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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 25.Sep.22

Ordinary Failures   Běžná Selhání
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Ordinary Failures
dir Cristina Grosan
scr Klara Vlasakova
prd Marek Novak
with Tatjana Medvecka, Nora Klimesova, Beata Kanokova, Adam Berka, Vica Kerekes, Rostislav Novak Jr, Jana Strykova, Tereza Hofova, Jana Plodkova, Lubos Vesely, Linda Boubinova, Amalie Hamzova
release WP Sep.22 vff
22/Czechia 1h24

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Berka and Klimesova
Set in the near future, this Czech drama will be instantly identifiable to anyone who feels like they're barely hanging on amid varied life pressures. And here, the world is collapsing literally around the characters. With writer Klara Vlasakova's insightful satire and director Cristina Grosan's glacial sharpness, the film provokes us with injustices that are both deliberate and accidental. It's a riveting story with a timely and moving impact.
In the wake of a mysterious explosion in the city, recently widowed magazine editor Hana (Medvecka) is cruelly sacked with a smile by her young boss (Plodkova). And then her husband's dog-like robot stops working. On her 13th birthday, Tereza (Klimesova) is internalising new feelings that her parents (Kerekes and Novak) won't even attempt to understand. And unemployed Silva (Kanokova) is ashamed to ask her partner Karolina (Strykova) for help, exhausted as she tries to care for their high-energy son David (Berka). These three women's lives converge just as a shopping mall is chaotically evacuated.
Scenes are full of tiny annoyances almost every viewer will recognise, from malfunctioning computers to officials who are incapable of thinking for themselves. There's also relentless misinformation from the press and government, even as it's clear that something is seriously wrong, with increasingly loud blasts, power cuts, things bursting inexplicably into flames and the northern lights becoming visible in Prague. Intriguingly, there's also a sense that Tereza, Silva and Hana are the same character at different points in her life.

Performances are understated, which nicely grounds the story's subtle sci-fi touches in earthy realism. Medvecka gives Hana a cheeky, wry tone as she approaches problems, revealing years of experience dealing with other annoying things. Kanokova's Silva is crippled by self-doubt, bottling up big emotions. And Klimesova gives Tereza a remarkably vivid inner life, signalling thoughts the character isn't even sure she understands. The way she bonds with and calms Berka's lively David is beautifully played. While vivid side characters add textures in every scene.

The central idea is that these three women are all so preoccupied with their specific personal issues that they fail to notice that there are much bigger things happening around them. They can see the mayhem, but the official response is that everything will be fine soon, even as things become exponentially, insanely inexplicable. These fantastical events are rendered with superbly seamless effects. And while the world crashes and burns, there is a remarkable blast of hope in the emotional connections between these people.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 27.Aug.22 vff

Three Nights a Week   Trois Nuits par Semaine
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Three Nights a Week
dir Florent Gouelou
prd Nelson Ghrenassia
scr Florent Gouelou, Raphaelle Desplechin
with Pablo Pauly, Romain Eck, Hafsia Herzi, Harald Marlot, Mathias Jamain Houngnikpo, Holy Fatma, Calypso Baquey, Jean-Marie Gouelou, Andrea Romano, Francoise Lorente, Giovanna Magrini, Abdoulaye Traore
release WP Sep.22 vff,
Fr 9.Nov.22
22/France 1h43

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eck and pauly
Beautifully shot with lush light and colour, this French drama spins around a warm, offbeat relationship that catches two people, and their friends, by surprise. The drawn-out narrative plays like a gay fantasy, as that cute guy isn't as straight as he thinks he is. So the plot sometimes feels over-deliberate. But honest feelings run through each scene. And director Florent Gouelou isn't afraid to lean into a feel-good moment.
On the Paris scene, 29-year-old photographer Baptiste (Pauly) is drawn to the fabulous drag queen Cookie (Eck) and decides to create an art exhibition around her. This baffles Samia (Herzi), his girlfriend of eight years who now begins to question their relationship. Unexpectedly, Baptiste finds himself falling for Cookie, and he's even more unnerved that he's drawn to her male alter-ego Quentin as well. Then in the final straw for Samia, Baptiste decides to travel with Quentin and the girls (Marlot, Houngnikpo and Fatma) to Marseilles to photograph them as they enter a drag competition.
With a gentle pace, the romance between Baptiste and Quentin unfolds in openly emotional moments. Meanwhile, witty banter depicts the life of a drag diva, including casual bigotry, underpaid work and raucous brawls. But it's worth it to let that glorious inner spirit fly. There are some overly pointed elements in the script, such as how Samia runs an Aids-education centre. And breaking into song in the streets during their road trip is fantastic fun, but it's as familiar as the romcom structure.

