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|Shadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs and shorts...
|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 2.Sep.20
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr-prd Gints Zilbalodis
release Lat 15.Nov.19,
US 29.Nov.19, UK 28.Aug.20
Is it streaming?
Latvian filmmaker Gints Zilbalodis essentially made every element of this movie himself: a wordless animated adventure that travels through a series of gorgeous landscapes bursting with light and colour as well as unsettling encounters in the shadows. The propulsive narrative is beautifully rendered with expressive characters in intriguing settings. It's a mesmerising odyssey that instantly pulls us in, evoking deep feelings of both loneliness and resilience along the way.
A teen boy wakes up suspended in a parachute from a tree, as a giant approaches across a desert landscape. Escaping through an archway, he enters a coastal paradise and befriends a small, lost bird. He also finds a motorbike and a rucksack containing survival gear, including a map home. But first he'll have to get past the giant and, with his tiny feathered sidekick, bravely face challenges at a creaking bridge, a mirror-like lake, a snowy mountain pass and a well surrounded by sleepy black cats. While the giant follows with silent menace.
The animation is simple but remarkably effective at capturing details in the settings and characters, while also building an expansive sense of scale. Zilbalodis' direction and editing put the viewer right into the story, adding a breathless sense of urgency and emotion that's echoed in, but never pushed by, the filmmaker's own ambitious score. There are several stunning moments along the way, with imagery that takes the breath away and powerfully involving set-pieces that make the heart beat a little faster.
Even with his relatively featureless face, this boy's eyes convey every hint of emotion, including his tenacity to continue on a quest he doesn't think he's capable of taking on. Watching him screw up courage to face a variety of situations is fascinating. And the little bird has its own series of issues, feeling vulnerable until a stranger teaches it how to fly. From here, the bird provides an aerial counterpoint, following events from another vivid perspective.
Each chapter of this young man's journey feels somewhat like a level in a video game, offering an unexpected lesson about inner strength, conquering fear and facing up to frightening memories. His route is marked with a series of arches from horizon to horizon, traversing days and nights, plus some vivid dreams and encounters with a variety of animals. Even as the story grips the attention, this is the kind of film that will reach each person in the audience with a different message, leaving us with plenty to chew on afterwards.
Measure for Measure
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Paul Ireland
scr-prd Damian Hill, Paul Ireland
with Hugo Weaving, Harrison Gilbertson, Megan Hajjar, Mark Leonard Winter, Daniel Henshall, John Brumpton, Fayssal Bazzi, Doris Younane, Josh McConville, Christie Whelan Browne, Malcolm Kennard, Luke Lennox
release Aus/US 4.Sep.20
Is it streaming?
Based on Shakespeare's play, this urban drama explores universal themes in present-day society through an ensemble of intriguing characters. Director Paul Ireland gives some earthy grit to the characters, with witty flashes of personality in between the grim realities. The play's dialog and plot have been reimagined, which is a bit gimmicky. But the film is packed with snappy wordplay, sharp attitudes and dark currents of emotion.
On a tough housing estate in Melbourne in the wake of a shooting tragedy, shady Detective Sutherland (Kennard) starts poking around. So crime boss Duke (Weaving) decides to disappear for awhile, leaving his thug-like son Angelo (Winter) in charge. Meanwhile, young aspiring musician Claudio (Gilbertson) meets Muslim student Jaiwara (Hajjar), and they find themselves in an unexpected romance. But Jaiwara's brother, rival crime boss Farouk (Bazzi), threatens to kill Claudio. They plan to run away together, but Farouk gets Sutherland to frame Claudio and arrest him. And Jaiwara must turn to Angelo for help.
The script cleverly unpicks the play, finding the plot's core elements and themes about the clash between morality and civil justice. This gives the characters a remarkable complexity, which ripples through each scene, drawing the audience in further. Some of the details that are piled on feel excessive, even if they offer more to chew on. The realism of the settings and the stripped-back honesty of the filmmaking approach bring the narrative to life in striking ways that are often boldly provocative.
The acting bristles with life, as each of these people feel like they have full lives on and off screen. Weaving holds the camera with a hard stare and seriously intense attitude, but he's also fair and understanding. Gilbertson and Hajjar have terrific chemistry together, and reveal complex thoughts in their interaction with each other and with surrounding figures. By contrast, Winter makes Angelo tortured and conflicted but not terribly interesting, because the script gives him an epiphany that doesn't change who he is.
As the story gets increasingly knotted, there are some plot points that feel a little undercooked, as Ireland dissolves into swirly-soft musical montages instead of facing issues head-on. Even so, the film is knowingly grappling with some timely, urgent real-world situations, from the shifting nature of criminal gangs to right-wing racism to the crippling clash of cultural values. In this sense, as in Shakespeare's play, the movie offers a glimmer of hope that rationality, compassion and honest morality (as opposed to high-minded piety) just might still exist after all.
Review by Rich Cline |
FANTASIA FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Set in the post-apocalyptic rubble of Europe, this chilling fantasy weaves together a series of interlinked stories. Spanish-born filmmaker Chino Moya infuses each plot thread with elements of black comedy and darkly emotional horror as he explores the theme of social collapse. It's a beautifully produced film, artfully shot in deep colours and shadows with a terrific pan-European cast. It's not particularly subtle, but the clever approach makes it mesmerising.
In a desolated grey city, Z and K (Rohrig and Myers) drive around collecting bodies in their truck while providing muscle for gangsters, talking about the dreams they've had about life in the past, present and future. Meanwhile, Ron and Ruth (Gould and Carmichael) welcome a too-helpful houseguest (Dennehy) who enflames Ron's jealousy. Single dad Octavius (Abdala) moves into their block, recounting a bedtime story about merchant Hans (Godon), who steals a lucrative idea from a foreigner (Bijboet), with unexpected results for Hans, his strong-willed daughter (Reynolds) and her shaggy-writer boyfriend Johann (Murphy).
After revealing the enslaved worker underclass, the film shifts to a more extended story set around a gleaming mega-corporation, where engineer Dom (Rawlins) presents a profit-maximising idea to his swaggering boss Tim (Gorman) before going home to his wife Rachel (Dickie) and teen son Will (Case), plus a visitor (Louwyck) Tim is not happy to see. Shot in Serbia and Estonia, the English-language dialog creates intriguing ripples and layers of resonance in the excesses of both capitalism and ineffectually high-minded liberalism. And the most challenging commentary takes on the fear of interlopers.
The actors are riveting, underplaying roles to perfection. There are quiet flares of emotions sparking through most scenes, only occasionally erupting into flames. Dickie has the most openly emotive role, revealing a range of conflicting feelings as her past collides with her present. This deeper story strand also offers strong moments for a particularly full-on Rawlins, the haunting Louwyck and a riotously scene-stealing Gorman. In each plot thread, even the smallest role is played with authentic precision, including the recurring Rohrig and Myers.
Each narrative element has pungent thematic repercussions, unpicking global issues without over-explaining the parable. The way the wealthy think they can get away with anything leads to its only logical conclusion here. Innocent people are collateral damage, while others survive by exploiting misfortune. Obviously, this has a cataclysmic effect on families and other social structures. Yes, it's all rather bleak, and some of the symbolism feels rather extreme. But it's also urgent.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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