Movie Review – In The Fade

Given its contemporary relevance, outstanding lead performance and gripping story, it’s damn near criminal that In the Fade was snubbed for a nomination for Best Foreign Feature at this year’s Oscars.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Katja Sekerci’s (Diane Kruger) happy and comfortable family life is torn to shreds when her husband Nuri (Numan Acar) and five-year-old son are killed in a bomb attack on his workplace. Police investigate the possibility of the attack being linked to Nuri’s past drug dealing, but Katja is convinced this is the work of neo-Nazis.

With a title drawn from a song by heavy rock band Queens of the Stone Age (and a score composed by the band’s lead singer, Josh Homme), you can probably already guess the anarchist tone In the Fade sets into. It’s brutal stuff, happening to the kind of people who live on the fringes of society and find comfort in family that exists parallel to drugs, violence and murder. Or at least the family we focus on was once like that, as we see from a prologue in which Katja and Nuri have a joyous wedding ceremony inside a prison while he is incarcerated. There’s no doubting Katja’s unconditional love for her drug-pushing husband.

Picking up six years down the track, they’ve mostly left this life behind for a normal, straight-laced and wholesome family life to give their rosy-cheeked son the best life imaginable. But this hardened criminal exterior and interior still lingers, and comes back in full force in Katja when her son and husband are blown to smithereens. Diane Kruger’s performance after this catastrophic event becomes the bleeding heart and soul of the story; it’s a powerful tour-de-force that shows the realistic evolution of world-shattering grief slowly building to uncontrollable rage and eventually burning vengeance and retaliation.

The second, and most gripping act, is the court case in which Katja fights determinedly with her lawyer Danilo (Denis Moschitto, also excellent) to bring the neo-Nazi couple accused of orchestrating the killing to justice. Courtroom drama aficionados will be euphoric here – it’s an amazingly captivating case with edge-of-your-seat uncertainty of its outcome. Without spoiling too much, the third act is Katja’s own form of justice, and it’s startlingly intense.

In an age where Nazism has seeped back into the cultural eye and violent attacks are still terrifyingly commonplace, In the Fade can’t help but bleed relevance. Intriguingly, it’s Germany holding a mirror to its own product for once, and while the sum of its parts doesn’t quite match Diane Kruger’s sheer commitment, this is a wildly provocative ride.

 In The Fade is available in Australian cinemas from March 8

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 2018

C’est La Vie! The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival has returned for another year, so why not head out to Perth’s independent cinemas, indulge in some wine and cheese, and experience the latest and greatest of French films? We checked out a few of the films on offer so you can decide what might tickle your fancy:

See You Up There  (Au Revoir Là-haut)
Michael Philp & Elle Cahill

See You Up There chronicles the lives of two men, Edouard Péricourt (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and Albert Maillard (Albert Dupontel), who meet on a WWI battlefield and become inextricably tied to one another. After Péricourt becomes horribly disfigured, the pair return to Paris and survive by selling fake war monuments. As the pair become rich, it soon becomes apparent that great wealth brings great attention, and that they can’t keep hiding from their past.

Shifting from the hollowness of war and post-war poverty, to the extravagance of the Roaring 20’s, the filmmakers have done everything in their power to accurately portray the two extremes; beautiful cinematography illustrates the chaos and desperation of war, while the production design captures the dandiness of the 1920’s.

The comedy throughout is appropriately dark, with writer/director and lead actor Dupontel not shying away from the realities of post-war exploitation. Despite this, he makes sure to let in a little slapstick and farce, emphasising the film’s 20’s aesthetic.

Yet despite its comedic veneer, See You Up There carries an often unspoken darkness, and is never shy about addressing the roots of its characters’ poverty. That uncanny balance is what makes the film stand out.

March 2018 - AF French Film Festival See You There


Ladies (De Plus Belle)
Josip Knezevic 

Too often we forget about those who survive a battle with cancer and the challenges they face in picking up the pieces of their lives afterwards. This is where De plus belle comes in, a story about a breast cancer survivor learning how to rebuild. Florence Foresti plays Lucie Larcher, a single mother who has just had a double mastectomy and is struggling to regain the confidence she once had. When she meets Clovis (Mathieu Kassovitz), a smooth-talking bachelor, her self-image and beauty is put to the test as she struggles to feel beautiful in the way that he sees her.

