Live
 
 

Culture

SIGNIS Film Reviews -  July 2018 - part 1

SIGNIS Film Reviews -  July 2018 - part 1

Melbourne, July, 10th 2018 (Peter Malone). Below, find the first part of film critics written by Peter Malone for the month of July. ADRIFT BACK TO BURGUNDY/ CE QUI NOUS LIE BELLE AND SEBASTIEN: FRIENDS FOR LIFE BORDER POLITICS EDIE FOXTROT, HEREDITARY IDEAL HOME INCREDIBLES 2, The   ADRIFT US, 2018, 96 minutes, Colour. Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin. Directed by Baltazar Kormakur. The title is very plain. This is a film about a battered yacht adrift in the northern Pacific Ocean. There have been a number of films in the adrift brain, about a decade ago several with people drifting in danger of shark attacks. In more recent times, Robert Redford was All at Sea, and Colin Firth was attempting a round the world record in Mercy. This time the person adrift is Shailene Woodley, Tami Oldham, who does appear as herself at the end of the film, the film based on a true story. Tammy had a hard upbringing in San Diego but left home and became a very happy-go-lucky young woman, happily drifting around the world from temporary job to temporary job, finding herself in 80 Tahiti. However, the film opens with the disaster for the yacht, her coming to consciousness, and searching for her partner, Richard Sharp, played by Sam Claflin. The film goes into flashback, establishing Tami’s character, her chance meeting with Richard, their enjoying each other’s company, a growing bond, falling in love – shown with quite some tenderness. The structure of the film is that it keeps moving backwards and forwards, keeping the tension about the yacht being adrift in balance with the background story and the romance. Richard is asked by a wealthy couple to sail their yacht to the United States and he agrees, especially with Tami as his partner. It is only at the end of the film that we actually see the vast storm that wrecks the yacht. In the meantime, we have very strong leading character, a strong female character at sea, with the physical strain, the psychological strain, the emotional strain that keeps her going for more than 40 days adrift. But, she is sustained by her relationship with Richard, her working with him, her caring for him. Stories about people adrift at sea may not have a great appeal to non-sailors. However, Icelandic Dir Baltazar Kormakur retains the tension between the past and the present, has great admiration for Tami and her story.   BACK TO BURGUNDY/ CE QUI NOUS LIE   France, 2016, 130 minutes, Colour. Pio Marmai, Ana Girardot, François Civil, Jean-Marc Roulot, Maria Valverde, Jean-Marie Winling, Florence Pernell, Eric Caravaca. Directed by Cedric Clappisch. This is a film to put on the list of French films that are worth seeing. While the English title emphasises the winegrowing area of Burgundy, the French title is more evocative of the themes of the film, Ties which Bind. Visually, the film is most attractive, opening with a collage of the same view of the Vineyard throughout the seasons of the year. The location photography evokes the world of the Vineyards as well as life in a French town. It is the characters who hold the interest. Jean offers a voice-over commentary on the events and the characters. He returns after 10 years away, driven away by his dominant father, but returning because of his terminal illness. (Dramatically, it is rather effective to have the reconciliations scene in the hospital placed later in the film, the earlier part concentrating on flashbacks and Jean’s difficulties with his father.) The family have been wine producers. On his return, Jean finds his sister, Juliette, managing the business, the harvest almost ready. There is also the younger brother, Jeremie, who has married a local girl, from a wealthy family and ad insistently dominating father, and they have a child. Initially, there is great resentment that Jean had left, not made contact for 10 years, refused to come to his mother’s funeral. After an outburst, Jean is able to explain what has happened, his marriage in Australia, the birth of his son, their Vineyard out there. So, while the timeline of the film shows the decisions about harvesting, the picking of the grapes and the workers who come in temporarily, the pressing of the grapes, the vats, the processes – offering all that any audience might have wanted to know about wine production, and even more… The drama is interesting in the depiction of the three siblings, the effect of their father’s death, decisions about production, the reading of the will, the joint ownership of the house and the Vineyard, the pressures on Jean to sell his share and go back to Australia, Jeremie and his father-in-law wanting to buy parcels of the land, Juliette and her desire to be an effective wine producer. There is a strong humanity in the film, audiences being caught up in the lives of the three central characters as well as in the work and the wine production. Pio Marmai plays Jean, and Ana Girardot is Juliette, François Civil is Jeremie. The film was directed by Cedric Klappisch – who knows how to make films about characters living together, bonds, conflicts, with his series of films which began with L’Auberge Espagnol and was followed by Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle.   BELLE AND SEBASTIEN 3, LE DERNIERE CHAPITRE/ BELLE AND SEBASTIEN, FRIENDS FOR LIFE France, 2017, 97 minutes, Colour. Felix Bossuet, Tcheky Karyo, Clovis Cornillac, Thierry Neuvic, Margo Chatelier, Andre Penvern, Anne Benoit. Directed by Clovis Cornillac. The Belle and Sebastien books have been very popular in France for many decades, an earlier film version made in 1981. They are based on a series by French actress, Cecile Aubry. She also wrote the lyrics for the songs throughout the film. Followers of French films will have seen the first two films in this trilogy. In 2013, the first was released, focusing on the experience of the young boy, Sebastien, at the age of six, living in the snowclad Alps, experience in World War II and German occupation and the rescue of French flyers. The role of Sebastian was played by a very young Felix Bossuet who continued in the role in the two subsequent films. His quite an engaging screen presence. Actually, so is Belle, the beautiful, white powerful dog that he befriends. The second film, Belle and Sebastien, The Adventure Continues was released in 2015. The action moves forward to the end of World War II and Sebastien, again with Belle, anticipating the return of his friend, Angelina, from her flying action during the war. While this third film does open with Sebastien’s birth, difficult situation in the stormy mountains, his mother dying, the wayfaring shepherd, Cesar (Tcheky Karyo in all three films) rescues the boy and brings him up, a grandfather-figure. This time, Sebastien is 12. Belle has had a litter of pups. Sebastian goes to school but would prefer to be out in the mountains and his ambition is to become a shepherd like his grandfather. However, Angelina is about to marry Sebastien’s father and the boy overhears their plans that they will move to Canada, taking the boy with him. He decides to run away – especially since a very sinister figure, Joseph, arrives, claiming that Belle is his dog and that he will take her and the pups. The director of the film, actor Clovis Cornillac, portrays this sinister figure, black coat, black shirt, black trousers, black beard, black hat and hair, glowering eyes, towering presence, a frightening figure for children. (It is obvious that the Cornillac is enjoying his role as actor.). This means that there is quite some tension at the end, the dangers of the confrontation, the risks in testing the villain. While the film can stand on its own, sufficient explanation is given in the screenplay, it will be more pleasing for those audiences who have seen the previous two films.   BORDER POLITICS Australia, 2018, 94 minutes, Colour. Julian Burnside. Directed by Judy Rymer. With the worldwide movements of peoples travelling the world, migrants, refugees, those fleeing from persecution, there has been both a greater consciousness about the plight of those searching for another home as well as a hardening of consciousness against these migrants and refugees, a self-protective attitude and politics from countries in Europe, the United States, and, though with far fewer numbers, Australia. Prominent Australian lawyer, Julian Burnside, worked in commercial law until he was asked around the year 2000 to become involved in social justice cases. The experience of politicians claiming that migrants were throwing babies overboard from the ship Tampa, and this later proven to be false, led him to a new career in legal cases about border protection and border policies. In this documentary, he is at the centre, speaking to camera, his observations and challenges, visiting several countries around the world to examine their attitudes towards migrants and refugees, sympathetic welcome as well as harsh closing of borders, the construction of fences and walls. In many ways, this film is preaching to the converted. It will reinforce the views and feelings of those who believe in advocacy for people in need, for empathy and compassion for those who suffer. Many will not find anything new in what Burnside is offering but rather an expansion of consciousness, widening of horizons, literally in his visits to other countries. Those who are not converted will probably have their stances reinforced, more sympathetic to those countries who put up the barriers, the president of Hungary, demonstrations in Poland, and the internment of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. Many audiences will be familiar with