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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 13.Apr.22

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
dir Valerie Lemercier
scr Valerie Lemercier, Brigitte Buc
prd Edouard Weil, Alice Girard, Sidonie Dumas
with Valerie Lemercier, Sylvain Marcel, Danielle Fichaud, Roc Lafortune, Antoine Vezina, Pascale Desrochers, Jean-Noel Broute, Victoria Sio, Sonia Vachon, Alain Zouvi, Marc Beland, Christian Bordeleau
release Can 26.Nov.21,
US 8.Apr.22
20/Canada Gaumont 2h08


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A work of fiction inspired by the life of Celine Dion, this extraordinary film follows the usual biopic trajectory, with an added faintly ridiculous sense of humour. French actor-filmmaker Valerie Lemercier plays this with a straight face, while adding all the nuttiness we would imagine in Dion's life. There's also a series of big songs that, like the film itself, poke fun and pay homage at the same time.
The star in her large musical family in Quebec, Aline Dieu (Lemercier) is taken on at age 12 by manager Guy-Claude (Marcel). As her fame grows, she knows this is equal parts hard work and talent. Indeed, she fights her way through English and dance classes, while her voice gets better and better. And along the way, she develops a crush on the twice-divorced, 26-years-older Guy-Claude, which blossoms into a real romance as she becomes a star. Then after struggles with vocal injury and getting pregnant, she becomes a global icon.
Flashing back, the film traces the 13 children born to Aline's parents Anglomard (Lafortune) and Sylvette (Fichaud) before she comes along. And she remains close to them through everything. At every step in her life, Aline's out-sized enthusiasm shines on-screen, whether it's in performances on-stage (Sio adeptly provides the singing voice), her private relationships, over-sharing in celebrity interviews or posing for photo shoots. The film is wonderfully shot and edited to capture terrific moments through the decades.

In a bizarrely amusing touch, Lemercier even plays Aline as a Barbra Streisand-obsessed pre-teen. Then as she ages, the actress creates a character with a huge personality, a love of life and close bonds with her enormous family. Of course there's also that singular physicality, which Lemercier aces. The film is so tightly centred on Aline that other characters only occasionally come into focus within her orbit. The strongest side roles are for Marcel and Fichaud, as both Guy-Claude and Sylvette are steady presences through the years.

The script moves though Aline's life at a brisk pace, leaping through the years but never rushing through key moments. In embracing this character with all her quirks, Lemercier makes us fall in love with Celine Dion all over again. Even as the movie lampoons her offbeat style of stardom, wind machine-fuelled stage performances and hyper-rich Las Vegas lifestyle, she remains thoroughly likeable. This creates a series of moving scenes in the final half-hour as she begins to reclaim her life from the demands of her career.

cert 12 themes, language 6.Apr.22

Bruno Reidal: Confession of a Murderer  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Bruno Reidal: Confession of a Murderer
dir-scr Vincent Le Port
prd Roy Arida, Pierre-Emmanuel Urcun
with Dimitri Dore, Jean-Luc Vincent, Roman Villedieu, Alex Fanguin, Tino Vigier, Nelly Bruel, Ivan Chiodetti, Dominique Legrand, Antoine Brunel, Tristan Chiodetti, Rene Loyon, Remy Leboucq
release UK Mar.22 flare,
US Mar.22 rwfc, Fr 23.Mar.22
21/France 1h41

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Chiodetti and Dore
Deeply unsettling, this French drama emerges directly from court documents and journals. Its clinical tone sets it apart from the usual true stories about murder, because this allows the film to dig under surfaces, finding authenticity that eerily contradicts the facts of the case. Filmmaker Vincent Le Port also has a remarkable visual sensibility, creating a period piece that is achingly beautiful even with its harsh and horrific angles.
In 1905, 17-year-old farmhand Bruno (Dore) turns himself in, confessing that he murdered Francois (Chiodetti). Determined to understand why, psychologist Lacassagne (Vincent) interviews Bruno. But Bruno prefers to write his thoughts in a journal, starting with how he was obsessed with the idea of killing pigs or torturing classmates from age 6 (then Fanguin). This compulsion grew until he was 10 (Villedieu), then later he attempted to tamp down his intense urges by entering seminary. But that only made them stronger. Oddly Lacassagne never suspects that there's more to his urges than murder.
Because every word comes from official documents, the film is an intriguing mix of documentary authenticity and exquisitely artful moviemaking. It's chilling to hear Bruno's story in his own words. And even even more disturbing is Lacassagne's running analysis, believing Bruno must either be insane or a criminal, completely missing the deeper explanation. He asks Bruno to write the truth, then ignores the facts that his widowed mother (Bruel) was brutally violent and that he was introduced to sex when he was raped by a local shepherd.

