FNC 2020: Drowsy City (Thanh Pho Ngu Gat, 2020)

Drowsy City (Thanh Pho Ngu Gat, 2020)

Director (and writer): Dung Luong Dinh

Cast: Hien Le Thuy, Toan Nguyen Quoc, Tue Ta Xuan, Tri Vu Minh

A young man who works as a slaughterman is forced to take revenge on three strangers that brutally attack his simple life. – IMDB

Drowsy City is an interesting Vietnamese film because of the bizarre main character as well as how they choose to have a specific disclaimer at the beginning of the film about its visual effects, post-production as well as the focus of its film being about the humans and not the chickens/ducks. I’m no post-production or visual effects expert and rarely focus too much on it plus the only point I will make is that it wasn’t overly graphic in the chicken slaughtering scenes except for the parts where they pour boiling water over the chicken that gets a little disturbing. In reality, the slaughtering process comes into play with the main character on hand and how the whole revenge plays out in his perspective. My only suggestion for any potential viewers is that if that seems like something that bothers you, then it might be one to avoid. I might not find it graphic but everyone’s tolerance for this is difference.

Drowsy City features some beautiful cinematography. It films the city of Hanoi which bursts with rich colors from its overhead shots that pan over the city as well as the art on the buildings and the pop of color even in the simple apartment that the main character Tao lives, which remains nameless for most of the film. The cinematography highlights the crowdedness of the city as well as the characteristics. In some shots, it almost feels like the camera is angled to be like a surveillance camera much like Tao who spies into three gangsters that hide in an abandoned building that he lives in (or maybe next to) with its upper corner angles in a room.

Drowsy City isn’t a character study but at the same time, Tao is an odd character. It lives alone and everything is a simple routine from slaughtering chickens to using the chicken feathers to create different items of entertainment like darts or clothing on mannequins. He also feels odd because he sleeps in his bathtub filled in water that he would use int he daytime for his job. As his character progresses from being bullied by the three gangsters and being tempted by their prostitute, her simple life is changed and it becomes apparent that his life as a chicken slaughterer is rooted very deep into his mentality and it reflects into this very bizarre revenge plan. It turns into this confusing moment of whether he is a cruel person despite his actions as he seems to also have a great care for a hen that he takes care of and the chicks that eventually hatch. I’m going to say right away that the ending they chose for this one usually is one that would not something that I particularly prefer but somehow in this case, it seems fitting.

Being no expert of Vietnamese movies, Drowsy City is an odd movie experience. The cinematography is outstanding and the character of Tao is very unique in the most bizarre way. The revenge is also executed in an oddly memorable fashion because its very different form what would be expected. Its definitely not for anyone but at the same time, as quiet as the whole experience and even Tao’s character, which has almost no dialogue, the movie runs at a swift 70 minutes. Bizarre and one of a kind: that’s two very important descriptors of this film and to truly expect the unexpected because things get wild.

* Drowsy City is playing virtually on Festival du Nouveau Cinema and is available until October 31st*

FNC 2020: My Salinger Year (2020)

My Salinger Year (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Philippe Falardeau

Cast: Margaret Qualley, Sigourney Weaver, Douglas Booth, Seana Kerslake, Brian F. O’Byrne, Colm Feore, Yanic Truesdale, Theodore Pellerin

A college grad takes a clerical job working for the literary agent of the renowned, reclusive writer J.D. Salinger. – IMDB

Based on the memoir of the same name by Joanna Rakoff, a My Salinger Year plays along the lines of The Devil Wears Prada, a movie that I’m very fond of, but replacing the world of fashion to the world of publishing and literary agents. At the same time, its a bit of an inspirational tale of an aspiring writer’s journey as she gets a reality check of this one year in this agency that is something of a sidetrack from her original career goals, especially for someone who is dealing with an author, J.D. Salinger, that she doesn’t quite know the reason for their praise as she’s never read his work before but hears about his personality through her boss and co-workers but also the way his work connects with his readers from being tasked with reading and replying generic letters to his fans who write to share their thoughts. In a struggle with whether to follow specific instructions or to follow her instinct, she makes some decisions that might not always have a great outcome. Between being more trusted at work and busier and a move-in with her boyfriend that doesn’t quite go as plan, she comes to realization about her goals in life. 

My Salinger Year is quite a fun and endearing sort of film. Mostly because of the roles at hand and the cast chosen to portray them. Margaret Qualley is wonderful as Joanna and her dynamic character plays incredibly well with Sigourney Weaver’s role as literary agent, Margaret. Both of these roles do take on quite a turn of events between the two of them and its this progression of their relationship that makes it work. At the same time, there are other supporting roles from Colm Feore as Daniel, a man that seems to just sit around offering his opinion here and there but never offered an explanation about who he is until the end while one of the co-workers Max is played by Yanic Truesdale, probably most known as Michel in Gilmore Girls and having a similar kind of style to his character here.

My Salinger Years reminds a lot of a mesh of The Devil Wears Prada and Julie and Julia and yet, how the literary world is portrayed through the eyes of Joanna Rakhoff is rather fascinating. It throughs out mentions of other authors and an entertaining little exchange of letters with a young Salinger fan who relates his life/world to the book and has this wonderful scene where she dreams up seeing her ex-boyfriend and has this beautifully shot dancing scene in an elegant hallway. Having not read the source material, My Salinger Year is a wonderful memoir as a film showing effectively the literary publishing world and Joanna’s one year working there shows that no matter how minor the job, there’s always something to reap from the experience.

TV Binge: The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

Creator: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Amelia Eve, T’Nia Miller, Rahul Kohli, Tahirah Sharif, Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, Alex Essoe, Roby Attal, Kate Siegel, Katie Parker, Martn McCreadie

After an au pair’s tragic death, Henry hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with the chef Owen, groundskeeper Jamie and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. – IMDB

After the success of The Haunting of Hill House (review), Mike Flanagan helms his next mini- series with another haunted house story called The Haunting of Bly Manor. The Haunting of Bly Manor takes some of the execution style of Hill House but is essentially its own story. After the Hill House experience, its hard to go into this one with a little more alertness and always on the lookout for whats hidden in the background (at least for us, it had that effect for at least a few episodes). Its unfair to compare the two even if there are a similar cast returning from Hill House in mostly supporting roles and being helmed by Flanagan as a creator but less this time as director. In fact, Bly Manor is a different beast in itself with Bly Manor being a new haunted house that comes to life with new characters and backstories and some new ghosts to discover which makes Bly Manor a creepily fun time and its has children so add in a little of the unsettling creepy children element.

Using the same execution of breaking down the episodes to discover the backstory of each of the characters on the past and present is a clever way to do this. In some ways, it gives it this feeling of peeling layers of an onion before every piece fits together and one twist/ secret gets revealed after the next while also getting to know each of the characters more to give them greater connection. Other than that Flanagan takes on the main role of writing which is what gives this piece a lot of style and atmosphere. He only takes the director’s seat for the first episode which sets off the story in a great direction in terms of setting up the proper atmosphere however, even in the hands of other directors, the TV series does still manage to keep a certain atmosphere that is always rather unsettling and creepy but in this one, its definitely more about the mystery and suspense built from what is actually happening.

With that said, the characters are the true star as each of their story comes to life. Victoria Pedretti plays a great role as the American au pair Dani who brings on some change to Bly Manor as she tries to dig into what is causing those abnormal things to happen whether with the children or the inexplicable things she sees or experiences. At the same time, the baggage she carries does brings on a few twists as well. The cook Owen (Rahul Kohli) is also a really fun character especially with some hilarious puns like Al-Cohol You Later (one that we have a lot of fun right now saying randomly). One of the best characters and possibly the one with one of the best episode is for the housekeeper Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller) who delivers a hell of a performance. Not to mention the kids deliver some great performances by Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Flora and Miles respectively. Then you have some comeback roles with one or two episodes as some decent characters with Henry Thomas as the uncle, Carla Gugino who is the narrator and Kate Siegel as a key character to the past of Bly Manor to just name a few. There’s a whole lore of how the ghosts and spirits work that becomes a very nice twist.

Bly Manor brings its own setting by itself. The grounds and the manor itself all comes to life with all the stories that slowly comes to surface. The cast brings quite a lot to the story just like the first one as they all have a great deal of depth and its never solely a ghost story but much more than that which is what makes The Haunting of Bly Manor so good. Its something of a love, revenge, family, drama with supernatural elements. There’s some heartwarming moments and some comedy and then there’s a lot of creepiness and fantastic eerie atmosphere at times that’s pretty well balances. Its the not the same as Hill House but different in an equally good way.

FNC 2020: The Cloud in Her Room (她房间里的云, 2020)

The Cloud in Her Room (2020)

Director (and writer): Zheng Lu Xinyuan

Cast: Jin Jing, Dan Liu, Zhou Chen, Ye Hongming, Kangning Dong

Muzi, 22, returns to her hometown of Hangzhou. Her parents, now separated, have both moved on. She, in turn, hovers between past and present, flight and the eternal return.  – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

The Cloud in Her Room is generally the type of movies we all expect to see in Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Its absolutely arthouse. The movie is set in the current times in Hangzhou but shot completely in black and white along with some very interesting transition with close-ups of water, upside down swimming in the pool sequence and a negatives sort of filter of a building so on so forth. The setting itself also adds a lot of characters from her walks along the river to the residential area and its buildings and the different plances that she ventures alone or with others.

Its a slow-burn drama about a girl who returns home and the story floats between conversations with her mother, her father, her boyfriend and a barowner that she meets, her half-sister and the time she spends by herself wandering back to the family’s old apartment before her parents divorced. Another part is something like a documentary as there are interviews of the different people in her life or that she meets who talks about their view of relationships and how they came to this point in life. The concept of love, relationships and companionship and the unavoidable loneliness that she is coping with as everyone, especially her parents have moved on but she still hasn’t as she seems to be caught between the past and the present. We soon realize that in the present day, she’s remembering times of the past and what her past relationship meant to her as she was reconnecting with her each of her parents in their own lives.

While the film does float to the other characters in Muzi’s life in various conversations whether between her mother and her foreign boyfriends or her father and his new family, the central character is Muzi and she is one interesting subject. She is very flexible as she tries to blend with everyone and accepting to her mother’s more outward personality and her array of boyfriends. At the same time, her father has his own struggles with his family of his involvement and the whole discussion of not being a good father and in reality, realizing it himself when he asks whether she blames him for his decisions. At the same time, the most apparent relationship is the one with Yufei, a friend from school that has expanded further to something more intimate but never defined as boyfriend/girlfriend outwardly as he has issues with her personality and how she acts sometimes while he also has issues of his own from other relationships and really talking vaguely about what he wants from this before having a very memorable scene between them at the end.

The Cloud in Her Room isn’t for everyone. Its very slow-paced and almost feels like nothing much is happening except for the mundanity of Muzi’s life. Its full of subtle notes of watching a girl wander through her time and embracing her past and present and coming to terms with her life at this stage. Between the conversations and even the silent moments of observations and being in her own world, the movie crafts a rather deep character for Muzi and her life as well as the people in it. It sometimes feels random and disjointed but when the movie ends and giving it some thought (and I did a lot because this review took over a week to write up), it becomes a film that does carry some profound thoughts about relationships: family, love, friendship, companionship, etc.

*The Cloud in Her Room is currently screening on Festival du Nouveau Cinema and will be available until October 18th.*

FNC 2020: Mamà, Mamà, Mamà (2020)

Mamà, Mamà, Mamà (2020)

Director (and writer): Sol Berruezo Pichon-Riviere

Cast: Agustina Milstein, Chloé Cherchyk, Camila Zolezzi, Matilde Creimer Chiabrando, Siumara Castillo, Vera Fogwill, Jennifer Moule, Shirley Giménez, Ana Maria Monti, Florencia Gonzalez Rogriguez

A veil of sadness lies over the oppressively hot summer days. Cleo dives into daydreams with her cousins, the girls share secret signs and rituals. Flowing gently, in impressionistic images, the empty space that the death of Cleo’s sister has left in the family is poetically encircled. – IMDB

After doing an entire season of Movies and Tea Podcast on Sofia Coppola, the description comparing it to The Virgin Suicides is essentially what sold this Argentinian drama as one of my top must-see picks for this year’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Running at a short 65 minutes, Mamà Mamà Mamà is definitely comparable to Sofia Coppola’s films. For one, it has the slice of life storyline about a young girl Cleo dealing with the loss of her younger sister Erin in the days that follow under the companionship of her cousins and the care of her aunt while observing at a distance her mother’s pain from this ordeal. The family of girls and women all sit together through rituals and little games and everyday things while all coping in their own way. Grief is different for everyone and yet as Cleo goes through her own changes while dealing with it along with the neglect from her mother who is grieving immensely on her own with the comfort of her own sister, she stews in her memories of her sister by herself while watching and participating as her cousins all go through their own fun summer hobbies without a care in the world while sharing secret rituals and daydreams.

The cinematography and execution of this film is what truly gives it that arthouse spin but also adding in a tone with a dull palette of colors dimmed and subtle. There’s a gloom over each scene whether its the quiet times when all the girls are sitting together doing their own thing or when Cleo’s mother has her crying outbursts with the different triggers. And yet, one of the deeper bits is when Cleo falls into her little memories of her sister and even reliving the moments of her death as the camera is off-centred with moving parts of her sister’s lifeless arms or her mother’s body swimming across the screen. It all pieces together what happens. At the same time, the movie starts off with a recording that is a conversation with Erin and a few of these recordings happens as Erin’s asked about death and fear where it seems like Cleo dreams up Erin in an imaginary world by herself while putting those scenes in between her memories of her time with her sister in each other’s companionship. These moments might seem mundane and yet it adds a lot of depth to what Cleo is going through in her own mind and perhaps the loneliness she feels despite having her cousins around even if they all have their way of caring for her and offering her another type of companionship.

There’s something really special about Mamà Mamà Mamà where these few days spent with this cast consisting solely of the ladies and girls of this family. Everyone knows what’s going on and yet every cousin at their different age has their own understanding of it and whether its the aunt or Cleo’s mom or the mother’s mom all end up in this space as the adults help each other grieve while the children have their own way of transitioning through it and yet its a little heartbreaking are the little moments when Cleo calls out to her unresponsive mother who is the one person that truly will understand each other’s loss the most and yet its also surprisingly sweet to see her cousins, each of them in the first scenes doing their own things but each slowly bonding with Cleo in their own way and helping her forget a little about what’s going on. Everything might be through the eyes of Cleo in this story and yet every character has their own space and purpose as they build their own connection.

What might seem like a grim story about grieving about the loss of a sister actually turns out to be a rather bittersweet experience. Mother and Cleo both are in their own sorrow and yet, everyone staying with them helps breath life back into this space. As a directorial debut for a young female director Sol Berruezo Pichon-Riviere, it does definitely feel like a piece delivers a lot of depth for the story that its trying to tell and an impressive bit of writing and execution and leaves her a director to look out for.

FNC 2020: Topside (2020)

Topside (2020)

Topside

Directors (and co-writers): Logan George & Celine Held

Cast: Zhaila Farmer, Celine Held, Jared Abrahamson, Fatlip

Deep in the underbelly of New York City, a five year-old girl and her mother live among a community that has claimed the abandoned subway tunnels as their home. – IMDB

What a fantastic way to start FNC 2020! Topside is a heart wrenching story through the eyes of a five year old little girl who has never been in contact with the “topside” and normal things that we all know: bright lights, bustling people, car honks and so much more who gets thrust into the real world as her and her mother suddenly has to escape their “home” and run through a world completely strange and one that she gets pulled by her mother from one place to the next as they seek overnight shelter. The story sets its foundation on the homeless and the community in the shadows while sharing a deeper story about this drug-addicted mother and her five year old daughter Little.

The story quickly sets up the scenario (if we couldn’t figure it out before) that this underground life is not suitable for Little (Zhaila Farmer) whether its watching her climbing through garbage/junk or through the graffiti-filled walls of the tunnels or the constant alert of the people around her when sounds approach and the arguments in the background especially between John (Fatlip), a leader of sorts of this underground group and her mother Nikki (Celine Held) as he urges her to leave so that Little can get proper education and life, discussions that fade into the background because Little doesn’t really understand any of it including shifting through notices of trespassing which she doesn’t know what it is either. A truth that gets further emphasized when her mother leaves on her many trips up top and as people scurry away, John tries to teach her how to subtract. All these things that puts the audience in the know as we can understand everything going on around her and can see the danger up ahead of having to leave without any choice despite the fantasy of the little world they live in where Little believes she can’t leave until her wings grow.

Its in the real world that the little conversations in the background the reality of Nikki’s life when she goes up top crashes with Little’s confused world as they try to find a place to stay. Jumping from one location to the next and trying to avoid the threat of losing Little when people call the authorities. The reality hits very fast as the story shifts over to Nikki’s point of the view after a turning point that creates an avenue to understand the character of Nikki and perhaps also a turning point of how she sees this situation that she’s been trying to hold one to so tightly. One of the best parts is how bustling New York City is shot through the eyes of Little with the light glares from the ceiling, the tall buildings, the loud chatter from all the people walking closely around them and so on that creates this overwhelming claustrophobic feeling.

The cast here from young Zhaila Farmer, director and writer and also actress Celine Held or Fatlip, they all deliver some great performances and some meaningful characters to the plot in general. Other than Little who doesn’t say a lot but emotes and reacts a great deal to the world below and above ground as she gets mesmerized and scared by everything that she hasn’t seen, all the characters have a purpose and their complexities from Nikki’s struggles to the two male characters that pop in and out of the scenes, John who wants Nikki to be leave for Little’s sake but also is her drug dealer underground and the character of Les (Jared Abrahamson) with a similar sort of deal who is a shady character that has this little bonding moment with Little but ends up offering a horrible deal to Nikki. Both of them are self-contradictory but also drive the story further.

Topside is a deeply impactful film that highlights not only a mother and daughter relationship but the struggles of homelessness. Its a heartbreaking story and one that truly hits harder and harder with every single realization that the story tells from the dangers that creep around them. Its also one that delivers a lot to think about in terms of the decisions made and when to let go. A fantastic story with great performances and a wonderful way to kick off the first movie of FNC 2020!

Fantasia Festival 2020: Wildland (Kød & blod, 2020)

Wildland (Kød & blod, 2020)

Wildland

Director: Jeanette Nordahl

Cast: Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Besir Zeciri, Elliott Crosset Hove, Joachim Fjelstrup, Sofie Torp, Carla Philip Roder

Ida moves in with her aunt and cousins after the tragic death of her mother in a car accident. The home is filled with love, but outside of the home, the family leads a violent and criminal life. – IMDB

Wildland is a Danish drama about a family involved in crime witnessed through the eyes of a cousin that moves in after her mother passes away. Through her eyes, Wildland shows the dynamic of the family matriarchy lead by a doting mother who runs her underground business where her three songs help her with the dirty work of chasing down money owed from people and doing some scare tactics. At the same time, Ida starts having to tag along with her cousins even though each one treats her in a different way and slowly accepts her well. As with any family drama, there is a certain level of dysfunction whether its the overbearing love or the protectiveness or a judgement (and disagreement) of the girlfriends. There’s a lot that slowly reveals as the mother’s smile might hide a lot more and everyone has something deeper brewing in them. As Ida gets dragged deeper into this family and this crime world, a new side of her starts emerging as more of her personality comes out as well.

Wildland

Wildland executes the family drama with a lot of details and dialogue as well as the most confused feeling towards the mother character who seems to still treat her boys like children and yet gives them some important tasks. Every single character has their own unique personality. Ida pieces together the film because for the most part, she plays the role of an observer and doesn’t talk too much however she has a lot of little subtle moments that gives her some depth. Where the movie does the best is the story of the mother role played by Sidse Babett Knudsen who knocks it out of the park. Her mother role is a little unsettling as she is very close with her son and incredibly controlling of their every choice in life while also having this power woman sort of role to hold up all of her business.

As with her character, the second point is her dynamic and interaction with each of her boys. The oldest son, Jonas (Joachim Fjelstrup) plays someone who has found his place with his mother who still stays at home and built his own family so has some kind of harmony while being more of a manager role to his brothers. Mads (Besir Zeciri) is the brother seems the most out of control in his own world who plays video games and is a little weird. The last son David (Elliott Crosset Hove) is the plot point that drives a lot of conflict as his mother disapproves of him and yet he can’t seem to break out of his mother’s grasp to have his own life apart of this crime world. David carries a lot of hidden messages in his character and as things start piling up, he starts having some distance. What winds up to be a shocking ending especially on how things close out the story.

As more Danish films pop up in film festivals, its starting to become obvious that there are some upcoming powerhouse actors/actresses and directors in Denmark. Wildland tells what might feel like an expected tale of crime and family drama and yet, there’s a lot of subtlety to the performances and some fantastic visual cues used in the cinematography to boost the scene’s tone and mood. The characters are crafted with a lot of care and still leaves room for its audience to connect some of the dots and delivers some surprises as well. There’s a lot to like about Wildland.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Bring Me Home (2019)

Bring Me Home (2019)

Bring Me Home

Director (and writer): Seung-woo Kim

Cast: Yeong-ae Lee, Jae-myung Yoo, Jin-hee Baek, Hae-Joon Park, Hae-Jin Yoo, Ae-ri Jung, Hyun-woo Seo

A dedicated mother in search of her missing son follows a tip that leads her to a fishing village where corrupt police officers might have the answers to her mystery. – IMDB

Bring Me Home is a rather clearcut sort of thriller. Its a story about a mother looking for her missing especially harder after she gets an anonymous tip following her husband’s death. On one hand, she remembers and imagines life with her husband and son which gives her strength when she starts discovering the fishy clues of the people at the fishing spot of a boy that they hide from her in fear that it is her son.

Its not hard to get into the emotioms that Bring Me Home wants the audience to feel especially since the straightforward plot gives a clearcut line of good and evil. The mom is the sad person who is desperately looking for her son even through all uncertainty she feels like Min-su is her Yoon-su so things get crazy as she puts herself into one after another dangerous situation to find the clues amd prove her point and take back her child. On the other side is the evil people of the fishing village which we soon learn is full of ex-cons and lead by the corrupted cop Hong. The whole group is full of selfishness, molestation, misogyny and so much more. With a crew like that, everything they do is either overdramatic or overreaction making them more suspicious or how they treat Min-su in general. Its hard to not side with the mom’s side in a story like this and the finale is some sweet, sweet justice. Well, its a Korean film so there’s always some bitterness to it or else it wouldn’t be a thriller, right?

Bring Me Home

Lady Vengeance (review) herself, Yeong-ae Lee plays the mother here which means that subtle acting is really on point and well, the acting in general. Just like police corporal Hong played by Jae-myung Yoo which also does a fantastic job since it was so easy to hate this character and that hatred built throughout the film. Like I said, sweet sweet justice. Of course, these are the main characters and the two strongest opposing sides of the equation that really stood out. There are some supporting characters that really do add quite a bit to the story with the roles of Flounder (I think that’s the name) and Mr. Choi who both aren’t explored too much but at the same time, add to the story in their own ways, mostly in the dislike department.

With that said, Bring Me Home is an alright drama thriller. The story itself is fairly clear cut but they do have a little bit of the reveals in some of the subtle details from camera pans to using the flashlight in dark scenes. There is some disturbing scenes and unpleasant characters to deal with. I’m starting to notice films that deliberately use content that’s a little emotionally manipulating. This one does hit that territory a little. However, the fishing spot setting is used well and the whole thriller does get fairly tense. There’s a lot of subtle visual cues to bring some clues to light and give these band of kidnappers some depth. Without hitting too many spoilers, another element that was a bit lacking was its unsatisfying ending. Overall, Bring Me Home is alright with some good and some bad point but it has to thank its engagement really in its casting choice of its two main leads, Young-ae Lee and Jae-myung Yoo because they really delivered stellar performances.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Jumbo (2020)

Jumbo (2020)

Jumbo

Director (and writer): Zoé Wittock

Cast: Noémie Merlant, Emmanuelle Bercot, Bastien Bouillon, Sam Louwyck, Tracy Dossou

Jeanne, a shy young woman, works in an amusement park. Fascinated with carousels, she still lives at home with her mother. That’s when Jeanne meets Jumbo, the park’s new flagship attraction. – IMDB

Jumbo is the directorial debut of Zoé Wittock which at the beginning says that its inspired by a true story. After the world has been in the stand for LGBT community, there’s always somewhere else to explore in terms of sexuality and attraction and in this case, its a look at object sexuality or objectophilia which is the journey that the main character Jeanne finds herself with as the new amusement park ride Move-It that she is recently employed as to do clean-up after hours starts to form a connection with her. Is it a real or in her imagination is the whole deal as the rock of her world being her mother starts to negate her attraction with Jumbo, the name that she’s given Move-It. Its a journey about acceptance of being different, finding yourself as well as family seeing a way to accept, support even if they don’t understand what seems strange to them as it breaks away from the norm. That’s where the movie strikes at its best. Its weird for sure especially with scenes of a different form of sex and the infatuation but if you think about it, its not really that different from how everyone else feels in the face of falling in love. Its just the subject is different. Suffice to say, the premise itself is an engaging and unique one.

One of the place that this shines is the characters and relationships. The movie starts off with this endearing relationship with Jeanne and her mom Margarette who are almost like friends. She tells her mom everything and is obviously a lot more introvert in comparison to her mother who talks about her vibrator right in the first 5 minutes of the movie. Jeanne is a character that enjoys being alone whether its because of bullies or just her lack of communication skills with others or that people find her a little odd whereas her mother is the opposite as she finds a man called Hubert fairly quickly and comes into the picture. Its a unique relationship between the mother and daughter that takes a front seat the entire movie as it all takes a turn for the bad before any kind of resolution. Its one of the relationship that becomes very intense to watch.

Above this relationship, its really the journey for Jeanne and Jumbo. Its an inner journey for Jeanne as an individual as while everyone might disagree, she’s also struggling to make sense of it and its portrayed so well by Noemie Merlant who embodies this character so well. The introvert and shy personality, the happiness, attraction and interaction with Jumbo, the struggle to try to be normal with a man and everything else that goes with it. Her relationship with Jumbo might not be one of words and its a one-sided conversation a lot of times but the way the film is executed gives it life as Jumbo lights up in different colors to answer her questions and responds with sounds and whatnot that reflects their emotions. There’s some parts where it feels like its her imagination but it starts making you wonder whether its reality as well.

Jumbo is no doubt a unique film and one that will be very memorable because its premise stands out so well. There’s a lot to talk about with Jumbo. The cinematography, the sounds, the characters and relationships, the portrayal of objectophilia: its all worth discussing. Its probably not for everyone since its a daring and intense take on objectophilia. It doesn’t shy away from making sure that the audience understands how deeply in love Jeanne is towards Jumbo whether its through her actions, words or expressions. One of the supporting characters makes a really good point at the end and that it doesn’t matter what she likes if she’s as happy as she was even if its a little bizarre. Its a great takeaway in general for people struggling to be accepted for being different from what is believed as “normal” but then, as I’m watching and writing this review, we’re living in abnormal times which probably will be our norm in coming years so what is really normal, right?

Fantasia Festival 2020: Time of Moulting (Fellwechselzeit, 2020)

Time of Moulting (Fellwechselzeit, 2020)

Director (and writer): Sabrina Mertens

Cast: Freya Kreutzkam, Miriam Schiweck, Zelda Espenschied, Bernd Wolf

Germany in the 1970s. Stephanie is a lively child, enjoys board games, playdates with neighbours, and holidays with the family. But her life takes an increasing turn towards isolation at the hands of her absent, temperamental father and a mentally unstable, often bedridden mother trapped in world of her own making. Something is quietly rotting away under the surface of familial life, and soon, the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, the months into years… bringing aging, clutter, decay, but no future in sight. Strange rituals abound and the outhouse – where the family keeps their boxes of memories and secrets – exerts a growing influence. So Stephanie retreats into a dark world of barbaric fantasies… – Fantasia Festival

Time of Moulting is a German drama film set in a series of still shots and moving interactions between the family over the span of two different age of the main girl Stephanie. The first is where she is a little girl and dealing with her family especially the bond with her mother while it jumps forward to the second part when she is a teenager in the vicinity of her home every single day and the change the grows in her.

Time of Moulting feels a little like a abstract character study of Stephanie. At the same time, its a film that is very experimental and slow-paced and requires a lot of reading between the lines as well as being incredibly patient to decipher all the is going on. There isn’t a lot of dialogue or interaction and its all watching some odd moments go on with Stephanie and the little things that carry from one scene to the next while also having other scenes as she interacts with her father who doesn’t really care too much and sits around watching TV a lot and her mother who is mostly unwell. The film takes place in the one setting of their home and the outhouse surrounded with clutter and mess as well as their cat.

The impression of Time of Moulting truly depends on how much of the abstract story it wants to tell is delivered to the audience. For myself, there is merit in the way it chooses to film it from the color tone of each setting to the different items that Stephanie uses even up to her scenes from a child to teenager where she starts doing some rather questionable things and making some odd decisions. It all moves straight to an even more abstract ending that almost doesn’t answer of the oddities from before and wraps up with ambiguity. Suffice to say that I’m not the audience meant for this film as the merit of the moments doesn’t add up to be greater than the shock of the ending and what might have happened leaves too many questions still in the air. Perhaps its one meant for discussion and would be interesting to see how others interpret this film, for myself, its on the same level as a previous movie that I had reviewed called La Version Nouvelle (review) which has a lot of similarities in how the film is executed even if the story is a completely different one.

I’m sure that there are people with deeper power of connection that might appreciate this movie for what its trying to present. There are some shocking moments that Stephanie does and the ending does have that sudden moment of revelation at one part that is fun. The cat parts throughout also was very fun (but when are cats not fun to see in movies) but this movie is a gloomy slow-paced story focused on a young girl going through some personal and psychological change which matches to the title of Moulting but what is “Moulting”? I have a lot of different theories right now but nothing that feels like I have a concrete answer because its a little too ambiguous and abstract for my own preference. However, if you do like these sort of experimental movie experiences, this is one to check out.