A modern fairytale with deep political messages, Self Made demands that the viewer suspend critical analysis and tag along for the ride.
Michal (Sarah Adler) is abruptly woken by her bed suddenly collapsing. She bumps her head, can’t remember who she is or how to work her coffee machine and things only get more complicated from there.
Nadine, (Samira Saraya), is a young, Arab women whose factory job is to prepare and pack the screws for flat-pack furniture.
Michal spends the entire story in a blank haze while Nadine tries to work out what she wants out of life.
How the lives of these two disparate women connect and intersect is both amusing and bizarre.
While the story is propelled at a brisk pace, little that occurs is exactly what it seems. There are plenty of coincidences and scenes that are not logical but which are funny.
Worth viewing precisely because of its strange exploration of identity and politics, it makes for an interesting ride.
As an aside, it is somewhat ironic that while a pro-Palestinian anti-Israel demonstration was occurring outside the cinema as this film opened the AICE Israeli Film Festival, the audience was inside viewing an Israeli film that is sympathetic to Palestinians.
91min, Israel 20124
Hebrew, Arabic, French with English subtitles
Starring Sarah Adler, Samira Saraya
Director and Writer Shira Geffen
www.aiceisraelifilmfestival.com for more information
Chelli (Liron Ben-Shlush), an attractive young woman, is a school security guard in Haifa.
She lives with and cares for her younger sister Gabby (Dana Ivgy) who is severely intellectually handicapped. Gabby can be violent, both to herself and to her sister. Chelli keeps the outside world at bay and has created a bubble for the two women to live in.
While Chelli loves Gabby she is sorely tried by the demands of caring for her and everyday living can be harrowing. In spite of this, Chelli refuses to put her sister into care and avoids dealing with their social worker. The two live quietly with little outside interaction but when Chelli meets a likeable substitute gym teacher Zohar (Yaakov Daniel), she allows him into their lives.
Chelli reluctantly puts Gabby into partial day care and Gabby appears to like it. The story is about effects that these changes make to their lives. Zohar, a good- hearted man, takes the brave step to choose to live in their closeted world. When circumstances change, Chelli has no compunction in jettisoning her burgeoning relationship.
The performances of the three characters are strong and real. It is hard to credit that Ivgy is acting because she is completely believable as Gabby but never overdoes her performance. It is an unflinching and uncompromising look at the difficulties people face when an intellectually handicapped family member becomes an adult with adult needs and desires.
The scene in the last few minutes when Chelli realises the enormity of her actions is heartbreaking and powerful. She conveys everything she is feeling without words.
90mins Israel 2014 Hebrew with English subtitles
Starring Liron Ben-Shlush, Dana Ivgy, Yaakov Daniel
Directed by Asaf Korman
Next to Her features in 20th AICE Israeli Film Festival
Grim and gritty does work well in the North of England.
Scrappy fields and a landscape strangled with power lines is the setting for this first full-length feature from Clio Barnard, who both wrote and directed. Set on a Bradford, Yorkshire, housing estate, life is hard and its inhabitants poor.
Arbor, (Connor Chapman) is a small and volatile 13-year-old with ADHD (hyperactivity disorder) who takes Ritalin pills – if his elder brother hasn’t sold them first. His friend, Swifty (Shaun Thomas), has a more gentle soul and a way with horses. Expelled from school, the boys start “scrapping”, finding scrap to be stripped down for local metal dealer Kitten (Sean Gilder).
Kitten has a trotting horse, Diesel, which he trains for amateur (and illegal) road races.
The boys hire a horse and cart from Kitten to collect discarded household items to sell to him for cash. They quickly learn that stealing industrial cables and stripping them for their copper is more lucrative – if very dangerous.
The dynamic of the boys’ relationship changes with dire consequences after Kitten gives Diesel to Swifty to train, making Arbor jealous.
Adult males are mean and tough, particularly Kitten, and there is little humour. Swifty is one of seven children and the scene where his father sells the family’s leather couch – bought on hire purchase – is amusing but painful.
The narrative is unsettling and, ultimately, tragic. Performances are uniformly excellent and the characters well drawn. Regional authenticity is important but the use of subtitles (as in some of Ken Loach’s films with which it has been compared) would make the film more accessible to an Australian audience. Though raised in England’s north, I still found chunks of dialogue impenetrable.
The relevance of Oscar Wilde’ fable of The Selfish Giant, who learns the meaning of love only to lose the child he liked best, is a bit obscure. Kitten makes an unlikely giant but there is sacrifice and a note of grace at the end. Not one for the children.
3 out of 5 In cinemas July 31, 2014
Rated MA15 (strong coarse language) Running time: 91mins
Starring Conner Chapman, Sean Gilder and Siobahn Finneran
Written and directed by Clio Barnard
Director of Photography Mike Eley
Funerals are meant for the living. Still Life opens intriguingly with the same solitary figure at a series of burial services.
John May (Eddie Marsan) has worked at his local South London council for 22 years. Calm and methodical, he spends his days tracing the next of kin of local residents who have died alone and often had not been found for weeks.
He painstakingly tracks down their estranged families only to find they usually don’t want to be involved. But on John May’s watch, the unclaimed dead get a decent send-off at council expense, and he is there to ensure things are properly done.
John lives alone and leads a solitary and orderly life. When he closes a case, he puts photographs of the departed in his own album. It is yet another way he shows respect for his charges. It may sound morbid but it’s not.
Even when John learns he’s to be made redundant, he still insists on closing his last case, that of a Billy Stoke. John travels far and wide talking to Billy’s family and friends and finally tracks down Billy’s daughter, Kelly (Joanne Frogatt), and they make a connection. When Kelly eventually agrees to come to London for her father’s funeral, John’s mood lifts even though he will soon be out of a job.
A quirky and charming story despite its subject matter, there is some gentle humour and a scene where John drinks whiskey with two of Billy’s homeless pals is both funny and unexpected.
For his second feature Uberto Pasolini, has written and directed a tale inspired by real people and events, and his unassuming public servant with a big heart rings true. Marsan is wonderful in the role and makes us want John to have a warmer life with more people in it, preferably living.
To watch his face crumple slightly during a phone call is a lesson in acting minimalism.
With an upbeat if ironic ending, the subject matter is thought-provoking. How many people have died alone and unmourned in your neighbourhood?
3.5 out of 5
Starring Eddie Marsan and Joanne Frogatt
Length 92 mins Rated M
Written and Directed by Uberto Pasolini
In cinemas 24 July 2014
Venus in Fur – a play within a play. Based on David Ives’ Tony Award winning play “Venus in Fur”, this two hander directed by Roman Polanksi opens innocuously enough in a small rundown theatre in Paris.
Thomas (Mathieu Amalric), is casting an actress to play Vanda in his adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s semi-autobiographical 1870 novella, Venus In Fur.
Unsuccessful auditions have left him frustrated and about to leave the empty theatre when who should burst in on him but Vanda – yes an actress with the same name as the character in the play. Crude and vulgar, Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) is the antithesis of what he seeks and he tries to get rid of her. But Vanda is determined and wheedles her way into an audition and grabs his attention from her first line.
They start to read the play together. As Thomas is sucked in, so is the audience. Reality and fantasy blur as they work through the play’s theme of sexual domination and submission.
To spell out the entire plot would be a spoiler. Like many small, local theatrical productions, a magical, and ultimately claustrophobic, world is created with a few props and a simple stage. Shot with one camera, in a single sequence, the mood is intimate.
Both funny and dark, intense and erotic, boundaries dissolve amid themes of sadomasochism and sexual enslavement. The excellent scores underline the screenplay – written by both Ives and Polanski.
Seigneur is stunning as she morphs from trashy to demur to vamp within a few breaths. It is the role of a lifetime and the direction ensures she makes the most of it. Thomas is the perfect foil for her machinations and we become embroiled in them as he does.
Many moviegoers will have different takes on the references to previous Polanski films along with Amalric looking cannily like a young Polanski. Interviews with Seigneur make much of the fact that she is married to Polanksi. However the director has crafted a film that makes the most of all the talent involved.
It is probably not for everyone but it is brilliantly done.
Rating MA15+ (strong language and sexual references) 96mins
Opens July 17
Language: French with English subtitles
Starring Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric
Directed by Roman Polanksi
Screenplay by David Ives and Roman Polanksi
|Music by Alexandre DesplaPhotography by Pawel Edelman
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