Irina Vilkova from “Eyo zvali Mumu” [Russia 2016]

I haven’t had the chance to see any of Vladimir Mirzoev’s work until his recent drama, “Eyo zvali Mumu” [Eng. Title: They Called Her Mumu]. The only reason I came upon this one was because it was shared on Vimeo recently.

Irina Vilkova in "They called her Mumu" (2016)But since I had to watch it without subtitles, the significance (or otherwise) of the film completely evaded me, so I’ll restrict my observations to the barest of details, and of course, the rather liberally sprinkled scenes of nudity. The offbeat film is supposedly based on a real-life social media personality who went by the name of Katya Mumu. In the film, Mumu (Irina Vilkova) is employed ‘informally’ by the Russian secret services for an undercover operation to discredit some prominent political opposition figures.

Irina Vilkova in "They called her Mumu" (2016)Mumu seduces and has affairs with their subjects with the intent of exposing and defaming them through social media, apparently with tacit approval even from her family members. But the freedom-loving rebel inside her resurfaces after a while, and she tries to break free from her employers’s diktats. The film ends with her running away after starting a fire in her apartment. The film is well-produced even with a low-budget, has a cool soundtrack, and is also humorous in places. Perhaps the film should be Recommended Viewing – for those who could follow Russian.

Vimeo Link

 

The Nudity: Irina Vilkova and Irina Butanaeva
There are at least six scenes that feature nudity from Irina Vilkova who plays the central character ‘Mumu’ – some of which are also funny in a very ‘Russian’ way. Irina Butanaeva plays a maid/assistant and appears partially nude during a scene with one of Mumu’s ‘boyfriends’.

Irina Vilkova and Irina Butanaeva nude in the film, "They Called Her Mumu" (Russia, 2016).

Irina Vilkova and Irina Butanaeva from the film, “They Called Her Mumu” (Russia, 2016).

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A film review: “I, Olga Hepnarova” [2016 Czech Rep., Poland]

Michalina Olszanska in "I, Olga" (2016)Petr Kazda and Tomás Weinreb make a memorable directorial feature film debut with their biopic, “I, Olga” [Orig. Title: Já, Olga Hepnarová]. Olga Hepnarová was the last woman to be executed in Czechoslovakia in 1975 after she was found guilty of intentionally causing the death of eight elderly people and injuring several others by running them over with her truck. the film tries to explore events in Olga’s life that may have contributed to her desire to ‘seek revenge’ on society in general.

Klára Melísková and Michalina Olszanska from "I, Olga" (2016)We follow troubled teen Olga (Michalina Olszanska) from the day of her attempted suicide, when her mother (Klára Melísková) remarks coldly after bringing her back from the hospital, “To commit suicide you need a strong will, something you certainly don’t have”. Olga, we’re led to believe, has felt alienated even while growing up in an educated middle class household.

Michalina Olszanska in "I, Olga Hepnarova" (2016)Olga’s sense of alienation is reinforced during her spell in institutions where she’s bullied and abused by others, even if some of her woes might have been brought upon by herself in pushing away people who may have even wanted to help her. Unable to hold down a job, she ends up working as a truck driver, and secretly nurtures a hatred towards a society seemingly unsympathetic to her suffering.

Michalina Olszanska and Marika Soposká from "I, Olga Hepnarova" (2016)At twenty, Olga is a confused young woman even unsure of her sexuality and likens herself to a sexual cripple – she begins a lesbian affair and falls in love with co-worker Jitka (Marika Soposká), even though the latter is in a long-term relationship with another woman. She subsequently has casual relations with other women and men, but never tries to work on a long-term relationship with any of them. But some of them nevertheless remain with her until the end.

A scene in "I, Olga" (2016)Two thirds of the film is thus dedicated to constructing Olga’s confused, discontented character and her world, and until then it works well as a drama on its own. It’s the final third of the film, covering events after she ploughs through a group of elderly people waiting at a tram stop that it falters slightly. We don’t ‘study’ Olga any longer and are merely presented facts during and after her trial, in which she defiantly but unconvincingly proclaims death penalty on society itself, whose ‘bestiality’ she had allegedly been a victim of. It’s as if the directors themselves didn’t want to have an opinion about Olga’s actions, but somehow want us to empathise with her.

Michalina Olszanska from "I, Olga Hepnarova" (2016)This is partly because even though Ms. Olszanska gives an impressive performance as the confused and angry Olga, she doesn’t convincingly come across as a psychopath; a geeky rebel going through a goth phase perhaps, but certainly not a scheming mass murderer (she’s far too cute-looking and that doesn’t help either). But then again, may be the world wasn’t ready for Olga too and didn’t quite know how to deal with her, who knows. However, despite these minor flaws, the film is well made and shows a lot of promise for the director duo. It also boasts impressive black and white cinematography, with some scenes as exquisitely framed as in a Frantisek Vlácil film. An imperfect gem, but Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Michalina Olszanska, Marika Soposká, and Malwina Turek
The film features two lesbian sex scenes of a fairly frank nature with nudity. The scenes may be justified for establishing Olga’s self-proclaimed sexual ambiguity. There’s also a scene where Olga flashes at a night club for perhaps the same reason.

Michalina Olszanska, Marika Soposká, and Malwina Turek in "I, Olga" [2016]

Michalina Olszanska, Marika Soposká, and Malwina Turek, in scenes from the Czech biopic,
“I, Olga Hepnarova” [2016].

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Highbrow destape: “La muchacha de las bragas de oro” [1980 Spain]

Victoria Abril and Lautaro Murúa in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro"If Vicente Aranda’s groundbreaking exploration of sexual identity in “Cambio de sexo” made destape (a Spanish ‘Glasnost’ of sorts during and after Dictator Franco’s final years, when censorship was relaxed) purposeful, his next feature, “La muchacha de las bragas de oro” [Eng. Title: Girl with the Golden Panties] with a nuanced articulation of the need for women’s individual freedoms, made destape almost respectable. Films associated with this period were normally seen as little more than skin-flicks keener in disrobing rather than understanding women, not that either of these were entirely a bad thing, of course. It will, ironically, also propel the star of both the films, Victoria Abril, into becoming a household name and international sex symbol for well over a decade.

Lautaro Murúa in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro"The film is set in Barcelona, where Luis (Lautaro Murúa), a retired member of the previous Franco regime, is writing his memoirs in the splendid isolation of his spacious villa, with a dog and housekeeper as his only company. He isn’t overly perturbed when his niece Mariana (Victoria Abril) arrives with her photographer friend Elmir (Perla Vonasek) – Mariana after all, is here only to write an article about his forthcoming autobiography for a magazine she works in, and also to help out in typing his manuscript.

Victoria Abril in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro"But it does turn Luis’s life inside out, because with her visit, his real past – not the one he’d been concocting in his memoirs, returns to haunt him and his conscience. Mariana, who wears no undergarments save the body-painted gold panties that Elmir meticulously paints on her person, is a wild and carefree young woman, openly indulging in drugs and taking lovers from both sexes as she pleases. Before long, Luis also discovers that Elmir is actually a woman, and that she and Mariana are lovers. For a former Falangist, he displays remarkable restraint even when Elmir brazenly gropes Mariana in his presence.

Victoria Abril and Lautaro Murúa in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro"Years ago, Luis used to love and date Mariana’s mother, Mari (Raquel Evans), before a mix-up in a darkened room forced him to marry Mari’s sister Soledad (Isabel Mestres) instead. Mari also went on to marry his best friend José María (Josep M. Lana), but not before a one-night stand with Luis. After pealing away the layers of lies he had hidden behind, Mariana finds the vulnerable Luis desirable, and even succeeds in seducing him. But a secret about Mariana’s real father will come out in the open when an older Mari (Hilda Vera) visits Luis to check up on her daughter. But will the truth really matter to Luis or Mariana any longer..?

Hilda Vera and Lautaro Murúa in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro"The story, based on an award winning novel by fellow Catalan author Juan Marsé, touches upon hitherto taboo topics such as lesbianism and incest, and questions the validity of a conventional family unit in the modern age. They were shocking subjects for their time, and Aranda always excelled in shocking his audience (sometimes I wonder if this is also a Catalan quirk). In the technical department, there is a marked departure for the better from his earlier films despite the tight budget, and the soundtrack is also appealing. The film can be considered a milestone for Vicente Aranda, emerging from a genre-film maker into a mainstream dramatist, and for Victoria Abril, from a talented actress with tomboyish looks to a sex symbol of the eighties; at twenty years old, Ms. Abril was in the prime of her youth in this film. At least for these reasons, the film should be of interest for both the fans and those interested in Spanish culture, even more so after it has been released on Blu-ray.

Amazon Blu-ray Link

 

The Nudity: Victoria Abril, Perla Vonasek, and Raquel Evans
Victoria Abril’s Mariana comes out as a hedonistic, naturist and exhibitionist, and perhaps appears nude onscreen for longer than in any other film in her illustrious filmography – obviously all good reasons to cheer about. Perla Vonasek plays the bisexual and frequently whistle-blowing Elmir/Elmira. South American beauty and destape-queen Raquel Evans appears only briefly nude on a couple of occasions in Mariana’s fertile imagination when Luis opens up about his past.

Victoria Abril and Perla Vonasek in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro" aka "Girl with the Golden Panties" (1980 Spain).

Victoria Abril and Perla Vonasek in “La muchacha de las bragas de oro”
aka “Girl with the Golden Panties” (1980 Spain).

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A film review: “My Hindu Friend” [2015 Brazil]

Willem Dafoe and Maria Fernanda Cândido in "My Hindu Friend" (2015)After a gap of nearly eight years, Hector Babenco makes a full-length feature with a personal film “My Hindu Friend” [Bra. Title: Meu Amigo Hindu]. Confessing that this was something that he always wanted to make but never got around to, Babenco’s film isn’t biographical, but certainly draws some material from personal life. In his own words, “What you are about to watch is a story that happened to me and I present it in the way I know best.” Cinematic, it certainly is.

Willem Dafoe and Maria Fernanda Cândido in "My Hindu Friend" (Meu Amigo Hindu).Diego (Willem Dafoe), a successful film writer-director, had been living with cancer for a number of years, and during this time, had also met and been living with Livia (Maria Fernanda Cândido). When his doctor suggests that he requires a bone marrow transplant in the US, and also warns him of the low probability of his survival, he proposes and weds Livia.

Selton Mello in My Hindu Friend (2015, Brazil)His brother reluctantly agrees to be the donor, but Diego’s surgery and its subsequent complications make his road to recovery harder; laying sedated during the day and having after-hour visitations from Death himself (Selton Mello), along with his suspender belt and stockings clad sidekick and wife. Their casual conversations, interspersed with games of chess, are among the more refreshing and amusing parts of the film.

Willem Dafoe and Rio Adlakha in "My Hindu Friend" (Meu Amogo Hindu), Brazil.Diego does however, manage to strike a new friendship with someone living – a young Hindu boy and fellow patient (Rio Adlakha), with whom he shares his stories and dreams. After returning home following his recovery, Diego realises that his marriage with Livia is nevertheless finished, with the illness being just one of the contributing factors. With an almost wiped-clean slate, Diego meets Sofia (Bárbara Paz), an actress and ardent fan of his work. Perhaps, there might now be a new story waiting to be written on it…

Bárbara Paz and Willem Dafoe in "My Hindu Friend" aka "Meu Amigo Hindu" (2015, Brazil)Babenco’s film makes frequent nods to the golden age of Hollywood, and in a way, is an ode to cinema itself. It’s a story about cheating death, a story about rebirth. Portions of the film, particularly those relating to Death, is reminiscent of a film by another Argentinian-born director Eliseo Subiela. Having said that, Mello and Dafoe take it to a far higher, engaging level. While the fact of Brazilian characters conversing in English takes a little bit of getting used to, the script is nevertheless coherent and mindfully avoids using local idioms that might not work quite so well in translation. Different in tone and intensity to his better known works such as Pixote and Carandiru, Babenco’s latest film comes out as something deeply personal, and the cast and crew appear to have done a commendable job in bringing it to life. Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link (NTSC)

 

