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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 6.Apr.22

Down in Paris  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Down in Paris
dir-prd Antony Hickling
scr Pierre Guiho, Antony Hickling
with Antony Hickling, Jean-Christophe Bouvet, Dominique Frot, Manuel Blanc, Nina Bakhshayesh, Geoffrey Couet, Francois Brunet, Raphael Bouvet, Mike Fedee, Claire Loiseau, Patricia Morejon, Claudius Pan
release US Sep.21 oof,
Fr 2.Mar.22, UK 28.Mar.22
21/France 1h42

Is it streaming?

hickling and pan
British actor-filmmaker Antony Hickling takes an internalised, autobiographical approach to this existential odyssey. Grounded in real settings, the film looks terrific, nicely capturing the feel of a big city over the course of a long night, when most but not all people are asleep and thoughts turn more self-reflective. And while each encounter along the way feels perhaps a bit pointed, the narrative gets under the skin.
Frustrated that a scene isn't working, film director Richard (Hickling) walks off his set and heads out into the Paris night. Pausing for a drink, he meets British tourist Elizabeth (Bakhshayesh), who persistently strikes up a conversation. He also runs into an ex (Bouvet), sees a fortune-teller (Frot) and visits a church, each of which stirs up more emotions. In further conversations with a series of strangers, Richard grapples with what he will do next with his life. He also knows he needs to apologise to Mathias (Blanc), which might offer him some clarity.
Along the way, the film takes a flight of fancy into Richard's dreamlife, as he seeks answers to deeper questions that he isn't able to put into words. Each encounter over the course of this night pushes him further into his own thoughts. And the variety of situations takes Richard through the whole spectrum of his life experiences, including a red-hued visit to a sex club that brings a temporary sense of connection along with a couple of surprises. Other encounters are more surreal, even magical.

Hickling is terrific as a filmmaker contemplating whether he needs to make a big change in his life. It's an earthy, understated performance that's easy to identify with, especially as he has moments of humour as well as some intense reactions along the way. Other characters turn up one at a time, offering a variety of clever provocations and interactions. Each is sharply well-played, often with scene-stealing verve, to create people who have their own lives and issues beyond the edge of the frame.

This is a thoughtful exploration of life transitions, the difficulty of moving on and the seemingly never-ending challenge of perseverance. Hickling adds superbly jagged touches all along the way, including glimpses into Richard's spiralling thoughts and a few joyous epiphanies. So when the morning comes, a chance encounter in a street with a handsome stranger (Fedee) offers both comical relief and a witty jolt of lucidity, reminding Richard that maybe his life isn't quite the dead end it seemed to be last night.

cert 18 themes, language, sexuality 29.Mar.22

Private Desert   Deserto Particular
Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
Private Desert
dir Aly Muritiba
scr Aly Muritiba, Henrique Dos Santos
prd Antonio Goncalves Junior, Luis Galvao Teles, Goncalo Galvao Teles, Aly Muritiba
with Antonio Saboia, Pedro Fasanaro, Thomas Aquino, Laila Garin, Zezita de Matos, Sandro Guerra, Luthero de Almeida, Otavio Linhares, Cynthia Senek, Flavio Bauraqui, Leo Miranda, Jandir Santin
release Br 25.Nov.21,
UK Mar.22 flare
21/Brazil 2h01

flare film fest

Is it streaming?

fasanaro and saboia
What starts out as a gritty exploration of hyper-masculinity shifts into something surprisingly moving as it goes along. Brazilian filmmaker Aly Muritiba's approach astutely dissects expected attitudes, mining the thoughts of two riveting central characters. And by seeing through both points of view, the film carries a properly powerful kick, approaching the themes from two sides of the story while refusing to put anyone into a box.

