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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It’s in the blood: “Sangue del mio sangue” [2015 Italy]

Marco Bellocchio returns with his kin to give us two hauntingly connected tales from different times in his drama “Sangue del mio Sangue” [Eng. Title: Blood of My Blood].

Lidiya Liberman in "Sangue del mio sangue" (2015 Italy)The first half of the film is set in a cloistered convent in seventeenth century Bobbio. Young nun Benedetta (Lidiya Liberman) is accused of ‘bewitching’ a promising priest, who commits suicide upon discovery of their affair. To redeem his honour so that his remains could be reburied in a proper cemetery, Benedetta needs to ‘confess’ worshipping the devil – his brother and man of arms Federico (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio) is told by the priest conducting the hearing.

Alberto Cracco and Pier Giorgio Bellocchio in "Sangue del mio sangue" (2015 Italy)Upon witnessing the horrors heaped upon Benedetta in the name of cleansing her spirit, Federico, who had already fallen under the spell of her beauty, is torn between allegiance to his dead brother’s soul and his desire for Benedetta. The inquisition is also witnessed by a mysterious cardinal (Roberto Herlitzka).

Roberto Herlitzka in "Sangue del mio sangue" (2015 Italy)The second half of the film moves to present day Bobbio, where the convent, now a disused prison, is about to be sold to a Russian tycoon. Unbeknownst to them, a frail old Count Basta (Roberto Herlitzka) resides in it, and only ever ventures out in the night. His canines are now causing him pain and he has long given up sucking illegal immigrants’ blood. Having ‘disappeared’ from public life nine years ago, his existence is accidentally discovered by tax inspector, estate agent, and con-man Federico (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio).

Pier Girogio Bellocchio and Roberto Herlitzka in "Sangue del mio sangue" (2015 Italy)It transpires that Count Basta still calls the shots in town when it mattered, thanks to his masonic group of fellow vampires, who continue to run the town’s important affairs in one form or another. He nevertheless needs to stop his lair from being sold and sets out in the night to personally deal with the issue…

Sangue del mio sangue (2015, Italy)By juxtaposing characters across seemingly different tales, Bellocchio is obviously drawing parallels by suggesting that the ‘dark’ ages hasn’t quite ended after all. Just as religion overwhelmingly influenced people’s lives during the medieval ages, the affluent and people in authority in today’s world too treat the general populace as children and dictate how they should live their lives. Both the tales reach a satisfactory ending during the final moments of the film, which features fine performances and is also ably supported by its atmospheric cinematography – especially the ‘gothic’ first half. There may be some loose ends like the Perletti sisters and the madman, but we get the film’s message all the same. Of particular interest would be the authentic looking inquisition which Bellocchio had already worked on in an earlier film (La visione del sabba). Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.it DVD Link [PAL] | Amazon.it Bluray Link

 

The Nudity: Lidiya Liberman
In a brief scene, Benedetta emerges in the nude.

Lidiya Liberman in Marco Bellocchio's "Sangue del mio sangue" (Blood of My Blood), 2015, Italy.

Lidiya Liberman in Marco Bellocchio’s “Sangue del mio sangue” (Blood of My Blood), 2015, Italy.

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Playing the waiting game: “Tarde para la ira” [2016 Spain]

Seasoned actor Raúl Arévalo makes a surprisingly impressive directorial debut in the revenge thriller, “Tarde para la ira” [Eng. Title: The Fury of a Patient Man].

A scene from "Tarde para la ira" (2016, Spain)The film begins with Curro (the brilliant Luis Callejo) driving the getaway car following a robbery – he gets knocked down by a police car and is arrested following a chase. He’s the only one in the gang who gets caught, and since the robbery ends in the murder of one of the victims and permanent life support of another, Curro ends up serving eight years. The film fast forwards to the day of his release, and his girlfriend Ana (Ruth Díaz) turns up to receive him.

Antonio de la Torre in "Tarde para la ira" (2016, Spain)Ana, during these years, has also been having an affair with José (Antonio de la Torre), a mysterious but sociable customer who frequents her cafe and joins her partner-brother Juanjo (Raúl Jiménez) for poker. An irascible Curro joins them upon his return and violently confronts José following a game. To pacify a worried Ana, José invites her and her five year old son to spend a weekend at his vacant country house – he hadn’t used it since his fiance’s murder during a robbery eight years ago.

Antonio de la Torre and Luis Callejo in "Tarde para la ira" (2016, Spain)José returns to Madrid and calls Curro using Ana’s mobile phone. With his not-so-subtle message conveyed in the subtlest manner, José asks Curro for some ‘cooperation’ so that Ana and his son could be returned home safely. The rest of the film works like a road movie as José and Curro piece together clues in determining the whereabouts of the other members of the gang – the actual murderers, because they had stopped keeping in touch with Curro following his incarceration…

Antonio de la Torre in "Tarde para la ira" (2016 Spain)I watched the film on a whim, without any clue about the plot (thankfully so, for I’m not the greatest fan of the genre), but the first minute was enough to have me transfixed. The director doesn’t put a foot wrong from the word ‘go’ with great screenplay, timing, and shot selection. Aided with the judicious use of Steadycam and some masterful cinematography, not least the ultra realistic performances from the ensemble cast, it is small wonder that the film bagged a handful of Goya Awards this year. If more thrillers were as good as this, they’ll surely win a new fan in me – Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Ruth Díaz
The reason for this post is obviously not for the nudity, which by the way is fleeting when it happens; whether during Ana’s conjugal visit in prison, a post-coital chat between Ana and José, or when Curro realises that all’s not well with matters concerning Ana. Ruth Díaz gives an impeccable performance as Ana.

Ruth Díaz from the Spanish thriller, "Tarde para la ira" aka "The Fury of a Patient Man" (2016).

Ruth Díaz from the Spanish thriller, “Tarde para la ira” aka “The Fury of a Patient Man” (2016).

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