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last update 23.Dec.13
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Fill the Void
dir-scr Rama Burshtein
prd Assaf Amir
with Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Chayim Sharir, Razia Israeli, Hila Feldman, Renana Raz, Yael Tal, Michael David Weigl, Ido Samuel, Neta Moran, Melech Thal
knein and yaron
release Isr 18.Oct.12,
US 24.May.13, UK 13.Dec.13
12/Israel 1h30


Fill the Void It's rare that a film takes us so thoroughly into an unknown subculture, and this drama lets us experience Israel's Orthodox Jewish community in ways we probably never have. Although it's a little too aloof to let us understand how it feels to live there.

At 18, Shira (Yaron) is excited about the prospect of getting married, and her parents Rivka and Aharon (Sheleg and Sharir) have found her a suitable young man. But before they get a chance to meet, Shira's heavily pregnant sister (Raz) dies suddenly, leaving her husband Yochay (Klein) to raise their infant son alone. Months later, when Yochay starts looking abroad for a possible wife, Rivka kicks into action to keep her grandson close. But her suggestion that Shira marry Yochay shocks everyone. And Shira isn't sure how she feels about the idea.

While the rituals and customs of this community may feel impenetrable to most audiences, we can identify with this young woman who simply can't work out who she is or what she wants in life. Yes, she's the "void" of the title: she always does the right thing and only says what people expect her to say. So when someone asks what she thinks about something, she genuinely doesn't know. It's not like she dislikes Yochay, but she's always been told that she will discover married life along with her husband, rather than a guy who knows the ropes.

The actors are solid, even if they tend toward the melodramatic. Every scene is weighted with meaning, as the characters feel the pressures of a culture in which marriages are subtly negotiated and the local rabbi is responsible both for sorting out relationships and helping an elderly woman choose which cooker to buy. So conversations are like minefields, especially when Shira's unmarried Aunt Hanna (Israeli) wades into things. Or when a friend (Feldman) quietly mentions that she should be the one to marry Yochay.

As the story continues, we almost begin to feel like voyeurs into a strikingly personal situation: this setting is so fraught with internal rules that we're always looking in from the outside. But the intense personal odyssey these people go through is thoroughly involving, blending surging happiness with a tinge of real-life grief. And the issues they grapple with are powerfully haunting.

U themes
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The Great Beauty
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE   La Grande Bellezza
dir-scr Paolo Sorrentino
prd Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano
with Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Isabella Ferrari, Carlo Buccirosso, Iaia Forte, Pamela Villoresi, Giovanna Vignola, Galatea Ranzi, Franco Graziosi, Giorgio Pasotti, Sonia Gessner
release It 21.May.13,
UK 6.Sep.13, US 15.Nov.13
13/Italy 2h22


The Great Beauty A Fellini-style odyssey through one man's life, this movie is utterly bonkers. It's also a feast for eyes and ears, often almost unbearably beautiful as it follows a series of encounters and reminiscences that explore identity as a quest for life's passion. Even if it's long and repetitive, you'll want to watch it again.

Rome is such an amazing city that tourists can barely cope with its beauty. And on his 65th birthday, Jep (Servillo) can hardly believe he lives there. He once wrote a popular novel, and everyone asks when he'll write another, but he's having too much fun to be bothered with work, and he feels destined to party every night away with his cynical artist and journalist pals. Especially when he thinks back about his austere childhood. But now life is a wonderful whirlpool. Isn't it?

Energetically and insightfully played by Servillo, Jep is an astonishingly complex character: straight-talking, observant, funny, often ruthlessly honest and a snob who hates people who are snobby. "We're all on the brink of despair," he says, "and all we can do is keep each other company." Writer-director Sorrentino seems to almost struggle to keep up with him through a variety of disconnected sequences and biting conversations.

Yes, this is observational filmmaking without much in the way of a real plot. But it's utterly riveting. We meet several people in Jep's life, all of whom feel fully fleshed out by the actors, including Verdone as his best pal, who is getting tired of the ratrace; Ferilli as a stripper Jep confides in; Villoresi as a fiercely high-class friend who faces a dark tragedy; and Ferrari as an alluring blonde, mainly because every movie needs one.

All of this is exquisitely shot by Luca Bigazzi to capture Rome's architecture, art and sunshine, and assembled in a visually charged way with witty editing and a riotous sound mix. The film is a barrage of art-forms from body painting and knife throwing to an actor preparing to play both a junkie and the Pope. It's also packed with huge themes about ambition, relationships and regrets, infused with Jep's central idea that beauty obscures the grim realities of our human existence, so why not live life fully even if it's just a trick?

