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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 12.May.20

Fairytale   Favola
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
dir Sebastiano Mauri
scr Sebastiano Mauri, Filippo Timi
prd Carlo Degli Esposti, Nicola Serra
with Filippo Timi, Lucia Mascino, Luca Santagostino, Piera Degli Esposti, Sergio Albelli
release It Dec.17 tff,
US 12.May.20
17/Italy Rai 1h30

mascino and timi
With its wacky candy-coloured designs and bonkers tonal swerves, this Italian pastiche is relentlessly absurd. Director Sebastiano Mauri loads each scene with nutty visual gags, while the script plays surreally with issues relating to a woman who gave up everything for the perfect life as a housewife. Cleverly, the kitsch imagery and crazed attitude are superb counterpoints to this story of a woman taking back control of her life.
In her groovy suburban home, Fairytale (Timi in drag) chats to her beloved stuffed poodle Lady about what to name the child she's expecting with her husband Stan (Albelli). Then when her friend Emerald (Mascino) comes to visit, she tells Fairytale that she shouldn't put up with Stan's violent abuse any longer. And Emerald's husband Martin is having an affair with a man. Fairytale is also visited by the hunky Stuardo triplets (Santagostino), each of whom offers a flirtatious diversion. Meanwhile, Fairytale has realised something about herself that will change everything.
Adapted from a theatre show, the film still looks very stagey. Sets and costumes are a riot of colours, patterns and textures in shapes that evoke a sense of 1950s sci-fi. It's bright and shiny and hilariously garish, and the shows on Fairytale's TV are oppressively drab by comparison. There are also witty touches in the backgrounds outside Fairytale's home, lighting tricks and other visual flourishes, all of which channel the script's nostalgia and emotion into something that looks silly but feels desperate.

When with characters as excessive as the sets and costumes, elements of real-life are apparent everywhere, including surges of deep emotion. These more serious moments area beautifully played, with a subtlety that adds interest to the flamboyant theatricality. Timi gives Fairytale a potent inner storminess, leading to a series of unexpected actions. Mascino is terrific as Fairytale's gossipy best pal, generating some terrific movie star chemistry as events spiral in unexpected directions. Santagostino has a lot of fun as the randy Stuardos. And Esposti is terrific as Fairytale's knowing, straight-talking mother.

While the movie is over-the-top in its silliness, it's also peppered with jolts of eerie resonance. "A true friend never tells the truth," Fairytale says, "she insinuates." The script occasionally becomes so clever that it's impenetrable, most notably in several extended speeches. But it's the silent in-between moments that register even more strongly. And even if it tips over the edge in it's final curtain-drop, the film ultimately makes some clever observations about how we hide behind fantasies to make the real world more fabulous.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 11.May.20

15 Years  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
15 Years
dir-scr Yuval Hadadi
prd Sol Goodman
with Oded Leopold, Udi Persi, Ruti Asarsai, Dan Mor, Tamir Ginsburg, Ofek Aharony, Lirit Balaban, Or Asher, Daniel Botzer, Lior Soroka, Tamar Livni, Lana Ettinger
release Isr 27.Feb.20,
US 28.Apr.20
19/Israel 1h29

persi, leopold, asarsai
A pointed, thoughtful drama, this Israeli film centres on a surly 42-year-old who has never dealt with some serious issues that are swirling around inside him. Watching him upend his life is painful, and writer-director Yuval Hadadi struggles to make the central character sympathetic. The story is compelling and the central idea is strong, but the viewer increasingly feels left outside. Which makes it provocative but never engaging.

Angry that he wasn't the first to learn that his best friend Alma (Asarsai) was pregnant, Yoav (Leopold) becomes even more unsettled when Dan (Persi), his boyfriend of 15 years, stars saying he might want children too. Increasingly failing to cope, Yoav picks fights with Dan and Alma and alienates other friends too. All of this triggers something, so he takes off to sort through it alone. Dan realises maybe he needs to get on with his life, but Alma never planned to go through her pregnancy on her own.
Yoav is such a grump that it's difficult to like him even though he's in pain. What gives us hope is the way Alma and Dan never give up on him. Hadadi's script takes its time unpeeling his layers. For Yoav, the thought of having a child is simply too stressful. And he blocks out anyone who challenges him, which is hard to watch. Meanwhile, Dan allows himself to open up to a nice guy (Ginsburg) who seems mercifully free of hang-ups.

Leopold plays Yoav unapologetically, never trying to explain away his harsh cynicism. With his extreme mood swings, this is a man more comfortable storming out of a room than finishing a difficult conversation. No wonder he has never visited his ill father's nursing home. Persi gives Dan a strong inner life of his own, adding emotions in between the lines. And Asarsai's Alma is a terrific character, sure of herself and both smart and tough in her love for Yoav.

Since it's under-explained, the film's relentless negativity is difficult to click into. Yoav lets his fear lead to self-destruction, and it's difficult to see him him reject compassion from everyone around him. Then it only gets worse from there. Hadadi tells the story beautifully, with skilful photography and editing, and a willingness to travel to some very dark places. But everything feels just out of reach of the audience. So while there are some knowing, honest wrinkles to the plot, the film ultimately raises a resonant issue and simply lets it hang in the air.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 26.Apr.20

Why Don’t You Just Die  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
Why Don't You Just Die
dir-scr Kirill Sokolov
prd Sofiko Kiknavelidze
with Aleksandr Kuznetsov, Vitaliy Khaev, Evgeniya Kregzhde, Mikhail Gorevoy, Elena Shevchenko, Igor Grabuzov, Ilya Gavrilenkov, Vasiliy Kopeikin, Aleksandr Domogarov, Ilya Kostyukov, Fedor Starykh
release Rus 4.Apr.19,
US/UK 20.Apr.20
18/Russia 1h34


kuznetsov and shevchenko
From Russia, this stylised pitch-black comedy adds some serious grisliness to the usual scenario in which a young man meets his potential in-laws for the first time. The gore is completely over the top, as the characters become increasingly blood-soaked. And along with some surprising emotions, the film has a particularly riotous production design, with vivid colours and lighting, a pastiche musical score and actors with wonderfully cartoonish features.
Unannounced, Matvei (Kuznetsov) turns up at the home of Andrei (Khaev), the tough-cop father of his actress girlfriend Olya (Kregzhde). While Andrei interrogates him, Olya's mum Natasha (Shevchenko) obliviously serves coffee. Then a sudden, desperate brawl breaks out, because Olya has asked Matvei to kill her dad. As things get messier, Andrei calls his compromised colleague Evgenich (Gorevoy) for help. And eventually Olya turns up to answer some questions and perhaps bring some clarity. And the shifts in power between these people turn even more vicious when there's a bag of cash up for grabs.
The violence is cleverly staged to be both hideous and hilarious at the same time, partly because many of the over-the-top attacks come without warning and partly because there's witty subtext layered in among the general destruction. That said, it's not easy to laugh at some of the brutality on display here, even within the context of this room full of hapless morons. But writer-director Sokolov gives each of them plenty of character-specific spark, so their bravura comes with a dash of soulfulness, especially as the events twist and turn.

As the pieces of the larger picture begin to come together, most of the characters become unnervingly sympathetic in their desperation. Each actor adds a continuous series of little glimpses beneath the surface, so even the most chillingly awful people have their own interior lives. Khaev unapologetically inhabits the film's most reprehensible role, doing one despicable thing after another. And Kregzhde's Olya might be even worse, playing the victim to manipulate everybody she meets.

So it's no wonder the people around Andrei and Olya will ultimately need to resort to acts of desperation. The plot strands are so entangled that it's entertaining just to wonder where it all might end up, even if there's not much to it other than a viciously cautionary depiction of the excesses of greed. Sokolov keeps the visuals whizzy and entertaining, and gleefully adds a dose of tragedy in the darker elements of the story. So where it ends up seems just about right.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 20.Apr.20

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