Pupille (In safe hands)

Pupille is a clinical look at French adoption. It starts with a mother, Clara (Leila Muse) a young student, about to give birth, telling the hospital staff that she wants to give the baby up to be adopted. While nurses are hovering around mother and child (It’s a boy, named Théo until his adoptive family can choose a name), social worker Mathilde (Clothilde Mollet, my favorite among the cast) is charged with making sure that the transfer from the mother to social services are done properly, with respect, for the child and for the mother. The language and the gestures are precise. A marvelous company of players makes the dialogue snappy and alive, despite the clinical aspect of the film. Of course, it helps that each character has some little amusing traits. Take social worker Lydia (Olivia Cote), who is looking for a family for Théo, she likes to have babies, but wants to hide the pregnancies when she is meeting families. Karine (Sandrine Kiberlain) has plenty of candies at her desk and likes to chew gum. Karine’s friend, Jean (Gilles Lellouche) is a social worker who is going to lovingly care for Théo while they are waiting for adoption. Jean makes sure that the baby feels the love and security that is owed to every child. And then there is supervisor Irène, who will soon retire, movingly played by great French actress Miou-Miou (director Henry’s mother). Théo will be adopted by single mother Alice (Élodie Bouchez). It’s a most expressive performance from Bouchez, who let us know by every detailed gestures Alice’s fears, the joys, the deception and the hopes. Pupille paints a rosy picture of French adoptions. But it is still an impressive, heartfelt and moving film. As for Théo, he is actually played by 15 babies who play the star (as he is really the star of the film) from birth to three months old. He’s soooo cute.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Plays at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema from April 18 – 24
https://www.bytowne.ca/movie/pupille

Pupille (In safe hands)

Directed by:
Jeanne Herry

Screenplay by:
Jeanne Herry

Starring:
Sandrine Kiberlain
Gilles Lellouche
Élodie Bouchez
Olivia Côté
Clothilde Mollet
Leila Muse
Miou-Miou

107 min.

In French with English subtitles.

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The Quietude (La Quietud)

La Quietud is the ranch where counsellor Augusto Montemayor (Isidoro Tolcachir), his wife, Esmeralda (Graciela Borges) are living. Their daughter, Mía (Martina Gusmán) is also living with them. When Augusto has a stroke, the oldest daughter, Euge (short for Eugenia), flies in from Paris to be near him. Gusmán and Bérénice Bejo, who plays Euge, are so much alike that they could be twins. When Euge arrives, the first thing they do is jump in bed together in their panties and masturbate while they fantasize about men. This almost incestuous lesbian relationship is sure to be titillating for some in the audience. For others it will be disturbing. But there’s more. When Euge’s husband Vincent (Edgar Ramîrez) arrives, we find out that he is Mia’s lover. Things gets more complicated when Euge announces that she is pregnant. It’s complicated because she may not know who is the father, her husband Vincent or her lover Esteban (Joaquin Furriel). All this is happening while Augusto is lying in a comatose state in the living room, and mother Esmeralda acts like a diva. Graciela Borges may be the only reason to see this overblown, dysfunctional family soap opera. Yes, Borges deliciously overplay, and it is so much fun. Otherwise, bof!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Plays at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema from April 18 – 25
https://www.bytowne.ca/movie/the-quietude

The Quietude (La Quietud)

Directed by:
Pablo Trapero

Screenplay by:
Alberto Rojas Apel
Pablo Trapero

Starring:
Martina Gusmán
Bérénice Bejo
Graciela Borges
Édgar Ramirez
Isidoro Tolcachir
Joaquín Furriel

120 min.

Rated 18A

In Spanish with English subtitles

Edge of the knife (SGaawaay K’uuna)

Edge of the knife is about a classic Haida tale set in a 19th-century Haida Gwaii First Nations community. Haida Gwaii is an archipelago approximately 45–60 km off the northern Pacific coast of Canada. The Haida language spoken in the film is considered an endangered language. Today there is only 14 speakers. The tale concerns two friends: Adiits’ii (Tyler York) and Kwa (William Russ). When Adiits’ii has left their island to go fishing with Kwa’s son, Kwa is worried, but his wife (Adeana Younga) reassure him that their son is safe. But later they find their son lying dead on the shore. They suppose that Adiits’ii has drowned. But Adiits’ii is hiding in the surrounding forest, tormented by sorrow and guilt. He suffers a series of incidents that injures his body and his face. From the handsome young man he was, he has become a hideous figure descending into madness. What the Haida people call Gaagiixiid. A wildman. It will be up to his friends, when they find him to perform a ceremony to chase the madness away. This is such a peculiar project as a film that it may scare away some filmgoers. But its peculiarity is also its best assets. This is the first film in Haida language, and I don’t think we are going to see another one. It is good direction from Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown, who maintain the intensity and the harshness throughout. There is a wild beauty to this compelling  film. To see.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Edge of the knife (SGaawaay K’uuna)

 

Directed by:
Gwaai Edenshaw
Helen Haig-Brown

Screenplay by:
Gwaai Edenshaw
Helen Haig-Brown

Starring:
Tyler York
William Russ
Adeana Younga

99 min.

