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On this page: BOYS | HUMAN CAPITAL
MY NAME IS HMMM... | YOU AND THE NIGHT

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last update 12.Oct.14
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Boys
4/5   Jongens
dir Mischa Kamp
scr Jaap-Peter Enderle, Chris Westendorp
prd Pieter Kuijpers, Iris Otten, Sander van Meurs
with Gijs Blom, Ko Zandvliet, Jonas Smulders, Ton Kas, Stijn Taverne, Myron Wouts, Ferdi Stofmeel, Lotte Razoux Schultz, Rachelle Verdel, Julia Akkermans, Jeffrey Hamilton, Rifka Lodeizen
blom and zandvliet
release Ned 9.Feb.14,
US Jun.14 siff, UK 13.Oct.14
14/Netherlands 1h16
boys For a provocative drama about adolescent exploration and discovery, this film maintains a remarkably light, lively tone. By capturing a realistic sense of teen awkwardness, the characters come across as relaxed and natural. And their story of first love is remarkably sweet and honest.

When he qualifies for his high school track relay team, Sieg (Blom) bonds with fellow runners Stef and Tom (Taverne and Wouts), then sparks an added layer of attraction with teammate Marc (Zandvliet). Although an unexpected kiss gets the instant response from Sieg, "I'm not gay!" To which Marc replies, "Of course you're not." But no matter where Sieg goes with his girlfriend Jessica (Schultz), he seems to see Marc somewhere nearby. Meanwhile, Sieg's rebel brother Eddie (Smulders) is illicitly riding with a bigoted off-road biker gang.

The film is an authentic depiction of youth, with cheeky humour and earthy interaction as they hang out, visit a funfair, sing around a campfire, ride bicycles through the forest to go swimming. Sieg is an outsider both at school and in his family, preferring to stick to himself. But he's naturally drawn to Marc, knowing only too well that as a jock he's expected to be a womaniser.

Director Kamp gets the tone right, allowing a strong sense of chemistry to emerge between characters, plus a sporty camaraderie that's playful and realistically physical. Blom beautifully captures Sieg's inner struggle, which shows in everything he does. Intriguingly, there's a real sense that the side-plots are a distraction for Sieg; Eddie's rebellion makes him want to take the role of the golden-boy at home, which furthers his own turmoil. Sometimes this leaves the film feeling somewhat simplistic, like an after-school TV movie, but the emotional kick is strong.

Indeed, the best thing about the film is the way it helps the audience identify with Sieg's self-doubt. For him the core question is "What do I want?" And what he needs to understand is that he's asking the wrong question. Yes, this is a film about discovering who you are as opposed to the person everyone wants you to be, and then having the courage to live your own life rather than playact your way through it. And that's something people of all ages need to be reminded of.

PG themes, language
10.Aug.14
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Human Capital
3.5/5   Il Capitale Umano
dir Paolo Virzi
scr Paolo Virzi, Francesco Bruni, Francesco Piccolo
prd Marco Cohen, Fabrizio Donvito, Benedetto Habib
with Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Valeria Golino, Matilde Gioli, Guglielmo Pinelli, Giovanni Anzaldo, Fabrizio Gifuni, Luigi Lo Cascio, Gigio Alberti, Silvia Cohen, Paolo Pierobonm Bebo Storti
bruni tedeschi and gifuni release US Apr.14 tff,
It 9.Jan.14, UK 26.Sep.14
14/Italy 1h49
Human Capital A complex web of stories converge in this sleek Italian drama that sets out to explore the human cost of social ambition. The ultimate point is rather elusive, perhaps because the film's mystery-style narrative draws attention away from the financial themes. And also because the actors deliver such potent performances that the personal drama is much more compelling.

When Dino (Bentivoglio) discovers a common love of tennis with hedge fund manager Giovanni (Gifuni), father of his daughter's boyfriend Massimiliano (Pinelli), he illicitly borrows cash to make an investment. Immediately, his new wife (Golino) gets pregnant. And then the recession hits. Meanwhile, Giovanni's wife Carla (Bruni Tedeschi) gets her husband to help restore an abandoned theatre, then has an unexpected spark with her artistic director (Lo Cascio). And Dino's daughter Serena (Gioli) tells Massimiliano she just wants to be friends, then meets Luca (Anzaldo), who isn't the bad boy everyone thinks he is.

The story is told in three chapters, as six months are seen through the eyes of Dino, Carla and Serena. All of this leads to a fateful event witnessed in the prolog (and settled in an epilog). Intriguingly, the three strands overlap and interact, digging deep into characters who circle around the central figures. In keeping with the film's title, these people come from a wide economic range: the obscenely privileged to those who never get a break.

Thankfully, the script is more complicated than it seems, never drawing moral lines where expected while allowing characters to interact in often unnerving ways that are realistically inconsistent, pushed and pulled by events, pressures, hopes and, yes, lust. The actors are excellent, most notably the transcendent Bruni Tedeschi, who invests Carla with so much conflicting depth that she's painfully sympathetic.

