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

Cousins   Primos
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
dir Thiago Cazado, Mauro Carvalho
scr Thiago Cazado
prd Alessandro Costa
with Thiago Cazado, Paulo Sousa, Juliana Zancanaro, Duda Esteves, Denis Camargo, Carmem Lutcha, Dilza Scarpa, Ana Rosita, Elenita Pessoa
release Br May.19 digo,
US 1.Nov.19
19/Brazil 1h23

iris prize fest

sousa and cazado
With playful wit, this sharply well-made Brazilian comedy-drama catches the spirited personalities of two young men in their late teens. Writer Thiago Cazado, who also co-directs with cinematographer Mauro Cavalho and plays one of the leads, cleverly starts with the premise of a cheesy porn movie before telling a story that's involving, funny and surprisingly romantic. It's also a knowing exploration of the clash between sexuality and religion.
Raised by his religious Aunt Lourdes (Zacanaro), Lucas (Sousa) keeps himself busy gardening and playing keyboards for the church group. Lourdes also believes it's her mission to care for her cousin's son Mario (Cazado), an ex-con who was thrown out of his home. Lucas is naturally nervous about sharing his room with this unknown cousin. But they hit it off, bonding while Lourdes is away for a few days. They also quickly recognise their mutual attraction and begin a secret romance. And when Lourdes returns, she needs their help to sort out her life.
The set-up is pure fantasy, as the super-friendly Mario arrives, introducing himself with a long hug, walking around the house naked and speaking in constant innuendo. He also encourages Lucas to let out those things his aunt has forbidden, like his love of heavy metal. And he encourages Lucas' interest in role-play games. Meanwhile, there are some hilarious side characters lurking in the neighbourhood, including the dopey young Julia (Esteves) from church, who flirts shamelessly with Lucas while he tries to teach her piano.

The friendship that develops between Mario and Lucas is sparky, shifting into something both sexy remarkably warm. Cazado and Sousa have charming chemistry together, and even their sexual encounters are funny, played with youthful energy. Both are light-hearted and smiley, and it's refreshing that the film never tries to turn dark or controversial. Zacanaro's hyper-devout Lourdes is just as happy. There's some tension in wondering how she will react to the boys' relationship, but the plot's main conflict comes from Julia.

Basically, Julia becomes a mad stalker determined to out the boys. And there's also Lourdes' pious friend Sonia (Lutcha) and woolly neighbour Emilio (Camargo) to contend with. But there are real issues beneath the goofiness that help the film resonate deeper than expected. The main point is that people need to remove their blinders and see that faith doesn't prohibit you from living your best, most honest life, but it does mean that you shouldn't sabotage others. And at its core, the film is a remarkably sweet love story.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 18.Oct.19

First Love  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

First Love
dir Takashi Miike
scr Masa Nakamura
prd Munyeki Kii, Misako Saka, Jeremy Thomas
with Masataka Kubota, Sakurako Konishi, Shota Sometani, Becky, Nao Ohmori, Jun Murakami, Sansei Shiomi, Seiyo Uchino
release US 27.Sep.19,
UK 14.Feb.20
19/Japan 1h48

london film fest

kubota and konishi
It's difficult to imagine another filmmaker who could so effortlessly combine such a relentlessly nasty bloodbath with a warm romantic-comedy. But Takashi Miike makes it work in this bonkers thriller about a chaotic series of clashes between Japanese and Chinese mobsters, as a sweet love story evolves between the bullets and flashing swords. It's messy and frantic, with a lot of characters to keep straight, but it's also hilarious and involving.
In Tokyo, young boxer Leo (Kubota) has just learned that he has a brain tumour when he runs into sex slave Monica (Konishi), who is being chased by undercover cop Otomo (Ohmori). Suddenly, Leo and Monica find themselves in the middle of a drug heist gone wrong, as Yakuza goon Kase (Sometani) tries to blame the Triad, but keeps creating more loose ends. So now they're also being chased by vengeful madam Julie (Becky) and the sword-wielding Ichikawa (Murakami), among an army of ruthless, increasingly desperate Japanese and Chinese gangsters.
Flashback revelations for both central characters add surprising depth without laying things on too thickly. Leo was abandoned at birth and has never had passion for life; Monica was sold to the mob by her abusive father to pay his debts. She's addicted to the drugs that are at the centre of the mayhem, and Leo's recent diagnosis has given him a new fearlessness. Otherwise, the film is a series of outrageously frantic chases, shootouts and fights, and Miike has some nervy tricks up his sleeve. As well as some cartoonish ones.