Rated Parental Guidance.

In Haida dialects with English subtitles.

Giant little ones

Teenage years can be terribly confusing. Franky Winter (Josh Wiggins) doesn’t seem very different from any other boy his age. Franky and Ballas Kohl (Darren Mann), his best friend, are part in the swimming team. At home things are rocky. Franky’s dad, Ray (Kyle MacLachlan), divorced Franky’s mom (Maria Bello) to go live with another man, and Franky refuses to talk to his father. Things get more complicated when, after Franky’s birthday party, Franky and Ballas start having sex with each other. Of course they first blame it on the booze (but they were not THAT drunk). The next day at school, Ballas starts a rumor that Franky initiated the sex. That’s not what Franky remembers. Now everyone at school thinks Franky is gay. His girlfriend dumps him, he gets bullied by other kids, and now he is constantly fighting with Ballas. Then Franky starts having a relationship with Ballas’ sister, Natasha (Taylor Hickson), who has been labelled a “slut” by everyone at school.But Franky soon realize that something really happened with Ballas for a reason, and that he may want and need to talk with his father. Giant little ones is an excellent little gem of a film. Credits should go to writer/director Behrman who cleverly holds back over dramatizing effects or revealing too much. There are very good performances, especially from Josh Wiggins and Kyle MacLachlan, who gives here one of his most accomplished performance. Giant little ones is a rare look at male sexual fluidity. Great!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Giant little ones

 

Directed by:
Keith Behrman

Screenplay by:
Keith Behrman

Starring:
Josh Wiggins
Taylor Hickson
Darren Mann
Maria Bello
Kyle MacLachlan
Peter Outerbridge

93 min.

Rated 14A

Woman at war (Kona fer í stríð)

Woman at war‘s main character is a woman in her late forties who leads a seemingly ordinary life. Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) is a choir conductor and an occasional Tai Chi practitioner. Halla has posters of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi on the walls of her apartment. But actually Halla is an eco-terrorist who sabotages power lines in order to disrupt the operations of an aluminium plant. You should see her deftly using a bow and arrow to short-circuit power lines or a small electric saw to cut through metal wires. One day Halla gets a visit from her twin sister Ása (also played by Geirharðsdóttir) who announces that the adoption application Halla made years ago has been approved. But the authorities have increased the security with helicopters and drones. Woman at war is so much fun. There is Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir’s tongue in cheek performance. She plays both sisters with brilliance, emotionally as well as physically. But it’s the score and what director Erlingsson has done with it that gives the film its originality. Composer Davíð Þór Jónsson has used only a keybordist/accordeon player (himself), a drummer, a sousaphone player (FYI: It looks and sounds a lot like a tuba) and an Ukrainian vocal trio. What so special is that they all appear on the set every time there is music and at times, they are a commentary on the action or give a cue to the actress. Every time it’s a joyful WTF moment. It’s a wink to tell us that this is to be taken too seriously. Quirky and fun!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Woman at war (Kona fer í stríð)

 

Directed by:
Benedikt Erlingsson

Screenplay by:
Benedikt Erlingsson
Ólafur Egill Egilsson

Starring:
Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir
Davíð Þór Jónsson
Magnús Trygvason Eliasen
Ómar Guðjónsson

100 min.

In Icelandic, Spanish and Ukrainian and English with English subtitles.

Climax

Gaspar Noé’s latest mess of a film takes place in the mid 90s with a bunch of young dancers (both straight and gay) finishing off three days of rehearsals. The dancing is extraordinary, and that is the only positive thing I can say about Climax. Then they start drinking and partying. When the guys talk about the girls, it’s about violently raping them. It’s terribly disturbing. But it gets worse. The party proceeds with someone claiming that, true or not, the punch was laced with LSD. The hysteria is overtaking everyone, with accusations suggesting it was one of the girls. She is so deranged that she mutilates herself. This is all filmed in a long camera movement that lasts over an hour. It goes from room to room with increasingly crazy behavior and loud, distorted music blasting throughout the whole film. Dialogue is irrelevant (and inaudible). And so are the characters. We don’t know them, don’t want to know them and don’t care. It all culminates (climaxes?) with the camera upside down and we can’t figure out who’s doing whatever they are doing. Unbearable! I get that Noé wanted to visually let us experience how crazy people became, but did he have to drive the audience crazy too? Yes he has, because it’s Gaspar Noé. It’s enough to run out of the cinema screaming. If Noé has really nothing interesting to say, maybe it’s time for him to shut up.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Climax

 

Directed by:
Gaspar Noé

Screenplay by:
Gaspar Noé

Starring:
Sofia Boutella
Roman Guillermic
Soheila Yacoub
Kiddy Smile
Claude Gajan Maull
Giselle Palmer

96 min.

Rated Restricted

In French with English subtitles and some English.

Arctic

In Arctic Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen delivers a larger than life performance. He plays Overgård, a pilot who has crashed his plane somewhere in the Arctic. It’s very cold. He survives by ice fishing and lives in the ruins of the broken down plane. One day during a snowstorm, Overgård think he is saved when he sees a rescue helicopter. The helicopter tries to land, but the wind is too strong and it crashes to the ground. Once Overgård overcomes the shock and disappointment, he runs to check the damage. One of the two pilots has survived, but the young woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) has a deep infected wound on her abdomen. Overgård brings her to the plane and tries to nurse her back, but soon it is clear she needs medical help. So he decides to leave and carry her on a toboggan to a building he saw on a map he found in the helicopter. He thinks that it will only take two days, but the map is inaccurate and it may take five days or more. There are many dangers, including an attack from a scary polar bear. Mikkelsen has said that this was the most difficult shoot of his career. He is really the only actor in the film. The young actress, as good as she may be, doesn’t have much to do. So Mikkelsen literally and figuratively carries the film on his shoulders. He is compelling and hard to watch at once. Directing his first feature film, Joe Penna keeps it simple and delivers a tense, edge-of-your-seat survival film. Cinematographer Tómas Örn Tómasson shows the Icelandic landscape with all its spectacular beauty and its ominous dangers. To see.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Arctic

 

Directed by:
Joe Penna

Screenplay by:
Joe Penna
Ryan Morrison

Starring:
Mads Mikkelsen
Maria Thelma Smáradóttir

99 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

The world before your feet

Meet Matt Green. Eight years ago he started a project to walk all the streets of New York. But Matt goes everywhere. Parks, piers, beaches, cemeteries and highways. 8,000 miles. Director Jeremy Workman and his cameras follow Matt anywhere, in any weather. A few times there is snow or a blizzard. Matt speaks to people. Their questions are often about the same things. “How do you earn a living?” Matt was a civil engineer but he gave it up to walk. He first walked across America. He does not have an apartment. Sometimes he’s crashing on couches or most of all he’s cat-sitting. (The cats are so cute) The world before your feet offers film goers a broad view of the fascinating things Matt comes across while walking. He takes photos with his cell. A series of photos of the letter z on barber shops or hairdressers signs. Words like “cutz” or “barber shopz” and “hairdresserz”. Another series is of 9/11 monuments. Other photos are about flowers and fruits and vegetables growing in the most unusual places. Matt finds figs and a broccoli next to electricity poles. The film crew follows Matt to see a tree that is the oldest living thing in New York. Matt finds the location of New York’s slave market or the place where in 1916 Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. Matt tells us that the city closed it after 6 days. The film is beautifully shot, and Matt Green is a great person to meet. Walking with him is a joyful experience.

Matt’s blog… See the photos and articles about the things and historical sites he has visited.
https://imjustwalkin.com

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The world before your feet

 

Directed by:
Jeremy Workman

95 min.

Rated General

Le grand bain (Sink or swim)

Le grand bain is a film about an all-male team of middle-aged synchronized swimmers. Nothing new here. There are loads of films, in any languages, about a group of people, men and women, getting together to “chase off the blues”. The activities changes from film to film. It may be a choir, a dance troupe, any sports or bizarre activities. The full Monty is the best example of this genre. It starts when Bertrand (Mathieu Amalric), a depressed man who’s just lost his job, sees a poster seeking new members. Let’s not mince words here, they’re a bunch of losers. Among the men there’s Marcus (Benoit Poelvoorde), an almost bankrupt businessman; Laurent (Guillaume Canet) who always seems angry and can’t control his temper; Simon (Jean-Hugues Anglade), a sixtysomething rocker still hoping against hope that he’ll finally have a hit after 17 albums; Thierry (Philippe Katerine), who doesn’t seem to get the girl very often. There is a nice running gag about Avanish (Balasingham Thamilchelvan), a Shri Lankan who only speaks Tamil but everyone understands. Their coach is Delphine (Virginie Efira), an ex-swimmer who had a drinking problem. When Delphine’s love life collapses and she starts drinking again, the team is left without a coach. That’s where Amanda (Leïla Bekhti) comes in. We see her early in the film as the coach of the much more popular water polo team. Amanda is a paraplegic who takes over their training while Delphine is recovering and literally whips them into shape. You don’t mess around with Amanda who carries a stick and isn’t afraid to hit the swimmers when she feels they are not sufficiently motivated. Comes a time when the men feel confident enough to enter the World championships. This comedy/drama is no better than other similar films. Fact is I did not find it very funny, but it did not make the film any less interesting. Or any more. Among the actors I found Philippe Katerine to be the funniest of the swimmers. But Le grand bain belongs to the two coaches. Efira is the heart of the film. In a few subtle scenes, she make us understand all the drama inside her Delphine. Early in the film Leïla Bekhti seems to be a mere extra. It is so surprising then to see her not only take over but steal the film from everyone. Bekhti’s delivery is snappy, gutsy and so funny. When it’s time to compete at the championship, director Lellouche gets all the fireworks and the pyrotechnics he can gather. In these type of movies, the ending is often a let down. Here Lellouche does not disappoint.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Le grand bain (Sink or swim)

 

Directed by:
Gilles Lellouche

Screenplay by:
Ahmed Hamidi
Julie Lambroschini
Gilles Lellouche

Starring:
Mathieu Amalric
Jean-Hugues Anglade
Philippe Katerine
Guillaume Canet
Virginie Efira
Leïla Bekhti
Benoît Poelvoorde
Alban Ivanov
Balasingham Thamilchelvan
Félix Moati

122 min.

In French with English subtitles.

Cold war (Zimna wojna)

Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold war is dedicated to his parents. Although he has named his characters Zula and Wiktor, like his mother and father, the story differs a lot from the real Zula and Wiktor story. In 1949 Wiktor Warski (Tomasz Kot) is a musical director crossing Poland to record folk songs and auditioning young Polish singers and dancers to form a folkloric troupe. He falls in love with young Zula (Joanna Kulig), a lovely girl with a beautiful voice. The folkloric show featuring Zula’s voice is a big success, but soon they are told that they have to be more patriotic. So the troupe start singing military songs and perform in front of giant pictures of Stalin. Zula and Wiktor are both defiant and decide to defect. They have a plan to flee to Paris, but Wiktor waits for Zula, who never shows up. So he leaves alone. They keep meeting each other over the years, once in Yugoslavia where Zula’s troupe is touring. Later they get together again in Paris. Wiktor is then a jazz pianist and Zula plans to record French versions of her Polish folk songs. No matter where they meet, their love is still strong and passionate. Their story spans almost twenty years from the late forties to the mid-60’s. It is rocked by political changes and musical styles. Folkloric, classical, jazz and rock and roll. One amazing moment occurs later in the film when an intoxicated Zula (played by the talented Joanna Kulig) dances to (We’re gonna) Rock around the clock, the classic song by Bill Haley & his comets. She swirls, jumps on tables and on the bar. At this point Pawlikowski can’t do better. In perfect control of his film and in harmony with his actress, who in turn gives a towering performance. But I don’t think that Cold war would be as compelling without its soundtrack. It is a such variety of different styles. Polish folk songs, jazz, modern film music, classical, and others. It’s very enjoyable. And then there is the brilliant black and white cinematography from Łukasz Żal. Żal’s work in Cold war should be seen more than anything. Not to be missed.

And the winners are... Cold war lost all three awards to Alfonso Cuarón, who won as producer of Best foreign language film, Best director and acted as his own cinematographer for Roma.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Cold war (Zimna wojna)

 

Directed by:
Paweł Pawlikowski

Screenplay by:
Paweł Pawlikowski
Janusz Głowacki
Piotr Borkowski

Starring:
Joanna Kulig
Tomasz Kot
Borys Szyc
Agata Kulesza

88 min.

In Polish with some French, Russian, German, Italian and Croatian with English subtitles.