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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 31.Jul.21

Bye Bye Morons   Adieu les Cons
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
Bye Bye Morons
dir-scr Albert Dupontel
prd Catherine Bozorgan
with Virginie Efira, Albert Dupontel, Nicolas Marie, Philippe Uchan, Jackie Berroyer, Catherine Davenier, Bastien Ughetto, Marilou Aussilloux, Michel Vuillermoz, Johann Dionnet, Laurent Stocker, Terry Gilliam
release Fr 6.Jul.20,
UK 23.Jul.21
20/France Gaumont 1h27

Is it streaming?

efira, marie and dupontel
A quintessentially French mixture of talky comedy, absurd farce and violent drama, this rather nutty movie is understandably uneven. It's also surprisingly endearing, with moments of genuinely moving emotion that help smooth its persistent underlying bleakness. Yes, the title is a suicide message, and while actor-filmmaker Albert Dupontel keeps us chuckling, he's also continually reminding us that each of us is on our own in life, surrounded by idiots.
Fatally ill her early 40s, Suze (Efira) decides to make contact with the son she had at 15 and gave up for adoption. While she's visiting the health ministry, cruelly sidelined tech expert Cuchas (Dupontel) attempts to kill himself. But this goes badly wrong, and he and Suze end up on the run. Cuchas reluctantly agrees to help her find her child, and they team up with blind records officer Blin (Marie), who's confident that he can assist in her quest. But Cuchas' boss Kurtzman (Uchan) and various thuggish cops are on their trail.
The script cleverly sends these three hilariously random central characters on separate journeys of self-discovery, continually contrasting Blin's optimism with Cuchas' cynicism and Suze's desire to correct her biggest mistake before she dies. What follows is a madcap romp, with heists, chases, near misses and outrageous revelations. But there's also an underlying sweetness that catches us off guard. The mix isn't always smooth, as some sequences feel draggy and others rushed. But the generally unpredictable wackiness makes it engaging.

Efira, Dupontel and Marie make a wonderfully haphazard trio, adding witty details to relatively simplistic roles. Efira gets the best scenes, especially in the final act when Suze begins to grasp the true meaning of her mission. And her under-developed connections with each of these men has its own charm. But the film's scene-stealing roles belong to veteran actors Berroyer, as a doctor in the grip of Alzheimers, and Davenier, as his weary wife. Their subplot carries such a powerful kick that it threatens to unravel the entire movie.

The narrative is packed with a steady stream of epiphanies, which makes the film feel like a pitch black variation on Amelie. The freewheeling plot structure, bureaucratic satire and flurry of oddball characters are enjoyable simply because it's impossible to predict who or what might come along next. And many of the detailed set-pieces are wildly entertaining. But it's difficult to properly care for people when the story feels so deeply fatalistic. Only the fringe characters are allowed to have hope for the future.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 14.Jul.21

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
dir-scr Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo
prd Wassim Beji, Delphine Clot, Guillaume Lemans
with Mathilde Lamusse, Suzy Bemba, Samarcande Saadi, Meriem Sarolie, Sandor Funtek, Walid Afkir, Felix Glaux-Delporto, Nassim Lyes Si Ahmed, Dylan Krief, Bakary Diombera, Lotfi Yahya Jedidi, Brahim Hadrami
release US/UK 23.Jul.21
20/France 1h25

Is it streaming?

saadi, lamusse and bemba
There's an earthy authenticity to this edgy French horror, which captures the rhythms and an authentic sense of teen interaction in a multicultural urban neighbourhood before plunging us into the scary stuff. Filmmakers Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo adeptly pull the audience in close before the next shattering fright. And they outdo the Final Destination movies in the ways they set up a nasty sequence that plays with expectations.

During summer break, Amelie (Lamusse) is hanging out with her best friends Bintou and Morjana (Bemba and Saadi), heading to their secret spot in a condemned tower block to practice their graffiti designs. And one night Morjana recounts a Moroccan folk tale about vengeful spirit Kandisha. Then after Amelie is violently assaulted by her ex-boyfriend Farid (Hadrami), she summons the demon (Sarolie), who immediately kills Farid. And Kandisha just keeps on killing the men around Amelie and her friends. Desperate to break the curse, they consult an iman (Afkir) and his sorcerer friend (Jedidi).
The filmmakers take the time to establish these sharp characters and the connections between them, which makes set-pieces that much more unnerving when nasty things start happening around them. And while the deeper intrigue offers a continual sense of high-quality arthouse touches, there's also plenty of escalating hyper-grisliness to keep horror fans engaged, especially as characters begin dropping one by one. Indeed, once the fearsome Kandisha locks on to a man, he's doomed. And it's evil fun to see whatever gruesomeness she unleashes on her hapless victims.

Performances are offhanded, adding authenticity to the characters. At the centre, Lamusse has terrific presence as a teen with a lot of secrets, and she also has a big heart for her friends and little brother, played by the superb Glaux-Delporto. Both Bemba and Saadi are excellent as well, creating a fearsome trio at the film's centre. And the male actors are solid in smaller roles, as each sharply defined father, brother, friend or neighbour feels invincible due to his masculinity, as if that will help them.

With the larger group of teens, the banter centres around the mix of ethnicities between them, while calling someone white is a light-hearted insult. And their varied economics and religions also play into their friendships and experiences. All of this is far more layered and intense than most scary movies, creating churning suspense and some genuinely shocking set-pieces. And as it gets increasingly bleak, it's the fact that we feel all of it that makes this extraordinary.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 18.Jul.21

The Offering   L’Ofrena
Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

The Offering
dir Ventura Durall
scr Ventura Durall, Guillem Sala, Clara Roquet, Sandra Beltran
prd Sergi Cameron, Salvador Sunyer, Rafa Moles, Pepe Andreu
with Alex Brendemuhl, Veronica Echegui, Anna Alarcon, Pablo Molinero, Claudia Riera, Josh Climent, Laura Weissmahr, Monica Van Campen, Jaime Linares, Inma Sancho, Aran Salazar, Valeria Endrino
release UK 30.Jul.21
20/Spain 1h51

Is it streaming?

brendemuhl and echegui
Dark and moody, this dramatic thriller from Spain is overwhelmed by gloomy emotion and mysterious yearnings. There's very little lightness to provide shading, so it's also both oppressive and aloof. But director Ventura Durall skilfully evokes the strong underlying sensations, while the terrific cast conveys the seriousness of their inner turmoil. But it would be much more involving, and convincing, with more varied textures and more precise storytelling.
When Rita (Echegui) sees therapist Violeta (Alarcon), she speaks about how her husband Jan (Brendemuhl) is ignoring her because he's obsessed with another woman. But this woman is actually Violeta, who's happily married to Nico (Molinero) with two young kids. It turns out that 20 years ago, Violeta (then Reira) clashed with her sister Laura (Weissmahr) over their feelings for Jan (then Climent). Bringing up the past rattles Violeta, but the couples meet for dinner. And all of this is actually part of Jan's bigger plan to deal with the biggest regret of his life.
The title refers to Jan's work, which involves archiving messages that are delivered to loved ones after death. This includes an element defined as an offering. The film flickers back and forth between the present-day intrigue and Jan and Violeta's passionate summer romance, which ended abruptly. Everything is understated and somewhat dry, playing on underlying questions within each relationship. So even the moments when characters relax and cut loose are tinged with foreboding. And indeed, there are sinister edges to everything that happens.

Performances match the film's tone, focusing on submerged emotions that are only now gurgling to the surface after two decades. As Rita and Violeta, Echegui and Alarcon bring some particularly sharp edges to their scenes, hinting at deeper thoughts while they plot ways to connect with their spouses. The complex layers of tension between all four of these people are vivid, as the haunted Alarcon and Brendemuhl contrast against the more lively and expressive Echegui and Molinero.

Because the details remain so enigmatic, and the characters so repressed, it's very difficult to get involved in what happens or sympathise with any of the people. The general atmosphere is perplexing enough to hold the interest, forcing us to search scenes for clues about where this might be headed. But even as it begins to twist and turn, the motivations remain opaque. This makes everything feel vaguely contrived, cranking up everyone's reactions and waiting too long to reveal their secrets.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 29.Jul.21

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