Never has there been a more appropriate time to describe a movie as ‘just fine’. Des Plus Belle isn’t terrible, but neither is it great. The story is original enough, and explores the definition of beauty, as well as society’s perception towards breast cancer survivors. The acting is solid, with nice performances from both of its leads, but does it get to me emotionally? No. Does it fell like a captivating drama? No. All in all, it’s just fine.

 

Could this have been a great movie? Sure. But I think to do so, it would have required taking a lot more risks, but then again, I don’t believe this was the type of film it was striving to be. No, it just wanted to be a simple, heart-warming affair, and that it does achieve. It’s enjoyable enough, but it doesn’t push the envelope.

March 2018 - AF French Film Festival Ladies


Golden Years (Nos Années Folles)
Zachary Cruz-Tan 

André Téchiné comes from the same rich stock that flavoured French cinema in the ‘60s and ‘70s, telling stories about the human condition and filming them as if they were songs. His latest, Golden Years, addresses the human condition like so many of his others, but it plays less like a song and more like a demo track with missing verses. It’s quite a confounding experience.

From what I could tell, Golden Years unfolds out of order, which wouldn’t have been so much of a problem if it wasn’t trying to examine the mental and sexual ramifications of appearing as the opposite gender to save your life.

In the film, Paul Grappe (Pierre Deladonchamps) escapes from a shelter while recovering from war wounds and gradually loses his identity after dressing up in his mother-in-law’s old frocks. He sells his body to soldiers back from the front, alienates his wife, Louise (Céline Sallette), and eventually feels more comfortable in stockings than boots.

What happened here? Where did Paul go? Did he always have crossover tendencies, or was it just the war? Nothing’s ever quite clear. Téchiné instead snips off large portions of important events so that what we’re left with are all the uninteresting middle bits and none of the punchlines. No man stays dressed as a woman for no reason. I’m sure Paul had a good one. We just never find out what it was.

March 2018 - AF French Film Festival Golden Years


The School of Life (L’école Buissonière)
Michael Philp

It’s not hard to pull School of Life apart. It’s full of well-worn tropes, twists that you can see from a mile off, and at times it feels like several different stories crudely sewn together. It begins promisingly enough – there’s a hint of a discussion on vegetarianism that you just hope will go somewhere – but by the third act it’s clear that none of that potential is going to be handled well. Information is revealed seemingly at random, rivalries disappear, and a romance appears with all the passion of a box being ticked.

And yet it insists on being too sweet and charming to dismiss entirely. Totoche (François Cluzet) is the biggest culprit of this. An endearing take on the forbidden father figure, Totoche is a poacher with a knack for inventions and the perfect foil for Borel (Eric Elmosnino), an uptight gamekeeper obsessed with catching him. You could make an entire film out of those two playing cat and mouse and it would be wonderful. For a little while, School of Life is that film. What a pity it feels the need to grow up.

March 2018 - AF French Film Festival School of Life


Images courtesy of Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, StudioCanal, Arp Sélection and Umbrella Entertainment. 

Movie Review – A Fantastic Woman

A powerfully authentic depiction of trans issues, foreign film A Fantastic Woman is not easy to watch, but it is definitely worth it.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp  

Watching A Fantastic Woman, one gets the sense that the people involved have been waiting to get this ball rolling for a while now. It shows in the ease with which Daniela Vega – herself a trans woman – embodies the character of Marina, and the care that all parties bring to depicting her struggles. The challenges Marina faces feel personal and resonate deeply, creating a sense of cathartic empowerment, with a confident spirit finally being given the spotlight it deserves.

Marina is a singer and waitress in Santiago, Chile. She lives happily with her older lover, Orlando (Francisco Reyes), who we see first, scrambling to find travel tickets he had planned to surprise Marina with. He will never find them. That night, Orlando suffers an aneurysm and dies in hospital, the swiftness of his death underscoring the degree to which Marina’s life is about to be ripped apart. Within hours, Orlando’s family emerges to reclaim him from Marina’s “grasp” and sweep her under the rug using whatever means necessary.

Orlando’s family are something else. If Marina’s character arc seems stunted it’s because they hold her back, sometimes literally. Son Bruno (Nicolás Saavedra) lets himself into Orlando’s apartment, an act that dismisses Marina without needing to say a word. Worse yet is ex-wife Sonia (Aline Küppenheim), who seems “nice enough” until she calls Marina a chimaera and starts using her birth name. If you don’t understand how misgendering someone can be abusive, you haven’t met Sonia; she makes it an art form. Inevitably these slights escalate, reaching their peak with an atrocious act of physical abuse that’s hard to watch.

This escalation is the heart of A Fantastic Woman. You can see it in Marina’s eyes when she speaks to cops at the hospital – she knows that these things are never simple or benign. The cops are just the beginning. Vega brings these experiences to life with authenticity and subtlety. She’s met people like this before, she knows how degrading they can be, and her performance benefits immensely from that first-hand knowledge. It’s empowering just watching her work.

Director Sebastián Lelio is important here as well. He shows himself in select sequences that blur the line between fantasy and reality. A windstorm pushes Marina down until she’s almost parallel to the sidewalk, leaf litter smacking her in the face. Later, a nightclub melts away to give her one last dance alone with Orlando. These breaks from reality express Marina’s grief and frustration in a way that she never could. There are admittedly one too many of them, but their purpose is always clear and admirable, and they are never less than beautiful.

As a powerful portrait of a unique soul, A Fantastic Woman is worth your time. It has an uphill battle for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, but there’s enough meat here for the Academy to give it serious consideration. It’s a gracefully told story, and Vega is magnificent in bringing her own experiences to the table. With luck, this will be the beginning of a new era in representation. With stars like Vega and directors like Lelio, that can only be a good thing.

A Fantastic Woman is available in Australian cinemas from February 22 

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Movie Review – Just To Be Sure

In a classic comedy of errors, this little French film proves that a great cast and a well-written story is all you really need to make an enjoyable movie.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

A trip to the obstetrician with his pregnant daughter leads Erwan (François Damiens) to discover he is not related to the man he believed to be his father, and so he sets out to find his real biological parent. His need to prove a point to his pregnant daughter Juliette (Alice de Lencquesaing) – who refuses to find the father of her unborn child – drives him to establish a connection with Joseph (André Wilms), a man who knew his now-deceased mother, and who Erwan believes must be his real father. Drama ensues when Joseph realises the woman he is falling for is Joseph’s daughter, and thereby potentially his half-sister. Erwan is left to try and navigate the various lies and half-truths he’s told as he tries to determine whether this man is in fact his father or not…

Despite its seemingly complicated plot, Just To Be Sure (Ôtez-moi D’un Doute) is a genuinely funny, tongue-in-cheek comedy of errors that has an uncanny ability to be hilarious, yet deeply moving at the same time. There are no frills in this film, other than a carefully constructed story that is carried beautifully by its cast.

Damiens plays Erwan with an intensity that rapidly turns to softness when he’s in the presence of love interest Anna (Cécile de France), and his need to connect with his biological father is so earnest that you can’t help but root for him.

Both de France and de Lencquesaing steal the show as Anna and Juliette respectively, especially the former, who is an absolute powerhouse. She gives Anna a quiet strength that plays wonderfully off Erwan’s faltering façade of strength, and her quick-wit provides a lot of relief that keeps Erwan on his toes. Despite Erwan struggling to see Juliette as more than the little girl he raised, she is the true hero in this story as she cuts through the bullshit and lays everything on the table so that the family can heal and move forward.

Just To Be Sure is purely an exploration of ordinary characters operating in extraordinary circumstances. All members of the cast put in strong performances, and while the filmmaking is simple and straightforward, anything more would serve as a distraction to the story being told. It is frank and unapologetic, and its careful balance of humour makes it a really smart little film that left me in fits of laughter.

Just To Be Sure is available in Australian cinemas from December 26 

Image courtesy of Palace Films

Cunard British Film Festival 2017

Jawbone

Unpretentious and unforgiving, Jawbone will make your head spin.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½

Rhys Graeme-Drury

A former youth boxing champion, Jimmy (This is England’s Johnny Harris) has reached middle age and found himself without a purpose, a job and a home. Looking to pick himself up off the canvas, Jimmy recruits the help of gym owner Bill (Ray Winstone), corner man Eddie (Michael Smiley) and financier Joe (Ian McShane) so that he can step back into the ring for his long overdue comeback fight.

Dripping with blood, sweat and tears, Jawbone isn’t a glorified take on boxing; a washed-up alcoholic alone in the world, Jimmy’s plight is more closely aligned with the titular character in Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, as he fights for welfare and his home on top of victory in the ring. Where Rocky is rousing, Jawbone is about fighting tooth and nail for survival.

Perfectly capturing this is Harris in the lead role; also serving as screenwriter, Harris puts his heart and soul into both the script and his performance, bringing geezers like Winstone and Smiley along for the ride as well. Harris’ writing affords all three a substantial amount of emotional heft and they carry it off with aplomb.

All this culminates in a raw and punishing fight that doesn’t pull its punches. Director Thomas Napper gets up and close and personal, placing you in the midst of every swing, sidestep and slap. What Jawbone lacks in polish it makes up for it character, emotion and genuine catharsis.


That Good Night

John Hurt effortlessly carries his last film, even as its theatre origins let it down.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½

Michael Philp

Ralph is an elderly, cantankerous writer (John Hurt) facing death. Hoping to make amends, he invites his estranged son, Michael (Max Brown), to his villa for a weekend of confessions. Things go awry when Michael brings his partner Cassie (Erin Richards), and Ralph brings out his bitter side.

 

There’s a (mostly justifiable) sense of self-indulgence to That Good Night. Partly, it’s that Ralph is a famous writer who rattles off beautiful poetry whenever he wants, but it’s also that this is John Hurt’s last film, so his musings on life and death carry particular weight. You can’t blame him for indulging either. Few actors have the talent to warrant an entire film dedicated to their own mortality, so it seems fitting to give Hurt one last opportunity to show off his abilities.

 

He carries it all, too. Surrounded by adequate co-stars – and Charles Dance with the gravitas of a small planet – Hurt stands head and shoulders above every other aspect of the film. His performance is beautifully naturalistic, rising above its theatre roots to deliver a compelling snapshot of a man coming to terms with his end.

 

Sadly, the film itself can’t quite match him. Director Eric Styles does his best to move things away from the script’s theatre origins, using sweeping vistas and excellent colour to highlight Portugal’s countryside, but it’s not quite enough. He just can’t escape that theatre vibe – slightly heightened and stiff. The worst offender is the dialogue, which is needlessly expository and workmanlike at times. However, even as the rest of the film struggles to keep up, Hurt keeps it all together. A fitting end, then, for an actor who certainly did not go gentle into that good night.

 Cunard British Film Festival runs in Perth from October 26th – November 15th 

Images courtesy of Palace Films & Cunard British Film Festival.

Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2017

Cinema Italiano returns to Perth for another year! You can catch the festival at Cinema Paradiso and Luna on SX from September 21 to October 11.

Messy Christmas

A nun, a politician and an Arab walk into a bar, and hilarity ensues as Luca Miniero’s Messy Christmas proves.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

September 2017 - Italian FF Messy Christmas_00000

Set on the remote Mediterranean island of Porto Buio, Messy Christmas sees newly elected mayor Cecco (Claudio Bisio) wrangle with the townsfolk over the particulars of the upcoming Christmas nativity scene. With the child who usually plays Jesus having outgrown the role and no new babies born on the island for years, Mayor Cecco must instead ask the local Islamic Tunisian community if they can ‘borrow’ one of their children to play Jesus – not an easy request when so many locals are entrenched in fundamental traditions on both sides of the equation.

