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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 22.Nov.20

Dry Wind   Vento Seco
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Dry Wind
dir-scr Daniel Nolasco
prd Lidiana Reis, Daniel Nolasco
with Leandro Faria Lelo, Allan Jacinto Santana, Renata Carvalho, Rafael Teophilo, Del Neto, Larissa Sisterolli, Marcelo D'Avilla, Leo Moreira Sa, Mel Goncalves, Conrado Helt, Norval Berbari, Bruno Fernandes
release US Aug.20 offf,
UK 23.Nov.20
20/Brazil 1h50

iris prize fest

Is it streaming?

With buckets of sweaty masculinity, this Brazilian drama wryly explores the full range of manliness with understated wit and more than a little man-on-man desire, often of the suppressed variety. Writer-director Daniel Nolasco has a terrific way of catching real feelings with strikingly stylised imagery. It all gets perhaps too surreal and murky to properly follow, but the emotions it catches are so real that the film is unusually haunting.
In the dusty area around Catalao in central Brazil, Sandro (Lelo) works in a fertiliser factory and spends his spare time at the pool, playing football, hanging out with lively colleague Paula (Carvalho) and secretly having casual sex with his colleague Ricardo (Santana). He's perfectly happy with his life until biker dude Maicon (Teophilo) turns up oozing a rather comically muscled machismo. Sandro can't help but lust after him. But by maintaining his distance with Ricardo, Sandro pushes him into Maicon's arms. And now Sandro is consumed with jealousy, questioning everything he feels.
With references to queer classics, the film is packed with vivid dreamlike sequences that cut through surfaces, often invoking all the senses, including touch, taste and smell along with the neon-hued cinematography and pulsing music. Add to this Sandro's wildly colourful fetishised fantasies, which are like lurid Tom of Finland scenes come to life. Indeed, the movie is populated with beefy he-men. One of these is Maicon's tough-guy brother (Neto), who has a more violently bigoted reaction to seeing Ricardo and Maicon together.

The actors are nicely understated, playing men who hide their emotions, sometimes even from themselves. As the closeted Sandro, Lelo has an engaging yearning quality, as if even he's not sure what he wants. Santana's Ricardo is more open-handed, clearly in love with the non-committal Sandro and frustrated that Sandro won't be himself in public. Intriguingly, even though Maicon barely says a word, Teophilo plays him with surprising texture, a man comfortable with who he is.

Bursting with colour, Nolasco's filmmaking is politically timely while also having a fairy tale quality that blurs the line between imagination and reality. This means that Sandro's deepest fears are expressed in his thoughts, adding a contemplative tone to this journey into his soul. It's a slow-moving story, sometimes rather draggy and perplexing, but its collection of characters and situations is fascinating. And the way it explores toxic masculinity is deeply touching. Especially as it expresses how impossible intimacy is in a culture where you can't be yourself.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 17.Nov.20

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5   MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Matthew Michael Carnahan
prd Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Mike Larocca, Dawn Ostroff, Jeremy Steckler
with Adam Bessa, Suhail Dabbach, Is'haq Elias, Qutaiba F Abdelhaq, Ahmad El Ghanem, Hicham Quaraqa, Mohimen Mahbuba, Thaer Al Shayei, Abdellah Bensaid, Waleed Elgadi, Ali Al Jarrah, Hayat Kamille
release US/UK 26.Nov.20
19/US 1h41


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dabbach and bessa
Based on a true story, this film opens in a fierce battle and keeps the tension high. Writer-director Matthew Michael Carnahan creates an unnervingly realistic tone, as if a documentary crew is nested with a ragtag group of heroic fighters in war-torn Iraq. This is a remarkably humane military thriller, digging under the surfaces of both the people and the awful situation they're trapped in, which makes it unusually involving.

Once Iraq's second city, Mosul has been reduced to rubble after its occupation by Daesh, and now the only group still fighting Daesh is the depleted Nineveh Swat unit. When they save the life of 21-year-old rookie cop Kawa (Bessa), their jaded leader Jasem (Dabbach) recruits him. On his first day, Kawa is involved various activities, including the rescue of an orphaned child, all while his new colleagues are killed around him. He also faces a friend (Al Jarrah) who betrayed him, and joins an increasingly desperate mission to take out a Daesh base.
The film is superbly punctuated by lighter moments, such as a quiet break when the guys catch up on their favourite Kuwaiti soap, charge their phones and fire up the hookah. They also reminisce about life before this war broke out, something Kawa can't remember. Set-pieces are staggeringly well-staged, including harrowing ambushes, shootouts and massacres, as this tenacious team continues to be picked off. They're running out of bullets and Humvees, but they have plenty of cigarettes.

Bessa has terrific presence as the newbie through whose eyes we enter this extreme situation, so watching him give in to his anger is wrenching. Dabbach adds engaging personality touches to the hard-nosed Jasem, including a wry sense of humour and an obsession with picking up rubbish in bombed-out houses. Actors around them offer poignant character touches in their limited screen time, so when one of them dies, it's powerfully felt. One partcular standout is Elgadi as a mercurial colonel in another militia.

It's remarkable to see an American filmmaker so sensitively tell a complex story about Muslims fighting to liberate their city from fanatics. There are constant throwaway comments about how US forces came in, created the chaos, then left the locals in the middle of it. So as he watches soldiers and civilians die, Kawa questions whether this is about patriotism or revenge, and he's forced to decide for himself in an astonishing moment. He also begins to understand that giving up is not an option.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 19.Nov.20

The Ringmaster   Finale
Review by Rich Cline | 1.5/5

The Ringmaster
dir Soren Juul Petersen
prd Jacob Kondrup, Soren Juul Petersen
scr Soren Juul Petersen, Steen Langstrup, Carsten Bladt
with Anne Bergfeld, Karin Michelsen, Damon Younger, Kristoffer Fabricius, Mads Koudal, Kim Sonderholm, Gustav Scavenius, Lars Knutzon, Freya Moller-Sorensen, Marc Wacker, Anette Kondrup, Jacob Kondrup
release Den 25.Nov.18,
US Apr.19 mcn,
UK 27.Nov.20
19/Denmark 1h39

Is it streaming?

michelsen and bergfeld
Full of attitude, this Danish horror romp is a carefully controlled attempt to freak-out the audience. But filmmaker Soren Juul Petersen is using the same old genre elements, deploying sinister imagery and jumpy scares without any meaningful context. There's potential here for something truly unnerving, but these unoriginal, cheap tricks never get under the skin. So it merely feels like a celebration of gruesome, misogynistic violence and sadism.
With all of Denmark at home watching some sort of major sporting final, psychology student Agnes (Bergfeld) is expecting a quiet shift at the roadside petrol garage where she works with whiny colleague Belinda (Michelsen). With little in common, they talk about their boyfriends (Fabricius and Koudal, respectively), both of whom turn up. And the only customers are suspiciously quirky, perhaps even menacing. Sure enough, things take a grisly turn as Agnes and Belinda encounter a clown-like nutcase who fashions himself as the Ringmaster (Younger). And he has a show to put on.
The film opens with a series of arch teasers designed to set the stage. But this only gives the movie an indulgent tone, trying to be too clever while reminding us how vulnerable a woman is in an isolated location. This gimmicky cross-cutting structure also reveals, long before anything happens, that Agnes and Belinda will be kidnapped and tortured. Which of course can't help but remove any momentum from both the back-story and the ghastly nightmare, because there's no surprise or purpose in anything that happens.

Bergfield is nicely grounded as the only person who doesn't act a bit nuts. Agnes' confidence comes from being the boss' daughter, something Michelsen's overdramatic Belinda resents. Both are solid at playing young women who are terrified of their shadows, in this case for good reason. And despite their differences, the actors find some intriguing camaraderie. Bergfield also shifts to shaky resilience in the face of more overt nastiness from the grinning, over-the-top Younger, who merrily maims and kills for apparently no reason.

Petersen heightens the grubby imagery and grotesque gore, but leaves out any hint of subtext. The horror is presented like some sort of macabre game show, relishing every morsel of hideous depravity. There's a faint thematic echo in how this is playing out as a live show on social media for blood-thirsty fans (plus some in-person participants). But even that feels like another gimmick. The real villain is this pointlessly brutal movie itself.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 19.Nov.20

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