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A nod to the French New Wave: “A Bruta Flor do Querer” [2013 Brazil]

Dida Andrade and Andradina Azevedo script, direct, and star in their independent debut feature, “A Bruta Flor do Querer” [Eng. Title: The Savage Flower of Desire, aka Deep Blue Dream] about life and prospects for youth in a competitive and downbeat Sao Paulo.

Dida Andrade and Andradina Azevedo in "A Bruta Flor do Querer"The free flowing non-narrative gives a brief backstory to Diego (Dida Andrade), a promising film school graduate whose self-confidence is shattered the moment he enters the job market, and who’s now reduced to shooting wedding videos for a living. He occasionally meets up with former students and drowns his sorrows in drugs and alcohol with his slightly better-off friend (Andradina Azevedo), who’s promised to recommend him to an uncle producing a school play.

Dida Andrade and Diana Mota in "A Bruta Flor do Querer" (2013)Diego tries to win over local belle Diana (Diana Motta) who works at a used books store, and a good chunk of screen time is dedicated to his desperate attempts to draw the courage and ask her out. The potential romance however unexpectedly fizzles out before it could take off, and leaves an already low Diego shattered.

From "A Bruta Flor do Querer" (2013)After wallowing in his misery under a state of drug-fuelled stupor, Diego, in a moment of frenzy, walks out on his day job. Not making headway with the kids playing in the drama project, he and his friend decide to escape the city, its trappings, the failures and the loneliness, and head to the coast in search of chicks and new friends…

Andradina Azevedo and Dida Andrade in "A Bruta Flor do Querer" (2013)Separated into chapters in a Godardesque fashion, the film draws obvious pointers from the French New Wave even if a bit superficially. I was disappointed that the promising skyline of Sao Paulo doesn’t get to play a greater role in the film, but to their credit, the directors do manage to challenge the audience into listening to their story, replete with warts and pimples, and without the feel-good factor of the boy getting his girl. For those who can look past the excessive use of drugs in the film (not nearly in an engaging, Trainspotting kinda way), it would be Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link [NTSC]

 

The Nudity: Clara Andrezzo, Dida Andrade, Nara Lobo, Andradina Azevedo, Danielle Rosa, and Sue Nhamandu
Sex scenes inside a car feature twice in the film, and one of them is briefly explicit when the girl that Diego had picked up strokes his penis. The film also features a skinny-dipping scene and one where Diego hallucinates a girl (Nara Lobo) taunting him in German.

Danielle Rosa, Nara Lobo, Sue Nhamandu, and others from the Brazilian film, "A Bruta Flor do Querer" (2013).

Danielle Rosa, Nara Lobo, Sue Nhamandu, and others from the Brazilian film,
“A Bruta Flor do Querer” (2013).

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A changing society examined: “Niki and Flo” [2003 Romania]

Victor Rebengiuc and Mihaela Caracas in "Niki and Flo" (2003)At seventy, Luciane Pintilie hadn’t lost any of his sardonic wit and biting satire when he made “Niki Ardelean, colonel în rezerva” [Eng. Title: Niki and Flo], a probing examination of conflict within a society that’s changing suddenly and too fast for the liking of some traditionalists brought up in the communist ways.

Victor Rebengiuc and Dorina Chiriac in "Niki and Flo" (2003)Niki (Victor Rebengiuc), a retired army colonel, and Florian (Razvan Vasilescu) are neighbours, friends, who have also recently become in-laws – Niki’s daughter Angela (Dorina Chiriac) is married to Florian’s son Eugen (Serban Pavlu). The film begins with the funeral of Niki’s son following a rather freak accident. Niki’s sense of loss is palpable, but doesn’t particularly mind being overshadowed by the more flamboyant Florian’s event-organising skills.

Victor Rebengiuc and Razva Vasilescu in "Niki and Flo" (2003)But when Angela and Eugene announce that they’d got their papers to emigrate to the US, Niki is devastated and sees his family falling apart. He dissuades the couple from emigrating citing Angela’s pregnancy, but Florian forcefully intervenes on their behalf and urges Niki to embrace modernity and change.

Victor Rebengiuc in "Niki and Flo" (2003)The couple waste little time in selling their belongings to fund their trip and when they bid their final goodbyes to leave for the airport, Niki could barely contain himself and collapses on the pavement. Their departure, and Niki’s wife Poucha’s (Coca Bloos) fading health adds to his anxieties. A video presented by Florian to Niki, of Angela and Eugen’s wedding subtly brings to fore the latent tensions between the friends’ families, and takes on a new meaning when Niki hears about Angela and Eugen only through a postcard sent exclusively to Florian. It leads to an unexpectedly shocking denouement…

Victor Rebengiuc in "Niki and Flo" (2003)Pintilie handles the film in his unique style by making piercing observations using a clever combination of realistic and absurd situations reminiscent of the Czech New Wave. Ably supported by his main cast and well produced, the film is a reminder of the director’s abilities as an auteur who still has something new to say about his country. Needless to say, this almost forgotten little gem of a film is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.fr DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Dorina Chiriac, Serban Pavlu, and Razvan Vasilescu
In a long and memorably frank scene, Angela and Eugen, while discussing their finances concerning their travel, change subject halfway by talking about and feeling each other’s genitals. Eugen asks Angela to either shave it regularly or leave a bit of pubic hair so that it doesn’t cause him discomfort while having sex. Florian is briefly nude in the bath when he has an accident. There is also brief nudity when Angela undresses in the wedding video shot by her father in law.

