REVIEW: L’événement [Happening] [2021]

What do I label it? I’m not saying you can’t create a film as unflinchingly raw as Audrey Diwan‘s L’événement [Happening] without having a true-to-life source, but the starting line is surely closer when you do. Not only did Diwan and co-writer Marcia Romano have Annie Ernaux‘s memoir of what happened forty years prior to draw upon, they also had the author herself to talk with and glean additional context to ensure the authenticity of a twenty-three-year-old literature student discovering she’s pregnant weeks before her final exams in 1963. This…

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REVIEW: Vortex [2022]

Stop scaring me. The woman (Françoise Lebrun) at the center of Gaspar Noé‘s Vortex is steadily losing her battle with dementia. Her husband (Dario Argento) is a few years removed from a stroke and saddled with a bad heart that does him no favors when trying to keep a clear head as far as care goes. And neither wants to leave their home no matter how sensible doing so proves. She’s a psychiatrist whose lucidity has her believing everything is under control. He’s a film critic desperate to finish his…

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REVIEW: Les amours d’Anaïs [Anaïs in Love] [2021]

Everything is possible if you want it. There’s nothing discreet about thirty-year old Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier). We meet her as she’s running to greet her landlady. Anaïs is two months late on rent and her live-in boyfriend has moved out, yet she’s unafraid to let the woman graciously allowing her to stay despite no real evidence that she won’t have to throw her out in a week know this agreed upon conversation is cutting into a party for which she’s also late attending. Candid to a fault, this graduate student…

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REVIEW: Les Olympiades, Paris 13e Paris, 13th District] [2021]

No need to shout. The lighter side of writer/director Jacques Audiard—known for some pretty heavy dramas—comes out courtesy of graphic novelist Adrian Tomine’s modern romances. Audiard and his co-writers Léa Mysius and Céline Sciamma adapt three-to-four (I’ve seen competing numbers) of Tomine’s stories into a poignant and satisfying look through the private windows of Les Olympiades, Paris 13e [Paris, 13th District]. First there’s Émilie Wong (Lucie Zhang) and her new roommate Camille (Makita Samba). Then there’s Camille and his new real estate colleague Nora Ligier (Noémie Merlant). And, finally, there’s…

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REVIEW: Gagarine [2021]

We’re dying here. Being the first man to travel into space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s name became a global commodity. Even a housing project within a communist municipality outside of Paris took it as its moniker and invited the hero to come by and receive the cheers of the French people gathering outside on their balconies for a look. That was 1963, however. A complex possessing 370 apartments like Cité Gagarine was destined to take a beating once infrastructure and economics collided. Its disrepair cemented an eventual demolition by 2014; its…

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REVIEW: Un monde [Playground] [2021]

Don’t get involved. The camera never leaves young Nora (Maya Vanderbeque) throughout the entirety of Un monde [Playground]. Writer/director Laura Wandel needs us to follow her closely and understand the ups and downs of adolescence through eyes yet unversed in the unfortunate drama life has to offer. All this girl knows at the start is that she’s being left alone. Dad (Karim Leklou) isn’t allowed past the school gate, so his “goodbye” occurs well before the classroom door closes behind her. Older brother Abel (Günter Duret) has his own friends…

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REVIEW: Benedetta [2021]

We’re all entitled to a sin. Even as a child, Benedetta Carlini (Elena Plonka) believed herself protected by Jesus. As director Paul Verhoeven and co-writer David Birke portray it, her arrival to the convent in Pescia was one dripping in entitlement. She belonged there. It was her destiny. And we believe it because her conviction is immovable thanks to a steady stream of miracles occurring whenever anyone doubts her bond with God. Where did that confidence come from? Was this desire to be Jesus’ bride her own? Was it something…

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REVIEW: Titane [2021]

You think I can’t recognize my own son? It always fascinates me when you hear stories about audacious new films being “unlike anything you’ve ever seen” and “wild enough to cause audience members to faint in their seats” since the ones carrying those labels are often quite tame by comparison. That’s not to say Julia Ducournau‘s latest Titane isn’t without its tensely disturbing moments. Watching Agathe Rousselle slam her face down onto a bathroom sink to break her nose isn’t going to be for the faint of heart, but I…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Saloum [2021]

You’ll be sick to death of us by the end. The infamous “Hyenas”—three mercenaries running amok throughout Africa—are caught in the air with gold bars, the drug lord (Renaud Farah‘s Felix) they’ve been hired to extract, and a failed fuel tank leaving them with bad and worse options for an emergency landing. The Guinea-Bissau authorities won’t let them leave without a fight on the ground and they’ve surely alerted their Senegalese counterparts already, but Chaka (Yann Gael) knows of a secret beach from his past where they might be able…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Paradis sale [After Blue] [2022]

Cut the bad weeds. It’s as though Roxy (Paula Luna) is standing at the gates of Heaven, being judged for what transpired during life on After Blue—a new planet devoid of computer screens post-Earth’s cultural destruction. Do we ever see the God she’s relaying her tale too? No. Or perhaps we are that God, judging her actions against whatever criteria we have in our own unprompted minds. The latter makes sense considering writer/director Bertrand Mandico operates under the cinematic Incoherence Manifesto that he co-wrote Katrín Ólafsdóttir. He “has faith in…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Arthur Rambo [2021]

I can defend myself. There’s an interesting lesson to be learned at the center Laurent Cantet‘s Arthur Rambo that’s honestly shocking to think still needs to be learned. I don’t mean that in reference to the director or his fellow co-writers Fanny Burdino and Samuel Doux, though, as many people talking about the film do. I’m talking about the people like Karim D. (Rabah Nait Oufella) who still can’t quite grasp the reality that social media isn’t a safe space. It’s not a diary to collect your rage and insecurities…

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