Love smoulders in Cold War and embers refuse to die in L'amour Flou
In October's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams talks to Cannes award-winning director Pawel Pawlikovski about his grave love story, Cold War and talks about light-hearted but serious unlove story L'Amour Flou's success with actor-directors Romane Bohringer and Philippe Rebbot. Click on the arrow to listen to Cinefile.
A lot has already been written about Pawel Pawlikovski's film, as it has travelled across the world since winning the prize for best director at the 2018 Cannes Fim Festival.
Zula and Viktor fall in love just after World War Two is over. She is much younger and intrinsically unsettled. She unsettles Viktor who remains perturbed throughout the film.
Joana Kulig plays opposite Tomasz Kot and they are a well-matched as ill-matched lovers, her exuberance and passion versus his smouldering desire. Although in real life, there is a mere five-year age difference.
It's not surprising as when they first meet at an audition of girls and boys from the Polish countryside, ironically, supposed to be pure, Zula explains that she if she killed her father it's because she needed to explain to him that "he had confused his daughter, with his wife."
Kulig explains why this line is so important in building Zula's character.
"We knew that she had a problem with the father, with a really difficult situation and something really strange about her background. So in her relationship with Viktor, we knew that Zula, who is so sensitive, at the same time, she doesn't have a good example from men. Sometimes Zula fights with Viktor, but he really loves her, and she has a problem with trust. She later on realises the problem and turns to drink to help. But it doesn't."
No matter that they want different things from life, Viktor and Zula are destined to be together, because of love.
Contrasts are key to the director's vision in Pawlikowski's third feature film Black and white, a powerful folk, jazz and rock and roll music score and the passage of 30 years in the space of less than two hours, sharpen the drama of Cold War, which as Pawlikovski says "is not political, although public money does go to folk culture rather than to some more contentious expressions. That being said there is freedom of expression today."
Cold War is not just a clever title about an impossible love affair. It led Kulig to think about the Communist past of Poland.
"I knew it was difficult in those times for my parents and grandparents, and I remember my mother and grandmother talking about Walesa, and thinking this was very important. Now we can say what we think. In those days people were scared and had to be careful."
L'amour flou (Hazy Love)
In their first directing bid, the Bohringer-Rebbot team, mother-father and two children, Rose and Raoul, dish up a comedy based on the drama of separation. They make a sallient point about the blurry lines upon which so many relationships flounder, and make a success out of a situation commonly deemed a failure.
Experienced actors both, they bring something refreshing to their French romp.
Romane and Philippe have had enough of each other. Or so they think. It's not so easy to cut the ties and move on, or out, when you have two little ones you want to care for.
Avoiding potentially stale humour about domestic love-on-the-wane, the duo lead the spectator along a bumpy path to possible contentment.
Bohringer and Rebbot are at their funniest in this bundle of emotions when they feel the pull of attraction elsewhere. Rebbot's eye wanders to a much younger jogger, is thwarted by a cat-allergy, while Bohringer is led astray by lust and fantasy, hetero and homo sexual.
Bravo to them for converting a family break-up into a tender un-breakup.
A compassionately splendid The Happy Prince, in We the Coyotes, LA tests young love
For RFI's December Cinefile, there's Rupert Everett's The Happy Prince about the legendary writer Oscar Wilde's last chapter of life. We the Coyotes is a Franco-US coming of age-couple flick with howling good vibes. Click on the arrow on the photo to listen to Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde's grandson talking about his ancestor and the "moving" film, and to Hanna Ladoul and Marco La Via, directors of We the Coyotes whose feature is close to home.
The Happy Prince
Director and leading actor for The Happy Prince, Rupert Everett, takes on the challenge of engaging cinema-goers with yet another interpretation of 19th century writer Oscar Wilde.
Everett's rendering is framed within Wilde's fairy story of the same name; by way of introduction Wilde is seen as storyteller and loving father.
Then he delves into the trials and tribulations of the legendary literary figure, juggles with the exuberance of a person who has become an icon of wit as well as of gay rights.
The first-time director's acting experience creates a captivating and beautiful cinema story about love, as if Wilde might have predicted that his life would be fit for film.
Everett gives Wilde the expected enfant terrible attitude, and distills the character and the story with serious stuff which strikes a chord or two today.
Oscar's lover, Alfred Bosie Douglas is played by Irish actor Colin Morgan, quite transformed as the beautiful blond boy.
The two of them take up most of the screen time as they travel from Dieppe to England and to France.
However, three solid second roles, shore-up their performances. Colin Firth plays loyal pal, Reggie Turner, Edwin Thomas as the adorable Robbie Ross is the most tender, and Emily Watson as Constance, Wilde's estranged wife and the mother of his two sons is gracious and romantic.
The locations in France and Italy are beautiful, and French actress Béatrice Dalle adds a little zing as the punchy cabaret mistress.
Everett pulls off the challenge.
