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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 21.Jun.22

Nude Tuesday   Nøkęn Tĩsðøĝ
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Nude Tuesday
dir Armagan Ballantyne
scr Jackie van Beek, Julia Davis
prd Emma Slade, Virginia Whitwell, Nick Batzias
with Jackie van Beek, Damon Herriman, Jemaine Clement, Ian Zaro, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Ghenoa Gela, Byron Coll, Yvette Parsons, Chris Bunton, Chris Parker, Jodie Rimmer, Jesse Griffin
release US Jun.22 tff
22/NZ 1h39

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herriman and van beek
With dialog spoken in gibberish then given saucy subtitles, this playful comedy from New Zealand looks relatively normal, but is riotously absurd. Director Armagan Ballantyne creates a freewheeling but bone-dry sense of humour using a script by lead actress Jackie van Beek and subtitles by Julia Davis. While the plot is enjoyably nutty, with some nicely offhanded sexiness along the way, it also seems to move rather slowly.
In the Pacific island nation of Zobftan, frazzled advertising exec Laura (van Beek) and her bathroom salesman husband Bruno (Herriman) have stressed-out anniversary. So they head to a retreat centre to reconnect. There, leader Bjorg (Clement) is leading a group of attendees on a journey into the healing power of sex. But Laura gets into the swing of things rather more eagerly than Bruno. He ends up more involved in challenging Rufus (Zaro), with whom he had a previous beef. Then on Tuesday, they learn that it would be rude not to be nude.
It's possible to watch without subtitles and follow your own narrative, but the captions are hilarious. Cast and crew members all commit fully to the heightened nonsense. Although while sexuality infuses most scenes, either with direct references or innuendo, the film actually feels a bit prudish, leaning more strongly into the melodrama than the sex comedy. And along the way, things get downright surreal, as the story takes some turns that break the connection with the audience.

The terrific actors' vocal inflections carefully work with performances to convey meaning that's often at amusing odds with the subtitles, which are often ridiculous. All of this is played with a straight face, which makes the acting feel even more outrageous. Both van Beek and Herriman are adept at balancing the goofiness with deeper emotional beats, which adds pathos to the way Laura and Bruno decide they need to take separate journeys through their problems.

At the centre of the silliness, this is a remarkably engaging marital drama about a couple that was thrown out of sync with each other due to pressures of work, life and children. Tellingly, it's when everyone sheds their clothes that they finally begin to be honest. As they climb a snowy mountain to an icy lake naked, they not only commune with nature but also find themselves and each other. And perhaps the point is that without stripping away everything that distracts us, it's impossible to truly get on with life.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 14.Jun.22


Official Competition   Competencia Oficial
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Official Competition
dir Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat
scr Andres Duprat
prd Jaume Roures
with Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martinez, Jose Luis Gomez, Irene Escolar, Manolo Solo, Nagore Aramburu, Pilar Castro, Koldo Olabarri, Juan Grandinetti, Jean Dominikowski, Isabel Garcia Lorca
release Sp 25.Feb.22,
US 17.Jun.22
21/Spain 1h54

VENICE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST



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banderas, cruz and martinez
Poking fun at the process of making a prestige film, this Spanish comedy has a consistent bone-dry wit. While the film feels overlong, Argentine filmmakers Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat and Andres Duprat gleefully fill each scene with in-jokes that will be particularly funny to anyone familiar with the industry. And there are also plenty of broad gags for a wider audience, plus a superbly invested cast in striking settings.
As he turns 80, millionaire Humberto (Gomez) wants to secure his legacy by producing an award-winning movie. So he hires wild-haired genius writer-director Lola (Cruz), who gives the lead roles to the womanising hotshot Felix (Banderas) and prestigious veteran Ivan (Martinez). To get what she wants, Lola puts the actors through demanding rehearsals and workshopping exercises that only highlight the tensions between the ways they approach their work. Although this also unites the actors in loathing for their director. The question is whether they can make what Humberto wants to be the best movie ever.
The film within the film is a 1970-set melodrama based on an acclaimed novel about estranged brothers and the woman caught between them, played by the overconfident young Diana (Escolar). Lola's approach is hilariously over-serious, complete with a riotously messy notebook packed with pretentious references. She insists on extremely specific line deliveries and emotional beats, and relentlessly teases actors to get what she wants. And some of this is downright cruel, literally crushing their egos.