On suspension during an internal investigation, Curitiba police officer Daniel (Saboia) is caring for his elderly father (Alneida) and working as a nightclub bouncer, He's also in a long-distance relationship with Sara, a woman he has only met swapping photos in text messages. Then after he sends a nude, she goes silent. As everything else squeezes in on him, he decides to drive more than 2,000 kilometres across the country to meet Sara in person. But finding her isn't easy, because Sara is actually Robson (Fasanaro), and he's terrified of Daniel learning the truth.
Cleverly, Daniel's hand is in a cast after the ugly incident that put him in the national news and derailed his life. And the film's tone shifts as the story moves from his chilly southern city to the bright, sweltering northeastern desert. Then when it jumps to Robson's perspective, the manliness becomes even more nuanced: he's a religious young guy who works a tough manual job while tenderly caring for his grandmother (de Matos). The way Muritiba mines the connections between these two men is skilful and revelatory.

Saboia plays Daniel with earthy honesty, at ease with his masculinity as defined by his society. He genuinely loves Sara, which creates tension because it's unclear how he'll react to the truth, especially with his violent past. Equally striking is how Fasanaro adds texture as the confident Robson understands the perils that accompany his dream to find true love. Their scenes together have an electric charge. Caught between them, Aquino is terrific as Robson's loyal best friend.

Beautifully set up, the narrative builds to a series of superbly played encounters that unfold in unexpected ways, provoking both the characters and the audience. As it heads for a gorgeous ending, the story is boldly and inventively taking on any culture that insists there's only one way to be a man. It's a remarkable exploration of how each of us can be many things at once, and that tradition might be one thing that limits us.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 30.Mar.22

Small Body   Piccolo Corpo
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
Small Body
dir Laura Samani
prd Alberto Fasulo, Nadia Trevisan
scr Marco Borromei, Elisa Dondi, Laura Samani
with Celeste Cescutti, Ondina Quadri, Marco Geromin, Giacomina Dereani, Anna Pia Bernardis, Angelo Mattiussi, Luca Sera, Teresa Cappellari, Marzia Corinna Mainardis, Marisa Rupil, Ivo Ban, Denis Corbatto
release It Nov.21 tff,
US Mar.22 sbiff, UK 8.Apr.22
21/Italy 1h29

london film fest

Is it streaming?

quadri and cescutti
A gorgeous mythological sensibility infuses this riveting dramatic adventure, which uses a desperate quest to explore a range of surprisingly current issues, from the nature of religion to questions about gender and humanity's relationship with nature. Filmmaker Laura Samani sets these big ideas swirling throughout the film, never becoming heavy-handed about it. Instead, she provokes us to see ourselves reflected in a woman on an epic journey.
On an isolated island off the coast of 1900 Italy, Agata (Cescutti) is devastated when her daughter dies in childbirth, and the local priest (Sera) claims the infant's soul is in limbo. Then Agata learns of a place in the mountains where a priest will baptise a stillborn child, so she sneaks off with the tiny casket strapped to her back. In the woods, she meets Lynx (Quadri), a quick-thinking boy who initially sells her as a wet nurse. Then escaping together into the hills, Lynx promises Agata to take her to the snowy valley.
Varying landscapes are spectacularly shot with a timeless quality that reverberates in the ocean, dusty shoreline, dense forest, a scary coalmine and the mountains beyond. Each setting and character makes the story feel like a fable, while the raw emotions and unexpected things these people discover about each other draw us in with unusual intimacy. Encountering human traffickers and a female bandit (Dereani) along the way, Agata's journey is provocative both internally and externally, as locations shift from glaring sunshine to icy grandeur.

In the focal role, Cescutti expresses Agata's thoughts and longings with minimal dialog. The camera regularly zeroes in on her face, which is more determined than desperate. This makes her hugely engaging, observant and intrepid, so her trek becomes ours. Her chemistry with Quadri's enigmatic Lynx is fascinating, beautifully played by both actors to reveal their deepest secrets. And the colourful people they encounter along the way bring spark and unexpected jolts to the story.

Agata is battling against several layers of society, from the patriarchy that ignores her feelings to the church that gave her these beliefs then coldly dismisses her concerns about her child. Then along the road she encounters men and women who calmly exploit her pain for their own profit. Travelling on this odyssey with Agata evokes such profound truths that it's impossible not to identify with her. And the way Samani unfolds the narrative as a magical-realist fairy tale makes the conclusion darkly moving.

cert 15 themes, violence 8.Feb.22

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