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“Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams” [2017 Portugal, United Kingdom]

Ever the experimenter, João Paulo Simões loves to play with form and narrative in his films, and his ongoing anthology, “Morning Interim” is one such exercise that has generated interest from not only the art crowd, but also fellow artists in Portugal. His collaboration with veteran Portuguese actress Monica Calle in his second episode “Illicit Diagrams” was intriguing as well as fascinating. When I approached Simões for an interview, he was only too happy to share his thoughts.

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An interview with João Paulo Simões

João Paulo Simões

João Paulo Simões

 

Olga Fonseca in "Antlers of Reason" (2006)“Morning Interim” – could you tell us how you came up with the concept?
Morning Interim was originally conceived at around 2007 as part of a trilogy, of which “Antlers of Reason” (2006) was the first. But despite its encouraging reception, the project remained in financing limbo and other commissioned work began to get prioritised. I still wanted to revisit specific strands from “Antlers of Reason”, as it began to open up a greater scope for exploring something bigger and deeper, and to delve into a more frightening mystery. As an episodic series, I felt I could now recreate ritualised reflections of equally personal scenarios.

 

Monica Calle in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)Who is recording the ThalusCam? Will we get to see the people behind it?
The name is in reference to the fictional antlered god of pagan worship, Thalus. It’s been conceived, in the series, as a voyeuristic device that punctuates the stripped bare narrative. But it will be revealed as an underground analogue network that hijacks digital signals. A bit like the old days taking revenge on the impersonal nature of this world we all now inhabit. Yes, we will get to see who and what is behind it. Sort of half-the-way through the series: Episode 5, to be more specific.

 

Monica Calle and João Paulo Simões in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)You’d managed to rope in Monica Calle – still amazing after all these years in cinema, for the second episode of “Morning Interim”. Do you hope to feature similar high-profile actors in the remaining series?
There are a handful of roles to be cast still and I always want, first and foremost, to give the right role to the right person.
Yet, as a film buff, I do like to bring in a sense of heritage that an actor’s previous work immediately conveys. We have Anulka Dziubinska (from the 1974 exploitation classic, “Vampyres”) on board. I’m currently in talks with Emmanuelle Escourrou (of “Baby Blood” fame) whom I directed in the pilot episode of “Where Her Dreams End” (a 2011 series that never got picked). And I just re-opened negotiations with an actress from Walerian Borowczyk’s “La Bête”, which was a huge influence on “Antlers of Reason”.

 

Monica Calle in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)How did you convince Monica Calle to get involved in the film? What was her initial reaction?
I believe Monica watched a behind-the-scenes video, at first, in which actress/co-producer Luisa Torregrosa describes the creative process. Only then did she watch the first episode. She told me she was very taken by the minimalism; by how it all comes across so unmediated and singular. But what impressed her most was actually how the intimacy was handled.

 

Monica Calle in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)Was Monica Calle comfortable in participating in the explicit sex scenes, and was she concerned if it might affect her already significant mainstream film career?
She only went as far as to express how raw and therefore exposing the scenes were. But once she committed and mutual trust was in place, there was never any issue. You have to put the Portuguese avant-garde approach into perspective here. Despite (or precisely because of) its conservative Catholicism, creative individuals do tend to navigate incredibly daring waters. Monica’s stage output is probably the boldest being made in Portugal. And still, despite its experimental, visceral or explicit nature, she wins mainstream awards. For years, many often wondered when the two of us would work together. It has finally happened.

 

Erica Rodrigues in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)Most of the sex scenes depict sexual acts in elaborate detail, but they’re nevertheless ritualised rather than spontaneous. Was this a technical limitation, or are you trying to say something through this?
The ritualisation is not just deliberate, but crucial. The idea has always been to elevate such moments to mating rituals. Something purer, more animal and natural (hence the explicitness), but that rarely happens away from the cold gaze of the hidden cameras of the ThalusCam network. Going back to your second question, the key here is the “recording”. The notion that private moments in time are crystalised, mirrored and juxtaposed – with an ulterior motive.

 

Though this site focuses predominantly on nudity as it appears in the integral version of films, the scenes themselves often enter into the sexual realm, as if it is almost inevitable. Is it because directors are merely trying to keep up with society, or are filmmakers themselves setting the agenda?
That’s a very interesting point. And I think it ties in with the way in which progressively more honest and therefore explicit depictions of sexuality have been incorporated into both independent and mainstream Cinema.
My perspective is that the art form has matured sufficiently now. As far as “setting the agenda” goes, I really think that every film that is made is a reflection of the times in which it was produced, but I do believe that films also shape the cultural discourse. They feed off each other.

