All is true

We are told at the start of All is true that during the first run of William Shakespeare’s Henry VIII in 1613, a special effect cannon caused a fire that destroyed the Globe theatre. Henry VIII was Shakespeare’s last play, we are told. All is true was Henry VIII‘s alternative title. Shakespeare (Branagh) retires to his house in Stratford-upon-Avon with his wife, Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench). During his long career as a playwright/actor, he ignored his family. Anne is a few years older than him. At 84, Judi Dench is a very old 57 years old woman. Judith (Kathryn Wilder), his unmarried, sharp-tongued daughter, is bitter about her father’s absence. She is still mourning the death of Hamnet, her twin brother, who died at 10 years of age. Shakespeare is sometimes visited by the ghost of his dead son. It’s a clever reversal of Hamlet, here the ghost of the son appears to the father. Susanna (Lydia Wilson), his older daughter is married to Puritan John Hall. Oh, and she may be having a scandalous affair with another man. All Shakespeare really wants is peaceful life and to work on a garden honoring Hamnet. With the coming of the Earl of Southampton (a lively but too short appearance by Ian McKellen), Anne has to question her husband. Is it true that Shakespeare and the Earl were lovers? Some of Shakespeare’s sonnets are about his love of another man. There are excellent production values (set, costumes, cinematographer) and great acting, in particular from McKellen and Wilder. All is true suffers from a lack of excitement and a slowness in the early scenes. But it later recovers to give us a touching film about the last years of a brilliant writer. I’m not sure if “all is true”, but does it really matter. Your choice.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Plays at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema from June 21 – 28
https://www.bytowne.ca/movie/all-is-true

All is true

Directed by:
Kenneth Branagh

Screenplay by:
Ben Elton

Starring:
Kenneth Branagh
Judi Dench
Ian McKellen
Lydia Wilson
Kathryn Wilder
Jimmy Yuill

101 min.

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Diamantino

Two friends are coming out of the cinema and may have that conversation. “Did you like ir?” “Oh! I loved it! I did not understand a thing, but I looooooved it!” Well, Diamantino is that type of film. You will probably like it if you are a soccer fan, but even then you may wonder “What the heck!!!”. Diamantino Matamouros (Carloto Cotta) is the star soccer player for the Portuguese team. The handsome Diamantino is an innocent soul (a polite way to say that he’s dumb) who imagines giant puppies with him on the field during the World Cup match. But during one of the matches something goes wrong and Diamantino is humiliated and disgraced on international TV. That night his father dies. Actually he is killed by Diamantino’s twin sisters, Sonia and Natasha (Anabela and Margarida Moreira). Diamantino is being investigated for money laundering by police officer Aisha Brito (Cleo Tavares) and her lover Lucia (Vargas Maria Leite). Diamantino wants to adopt a refugee boy. The lesbian cops take the opportunity. Aisha dresses as a boy and Lucia as a very conventional nun. Once Aisha is inside the house, as Diamantino’s son, she soon realizes that Diamantino has nothing to do with the money laundering. It’s the twin sisters who have been transferring money from their brother’s bank accounts into offshore tax havens. And the sisters also have signed a very lucrative contract with government Minister Ferro (Joana Barrios). Under the guise of tests, Diamantino is to be cloned. He realizes something is wrong only when he starts to grow female breasts. Beside tax havens and refugees, other political issues are thrown in the mix like the movement to leave the European Union and the importance of the soccer cup. It’s a mess. The acting is amateurish. But what isn’t amateurish in this film? Hey, but the critics love it. They do not understand a thing, but they loooooove it! Stupid!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Diamantino

 

Directed by:
Gabriel Abrantes
Daniel Schmidt

Screenplay by:
Gabriel Abrantes
Daniel Schmidt

Starring:
Carloto Cotta
Cleo Tavares
Anabela Moreira
Margarida Moreira
Carla Maciel
Vargas Maria Leite
Joana Barrios
Carla Maciel

96 min.

In Portuguese with English subtitles.

The white crow

The white crow is a Rudolf Nureyev biopic chronicling the time the Russian dancer defected at a Paris airport. The year is 1961 and 23 years old Nureyev (Ukrainian dancer Oleg Ivenko) is touring Europe with a ballet troupe from Russia. But the dancers are given very little liberties, like being allowed to mingle with foreigners. Nureyev visits French museums, like Le Louvre, to soak up inspirations from the great sculptures and paintings. But every time he goes out, he has to be followed by KGB guards. He makes friends with a young woman called Clara Saint (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who shows him around and even go to a gay bar. He has an affair with Xenia Jurgenson (Chulpan Khamatova) the wife of his ballet instructor, Alexander Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes). But it is clear that Nureyev is interested by men. But what irks Nureyev the most, and probably a good reason for his defection, is that he feels under appreciated. Everywhere they go he is the star of the ballet company. But receiving universal acclaims doesn’t assure you better treatments from the company directors or the KGB agents. And it does not mean better contracts with more money. He was suppose to do it all for mother Russia. But he refuses to conform. At the end of The white crow, Rudolf Nureyev is at the Paris airport and he feels his life may be in danger. Yes, this scene is tense, but it is subtle and extremely well made and acted. But it’s true for the whole film. From the scenes in Le Louvre to childhood flashbacks, The white crow is a class act. Thanks to Fiennes, who does his best directorial work and David Hare’s excellent script. But the film is carried by Oleg Ivenko. I’ll let others who can better compare Ivenko’s dancing with Nureyev’s. (To my untrained eyes his dancing is beautiful to watch) Ivenko’s acting is more than competent. It’s not always true that dancers can be good actors, but Ralph Fiennes has made the good casting choice. A must see.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The white crow

 

Directed by:
Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay by:
David Hare
Inspired by the book Rudolf Nureyev: The life by Julie Kavanagh

Starring:
Oleg Ivanko
Adèle Exarchopoulos
Chulpan Khamatova
Ralph Fiennes
Raphaël Personnaz
Alexey Morozov
Louis Hofmann

127 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In Russian, French and English with English subtitles.

Rafiki (Friend)

Simpy the fact that Rafiki was made at all is a small miracle. The Kenyan film is a lesbian teen romance that can boast to be the first film from Kenya to be selected for Cannes. The film would eventually get banned in Kenya for promoting lesbianism and because the ending was deemed “too hopeful and positive”. Rafiki is a charming film. It stars Samantha Mugatsia stars as Kena, a tomboyish girl from Nairobi who finds herself attracted to Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) the minute she sets her eyes on her. Ziki, who also seems to be enamoured with Kena, is beautiful and she has colorful braids in her hair. Of course, we know that there’s trouble ahead if it is known that the two young ladies are pursuing each other. Kena’s mom is deeply religious, and both of the girl’s fathers are rival opponents in the local elections. Mama Atim (Muthoni Gathecha), the neighborhood’s gossip is a righteous woman who throws moral judgement on everyone that crosses her path. When Kena and Ziki are found kissing, the reaction is violent. But Kena resists. She’s in love with Ziki. It was Mugatsia’s first film and she is excellent in this difficult leading part. Rafiki is such a surprising film coming from Kenya. Bravo to director Wanuri Kahiu for her courage and for bringing us this important film.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Rafiki (Friend)

 

Directed by:
Wanuri Kahiu

Screenplay by:
Wanuri Kahiu
Jena Cato Bass
Inspired by the short story Jambula tree by Monica Arac de Nyeko

Starring:
Samantha Mugatsia
Sheila Munyiva

82 min.

Rated 14A

In English and Swahili with English subtitles.

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

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

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

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.

Studio 54

Ah, the good old days of disco and New York’s Studio 54. Co-founders Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell bought and renovated an old CBS studio (called then Studio 52) on 54th Street. Studio 54 opened in April 1977 and was an instant success. Why? This was a place where gay people felt safe to be themselves. Gays, lesbians, drag queens, cross dressers, anything goes. And you could not get admitted unless you were famous. We see a lot of photos with Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Truman Capote, and even Margaret Trudeau. It was THE place to be. The documentary is interested as much with the lives and friendship of the owners than with the Studio. Schrager met Rubell in college and they became lifelong friends. The fact that Rubell was gay was not a problem with Schrager, and it gave them an idea for a new concept for a disco club: diversity. But there was also drugs and liquor sold without a licence. Schrager and Rubell were investigated by the IRS, they pleaded guilty to tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison. The life of Studio 54 was short. In February 1980 it was over. And soon it would be over for disco too. Later Schrager and Rubell had other business opportunities. And then Steve Rubell died of AIDS in 1989. Ian Schrager still remembers his good friend. Ah, those good old days of disco.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Studio 54

 

Directed by:
Matt Tyrnauer

99 min.

Rated 14A

The cakemaker (האופה מברלין)

The cakemaker starts with a seduction scene between German pastry chef Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) and one of his client at the Berlin café where Thomas works. The client is Oren (Roy Miller), an Israeli businessman. The seduction happens in front of a big slice of Black Forest cake. Few words are softly spoken, a few furtive glances. We don’t need more, we get it, they’ll have sex. That minimalist approach is present throughout the film. It’s a delicate film, accompanied by a delicate score for solo piano by Dominique Charpentier. Although he has a wife and a young son in Jerusalem, Oren comes back to be with Thomas every time he visits Berlin. And when he goes back to his family, Oren brings some cookies or cake to them. Then on one of his trip back, Oren is accidentally killed. naturally Thomas is devastated by the news, but he makes the crazy decision to travel to Jerusalem, and visits the café run by Oren’s widow, Anat (Sarah Adler). First he gets to know Anat, then she hires him as a waiter/barista. One thing leading to another, he then starts baking for the café, and they fall in love and have sex. She still doesn’t know that Thomas was her late husband’s gay lover. If Moti (Zohar Strauss), her Orthodox brother-in-law, voices his disapproval of this German baker, it’s because the café may lose the kosher certification. One thing is clear, when Anat finds out, the cookie dough is gonna hit the fan. This is a most assured debut feature from writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer, who knows a thing or two about restraint and knows exactly what pace he should to give every scenes. The three leading actors are emotionally invested into those characters and their stories. Tim Kalkhof is particularly effective and has to play with very little dialogue. Male sexual fluidity is a new phenomenon in cinema. Films like the artistically acclaimed Call me by your name and others, are an interesting fresh look at the lives of LGBTQ people. A really lovely film.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The cakemaker (האופה מברלין)

 

Directed by:
Ofir Raul Graizer

Screenplay by:
Ofir Raul Graizer

Starring:
Tim Kalkhof
Sarah Adler
Zohar Strauss
Roy Miller

104 min.

In English, Hebrew and German with English subtitles.

The happy prince

The happy prince is an Oscar Wilde biopic about the last years of his life. After spending a few years of hard labour in British prisons for homosexuality, Oscar Wilde goes to Paris where he can live without fear under the name of Sebastian Melmoth. Although Wilde (Rupert Everett) is physically weaker as a result of his time in prison where he had to endure a lot, he also retains a bloated ego. He is shown going to a French tavern, standing on tables to sing with great panache. And there’s the young male prostitute who seems to be in awe of him. At home in England, his wife, Constance (Emily Watson), won’t allow him to see his sons unless he stops seeing his lover young Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan). But in Paris Wilde can’t wait to be reunited with Bosie. He gets a lot of support from his ex-lover Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) or friends like Reggie Turner (Colin Firth). This great cast also includes Tom Wilkinson in a small if-you-blink-you’ll-miss-it cameo. As Oscar Wilde becomes weaker he starts having weird visions. In one stunning moment, a stoic Queen Victoria is staring at Wilde on his deathbed. Except for a few flashback snippets, most of the film shows Wilde at the end of life. On top of playing Rupert Everett playing Oscar Wilde, he also wrote the screenplay and directed the film. The film is all over the place and needed a bit more focus, but it’s excusable as Wilde had a big over the top persona. And Everett plays a complex, multifaceted character. One moment joyous, then depressed and depressing, jumping on tables to quietly singing a love song to some boy (it’s surely Bosie) or later self-pitying. The production values are excellent. What’s not to like?

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The happy prince

 

Directed by:
Rupert Everett

Screenplay by:
Rupert Everett

Starring:
Rupert Everett
Edwin Thomas
Colin Morgan
Colin Firth
Benjamin Voisin
Emily Watson
Tom Wilkinson
Béatrice Dalle
Anna Chancellor

105 min.