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last update 14.Sep.16
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4/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Pedro Almodovar
prd Agustin Almodovar, Esther Garcia
with Emma Suarez, Adriana Ugarte, Inma Cuesta, Michelle Jenner, Rossy de Palma, Daniel Grao, Dario Grandinetti, Joaquin Notario, Mariam Bachir, Blanca Pares, Susi Sanchez, Pilar Castro
release Sp 8.Apr.16,
UK 26.Aug.16
16/Spain Pathe 1h39

Julieta With a strikingly emotional sensibility, this dark drama explores the thornier side of relationships as its characters take a twisty, circuitous route through their lives. Pedro Almodovar adds beautiful stylistic flourishes everywhere, building an almost Hitchcockian mystery as a woman deals with love, parenthood and death over more than two decades.

After agreeing to quit her high-powered job in Madrid and move with her writer boyfriend Lorenzo (Grandinetti) to Portugal, Julieta (Suarez) has a sudden change of heart. Unable to explain herself, she simply disappears and pours herself into her regret-filled past, revisiting the sparky romance she had as a young woman (Ugarte) with Xoan (Grao), which led to the birth of their daughter Antia (Pares) and an unexpected friendship with Xoan's very close friend Ava (Cuesta). As Julieta contemplates the pain of people disappearing from her life, she refuses to give up hope.

Based on three Alice Munro stories, the film has a remarkably intimate tone. Almodovar drenches the imagery in reds and blues while zeroing in on the faces of people who are trying to conceal their emotions. Like the characters themselves, the screenplay only reveals its secrets reluctantly, quietly dropping details into every scene, deepening the moving arc of Julieta's life from a carefree young woman to a concerned mother. Ugarte and Suarez seamlessly merge in the role, beautifully revealing Julieta's essentially lonely inner life.

This is a story about a woman trying to make sense of love, especially from her daughter, who should love her unconditionally but has chosen to distance herself. Julieta's relationships are all remarkably complicated, from her lovers to her parents. Each of the actors brings remarkable angles to their performance, cleverly revealing the complexities of their lives apart from Julieta. These are demanding roles that require the cast to provide the most pungent clues when they're saying nothing at all. And there isn't a weak link.

Sometimes, this approach can feel rather elusive, as Almodovar seems to skirt around the edges of the story. But this is the point, and he's capturing the way we all feel a nagging sense of longing even when everything in our lives seems to be going perfectly. The idea here is that our past feelings not only continue to eat at us, but also spread to those around us even if we try to keep them hidden. It's a profound thought with wrenching implications. And this beautiful, hopeful film reminds us that we're not alone.

15 themes, sexuality
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Theo and Hugo
4.5/5   Théo et Hugo Dans le Même Bateau •
aka: Paris 05:59   MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
prd Emmanuel Chaumet
with Geoffrey Couet, Francois Nambot, Georges Daaboul, Claire Deschamps, Elodie Adler, Jeffry Kaplow, Marief Guittier, Bastien Gabriel, Miguel Ferreira, Arthur Dumas, Eric Dehak, Patrick Joseph
nambot and couet release Fr 27.Apr.16,
UK 9.Sep.16
16/France 1h37

flare film festival
Theo and Hugo With striking honesty, this lovely Before Sunrise-style romance is bold and unflinching in the way it approaches the drama around the moment when two young men meet. As the events unfold in real time in the early morning, filmmakers Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau and actors Geoffrey Couet and Francois Nambot take a refreshingly realistic approach to some very big issues.

The shy, inquisitive Theo (Couet) meets the chatty, frank Hugo (Nambot) in an underground sex club in Paris at 4.30am, finding an unexpected romantic spark in the midst of a sweaty naked scrum. Leaving together, they meander through the early morning streets in a smiling, loved-up haze until the reality of what they've just done hits them. This requires immediate action, and strains them to the breaking point. By the time the sun rises at 6am, they've been forced to grapple with things most couples never even think about.

Cinematographer Manuel Marmier follows along in skilful long tracking shots that observe layers of interaction between these two young men. And the way the film is shot in the streets of Paris adds a lovely natural sensibility, since they're mainly outdoors walking, running or cycling. Both Couet and Nambot effortlessly bridge the story's various currents, at times almost giddy in the way they're smitten with each other, then facing truthful dark shadows without missing a beat.

They meet several friendly people along the way who offer opinions on big issues. A Syrian kebab shop clerk (Daaboul) talks about the oppressive regime back home, a doctor (Deschamps) calmly explains the realities of HIV infection, a woman (Guittier) on the Metro chats about life and love, a grumpy bigot (Kaplow) offers his unwelcome observations. Some of these conversations feel slightly contrived, because everything feeds into the central themes about gay life in 21st century Europe. But this adds to the film's honesty just as effectively as the bold depiction of sex.

Perhaps this is what sets the film apart: over 90 minutes, these men grapple with issues other couples wait years to encounter. Like Andrew Haigh's Weekend, this film is unabashed in its depiction of a deeper attraction between two men who met in a way that would never be considered traditional. Although the point is that it doesn't matter how they met, or even how long they manage to stay together. What matters is seizing the chance to love and to be loved.

18 themes, language, strong sexuality
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Things to Come
4/5   L’Avenir
dir-scr Mia Hansen-Love
prd Charles Gillibert
with Isabelle Huppert, Andre Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob, Solal Forte, Sarah Le Picard, Elise Lhomeau, Lionel Dray-Rabotnik, Lina Benzerti, Gregoire Montana-Haroche, Guy-Patrick Sainderichin, Yves Heck
huppert and kolinka release Fr 6.Apr.16,
UK 2.Sep.16
16/France 1h40

36th Shadows Awards

Things to Come With a disarmingly loose structure, this film feels like a simple observational drama, but writer-director Mia Hansen-Love quietly layers deeper meanings into each scene, subtly aided by her expertly understated cast. So by the end, even though it's still seemingly light and effortless, the film has enormous resonance.

Philosophy professor Nathalie (Huppert) is not having a great year. Her children (Forte and Le Picard) have left the nest. Her mother (Scob) has dementia and is resisting the move into a nursing home. And her husband (Marcon) has announced that he's moving in with his mistress. Independent for the first time in 25 years, Nathalie falls back on her friendship with former favourite student Fabien (Kolinka), who has just made a huge transition himself, moving with his girlfriend (Lhomeau) to a communal farm in the countryside.

Hansen-Love writes and directs the film in such a relaxed way that we're about halfway into the movie before we realise that something is actually happening. The details of Nathalie's life are immaculately observed, from the seemingly random everyday irritations to the more pointed experiences with her nearest and dearest. A running gag about her mother's cat Pandora gives the film a bit of a through-line, but otherwise the atmosphere carries the audience along easily, avoiding big histrionics for something much more profound.

Huppert delivers one of her finest minimalistic performances as a woman who takes what life throws at her philosophically, of course. Nathalie is engagingly curious and open-minded, seemingly never thrown by all of this upheaval. Through all of this, Huppert allows cracks to show here and there. She's is in virtually very scene, and sustains Nathalie's quiet wit and much deeper emotions beautifully. The cast around her are bracingly realistic, but this isn't their story.

As things move gently along, there are some very pointed discussions about the meaning of life, love and truth, circling around the bigger issues while cutting to the heart of the film's themes. All of this feels so strikingly honest that it becomes unexpectedly moving. Basically, this is a skilful depiction of how life shifts and changes around us, and how the things we value most perhaps aren't what truly holds us together. But then, everyone who sees it will get their own message. Which is one reason why it's such an important film.

12 themes, language
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We Are the Flesh
3/5   Tenemos la Carne
dir-scr Emiliano Rocha Minter
prd Julio Chavezmontes, Moises Cosio, Emiliano Rocha Minter
with Noe Hernandez, Maria Evoli, Diego Gamaliel, Maria Cid, Gabino Rodriguez
evoli, hernandez and gamaliel release UK Aug.16 ff
16/Mexico 1h19

fright fest
We Are the Flesh Murky and depraved, this Mexican thriller is a awash in explicit violence and sex, as filmmaker Emiliano Rocha Minter unapologetically shocks the audience with appalling behaviour. Perhap he's trying too hard to challenge the status quo, from wanton bloodletting to extreme closeups of genitalia. But his bold approach does have plenty of style.

In a falling-down abandoned warehouse, Mariano (Hernandez) brews his own hooch from whatever he has on hand, gleefully wallowing in his squalor. Then Fauna and Lucio (Evoli and Gamaliel) invade his hideout, searching desperately for food and solace. After some nastiness, the three form an uneasy alliance. But Mariano pushes the young couple to have sex, despite the fact that they're brother and sister. When Mariano dies in a moment of ecstasy, a bit of magic brings him back, and they proceed to capture and abuse other refugees from the harsh world outside.

This is a properly gruesome horror movie that plays with incest, necrophilia and cannibalism, with added moments of menstruation and urination. Rocha seems intent on alienating anyone with even a hint of squeamishness, and films everything straight on, often in squirm-inducing close-up. Thankfully, the generally murky quality of the images and increasingly stylised sets whittle away at the realism. Indeed, Fauna and Lucio help Mariano turn the warehouse into a space that looks like an internal organ as Minter steers the film into some predictable but cool twists and turns in the plot.

Hernandez anchors this unflinching movie as the grinning, clearly insane Mariano, whose random speeches touch on all sorts of bigger issues. The magical elements of the story turn him into a sort of charismatic shaman as he guides these youngsters into some sort of heightened understanding of reality. Or something. Evoli and Gamaliel bravely dive into even the most graphic scenes with gusto. Both have their moments as these hapless siblings, although their performances are often reminiscent of sleepwalkers.

Basically, this film will have two sorts of fans: horror movie junkies who get off on extreme imagery and arthouse aficionados who love it when filmmakers flout rules of decency. And indeed, this film has serious merits for both groups, bringing with it a pointed commentary on the ravenous qualities of contemporary society's obsession with food and sex. Everyone else will find this movie so appallingly vile that they should really just stay as far away as possible and pretend it isn't happening.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall