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|Shadows off the beaten path|
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|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 21.Jun.23|
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Nitzan Gilady
prd Leon Edery, Moshe Edery, Nitzan Gilady, Amit Eran
with Israel Ogalbo, Dean Miroshnikov, Moran Rosenblatt, Tom Baum, Dalia Beger, Omer Harel, Marco Carmel, Udi Segal, Danny Kushmaro, Matan Radin, Naama Amit, Zohar Meidan
release Isr 29.Dec.22,
US Apr.23 osff, UK May.23 siiff
SERET FILM FESTIVAL
Lively and colourful, this Israeli drama quickly pivots from happy revelry to dark intrigue, keeping the characters grounded with earthy humour as the suspense grows. Filmmaker Nitzan Gilady skilfully evokes the tactile nature of a summery, shirtless, sexually charged situation that gets increasingly scary. It's a bit meandering and repetitive, and sometimes drifts over the top, but this is a sharply well-made film that keeps the audience gripped.
Partying at Tel Aviv Pride, tattoo artist Guy (Ogalbo) and his best pal Joy (Rosenblatt) run for cover when shots ring out. While watching news coverage, they meet Dan (Miroshnikov), who lost his bag in the confusion. When he's alone, Guy is haunted by memories of a shadowy figure in the street during the incident, so he searches for Dan on a dating app and invites him over. Their strong spark of attraction is complicated by the drugs that make them paranoid. And when Joy turns up in the morning, she's too wasted to help.
With the gunman still at large and stories about continuing incidents, the atmosphere becomes increasingly tense. The film nicely captures the uncertainty and fear rippling through the characters, especially as seen through Guy's substance-fuelled nerves. Events spiral unexpectedly, taking some dark twists and turns. This is accompanied by sexy romantic interaction, both physical and in soul-baring conversations. But the way these young people remain off their heads is clearly going to cause problems.
As Guy, Ogalbo reveals layers of underlying insecurities within a young man who enjoys his aimless life but knows there should be more to it. He has a terrific relaxed chemistry with Rosenblatt, as Joy hints at deeper feelings for Guy before pushing things too far. And Miroshnikov has a strong presence as the enigmatic Dan, who claims to be straight and keeps getting strange phone calls. The question is whether he's dangerous, or if perhaps he simply has his own issues.
This is a contained dramatic thriller with shifting connections between its three central characters. With action mainly limited to Guy's flat, it feel like a stage play. The premise touches on some big topics, from the ubiquity of drugs and sex in the gay scene to the threat of violent bigotry. But it's the edgy relationships that make the film involving, especially Guy's feeling that nobody cares what happens to him. Over one long day and night, these three people take a rather grim odyssey that gets properly unnerving.
The Neighbor Prossimo Tuo: Hotel Milano
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr-prd Pasquale Marrazzo
with Michele Costabile, Jacopo Costantini, Luisa Vernelli, Lucia Vasini, Rossana Gay, Antonio Rosti, Andrea Finelli, Stefano Chiodaroli, Valeria Cavalli, Enzo Giraldo, Savino Paparella, Pasquale Marrazzo
release UK 2.Jun.23
Is it streaming?
Gritty and intense, this Italian drama catches warm and sexy currents in a story that taps into some urgent topics. Writer-director Pasquale Marrazzo uses a fragmented style that's tricky to connect with, while the serious tone occasionally becomes melodramatic or preachy. But with a hushed honesty, the film's swirl of scenes explore properly important themes relating to the way homophobia is woven through various layers of society.
Lounging in the park, Riki (Costabile) and his boyfriend Luca (Costantini) are confronted then chased by a group of young thugs. Not long later, they track down and nearly kill Luca. But Luca's family prevents Riki from visiting the hospital. Alone, he revisits memories of their life together, hoping they'll have a future. He gets some support from his mother (Gay), with whom he has a strained relationship, and he also finds some shared emotionality with Luca's sister Rachele (Vernelli). But she remains elusive because her parents (Vasini and Rosti) flatly reject Luca's sexuality.
Earthy and nicely understated flashbacks create a strong sense of the affection between Riki and Luca, offering some lighter and more intimate moments between them. Meanwhile, various threads of the main storyline add intriguing connections, such as how Riki struggles with feelings of guilt because of his past, growing up with constant bullying from the attacker. By contrast, Riki's relationship with his mother has been weakened by her past actions. And then there's Rachele, who is clearly grappling with issues beyond her brother's precarious condition.
Because most of the scenes are so intense, there isn't a lot of texture in the performances. Even the more relaxed interaction is underscored with underlying drama, but the actors keep the characters grounded in honest emotion. With the widest range of scenes, Costabile gets the meatiest role, facing up to his past, reliving his happiest days and confronting an unsure outcome. Constantini maintains nicely nuanced interaction with him in the extensive flashbacks, while others largely emote on their own or down a phone line.
While Riki is at the centre of the film, the perspective occasionally shifts to other characters as well, offering glimpses into their private lives in an attempt to explain their behaviour. Marrazzo's central point seems to be that people who consider themselves to be good can sometimes cause the most harm, simply because they are unable to escape from the bigotry that surrounds them. These people are trapped in a prison of their own construction, so the path the story takes is dark and grim, and also ultimately moving.
Smoking Causes Coughing Fumer Fait Tousser
Review by Rich Cline |
CANNES FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Leave it to demented genius Quentin Dupieux to offer a course correction for the superhero genre, producing this wry comedy in the style of a cheesy 1970s TV series, starting with some riotously exaggerated violence. Consistently amusing scenes are underlined with silly details, clunky tech and a surprisingly heartfelt emotion. In the end, it feels a bit slight and corny, but its considerable charm is difficult to shake.
Morale is flagging among Tobacco Force members Benzene (Lellouche), Methanol (Lacoste), Nicotine (Demoustier), Mercury (Sazi) and Amonia (Amamra). So Chief Didier (a giant rat-like womaniser voiced by Chabat) sends the superheroes on a lakeside retreat together. As they recount scary true stories around the campfire, veteran Benzene teases the youngsters about being frightened of noises in the woods. In need of this break, the first few days bring encounters with a talking barracuda and a new-model robot assistant. Then the villainous Lezardin (Poelvoorde) jumps the gun on his attack, which was scheduled for next week.
Tobacco Force uses their negative combined cigarette energy to kill enemies with fast-growing cancer, while their luxurious retreat centre has seawater showers and convenience-shop fridges. Stories they tell are enacted on-screen. One involves two couples who rent a house for a weekend together, where one wife (Exarchopoulos) finds an isolation helmet that clarifies thoughts unnervingly. And then there's the young guy stuck in a wood-chipper. Each story plays out with the same sun-drenched, outrageous absurdity.
The actors play scenes straight, remaining within this offbeat reality, which adds to the satirical tone and wryly hilarious humour. Each of the five heroes has a sparky personality that feeds into the larger narrative, and each gets a chance to steal scenes. The deadpan performances add quirky edges to their interaction, livening up each of the freaky little side stories, as well as how they react to Lezardin's apocalyptic plan. This approach grounds the film in a distinctly odd way, stirring everyday banality into a fantastical situation.
Dupieux understands what Hollywood studios don't: that this genre is by nature crazy, and what makes it enjoyable has nothing to do with realism or elaborate effects. So he goes all-in on the unhinged inherent grisliness in the premise, while leaving hints of thematic depth like little bombs here and there. For example, Lezardin argues that he's destroying Earth simply to put a sick planet out of its misery. If only studios embraced the more whimsical aspects of their tentpole movies, they'd be a lot more fun
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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