As filmmaker Virzi repeatedly loops back to start each chapter from a new point of view, he packs the screen with cleverly revealing touches. It's a relatively simple structure, shot and edited with seemingly effortless skill to make the layers of mystery utterly riveting. So it's a little frustrating that the central theme about the financial value of a human life feels like it has been randomly tacked on at the end. Because otherwise this is a sharp portrait of how the wealthy, middle-class and workers interact.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
10.Sep.14
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My Name Is Hmmm...
4/5   Je M’Appelle Hmmm...
dir Agnes Trouble
scr Agnes Trouble, Jean-Pol Fargeau
prd Agnes Trouble, Christophe Audeguis
with Lou-Lelia Demerliac, Douglas Gordon, Sylvie Testud, Jacques Bonnaffe, Marie-Christine Barrault, Antonio Negri, Franck Beckmann, Julie Meunier, Isabelle Leprince, Jean-Francois Garreaud, Noemie Ducourau, Emile Gautier
gordon and demerliac release Fr 23.Apr.14,
UK 17.Oct.14
13/France 2h01

VENICE FILM FEST
My Name is Hmmm... This film takes on a seriously intense theme in a way that challenges viewers to confront their political correctness. And it's all the more shocking as it quietly reveals characters and situations more complex than most filmmakers would dare attempt.

Celine (Demerliac) is an 11-year-old who's the de facto head of her household, taking care of her younger siblings (Ducourau and Gautier) while their mother (Testud) works extra hours and their father (Bonnaffe) just sits around moaning because he's unemployed. When he invites Celine upstairs with him, it's instantly clear that something more horrific is going on in this house. So it's hardly surprising when Celine slips off while on a school trip, stowing away in the cab of Scottish truck driver Peter (Gordon), who realises what's going on and decides to help her.

On the surface, this is almost a warmly sweet road movie about an unlikely friendship. But it has so many ramifications that it can't help but send continual chills down the viewer's spine. This isn't to say that it's not packed with lighter moments of humour and genuinely enjoyable interaction, but knowing Celine's back story makes her journey that much more hopeful and harrowing. And the way her parents struggle with the situation is unlike the usual cinematic depictions.

Demerliac transparently exposes Celine's inner life. Even when she refuses to say anything (the title is how she introduces herself to Peter), it's clear what's going on in her head. Her steely resolve is inspiring, and it's a joy to watch her cut lose with Peter and act like a happy little girl for a change. As Peter, acclaimed artist Gordon is a refreshingly unfussy actor who reveals details about his character through small moments while also remaining an enigma.

Yes, it's impossible to watch this without wondering why Peter never notifies the authorities. And the final sequence is even more provocative, revealing unimaginable sides of the characters while letting details emerge between the lines. As a director, Trouble (better known as the designer agnes b) plays sometimes indulgently with a variety of film styles, including freeze-frames and colour-saturated glimpses into the minds of each person. But the cumulative effect is so overwhelming that it's essential viewing for film fans in search of offbeat cinematic language.

15 themes, language, violence
30.Jul.14
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You and the Night
3/5   Les Rencontres a’Après Minuit
dir-scr Yann Gonzalez
prd Cecile Vacheret
with Kate Moran, Niels Schneider, Nicolas Maury, Eric Cantona, Fabienne Babe, Alain Fabien Delon, Julie Bremond, Beatrice Dalle, Jean-Christophe Bouvet, Pierre-Vincent Chapus, Dominique Bettenfeld, Frederic Bayer Azem
moran, schneider and maury release Fr 13.Nov.13,
US Jun.14 fff, UK 3.Oct.14
13/France 1h38

CANNES FILM FEST
You and the Night While this artful French drama is surreal and stylised enough to hold the attention, it badly in need of wit and energy. Writer-director Gonzalez never quite follows through on his lusty sex-party premise. And as police prowl around outside the locked doors, it begins to feel like a sadomasochistic Breakfast Club.

Ali and Matthias (Moran and Schneider) and their cross-dressing maid Udo (Maury) are hosting a party tonight in their super-modern home. At the designated time, guests begin to arrive one by one, each inhabiting his or her designated role: the Stud, the Slut, the Star and the Teen (Cantona, Bremond, Babe and Delon). Yes, this is a high-concept orgy. And to get things going, Udo casually asks, "Speed, poppers, cocaine, MDMA, something to drink?" But Ali has had a premonition that tonight will be momentous, possibly with fatal consequences for her and Matthias.

While there's plenty of sexual energy in the air, these characters essentially just sit around talking in darkly portentous ways about their feelings and expectations. Each person seems distanced from life. Stud speaks about how his magnificent penis rules his life, earns his living and lands him in jail; but he's really a poet. Slut desires everything on her terms. Star wants to arrive and depart in darkness, not to see or be seen. Teen is a runaway with police after him.

Each actor brings dark emotion to his or her role, although there isn't a moment of offhanded humanity. This also isn't much of an orgy, as the guests mainly just discuss their feelings about sex and the meaning of life. There are a few moments of physicality, as well as some intriguing connections between characters. And stylised sequences illustrate inner thoughts and reveal events from their back-stories.

All of this takes place in a stagy, dreamlike set that seems suspended in a murky limbo that won't allow the characters to escape their schematic types. Dialog comes in long whispered speeches, as imagery flickers to follow memories and imaginings. It's essentially a provocative theatrical essay about people who exist in a concocted purgatory between their stereotypical lives and the possible hope of a more honest future. It's fascinating but too constructed to engage emotionally. And Gonzalez's oddly timid conclusion far too traditional for his subversive pretensions.

18 themes, language, sexuality, violence
21.Sep.14
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