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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Parody-play: “Le jeu avec le feu” [1975 France, Italy]

 

Alain Robbe-Grillet:

Alain Robbe-GrilletIt has taken a while to bring up Alain Robbe-Grillet’s filmography despite his obvious candidature for this site, simply because one would also need a passing knowledge of his important literary legacy that subsequently spawned his film career to do it any justice. Called the Nouveau Roman (New Novel), his avant-gardist literary works are said to have redefined the scope of modern novels not just in France, but all over the world.

By the time he penned his first film script for Alain Resnais’s Nouvelle Vague masterpiece “Last Year at Marienbad”, he was already a celebrated writer. Resnais’s, and to some extent Antonioni’s influence can readily be seen in Robbe-Grillet’s first film as writer-director, “L’Immortelle”, but his subsequent films began to take on a distinct identity of their own. Whatever Robbe-Grillet did in film, Jean Rollin and Jesus Franco stylistically appropriated, or at the very least drew considerable inspiration from. In return, Robbe-Grillet parodied their work along with those of mainstream stalwarts such as Claude Chabrol and Mario Bava to the extent that his later films came to be seen as a parody of parodies.

Despite all that, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s core concern in all his films remained unchanged right from ‘Marienbad’ – it is about deconstructing the role memory plays for both his characters and the audience – whether playing a part, reading a novel or watching a film. Events are often obsessively repeated – even from the same character’s point of view, not only leading to the same outcome with a different nuance, but sometimes also to variable outcomes – in short, we cannot take anything we see on screen for granted – avant-garde, for sure.

 

“Le jeu avec le feu” (1975)

Anicée Alvina in Alain Robbe-Grillet's "Playing With Fire" (Le jeu avec le feu) 1975.Alain Robbe-Grillet’s mid-career comedy “Le jeu avec le feu” [Eng. Title: Playing With Fire] can politely be described as an intensely self-aware parody. I prefer to call it a piss-take of Italian gialli. What you see in the film is not necessarily the truth, and characters are also not what they claim to be. To add to the chaos, actors return to play different characters during its run-time – perhaps this is a Freudian examination, perhaps it is reminding us that everything, like the film, is make-believe, or perhaps the characters themselves are two-faced.

Philippe Noiret in "Le jeu avec le feu" (1975)The film begins with banker Georges de Saxe (Philippe Noiret) receiving a demand for ransom from a couple of visiting baddies for something they haven’t achieved yet – they’re yet to kidnap the banker’s precious daughter Carolina (Anicée Alvina), who’s still safely ensconced in her room upstairs.

Anicée Alvina and others in "Le jeu avec le feu" (1975).In order to protect her, Georges hires detective Frantz (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who’d been telegraphed to the audience in advance as working for the kidnappers. Frantz suggests housing Carolina for her own protection at a place the kidnappers would least bother to look – a high-class brothel run by Erica von Eigher (Martine Jouot). He introduces the place to an innocent Carolina as some kind of a ‘clinic’ for women suffering from ‘exhaustion’.

Joëlle Coeur and Jean-Louis Trintignant in "Le jeu avec le feu" (1975)We can easily see where this plot is heading from here, but then again, we may not. Whatever the case, it wouldn’t matter. For most of its duration, the film is an unbridled indulgence in fantasised masochism, a pastime Robbe-Grillet had never hidden or apologised for throughout his personal life. We see thugs bundle away in public view young maidens from night clubs, morning jogs, and even from wedding ceremonies. As Carolina strolls through doors in Erica’s mansion to discover torrid happenings à la Alice in Wonderland, the film teases the audience through Carolina’s implied and faux sexual awakening. It gets ridiculous towards the end to such an extent that a character even complains to camera that the typist girl had messed up the film’s script sequence..!

Jean-Louis Trintignant in "Le jeu avec le feu" (1975)What is noteworthy however is the straight face with which some of the biggest stars in French cinema play their respective mixed-up roles – they surely relished their outing here. The set designs and shot compositions are done with the greatest care and attention to detail that for a moment, you might think you’re watching a Visconti or Bergman. I’m sure the highbrow art circles weren’t particularly amused when they had to write about it, but perhaps that’s what also endears me to this film. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.fr 9 DVD Box-set [PAL]
Contains the complete directorial filmography of Alain Robbe-Grillet in restored print – a bargain any way you look at it.

 

The Nudity: Anicée Alvina, Christine Boisson, Nathalie Zeiger, Joëlle Coeur, Sylvia Kristel, and Maranha
Considering the abundance of female nudity in the film, I felt it appropriate to categorise them into three sections dealing with abductions, exploitation, and Anicée Alvina.

 

1) G.I.M.P (Girls in merciless peril)
Even though I’m not the greatest fan of the above film phenomenon, the absurd situations against which they happen in this particular film make the scenes, well – almost charming. Featuring Nathalie Zeiger (girl chased by a dog in the park), Joëlle Coeur (bride), Sylvia Kristel (girl in night club), and Maranha (night club singer), the star of this section is undoubtedly a nineteen year old, alluring, and randomly ‘manhandled’ Christine Boisson who’s initially whisked off by hoodlums when she’s about to board a train. She’s not too happy when they decide to release her after realising that her parents were having financial difficulties. She’s particularly peeved at having to leave the mansion a virgin and even threatens to return with her school friends to trash the place. 🙂

Christine Boisson, Nathalie Zeiger, Joëlle Coeur, Sylvia Kristel, and Maranha in "Le jeu avec le feu" (Playing with Fire) 1975, France.

Girls In Merciless Peril: Christine Boisson, Nathalie Zeiger, Joëlle Coeur, Sylvia Kristel, and Maranha in “Le jeu avec le feu” (Playing with Fire) 1975, France.

 

2) Sadomasochism
Okay, that’s applying it with a very broad brush, but the import is the same. Featuring Christine Boisson, Nathalie Zeiger, Sylvia Kristel, and Maranha, this is about Carolina’s walk through Erica’s ‘clinic’ where abductees are subjected to all sorts of humiliation, with an instance of Nathalie Zeiger’s character also bordering on bestiality. Christine Boisson’s character is forced to play Desdemona (well, that can be harrowing) against Philippe Noiret’s shoe polished Othello. There are also implied references to necrophilia and cannibalism.

Christine Boisson, Nathalie Zeiger, Sylvia Kristel, and Maranha in "Le jeu avec le feu" (Playing with Fire) 1975, France.

Christine Boisson, Nathalie Zeiger, Sylvia Kristel, and Maranha
in “Le jeu avec le feu” (Playing with Fire) 1975, France.

 

3) Anicée Alvina
It’s a shame that this Iranian French beauty passed on too early for her age, but she’d left behind, thanks in no small measure to Alain Robbe-Grillet, some memorable scenes at her youthful best. Even though she doesn’t feature in any sexual scenes, some are disconcerting nevertheless, in that her character is groped by the father on more than one occasion. In one scene, he (as some other character) bathes and puts her to sleep as one would a child. Her character is ‘punished’ later on by the same ‘father-like’ figure for trying to escape from the mansion.

Anicée Alvina in Alain Robbe-Grillet's "Playing with Fire" (Le jeu avec le feu), 1975 France

Anicée Alvina in Alain Robbe-Grillet’s “Playing with Fire” (Le jeu avec le feu), 1975, France.

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