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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 20.Oct.19

Deerskin   Le Daim
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
dir-scr Quentin Dupieux
prd Mathieu Verhaeghe, Thomas Verhaeghe
with Jean Dujardin, Adele Haenel, Albert Delpy, Coralie Russier, Laurent Nicolas, Marie Bunel, Pierre Gomme, Caroline Piette, Stephane Jobert, Geraldine Schitter, Panayotis Pascot, Youssef Hajdi
release Fr 19.Jun.19,
US Oct.19 ciff, UK 8.May.20
19/France 1h17

london film fest

dujardin and haenel
Cheeky French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux comes up with another bonkers idea for a grisly thriller that is thoroughly infused with wry comical overtones. This one's about a jacket that announces that it wants to be the only jacket on earth. And it's brought to life with the help of ace costar Jean Dujardin. The movie is relentlessly ridiculous, but it also has enough heart to hold the viewer's sympathy, even as we laugh and cringe at the escalating body count.
In a French mountain village, Georges (Dujardin) spends a small fortune on a fringed Italian deerskin jacket he finds online. And the seller throws in a video camera. Out of cash having just left his angry wife, he pays for a hotel room with his wedding ring then poses as a filmmaker, hiring local barmaid Denise (Haenel) to edit his movie. He videotapes himself in conversation with his jacket, plus tricking people to hand over their outerwear. And he becomes increasingly ruthless as he pursues his dream to have the only jacket in the world.
Hilariously, in chats and conversations with his coat, George shifts his voice to add some personality. And things begin to get rather tense between them. So as his actions begin to get violent, Denise becomes even more intrigued by his footage. Dupieux films this in a kind of 1970s colour-drained style as snow falls on the town, adding to the irony of removing people's winter layers. And the plot turns are outrageous, each adding layers of meaning to this flailing, failing man.

The actors' straight faces make everything amusing. Dujardin gives Georges a stunted emotional life, numb from his breakup and unable to react to even the nastiest things around him, including his own dodgy actions as he expands his deerskin wardrobe. His unhinged behaviour is played more as a symptom of something deeper, never as mental illness. Haenel invests the only other proper character with the same matter-of-fact attitude, adding in self-awareness that's engaging and also a little disturbing.

Dupieux's riotously deadpan dialog is loaded with clever gags and knowing observations. As she watches Georges' footage, Denise sees an emerging art movie, with the jacket symbolising the shell we put around ourselves to protect us from others. This sharp comment adds a superb kick to the wackiness. Because otherwise this is a dry, silly, pitch-black comedy that simply keeps us chuckling from start to finish. And we should really be ashamed about that.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 20.Sep.19 lff

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
dir Oliver Hermanus
scr Oliver Hermanus, Jack Sidey
prd Eric Abraham, Jack Sidey
with Kai Luke Brummer, Ryan de Villiers, Matthew Vey, Hilton Pelser, Stefan Vermaak, Wynand Ferreira, Hendrik Nieuwoudt, Michael Kirch, Remano De Beer, Matt Ashwell, Luke Tyler, Cody Mountain
release UK Oct.19 lff
19/South Africa 1h39

london film fest

brummer and de villiers
Strikingly well-made, and carrying a devastating emotional kick, this South African drama tells a deeply personal story that has much wider implications. Writer-director Oliver Hermanus creates gorgeous-looking films, and this one is augmented by beautiful cinematography and clever editing. It gets deep under the skin of a nation still grappling with its past, and offers a remarkably resonant look at issues of racism and homophobia.
In 1981, South Africa begins military action to protect its border with Angola from a communist influx. At 16, Nicholas (Brummer) is drafted for service, his father, mother and stepdad happy that he'll become a man. At boot camp, he proves both resilient and rather good at hiding his sexuality. Still, he finds common ground with fellow conscript Dylan (de Villiers), even as a gay couple in another unit is outed, violently beaten and sent to a brainwashing clinic. Then at the border, Nicholas is pushed even further than he thought he could endure.
The title is a South African gay slur, but Hermanus keeps the themes subtle, allowing them to churn in the subtext. Nicholas has clearly always felt that he was different, and a flashback offers a telling glimpse of how he (played as a child by Ashwell) learned the hard way that he needed to hide himself and get used to being alone. This makes his discovery that he might actually find love remarkably warm and involving. And it adds a powerful emotional kick to the film's final coda, because Dylan's internal journey is very different.