some of the countries and their reactions – although, it is very sobering to look at the extensive wall cutting off Mexico from the United States and some draconian legislation which separates parents who lived for a long time in the US and their deportation to Mexico, having minimal contact with their children, for short times with only the possibility of finger touching through the barriers. This certainly extends the consciousness about human hardheartedness. By comparison, Burnside visits the Greek island of Levros, just across from Turkey, receiving thousands of Syrian refugees, and, on the whole, welcoming them, the contrast between three camps on the island, two in the midst of the people who go out of their way for the newcomers and one a wired compound, established by the Greek government, which confines the refugees. Perhaps most challenging is Burnside’s visit to Jordan, the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have come across from Syria, the reaction of the King, the population, enabling the refugees to find homes, however temporary, amongst the Jordanian people, the possibility of work, of earning one’s keep, of some temporary peace before returning, it is hoped, to homes and properties in Syria. What most of the attention is on the present, one of the features of the film is to highlight the millions of children around the world who are not getting the education that they need and deserve – and pondering what are the consequences for the coming years for them as adults without this basic education and how they will cope. At the beginning of the film Burnside highlights the Golden Rule, asking people to think of how they would wish to be treated in the same situations as the refugees. And one of the words that recurs throughout the film is ‘decency’, the kind of human decency that should be exercised to people in need. This kind of documentary is always sobering. It is an opportunity to reinforce more compassionate attitudes towards those in need and, even if it is unlikely, to challenge those who think they must take hard and harsh stances.   EDIE UK, 2017, 103 minutes, Colour. Sheila Hancock, Kevin Guthrie. Directed by Simon Hunter.   Whew – and applause! The expression and feeling of this reviewer at the final close-up and triumphant image of Edie. Edie? She is Edith Moore, an elderly widow, her daughter helping her to pack up house and moved to an aged care facility. She is getting ready to go – but, obviously, not at all ready when she visits the place. As she goes through her things, her daughter finding a diary in which Edie expressed her private responses to the hardships of her life, of control her controlling husband. She also finds a picture of a Scottish mountain which she climbed with her devoted father. She gets a brainwave – one which her family and friends would not endorse, and the audience wonders whether this is a good idea or not. What about going back to that mountain in Scotland? What about climbing it? She packs her bags, take some money, please a message on her daughters and answering machine and takes the train to Inverness. What seems a momentary annoyance at Inverness Station, a young man and his girlfriend rushing for the train, bumping Edie and knocking her over, turns out to be a happily fortuitous encounter. When the bus doesn’t come for several hours, he gives her a lift, helps her with accommodation because the town is booked out, lets her stay at his house. And the interesting thing is that he is working in a camping shop. This all happens fairly early in the film so we know where we’re going, we know that we are going with Edie. At one stage, John, exasperated with her says she is like a cranky cow – and then agrees that she is a cranky cow. And, though we are more sympathetic at first because we know her, she actually is something of a cranky cow. The point is what does one do with one’s life. What choices do we make, especially after living life with its regrets, wanting to change some of life if we could? Should there be a final quest? And, of course, should there be a final quest which is so demanding as an elderly lady camping out, rowing across a lake, climbing a mountain? Needless to say, the Scottish Highlands scenery is beautiful even if the touch barren. But, as Edie goes on her journey, we are made to feel every step with her, the exhilaration, the physical and mental demands, the beauty, the bad weather – and the relief of finding a hunters hut with shelter and warmth for a night. Will she climbed to the top of the mountain and place a stone on the canyon there as she did in the past? What will John do, initially shamed by helping her for the money she gave him, helping her with the equipment, and the dilemma whether to go to her rescue or not? Sheila Hancock has been in films and on television for many decades. She is quite a stream screen presence as Edie. Strong-minded and strong-willed, a touch imperious, a touch cantankerous, but a woman who wants to make something of her life.   