 

Are people more obsessed and worried about sex these days than at any time in human history?
There’s a growing appetite for depictions of sexuality, for sure. The level of obsession is up to the individual and I reckon the impulse to gaze is as old as the human race itself, but there is a greater thirst for seeing images that reveal more and more. Again, it’s the digital age we live in. The immediate accessibility of explicit content generates a taste for it. You have to feed “the retina of the mind’s eye”, to borrow a phrase coined by Cronenberg.

 

What can we look forward to in the third episode?
Episode 3 will bring back the horror element to the foreground. Luisa Torregrosa’s Mystery Woman will return and Nature will also take a big part. It’s entitled “Re-Enactments” for a reason. The notion of actors playing a role within a role is part of the deconstructive quality that I intend to bring to the form, to the narrative and to the actual rituals.

 

How has your crowdsourcing progressed so far, and how many episodes have you lined up for the Morning Interim series? Have you considered making the series into a full-length feature?
The idea to turn the project into a series was a means to rescue it. The pilot episode was enabled and partially funded by Spain’s Torregrosa Producciones, but we didn’t know where to go from that point – despite being immensely proud of it. We’re well aware of the experimental, abstract quality of the project and wanted to preserve that by all means.
It soon became apparent that the slow-burning narrative needed to span eight episodes, which makes it even trickier to fund. But, we’re getting there – very gradually.
Frontier Media established The Vault of Alternative Cinema, as a means to centralise access to current and previous output. The approach has been to have the pay-per-view of the existing episodes (along with access to other films available to stream or buy on DVD) exclusively fund the production of the series. This does slow down the process, but, in an odd way, suits the unfolding of the mystery. Online patronage has also started contributing monthly to production costs. We hope that the support grows in time, so we can shorten the waiting period between episodes for fans of Morning Interim.

 

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The Nudity: Monica Calle, João Paulo Simões, and Erica Rodrigues
The film depicts variously interpreted scenes featuring explicit sex and nudity. Apart from Monica Calle and Erica Rodrigues who play a case worker (therapist) and cleaner (maid) respectively, the director himself appears in a starring role in the scenes concerned. Recommended Viewing..!

Monica Calle, João Paulo Simões, and Erica Rodrigues from the film, "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017, Portugal).

Monica Calle, João Paulo Simões, and Erica Rodrigues from
“Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams” (2017, Portugal).

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A brief review: “A Costa dos Murmúrios” [2004 Portugal]

Monica Calle in The Murmuring Coast (2004), PortugalMargarida Cardoso’s maiden feature “A Costa dos Murmúrios” [Eng. Title: The Murmuring Coast] uses the backdrop of Portugal’s early struggles at holding on to its empire in Africa, to study a couple’s relationship that begins full of promise but falters as they get to know each other better.

Beatriz Batarda and Filipe Duarte in "A Costa dos Murmúrios" (2004)Set in the early sixties, we see a newly wed Evita (Beatriz Batarda) arrive at ‘picturesque’ Mozambique to join her husaband Luis (Filipe Duarte), a mathematician-turned colonel serving in the Portuguese Army. As she adjusts to the tropical climate, she notices that Luis had lost all the passion he once had for mathematics.

Monica Calle, Filipe Duarte, and Adriano Luz in "A Costa dos Murmúrios" (2004)She’s nevertheless made to feel at home by Luis’s captain Jaime (Adriano Luz) and his wife Helena (Monica Calle). Evita also notices that Luis looks up to Jaime and often makes an extra effort to please his superior. This becomes disturbingly evident during a hunting safari where Luis tries to outdo Jaime in ‘exercising his fingers’ against a hapless wildlife using a Kalashnikov rifle.

Monica Calle and Beatriz Batarda in "A Costa dos Murmúrios" (2004), Portugal;But a more sinister side to their camaraderie, and by extension Portugal’s colonial policies, is revealed when Evita spends time with Helena after their respective husbands go away on an army operation. The brutality against natives, it seems, is just another symptom of attitudes that they’ve willingly adopted from a bygone era where chauvinism and patriarchy is the norm, and duelling and honour killings, par for the course. A modern and liberated Evita struggles to come to terms with their world…

Beatriz Batarda in "A Costa dos Murmúrios" (2004, Portugal)Cardoso uses a subject close to her heart – Portuguese colonialism in Africa, and through a documentary-eye, places her protagonist as a helpless bystander witnessing events from a distance – with the gathering clouds of resistance outside as much a reflection of her tumult within. It is an ambitious film, but it also succeeds to a large extent with its soul-searching. Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Beatriz Batarda and Monica Calle
The film features some nudity, with Beatriz Batarda in a scene vaguely reminiscent of Kristin Scott Thomas from “The English Patient”. Monica Calle is briefly nude while emerging from the bath, and is later seen disrobed and left lying on the floor.