As Baptiste, Pauly's disarmingly adorable puppy dog expression sharply reveals his curiosity and wonder. Meanwhile, Eck has a fun flicking between Cookie and Quentin, including terrific scenes in which he gets in or out of drag. His knowing expressions knowingly reflect fondness for, and doubts about, Baptiste. Other characters are sharply defined, circling around them while clearly dealing with their own issues, most of which are off-screen.

At the centre, this is the well-worn story of a photographer falling for his subject, although the gender issues make it something special and even important. And there are also some strong observations about how relationships require both people to be fully present. Quentin reminds Baptiste that drag names are their real names, and the film makes it clear that queens are each others' family. So aside from the endearing romance, the film's most notable aspect is its exploration of the duality of living both in and out of drag.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 28.Aug.22 vff

When the Waves Are Gone   Kapag Wala Na Ang Mga Alon
Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
When the Waves Are Gone
dir-scr Lav Diaz
prd Bianca Balbuena, Bradley Liew, Jean-Christophe Simon, Joaquim Sapinho, Marta Alves
with John Lloyd Cruz, Ronnie Lazaro, Shamaine Buencamino, DMs Boongaling, Danilo Ledesma, Roel Laguerta, Noel Alvin Delas Alas, Ronaliza Jintalan, Reynan Janaban, Ardy Jolo, Wilmer De Jesus, Bethel Jolo
release WP Sep.22 vff
22/Philippines 3h08

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cruz andbuencamino
Filipino maestro Lav Diaz takes on his nation's shift after the 2016 election of Rodrigo Duterte. Filming in his usual silvery black and white, this three-hour drama feels brisk by Diaz's standards, weaving various story threads into a pointed odyssey. At its core this is a moving tale of redemption that's unblinking about the self-proclaimed guardians of morality. And as the plot's thriller angle develops, the film tightens its grip.

A top Manila police investigator, Hermes (Cruz) teaches recruits from his experience and a passion for public safety. Hermes isn't afraid to use harsh methods, but stops short of Duterte's vigilante violence, which he sees as an immoral massacre. He also feels guilty that work keeps him from his wife and kids. So stressed that he breaks out in a rash, he decides to resign. Meanwhile, corrupt former police chief Primo (Lazaro) is out of prison and trying to redeem himself, baptising the needy while searching for Hermes, the man who locked him up.
Alongside a gorgeous visual sense of light and shadow, the dialog has an earthy naturalism that immediately draws us in, casually mixing English with Tagalog in deep, often extended discussions. Meanwhile, the film also chronicles the horrific rough-justice killings of drug dealers. Because of the police's reputation, Hermes' sister-in-law Narissa (Buencamino) refuses to take him in. And there's also a strong dose of irony, as Primo's attempt to save a young hooker takes an unexpected turn.

Even when he's off-screen for large chunks of time, Cruz keeps Hermes' journey focal, evoking his observant, thoughtful side as he flees from violent colleagues and retraces steps to his childhood home, which is at risk of being washed away by the rising tide. His scenes with Buencamino's feisty, no-nonsense Narissa bristle with years of emotions. And Primo's ecstasy, devout and otherwise, is played with gusto by the wonderfully kinetic Lazaro, the most sinister minister since Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter.

An expert at capturing everyday details for a wide range of colourful people, Diaz is provocatively exploring a deeply religious society's tacit acceptance of that "kill kill kill" attitude. This is a knowing depiction of a culture of fear stoked by a fascistic leader, which of course echoes Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Jair Bolsonaro and more. But Diaz cleverly puts politics to one side, as Hermes observes that ultimately the battle isn't for the nation, it's within you.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 30.Aug.22 vff

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