Dorina Chiriac and Serban Pavlu from Lucian Pintilie's film, "Niki and Flo" (2003, Romania).

Dorina Chiriac and Serban Pavlu from Lucian Pintilie’s film, “Niki and Flo” (2003, Romania).

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Survival instinct: “Bufo & Spallanzani” [2001, Brazil]

Wishing you all a happy 2017!

 

Bufo & SpallanzaniFlávio Tambellini’s thriller “Bufo & Spallanzani” is a dramatisation of popular Brazilian novelist Rubem Fonseca’s novel by the same. The title alludes to tortuous experiments conducted by an Italian scientist – Spallanzani, to study a frog’s regenerative capacity sometime during the nineteenth century.

Maitê Proença and Tony Ramos in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)The film begins with the discovery of socialite Delfina’s (Maitê Proença) body in her car at a wooded area. With a bullet wound through her heart and a pistol by her side, initial investigations point towards a suicide, but forensic analysis, conducted on the insistence of shrewd investigator Guedes (Tony Ramos) reveals a murder.

Tony Ramos, Isabel Guéron, and José Mayer in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)The plot thickens when Flávio (José Mayer), a bestselling author, visits Guedes with his girlfriend Minolta (Isabel Guéron). He admits to being in an intimate relationship with Delfina, and apart from accusing Delfina’s husband Delamare of murdering his wife, also claims that Delamare is out to get kill him too after discovering the affair.

Isabel Guéron and José Mayer in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)Running parallel to this story is Flávio’s previous life from a decade ago when he, then called Ivan Canabrava, used to work for Delamare’s insurance company as a claims investigator. He lands himself in hot water after he unearths a false claim that Delamare himself seems to have been party to, and had to ‘disappear’ with new girlfriend Minolta – he takes on a new identity and becomes a writer.

José Mayer and Tony Ramos in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)The incorruptible and dogged sleuth in Guedes refuses to buy Flavio’s version of events, but he however agrees that Flavio’s life is indeed in danger and arrives on time to rescue him. In the meantime, Guedes is under immense pressure from his boss to close the case due to people higher up bearing down upon him to hush things up…

Isabel Guéron in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)I haven’t read the novel myself, but judging by the intricate plot, I couldn’t help wondering that the sense of suspense was lost in translation on several occasions, and some facets that might have inquired the mind during a read nevertheless get mixed up with mundane events in the film. Regardless of these tiny flaws, it is a valiant attempt at a genre that Brazilian cinema, unlike neighbouring Argentina, hasn’t been that much accustomed to. The soundtrack is appealing, and the technicians have done a good job in putting it together. For anyone who enjoys intelligent mainstream films, it is of course, Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link [NTSC]

 

The Nudity: Maitê Proença and Isabel Guéron
There is brief nudity from Maitê Proença during a sex scene, but those of Isabel Guéron’s character Minolta – akin to a Brazilian version of Crystal Fairy, are certainly among the more memorable scenes in the film. She appears nude in at least three well-lit scenes.

Isabel Guéron in scenes from the Brazilian thriller, "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)

Isabel Guéron in scenes from the Brazilian thriller, “Bufo & Spallanzani” (2001).

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Rediscovering a sacred bond: “Toni Erdmann” [2016 Germany, Romania]

Maren Ade’s oddball comedy “Toni Erdmann” is a uniquely German attempt at highlighting the need for reinforcing familial bonds even while pursuing hectic lifestyles and careers. The film wryly focuses on a father-daughter relationship weathering changes in their individual circumstances.

Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek in "Toni Erdmann" (2016)Ines (Sandra Hüller) is a high flying thirty-something corporate strategist whose work often takes her abroad on various assignments. Serious about her career, she allows little time for herself, let alone her parents in her hometown, which she occasionally ‘passes through’ only during important family events. Her eccentric father Winfried (Peter Simonischek), in the hope of reigniting their bond, springs a surprise by visiting Ines in Romania where she’s presently working.

Peter Simonischek as "Toni Erdmann" (2016)Ines puts him up in her apartment out of a sense of duty and drags him along to her official meetings and dinners, presumably to keep him company, but it doesn’t work out too well due to Winfried’s innate spontaneity and frankness. He leaves after an argument, but reenters her life soon enough in the form of ‘Toni Erdmann’, his even more forthright and practical-joking alter ego.

