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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 15.Jun.22

Il Buco   aka: The Hole
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Il Buco
dir Michelangelo Frammartino
scr Giovanna Giuliani, Michelangelo Frammartino
prd Marco Serrecchia, Michelangelo Frammartino, Philippe Bober
with Nicola Lanza, Antonio Lanza, Paolo Cossi, Leonardo Larocca, Jacopo Elia, Denise Trombin, Claudia Candusso, Luca Vinai, Mila Costi, Enrico Troisi, Carlos Jose Crespo, Angelo Spadaro
release It 23.Sep.21,
US 13.May.22, UK 10.Jun.22
21/Italy Rai 1h33

london film fest

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Il Buco
Masterfully shot and edited, this loosely paced Italian drama cleverly mixes sharply detailed period recreations with timeless present-day imagery. The cinematography is spectacular, capturing often gasp-inducing settings both above and below the ground while largely maintaining a distance from the characters. Filmmaker Michelangelo Frammartino creates a moving, vivid portrait of a culture that is changing ever so slowly. He also maintains a witty sensibility that pulls us in deeply.
In the highlands of Calabria in 1961, a team of speleologists (cave experts) arrive as the first to explore one of the world's deepest caverns, the Bifurto Abyss, which extends nearly 700 metres below the surface. Meanwhile on the mountain slopes, a grizzled shepherd tends to his flock. He's the only person in the area who interacts, or even seems to notice, the intrepid young spelunkers as they enter the enormous rocky gash in a sun-drenched valley. They perilously descend deep underground, then back in their encampment create a series of precise maps and drawings.
Amusingly, the film opens with the juxtaposition of a 1961 news crew in Milan scaling the still-under-construction tallest building in Europe. This makes pointed note of Italy's north-south divide. Most scenes are filmed in long-shot by ace cinematographer Renato Berta, so dialog is rare. But the film is infused with humour in a range of funny interactions, and details of village life are entrancing, from communal TV watching to a doctor's visit to playing football over the abyss.

Frammartino also doesn't need music to keep the viewer gripped, evoking drama and emotion in scenes that are accompanied by a meticulously detailed sound mix. One of the only figures shot in close-up, the shepherd's craggy face rarely moves, yet his deeper thoughts reverberate throughout the film as he watches the world shifting around him. And there are magical moments along the way, such as speleologists sprawled out asleep next to religious icons, or a curious horse poking its head into their tent.

Almost every shot in this film stops us in our tracks, catching the scale of the mountains as life bustles atop, around, below and indeed inside them. The cave sequences are absolutely stunning, as we follow experts as they carefully descend into and explore this wondrous underworld. With the old shepherd watching silently as young people make discoveries that will change the history of his ancient land, the film becomes a gently provocative look at the inevitability of progress.

cert u some themes 6.Jun.22

Everything Went Fine   Tout S’est Bien Passé
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Everything Went Fine
dir Francois Ozon
scr Francois Ozon, Philippe Piazzo
prd Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer
with Sophie Marceau, Andre Dussollier, Geraldine Pailhas, Charlotte Rampling, Eric Caravaca, Hanna Schygulla, Gregory Gadebois, Jacques Nolot, Judith Magre, Daniel Mesguich, Nathalie Richard, Annie Mercier
release Fr 22.Sep.21,
US Mar.22 sbiff, UK 17.Jun.22
21/France 1h53


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marceau, pailhas and dussollier
This French drama is written, shot and edited with a thrilling confidence, which of course isn't anything new for filmmaker Francois Ozon. What's unusual is the subject matter, as he tackles a difficult topic like the right to die with sensitivity, honesty and even a bit of slapstick, all while avoiding sentimentality. Based on Emmanuele Bernheim's memoir, the film's perspective is bracingly personal, unblinking and strongly moving.
After 84-year-old Andre (Dussollier) has a stroke, his daughters Emmanuele and Pascale (Marceau and Pailhas) rush to his side as to help him through a long recovery in hospital. A tetchy artist, Andre becomes frustrated with his disability, and asks Emmanuele to help him end his life. She's of course shocked by this, but neither daughter is able to resist their father's wishes. The process, however, is complex, requiring a clandestine journey to Switzerland. And it isn't made easier by Andre's aloof ex-wife (Rampling) or the presence of his long-time boyfriend (Gadebois).
Each of the characters is sharp and nuanced, making difficult decisions and reacting sometimes in ways that aren't particularly helpful. Most get there in the end, and the film's focus is on that process, as each person must grapple with enormous questions they can no longer dodge. So Ozon's brisk, urgent filmmaking style adds a subtle level of tension that runs through every scene without erupting into melodrama. Instead, the interaction remains earthy, truthful and often funny.