FOXTROT Israel, 2017, 117 minutes, Colour. Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Jonaton Shiray, Shira Haas, Yehuda, Almagor. Directed by Samuel Maoz. This is a very moving film. It is also very sombre. The writer-director, Samuel Maoz, made the award-winning film, Lebanon (2009). It won an award from SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communication). Foxtrot screened at the Venice film Festival, 2017, winning the Grand Jury Prize. It also won a prize from SIGNIS. Foxtrot seems an unusual title for such a serious film. However, there is a telling scene where the central character enters a building and finds elderly couples dancing the foxtrot. He explains and demonstrates the steps. Later, the son will dance a foxtrot on the road at his desert outpost – and the codename for the outpost in fact is Foxtrot. And, again, later, there will be peacemaking and reconciliation in the dancing of the foxtrot. This is an Israeli film. The screenplay is in three parts, three acts, the approximately 40 minutes long.  The first takes place over some hours on one day, the military arriving at the door of an apartment with the audience sharing the apprehension of the parents who open the door. The news is that their son, very young, has been killed in the line of duty. The director uses many close-ups, especially of the father, Michael (Lior Ashkenazi in a most impressive performance). The mother collapses. Michael is quiet, quietly panic-stricken, then breaking out in anger and demands. He visits his mother with the news. His brother comes to help. An official comes to explain the protocols for the funeral and the tribute. Then there is other news which will take the audience by surprise. There is a transition for the second part. The audience is taken out into the desert, the checkpoint on the lonely road, four young men doing their military service there. Nothing much happens. A camel walks by and they lift the barrier, the camel moves through, the barrier is lowered. The young men talk, play computer games, Jonathan, the son from the first part, has a sketchbook. One of the activities is to roll a can from one end of the hut to the other, their speculating that the hut is sinking. There is rain, heavy rain, scenes of watery mud seeping from the road. As regards activity, a couple is held up, caught humiliatingly in the pouring rain. One of the young men uses techniques of photo identity so that the people can be cleared and move through. Later there is a group of raucous young men and women, though one looks intently at Jonathan. Again the checking, and then something overwhelming happens. With the third part, the audience goes back to Michael and his wife. There are many close-ups, intense gazing at the face of the characters, feeling their tensions, sense of alienation, exasperation, grief. This part is introduced by an animated segment, bringing Jonathan’s sketches to life, the story of his father, courting his mother, sexuality – and a glimpse of Michael’s mother in hospital, the concentration camp number on her wrist. As with the other two parts, there is a surprise that the audience could not have anticipated. An explanation that makes sense of the whole story. Tragic sense. This is a film for an Israeli audience but makes quite an impact beyond Israel. It is a story about a husband and wife, about children and family – and, especially, different ways of coping with death, different ways of living through grief.   HEREDITARY US, 2018, 127 minutes, Colour. Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolfe, Millie Shapiro, Ann Dowd. Directed by Ari Aster.  This film has received some very complementary reviews. Many have found it something of a relief, in terms of films which have horror elements, because it does not indulge in blood and gore. Rather, it is a film of atmosphere – at least until the last minutes. This is the story of a family. The opening shot is that of an obituary, the grandmother of the family, a listing of the members of the family as well as the ancestors. At her mother’s funeral, Annie (Toni Collette) indicates that at times her mother was a difficult, secretive person. She has played a dominating role in her family’s life. The other members of the family are Stephen, husband and father (Gabriel Byrne), the son Peter (Alex Wolfe) and the younger daughter, Charlie (Millie Shapiro). Stephen seems very normal, loving his family, going to work, sharing meals, bonding with his children. Peter also seems normal enough, a not untypical teenager, distracted at school, trying out drugs with his friends, with an eye on the girls. It is Charlie who seems a little strange, look, her manner, her drawings, hiccup, predilection