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last update 12.Sep.17
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4 Days
dir-scr Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr
prd Robert John Liboon, Rose Desiderio
with Sebastian Castro, Mikoy Morales, Stephanie Sol, Rosanna Roces, Hazel Faith
castro and morales release Ph Aug.16 piff,
US/UK 11.Sep.17
16/Philippines 1h15
4 Days This simple Filipino drama traces four days in the life of roommates over the course of their university studies, quietly exploring the charged friendship between two guys who aren't quite being themselves. Writer-director Adolfo Alix Jr's filmmaking is subtle and very clever, telling a relatively straightforward, minimalist story without any unnecessary flourishes. But it gets deep beneath the skin.

On his first day at university, the shy Mark (Morales) meets his charismatic roommate Derek (Castro). As they get to know each other, their friendship takes on a lively, funny tone. Derek likes roughhousing, while Mark teases him over his string of girlfriends. When Derek falls for Mark's friend Alex (Sol), Mark agrees to help him romance her. Later after another breakup, Mark cheers Derek up by making fun of all of his exes. But both clearly have something on their minds, and saying nothing eventually ceases to be an option.

The film has a quiet, almost documentary tone, with formal cinematography quietly capturing the hallways of the college and the streets outside. The characters go about their lives, observing things around them without much comment. But it's the ambient sound mix that pulls us in, sometimes going completely silent as if to say, "Look closer." The physicality between these guys is loose and easy as they speak in a blur of English and Tagalog. And where the story goes is tender and real, with some dark edges and a soft centre.

Performances are so understated that watching the film almost feels voyeuristic. Morales is especially good, letting his eyes drift in telling ways as he tries not to let his real feelings out. This is most apparent in the Valentine's scene when he sings a song he wrote for Derek to sing to Alex. Meanwhile, Castro plays Derek as a guy who has learned to hide very convincingly behind his big-man-on-campus persona, only letting his mask slip when he's alone. And their developing relationship creates unexpected challenges.

Alix avoids most of the usual cliches in both coming-of-age and coming-out stories, letting his characters think and sometimes talk through their issues. Some melodrama emerges later on, but this is a skilfully internalised approach that sharply highlights how these young men grapple with their feelings about themselves and each other. And audiences will see a different story depending on their own frame of reference. But the overriding themes about repression in an oppressive society are impossible to miss, even if they're never shouted out loud.

12 themes, language
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Love and Bullets
4/5   Ammore e Malavita   MUST must see SEE
dir Antonio Manetti, Marco Manetti
scr Michelangelo La Neve, Antonio Manetti, Marco Manetti
prd Carlo Macchitella, Antonio Manetti, Marco Manetti
with Giampaolo Morelli, Raiz, Serena Rossi, Claudia Gerini, Carlo Buccirosso, Ronnie Marmo, Luciana De Falco, Antonino Iuorio, Rosalia Porcaro, Antonio Buonomo, Giovanni Napolitano, Antonio Fiorillo
rossi and morelli
release It 5.Oct.17
17/Italy Rai 2h13

venice film fest
love and bullets The Manetti brothers find a fresh angle on the usual Naples crime thriller. The plot may be fairly typical, but it unfolds as a musical comedy with terrific songs and a continual stream of hilarious gags. While many jokes may be limited to Italian viewers, the witty approach crosses over, offering a gleefully entertaining mix of dark drama, broad slapstick, wonderfully elaborate musical numbers and surprisingly resonant emotion.

When Naples' Fish King Vincenzo (Buccirosso) survives a shooting, his wife Maria (Gerini) steals an idea from a 007 movie: fake his funeral and escape to a happier life somewhere else. But things quickly get complicated when the nurse Fatima (Rossi) spots him alive in hospital and Maria sends the family's loyal hitmen Ciro and Rosario (Morelli and Raiz) to bump her off. The problem is that she and Ciro were teen sweethearts, which traps him between love and honour. And Rosario is ordered to kill lifelong partner Ciro, whom he loves like a brother.

Yes, just brothers. The film continually hints that something fruity might happen along the way, but it's only a tease. Italian gangsters have their limits, apparently, even in musical comedies. Still, the film has a great time playing with stereotypes, and each character comes to life with a remarkably layered personality. The convolutions of loyalty and love are seriously chaotic, and it's fun to watch them attempt to untangle the mess.

The relationship between Ciro and Rosario is the centre of the story, and Morelli and Raiz add constant touches that bring these characters to life. Both are hugely likeable, which causes an engaging problem for the audience: who to root for? Rossi's feisty Fatima is a strong character of her own, tilting the balance toward Ciro's cause. Meanwhile, Gerini steals scenes as the drama queen who uses her over-the-top persona to distract everyone from the truth.

While they're throwing all of these terrific characters at each other, the Manettis are mercilessly lampooning Italy's gangster traditions, with riotous action violence interrupted by a series of pop songs that are seriously infectious (a highlight is Rossi's plot-adjusted take on Flashdance: What a Feeling). Virtually every scene has a big laugh in it, plus a nonstop stream of smaller jokes that keep us chuckling. But the surprise is how caught up we get in the romance, which makes the finale genuinely heart-stopping.

15 themes, language, violence
6.Sep.17 vff

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4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Sara Forestier
prd Denis Freyd, Vincent Mazel, Hugo Selignac
with Sara Forestier, Redouanne Harjane, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Isabelle Caillat, Nicolas Vaude, Maud Thibault, Guillaume Verdier, Kader Bouallaga, Estelle Meyer, Maryne Cayon, Sandra Rosinsky, Michel Charrel
harjane and forestier release Fr 29.Nov.17
17/France 1h40

venice film fest
M An unusually involving and offbeat romance, this is a remarkably assured writing-directing debut for actress Sara Forestier. With a clever premise, the film brings two marginalised people together, forcing them to address personal issues they'd rather keep hidden. Forestier packs the film with unexpected details about these characters, both of whom are so beautifully played that we vividly identify with their longing and frustration as well as their joy.

Struggling to cope with her debilitating stutter, Lila (Forestier) prefers not to speak at all. She's stressed about her impending oral exams, although her teacher (Vaude) knows she's a gifted poet. Then she meets Mo (Harjane), who isn't put off by her silence, although he refuses to look at any notes she writes to him for a secret reason: he can't read. He's an intuitive chef who enjoys underground drag racing, and he's completely smitten with Lila. As they grow closer, he coaxes her out of her shell but feels increasingly inadequate.

Forestier writes and directs the film in such an earthy, natural way that we don't really mind the easy symmetry of the set-up. Scenes play out in ways that continually reveal deeper truths about the characters, which only makes us fall in love with them even more. These are flawed people trying their best, so even when they clash there's never a need to blame one person over the other. They're just reacting to what life has thrown them.

As Lila, Forestier delivers a disarmingly open-handed performance. This is a fiercely intelligent young woman with a gift for language but an inability to speak fluidly. She's insistent and observant, refusing to accept pity or cruelty. Opposite her, Harjane delivers an equally layered performance as a guy who's tough on the outside and a sweetheart inside. His harsh childhood has made things very difficult for him, and it's clear in his eyes that he worries no one will ever take him seriously.

The interaction between these two people, as well as between their family members and friends, is so honest that it sometimes takes us aback, stirring both anger and happiness. But the miracle of the film is that none of these emotions feels remotely pushy; we are so invested in these characters that we yearn right along with them for just one break to come along. And without preaching, the film inspires us to stop wallowing in weaknesses that embarrass us and just do something about them.

15 themes, language, sexuality
9.Sep.17 vff
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Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno
dir-prd Abdellatif Kechiche
scr Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalya Lacroix
with Shain Boumedine, Salim Kechiouche, Ophelie Bau, Lou Luttiau, Alexia Chardard, Hafsia Herzi, Delinda Kechiche, Kamel Saadi, Meleinda Elasfour, Estefania Argelish
luttiau, boumedine, chardard release WP Sep.17 vff
17/France 3h06

venice film fest
Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno Another very long, strikingly naturalistic film by Abdellatif Kechiche, this loosely plotted drama is packed with beautiful young people who spend the summer either on the beach or at the disco. The Arabic word "mektoub" roughly translates as "it is destiny", so the filmmaker has bigger things on his mind. But the remarkably engaging scenes are weakened by camerawork that echoes the most misogynist characters.

In August 1994, Amin (Boumedine) leaves med school in Paris to return home to Sete, on the Mediterranean coast, where his boisterous extended family runs a Tunisian restaurant. He immediately reconnects with his old friend Ophelie (Bau), who is having a steamy affair with his womanising cousin Tony (Kechiouche) while her fiancee is serving in the military. Then Amin and Tony meet Celine and Charlotte (Luttiau and Chardard) on the beach. Awkward with women, Amin is distracted by decisions he needs to make, such as whether he should abandon medicine for screenwriting.

Kechiche directs as if the film simply evolved as he went along, without a script. Hit it's not as random as it seems: each scene deepens the characters, offering insight into Amin's personal journey. In most ways, this resembles a coming-out story, as he speaks of having female friends but no girlfriends, and never quite hooks up with the women he meets. Perhaps Kechiche's rather leery obsession with photographing women from the waist down is an attempt to throw the audience off that scent.

Amin is such a nice guy that he's the least interesting person on-screen. Still, Boumedine's performance is charming, subtly offering sly smiles and knowing glances. Kechiouche's Tony is far more outgoing, constantly stealing focus even though we, like the women he meets, know he's a rogue. And Bau has a sparkling screen presence, commanding her scenes with a smile that stops everyone in their tracks.

While the narrative is far too unstructured for such a long movie, Kechiche never lets the audience get bored. The details are fascinating as he traces the relationships among this lively mob of extended family members and childhood friends. Even in a nightclub sequence that goes on for nearly a half hour, there are all kinds of things going on to pique the interest. It feels like a strikingly well shot and edited slice of life, quietly observing Amin's decision-making process along the way. The title hints that there will be more to this story, and the ending resists jumping to conclusions.

PG themes, language, sexuality
7.Sep.17 vff

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