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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 29.Sep.20

The Acrobat  L’Acrobate
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
The Acrobat
dir-scr Rodrigue Jean
prd Maxime Bernard
with Sebastien Ricard, Yury Paulau, Victor Fomine, Lise Roy, Chloe Germentier, Dominick Rustam Chartrand, Celien Pinon, Brittany Gee-Moore, Nadine Jean, Joseph Martin, Catherine St-Martin, Leticia Rubi
release Can Oct.19 viff,
US/UK 29.Sep.20
19/Canada 2h14

Is it streaming?

paulau and ricard
There's an unusually unflinching honesty in this French-Canadian drama, as writer-director Rodrigue Jean uses real sex between to reveal connections between characters. Explicit but never pornographic, this is provocative filmmaking with something interesting to say about attraction and co-dependency. It's also stretched out far too long by Jean's indulgent storytelling style. But what he has to say is powerful, and the actors play it with quiet intensity.
In a tower block in wintry Montreal, businessman Christophe (Ricard) and the injured Russian gymnast Micha (Paulau) meet as they visit the same unfinished flat. The estate agent (Germentier) never even clocks their subliminal attraction. Then Micha pounces. Meanwhile, Micha is worried that a badly broken leg will end his career, especially now that a younger guy (Pinon) is taking over his act. Waiting for his insurance money, he's squatting in the apartment when Christophe moves in. And they develop a tender and sometimes sadistic push-and-pull relationship that catches each of them off guard.
Punctuated by documentary sequences featuring high-rise construction cranes, the film has a remarkable sense of perspective, which continues as the characters gaze into neighbouring buildings, building sites and the streets below. Jean also includes extended scenes of acrobats on trapezes, coached by Micha's mentor Louis (Fomine). These casually observed sequences are beautifully shot, even as they drastically slow the story's pace and extend the running time beyond reason. Much more engaging are scenes with the central duo, even if they're not particularly likeable.

Both Christophe and Misa are fascinating, and sharply well-played to convey subtext in their interaction. Paulau's Micha is aggressive and insistent, ignoring rules and appealing to something animalistic in Christophe. By contrast, Ricard gives a more internalised, thoughtful turn as a man who perhaps has hidden his sexuality and is now expressing it for the first time. Their often silent interaction is riveting, as they slowly reveal their feelings. And scenes with Micha's patient coach and Christophe's dying mum (Roy) add textures to their performances, digging in different directions.

It would be easy to cut 45 minutes from this film and give it a more razor-sharp kick, because the story is interesting, and the ideas are boldly explored. The film is challenging the usual conceptions of image, dominance, class and even romance. This adds emotional resonance to the narrative while creating some startlingly dark suspense. So the shifting scenes between Christophe and Misha offer various provocations, playing on genre expectations while twisting the ethereal connection between these men in surprising directions.

cert 18 themes, language, sexuality, violence 7.Sep.20

The Antenna   Bina
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
the antenna
dir-scr-prd Orcun Behram
with Ihsan Onal, Gul Arici, Levent Unsal, Enis Yildiz, Isil Zeynep, Eda Ozel, Elif Cakman, Murat Saglam, Toprak Mert Yadigar, Oktay Uc Dirhem, Cuneyt Yalaz, Anil Kurtuldu
release UK Oct.19 lff,
US 2.Oct.20, Tur 9.Oct.20
19/Turkey 1h56

london film fest

Is it streaming?

onal and arici
A striking directorial style adds interest to this pitch-black Turkish satire, as filmmaker Orcun Behram mixes political themes with expanding dystopian horror. The production design is eye-catching even if the metaphor is obvious, the running time indulgent and the scares superficial. And the underlying theme feels bleakly resonant at a time when so many world leaders are trying to control the media by sending out false or confusing news.
At a vast, ageing apartment complex, superintendent Mehmet (Onal) oversees the installation of a satellite dish allows the government to provide news directly into homes. Then the installer (Dirhem) suspiciously falls off the roof. Annoyed by his pushy boss Cihan (Unsal), Mehmet plans to run away and wants Yasemin (Arici) to join him. She's tempted, because her strict parents (Yildiz and Ozel) are pushing her into an arranged marriage. Then as broadcasts begin, the antenna oozes a tar-like goo that transforms residents into faceless zombies. As this infection spreads, Mehmet goes in search of survivors.
This loosely plotted fable unfolds as a slow-burning series of freaky set-pieces involving families that are menaced by this oppressive threat. In addition to the askance cinematography and wacky wallpaper in these grubby apartments, Behram uses a detailed sound mix and an unnerving score to unsettle the audience. Plus lots of yucky in-camera effects. Meanwhile, the script is packed with symbolic touches that make the themes perhaps too clear-cut. So even if the film has quite a few urgent things to say, it never seems particularly complex in how it explores them.

The elements are vaguely interconnected through Mehmet, whom Onal invests with sleepy-eyed likeability, even if he's never particularly sympathetic. More engaging, Arici's Yasemin is an alert young woman with no life choices, but she hasn't given up trying to escape. As her father becomes a more literal monster, her scream-queen moment packs a dark emotional kick. And another intriguing sequence has parents (Saglam and Cakman) bickering about how to raise their young son (Yadiger). Perhaps deliberately, none of the story threads feel finished.

Rather than a 1984-style cautionary tale, this film is clearly describing the situation that already exists in Turkey, where independent media are being curtailed as the government works to eliminate freedom of thought. The film touches on a wide range of issues, but Behram is clearly more interested in unnerving the audience with intense sights and sounds. The meta-question is whether Behram opts for an easier kind of horror because he's trying to subvert his country's censors.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.Oct.20

Summer of 85   Été 85
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
Summer of 85
dir-scr Francois Ozon
prd Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer
with Felix Lefebvre, Benjamin Voisin, Philippine Velge, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Melvil Poupaud, Isabelle Nanty, Laurent Fernandez, Aurore Broutin, Yoann Zimmer, Bruno Lochet, Antoine Simoni, Patrick Zimmermann
release Fr 14.Jul.20,
UK 23.Oct.20
20/France 1h40


Is it streaming?

voisin and lefebvre
Writer-director Francois Ozon takes a layered storytelling approach to challenge the audience to dig deeply into this nostalgic French drama. Revealing the plot's trajectory from the start, the film cycles back to explore motivations and emotions that are powerfully resonant. So it's very easy to identify with the characters, even if we may have little in common with them. And the themes it explores along the way are haunting.
In Normandy, 16-year-old Alex (Lefebvre) has the summer to decide if he wants to continue his education, encouraged by his tutor (Poupaud), or begin his career as a dockworker alongside his father (Fernandez). His mother (Nanty) wants him to be happy, and because he wants to be a writer, the choice is clear. Then he meets David (Voisin), and as they begin a happy romance, Alex takes a job in the shop David runs with his mother (Bruni-Tedeschi). But things take a tragic turn after they meet English au pair Kate (Velge) on the beach.
The film is narrated using Alex's written account of events, so we know the ending, but not how everything will unfold. Scenes switch back and forth from that sun-drenched summer to the more foreboding present, as Alex struggles to control his internalised anger and guilt, provoked by a strange pact he makes under pressure from David. As the viewer grapples with Alex's internal journey, Ozon evokes the period effortlessly, including hairstyles, clothes, attitudes and songs (most notably The Cure's In Between Days and Rod Stewart's Sailing).

Lefebvre is relaxed and bracingly realistic as the lively Alex, fascinated by death but terrified of corpses. His energetic physicality brings each scene to life, especially combined with his openly emotional connections to the people around him. He and Voisin have a wonderfully relaxed chemistry together, and Voisin gives the restlessly charming David just enough of an edge to keep him mysterious. While Bruni-Tedeschi steals her scenes, as always, the side actors bring surprising textures.

Essentially this is a story about a young man learning that love isn't necessarily as pure as he thinks it should be, and that there's a gap between the person you fall for and who they actually are. Indeed, these two likeable young men see their relationship from different perspectives. And while there are some seriously sad moments along the way, the film is ultimately hopeful in its outlook, a comment on how truly connecting with another person can't help but give us more clarity about who we are.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 7.Aug.20

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