Beatriz Batarda and Monica Calle from Margarida Cardoso's drama, "A Costa dos Murmúrios" aka "The Murmuring Coast" (2004, Portugal)

Beatriz Batarda and Monica Calle from Margarida Cardoso’s drama, “A Costa dos Murmúrios” aka
“The Murmuring Coast” (2004, Portugal).

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To reconcile: “Lejos del mar” [2015 Spain]

Elena Anaya and Eduard Fernández in "Lejos del mar" (2015)Imanol Uribe has frequently dealt with the subject of ETA and Basque nationalism in his films before – understandably so, since he also hails from the region. His latest thriller “Lejos del mar” [Eng. Title: Far from the Sea] too is no different and is set against a similar premise.

Elena Anaya in "Lejos del mar" (2015, Spain)The film begins with former ETA separatist Santi (Eduard Fernández) arriving in Almería to meet a friend – he’d just been released after serving twenty two years for murdering a military officer in the presence of his eight year old daughter. The daughter, Marina (Elena Anaya), is now a doctor at the same hospital where Santi’s friend is undergoing treatment. Marina faints after recognising him, and Santi, not knowing that she’s the girl who saw him murder her father, carries her back into the hospital.

Elena Anaya and Eduard Fernández in "Lejos del mar" (2015, Spain)After recovering from her shock, Marina drops her son at her mother’s house in Madrid, picks up her father’s handgun and shoots Santi when she catches him alone on the beach. Having fled the scene, Marina returns to the beach after some deliberation to see Santi still breathing, but unconscious. She drags him back into his cabin to treat him for his wounds, and nurses him back to health.

José Luis García Pérez and Elena Anaya in "Lejos del mar" (2015, Spain)When Marina’s journalist husband Andrés (José Luis García Pérez) is informed of Santi’s release from prison and his arrival in Almería, he tries to track him down since he is also aware of Marina’s tragedy. When he informs Marina about Santi’s release, her ambivalent reaction disappoints him a little, but he nevertheless notices a change in her general attitude, and coupled with the increasing frequency of her ‘night shifts’, begins to suspect that she might be having an affair…

Elena Anaya and Eduard Fernández in "Lejos del mar" (2015)Uribe has dealt with the pathology of hate in some of his earlier films, but this one is slightly different in exploring issues bordering on Stockholm Syndrome, and it also directly addresses reconciliation, which could be a painful process. Obviously, Elena Anaya had the most challenging part in the film, but she performs impeccably as ever. While it is a low-budget thriller, it is still well made and some shot selections are an interesting departure from Uribe’s earlier films, particularly the long shot of Anaya’s character dragging a heavy and motionless Santi back into the cabin. We’re also shown an Almería completely devoid of its ubiquitous tourist-brochure glamour (or Spaghetti Western dustiness) – it might just as well be some bleak seaside in northern Spain. The taut thriller is certainly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Elena Anaya and Verónika Moral
Elana Anaya is nude when she emerges from the sea, and Verónika Moral, who play’s Santi’s sister, is also briefly nude when she goes skinny dipping. There’s also a brief sex scene featuring Elena Anaya.

Elena Anaya from the Spanish thriller, "Lejos del mar" aka "Far from the Sea" (2015)

Elena Anaya from the Spanish thriller, “Lejos del mar” aka “Far from the Sea” (2015).

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A film review: “Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen” [2016 Austria, Luxembourg]

Noah Saavedra in "Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen" (2016)Dieter Berner’s biopic of one of Austria’s most famous expressionists, “Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen” [Eng. Title: Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden] gives a different take on the great artist’s relationship with his sister Gertrude (Gerti), long-term lover and muse Walburga (Wally), and wife till their early death Edith.

Maresi Riegner and Noah Saavedra in "Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden" (2016)The film begins during the last days of Egon Schiele (Noah Saavedra) – when his sister Gerti (Maresi Riegner) visits his apartment with rations. She sees him slumped on a chair facing a pregnant and dying Edith (Marie Jung) in bed – both had been struck by the Spanish Flu epidemic. He was drawing Edith even then, before passing out due to fatigue.

Maresi Riegner and Noah Saavedra in "Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen" (2016)Egon’s backstory is recollected through Gerti as she attends to her dying brother amidst the chaos and shortages during the final stages of the First World War. She recounts the days when she became Egon’s first nude model at the age of sixteen, and also the unconventional surroundings in which the orphaned siblings grew into adulthood.