for chocolate. And, suddenly, the lives of the family are changed because of a road accident. Annie, who is an artist making miniature scenes of homes and rooms, worries that she cannot grieve as much as she ought to, becomes distraught at Charlie’s death, begins to clash with her husband, rants against Peter, reverts to an earlier habit of sleepwalking. In fact, she does go to group meetings to try to deal with her grief. There she meets a very friendly woman, Joan, who lost her husband and son (Anne Dowd) and Annie begins to depend on her. And then, the family deteriorates further, Annie becoming interested in mediums and seances, Joan demonstrating the way, Annie trying to involve Stephen and Peter with bizarre results. There is an atmosphere of horror in these interactions amongst the family, aggravated by mysterious and menacing dreams on the part of Annie and Peter. There are sinister sounds in the house, mysteries in the attic, strange books and photos in the box of the grandmother’s goods. Suggestions of a cult begin to appear. And things then deteriorate, madness, family mayhem, an atmosphere of fear rather than explicit depictions. It might be said that the film is “atmospheerie”. Just as the audience might be thinking there are no explanations, some explanations come thick and fast. They may be satisfactory for some audiences but for other audiences they may seem suddenly absurd (too much detail). So, some praise for the atmosphere, the performances, some questions about the rationale underlying the plot – and the film might be described as “herediteerie”.   IDEAL HOME US, 2018, 91 minutes, Colour. Steve Coogan, Paul Rudd, Jack Gore, Jake McDormand, Alison Pill. Directed by Andrew Fleming. The title sounds like a slogan promoting an estate agent. Is there an ideal home? One of the questions that the title and the film imply. And, more importantly, is there an ideal family? This is a film, touches of comedy, touches of drama, touches of sentiment, which comes in the wake of discussions and legislation about same-sex marriage and issues of same-sex couples adopting children and bringing them up. Those in favour will respond well to the film. For those not in favour, it is an opportunity to look at a story, listen to real characters, rather than reflect on an abstract concept or a moral question. The setting is Santa Fe. Audiences will enjoy the scenery in the background. In the foreground, at first, is Erasmus, sitting on a horse, talking to camera – and, eventually we realise that he is being filmed and is advertising. In fact, he is something of a chef, something of a promoter of high life. He is British, did a chef’s course in Oxford, was rather wild in the 1980s, drugs and sexual experimentation. His played by Steve Coogan. Then we meet his producer, Paul, a bearded Paul Rudd, making him somewhat unrecognisable. He squabbles with Erasmus onset and somebody asks whether they are like that at home. Only worse! The two have been a couple for ten years, depending on each other, arguing with each other. In the meantime, we have been introduced to a young boy, Angel (later he wants to be called Bill), his father being disturbed by the police in their apartment, getting his son out the window and sending him to Santa Fe to Erasmus. The father goes to jail. We discover Erasmus is his grandfather. And this is where the ideal home and the not so ideal family come in to play. How do the two men cope with this boy, whose role model has been his criminal father and his addict-mother who fell to her death from a fourth storey window. And what role modelling will Erasmus and Paul offer? The two men are rather camp in their way and manner. Erasmus could be described as fastidiously, hyper- sensitively self-centred. While Paul is a touch more down-to-earth, he proves himself more capable of being a father than Erasmus does. One of the things about the boy is that he is not one of those cute Americans. He can be very irritating. He also has a passion for Taco Bell – and the film seems at times like and extended commercial for Taco Bell. Obviously, the two men are going to be challenged in how they relate to the boy and the effect that that has on their own relationship, especially on the cantankerous arguments they have and Paul’s proneness to have panic attacks. And the boy himself is challenged, going to school, eventually making friends. And what about the father? Especially when he is released from jail? The final credits have a great number of stills of same-sex parents and their adopted children, so Ideal Home is something of a special plea film. When seriously considering same-sex relationships, marriages, same-sex adoption of children, it is important that stances are taken based on experience as well as principles and characters and stories that contribute to the experience.   