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|Shadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 24.Nov.23
Captain Faggotron Saves the Universe
Review by Rich Cline |
Is it streaming?
A resolutely ridiculous English-language comedy from Germany, this movie has a charming home-made quality to it. Scruffy and very messy, it looks like it was filmed entirely in someone's garage, with a couple of colourful animated sequences added in. The awkward approach may reveal the inexperience of filmmaker Harvey Rabbit, but there's also some fun in the Flash Gordon nuttiness, with its barrage of filthy language and smutty mythology.
As a Catholic priest, young Andy (Garcia Alves) is struggling with gay desires, so he breaks up with his alien boyfriend Queen (Black). And now Queen is teaming up with his outer-space cohort Carol (Brutal) to turn Earth into a homosexual planet, by staging a staggeringly profane ceremony at the moment the stars align ominously. So Andy asks his friend Captain Faggotron (Tchivett) for help, although he is struggling with his own personal issues. And as Andy finds himself unable to resist Queen, a visit from an offhanded Jesus (Blaus) confuses him even more.
Frankly, much of this film makes no sense at all, as one random scene piles onto another one, played to the hilt by hammy actors in outrageously lurid costumes. Dialog is written to include as much vulgar innuendo as humanly possible. And it's difficult to imagine that Queen and Carol's plan could make Berlin any gayer than it's depicted here. In between the double entendre, there are silly movie references, pointedly knowing jabs at online dating and a competition to eat a sausage in the sluttiest way possible.
Everything is so broad that it's tricky to get a grip on the characters, but there are moments when the connection between Andy and Queen becomes believable and even lusty. Although even with the boldly sacrilegious approach, complete with lashings of nudity, the way Rabbit depicts sex is oddly timid and corny. Along the way, the film flashes back to reveal origin stories for the central characters. These add some layers of interest, including topical points, even if they're rather goofy.
Of course, all of this is a satire about the clash between religion and sexuality, and it's never remotely subtle about it. When Andy's faith fails to get his desires under control, he turns to a "gay away" medication. Queen's response to this is to ask, "Why be normal when you can be extraordinarily fabulous?" So the real question Andy is grappling with is whether the planet would be better off if it wasn't so binary.
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Hirokazu Kore-eda
scr Yuji Sakamoto
prd Genki Kawamura, Kenji Yamada, Megumi Banse, Taichi Ito, Hijiri Taguchi
with Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurokawa, Hinata Hiiragi, Yuko Tanaka, Mitsuki Takahata, Akihiro Kakuta, Shido Nakamura, Daisuke Kuroda, Ryu Morioka, Ayu Kitaura, Moemi Katayama
release Jpn 2.Jun.23,
UK Oct.23 lff, US 24.Nov.23
23/Japan Toho 2h06
CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Opening with an earthy, naturally comical tone, this Japanese drama quickly adds a layer of mystery that grows increasingly dark. With a fiercely inventive script by Yuji Sakamoto, director Hirokazu Kore-eda builds the tension adeptly to intensely involve the audience. And as the narrative circles, repeats and shifts its gaze, the late Ryuichi Sakamoto's delicate score helps to maintain a powerful emotional connection. It's a staggeringly beautiful film.
In a coastal city suburb, sparky young widow Saori (Ando) lives with her cheeky preteen son Minato (Kurokawa) and is becoming concerned about his inexplicable, erratic behaviour. Thinking something must have happened at school, she approaches his teacher Mr Hori (Nagayama), who apologises for a cruel remark. Dismissed by the school with a verbal runaround, Saori's worries only increase. So she visits his classmate Yori (Hiiragi), who's also hiding something. It takes empathy to see what is really going on, so it will be necessary to watch these events through both Hori's and Minato's eyes.
It's easy to understand Saori's growing frustration, as school officials refuse to give her a straight answer or even speak to her properly. "I don't see any life in your eyes," she tells them. "Are you even human?" But of course there's a lot more going on. About halfway in, the film recycles to Hori's perspective, revealing a telling counterpoint. Afraid of demanding parents, the principal (Tanaka) explains that what actually happened doesn't matter. And a third point of view reveals even more, reminding us of Kore-eda's gifted approach to child actors.
Ando is excellent as a woman at the end of her tether, failing to see what's actually going on due to her own preconceptions. And Nagayama also shines as a deeply caring teacher caught in a perplexing situation. Both Kurokawa and Hiiragi are bracingly realistic youngsters who are dealing with feelings they can't quite understand. And a range of side roles adds astonishing texture, including Tanaka as the dazed, grieving principal, Takahata as Hori's no-nonsense girlfriend and Nakamura as Yori's demanding single dad.
This is a fascinating exploration of the dangers of being driven by the fear of speaking the truth, especially when as it relates to our deepest longings. Characters continually refer to others as monsters, and the film's point emerges in the way it plays on our need to find a villain, while bullies are inadvertently encouraged by unconscious bias. As the story becomes increasingly compelling, it encompasses a range of vivid moments that are both delightfully warm and provocatively heart-stopping. And it carries a vitally important kick.
Lost in the Night Perdidos en la Noche
Review by Rich Cline |
CANNES FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
From Mexico, this dramatic thriller explores a culture of criminality and corruption from an offbeat perspective. Filmmaker Amat Escalante plays with genre, using an investigative framework to tell a deeper story. Strikingly shot and played, the movie deliberately unsettles with its mixture of tones, creating an unusual variation on film noir as it peels the layers back. The plot itself may seem simple, but the underlying emotions are revelatory.
For three years, teen Emiliano (Garcia Trevino) has been trying to find his missing activist mother (Araico). When he gets a clue, he and his girlfriend Jazmin (Osio) get jobs with actor-singer Carmen (Mori) in the large modern lakehouse she shares with artist husband Rigo (Bonilla) and teen daughter Monica (Exposito), a social media star. As Emiliano snoops around, he rattles some very powerful people, including the local cop (Medina) who knows exactly what happened to his mother. So the question is whether there's anyone Emiliano can turn to for help as things get dangerous.
Refusing to unfold as we expect it to, the narrative continually veers in increasingly harrowing directions, as Emiliano unearths things that key figures want to keep buried. And each reaction is fascinating, whether people are denying that anything is amiss, abandoning him, threatening him or reacting with open-handed contrition. His most intriguing alliance is with Monica, who live-streams her life to thousands of followers, including faked suicide attempts. This sits cleverly alongside Emiliano's genuinely life-threatening situation.
Because the film is shot in such an artfully matter-of-fact style, performances have a natural quality that's often unsettling, simply because each person behaves so differently. Garcia Trevino's Emiliano is often a passive observer, but his driving need to know what happened has real intensity, and there are moments when we wonder what he might be capable of. His scenes with both Exposito and Osio are played with a terrific sense of messy chemistry. And Bonilla's hotheaded but soulful Rigo is a superb stand-out among people who are almost grotesquely guarded.
There are strange angles to the story that feel off-topic but feed into a wider portrait of Mexican society, such as the cult-like local church that has launched a feud against Rigo over his insultingly vulgar art. The fact that there's an old town buried under the lake is perhaps a bit on-the-nose as a metaphor. But the way ruthless greed has woven callous cruelty into the fabric of this culture adds a shocking undertone that's haunting.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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