The Nudity: Ana Clara Fischer, Ondina Clais Castilho, Vera Barreto Leite, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Clara Choveaux, and Bárbara Paz

  • Ana Clara Fischer appears briefly nude playing a woman that Diego follows one day, hears her chant Buddhist mantras, and they end up having sex (naturally!).
  • Ondina Clais Castilho plays an understandably elderly Mrs Death.
  • Vera Barreto Leite flashes her breasts during Diego’s after-wedding party.
  • Maria Fernanda Cândido, as Livia, is briefly shown nude in the bathroom, and after Diego had seen her masturbating.
  • Clara Choveaux plays a woman thrown out of a club and, surprisingly, has a no-holds-barred encounter with Diego. Finding him unable to satisfy her, she settles for something battery-powered – it’s an explicit scene verging on hardcore.
  • Actress and possible future director Bárbara Paz plays Sofia and gives a delightful interpretation, almost in the nude, of a Gene Kelly from the golden era of Hollywood musicals. It’s made all the more endearing in that she starts the dance, as if to give us a hint, much earlier than the music kicks in. There is also a brief performance on stage, a sex scene, and a conversation in the nude preceding this memorable scene.
Bárbara Paz, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Clara Choveaux, and others nude in the Brazilian drama "My Hindu Friend" aka "Meu Amigo Hindu" (2015).

Bárbara Paz, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Clara Choveaux, and others from the Brazilian drama
“My Hindu Friend” aka “Meu Amigo Hindu” (2015).

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A brief review: “Kray” [2010 Russia]

Yuliya Peresild and Vladimir Mashkov in "The Edge" (2010).Aleksey Uchitel’s action-packed adventure drama “Kray” [Eng. Title: the Edge] is set in a Siberian labour camp (gulag) immediately after the end of the Second World War.

 

 

A still from "Kray" aka "The Edge" (2010, Russia)Ignat (Vladimir Mashkov) – a decorated War hero, is sent to work as a locomotive mechanic in the labour camp, despite carrying symptoms associated with PTSD, like frequent blackouts. He wasn’t supposed to operate those metal beasts either, but in the unusually lenient camp where safety regulations are nothing more than recommendations that can be set aside due to necessity, Ignat manages to do just that.

A still from "The Edge" (2010, Russia)The greater (and more interesting) part of the film is about Ignat’s resourcefulness in not only reviving and taking possession of an abandoned old locomotive, but also retrieving it through a “little bit broken” bridge so that it could be put back in use. He is helped along the way by feisty young German Elza (Anjorka Strechel), who’d made the locomotive her home for a number of years. She’d been hiding in the island to escape the clutches of a murdering sergeant, and locked out from the outside world, wasn’t even aware that there was a war. Nor was she aware that all Germans in Russia were henceforth seen as the enemy.

Sergey Garmash in "Kray" (2010, Russia)Friction arises when Ignat brings Elza to live in the camp, especially with inmate and young mother Sofiya (Yuliya Peresild) who’d been sharing her bed with him. Local jealousies come to a head when Ignat defends Elza against the open hostility shown towards her, that they soon had to leave, but not before an eventful locomotive chase to rescue Elza from the deranged sergeant Major Fishman (Sergey Garmash), who recognised her as the girl who escaped years ago.

A still from "The Edge" (2010, Russia)Despite the film’s apparently mainstream appeal, it is technically well produced with appealing cinematography, set design and sound engineering. It gives us a vivid account of ordinary life inside a gulag and its internal economy. But for a foreign audience, the stars will naturally be the plain yet magnificent Soviet-era steam locomotives bellowing across the snowy landscape. Rail enthusiast or not, the audience will easily find the film entertaining. Recommended Viewing!

Amazon.de DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Yuliya Peresild, Anjorka Strechel, and others
Apart from a sex scene with Sofiya and Ignat, there is a bathing scene where Sofiya gets into an argument with Elza and things get a bit physical.

Yuliya Peresild, Anjorka Strechel, and others nude in "Kray" aka "The Edge" (2010, Russia)

Yuliya Peresild, Anjorka Strechel, and others from the film “Kray” aka “The Edge” (2010, Russia).

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