A broad and irreverent comedy that never feels mean-spirited, Messy Christmas has a lot of fun wrestling with culture clash and religious differences. Most of the humour in Miniero’s riotous romp is rooted in poking fun at the peculiarities of modern Italy, with its growing multiculturalism and deeply rooted Christian ideals. The film flaunts a large ensemble of kooky characters, from Bilal (Alessandro Gassman), a local Islam convert, his Arabic wife Aida (Nabiha Akkari), who wants to put a distinctly un-Christian spin on her depiction of the Virgin Mary, and Marta (Angela Finocchiaro), a nun who is firmly fixed on upholding Catholic tradition.

Light and breezy, Messy Christmas doesn’t take itself or its subject matter too seriously; sure, there are bound to be a few gags here that might ruffle a few feathers, but the overall impression is one of cartoonish goofiness. While the slapdash effort to stage the nativity scene is fun (at one point an Aladdin-inspired set-up dials up the silliness), the emotional heft delivered by the final act is disappointingly slight. Miniero’s script (serving as both writer and director) lacks the same polish and spirited conclusion one would usually expect from a comedy of this ilk, and instead chooses to end proceedings with a shrug. A shame, but what comes before it is still good for a laugh.

Indivisible

The opening title of this year’s Italian Film Festival is essentially Stuck on You for the arthouse crowd.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

09 September - Italian FF Indivisible

Seventeen-year-old twin sisters Daisy (Angela Fontana) and Violet (Marianna Fontana) both have an extraordinary singing talent, which they put to good use supporting their family by singing at weddings, baptisms and communions. This is, however, a small part of their popularity; the real draw is their other, more unusual charm – they’re Siamese twins, joined at the hip. They’re inseparable, literally and figuratively, until a prominent doctor notices them at an event and offers to surgically separate them.

Edwardo De Angelis faces a dilemma that seems to appear semi-regularly in independent film – an ambitious premise squandered by an unremarkable script and execution. His otherwise enjoyable flick Indivisible suffers from this, sticking far too close to the family drama formula despite focusing on a topic rarely explored seriously and more often than not reduced to comedy or horror tropes.

Luckily it’s rescued by its two stars; real-life sisters Angela and Marianna Fontana, whose twindom easily lends to their remarkable chemistry and effortless back and forth. What’s truly special is how real they’ve made the Siamese trait feel, having clearly put in a lot of practice walking side by side, with prosthetics joining them to make it seem as though they have been stuck together their entire lives.

But they’re let down by the all-too-obvious directions the story takes. Of course a doctor conveniently appears and takes such an interest that he offers to separate the girls free of charge. Of course one sister wants to be divided so she can live a normal life while the other couldn’t bear to be apart from her sibling. And of course their conniving father has kept the fact that this surgery could have taken place long ago from them so he can continue to make a profit off their singing. Despite an interesting idea, it feels like we’ve seen it all before; luckily, its stars make us care just enough to stick with it.

I Was A Dreamer 

First time director Michele Vannucci delivers a dreamy recount of a man returning to life in Rome after prison.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

September 2017 Italian FF I Was A Dreamer_00000
Based on the true story of Mirko Frezza (played by the real life Mirko Frezza), I Was A Dreamer chronicles Frezza’s release from jail and return to his hometown where he finds his community torn apart by rampant drug addiction. Mirko agrees to take on the role of president for the homeowner’s committee, and attempts to set up community based projects to try and rehabilitate the drug victims, however, as his own father falls deeper into addiction, Mirko wonders if the issues faced by his townspeople are too far gone to repair.

There’s strong performances all round from the entire cast of I Was A Dreamer, with Frezza in particular portraying his own internal and external struggles with a beautiful subtlety. Ginevra De Carolis, who plays Mirko’s daughter Michelle, also puts in a powerful performance as Michelle attempts to repair her broken relationship with a father who has been absent from most of her life. Her resistance to her father and her journey towards rebuilding her trust in him is captured in all its fragility.

The film has a dream-like quality to it, almost hallucinogenic, making you feel as though you’re floating through the film, as if in a trance. This dreamy style causes a bit of disorientation, but director Michele Vannucci in his feature film debut, cleverly harnesses this technique to help you see the world through Mirko’s eyes in his feature film debut.

 

There is an an annoying overuse of voice over that is largely unnecessary; it doesn’t support the narrative and is mostly used to reveal Mirko’s inner thoughts at the expense of the film.

Overall, I Was a Dreamer is a sensitive look into a community plagued by addiction. It’s a touching tale and you really feel for Mirko and his feeling of having the weight of the world on his shoulders.

The Lavazza Italian Film Festival is screening in Perth from September 21 – October 11

Images courtesy of Lavazza Italian Film Festival & Palace Films

Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival 2017

Why does the Norway navy have bar codes on the side of their ships?

So when they come back to port they can… Scandinavian.

Terrible jokes aside, the Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival is back in Perth from July 20 to August 2. Here’s a snapshot of some of the films on offer!
A Conspiracy of Faith

A Conspiracy of Faith is a dark crime thriller that isn’t afraid to tackle difficult issues of child abduction, religion and tensions that exist in rural communities.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

07 July 2017 - Scandinavian FF Conspiracy of Faith

When a message in a bottle washes up on the shore of rural Denmark, detectives Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Assad (Fares Fares) start investigating the case. The note appears to be written by a child and they soon discover that there is a history of child abductions amongst religious cults in the area. When two children go missing in similar circumstances, the pair must race to find out who the abductor is before the two children become his next victim.

A Conspiracy of Faith is a film that’s visually beautiful and soft, almost as if you’re in a dream. The content, however, is nightmarish, and literally gives you shivers thanks to its spectacular performances.

Standouts include Olivia Terpet Gammelgaard, who plays one of the kidnapped children, and Pål Sverre Hagen who plays the abductor Johannes. Terpet Gammelgaard’s quiet tenacity makes you even more fearful for her fate, while Sverre Hagen’s turn as Johannes is powerful and frightening as he comfortably shifts between personas to get what he requires. There’s a quiet evil that lurks behind his friendly façade and it only grows more menacing as the film progresses.

The film has many more admirable qualities, such as its brilliant soundtrack that provides a real stillness at some points, then a thick blanket of tension and suspense at others. A Conspiracy of Faith tackles a lot of tough topics such as religion and faith, child abduction, indoctrination, and nature versus nurture, which are all handled with an amazing sensitivity; this is a film that will stay with me, and I encourage all to go see it.


Magnus

Magnus is an intriguing documentary charting the rise of Magnus Carlsen; a charismatic Norwegian chess prodigy who eventually became the world champion in 2013.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Kit Morris

07 July 2017 - Scandinavian FF Magnus
Magnus chronicles the story of an underdog who overcame great odds to become top of his game; Magnus Carlsen became a Grandmaster at just 13 after playing ten chess games blindfolded. Once labelled the “Mozart of Chess” he is known as a prime athlete in the chess-playing world.

Whilst rightly attempting to tap into the intuitive mindset and lateral thinking behind this ancient game, Magnus stumbles by showcasing an excess of game footage, which may alienate casual viewers that are not familiar with the rules. Players within the documentary speak in technical jargon about chess, which may not make for enthralling viewing, but it does add a degree of quirkiness. Director Benjamin Ree portrays his subject as a child genius who grew up with modesty, and deliberately avoids focusing too much on Carlsen’s personal life.

Chess is a wonderful game, but it’s not for everyone, much like this documentary.


Little Wing

Linnea Skog strives to deliver a strong performance as a restless 12-year-old, but the material fails to make full use of her potential.

⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

Frustrated by her mother’s inability to function as an adult, 12-year-old Varpu (Linnea Skog) learns to drive a car and takes off in the middle of the night to search for her estranged father. The journey doesn’t exactly go as planned and Varpu has to decide whether to persist in the search for her father or to go home defeated.

Linnea Skog is without a doubt an incredible actress; she plays Varpu with a maturity and steely determination that makes you sympathise with her situation. Unfortunately, the adults around her are too over the top, and this is where the movie starts to give way. From her mother who climbs into her bed every night like a child needing to be comforted, to an abused pregnant woman that Varpu comes in contact with along the way, and finally her father, you’re left to wonder how a young girl can have the misfortune of being constantly surrounded by such socially damaged people.

