julia Slusarczyk, Matylda Ignasiak, Radoslaw Chrzescianski
release US Sep.18 ff,
Pol 29.Mar.19, UK 4.Oct.19
18/Poland 1h28

przygoda and mietielica
Inspired by real-life events, this Polish horror thriller has a strong coming-of-age element that makes it worth looking out for. It's also finely well-made, with a strong sense of atmosphere as writer-director Adrian Panek finds a striking range of humanity in a place and time where rules seem to have been abandoned. Along the way, he stirs in elements from fairy tales, haunted house movies and war dramas.
After a Polish concentration camp is liberated in 1945, eight boys and girls, aged 6 to 15, move into an abandoned villa in a forest. The only adult is Jadwiga (Stenka), who tries to help them regain their childhoods. But they're running out of food, and they're under siege by a pack of feral Alsatian hounds that were released into the wild by fleeing SS officers. There are menacing Russians and Germans out there too. The younger kids, who can't even remember their own names, are convinced that the Nazis have turned into wolves.
Panek builds the tension quickly, growing from a general eeriness into full-on grisliness as barking dogs surround the house and start attacking anything that moves. Yes, the horror elements are very strong, with plenty of freak-out suspense, some nerve-jangling set-pieces and several effective sudden jolts. The setting becomes almost fantastical at times, a castle under a curse in a dense forest. And the growing strain between the children provides even more threatening nastiness than the snarling dogs. At least a drunken party offers a bit of release for them.

The ensemble cast is superb, with a fine collection of child performers who make the situations believable and gripping. At the centre are two teen boys, adeptly played by Przygoda as the hotheaded Hanys and Polnisiak as the thoughtful Wladek. Both try to calm the dogs with verbal commands, leading to some genuinely unnerving moments. And they find themselves at odds over their actions. Mietielica is also strong as the burgeoning-teen Hanka, who tries to keep a level head as she faces some seriously intense situations.

The layered script is packed with deeper elements. As Jadwiga comments, the Poles no longer recognise their country, which is now full of drunken Russians and starving Germans. And in this isolated place, these children get a chance to face their violent past and perhaps begin to grow up properly. So while their odyssey through these events is harrowing, it's layered with darkly resonant ideas that make it far more involving that expected.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.Oct.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall