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last update 16.Apr.13
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3.5/5   Yurt
dir-scr Muzaffer Ozdemir
prd Muzaffer Ozdemir, Sadik Incesu
with Kanbolat Gorkem Arslan, Muzaffer Ozdemir, Muhammet Uzuner, Pinar Unsal, Halil Kilic, Kerim Olgun, Ilhami Sibil
arslan release Tur 14.Sep.12
11/Turkey 1h16
Home A thoughtful meditation on progress and civilisation, this Turkish odyssey doesn't have much of a plot and never really defines its characters. Instead, it's a film about one man's determination to make sense of what he sees as the destruction of the world around him. And sensitive audiences will find it beautiful to watch.

Istanbul architect Dogan (Arslan) is having a crisis of existence, so a colleague (Ozdemir) suggests taking some time to visit his homeland. He heads to the mountains of north-east Turkey with plans to photograph water mills for use back at work. But he instead finds the landscape transformed by capitalism, as corporations dam and reroute rivers. Old buildings are falling down while picturesque valleys fill up with apartment blocks and crowded motorways. Is there anywhere left that looks like it did when he was a child? Perhaps a rural farm that he used to visit.

As Dogan goes further into the mountains to get away from encroaching civilisation, the scenery gets increasingly spectacular, with mountains, forests and glaciers. And yet he has trouble seeing past the fact that there are now roads to these places, which means that they too are doomed. His quest becomes centred on a single flower that seems to be extinct, and as he hikes into the hills he finds friendly people who help him as well as locals suspicious of his motives.

We never find out very much about Dogan, aside from his deep depression and gentle demeanour, but Arslan helps us see into his soul without the need for much dialog. We can identify with Dogan's quest, even if it all feels extremely heightened for cinematic effect. Yes, there are the scars of industry all over this picturesque countryside, but it's still ravishingly beautiful. In other words, Dogan's deep disappointment is flawed by his refusal to accept progress and to see the beauty that remains.

And filmmaker Ozdemir's premise isn't unique: this exact same story could be told in virtually any country on earth. Humans haven't treated the planet very well in the relatively short time since industrialisation, and we are paying for this in the way nature is out of balance. As one character asks, "How can the politicians sell the water rights when the animals and plants already need the water to survive?"

12 themes, language, brief grisliness
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Me and You
4/5   Io e Te
dir Bernardo Bertolucci
prd Mario Gianani, Lorenzo Mieli
scr Niccolo Ammaniti, Umberto Contarello, Francesca Marciano, Bernardo Bertolucci
with Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Tea Falco, Sonia Bergamasco, Veronica Lazar, Tommaso Ragno, Pippo Delbono, Francesca De Martini, John Paul Rossi, Rodolfo Corsato
falco and antinori
release It 25.Oct.12,
UK 19.Apr.13
12/Italy 1h37

The King of Pigs This gentle, contained drama is both expertly shot and finely acted to draw us to the characters in ways we don't expect. There may not be a lot to this film, which feels like a one-act play, but it's full of quiet insight that lets us see ourselves.

Lorenzo (Antinori) is a shy 14-year-old living with his mother (Bergamasco), who wants him to go on a school skiing trip. But he tells no one that he has a secret plan to buy a stash of food and secretly live in the basement of their apartment block, phoning daily ski-trip updates to his mum. Then his solace is interrupted by the arrival of his older, high-maintenance half-sister Olivia (Falco), who not only discovers his hiding place but insists that she move in with him while she goes cold turkey.

The film is both a coming-of-age story and a bonding odyssey for these siblings, but neither aspect is overplayed. No big events try to push them in one direction or another, and her withdrawal is portrayed as harrowing but subtly realistic, resisting temptation to indulge in overwrought dramatics. Instead, much of the film focusses on two young people circling around each other, trying to figure out if their sibling is worthy of their trust.

Yes, the real story here is the fallout of parental failings, as both are angry at their father for abandoning them and their mothers. Lorenzo was too young to really know Olivia when she lived with them, and her world is something very new to him. Meanwhile, Olivia has a significant reason for getting clean, which provides a strong undercurrent for her side of the story. The two actors are terrific in the roles: wary, intrigued and ultimately changed profoundly by this encounter.

Bertolucci shoots this with attention to light, shadow and texture, bringing out the internal perspectives of both characters through how they interact with the claustrophobic setting. A few side characters help open things up, as do a couple of small adventures outside the hideout. And in the end it's refreshing that the script never tries to go for some sort of huge epiphany, instead letting us linger on the possibilities ahead.

15 themes, language, some violence
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4/5   L’Ordre et la Morale
dir Mathieu Kassovitz
prd Mathieu Kassovitz, Christophe Rossignon
scr Mathieu Kassovitz, Benoit Jaubert, Pierre Geller
with Mathieu Kassovitz, Iabe Lapacas, Malik Zidi, Alexandre Steiger, Daniel Martin, Philippe Torreton, Sylvie Testud, Philippe de Jacquelin Dulphe, Steeve Une, Patrick Fierry, Jean-Philippe Puymartin, Stefan Godin
release Fr 16.Nov.11,
UK 19.Apr.13
11/France 2h16

london film fest
Rebellion True events are turned into a muscular, harrowing military thriller by actor-filmmaker Kassovitz. The structure echoes Zero Dark Thirty, but this was made more than a year earlier and is far more urgent from start to finish. It's also more manipulative.

Following a 1988 uprising in New Caledonia, French special forces captain Philippe (Kassovitz) assembles his team and heads to the South Pacific island. His goal is to get people talking and avoid bloodshed, which shouldn't be too difficult since the local Kanak leader (Lapacas) is peaceful, his hostages are being cared for and violence during the rebellion was caused by panic and inexperience. But with France preparing for elections, the local French politician (Martin) wades into the situation, demanding a swift restoration of order regardless of loss of life.

With its epithet "The truth hurts, but lies kill", the film is clearly an attempt to recount real events that have long been clouded in misinformation. And the film has a potent sense of righteous anger as it reveals more than a century of appalling colonial treatment of the indigenous Kanaks, plus military and political arrogance as leaders thousands of miles away in Paris make decisions that ignore what's actually going on.

For political gamesmanship, rumours are released that the Kanaks are savages who slaughter French soldiers, but the truth is that the Kanaks are French citizens themselves, and these so-called "terrorists" are actually family men who are terrified of the situation they've found themselves in. Kassovitz superbly plays Philippe as a smart, slightly too heroic man who is forced to do something unthinkable and then carry the blame for it.

The whole cast is bracingly realistic, and we're able to sympathise even with the most callous politicians. It's also expertly shot and edited with a driving pace that gathers steam as the situation escalates over 10 days, spiked with an on-screen countdown. But Kassovitz overstates several issues, forcing us to take sides even as the bombastic score continually reminds us how grave this situaiton is. Still, the film is skilfully crafted to make sure we never forget what happened. And it also reveals parallels in what we're doing around the world today.

15 themes, language, violence
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The Sex of Angels
4/5   El Sexo de los Ángeles •
US title: Angels of Sex
dir Xavier Villaverde
scr Ana Maroto
prd Pancho Casal, Jordi Mendieta, Leonel Vieira
with Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Alvaro Cervantes, Llorenc Gonzalez, Sonia Mendez, Julieta Marocco, Lluisa Castell, Marc Garcia Cote, Marc Pociello, Ricard Farre, Ana Cimini, Marcel Tomas, Jordi Mendieta
berges-frisbey and gonzalez
release Sp 4.May.12,
US 15.Apr.13, UK 29.Apr.13
12/Spain 1h45
The Sex of Angels The basic idea here is that attraction and sex have less to do with gender than with having a personal connection with someone. Although this may limit the film's chances with mainstream audiences, it's still thoughtful and involving in ways that continually surprise us.

Street-dance crew member Rai (Cervantes) rescues architect student Bruno (Gonzalez) after a violent mugging, and in turn Bruno helps Rai find a place to stay with two friends (Pociello and Garcia Cote). Very quickly, the two become so close that Bruno starts to question his own sexuality. And when Bruno's long-time girlfriend Carla (Berges-Frisbey) discovers this, her liberal views are sorely tested. Is it possible to accept that her boyfriend has a boyfriend? Or is an even more radical solution possible?

Relaxed and warm, the film builds realistic connections between the characters, including complex elements of tension and desire. It's refreshing to see people on-screen who aren't completely sure about themselves, doing the best they can to balance their responsibilities and curiosity. Although this doesn't lessen the shock of the situation, since Bruno and Carla have been together since they were teens. And even if the drama gets tangled and overwrought, it remains believable and sympathetic.

Cervantes gives Rai a terrific physicality, both as a dancer and karate teacher, like an even sexier Spanish Channing Tatum. We believe that Rai would shake up both Bruno and Carla, challenging beliefs they've always accepted without question. But is it just the act of seduction that gets him going? And both Cervantes and Berges-Frisbey ground their likeability in raw emotion, because this dilemma is worse than it should be for such open-minded people. Meanwhile, the supporting cast creates vividly developed characters who add lots of wrinkles.

Director Villaverde is unusually good at getting under the skin of his characters, capturing tiny details of the actors' performances. And Maroto's script digs into the situation without being straightjacketed by traditional plotting or moralising. It may sometimes feel like a sexual fantasy (isn't free love marvellous?) and other times like a melodrama (he loves her but can't live without him!). But it's also sensitive, sensual and engaging enough that it makes us ask questions about ourselves.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
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