Larissa Breidbach in "Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen" (2016)Through his bohemian friends, Egon is introduced to cabaret artist Moa (Larissa Breidbach), his first professional model who will also initiate him to sex. Gerti was part of the same circle of friends, and much to the chagrin of her brother who’s also her legal guardian, falls in love with one of the boys in the group. The siblings fall out briefly, but strong bonds reunite them time and again.

Valerie Pachner and Noah Saavedra in "Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen" (2016)When Egon’s mentor and fellow artist Gustav Klimt (Cornelius Obonya) introduces him to model Wally (Valerie Pachner), they soon end up living together, and it is during this phase that Egon also gets into trouble with law following an allegation of abduction of an underage girl. While he’s acquitted of that charge, the judge brands his art pornographic, and imprisons him for making his works accessible to children. Wally stays by his side during the entire ordeal, but leaves him heartbroken when Egon decides to marry a neighbour from across the street…

"Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden" (2016)Berner’s meticulously crafted film gives a sympathetic take on Egon Schiele’s life and exonerates him from allegations of incest and paedophilia. The famous artwork from which the film’s title is taken also makes an appearance in a moving scene, when it is first exhibited by Schiele in Vienna. The cinematography, while ambitious at times, is pleasing nevertheless and the overall production is of a high quality. The performance of Valerie Pachner as Wally is particularly memorable. Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL] | Amazon Blu-ray Link
Machine-Translated PAL Subtitle

 

The Nudity: Maresi Riegner, Larissa Breidbach, Valerie Pachner, Noah Saavedra, and others
The film features several instances of posed artistic nudity from Maresi Reigner and Larissa Breidbach. There are also two brief sex scenes featuring them separately. Valerie Pachner and Noah Saavedra appear nude together in one scene, and there are some extras who also appear nude during assorted cabaret scenes.

Maresi Riegner, Larissa Breidbach, Valerie Pachner, and Noah Saavedra from the Austrian film, "Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden" (2016).

Maresi Riegner, Larissa Breidbach, Valerie Pachner, and Noah Saavedra from the Austrian film,
“Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden” (2016).

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A brief film review: “Suntan” [2016 Greece, Germany]

The Greek drama by Argyris Papadimitropoulos – “Suntan”, has been labelled as a coming of middle-age story, but I think this could apply to a larger male population as well under certain circumstances.

Makis Papadimitriou in Suntan (2016)Set in the beach resort island of Antiparos, the film begins with a forty-something Kostis (Makis Papadimitriou) arriving off-season to take up his new job as the local doctor. In a community whose economic activity is almost entirely centred around the few months of summer, Kostis encounters a friendly and leisurely populace who do the best to make him feel at home.

Makis Papadimitriou in Suntan (2016)Kostis nevertheless negotiates those quiet winter months with a degree of comfort, having used to living by his own all these years. He had never married and of late had already given up even trying to look for a relationship. However, the following summer would change his life to an extent he wouldn’t have imagined when he first set foot on the island.

Elli Tringou and Milou Van Groesen in Suntan (2016)When young and flirty Anna (Elli Tringou) barges into his surgery with her mates after falling off a bike, she gives him a ‘thank you’ kiss and invites him to join them one of these days at the beach. Kostis, partly due to his infatuation for Anna, and partly envious of their lifestyle, goes looking for them one afternoon and also manages to get acquainted with the free-spirited (and free-loving) naturist group of five that includes men and women.

Elli Tringou and Makis Papadimitriou in Suntan (2016)Problems begin after Anna agrees and makes love to Kostis on one occasion – he falls headlong in love with her afterwards. Anna wasn’t expecting this, and understandably freaks out after he demands an explanation for going away with her friends for the weekend without informing him. She tries to set the record straight and make him understand that she hadn’t intended to start a relationship with anyone, but by then the boat had already set sail and Kostis’s delusions have taken over the better of him…

Makis Papadimitriou in Suntan (2016, Greece)The film is a brutal and frank interpretation of not just an instance of unrequited love, but also the generation gap and contrasting worldviews that result from certain outdated attitudes towards women and sexual relationships. It also serves as a warning against misreading social situations that one might come to regret later. Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.de DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Elli Tringou, Hara Kotsali, Marcus Collen, Milou Van Groesen, Syllas Tzoumerkas, Makis Papadimitriou, and others
Since many scenes are set in a beach where nudity is the norm, there are many instances of nudity, but more so from Elli Tringou whose character is always seen nude while on the beach.

Scenes of Elli Tringou, Hara Kotsali, Marcus Collen, Milou Van Groesen, and Makis Papadimitriou in the Greek drama, "Suntan" (2016).

Scenes of Elli Tringou, Hara Kotsali, Marcus Collen, Milou Van Groesen, and Makis Papadimitriou in the Greek drama, “Suntan” (2016).

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