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|Shadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
|Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 15.Jul.22
Girls Feels: Forces of Nature
Reviews by Rich Cline
release UK 15.Jul.22
22/UK NQV 1h31
From European filmmakers, these five short films recount tales of strong young women coming of age in very different situations. Inventive and thoughtful, the stories explore a range of experiences, touching on big topics like religion, disability, sex and sexuality. Each film has something pointed to say about growing up as a woman in a man's world. And while some of them get very dark indeed, they all include a breath of hopefulness.
dir Laura Samani
scr Marco Borromei, Elisa Dondi, Laura Samani
with Denise Vallar, Sara Sclausero, Anna Bernich, Emanuela Cicigoi, Gabriele Benedetti, Lisa Alaska Cencig, Irene Brigitte, Roberto Coszach
The Sleeping Saint La Santa Che Dorme
Tactile and evocative, this Italian short has a wondrous atmosphere, as filmmaker Laura Samani vividly paints a portrait of life in an isolated mountain community. It's like a gritty fairy tale packed with superb visual touches, including lots of religious iconography. This is a darkly involving tale that continually hints at deeper meanings that the viewers need to mine for themselves.
In a small Italian village, 12-year-old Giacomina (Vallar) is chosen to guard the sleeping Saint Achillea statue for the annual procession. Then her jealous best friend Silene (Sclausero) is discovered in the church in a miraculous comatose state. Like Achillea, they carry Silene into a cavern for healing from an underground stream. And late one night, Giacomina sets out to try to awaken her with another miracle.
Shots of Silene asleep surrounded by flowers gorgeously echo the statue of the reclining Achillea, with added candle-lit rituals that feel like a mixture of Catholicism with older pagan beliefs. All of this is beautifully filmed in striking settings, while the cast effectively creates characters that have a mythical charge to them. The elemental story feels a bit incomplete, but has a haunting quality that lingers.
dir-scr Mael Le Mee
with Manon Valentin, Lorenzo Lefebvre, Nathan Bensoussan, Fiorella Campanella
Mixing earthy realism with supernatural touches, this French drama circles around a young woman who begins to discover unexpected things about her body. Writer-director Mael Le Mee takes an audaciously inventive approach to a complicated theme, using freaky physicality as a punchy metaphor for adolescence. It's powerfully involving as well as unnerving, and it packs rather a lot into less than 20 minutes.
In the French countryside, teen Aurore (Valentin) is in a sweet relationship with her boyfriend Arnaud (Lefebvre). While exploring their sexuality, Aurore discovers that she has some sort of magical powers, then later sees odd changes to her body. Arnaud is a bit unnerved by this, but is calmed by his curious best pal Ludo (Bensoussan). When her parents are away, Aurore invites Arnaud, Ludo and his girlfriend Nat (Campanella) around for a raucous party, during which Aurore decides to further test her newfound abilities.
The film is sharply well shot, never flinching from an honest depiction of youthful sexuality, while scenes involving Aurore's surprising talent are rendered as sensually seamless effects. The actors keep the characters grounded naturally, revealing complex emotions in their unexpected reactions. Where the story goes is both surreal and moving, complete with a stream of touches that amplify the often inexplicable connection between humanity and nature.
dir-scr Floor Houwink ten Cate
with Richelle Plantinga, Poal Cairo
There's gritty, low-key energy infusing this Dutch short, which traces a sometimes startlingly authentic journey of self-discovery. It's very well shot, making the most of its intriguing settings while zeroing in on a magnetically strong central character. The result is an involving, and easily recognisable internal odyssey in which a fantasy gives way to a hard but also jaggedly comforting truth.
The film opens as a 16-year-old girl (Plantinga) leaves her home in the city and travels by train then ferry to an island, where she is surprising her boyfriend (Cairo) at his job in a bar on the beach. They head back to his place, where their romantic night together is everything she hopes it will be. And as they profess their love, she suggests that they take a trip together. But in the morning, things look a lot less idyllic.
With its darker currents, this film digs under the surface to follow this young woman from a giddy high to a harsh crash landing back on earth. This gives the film a rather bleakly heartbreaking punch. But filmmaker Floor Houwink ten Cate never turns to melodrama, finding moments of joy and warmth all the way through, including in the remarkably textured final scene, which inventively captures a lovely portrait of female life from toddler to adulthood.
dir-scr Thomas Vernay
with Megan Northam, Alice Mazodier , Nicolas Teitgen, Emre Uludag, Lucie Cecchi, Maxence Pupillo, Laurent Eychenne, Robin Migne
A glorious sense of summertime infuses this French drama, which is set in a small village where people have little to do but get worked up over something trivial. Writer-director Thomas Vernay keeps the camera close to the central character, a teen girl who is having thoughts far removed from the bickering louts around her in a quietly limiting local society. All of this is sharply well played by an energetic, youthful cast.
In a small village, the local beauty pageant has stoked a rivalry between the families and friends of top contenders Clara and Marie (Northam and Mazodier). Even after the Marie is crowned the winner in the town square, the trash-talking between the boys continues. But Clara is tired of watching them posture and fight, and at the evening's celebratory party she finds herself caring more about Marie than anything else.
Vernay creates a witty and almost frighteningly naturalistic portrait of toxic masculinity, which Clara watches observantly, laughing at the idiocy of these hyperactive teen boys while considering her deeper feelings. The heat of the sunshine seems to seep straight into the young male brains, while the girls remain much cooler, shooting knowing glances at each other that lead to something unexpected and hopeful. So for Clara, this becomes a momentous day indeed.
dir-scr Corentin Lemetayer Le Brize
with Charline Antunes, Tim Naroditzky, Antoine Michel, Bruno Michoud, Tim Le Saint
Snappy music and a dusty location give this film a lovely Wild West vibe. Infused with authenticity, this is a lively little adventure about an unstoppable sister and brother who have lost their mother but still have their dad and each other, and perhaps more than that. Writer-director Corentin Lemetayer Le Brize keeps the story sparking along, with a mix of comedy and drama that remains remarkably upbeat. And even with quite a bit of dialog, it's the wordless moments that catch the bigger emotions.
In a vast network of kaolin quarries, 11-year-old Jade (Antunes) doesn't let the fact that she's wheelchair-bound limit her in any way. With her older brother Brann (Naroditzky), she's setting out the route for the upcoming motocross championship. She's also determined to take part in the race. Their dad (Michel) tries to lower her expectations, but she refuses to think about things she can't do. And she's about to get a wonderful surprise.
The film captures the larger setting with remarkable detail, helping the audience understand life in this unusual place even as we identify with Jade's inner yearning, as well as an entire community that sees her extraordinary capabilities. Young Antunes has an enormous personality that energises the film, creating a wonderful connection between this girl and her annoying but caring big brother, whom Naroditzky plays with engaging layers of humour and enthusiasm. And the final sequence delivers a warm surge of euphoria.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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