15 themes, language, violence, nudity, drugs
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Tell No One
3.5/5   Come Non Detto
dir Ivan Silvestrini
scr Roberto Proia
prd Andrea Borella
with Josafat Vagni, Monica Guerritore, Valeria Bilello, Francesco Montanari, Jose Dammert, Ninni Bruschetta, Valentina Correani, Lucia Guzzardi, Andrea Rivera, Alan Cappelli Goetz, Anna Maria Teresa Ricci, Gaia Scodellaro
vagni and dammert
release It 7.Sep.12,
UK 25.Nov.13, US 10.Dec.13
12/Italy 1h27
Tell No One Each coming-out cliche is present, but for an Italian movie about homosexuality this is an unusually relaxed, warm and funny film. It brings to mind Ferzan Ozpetek's Loose Cannons with its combination of comedy and drama. And the engaging characters and realistic themes give the farce some teeth.

At 20, Mattia (Vagni) has worked himself into a corner by not coming out to his parents (Guerritore and Bruschetta), grandmother (Guzzardi), spiky sister (Correani) and caveman brother-in-law (Rivera). On the night before he moves to Spain to live with his boyfriend Eduard (Dammert), he decides to make the big announcement at dinner. Then Eduard surprises him by turning up, oblivious to Mattia's still-closeted status. So Mattia deploys his gay pal Giacomo (Montanari) and his best friend Stefania (Billello) to delay Eduard while he works up the courage to do the right thing.

As this fateful evening approaches, we also see flashbacks tracing events to this point, all of which centre on Mattia's inability to face the truth about himself. Vagni plays this nicely, keeping Mattia likeable. Even when he's doing the wrong thing see him squirming in his own skin, trying to make sense of his identity. And it's fun to watch him develop friendships with both Giacomo and Stefania, as well as his romance with Eduard, all of whom are played with sparky energy by the great-looking cast.

Along the way, the filmmakers touch on big themes, including the way Mattia has been schooled by his rugby-coach dad in the art of Italian machismo. Mattia is also ruthlessly bullied by a classmate (Goetz) as he leans on friends for support and tries to open up to his family. And there are several heart-stopping dramatic moments when he makes the utterly wrong decision.

The point is that hiding from the truth is never the answer, and only creates more trouble. Everyone stresses that Mattia needs to take charge of his life and be himself, but he dithers so much that we eventually lose patience with him. Thankfully, the big climax is a refreshing twist on the standard denouement. It's nice that the filmmakers have chosen an ending that's not too tidy. And that they've also managed to inject some genuine emotion in unexpected places.

15 themes, language, brief violence
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Two Mothers
4/5   Zwei Mütter
dir-scr Anne Zohra Berrached
prd Cosima Maria Degler
with Karina Plachetka, Sabine Wolf, Florian Weber, Maarten Van Santen, Tilmann A Muller, Joachim Welz, Rolf Iben, Karin Herrgen, Nadine Landmann, Simon Gross, Andrea Pfirrmann, Soy Kounlavong
plachetka and wolf release Ger 30.May.13,
UK 9.Dec.13
13/Germany 1h15

Two Mothers With remarkable sensitivity, this low-key German drama follows a lesbian couple through the process of trying to conceive a child, highlighting both the personal and political issues involved. It's artfully shot, performed and edited without flourishes, using documentary realism to hold our attention and move us emotionally.

In their late 30s, Isa and Katja (Plachetka and Wolf) have decided that they want a child without having the father around. The problem is that Germany doesn't allow gay couples to undergo fertility treatment, even though they're legally married. And inconsistent laws combine with underlying prejudice to prevent them from finding a cooperative sperm bank. Finally, they locate a clinic that will treat them, and they later meet a private donor (Weber). But as Isa struggles to get pregnant over the next year, their relationship and finances are badly strained.

Based on real experiences, the film is assembled in an expressive fly-on-the-wall style that's strikingly honest. Using everyday, colour-drained imagery that's packed with telling details, writer-director Berrached beautifully captures the inner lives of both of these women. While Isa may be more sympathetic, with her determination and open emotions, Katja is much more prickly, allowing bitterness to creep in as she gets frustrated by the process and starts feeling insecure about Isa's deep longing for a child.

Thankfully, it's not a dark, heavy film. Both actresses find plenty of earthy wit and lively interaction along the way. They fill each scene with realistic feelings and sometimes hilarious reactions, such as the sequence in which they audition potential donors ("Can you read that sign over there?" "Are all the men in your family so tall?"). But even these moments are an emotional minefield. And both Plachetka and Wolf capture the mixture of hope and exhaustion over this unnecessarily long and twisty journey.

With dialog that often feels improvised, the film touches on huge issues in a way that's thoroughly grounded. So the rampant homophobia is deeply unsettling, as is the way this process affects the relationship itself. It's difficult enough for a 37-year-old woman to conceive without an entire culture conspiring against her. So even if the drama is involving, the bigger picture makes the film both fascinating and vitally important.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall