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|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 7.Nov.21|
My Heart Goes Boom! Explota Explota
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Nacho Alvarez
scr Eduardo Navarro, David Esteban Cubero, Nacho Alvarez
prd Mariela Besuievsky, Gerardo Herrero, Javier Lopez Blanco
with Ingrid Garcia-Jonsson, Veronica Echegui, Fernando Guallar, Natalia Millan, Giuseppe Maggio, Fernando Tejero, Pedro Casablanc, Fran Morcillo, Carlos Hipolito, Ainhoa Aierbe, Cristina Rodriguez, Raffaella Carra
release Sp 2.Oct.20,
US 25.Jun.21, UK Nov.21 rff
TORONTO FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Using the songs of iconic Italian singer Raffaela Carra, this brightly colourful Spanish musical is irresistible. Filmmaker Nacho Alvarez infuses a swooning romantic farce with a continual flow of witty touches. And it's knowingly underscored by punchy topical themes. While the film is perhaps is a bit overlong, it maintains a breezy tone that keeps the audience smiling, complete with a series of delightfully energetic musical numbers.
Fleeing her wedding in 1973 Rome, Maria (Garcia-Jonsson) returns home to Madrid to start her life over again. Meeting flight attendant Amparo (Echegui), Maria gets a job with the airline. Then she meets handsome stranger Pablo (Guallar), which inadvertently leads to her being noticed by leery producer Chimo (Tejero). He offers her a job dancing on a TV show hosted by the diva Rosa (Millan). But Pablo's job as a censor at the network creates a number of problems for their growing relationship. Meanwhile, her Italian ex-fiance Massimiliano (Maggio) tracks her down, complicating everything.
After an opening number celebrating the healing power of song and dance, the story features continual romantic twists and turns. Pablo's colleague Lucas (Morcillo) is randomly set up on a date with Amparo, leading to another messy love story. And as Pablo's strict father (Casablanc) grooms him to take over his job as censor, he coldly refuses to allow Pablo to change with the times. This adds several unexpected wrinkles to the narrative as the dancers head into a climactic live broadcast.
With fearless comical physicality, Garcia-Jonsson is lovably perky as Maria, a woman who is overwhelmed to have both a gorgeous man and her dream job. The almost absurdly handsome and good-hearted Guallar's Pablo is caught between Maria and his father and needs to develop a backbone. Meanwhile, Echegui brings a blast of sparky attitude to the whole film. And refreshingly, Maggio's character is a thoroughly nice guy, never remotely vilified.
While much of the film is cartoonish and rather silly, and there's never much of a doubt where it's headed, there are serious issues underpinning everything. Without pushing the point, the film explores the hypocrisy of prudish censorship in an industry with a history of sexual harassment. And the moral dilemmas in the script add involving textures to the big moments along the way. That said, it's the romantic storylines that win us over with charming characters and an endearing range of highs and lows.
The Noise of Engines Le Bruit des Moteurs
Review by Rich Cline |
Is it streaming?
Cleverly shot with a witty, almost absurd sensibility, this bold Canadian drama continually plays with audience perceptions. Writer-director Philippe Gregoire adds a range of twists throughout the story that keep us on our toes, unable to predict where things are headed. And underneath the sometimes nutty surface, the film continually challenges us as it grapples with how officials seem to be determined to know our most personal secrets.
At the Quebec academy for customs agents, young firearms instructor Alexandre (Naylor) thinks he might be in trouble with his stone-faced but open-minded boss (Agostini) after a sexual encounter with a trainee (Rabel) takes an unexpected turn. Sent home on two weeks leave, he bristles as his mother (Fortin) hovers around him, always worrying. Then local police officers ask for his help on a case involving explicit drawings that are being posted around town, secretly suspecting him. Meanwhile, Alexandre is drawn to Icelandic muscle-car driver Adalbjorg (Bjork), and she challenges him in unexpected ways.
Gregoire deploys the camera to capture offbeat angles on the scenes, sometimes from a distance, other times revealing unseen details. And there are wry touches everywhere, such as the way Alexandre's mother has turned his bedroom into a shrine celebrating his life, or his dreams about a mysterious woman in a motorcycle helmet. She turns out to be Adalbjorg, and his interaction with her feels almost mythical in nature. And then there's his boss, whose actions are driven by her own unconventional sexual proclivities.
Naylor has a terrific offhanded attitude as Alexandre, a guy who's tired of being judged for his private actions. He may have an obsession with handcuffs and other restraints, but that doesn't mean that everyone should know about his private activities. His growing relationship with Adalbjorg is nicely played, as Bjork maintains an enigmatic quality that makes their connection more suggestive than romantically sparky.
When he finally gets to tell his story, Alexandre recounts how he became a customs agent with no experience, then was given a gun because of a change in the law, turning this into a job he'd never actually wanted. At the centre of the story is his quest to be who he wants to be and find his place in the world. Along with some genuinely unsettling violence, the film's energetic tone and clever points of view offer some powerful commentary on the topic. So where the story goes is deeply haunting.
The Pop Song La Cançó Pop
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir-scr Raul Portero
prd Raul Munoz, Angeles Hernandez, Elena Ruiz, David Matamoros
with Raul Portero, Joan Carles Suau, Anna Cervero, Genis Lama, Eva Arias, Geoffrey Cowper, Raquel Camon, Christian Canovas, Jacin Cibantos, Carlos Carillo, Olga Ramirez, Nestor Garcia
release UK Nov.21 rff
Is it streaming?
Shot in an experimental style, this intimate comedy-drama is a remarkable depiction of the way life impacts friendships. A collection of short, sharp scenes sometimes captured in single long takes, the film is packed with knowing observations. Actor-filmmaker Raul Portero has a terrific eye for detail, infusing moments with knowing wit that balances the deeper emotions. It's a moving, beautifully textured look at powerful feelings everyone can recognise.
After more than a decade in London, Simon (Portero) returns home to Barcelona for a friend's funeral. Reuniting with his best pal Maria (Cervero), they meet others and spend time catching up on their news and gossiping about everyone else. While thinking about their late friend Carlos, their discussions hilariously veer from topic to topic, including regrets that they are in their 30s but haven't achieved their goals, either professionally or romantically. And as they hang out, Simon is haunted by seeing his handsome Norwegian friend Axel (Suau), for whom he's always had secret feelings.
Portero films scenes in black and white, with occasional meaningful colour. There are also silent interludes, sometimes with characters looking knowingly into the camera lens. Often alcohol-fuelled, the conversations capture that feeling of longtime friends who haven't been spending as much time together as they'd like to. Everyone thinks Simon's life in London must be wonderful, and they don't seem to take it in when he speaks about his worries and frustrations. So he calls his British boyfriend Dirk (Cowper) to talk about how these old buddies feel like strangers.
Performances have a relaxed honesty that brings the improv-style discussions to vivid life. And Portero's world-weary Simon provides an intriguing perspective to the wider group interaction, feeling like an outsider in his hometown. Each actor is excellent, with standouts being Lamis' chatty Leon and Cervero's straight-talking Maria. And in a more elusive role, Suau finds wonderfully insinuating chemistry with Portero, especially when they finally get a chance to speak to each other.
These are people who have known each other for a long time, so they can't really hide anything from each other. The film is a remarkably astute blending of earthy comedy and dark emotions, remaining engaging because it's so naturalistic. Everything may be fuelled by a sense of grief, but it's forward-looking and thoughtful, knowingly grappling with that feeling that perhaps it's time to move on. And the script also recognises that there are often embers from the past that still mean something.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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