Each actor creates a fully formed character with a life outside the frame. The story is told through Marceau's eyes, and she brings terrific textures to Emmanuele's relationships, especially with her father and sister. Pailhas has a more difficult role as the pragmatic, emotional Pascale. And Dussollier has a wonderfully prickly sense of humour that makes him instantly irresistible, which helps the audience navigate Andre's harsher angles. It also helps us understand why Emmanuele and Pascale reluctantly agree to help him seek a dignified death.

Refreshingly, the film never tries to make a political statement about assisted suicide. Instead, Ozon is simply telling a personal story, so the impact comes from the way various characters react as events shift around them. This is particularly strong in the final act, where big emotions are undercut by a series of madcap situations that gently highlight both legal and emotional issues within the situation. It's an uncanny feat to make a genuinely entertaining movie about the end of a complicated life.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 22.Mar.22

Hatching   Pahanhautoja
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
dir Hanna Bergholm
scr Ilja Rautsi
prd Mika Ritalahti, Nico Ritalahti, Nima Yousefi
with Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkila, Jani Volanen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila, Ida Maattanen, Saija Lentonen, Stella Leppikorpi, Hertta Nieminen, Aada Punakivi, Hertta Karen, Jonna Aaltonen
release US 29.Apr.22,
Fin 4.Mar.22, UK Jun.22 slf
22/Finland 1h26

sundance london film fest

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Cleverly mixing over-the-top beauty with insidious nastiness, this Finnish thriller remains sunny and smiley even as scenes become very grisly indeed. Blackly comical touches combine with underlying emotions to pull the audience in, as director Hanna Bergholm draws out important themes and thoroughly freaks out the audience. As it warps into gleefully yucky body horror, the film also finds surprising meaning in the personal drama, including some moving emotions.
In a pristine suburban home, a woman (Heikkila) is intolerant of anything that interrupts videos she makes depicting her lovely life with a happy husband (Volanen), gymnast daughter Tinja (Solalinna) and strong-willed younger son Matias (Ollila). One day, Tinja finds an egg in the woods and brings it home, then watches it grow until a large birdlike creature hatches from it. Even though it's terrifying, Tinja makes a connection with it, learning its name is Alli. She also discovers her mother's affair with handyman Tero (Nordin). And Tinja finds it increasingly difficult to hide Alli.
Luxuriating in their spotlessly ornate home, this family projects a hilariously artificial social media image. And Tinja has spotted cracks in these foundations even before Alli so thoroughly shatters them. The hideous but oddly sympathetic creature is inventively rendered using a variety of effects, including skilful puppetry, so it looks eerily realistic, interacting authentically with Tinja. And as it begins to mature into something downright bonkers, performers Karen and Aaltonen give Alli her own unruly personality and presence.

With her angelic face and expressive physicality, Solalinna is terrific as the bright Tinja, who knows she has to hide Alli from her parents (they make the obvious assumption that she's becoming a woman). The odd relationship Tinja develops with this skeletal, carnivorous bird-thing is strangely sweet. And the connections with the family are sharply layered, with strongly distinctive performances from Heikkila, Volanen, Ollila and Nordin as people who know something is up but haven't a clue that they're in real danger.

The obvious kick in the story is Tinja's newly arrived adolescence, which allows the filmmakers to stir in witty observations about her newfound opinions and independence. There are playful touches all the way through, including some silly moments that mercifully cut through the creepy story, while the tone is also undermined and augmented with the cleverly eye-catching production design. All of this comes together to create nerve-jangling unease that makes predicting the plot's trajectory impossible. Although deep inside, we know where it has to go.

cert 15 themes, violence 9.Jun.22

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