There are some details in the film that just don’t make sense, and some of the actions contradict the personalities of the main characters. In the end, the film wraps everything up a little too nicely, making you question whether the characters grew from this experience at all.

It’s an interesting snapshot of one girl’s adventures, and would make for a great story in the pub, but on screen it fails to develop into anything of note.

Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival 2017 runs in Perth from 20 July – 2 August 

Images courtesy of Palace Films & Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival

Movie Review – Raw

Possibly the strangest film that you will see this year.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

Raw is an eviscerating debut for director Julia Ducournau that is bound to polarise audiences with its profound subject matter and unrelenting presentation, but if you don’t mind, I think I’ll only stomach it once!

At first glance, the premise for French film Raw could be mistaken for a comedy: “when a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her”. What an opportunity for a hilarious exploration of a vegetarian going commando on her carnivorous compadres! But perhaps it’s only me thinking this could turn into a gory comedy about vegetarians taking back society one piece of meat at a time… it would be the ultimate message to never judge those who lead different lifestyles to you!

While not exactly the comedy I was hoping for, Raw is still one hell of an experience. It’s hard to know exactly where to begin when describing such a movie. Without giving too much away, Raw works quickly to establish a dramatically uncomfortable tone. Even if you’ve seen the trailer, the film weaves in more surprises than anticipated, and by surprises, I don’t mean excessively gory scenes. In fact, there isn’t that much gore to begin with, so if you’re worried that you’ve entered into a foreign remake of Saw III, fear no more. What I shall say is that the plot takes a seemingly superficial concept and turns into something far deeper by the end…

From the opening shot, the cinematography truly shines, and every scene after that follows in the same vein. On a technical level, the film is brilliant, but what lets it down is its overall impact. If it’s intention is to make the audience uncomfortable, then yes, it has accomplished what it set out to do, but other than that, I can’t really take much else away from it, as it doesn’t really have a key message or theme.

Raw is worthwhile seeing purely for its immersive and lurid atmosphere that’s so far removed from any other movie available in cinemas right now. It’s sure to get your stomach turning and mouth talking about what you’ve witnessed!

Raw is available in Australian cinemas from April 20

Image courtesy of Monster Pictures Distribution

20th Spanish Film Festival

The 20th Spanish Film Festival has come to Perth once more! Here’s a selection of the films on offer:

May God Save Us

Se7en meets Spain in Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s thoughtful, thrilling and disturbing serial killer chiller. Don’t bring your grandmother.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

04 April - SFF May God Save

As the people of Madrid eagerly await the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in the summer of 2011, two detectives – Luis Velarde (Antonio de la Torre), a stuttering, awkward bundle of nerves, and Javier Alfaro (Roberto Álamo), a hothead with a short temper and a violent streak – are on the case of a serial killer with a sick penchant for brutally raping and murdering elderly women. Instructed to keep it quiet and under control, things begin to unravel wildly for the pair as each finds they have more in common with their killer than they’d like to admit, and the game of cat-and-mouse turns deadly.

May God Save Us, the second feature from Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Stockholm) is an ambitious sophomore effort that wants to be many things. From police procedural to intense character study, it succeeds at most of its aspirations. Most successful is its True Detective-like focus on the partners tailing the killer and how the investigation sends their lives into an obsessive downward spiral. Both of these cops are profoundly flawed and capable of dark outbursts. Both de la Torre and Álamo are greatly engaging and share a terrific chemistry.

The twisty, unnerving narrative and shocking depravity on display make this comparable to the thrillers of David Fincher (Se7en springs to mind more than once). The conclusion relies a little too heavily on coincidence to tie everything up neatly, but everything before it is a riveting, entertaining crime epic to rival some of Hollywood’s supreme.


The Distinguished Citizen

A self-righteous Spaniard wanders aimlessly around the Argentinian countryside for 117 minutes… but that’s not the only thing left to wander. You’ll find yourself wondering what on Earth its all about.

⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

04 April - SFF Citizen

Daniel Mantovani (Oscar Martínez) is a world-renowned writer and esteemed scholarly figure. After being awarded a Nobel Prize for literature, he retreats into self-imposed isolation, abject at his own inability to challenge readers now that his work is so celebrated. Like Alexander the Great weeping for no more worlds to conquer, Daniel decides to journey back to the Argentinian backwater village where he grew up, presumably in an attempt to gain perspective and stay humble.

From here, Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat‘s dramedy follows a rather familiar fish-out-of-water template. Revered by the simple townsfolk, Daniel finds himself surrounded by eager friends and distant relations who are certain his work is based on their kooky personalities and threadbare lives. The screenplay toys with the idea of the artist and the notion of being a stranger amongst friends, but only scratches the surface. After two hours of following Daniel through numerous speeches and photo ops, I felt like we never truly got to explore his motivations in detail.

Instead the film concerns itself the small-town squabbles and petty jealousies of old flame Irene (Andrea Frigerio) and childhood friend Antonio (Dady Brieva). It certainly doesn’t help that the production design and technical elements struggle to elevate the weak material; drab framing, surroundings and an overall boring visual aesthetic means The Distinguished Citizen is next to indistinguishable from a no-frills TV project, with little cinematic flair or energy brought to the screen.


Summer 1993

Life must always go on… and I couldn’t wait for my life to go on once the credits finally rolled on Summer 1993. It’s not my cup of tea, but the centrepiece film of the festival certainly does have a lot of merit.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 
Cherie Wheeler

04 April - SFF Summer 1993

Carla Simón‘s autobiographical drama provides an understated, yet intimate look into the grieving process through the unique perspective of recently orphaned 6-year-old girl Frida (Laia Artigas). Shipped off to live in the countryside with her Aunt, Uncle and their younger daughter Anna (Paula Robles), Frida gradually comes to terms with her new reality and strives to fit in with her substitute family

In her feature film debut, Simón succeeds in channeling her life experiences to construct an authentic and sincere portrayal of family dynamics in the wake of tragedy.  While there is the occasional burst of charisma in some amusing interactions between Frida and Anna, overall the film falls flat with a distinct lack of conflict. Yes, Frida is struggling to sift through her wild tangle of emotions, but this is not enough to sustain a 97-minute run-time. I found myself growing increasingly restless as seemingly disconnected events in the family’s day to day life simply unfolded at a glacial pace.

Summer 1993 is not a film that seeks to entertain; it’s purely a work of art to be observed and admired if you have the patience to do so. Depending on your taste and your mood, you’ll either appreciate its brilliance, or loathe its very existence.  


The Tip of the Iceberg

Corporate greed and violation is at the core of David Cánovas’ latest film, a thriller that distinctly lacks the thrill.

⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

04 April - SFF Tip Iceberg

David Cánovas The Tip of the Iceberg is a lightweight thriller about the kind of corporate conspiracy that can only exist in the movies. I believe there is a lot of corruption in a lot of big companies out there, but to go to the extremes these characters go to, just to make some extra cash, requires some form of superhuman avarice or sadism.

Maribel Verdú plays Sofia Cuevas, an executive of a multinational conglomerate tasked with investigating the mysterious suicides of three of her company’s high-ranking employees. In an eventless and tiresome string of interviews, she encounters workers who have been pressured and blackmailed into functioning at peak performance – like little hamsters trained not to stop running – and uncovers a dastardly plot by the higher-ups to consistently meet deadlines at the expense of their fatigued colleagues.

It’s all very straight-edged, narrow and bland. Verdú is perhaps the only one who appears to be invested in the corporate crime, but after hours and hours of sitting behind a desk staring holes into her laptop screen, even she runs out of gas before the finish line. Convenient plot threads, chance encounters and neatly tied-up loose ends all make The Tip of the Iceberg more trouble than it’s worth.


The Spanish Film Festival runs in Perth from April 27 to May 17

Images courtesy of Palace Films and The Spanish Film Festival