The cast plays everything with a sense of burgeoning drama, which makes the humorous touches dry and snappy. Kubota's Leo and Konishi's Monica are the only characters the audience roots for, but the others generate some sympathy along the way, mainly for being tenacious or hapless. Ohmori is amusing as the rumpled Otomo, with Sometani getting the biggest laughs as Kase tries to bluff his way through. And Becky's Julie is the main scene-stealer, hysterically out of control in her quest for vengeance. No one dares try to stop her.

The action scenes involve a lot of guns as well as quite a few grisly sword attacks. And while the film is a bit dark and murky to look at (it's set over the course of one night), the choreography has a refreshingly scrappy feel to it. Each of these criminals thinks he or she is untouchable, as if they can control each situation. But of course fate doesn't respect this kind of bravado.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 11.Oct.19 lff

Happy Birthday   Fête de Famille
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Happy Birthday
dir-scr Cedric Kahn
prd Aude Cathelin, Sylvie Pialat, Benoit Quainon
with Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Bercot, Vincent Macaigne, Cedric Kahn, Luana Bajrami, Laetitia Colombani, Isabel Aime Gonzalez-Sola, Alain Artur, Joshua Rosinet, Milan Hatala, Solal Ferreira Dayan, Satya Dusaugey
release Fr 4.Sep.19,
UK Oct.19 lff
19/France 1h41

london film fest

deneuve, kahn and  family
With a real-life mixture of comedy and drama, French filmmaker Cedric Kahn explores a variety of intriguing family dynamics. It's not an easy film to connect with, because just as it pulls the audience in with warm humour it veers off somewhere dark and disturbing. The superb actors keep up with these mood shifts, although they can be jarring for the audience, especially as characters take turns being the bad guy.
For her birthday, Andrea (Deneuve) hosts a family dinner with her husband Jean (Artur) and their two sons: Vincent (Kahn) and wife Marie (Colombani) have two cheeky young sons (Hatala and Dayan), while Romain (Macaigne) brings new girlfriend Rosita (Gonzalez-Sola) and a video camera to document the event. Then Claire (Bercot), Andrea's daughter from her late first husband, arrives to surprise her teen daughter Emma (Bajrami), who lives with Andrea and has a serious boyfriend Julien (Rosinet). Over the course of the day, these family members fall into old patterns, pushing each others' buttons.
In addition to the slapstick mayhem, several characters have fiery meltdowns. Most notable is Claire, who has a history of unstable behaviour. Although perhaps her family can only see her as she used to be, not as she is. This is one of the strongest themes in the film, and it ripples through each connection on-screen. This of course feeds in to the range of interactions that take place, as people are forced to confront their feelings toward each other.

The actors are excellent, each inhabiting a real-life person we would recognise from our own family dinners. All of them have their moment in the spotlight, so there isn't really a lead role. Possible standouts would be Deneuve, as the unruffled matriarch who feels things much more deeply than she lets on, and Macaigne and Kahn as brothers with old loyalties, rivalries and attitudes toward Bercot's mercurial Claire.

There's a lot of energy in this ensemble, and the overlapping dialog makes their day feel both joyously and painfully realistic, from cooking the food to watching the kids put on a dramatic production written by Emma that pointedly includes everyone in the family except her mother. Where this goes feels a little random and loose, struggling to arrive at anything close to a salient point. And some of the harsher moments are genuinely troubling. But the film also has a strong comment to make about the depths of a family connection.

cert 15 themes, language 13.Oct.19 lff

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