Sandra Hüller in "Toni Erdmann" (2016)While Ines is no stranger to Winfried’s ridiculous wig and false teeth wearing ‘Toni’, she plays along since she doesn’t have to feel embarrassed while introducing him as her father. However, with each squabbling encounter that they have, Ines begins to loosen up, and the bond, frayed since she left home many years ago to pursue a career, gets stronger, first with ‘Toni’, and eventually also with Winfried…

Sandra Hüller in "Toni Erdmann" (2016)A father’s bond with his daughter is always special in normal relationships, but sometimes even they require a bit of work in a hectic world. Ms. Ade gets this point across in a delightful way that’s not only refreshing, but also heartwarming and full of festive spirit. For an unusually long German film, it is a breezy and charming little family drama that’s Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.de Blu-ray Link

 

The Nudity: Sandra Hüller, Ingrid Bisu, and Thomas Loibl
In one of the absurd comedy sequences in the film, an impatient and socially awkward Ines, frustrated with the ill-fitting dress for her birthday house party, gets rid of it to answer the door, but soon gets annoyed with her American guest and tells her that it is supposed to be naked party – a ‘team bonding’ session among work colleagues, essentially forcing her to leave. Her colleague and occasional lover is turned away for the same reason – while she initially regrets her action, she also feels liberated. Her Romanian intern Anca (Ingrid Bisu) and boss Gerald (Thomas Loibl) upon instruction, duly oblige by entering the flat in the nude, and they’re briefly interrupted by Winfried dressed in a Bulgarian folk mask. Ines recognises her father through the mask and follows him when he leaves.

Sandra Hüller, Ingrid Bisu, and Thomas Loibl from the German comedy, "Toni Erdmann" (2016)

Sandra Hüller, Ingrid Bisu, and Thomas Loibl from the German comedy “Toni Erdmann” (2016).

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A brief film review: “To xypnima tis anoixis” [2015 Greece]

Constantine Giannaris is known for films focusing on the disenfranchised and dispossessed of urban Athens, often portraying his characters in ultra-realistic documentary style footage. His drama, “To xypnima tis anoixis” [Eng. Title: Spring Awakening] follows a similar vein in that it is set against the backdrop of post-austerity, riot-prone, present-day Athens with all its social issues.

A scene from "Spring Awakening" (2015)The film begins at the police station where five teenagers are handcuffed and brought in for questioning. Part of a newly formed ‘armed gang’, they were found at the scene of a horrific crime where a couple and their two children were murdered in cold blood.

 

A scene from "Spring Awakening" (2015)Interviews with investigating officers offer us a glimpse into the group members’ individual attitudes, their family backgrounds, and social status. Coming from various backgrounds, we note that they could easily represent a cross section of Athenian society itself. The one thing they seem to have in common however is a collective hatred for any kind of ‘authority’, whether from domineering parents or law enforcement agencies.

Daphne Patakia and Konstantinos Elmatzioglou in "Spring Awakening" (2015, Greece)Two among them – Alexandros (Konstantinos Elmatzioglou) and Ioanna (Daphne Patakia) are in a sexual relationship, but after they join the gang, things get a bit hazy because of a range of issues occupying Alexandro’s mind, not least his killing of a cop who was about to arrest two of the gang members following a robbery. When the five attempt a second robbery, it goes horribly wrong after egos clash and latent hates surface between members and the hapless victims…

A scene from "Spring Awakening" (2015)The director seems to be questioning the society that Greece had become, its prospects for the future – particularly the young who’re usually the most affected, and the growing xenophobia amongst a population that feels let down even by friendly countries. While it is well made using largely new faces, one wonders if the screenplay could’ve been tightened up a little, especially since similar themed films are also the trend everywhere from Mexico to Russia.

Daphne Patakia in "Spring Awakening" aka "To xypnima tis anoixis" (2015)They may well be a sign of the times in which we’re living, but from what I could glean from the DVD’s subtitles, the nonlinear narrative could’ve been more effectively contextualised. The performance of Daphne Patakia playing Ioanna is nevertheless memorable. Recommended Viewing!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Daphne Patakia, Marlene Kaminsky, and Adrian Frieling
Daphne Patakia appears nude in a number of scenes, and one of them is surprisingly explicit when her character masturbates in bed. There is also brief nudity in a scene that involves a German couple interrupted by the gang while making love.

Scenes of Daphne Patakia from Constantine Giannaris's film, "To xypnima tis anoixis" aka "Spring Awakening" (2015, Greece).

Scenes of Daphne Patakia from Constantine Giannaris’s film, “To xypnima tis anoixis”
aka “Spring Awakening” (2015, Greece).

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