Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...


< <
F O R E I G N > >

See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 24.Mar.24

Orlando, My Political Biography   Orlando, Ma Biographie Politique
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5   MUST must see SEE

Orlando, My Political Biography
dir-scr Paul B Preciado
prd Yael Fogiel, Laetitia Gonzalez
with Paul B Preciado, Oscar Miller, Janis Sahraoui, Liz Christin, Jenny Bel'Air Ruben Rizza, Naelle Dariya, Eleonore, Castiel Emery, Amir Baylly, Virginie Despentes, Pierre et Gilles
release US Sep.23 ciff,
UK Mar.24 flare, Fr 5.Jun.24
23/France 1h38

afi fest
bfi flare film fest

Is it streaming?

Orlando, My Political Biography
Breathtakingly original, this drama-documentary hybrid is a loose adaptation of Virginia Woolf's classic novel blurred inventively with portraits of non-binary and trans people who connect with and elevate the plot and ideas. Writer-director Paul Preciado maintains a cheeky tone, mixing story elements with real-life details to create a movie that's colourful and often hilarious. It also takes on several enormous issues with wit and knowing observations, challenging audience preconceptions.
Because the 1928 novel traces Orlando's transition from male to female over several centuries, the filmmaker casts trans and non-binary performers to play the character, who is born a nobleman in Elizabethan England and is later sent to Constantinople as an ambassador for Charles II. There he falls asleep for several days and wakes up as the biologically female Lady Orlando, and she lives well into the 1920s without ageing. The film continues until 2028, as a judge (Despentes) grants the Orlandos the right to live without the need to conform to a binary gender.
Sharp dialog and costumes catch us by surprise as the story progresses, maintaining Woolf's narrative while finding often startling present-day connections. Even though it was written almost a century ago, Orlando is infused with radical ideas about gender that still feel ahead of their time, and Preciado and the up-for-it cast have a lot of fun bringing out these deeper themes, punching the emotionality with deadpan humour. Each performer introduces themselves to camera before taking on the next section of the story. These are charismatic, hugely engaging figures, and all of them have something important to add, including an adorable dog. And a couple of breakout musical moments are fabulous.

Because gender has nothing to do with personality, the question is why it's such a key way in which society identifies people, essentially arming men and disarming women. The film tackles issues faced by non-binary and trans people as they deal with officials who demand documents that match their appearance. Even more important is how the film confronts the erased history of non-binary people. Indeed, gender is a political construct, and with its playful dialog, hilarious sight gags and pointed commentary this film forces us to see ourselves as Orlandos who change with time but remain fully human.

cert 12 themes, language 23.Mar.24

Pine Cone  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Pine Cone
dir Onir
scr Ashwini Malik, Onir
prd Kewal Garg, Onir, Sanjay Routray, Sanjay Suri, Anish Vikramaditya
with Vidur Sethi, Sahib Verma, Amit Gurjar, Hanun Bawra, Aniket Ghosh, Surabhi Tiwari, Bageshri Joshirao, Korak Roy , Aashvi Partani, Shyam Sheetal, Damandeep Singh Chaudhary
release Ind Jun.23 kmiqff,
US Sep.23 csaff,
UK Mar.24 flare
23/India 1h35

bfi flare film fest

Is it streaming?

verma and sethi
With a sensitive story that's groundbreaking for Indian cinema, this warm gay romance digs into its central character's relationship history. Filmmaker Onir finds earthy honesty in scenes that grapple with connections, while eliciting layered performances from an excellent cast of newcomers. It may look a bit flatly digital (it was shot on an iPhone), and the music is somewhat insistent for Western audiences, but the film is powerfully involving.
In 2019, out gay filmmaker Sid (Sethi) meets Ron (Verma), a fan who insists he isn't gay. But their flirtation escalates, and it turns out that Ron is fibbing about more than his name. Ten years earlier, Sid is working on his first film when he meets Aamir (Gurjar) on an app. As their relationship develops, Aamir remains terrified of being in public. And a decade before that, Sid (now Bawra) is just finishing school with best friend Derek (Ghosh) when they finally admit their mutual attraction. But this might be too much for Derek.
Each chapter features warmly romantic scenes of (discreet) lovemaking followed by trickier interactions the next day. And each reveals more about how Sid's relational history is affecting his future, leading to a bookending epilog in which he must come to terms with his feelings about Ron. These scenes are sharply well played, even if the camerawork and editing feel a bit shy, while the surging song score kind of pushes the loved-up vibe almost into Bollywood territory.

All of the actors have an unfiltered authenticity, even when characters are hiding themselves from those around them. At the centre, Sethi is likeable and open, unashamed of who he is but struggling to shake the fear of being hurt once again. He also has a nice connection with his sister Didi (Tiwari) and producer friend Meghna (Joshirao). With Sethi, both Verma and Gurjar create terrific chemistry, with a genuine balance of wariness and interest. And in the younger roles, Bawra and Ghosh are wonderfully expectant.

Because each of the story strands takes place in a different setting, Onir is able to use distinct visual language to recount these events. These urban and rural locations add extra interest along with cultural details that deepen the story's meaning for a nation that is still coming to terms with the issue of sexuality. So the range of experiences that play out here feels utterly realistic, which makes everything that much more involving and moving. And also funnier and sexier.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 22.Mar.24 flare

Restore Point   Bod Obnovy
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
Restore Point
dir Robert Hloz
prd Jan Kallista
scr Tomislav Cecka, Zdenek Jecelin
with Andrea Mohylova, Matej Hadek, Milan Ondrik, Vaclav Neuzil, Karel Dobry, Agata Cervinkova, Katarzyna Zawadzka, Iveta Duskova, Jan Vlasak, Richard Stanke, Adam Vacula, Jan Jankovsky
release Cz 21.Sep.23, US/UK 1.Apr.24
23/Czechia 1h51


Is it streaming?

Slick and packed with audience-pleasing gimmicks, this Czech thriller has an intriguing sci-fi premise that raises all kinds of big moral questions. So even if the script feels somewhat undercooked, it's still a fun ride as a police procedural potboiler. Director Robert Holz creates a bold vibe with prowling cinematography, high-tech gadgetry and a twisty narrative. The key is to ignore the plot holes and just enjoy it.

In 2041, everyone has the right to be revived if they die unnaturally, as long as they have a recent restore point saved in the cloud. But a terrorist group is preying on this system, and lone-wolf detective Emma (Mohylova) is determined to stop them because they murdered her husband (Vacula). After pioneer restoration scientist David (Hadek) is killed, Emma is shocked when he appears, restored from an old backup. So they team up to solve the murder, and much more, continually interrupted by interloping Europol agents, shifty company bosses and angry police officers.
Emma is almost staggeringly impulsive, rushing into one perilous situation after another, which is perhaps understandable since she knows she can be restored if anything goes wrong. But this also complicates each situation she charges into. And this isn't the only aspect of the story that makes us question the film's internal logic. Still, the story charges forward briskly with a steady burst of energy from the entire cast, diving into one tense situation after another. They also pause occasionally to grapple with the moral questions that are continually raised.

The film's bold tone, bullish characters, cinematic score and terrific effects give it the look of a beefy thriller. And it's packed with clever new tech that continually prods the imagination. There are also some bigger ideas, such as "absolute murder", being killed without restore point. But as the story progresses, there is also increasing gibberish, plot holes and corny touches that make everything feel oddly predictable. In other words, the film looks so cool, and plays with such intriguing ideas that we barely notice that it's a tasty but undercooked potboiler.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 30.Jun.23 bifan

Send Shadows your reviews!

< < F O R E I G N > >

© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall