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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 18.Apr.21

Upon Her Lips: Pure Feels  
Reviews by Rich Cline
pure feels
release UK 23.Apr.21
21/UK NQV 1h42

Five films from five countries make up this first collection of female-oriented short films from NQV. As the title suggests, these are stories that bring hidden emotions to the surface in unexpected ways. These shorts are moving on several levels, touching on a variety of situations from adolescence to old age. And they resonate as they explore the power of memory, attraction and companionship.

chetrit dir Tzurit Hartzion
scr Tzurit Hartzion, Veronica Kedar
with Naama Chetrit, Dafi Alpern
15/Israel 23m

Fake It  

Fake It A comical tone adds a kick to this Israeli short in which two exes revisit the significant moments from their failed romance. It's an engaging look at how intense feelings never quite disappear entirely, how they shift over time and the powerful pull of nostalgia. It's a smart, complicated little film, which knowingly plays on how feelings can often blur reality.

Photographer Zohar (Chetrit) is working on a series of images documenting her relationship with with her ex-girlfriend Ella (Alpern). But she needs to take some new pictures, re-enacting events to fill in gaps in the story. Zohar doesn't want to use an actress, because she's afraid it will look more like porn than real life. So she asks Ella, who reluctantly agrees to help. It's been two years since their break-up, and both know this is going to reignite long-lost feelings. For Ella it's also complicated by the fact that she's seeing someone new.

Chetrit plays Zohar as a young woman with a devious streak, hopeful of regaining the spark they once had, And Alpern is terrific as the dubious Ella, who understands what's going on here but finds it impossible to resist revisiting the happier emotions they once shared. But of course, they can't remember the joy without reviving much darker feelings, and the film carries quite an intense kick in the way it urges us to remember both the good and bad.

bodeker and nurnberg dir Esther Bialas
scr Lena Krumkamp
with Anouk Bodeker, Eva Nurnberg, Joan Pascu, Charlotte Crome, Jacqueline Fritsch, Louis Nitsche
13/Germany 20m

Tumbling Birds  
Stürzende Tauben   3.5/5

Tumbling Birds There's an earthy authenticity to this German drama about an adolescent girl who knows that she doesn't fit in but might be starting to understand who she is. Director Bialas astutely captures the feelings of both tenacity and confusion that swirl around this point of life, as desperation to be like everyone else can lead to some very bad decisions. It's perhaps a bit abrupt, but it's beautifully made and gently provocative.

Teen outcast Svenja (Bodeker) is ready to put her childhood behind her. Badly bullied at school, she is drawn to the magnetic popular girl Janine (Nurnberg), who has always joined in cruelly taunting her. To get some peace, Svenja hangs out on the roof with janitor Sergej (Pascu) and his collection of impressively trained aerobatic pigeons. Then as Janine and her pals continue to tease her, a surprising connection develops.

The film opens with Svenja throwing her much-ridiculed unicycle off a cliff, a clear symbol that she is growing up and breaking with her childhood ways. The film continues with these kinds of touches, revealing Svenja's thoughts through a variety of events, often involving harshly abusive treatment from other kids. Each of the actors brings a grounded realism to his or her role. The teen cast is excellent across the board, particularly those who boldly play bullies. And Bodeker particularly shines as a young woman making an effort to both fit in and be herself.

cassel and piaton dir-scr Marie Jardillier
with Cecile Cassel, Julia Piaton, Charlotte Bartocci, Manon Kneuse, Pauline Heu
16/France 12m

Among the Mermaids  
Parmi les Sirènes   3.5/5

Among the Mermaids From France, this short drama centres on a 30-year-old woman trying to get up the nerve to come out to her friends, which she knows will shift the dynamic in the group. It's shot and performed with natural energy, which gives each scene a superb spark of energy. And there's some terrific added visual panache provided by writer-director Jardillier and her skilled crew.

In her head, Marion (Cassel) is rehearsing the speech she'll give to her three closest friends, telling them that she and Sophie (Heu) are now an item. And when she finally blurts it out, they react with the usual questions, even if no one seems surprised and their conversation quickly drifts back to chatter about boys. But the idea lingers as the evening goes on, and it becomes clear that Juliette (Piaton) has her own thoughts about this.

The interaction between these four young women is hilarious, packed with implications, teasing and witty exploration. Jardillier edits the story together out of sequence, adding some striking emotional kicks along the way while cleverly shifting the set-ups and pay-offs. It's an inventive exploration of friendship, including tinges of supportiveness, generosity and jealousy. And it nicely leaves many of the emotions under the surface, where they have an even stronger impact.

henni and shurafa dir-scr Rushema Vinberg
with Lisa Henni, Siham Shurafa
14/Sweden 11m

Everything in Between  
Vad Som Inte Sägs   3.5/5

Everything in Between With an eerie silence, this short film from Sweden dramatises what looks like a first date, acting out the ordinary details while muting the sound. What emerges is a remarkably astute exploration of the nature of attraction, as well as the power and promise of a strong emotional and physical connection. Filmmaker Vinberg doesn't waste a single shot, and leaves the audience with a satisfied tingle.

One sunny afternoon, Johanna (Shurafa) visits the home of Sandra (Henni), sharing a bottle of wine, making lunch, sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes on the balcony. Eventually, they give in to their mutual interest in kisses and an entanglement of limbs. Frankly, whatever they were talking about earlier doesn't matter, as the feelings they experience offer each of them a huge emotional boost.

While images are crisp and bright, all ambient sound is low and muddled, because it's not particularly relevant to what's going on between these two women. This is a bracingly simple depiction of a rather everyday date, with visual flourishes that cut through to the lingering sensations. And the way both actors quietly play how their character feels about this encounter before, during and after reveals everything that needs to be said.

paes and dani dir-scr Leandro Goddinho
with Luciana Paes, Sandra Dani, Carolina Bianchi, Marcela Fetter, Ester Laccava, Mawusi Tulani
16/Brazil 30m

Piscina   5/5

Pool With inventively surreal touches, this Brazilian drama takes a thoughtful look at history and memory, swirling past and present together in clever ways that are based around a specific place. Writer-director Goddinho takes a sensitive approach to the topic, never shying away from the darker emotions. And along with a wonderfully absurd setting, the film bristles with knowing observations about the dangers of clinging to the past. And it reminds us that healing often comes when we're least expecting it. Watching it is a powerfully moving experience.

Searching for information about her grandmother, Claudia (Paes) leaves her baby with her wife (Tulani) and goes to meet Marlene (Dani). As younger women, Marlene (Fetter in flashbacks) and Claudia's grandmother Christine (Bianchi) were close friends who loved swimming in her pool. Today that pool is drained and covered, and it has become Marlene's bunker-like hideout, a repository for her memories. And she struggles to explain to Claudia exactly how she felt about Christine.

The film looks terrific, with vividly hued flashbacks that contrast against the washed-out present day, showing the swimming pool as both the living creator of memories and a bleak reminder of something lost. As the younger Marlene and Christine joyously interact there in the past, Claudia and Marlene slowly begin to connect with each other. Both timelines feature surprises that add seriously complex feelings to the film. And as Marlene opens up, the story takes on much darker meaning as a tale of survival in oppressive societies. It's an inventive approach to a difficult but important theme.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 15.Apr.21

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