Dore's slight, lean physicality adeptly conveys Bruno's soft-spoken manner, murderous thoughts and crippling fear. This is an unconfident teen who has been routinely bullied for being poor, so is it a surprise that he longs to subjugate his tormentors? Dore's subtle, devastating performance is astonishing, quietly revealing Bruno's arousal at thoughts of killing classmates he's attracted to. Or desperately seeking an ordinary, pure life as a priest. What emerges is a staggeringly resonant depiction of repression and prejudice that exist today.

Le Port's nuanced direction knowingly catches details without overstating the themes. It's also packed with heart-stopping moments of horror, such as encounters in the woods between Bruno and golden-boy seminarian Blondel (Vigier) or neighbour boy Francois, randomly selected to be his first victim. Bruno knows that this urge is awful, but he has to do something with how insulted and marginalised he feels. Even if he only gets 10 seconds of pleasure. This is unnerving and revelatory filmmaking.

cert 15 themes, violence 20.Mar.22 flare

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

dir-scr CB Yi
prd Guillaume de la Boulaye, Patrick Mao Huang, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Andre Logie, Barbara Pichler
with Kai Ko, Chloe Maayan, Yufan Bai, JC Lin, Sun Qiheng
release Tai Nov.21 tghff,
US Jan.22 psiff,
UK Mar.22 flare
21/Taiwan 1h58

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lin and ko
Chinese-born filmmaker CB Yi studied in Austria under Michael Haneke, and it shows in this drama's tightly controlled camerawork and willingness to travel to properly devastating places. Stunningly visual, the film was shot in Taiwan because its Chinese-set story would never fly with censors there. It's gorgeously assembled, packed with vividly textured characters, settings and insights into human nature. And at its heart, it's an epic love story.
In an anonymous city, Fei (Ko) works as a hustler to support his family back home. Then he falls for charming, confident fellow rentboy Xiaolai (Lin). But fate takes a turn. Five years later, Fei is working in another city when he runs into Long (Bai), a cheeky childhood friend who pesters Fei into mentoring him as a sex-worker. Before long, they are also living together as a happy couple. Then Fei runs into Xiaolai, who now has a wife (Maayan) and children. And Fei feels like he's being consumed by both guilt and love.
Colourful and soulful, Jean-Louis Vialard's cinematography is simply stunning, saturating beautiful sets with rich hues. And Yi uses this to draw out deeper meanings in superbly crafted scenes that challenge the audience by being both urgently honest and deliberately enigmatic. At the centre, these three young men are trying to make sense out of their messy connections, rejected by their rural families and trying to find happiness with the people they love.

The actors skilfully highlight the knotty interaction between the characters. Ko's Fei struggles as he tries to rewrite the rules of love, only allowing himself to cut loose and be himself in the film's final shot. His guilt often feels unnerving, in contrast to how Bai's Long lives unapologetically, endearingly wearing away at Fei's cynicism. Their connection is so sweet that the return of Lin's charismatic Xiaolai feels like a gut-punch. And Maayan is simply amazing in three key female roles.

Throughout the story, Yi adds pungent observations about the complexity of attraction, including the impact of the illusions these men deploy to make sex for pay bearable. But then, as one observes, who doesn't sell themselves to live? Reflecting this idea into the characters' genuine feelings is often painful to watch, as they seem to be using each other to find something missing in their lives. Which of course makes the film a powerful statement about people who are harshly pushed into the margins. This also astutely twists the overriding theme that you have to be happy to make someone happy.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 21.Mar.22 flare

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