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|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 27.Oct.20|
Train to Busan Presents:
Review by Rich Cline |
Is it streaming?
Continuing the tale of that ultimate pandemic, the zombie apocalypse, this sequel splits from the visceral action tsunami of 2016's Train to Busan. This time, filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho takes a more ambitious approach, generating a Mad Max vibe in a battle of survivors. The action is high-speed and fairly relentless, even if the digital mayhem is somewhat cartoonish. This may entertain audiences looking for simple thrills, but it feels thin.
Four years after the zombie outbreak, ex-soldier Jung-seok (Gang) is sent back to the Korean peninsula by a gangster (Giuliano) to grab a truckload of cash and get out. But his four-person team awakens the undead horde. Jung-seok is rescued by fearless driver Joon-i (Lee Ra) and her cheeky little sister Yu-jin (Lee Ye-Won), who take him to their survivalist mother Min-jung (Lee Jung-Hyun). But power-mad survivors Seo and Hwang (Koo and Kim Min-Jae) are even more fearsome than the zombies. And they're all racing to Inchon, and a last chance to escape to safety.
With a brief prolog, the script plays on the multitude of moral decisions people have to make when disaster hits, adding a sense of responsibility and guilt to everything that follows. The first act tracks Jung-seok's intrepid team into the debris of Korean society, where survivors now gamble on zombie-versus-human arena fights. But most of the film consists of crazed car chases through enormous crowds of snarling zombies and nasty gun-toting bad guys, mainly at night so it's not easy to see what's up.
Amid the crowd of noisy characters, a few emerge as more engaging people we can root for, including Gang's likeable Jung-seok, who simply gets on with things as they come. Although his motivations are never terribly complex. Lee Jung-hyun adds soul in a more interesting role, and she also has some fiery spark as a mother who has learned that holding a grudge and being afraid are both pointless. Her tenacity holds our interest, as do Lee Ra and Lee Ye-Won as her brightly engaging daughters.
Yeon fills the film with cool details that keep the film entertaining. And there's witty subtext in the way the survivors have learned how easy it is to distract the impulsive undead with something shiny. While the film's pace is energetic and often thrilling, with some outrageous set-pieces, a lack of connection leaves it rather numbing. It's anticlimactic that there's so little to the movie, including the usual "greed kills" message and added contrived emotion.
Two of Us Deux
Review by Rich Cline |
TORONTO FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
For a warm romantic drama, this film has surprisingly sharp edges that keep the audience on its toes. Filmmaker Filippo Meneghetti makes unexpected choices in telling the story, sometimes leaving us a bit perplexed. Still, this is a vivid exploration of relationships, family dynamics and expectations. It refuses to pull its punches, is played without sentimentality by a gifted cast and, at its heart, is a sweet love story.
In a French apartment block, everyone thinks that retirees Nina and Madeleine (Sukowa and Chevallier) are simply neighbours. But they've actually been secretly in love for 20 years, and are finally planning to tell Madeleine's family and move to Rome. But Madeleine hesitates to reveal the truth to her controlling daughter Anne (Drucker) and her tetchy son Fred (Varanfrain), which is driving Nina crazy. Then when Madeleine falls ill, a carer (Benazeraf) adds a new obstacle. But Anne is beginning to work out what's really going on between her mother and her too-involved neighbour.
Meneghetti and cinematographer Aurelien Marra shoot the film using intriguing angles that carefully focus the perspective, sometimes cropping people out, showing them in reflections or obscuring them in darkness. This reveals Nina and Madeleine's relationship from the start, then explores their history as the narrative progresses, dropping in both telling hints and red herrings that never quite resolve themselves. But the details are beautifully rendered, showing the deep connection between these two women late in life.
Sukowa and Chevallier offer effortlessly transparent performances as 70-ish women who are looking forward to a future of their choosing. Their impulsiveness is strikingly realistic, as is their underlying affection and view of the wider world. There's a vivid sense that both women have led full lives but have only been happy in these decades together. Drucker is also excellent as a daughter who's reluctant to accept the truth about her mother, for a variety of reasons. And Benazeraf gives a remarkably intense performance in a key side role.
There's a series of surreal cutaways to a childish game of hide and seek that seems to have wider implications, but this never quite registers. It does, however, add to the filmmaker's challenging approach, disarming the audience with several tangential ideas about the emotional connections that stretch across generational lines. Even the most responsible children expect things of their parents, including stability and an inheritance. But perhaps they can forget that their parents are also simply looking for happiness.
Young Hunter El Cazador
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Marco Berger
prd Alberto Masliah, Daniel Chocron
with Juan Pablo Cestaro, Patricio Rodriguez, Lautaro Rodriguez, Juan Barberini, Cecilia Cosero, Luciano Suardi, Franco Marani, Felipe Gonzalez Otano, German Frias, Luis Margani, Antonia de Michelis, Gala Nunez
release UK 27.Oct.20
Is it streaming?
Argentine filmmaker Marco Berger takes his usual earthy approach to the complexities of sexuality in this pointed drama about a teen. The film has a slow, intimate pace, with just a hint that it might evolve into a thriller. The constant state of insinuation makes everything feel a bit hesitant, as the plot elusively reveals its somewhat creepy trajectory. But the way it captures the characters' feelings is strikingly intense.
At 15, Ezequiel (Cestaro) is struggling with his hormones, yearning to express himself sexually. But everyone subtly lets him know that being attracted to men is wrong. Then he catches the eye of skater hunk Mono (Lautaro Rodriguez), and they begin hanging out, getting closer, borrowing the house of Mono's cousin Chino (Barberini) so they can have some private time together. Afterwards Mono ghosts him, and Ezequiel receives an ominous text message from Chino. And now he's blackmailing Ezequiel into seducing the 13-year-old Juan (Patricio Rodriguez), who's showing interest, to film them having sex.
While the ages of these characters makes the film seriously unsettling, Berger keeps them grounded and relatively in control of their decisions, even if they're technically not old enough to consent. The conversations and physical interaction between them is relaxed and natural, and as they quietly discuss past experiences, they revealing key thoughts and feelings. While the sex thankfully remains off-camera, the physicality is largely expressed in the way they hang out shirtless, swimming and lounging in the sunshine.
With his monobrow and observant eyes, Cestaro is an intriguing central character, likeable even when he's shifty. As the story goes along, he displays a growing confidence tinged with underlying emotions. So when he becomes a predator, he remains sympathetic. Rodriguez's gentle Mono is a young man of few words who is clearly preoccupied with something that later becomes clear, leading to even more layered emotions. Meanwhile, the younger Rodriguez is also superb, bringing an easy authenticity to Juan, who also knows what he wants, even if he's under age.
Berger's strength is his refusal to make homosexuality easy to define. His characters always have longings they don't fully understand, and each person expresses them in a different way. Turning this approach to young teens is a bold move, but Berger's naturalistic approach skilfully avoids sensationalising anything. Even the depiction of absent parental figures is authentic. The slowly meandering pace sometimes sits at odds with the darker plot points, but by avoiding melodrama Berger leaves us thinking rather than shocked.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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