Both Brummer and de Villers play their roles with an understated grace. These are men who have learned how they need to behave in an overheated masculine culture, so they dive into the military setting with ease, even as they are grappling with their private yearnings. All of this is visible without ever being obvious. And the characters around them are strikingly realistic, most notably Pelser as their ruthless drill sergeant.

Jamie Ramsay's artful cinematography not only finds the raw beauty in each location, but also cuts through the manliness to isolate the humanity in the characters. As in Hermanus' previous films (see 2011's Beauty and 2015's The Endless River), this story challenges the audience to stand up against bigotry and violence that society says are perfectly acceptable. Like those films, this is a depiction of the search for fresh air in a stifling environment. And it's more haunting than hopeful.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 9.Oct.19 lff

On a Magical Night   Chambre 212
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

On a Magical Night
dir-scr Christophe Honore
prd Philippe Martin, David Thion
with Chiara Mastroianni, Vincent Lacoste, Camille Cottin, Benjamin Biolay, Stephane Roger, Kolia Abiteboul, Carole Bouquet, Harrison Arevalo, Marie-Christine Adam, Claire Johnston, Gabriel Onnee, Clara Choi
release Fr 9.Oct.19,
UK 19.Jun.20
19/France 1h26

london film fest

lacoste, mastroianni and friends
French filmmaker Christophe Honore playfully uses magic (complete with Barry Manilow) to explore long-term relationships in a story that unfolds like A Christmas Carol played as a French farce. It's a collision of past, present and future that offers a jolt of insight into the way we grow and change (or not) over time. And it's surprisingly engaging, anchored by a wonderfully deadpan performance from Chiara Mastroianni.
After discovering her fling with a student (Arevalo), law professor Maria (Mastroianni) is horrified that Richard (Biolay), her husband of 20 years, reacts so badly. So she checks into the hotel across the street, where she's visited by Richard at age 20 (Lacoste), plus the piano teacher Irene (Cottin) he once loved. Does she want him back now? Is Maria more attracted to Richard at 20 than in middle-age? Can a manifestation of her will (Roger) offer helpful advice? As more people turn up, she knows she needs to get a grip on her priorities.
This plays out with an offbeat mix of comedy and emotion, including strands of lingering affection that stretch across timelines. It's such an unusual approach that the film continually catches the audience off-guard , with figures from the past hinting at what might have been or what might be. Some of this feels a little random, perhaps too detailed or with one sideroad too many, but it's beautifully shot with a colourful sense of cinematic trickery.

Mastroianni makes Maria hilariously offhanded, unruffled by her conscience. She takes everything as she sees it, so this long night is about discovering her own motivations. It's a remarkable performance, full of surprises and nuance. Everyone around her is understandably heightened, projections of her own nostalgia. This gives plenty of opportunity for the supporting cast to have a lot of fun with the material. Roger is the riotous scene-stealer, Lacoste and Cottin are simply lovely, and Biolay catches a sharp balance as the thoughtful older Richard.

Even with the film's somewhat wacky tone, Honore constantly finds deeper observations that resonate strongly. And his little cinematic references and jokes are extra gifts to observant audience members. This is the kind of film that illuminates things about ourselves that we may never have explored before, attitudes towards those around us and how our own thoughts and feelings echo around us. It's simultaneously endearing, funny, earthy and sad, perhaps a little indulgent too. But in all the right ways.

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

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