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Thread: NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2018 (March 28–April 8, 2018) - Festival Coverage

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    This now venerable series introduces New York audiences to the work of emerging filmmakers from around the world, bold new artists who push the envelope. I plan to review around 22 of these. A varied selection including some of the most exciting or new offerings from Locarno, Cannes, Berlin, and Rotterdam, and one or two other festivals last year, shown to the public at two venues in New York, Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. This is an annual collaboration between the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA.


    All films are digitally projected unless otherwise noted


    Stephen Loveridge, Sri Lanka/United Kingdom/USA, 2018, 95m
    In English and Tamil with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    Before rapper M.I.A. became a global sensation, known for her musical daring and tireless political activism for the Tamil people in her native Sri Lanka, she was an aspiring filmmaker, having made countless video diaries chronicling her youth and private life. First-time documentarian Stephen Loveridge, who attended art school in London with M.I.A. in the nineties, uses this first-hand material to craft a nuanced and intimate portrait of a woman finding her roots, voice, and stardom, and a deeply personal statement from a pop star yearning to express herself.
    Wednesday, March 28, 7:00 & 7:30pm [MoMA]
    Thursday, March 29, 6:30pm [FSLC]

    Hale County This Morning, This Evening
    RaMell Ross, USA, 2018, 76m
    New York Premiere

    “The American stranger knows Blackness as a fact—even though it is fiction,” says writer-director RaMell Ross. For his visionary and political debut feature, which premiered to great acclaim at Sundance in 2018, Ross spent five years intimately observing African American families living in Hale County, Alabama. It’s a region made unforgettable by Walker Evans and James Agee’s landmark 1941 photographic essay Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which documented the impoverished lives of white sharecropper families in Alabama’s Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Ross’s poetic return to this place shows changed demographics, and depicts people resilient in the face of adversity and invisibility. Hale County This Morning, This Evening introduces a distinct and powerful new voice in American filmmaking.
    Saturday, April 7, 8:30pm [FSLC]
    Sunday, April 8, 2:00pm [MoMA]

    Ilian Metev, Bulgaria, 2017, 82m
    Bulgarian with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    3/4 evokes the intimacies, joys, and tensions of a contemporary Bulgarian family facing an uncertain future; the father is an astrophysicist with his head in the clouds, his son a waywardly antic teenager, his daughter a gifted but anxious pianist. Illian Metev (whose previous film was the gripping documentary Sofia’s Last Ambulance) won the Filmmakers of the Present prize at the 2017 Locarno Festival for this fiction feature debut, a gracefully shot, uncommonly tender character study that plays like an exquisite piece of chamber music.
    Thursday, March 29, 6:00pm [MoMA]
    Saturday, March 31, 1:00pm [FSLC]

    Sadaf Foroughi, Iran/Canada/Qatar, 2017, 103m
    Farsi with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    Adolescence creates intense pressure for any girl, but it’s particularly strong for 17-year-old Ava, buffeted by the harsh strictures of home and school in contemporary Tehran. Iranian writer-director Sadaf Foroughi won the jury prize at the Toronto International Film Festival for her intimate and intensely dramatic portrait of a young woman whose private longings drive her to rebellion and lead to public shaming. A Grasshopper Film release.
    Thursday, March 29, 8:30pm [MoMA]
    Sunday, April 1, 7:30pm [FSLC]

    Azougue Nazaré
    Tiago Melo, Brazil, 2017, 80m
    Portuguese with English subtitles
    North American Premiere

    No measure of hellfire preaching can quell the boisterous and bawdy passions of Maracatu, an Afro-Brazilian burlesque carnival tradition with roots in slavery that takes place in the northeast state of Pernambuco. As the Falstaffian character Tiao, Valmir do Coco leads a nonprofessional cast of authentic Maracatu practitioners in a tale told through dance, music, and the supernatural, set in the sugarcane fields outside Recife. The fabulous—and fabulist—Azougue Nazaré is the first film by Tiago Melo, who worked on such recent celebrated Brazilian films as Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius (NYFF 2016) and Gabriel Mascaro’s Neon Bull (ND/NF 2016), and who was awarded the Bright Future prize at this year’s Rotterdam International Film Festival.
    Friday, March 30, 6:30pm [FSLC]
    Saturday, March 31, 7:30pm [MoMA

    Black Mother
    Khalik Allah, USA, 2018, 75m
    New York Premiere

    The second feature by filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah is a kind of documentary tone poem, a polyphonic work rich in atmosphere and intimate portraiture. Allah immerses us in Jamaica’s neighboring worlds of charismatic holy men and equally charismatic prostitutes, the sacred and the profane alike. Allah captures them and their environments with a haunting visual style and absorbing sense of rhythm entirely his own, their testimonies flooding the soundtrack with reflections on everyday survival and hopes for the future. Seamlessly switching from Super-8mm to HD video, Black Mother affirms its maker as one of the great stylists in documentary cinema today.
    Wednesday, April 4, 6:00pm [MoMA]
    Saturday, April 7, 6:00pm [FSLC]

    Closeness / Tesnota
    Kantemir Balagov, Russia, 2017, 118m
    Russian with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    A young woman is trapped in a tight-knit Jewish community in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, located in Russia’s North Caucasus, that demands her total dedication but provides her with little protection from the perpetual violence encompassing all aspects of life. Shot mostly in interior spaces, Closeness conjures a world of darkness and claustrophobia as the heroine quietly revolts yet succumbs to her bleak existence. This debut feature by Kantemir Balagov feels more beholden to the social realism of the Dardenne brothers than to the transcendental flair of his mentor, Russian auteur Alexander Sokurov (a producer on this film). Warning: this film contains a scene featuring images of documented violence that viewers may find upsetting.
    Saturday, March 31, 4:30pm [MoMA]
    Sunday, April 1, 4:30pm [FSLC]

    Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias, Dominican Republic/Brazil/Argentina, 2017, 107m
    Spanish with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    This format-mixing, formally eclectic opus is at once a profound film about religion and a unique tale of revenge. Upon learning that his father has been murdered by a powerful local figure, Dominican private gardener Alberto travels from Santo Domingo back to his hometown to participate in his funeral rites—a mixture of Catholicism and West African mysticism that flies in the face of Alberto’s own evangelicalism. But Alberto’s family has vengeance in mind, and he finds himself at a spiritual and existential crossroads. Boldly synthesizing ethnographic documentary and scripted drama, Cocote is a visually resplendent and stylistically audacious work that evokes the films of Glauber Rocha and the fiction of Roberto Bolańo. A Grasshopper Film release.
    Tuesday, April 3, 6:15pm [FSLC]
    Wednesday, April 4, 8:15pm [MoMA]

    Djon África
    Joăo Miller Guerra and Filipa Reis, Portugal/Brazil/Cape Verde, 2018, 95m
    In Portuguese with English subtitles
    North American Premiere

    Documentarians Joăo Miller Guerra and Filipa Reis turn the subject of their previous film into the central character of their debut fiction work. A Cape Verdean in Portugal, Miguel Moreira, also known as Djon África, travels back home to look for his birth father. This hopefully soul-searching journey quickly gets derailed as he comes across beautiful women, colorful parties, and the local liquor known as grogue. Written by Pedro Pinho, director of The Nothing Factory, also playing in this festival, this woozily intoxicating road movie is as youthful, charming, and adventurous as its title character.
    Wednesday, April 4, 9:15pm [FSLC]
    Friday, April 6, 6:00pm [MoMA

    Helena Wittmann, Germany, 2017, 96m
    German with English subtitles
    U.S. Premiere

    Filmmaker-artist Helena Wittmann’s subtly audacious first feature follows friends Theresa, a German, and Josefina, an Argentinian, as they spend a weekend together on the North Sea, taking long walks on the beach and stopping at snack stands. Eventually they separate— Josefina eventually returns to her family in Argentina and Theresa crosses the Atlantic for the Caribbean—and the film gives way to a transfixing and delicate meditation on the poetics of space. Self-consciously evoking the work of Michael Snow and masterfully lensed by Wittmann herself, Drift is by turns cosmic and intimate.
    Thursday, April 5, 6:30pm [FSLC]
    Saturday, April 7, 4:00pm [MoMA]

    An Elephant Sitting Still
    Hu Bo, China, 2018, 234m
    Mandarin with English subtitles
    North American Premiere

    Sure to be remembered as a landmark in Chinese cinema, this intensely felt epic marks a career cut tragically short: its debut director Hu Bo took his own life last October, at the age of 29. The protagonist of this modern reworking of the tale of Jason and the Argonauts is teenage Wei Bu, who critically injures a school bully by accident. Over a single, eventful day, he crosses paths with a classmate, an elderly neighbor, and the bully’s older brother, all of them bearing their own individual burdens, and all drawn as if by gravity to the city of Manzhouli, where a mythical elephant is said to sit, indifferent to a cruel world. Full of moody close-ups and virtuosic tracking shots, An Elephant Sitting Still is nothing short of a masterpiece.
    Sunday, April 1, 6:30pm [MoMA]
    Sunday, April 8, 6:00pm [FSLC]

    Good Manners / As Boas Maneiras
    Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas, Brazil/France, 2017, 135m
    Portuguese with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    An immaculately stylized twist on the monster movie, Dutra and Rojas’s second collaboration (following the acclaimed Hard Labor) inventively engages matters of race, class, and desire. Set in Săo Paulo, the narrative initially concerns the curious relationship between rich, white, pregnant socialite Ana (Marjorie Estiano) and her new housemaid Clara (Isabél Zuaa). As the two women grow closer, their rapport turns first sexual then shockingly macabre. Good Manners evolves into a werewolf movie unlike any other, a delirious and compulsively watchable cross between Disney and Jacques Tourneur. A Distrib Films US release.
    Thursday, April 5, 8:30pm [MoMA]
    Friday, April 6, 8:45pm [FSLC]

    The Great Buddha +
    Huang Hsin-yao, Taiwan, 2017, 104m
    Taiwanese and Mandarin with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    Provincial friends Pickle and Belly Button idle away their nights in the security booth of a Buddha statue factory, where Pickle works as a guard. One evening, when the TV is on the fritz, they put on video from the boss's dashcam—only to discover illicit trysts and a mysterious act of violence. Expanded from a short, Huang Hsin-yao's fiction feature debut The Great Buddha + (the plus sign cheekily nodding to the smartphone model) is a stylish, rip-roaring satire on class and corruption in contemporary Taiwanese society. A Cheng Cheng Films release.
    Tuesday, April 3, 8:45pm [MoMA]
    Wednesday, April 4, 6:30pm [FSLC]

    The Guilty/Den Skydige
    Gustav Möller, Denmark, 2017, 85m
    Danish with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    In this pulsating crime thriller set entirely inside a claustrophobic emergency call center, police officer Asger is assigned to dispatcher duty following a fatal incident. An initially slow evening takes a sharp turn when he receives a mysterious call for help, and Asger must spring into action, embarking on a hair-raising journey—on the phone—to bring the caller to safety. Debut feature filmmaker Gustav Möller keeps the tension and the viewer’s imagination alive in this chamber piece that won audience awards at the Rotterdam and Sundance film festivals. A Magnolia Pictures release.
    Friday, March 30, 6:00pm [MoMA]
    Saturday, March 31, 6:30pm [FSLC]

    Emmanuel Gras, France, 2017, 96m
    French and Swahili with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    Gras’s transfixing road movie and Cannes Film Festival prizewinner follows a young Congolese man named Kabwita through the making, transporting, and selling of charcoal—from the felling of a tree to pushing a teetering bicycle weighed down with bulging sacks along treacherous dirt roads to contending with motorists, extortionists, and potential customers. As Gras observes Kabwita’s perilous trade, he derives beauty from the monumental efforts that go into his day-to-day existence. Makala is a documentary that resembles a neorealist parable, locating an epic dimension in the humblest of existences. A Kino Lorber release.
    Sunday, April 1, 2:00pm [FSLC]
    Monday, April 2, 8:45pm [MoMA]