Amusingly, the radiant Cruz plays Lola with a deadpan sense of earnest intensity, an indulgent artist who expects her collaborators to suffer like she does. Banderas also has fun as an actor who performs at face value, without worrying about back-story or motivations. Indeed, Felix is more excited about the stunt training, although he cuts corners to get those abs. Meanwhile, the wonderful Martinez plays a seasoned performer who wants to get into the soul of his character and lose himself. So the clashes between Felix and Ivan are sharply barbed.

Of course, the central joke is that these narcissistic artists are making this movie for all the wrong reasons. This ironically echoes in the casting of Banderas and Cruz in their first lead roles together, and their fizzy chemistry is fabulous. Most impressive is that, while these characters are deliberately cartoonish, they also remain grounded and realistic, so each manages to be sympathetic in a specific way. And even the protracted series of witty endings are part of the joke.

cert pg themes, language, violence 14.Jun.22


Olga  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5   MUST must see SEE

Major
dir Elie Grappe
scr Elie Grappe, Raphaelle Desplechin
prd Jean-Marc Frohle, Tom Dercourt
with Anastasiia Budiashkina, Sabrina Rubtsova, Tanya Mikhina, Caterina Barloggio, Jerome Martin, Thea Brogli, Lou Steffen, Alicia Onomor, Aleksandr Mavrits, Stephanie Chuat, Natalia Mikhailova, Monika Schatzle-Frei
release UK 6.Jun.22,
US 24.Jun.22
21/Switzerland 1h25


CANNES FILM FEST



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Budiashkina
Current events add an unnerving jolt to this story of a Ukrainian gymnast exiled to Europe. Set amid momentous political turmoil nearly a decade ago, the film takes a knowing snapshot of a specific time in Ukraine's history, celebrating hard-won freedoms that are now under threat. Even so, the focus remains tightly locked into an involving personal story. It's a finely crafted feature debut for Switzerland-based filmmaker Elie Grappe.
In 2013 Kyiv, 15-year-old gymnast Olga (Budiashkina) is preparing for the European championships when she's injured in an attack on her journalist mother (Mikhina). So she flees to Switzerland, her late father's home, to continue training. Back in Kyiv, her best friend Sasha (Rubtsova) keeps in touch on video calls, noting that a revolution has begun in the streets, which makes Olga worry even more about her mother. Meanwhile in Switzerland, Olga struggles with her rusty French, and team captain Steffi (Barloggio) isn't particularly welcoming. It's also difficult to concentrate with her homeland on fire.
Including extensive footage of Kyiv's huge pro-Europe Maiden protests, which brought down an oppressive government, adds sharp political undercurrents, as does the fact that young actress Budiashkina is a genuine Ukrainian gymnast who has recently fled to Poland following Russia's attack. Even without these pungent real-world connections, this is a powerfully gripping story about an elite athlete finding her place in the world. The characters and situations are unusually complex, shot and edited with real skill to bring out layers of meaning.

Using her full physicality, Budiashkina is remarkable as a strong-willed teen grappling with her identity. She'd rather renounce her Ukrainian citizenship and become Swiss than stop being a gymnast. But watching these protests from afar brings a flood of emotions, including of course fears for her mother and friends. Seeing her try to explain what's happening in Kyiv to her Swiss relatives is chillingly revelatory. And each performance around her is just as grounded and naturalistic.

In Olga's relationships with fellow gymnasts, the story finds surprising moments of character-based humour, drama and emotion. So while the dialog is packed with discussions of political events, it also echoes more specific things going on in each person's life. And as Olga grapples with the implications of her professional and personal identities in the context of the wider world, her internal journey becomes resonant in ways that are heart-stopping. And this leads to a final coda that has echoes the cast and crew could never have imagined at the time.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 21.Jun.22


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