INCREDIBLES 2 US, 2018, 125 minutes, Colour. Voices of: Craig T.Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob, Samuel L.Jackson, Sophia Bush, Brad Bird, Isabella Rossellini, Jonathan Banks, Barry Bostwick, John Ratzenburger. Directed by Brad Bird. X-Men (and X-Women) can relax. Apparently, super heroes have been banned for some years but but there are moves to have legislation to make them legal and acceptable again. Something of this helps to explain what is 14 years since the first Incredibles film came out and won an Oscar for Best Animation. It was highly popular and, at last some might say, here is the Incredibles family again. These days, one has to be careful about inclusive language, not using super heroes to cover men and women, some finding superheroines to exclusive. The solution here is to call all these characters, Supers. And, not only issues of inclusive language. There are issues of equality, sometimes the male Super standing aside while the female Super goes on mission. That certainly happens here. At the beginning, the whole family is involved, mother and father, daughter and son. However, now there is a baby – who turns out to have more superpowers than you can shake a stick at! After the initial adventure, excitingly-paced, with help from an uncle and an agent who cannot only debrief memories but eliminate them, especially after the daughter has been recognised by the boy at school that she has a crush on. When they meet again, he has no idea who she is! There is also a campaign going on, some villains, wearing special goggles which fixates them, are working for the Screen Saver, trying to get audiences back into real life and not dependent on screens. The manager of the television company, Winston, is the enthusiastic promoter of the cause which is to gather authorities from around the world to sign the document legalising Supers. He has a very talented IT and beyond sister, The mother, known as the Super, Elastogirl, is sent on a mission to save a runaway train – quite an exciting sequence early on in the film. Since she is out on mission, father has to stay at home doing the domestic duties, nodding off as he reads a bedtime story to the baby, discovering all the powers that the baby has, trying to support his moody daughter, teach his son math complexities for his homework, do all the chores. And by the look of him, he doesn’t have time to shave! With Elastogirl supporting the family, it is only right that the villain should be female and that there should be a lot of confrontation. There is. Also in the act are a whole range of characters who look as if they had graduated from Monster University, all with their special powers – but taken over by the villain, wearing their fixation goggles, combating the Incredibles. For the final confrontation, the whole family joins in, and baby joins too. So, something for family audiences, children with powers, parents with powers, lots of action, themes about media and influence, and equal opportunities for mother and father both professionally and domestically. (Who could ask for anything more!)  
Israeli film awarded by Ecumenical Jury in Karlovy Vary Festival

Israeli film awarded by Ecumenical Jury in Karlovy Vary Festival

Karlovy Vary, July, 9th, 2018 (SIGNIS/INTERFILM). At the 53rd International Film Festival Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic), June 29 - July 7, 2018, the Ecumenical Jury awards its Prize to the Israeli film Geula (Redemption), directed by Joseph Madmony and Boaz Yehonatan Yacov (2018). Geula is about a man who goes through the process of redemption and reconciliation while trying to save his ill daughter. The jury awards the film “for overcoming all kinds of narrow-mindedness to discover the healing beauty of openness and hope; for showing that God and humanity cannot be confined just to a set of rules and that one has to have a courage to be; and for its artistic quality where cinematography serves the story adding another dimension to the experience of the struggle it tells.” In addition, the jury awards two special commendations: The first one is given to Všechno bude (Winter Flies) directed by Olmo Omerzu, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, 2018, “ for its poetic cinematography and the story which portrays the process of changing naïve dreams and finding a new perspective of reality and home.” The second commendation is given to Miriam miente (Miriam Lies) directed by Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada, Dominican Republic, Spain, 2018. The jury explains that “Using a meaningful style, the director tells a simple story that subtly reveals the important issues of race, social status, false dreams and growing-up with integrity.” The members of the jury are Milja Radovic, United Kingdom (President of the Jury), Michael Otrisal, Czech Republic and David Sipoš, Slovenia