    Valérie Massadian, France/Portugal, 2017, 128m
    French with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    Following up her acclaimed 2011 debut Nana, Valérie Massadian has made a moving, visually striking meditation on young motherhood and the vagaries of growing up. Severine Jonckeere turns in a remarkably subtle performance as the titular 17-year-old; just as her youthful romance with Leo (Luc Chessel) seems ready to cross the threshold into teenage parenthood, Massadian performs a radical formal gesture that both complicates Milla’s predicament and evokes the beauty and cruelty of time’s passage. A prizewinner at the 2017 Locarno Film Festival, Milla audaciously eschews conventional melodrama, searching instead for a complex, truthful reflection of life itself. A Grasshopper Film release.
    Sunday, April 1, 3:30pm [MoMA]
    Monday, April 2, 9:00pm [FSLC]

    Nervous Translation
    Shireen Seno, Philippines, 2018, 90m
    Filipino with English subtitles
    North American Premiere

    Informed by filmmaker Shireen Seno’s childhood in the Filipino diaspora and her dual training in film and architecture, this sophomore work is a stylized evocation of a child's fanciful interpretation of the world around her. Eight-year-old Yael, left to her own devices after school, secretly plays and replays audio cassettes her father sends home to her mother while working overseas; pursues happiness as communicated to her via a TV advertisement; and, in fanciful scenes that evoke the work of American artist Laurie Simmons, enters the meditative, immersive world of her dollhouse’s kitchen. Seno offers fleeting clues from the late-eighties outside world, hinting at societal turmoil following Ferdinand Marcos's ouster and complicated adult relations, but these never overshadow her film‘s touching depiction of childhood imagination.
    Saturday, April 7, 8:45pm [MoMA]
    Sunday, April 8, 1:00pm [FSLC]

    Notes on an Appearance
    Ricky D’Ambrose, USA, 2018, 60m
    North American Premiere

    Ricky D’Ambrose’s debut feature follows a quiet young man (Bingham Bryant) who mysteriously disappears soon after starting a new life in Brooklyn's artistic circles. Distraught friends (including Keith Poulson and Tallie Medel) search for him with the help of notebooks, letters, postcards, and other tiny clues; meanwhile, a parallel story about an elusive and controversial philosopher provides a rather sinister backdrop to their pursuit. This dark, minimalist pseudo-detective tale offers plenty of humor and displays a distinctive aesthetic. Following a series of remarkable shorts, D’Ambrose has clearly defined himself as a talent to watch.

    Preceded by:
    Young Girls Vanish / Des jeunes filles disparaissent
    Clément Pinteaux, France, 2017, 16m
    French with English subtitles
    North American premiere

    Clément Pinteaux explores the echoes of violence in Essonne, France, where dozens of girls were killed by wolves in the 1600s. Centuries later, young women begin disappearing again.
    Friday, April 6, 6:30pm [FSLC]
    Saturday, April 7, 6:30pm [MoMA]

    The Nothing Factory / A Fábrica de Nada
    Pedro Pinho, Portugal, 2017, 177m
    Portuguese and French with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    A rich and formally surprising film of ideas, beautifully shot on 16mm, and featuring one of recent cinema’s most memorable musical numbers, Portuguese director Pedro Pinho’s nearly three-hour epic concerns the occupation of an elevator plant by its workers. They are stirred to action when the factory’s machinery is removed in the middle of the night by the owners; they rapidly organize, kick out the brass who have arrived offering buyouts, and discuss the feasibility of managing the facility themselves—all the while a Marxist theorist exerts ideological influence from the sidelines. The Nothing Factory is a serious and singular look at the meaning of work today, further developing Pinho’s interest in the status of labor amid his country’s financial crisis.
    Saturday, April 7, 2:00pm [FSLC]
    Sunday, April 8, 4:30pm [MoMA]

    Our House / Watashitachi no ie
    Yui Kiyohara, Japan, 2017, 80m
    Japanese with English subtitles
    North American Premiere

    This feature debut is an evocative and surprising exploration of female friendship, parallel realities, and the mysteries of everyday life. An adolescent girl named Seri lives with her mother in an old house in a coastal town. Seemingly in the very same house, amnesiac Sana is taken in by Toko, a young woman who harbors secrets of her own. As the parallel stories unfold, the boundaries between these two worlds grow increasingly porous... Inspired by the fugues of Bach and recalling the films of Jacques Rivette, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and David Lynch, Our House announces Yui Kiyohara as an exciting new voice in Japanese cinema.
    Friday, April 6, 8:30pm [MoMA]
    Sunday, April 8, 3:30pm [FSLC]

    Scary Mother / Sashishi Deda
    Ana Urushadze, Georgia/Estonia, 2018, 107m
    Georgian with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    In Georgian filmmaker Ana Urushadze’s gripping and bleakly comic feature debut, Manana, a 50-year-old Tbilisi mother abandons her duties as a wife and mother to pursue an obsessive and hermetic life of writing poetry. In a performance of coiled fear and rage that recalls the best of Isabelle Huppert, Nato Murvanidze plunges into Manana‘s feverish imagination. Scary Mother, which won awards at film festivals around the world, is a haunting, singular new vision.
    Saturday, March 31, 9:00pm [FSLC]
    Monday, April 2, 6:00pm [MoMA]

    Those Who Are Fine / Dene wos guet geit
    Cyril Schäublin, Switzerland, 2017, 71m
    German with English subtitles
    North American Premiere

    This dark comic study of an alienated contemporary Zurich begins by following an impassive twenty-something, a call center worker by day who initiates phone scams targeting elderly workers after hours. The film then spirals out to incorporate into its narrative city residents—police, bank tellers, reporters—obliquely linked to this swindle. Swiss filmmaker Cyril Schäublin’s feature debut (following a half-dozen short films to his name, including Stampede, ND/NF 2013) is a razor-sharp, formalist satire, using the city’s grey concrete architecture; clipped, digit-dominated exchanges between urbanites (phone numbers, Wi-Fi passwords, credit cards); and even a dash of sci-fi-esque atmospherics to portray a fractured, contemporary dystopia.
    Thursday, April 5, 9:00pm [FSLC]
    Saturday, April 7, 1:45pm [MoMA]

    Until the Birds Return / En attendant les hirondelles
    Karim Moussaoui, Algeria/France/Germany, 2017, 113m
    Arabic and French with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    A property developer is witness to random street violence. A pair of secret lovers make their way across the desert. A doctor is accused of having a criminal past. In these three interconnected tales, exciting newcomer Karim Moussaoui—whom critics at Cannes compared to Abbas Kiarostami and Leos Carax—takes the pulse of modern-day Algiers, a country once riven by colonial occupation and sectarian warfare yet still abundant in beauty and promise. A KimStim release.
    Friday, March 30, 8:30pm [MoMA]
    Saturday, March 31, 3:30pm [FSLC]

    A Violent Life / Une Vie Violente
    Thierry de Peretti, France, 2017, 107m
    French with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    Stéphane returns to Corsica for the funeral of a childhood friend and gang member, despite having a target on his back. Through flashbacks, this sophomore feature by Corsican filmmaker Thierry de Peretti tensely unspools as a coming-of-age tale dashed with crime, political radicalism, and youthful idealism born of the island's separatist movement. Loosely based on actual events and cast with local actors, A Violent Life resonates with regional folklore and crafts a poignant portrait of a marginalized generation. A Distrib Films release.
    Monday, April 2, 6:15pm [FSLC]
    Tuesday, April 3, 6:00pm [MoMA]

    Winter Brothers / Vinterbrřdre
    Hlynur Pálmason, Denmark/Iceland, 2017, 100m
    English and Danish with English subtitles
    New York Premiere

    This debut feature from Hlynur Pálmason, an Icelandic visual artist/filmmaker based in Denmark, is an immersive sensory experience set in a desolate Danish limestone mining community. A landscape covered in indistinguishable white ash and snow masks the darkness enveloping Emil, a lonely and eccentric young man who works in the mine with his much more sociable brother. Few notice Emil until he is suspected of causing a co-worker’s grave illness, which leads to his ostracization. A relentless industrial soundscape accompanies this portrait of a man trapped in unforgiving isolation. A KimStim release.
    Thursday, March 29, 9:00pm [FSLC]
    Saturday, March 31, 2:00pm [MoMA]

    (Reviews begin below.)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-13-2018 at 09:07 PM.

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    Cold conflict, odd job

    Reviewed by Jessica Kiang in Variety at its Locarno debut: "An isolated Danish limestone plant," Kiang notes, "provides a surreally bleached-out backdrop for a strange, exceptionally crafted 'lack-of-love' story." "First there is the darkness of a limestone mine, lit only by helmet flashlights and the occasional shower of flinty sparks from a pickax connecting with rock. And then there’s the comparative dazzle of the processing plant, bleached white by a settling of lime dust and snow. Somehow these conflicting images are rendered equivalently bleak and scuzzy in Hlynur Pálmason’s challenging, deeply weird and yet peculiarly compelling directorial debut, in which a tiny community of Danish workers, clustered around a factory in the middle of nowhere, feels so isolated and remote it could well be on the surface of the moon.. . " This unique director's intentions are not always totally clear, but the action revolves around the clashes of two brothers who work at the plant, and the dubious practice by protagonist Emil of making ultra-strong hooch from chemicals filched on the work site.

    Maybe as Kiang asserts, this film reps an "impressively original, auspiciously idiosyncratic debut" - it can be read that way with its intense, authentic limestone mine locations and macho workers, and the various sui generis sequences Pálmason inserts. These include a pissing contest; male frontal nudity, and a fight almost to the death between the two nude brothers; a card trick and a chemical trick of water to wine or clear to dark liquid; a singularly odd manner for a boss to punish a worker; a story about a mine worker's dog loyal to the death; running video lessons by an English soldier that teach Emil how to fire an M1 rifle in combat, a skill he threatens to use.

    In compliance with narrative necessity, the rifle at least gets fired, and there are strategically smashed windows. One can't help admiring the deadpan calm of Elliott Crosset Hove, the actor who plays Emil, whose resemblance to Stan Laurel gives his vicissitudes a lightness they might otherwise lack. Aki Kaurismäki might have done good things with him and with this material, had he chosen to take it on, and been Danish instead of Finnish.

    However, all these elements fail to jell. The idiosyncratic scenes don't fit at all. But Kaurismäki would have known how to deal with that. What is needed is a narrative structure that makes the criminal hooch and the love triangle fit together more effectively. A striking setting, some decent actors, and oddball incidents aren't enough to meld it all together. However, there is, of course, plenty of talent and ambition here.

    Winter Brothers/Vinterbrřdre, 100 mins., debuted at Locarno, Aug. 2017; 17 other festival showings including Toronto, Vancouver, and London, and screened for this review as part of the 2018 Museum of Modern Art and Film Society of Lincoln Center joint series, New Directors/New Films.

    ND/NF showtimes:
    Thursday, March 29, 9:00pm [FSLC]
    Saturday, March 31, 2:00pm [MoMA]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-15-2019 at 05:20 PM.

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    THE GUILTY/DEN SKYDIGE (Gustav Möller 2017)



    Tense, absorbing Danish police emergency call drama marks a "crackerjack feature debut"

    The Guilty was reported on earlier in Filmleaf's 2018 Sundance thread: you can read Mike D'Angelo's Letterboxd review that says Möller does "a solid if unremarkable job of sustaining visual interest while confined to a single bland location, and generates considerable suspense from noises heard tinnily through the protagonist's earpiece." They aren't heard all that tinnily, though: the auxiliary soundtrack is as full throated as it needs to be to enrich the mainly one-person drama.

    An accomplished, spare tour-de-force, all the action concerning a crisis confined to a police office call station and one man, a demoted officer struggling to save a woman being abducted by her ex-husband. D'Angelo confesses to finding aspects of the story implausible, and going back and forth on the film but with a positive conclusion overall: "Thought Möller had won me back over at the end, but then he adds a cheap additional misdirection (for which I did not fall), and I got annoyed at the contrivance again. Crackerjack feature debut, though." It has been bought by Magnolia, and it got the Sundance World Cinema Audience Award. Also reviewed in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, The Village Voice, The Verge, and other publications.

    This film invites comparison with Tom Hardy in Stephen Knight's 2013 Locke as a telephone tour-de-force. Anything like this is like a radio play, not at all a bad association: radio plays used to be wonderful and they stimulate the imagination more than TV or movies.

    Actually Locke is in some ways more limited and others richer. Both are excellent dramas. While The Guilty plunges us in the effort of phone emergencies duty cop Asgar (Jakob Cedergren) to save a woman who has been abducted by her ex-husband in his van, Locke, while suspenseful too - that's the nature of the genre - is more a character study from the start. Tom Hardy's protagonist is a wrongdoer, like Asgar, the cop suspended from street duty with his partner Rashid (Omar Shargawi) pending a court hearing tomorrow. And tomorrow is initiation of the biggest project of architect Locke's career, which involves laying foundations for large buildings, and it has to be run by his assistant because he must go to a London hospital for the birth of his child - to a woman not his wife. He's expected at home tonight to be with his family to watch an important football match, and he won't be there either. His effort to juggle all these things and keep them from tumbling down on him is the nail-biter.

    In the juggling of multiple valences the Hardy vehicle - which one can't imagine working without him - resembles the stage play Michael Shannon did in 2011 about the failing theatrical agent, Mistakes Were Made. All these works are a matter of juggling multiple strands around a single main speaker on the phone (or phones) in front of us and keeping our attention riveted. They are all portraits of the man.

    Asgar becomes desperate to save Iben (Jessica Dinnage), the abducted wife, from Michael (Johan Olsen) but doesn't know the location of his van, only the district (New Zealand, Copenhagen). And that's not all he doesn't know. In this respect, The Guilty is more single minded, simple, and focused on a single set of events than the other two stories. It also seems, somehow, more "real." When watching Shannon and the arguably even more gifted Hardy I was constantly repeating to myself, "Wow, isn't this guy talented!" WithThe Guilty, I was not. This is a tribute to the scenario as well as to Jakob Cedergren's acting, which allows him to disappear into the part of Asgar, to keep it from feeling like an aria.

    Guilty/Der Skyldige, 85 mins., debuted Jan. 2018 at Sundance; it was also sown at Rotterdam, Göteberg and Sun Valley, and it was screened for this review as part of the MoMA-Film Society of Lincoln Center series New Directors/New Films Mar. 2018. This is Möller's first feature; in 2015 he made a 28-min. short film about a woman seeking to leave a closed psychiatric ward.

    ND/NF showtimes:
    Friday, March 30, 6:00pm [MoMA]
    Saturday, March 31, 6:30pm [FSLC]]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-24-2019 at 12:33 PM.

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    AZOUGUE NAZARE (Tiago Melo 2017)



    A drama of popular clashes between Christian and more primitive satanic rituals in Brazil is colorful but a bit rough

    Reviewed at Rotterdam in Hollywood Reporter by Neil Young, who explains the basics - how Azougue Nazare shows cultures clashing "with a reverberant clang" in this "promisingy energetic" - emphasis on "promisingly" - first feature. Specifically the conflict is between annual spectacles of a primitive tribal nature and the local Pernambuco (in NW Brazil) strain of evangelical Christianity.

    The special element is Maracatu, a local tradition of an elaborately costumed celebration like the Mardi Gras Carnival, and based on roots in Brazil's time of slavery. The trouble is Tiago Melo wrangles his authentic local performers and musicians with unequal skill, and fails to develop the Christian evangelical side as clearly, or integrate his various subplots, which include a pretty young woman who wants to leave her locksmith husband, and a major performer in Maracatu, a big fat black man (Valmir do Coco), whose wife wants to have a baby by her elderly evangelical minister because a dream has told her so.

    It's nice ironic twist, if filmmaker TIago Melo were as good as telling a story as Marcel Camus of the classic 1959 film Black Orpheus. But then, Camus had beautiful local stars (the Orpheus was a champion footballer) and a Greek myth. Even Carlos Diegues' updated 1999 local version of Camus's film, Orpheu, though beautiful, could not quite capture the earlier film's magic. Nothing in Azougue Nazare develops that kind of emotional power; only two peripheral actors are attractive, and there is no clear and unified central story. Neil Young acknowledges some of the cast of Melo's movie "are not the most gifted of thespians," but neither is Melo the most gifted of writer-editors. This is colorful indeed, but all pretty rough.

    Azougue Nazarre, 80 mins., debuted at Rotterdam, where it won the Bright Future prize. It was screened for this review as part of the Mar. 28-Apr. 8, 2018 Museum of Modern Art-Film Society of Lincoln Center joint series, New Directors/New Films.

    ND/NF showtimes:
    Friday, March 30, 6:30pm [FSLC]
    Saturday, March 31, 7:30pm [MoMA]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-13-2018 at 09:14 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area




    Fitting in and standing out in the Maghreb

    The Maghreb countries, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, have been so deeply influenced by outside cultures that their inhabitants suffer sometimes from split personalities. The title of Karim Moussaoui's debut feature even has a, to us, secret Arabic title. While its French and English names refer poetically to birds, the Arabic more prosaic one is "طبيعة الحال" (ṭabi'at al-ḥāl) or "The Nature of the Situation."

    The film is also split into three unrelated segments, which shift back and forth between European influence and local in style and content. The first one shows a property developer whose spacious apartment, shared with his wife, would be elegant and sophisticated in Paris. Their conversations shift back and forth between French and Algerian Arabic in every sentence. When he speaks to his somewhat lazy son to urge him not to give up pursuing medicine, they speak mostly in Arabic. When he speaks later with his stylish daughter who has studied in France and vows to go back there ("It's too complicated here"), they speak only in French, with not a word of Arabic.

    When the developer gets caught on a diversion road, he witnesses the violent beating of a man, about which he can do nothing. His alienation from it is shown by the fact that he never even reports it to the police after his flat tire has been fixed and he has come home. Along that deserted road are rows and rows of empty new buildings evidently never completed like many one can see in Cairo since the time of Sadat.

    The second segment, with its attractive, alienated couple, might evoke Antonioni. They wind up on a long drive cross country, and are ex lovers. She is now promised to another, but they drift back together. They go to a big empty nightclub where she persuades musicians to play and reveals herself to be an excellent belly dancer. He reluctantly joins in. Later they encounter a lively group of musicians (Raďna Raď) whose playing might suggest the folklore-rock blend of the famous Moroccan group, Nass El Ghiwan.

    The final segment brings up old ugly memories when a well-respected doctor is accused by a woman living in a shanty town of complicity in her mass rape during the revolution. And her son, too metaphorically for words, is a mute boy who cannot bear to be touched and speaks only in high-pitched, plaintive cries. This will haunt the doctor. But this episode too is invaded by lively local music, this time when the doctor is involved in a wedding. Instead of the spacious French-style apartment of the property developer, or the wide spaces of the car trip, the screen is filled with the oppressive, cacophonous celebration of a typical folkloric Magrebi wedding, and we can't say if the big doctor's jaunty dancing and forced smile convince anyone.

    How does all this fit together? It doesn't. But while there is a kind of sympathetic fallacy in making work that exhibits the flaws one's trying to describe, the filmmaker shows skill as a storyteller and creator of mood.

    Reviewed in Hollywood Reporter at Cannes by Jordan Mintzer ("An intriguingly crafted look at contemporary Algeria"), who described the film as bringing together the country's "troubles both past and present" by exploring " the damaged emotional landscape of his homeland." Cannes critics compared Moussaoui's style to Abbas Kiarostami and Leos Carax.

    "Separated into three stories that are less connected than they are complementary," Mintzer writes, "the film features various characters from different backgrounds searching for a form of attachment in a country left divided by years of sectarian conflict — most notably the civil war that engulfed Algeria throughout the 1990s. While some parts are stronger than others, through its twists and turns Bird gradually builds into a tender portrait of a place, and a people, looking for ways to come together. A premiere in Cannes' Un Certain Regard sidebar should help push it into foreign festivals and markets," Mintzer concluded.

    Until the Birds Return/En attendant les hirondelles, Arabic title "طبيعة الحال" (ṭabi'at al-ḥāl) or "The Nature of the Situation," 113 mins., debuted in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, May 2017; six other international festivals and four countries theatrical release. French release 8 Nov. 2017; AlloCiné press rating a very positive 3.8 with high praise from Libération, Cahiers, and Le Monde. This is another film the Anglophone critics didn't get: Metascore an insulting 57%. Screened for this review as part of the MoMA/FSLC 2018 New Directors/New Films. A KimStim release

    Friday, March 30, 8:30pm [MoMA]
    Saturday, March 31, 3:30pm [FSLC]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-26-2020 at 07:09 PM.


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