FNC 2019: J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (I Lost My Body, 2019)

J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (I Lost My Body, 2019)

J'ai Perdu Mon corps

Director (and co-screenplay): Jeremy Clapin

Voice Cast: Hakim Faris, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick D’Assumcao

A story of Naoufel, a young man who is in love with Gabrielle. In another part of town, a severed hand escapes from a dissection lab, determined to find its body again. – IMDB

French animated features always seem to have a darkness to its overall premise. In this case, this upcoming Netflix France Original film (according to this poster is set to release in the end of November) follows two sides of a story. The first is the story of Nafouel, a pizza delivery boy having a bad day that ends up having a random conversation with a girl through a building intercom during a rain storm outside and is intrigued by this stranger and finds a way to approach her while on the other side, it follows a severed hand trying to go through the city to reunite with the body it belongs to. Its easy to see that these two stories are linked together and who this severed hand belongs to and yet, alternating between the two and having it converge at the end gives this film so much charm. Perhaps of the timeline jumping back and forth between the two that the story sometimes does have moments of disjointedness.

Somehow French animated films have such good grasp hitting those bizarre themes and finding just the right balance of humor to make it work. J’ai Perdu Mon Corps is a fine example of this. While Naoufel’s side of the story feels a bit awkward and maybe a tad sketchy if you think about the almost stalker-ish way he chooses to approach this girl. At the same time, he is somewhat of a rather unpleasant character or simply flawed and fairly shallow which is where this film falls short slightly. It all depends on how his character is viewed although there are some believable moments of clumsiness and his trying to work hard to get her attention and some missteps that he does which makes some funny moments. As I always like to mention, flawed characters to begin with makes for the better development characters as they have so much more room to grow and that definitely applies in this story.

Where it does shine right from the beginning is starting with how the severed hand is introduced and the moments of how it goes from location to location. There’s a lot of dark humor to be had, especially as it meets all kinds of things and dangers along the way and is essentially defenceless. Some come out with mostly unexpected outcomes and that just makes each step of its way back to the body that it belongs to even more rewarding in the end.

Overall, J’ai Perdu Mon Corps is exactly as its title hints at. The winning factor here is how it uses the whole concept of a severed hand and can create a rather charming and humorous story out of it. It fits into the whole charm of French animation that is a tad odd but still works out overall to have those dramatic moments as well. As a feature-length directorial debut for Jeremy Clapin, its definitely one that lands very well and has a unique premise.

J’ai Perdu Mon Corps will be hitting theatres for a limited release in US (November 15) and UK (November 22) and also hitting Netflix (for most countries) on November 29th (all based on research on the Internet, so please check or correct me in the comments if you have other more accurate info).

FNC 2019: Sole (2019)

Sole (2019)

Sole

Director: Carlo Sironi

Cast: Sandra Drzymalska, Claudio Segaluscio, Bruno Buzzi, Barbara Ronchi, Marco Felli

Two very different teens involved in a surrogate motherhood scheme learn how to live. – Letterboxd

Teen pregnancy and being arranged to a fake as a couple brings Lena and Ermanno, two previously teen strangers together, as they get through the remaining 3 weeks of Lena’s pregnancy under his care at his home so that she can then pass it over through foster case (or adoption) to Ermanno’s uncle Fabio and his wife.

Nothing gives characters coming of age like a tough situation. Two inadvertently different teens at the beginning get brought together as Lena enters into Ermanno’s seemingly pointless life that involves doing petty thefts and gambling away his money at slot machines and never doing more because he doesn’t feel that he is good at anything. While he doesn’t care initially about Lena, her personality and her situation also brings him a new direction as she works hard towards the next step in her future, never quite letting her pregnancy and the life after being a concern. However, things change when Lena gives birth too early to pass over the baby to the adoptive parents and has to take care of her baby until she is ready to eat independently. Its this transition that proves to create the bond that will put into question whether not only Lena, but also Ermanno, can go through with the initial plan.

In many ways, its more of Ermanno’s coming of age as he finds his value and the things and people that he wants to live for and starts taking a step forward and not hoping but taking actual actions. While Ermanno’s character does really say a lot and is mostly trudging around from one place to the next, it fits surprisingly well. Claudio Segluscio‘s first acting role as this character that has a lot of development because of meeting Lena definitely works better than it would seem. Sandra Drzymalska plays Lena and has a lot more acting experience and you can tell from her character that also doesn’t say much but observes a lot of her surroundings. From her little reactions and how she expresses herself through her looks and exchanges with Ermanno, there is a good connection between them. Lena is a tough character and Drzymalska delivers it very well especially as she  has to make a tough decision. 

While Sole isn’t a script that brings a lot of surprises or is very different from what you’d expect from teen pregnancy or two teens set into a situation as strangers for money essentially in the beginning, its how these characters grow as well as how some of these shots are framed, which are done so beautifully to capture the mood of the situation. The end game is rather predictable as well but because the connection with the characters are done so well that it actually is quite an emotional one as well.

All in all, Sole was a touching little experience. Its a slow-burn and rather quiet in the as a whole but the characters feel genuine especially for the age they are portraying. There’s a lot of care taken in building the right feeling here and for myself, it lands really well. Sometimes, its those subtle moments and the gradual development that ends up being much more profound than having constant big gestures. Its not easy to do and yet director Carlo Sironi does it so well here.

Sole has one more screening during Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 20 at 8:55pm at Cineplex Odeon Quartier – Salle 14. You can find more info HERE.

FNC 2019: Mickey and the Bear (2019)

Mickey and the Bear (2019)

Mickey and the Bear

Director (and writer): Annabelle Attanasio

Cast: Camila Morrone, James Badge Dale, Calvin Demba, Ben Rosenfield, Rebecca Henderson

Faced with the responsibility to take care of her addict, veteran father, headstrong teen Mickey Peck keeps her household afloat. – IMDB

Taking a reverse look at a father-daughter relationship, Mickey and the Bear approaches this story through the daughter’s perspective as Mickey takes care of her alcoholic veteran father Hank who suffers on certain level to rehabilitating to everyday life, while navigating her own life from making money to keep them afloat to wondering about her own future as high school graduation approaches and of course, boys. This is a toxic relationship between the two and yet, Mickey clings to this belief of taking care of her father despite his often inconsiderate and disrespectful attitude towards her because of those high points that he reaches. As she starts feeling the strain of this relationship, she hangs on the point of whether she can leave.

Being the directorial debut for feature film for Annabelle Attanasio who also is the writer for this story, Mickey and the Bear is a thought-provoking drama. Father-daughter relationships are also a great angle and to switch up both the norm of having a delinquent teenager to the struggle mentally for a veteran to re-adapt to everyday society is also a good one.

Set in a small town, the story progresses to have little subtle details that possibly even the main character Mickey also ignores which works up to a shocking finale that defines the deeper toxicity of this relationship. The reversal of roles is noticed for example in how just like parents address their kids by their full name when they get in trouble, Mickey will address her father as “Hank” only when he does something that disappoints her- perhaps her small form of retaliation in a situation that feels initially like she is stuck in forever. Choosing to use mostly the eyes of Mickey to tell the story also gives it a lot of depth for both her character and leaves room for the true going-ons and intentions of others around her to reveal itself gradually. Its a journey to a potential break-point as she faces a lot of the realities of her current situation. Its all in the little details of the people she meets, perhaps a little deliberate at times and makes the story be on rails, but its all a small factor to the accumulated effects on Mickey’s character and whether its enough to push her to follow her own heart and let go. Its all in those little details of the script and here its executed very well.

A lot of praise goes to the cast here, especially the two leads: Camila Morrone playing Mickey and James Badge Dale playing her father Hank. As a young actress, Camila Morrone grasps her role very well as Mickey. She’s able to portray the different sides of her life and how its toughened her up. The character designed here isn’t weak, in fact when times need, she will defend and protect herself and not let things go against her will. Its a fascinating character to watch unfold on screen. The same can be said about James Badge Dale who also manages the character of Hank very well. Its all his eyes and managing this character which is very extreme shifts in personality with very high and very low points that drives it. It has a certain level of possessiveness as well as an equal portion of not caring and that is the true nature of his toxicity that he brings to this father-daughter relationship.

There’s a lot of great execution from character development, the direction the story takes to even managing the little details and subtleties of the underlying breaking point that makes Mickey and the Bear a thought-provoking film and one to definitely not miss.

Mickey and the Bear has one more screening during Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 19th at Cineplex Odeon Quartier – Salle 17. You can find more info HERE.

FNC 2019: A White, White Day (Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur, 2019)

A White, White Day (2019)

A White White Day

Director (and writer): Hlynur Palmason

Cast: Ingvar Sigurdsson, Ida Mekkin Hlynsdottir, Hilmir Snaer Guonason

In a remote Icelandic town, an off duty police chief begins to suspect a local man to have had an affair with his wife, who has recently died in a car accident. Gradually his obsession for finding out the truth accumulates and inevitably begins to endanger himself and his loved ones. A story of grief, revenge and unconditional love. – Letterboxd

Unlike a lot of the films at Festival du Nouveau Cinema (that I’ve seen this year), A White White Day is not about a relationship but rather a person’s journey. Its fairly existentialist and also very arthouse. It also is quite slow-paced as the story slowly revealed of those tidbits that pieced the story together to come together in the second half. This movie is focused on a lot of time pieces which is quite obvious just from how the movie starts off showing a car passing through different surveillance cameras on the secluded highway of remote Iceland and ends up in a car accident. Its filled with fog regularly (as we soon learn). And then it jumps forward to a still shot of a house and snapping away like a time piece as different elements change and shift in and out and the seasons also slightly change as well. Everything is in the detail and the director’s respect for the audience’s ability to connect the dots is where most audience will appreciate it the most. At some points, these little time-shift still shots aren’t quite for everyone (just like watching someone eat pie for 10 minutes in A Ghost Story doesn’t work for everyone either). Consistency is quite important and A White White Day commits with these transitional shots to show time and possibly different emotions during driving with these styles of shot a few times during the film.

The entire remote Iceland setting is fantastic for this story. The middle of nowhere fits well with a man who loses his wife and thinks about her and the mixed feelings that he has about the situation that soon reveals as an obsession for the truth behind his wife and whether she had an affair and who it was with. This leads to the high point of the film as he loses it and makes for a fantastic way to end the film. Don’t get me wrong though, A White, White Day has some really great moments especially the one where he tells a scary bedtime story to his sick granddaughter.

As much as all the technical is worth a note here, the true star here would go to the main male character Ingimundur played by Ingvar Sigurdsson, as this is his journey of finding out the truth. Everything is in the details just like how it frames its shots to his facial expressions and how he acts with his eyes (which is always a sign of a great actor especially for a quiet and subtle role).

A White, White Day is not a film that is to my cup of tea whether in pacing or just snapshots of the same thing over and over again (which was where I knew this wasn’t going to be for me). However, there will no doubt be an audience that can appreciate it because there are a lot of standout elements and some great moments here and the second half of the film really does boost the movie to fantastic heights.  If existentialist and arthouse drama is your cup of tea, this one does have a lot to offer.

A White, White Day has one more screening during Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 18th at Cineplex Odeon Quartier – Salle 17. You can find more info HERE.

FNC 2019: Adoration (2019)

Adoration (2019)

Adoration

Director (and co-writer): Fabrice du Welz

Cast: Thomas Gioria, Fantine Harduin, Benoit Poelvoorde, Emmanuelle Beart, Beatrice Dalle, Laurent Lucas

Paul is a 12 year old boy who lives with his mother, a nurse working at a mental institution in the middle of a forest. While visiting his mother at the clinic, Paul crosses paths with Gloria, a schizophrenic teenager, and falls in love with her to the point that he decides to help her escape at all costs after she commits a crime. The pair embarks on a trip across the Ardennes woods which will reveal the extent of Gloria’s dangerous madness and Paul’s devotion to her. – Letterboxd

Some people say that our first loves are the deepest and most memorable. It certainly would apply to Adoration who sees a 12 year old boy, Paul’s fascination and infatuation with the latest resident, Gloria at the psychiatric clinic where his mother works. This story is mostly through the eyes of the main character Paul, played by young actor Thomas Gioria. Independent stories usually like to use the view of one character and it works very well as it keeps the story fairly straightforward while leaving it space for the unknown to happen. The audience learns with the leading character and is able to connect with their situation. In this case, Adoration does a rather good job.

Thomas Gioria does a fairly good job at bringing Paul to life the most subtle and quiet way. Paul is a shy boy who lives secluded from everyone and keeps to himself mostly so when a beautiful teenager Gloria (Fantine Harduin) literally bumps into him, its no surprise that he will be fascinated at not only someone around his age but also the questions of why she keeps trying to run away from the clinic which in his mind should be for her own good. However, Gloria is a convincing girl whether its because Paul chooses to believe her situation or maybe his attraction to her makes him feel the need to protect her but he follows through after she makes a huge “mistake” to run away. Its the journey to Gloria’s grandfather’s home and the time spent with these two characters and their increasingly toxic relationship. To be honest, Paul’s character is rather dialed down that while the movie is mostly seen through his point of view, its Gloria’s slow reveal of her psychological problems that become the shocking elements and simply how much she is able to keep Paul in her control while also having him also be somewhat of her anchor because of their reliance on each other.

Toxic relationships between these two teenagers are the heart of the film. Against some impressive musical pairing as well being able to start off the story in a fairly light-heart escape and the innocence of the characters (especially Paul) gives them room to grow on this journey of running away. The story ends rather abruptly but at the same time, leaves the audience room to ponder on  this relationship and where it can take them especially as they are just teenagers and dealing with some rather extreme situations especially as Gloria seemingly does fluctuate between the good and bad days simply with triggers. The ending is a bit of the headscratcher but its easy to see how its deliberately meant to be that way because it doesn’t quite matter where these two go but rather what Paul chooses despite now understanding the situation that he’s in.

Adoration is a teenage runaway story essentially. Is it completely expected what they go through? Probably not. Is it hard to imagine that Gloria was “lying” to Paul about her situation? She technically wasn’t because in her mind, this is all real. Despite its predictable elements, the setting on the forest and wilderness and having the different strangers that they meet on the path as well as the way Gloria’s character peels away in all its layers of mental illness is done with a lot of detail and care. For a young actress like Fantine Harduin, it is one outstanding performance that is well worth a watch.

Adoration has one more screening during Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 20th at 4pm at Cineplex Odeon Quartier – Salle 10. You can find more info HERE.

FNC 2019: Diner (2019)

Diner (2019)

Diner

Director: Mika Ninagawa

Cast: Tina Tamashiro, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kubota Masataka, Hongo Kanata, Okuda Eiji, Maya Miki, Anna Tsuchiya

Kanako Oba uses a mysterious site to apply for part-time work. As a result, her life is soon in jeopardy. She is forced to work at the restaurant Diner as a waitress or she will be killed. The restaurant is membership only and their customers are all contract killers. – MyDramaList

If John Wick’s elite assassin world was moved to a diner exclusively crafted to serve their culinary needs with experiences specific for their business and and pleasure with the Japanese over the top flair, this is what Mika Ninagawa’s Diner would best relate to. Engulfing its scenes by flamboyantly dangerous characters, techno, punk and classical background music to pair with its scenes and constrasting sharp color palettes in a dark underground setting, its a feast for for the senses on many levels.

Mika Ninagawa’s vision for Diner is visually stunning. From its pink lettered neon lettering to its stylistic introduction for each characters and its choice of how each of them interact with the female lead, Kanako Oba (Tina Tamashiro). There’s a lot of style and substance in Diner from how the culinary experience is shown to the different over the top meals are done to the reactions as well as how the action scenes are done. It has a lot of the fun and over the top elements of Japanese films that add a certain level of weird but fun especially when matched with the different killer and the rooms they eat in, each matching the killers personality.

Talking about character designs now, the main story revolves around Kanako Oba where Tina Tamashiro does a lovely job at playing this quiet and shy girl whose life is mostly summarized in the opening scene rather uniquely blending with its background music, which honestly sets the tone for what to expect, and tackles the main issue of her shyness and unknown desire of what to do in life because she feels unwanted until she sees a colorful picture of Guanajuato that makes her try to find a way to get money to go. In terms of character design and possibly development, her character is the focal point and also the most developed throughout this story. However, opposite her is male lead playing the Diner owner and head chef also an ex-elite assassin, Bombero (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who is very tough on her because those preceding her have died due to the dangerous clientele. Bombero is a fun character mostly because he has this subtlety to his character that relies a lot on his observation and what he does but then also has this loneliness that he closes himself off to because of the company he keeps.

Flamboyant characters are a center of Japanese films when it comes to over the top elements and here, the assassins themselves, as shallow as their characters are with not a lot of back story to work with, are perfectly suited to simply push the story forward and give those little hurdles or connections with Kanako Oba to surprise and frighten her in this new setting. It all works up to the point that every killer has a weakness and tipping point and it all leads to the final dinner where it discusses the decision of change of crime lord that runs the Yakuza entirely which of course, doesn’t run smoothly and has some crazy action sequence. Of course, there are a few selected assassins that get a little more screen time than others and one of them called Skin (Masataka Kubota) really takes his role and runs with it in such an impressive way.

Diner is a really entertaining sort of film. While the culinary element might be done a little more to fit a culinary experience title, there is still a lot of impressive balance between the crime thriller and the whole setting in a diner. Its a straightforward story and not hard to imagine where all this leads but keeps it on the fun level. Most of its characters are fairly shallow in development and yet, due the film’s length and staying on path, they achieve what the film needs to set up these main characters to deal with this final group. The action scenes are well choreographed and there’s some ridiculous moments, not to mention the ending result is a bit of a headscratcher logically, however, somehow because of the over the top elements in Japanese films, anything is possible so its easy to let it pass.

Diner has a second screening during Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 15th at 8:35pm at Cinema du Parc. You can find more info HERE.

FNC 2019: Family Romance LLC (2019)

Family Romance LLC (2019)

Family Romance LLC

Director (and writer): Werner Herzog

Cast: Ishii Yuichi, Mahiro Tanimoto

A man is hired to impersonate the missing father of a young girl. – IMDB

How far would you go to create a certain feeling? Family Romance LLC is a company that finds professional actors to create a certain moment crafted to their needs whether its a stand-in husband at a ceremony or setting up a surprise moment to relive an experience or in this story’s central story, a father returning to know a daughter. It takes a look at how a person’s desire to escape loneliness and feel wanted or important can lead them to create these fictitious moments and where does it stop.

Family Romance LLC approaches its rather personal material in a well-rounded structure. It focuses on the main story which is a mother hiring a man Ishii (Ishii Yuichi) to be the father of her 12 year old daughter Mahiro (Mahiro Tanimoto) who has left them since she was 2 and the following outings this “father-daughter” go on to build their relationship while seeing how this man Ishii reports back to the mother. At the same time, it gives another side of the story of Family Romance LLC and that is the other types of services that it offers for other people in need which gives a broader extent of how far these services can go and the boundaries and limits and how it is run on other levels.

While that is the case, Family Romance LLC will at times feel disjointed as it jumps from one scene to the next whether in his main vein or the little cases of different people that approach Ishii hiring their different actors for their different emotional voids. At the same time, its hard to determine whether this is a documentary or a drama as the main cast are non-professional actors sharing the raw story based on “rentaru furendo”, an actual type of agency like Family Romance LLC that exists in Japan. Perhaps its because these actors, mostly focused on Mahiro and Ishii that makes this film feel ever more realistic and at times, see that their attachment does form and how it will end as father-daughter relationships is something that can be replicated not exactly an act that can be forever. Especially as these two, despite their awkward interactions growing slightly better by the end, do spike some connection to these people and wonder whether on any level these lies are better especially for the daughter who may have believed to have found her father again but to inevitably have to lose him at some point depending on how far this act can go.

Family Romance LLC is a tough film to watch. Its not for everyone especially in terms of pacing and it blurs that line between cinema and reality. It looks at the society and the emotional voids that individuals will have as well as how far they will go to replicate feelings, relive moments and create this fake sense of security or happiness and find their own bliss. However, it also emphasizes on the actor hired, Ishii Yuichi and as much as this is a business and he can’t love or be loved (something along those lines), emotions are part of being human and he has to know where to draw the lines, no matter how difficult and as subtle as those feelings are portrayed, those struggling moments add a lot to the film as Family Romance LLC shows many sides of the story. For this premise, which is hard to portray, director Werner Herzog makes the best of it and delivers a fairly immersive film that will make you ponder on how far the lonely society will go and how significant emotional voids are in life.

Family Romance LLC has another screening at Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 19th at 9:20pm at Cineplex Odeon Quarter – Salle 10. You can find more info HERE.

FNC 2019: Color Out of Space (2019)

Color Out of Space (2019)

Color out of space

Director (and screenplay): Richard Stanley

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Q’orianka Kilcher, Joely Richardson, Tommy Chong, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hillard, Madeleine Arthur

A town is struck by a meteorite and the fallout is catastrophic. – IMDB

SpectreVision has produced some fantastic movies in the last few years. Following the success of Mandy, Nicolas Cage joins this cast of characters of H.P. Lovecraft‘s short story of the same name’s adaptation where the little county of Arkham is hit with meteorite which lands on drops onto his character Nathan’s front yard and ends up having an effect on his family. Color Out of Space has everything that you’d expect from a SpectreVision production whether its trippy twists and visually appealing scenes and designs and creativity that explodes onto the scene. Right from the eerie start of the film, narrating through a dark forest and the secluded nature and raindrops on water, the tone of the film was set right away. Its a bit loopy and leaves a few unanswered questions at the end but that’s half of the fun of odd storylines and where it leaves some talking points. 

Color Out of Space still builds its atmosphere well and gives it a mysterious thriller that gives out a lot of questions that slowly unveils itself. While the answers are never clear and this outer space influence on the family and those in close vicinity never fully explained and understood, it leaves the space for our imagination to fill in those gaps and what gives it the subtle horror. The horror is built upon gradually whether in its subtle presence or unclear motives to how its absorption into the farmland affects every living thing there. It creates some visually stunning moments and beautiful elements (yet again like the previous FNC film Little Joe) through mysterious appearances of red flowers gradually covering the land and its unknown pinkish swirling lights while creating destruction from the inside as well as the disturbing effects. Being able to execute an unknown and unclear dangerous force sometimes makes for something much more unsettling.

Its taken a long time to get Nicolas Cage back to full form and while there is still a level of suitable overacting in Color Out of Space as the father of the house, Nathan Gardner, he still manages to carry the movie a lot as his character slowly infected by this outer space force and making his “crazy” somehow very acceptable and adds to the films most of the time. At the same time, much more grounded in her role and adds in the oddities is Madeleine Arthur (previously in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) who plays Lavinia Gardner, the daughter who wants to escape this remote farmstead. Her role is done really well and has some true development as she struggles with this force and what it has done to her family. While young actor playing the youngest son Jack (Julian Hilliard previously in The Haunting of Hill House) adds in the child element which has some rather unsettling moments. The careful way of how the characters spiral as an aftereffect at different paces and different ways is also what builds the movie and gives credit to how the movie itself is executed very well.

To say that Color Out of Space is perfect would be stretching it a little though. Running at 111 minutes, it does feel, despite its suitably sensually overwhelming and fantastically psychedelic end in sound and visuals, that the film was one or two scenes (if not more) too long. There was a bit of overacting that does pull out from the story a little in parts. Despite its flaws, there is still a lot to like here. As you let the movie sink in a little more, the mysteries the story leaves behind and how director Richard Stanley frames his scenes and how the script builds up is all executed very well at creating this psychedelic terrorizing film.

Color Out of Space has one more screening at Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 19th at 8:15pm at Cinema du Parc. You can find the info HERE.

FNC 2019: Little Joe (2019)

LITTLE JOE (2019)

Little Joe 2019

Director (and co-writer): Jessica Hausner

Cast: Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox, Kit Connor, Phénix Brossard, David Wilmot

Alice, a single mother, is a dedicated senior plant breeder at a corporation engaged in developing new species. Against company policy, she takes one home as a gift for her teenage son, Joe. – IMDB

It’s never a good idea to play God and mess with the biology of any living organism as we’ve seen time and time again in movies of all genres. Little Joe plays as a science fiction fantasy drama with horror elements. It probably would most be related to films like Invasions of the Body Snatchers and yet, Little Joe, this new species of red flower that is both sterile and produces a fragrance that generates happiness looks a little like Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax’s Truffula trees (in a smaller flower version).

Little Joe is a slow-burn fantasy drama. Running at 105 minutes, the execution of pacing in this film could definitely have been polished further. A lot of the scenes do manage to leave enough space for the viewer’s imagination to wonder which way it could go as well as what the flowers named Little Joe’s real effect is. The mystery element is present giving it some fairly thrilling moments.

Little Joe is a reflection of how nature’s biology, no matter how it is changed, will always find a way to survive. Just like animals in the wild who adapt and change to protect themselves, Little Joe’s also manage to do the same. When discovering the “motives” of Little Joe (it does sound silly to think a plant has motives), its what gives the layers of the film. However, there is too much in the middle part of being stuck in the cycle of the after-effect of Little Joe and not so much progressing the story further, which makes it drag out a little too much before the finale. Its the technical elements here that works well like the design of Little Joe, the color palette, as well as how some of the scenes are done which gives it so much style.

There are only a few central characters which keeps the story tightknit and easy to follow. The main character is Alice, played by Emily Beecham who does a pretty decent job as she discovers that her experiment has a more serious effect than she anticipated. Her performance is one of the better elements of Little Joe as a while. Playing opposite her is Ben Whishaw as her colleague Chris who has romantic feelings for her. Ben Whishaw has the look to him that just shows off something strange is going on so it makes his character give away a little too much at times. At the same time, the other element of the story is who Little Joe is named after which is her son Joe, played by Kit Connor. Much like a lot of the very obvious character personality shifts throughout the film, its anything but subtle, which is odd. 

All of those little issues with characters and performances and pacing can probably be overlooked however, Little Joe also likes to use the overbearing sound effects to create the jumpscare element or create an uneasiness. Subtle films (like this one or The VVitch or Vivarium) would benefit from letting those unsettling feelings come from the power of quiet scenes rather than bombarding the audience’s eardrums with an array of sounds which after a few times feels more annoying than unsettling.

Its a pity that Little Joe is somewhat of a disappointment as it had a lot of very nice technical elements and a premise that had a lot of potential to be good. However, the repetitive pacing and the over-deliberate need to make the characters act strange as well as the overpowering soundtrack wears it down. As good as the cinematography is and how the colors of both the species and the lighting here works, it feels a bit like style over substance. Of course, if you are fans of films I mentioned above, then this film might be for you.

Little Joe has one more screening at Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 20th at 5:15pm at Cinema du Parc. You can find more info HERE.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema Wrap-up: Triple Feature

I don’t usually do double features for any movies that I see at Festivals, let alone triple features, however after having a hard time really fleshing out my thoughts and the festival already behind us almost 2 weeks, I decided that these three films that I saw at Festival du Nouveau Cinema actually is a great fit together as it looks at teens and friendships and coming of age in one way or another. All of them have a snippet of the lives of these characters in all three stories.

Sticks and Stones (2018)

Brakland Sticks and Stones

Director: Martin Skovbjerg

Cast: Jonas Bjerril, Vilmer Trier Brogger, Natalia Reyes, Patricia Schumann, Emma Sehested Hoeg, Benjamin Kitter, Laufey Eliasdottir

Simon arrives in Vesterby from Copenhagen. He is an outsider in a brand new place and alone until he meets Bjarke – Vesterby’s alpha male and heir to the local speaker factory. The two start challenging each other in intimate and transgressive actions as they forge a friendship. But when embezzlement forces Vesterby’s speaker factory to close, the town is bereaved of its livelihood, and Bjarke’s family is blamed. The anger thrust upon him by the locals triggers the beast in Bjarke, and Simon is faced with either having to turn away or save his friend from self-destruction. – IMDB

Its hard to put into words why I felt that Sticks and Stones is a really great film. In fact, I had such a blast being captivated by this friendship that started quite abruptly through being paired up for a project. Comparing everyday lives of grown-ups and the people around them to apes. At the same time, boys will be boys and these two definitely had their share of shenanigans as they go from a creative angle to going overboard in their video project. At the same time, reflecting possibly their feelings and contained emotions in their personal life. The two characters draw a parallel to what is going on in their lives and explains why their friendship works but it also highlights the differences in some friends cross our lives for a moment but can’t stay because of whatever reason and in this case, its a toxicity. Everyone sees it but themselves and you choose to put them behind or wait for them to constantly hurt you. Everyone has gone through friends like this, and its probably because of that, it resounds to me.

In the end, Sticks and Stones was able to channel some very intense feelings in whichever endeavors they were portraying. There is a lot of thought in using their documentary style filming for class and meshing it with the traditional filming as we watched the film unfold. There’s a lot of youth experiences and emotions especially with teens that go through sudden loss and other hard times. The acting is raw and it has to go to these young main actors, Jonas Bjerril and Vilmer Trier Brogger. There are situations of being a newcomer, being an alpha male, young love, family issues and so many conflicting issues that take these two for such a ride and in the end, one of  them needs to make a decision. Let me tell you, this film was a subtle hit for me. I didn’t really think I connected with these two so much as some of the things were over the top but in the final scenes, there was so much there that did hit me really hard emotionally.

Tourism (2018)

tourism

Director (and writer): Daisuke Miyazaki

Cast: Nina Endo, Sumire

Fun fact is that after I saw this movie, I have talked and tried to summarize this film to at least two other people and it turns out sounding so basic that it doesn’t quite seem to work as a movie.

During the opening message to the audience, Daisuke Miyazaki hoped that his film will make the viewers want to go on a trip or an adventure (I can’t remember the exact word). Tourism falls into this fun like day adventure. Just like how we see Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is very fun to watch, Tourism sees Nina, one of the girls on this trip to Singapore who loses her friend and her cellphone and ends up wandering around the city and meeting interesting characters but also being immersed in the culture and everyday lives. The way Miyazaki brings to life the characters is to take some time in the beginning to highlight these roommates and how the trip came out.

tourism

One of the best moments which hooked me in completely was how they chose their destination. There’s a joy in travelling with a companion (that you get along with) and seeing the landmarks but also another one when you wander the city alone and see the beauty and detail of the culture. That is the power of travelling and the adventure of communicating and meeting new people and learning more about the world around us. Sure, the story doesn’t sound like its anything intriguing but sometimes with all the technology and everything available at our fingertips, we forget the rush of beauty of the simple things in life. The hours Nina spends searching to get back to her friend or the hotel is not only a message about our reliance on technology but also the most entertaining parts of the film.

The premise might be simple but sometimes its in the simple joys that do pack in a lot of genuine feelings. This one is a pleasant surprise.

Firecrackers (2018)

firecrackers

Director (and writer): Jasmin Mozaffari

Cast: Michaela Kurimsky, Karena Evans, Callum Thompson, David Kingston, Tamara Leclaire, Scott Cleland, Dylan Mask

Lou and her best friend Chantal plan to get out of their isolated, run-down town and move to a city far, far away. When Chantal’s unstable and possessive ex violates her during a night of partying, the girls decide to exact their revenge on him through a night of vandalism and debauchery. The consequences of their actions are devastating, threatening the girls’ chances of ever leaving. The more Lou fights tooth-and-nail to save her friendship and hold onto her dreams, the more she spins out of control as she begins to realize that freedom will come at a high cost. – IMDB

I still remember the reason why I added this movie into my viewings despite its late hour and knowing that I had to run home in a hurry to catch the last bus home as it was compared to Fish Tank which is one of the movies that I like a lot. To be honest, there are some parallels to the film but in some ways, this one is a different movie. In fact, if you took something like Sticks and Stones and used it in a friendship between girls, you might arrive at this one. However, this one is about two best friends who want to leave behind their messed up lives in this small town. What turns out to be a perfect plan ends up having these bad turn of events. Lou is the main character here and we follow a lot of her character development with each road block that occurs and we see this coming of age development as she sees clearer the consequences of what she is leaving behind as well as the tough decisions between her friendship and also the teen angst as well as the sudden aggression or lack of thought in her actions.

Firecrackers takes on this snippet of Lou and Chantal’s life and their friendship in a genuine and raw way. It never feels over dramatic and honestly, makes us truly feel for these two girls on screen. It can remind us of the hurdles of growing up and wanting more and fighting for everything you can to make things better. There are bad decisions and bad life choices but its all part of growing up and these girls have it particularly hard but at least, they have their friendship.

This wraps up this triple feature and the Festival du Nouveau Cinema’s last three films I saw.
In some ways, this was the best way to talk about them as there isn’t much to say but rather its a movie experience.
There’s a lot to love about these films for both their similarities and their differences as it embraces this true and genuine snippet in each of these stories.