We the Coyotes
Jake (McCaul Lombardi) is in love with Amanda (Morgan Saylor) and apparently carefree. Amanda is in love with Jake and is pent up. The two 20-somethings have just moved across the country to the West coast, to Los Angeles to follow their dreams.
They appear to be incompatible but are in fact delightfully complementary.
The film has an ordinary feel to it. The camera follows the two young adults as they try to find work, somewhere to sleep, get their car towed away and their money stolen. All in a day's normal life adventures when you're new in town.
In between the couple's pitfalls and the less pretty parts of the city are mischief, beats, Jake's laid-back style, an endearing happy-go-lucky friend and a dose of good fortune.
The two up and coming actors are spot on.
The basis of the story sounds familiar. Two young French people, Hanna Laddoul and Marco La Via had set off to discover the US and Hollywood a few years ago. Their first feature film made it to ACID, the independent distributors programme on the sidelines of the main official Cannes Film Festival.
Happy as Lazzaro and The Mumbai Murders
In November's Cinefile RFI's Rosslyn Hyams speaks to Alicia Rohrwacher, Italy's fairytale filmmaker about Happy as Lazzaro and Indian director Anurag Kashya's, more brutal style in The Mumbai Murders. Click on the arrow on the photo to hear the interviews.
Alicia Rohrwacher on Happy as Lazzaro
You can count on 36-year-old Alicia Rohrwacher for a miracle.
Lazzaro Felice, or Happy as Lazzaro doesn't disappoint. A wonderful miracle occurs as Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) resusscitates after a fall on a lonely hillside and is rescued by a fairy-tale wolf to find that his family has left behind the world of innocence that they knew.
They have had to go out and fend for themselves after the feudal Marquesa falls on hard times.
They may have lived frugally and in isolation before, but on the outskirts of the city, they are truely excluded. One character intercedes: "People only realise they have been slaves when they are free."
"We use fables because what is happening in Italy these days is so extreme, that it's difficult to imagine that it's real, so maybe just fairy-tales can be useful to understand the reality in this moment and imagine another end of the story," she says, "I hope we will always be free to talk. The problem is [whether or not] there are people listening."
If you aren't up to speed on the politics of Italy, the film has plenty of universal hooks to grab, as well as pleasant decors, grass, trees, a decrepit mansion and a curious shelter by the ring road cobbled together out of recycled bits and bobs.
Rohrwacher is joined again by her actress sister, Alba in the second part of the film. She seems to fit the picture each time.
"When I wrote the script I never thought of her. It was because we met Agnesse Graziani, the character of young Antonia. I was very touched by Agnesse as a beautiful human being, but also because she was so similar to my sister. So they asked them to be the same character. I would love to write a movie about my sister, but in these two movies she arrives after the writing, as big beautiful surprise."
The Cannes Film Festival 2018 gave two Best Screenplay Awards in 2018. One went to Happy as Lazzaro, the other to Iranian director Jafar Panahi's 3 Faces.
* * *
The Mumbai Murders
Anurag Kashyap is happily continuing his career as director and producer and making small-screen Netflix pix as well as cinema releases.
The Mumbai Murders (2016) is a tough one to watch. A serial killer (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is hunted by drug-riddled cop (Vicky Kushal).
Some of the scenes are extremely cruel, eye-shutting stuff. As the film is Hindi, if you close your eyes you also miss the translated dialogue in the subtitles.
"I do not like the superhero violence at all, because violence is painful, its repelling, it's extreme, but we make it palatable. You don't see the true nature of violence," he says.
Siddiqui as the 1960s unhinged serial killer, seems to reach a peak of unpalatable nastiness and is reputed to have suffered personally during and after the making of the film.
Kashyap, as in previous bad or ineffective-cop and worse-villain films, cracks a pace and spirals away in a tornado of brutality. Getting beyond that, the twists and turns in the narration allow some intellectual respite from the emotional battering.
One of his latest films released in India is called Manmarziyaan, a complicated by traditional triangular love-rivalry story, and stars Vicky Kushal, Tapsee Pannu and Abishek Bacchhan.
I Feel Good, Fortuna, The Wind Turns
In this edition of Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams keeps us posted on films in French with a look at the bittersweet I Feel Good, and the beautiful, poetical Fortuna. And she speaks to leading French actor with loads of charm, Pierre Deladonchamp about his latest film, The Wind Turns. To listen to September's Cinefile, click on the arrow on the photo.
I feel good
Jean Dujardin (Jacques) and Yolande Moreau (Monique) play 40-50 year-old siblings whose lifestyle choices are so far apart. Jacques' first appearance is when he rolls up in a monogrammed white towelling bathrobe and slip-ons, walking along the motorway. Monique, is an almost overly-sympathetic worker with an out-of-the-way charity centre where objects are repaired and recycled like the people who have found shelter there.
The satirical writers and directors, Gustave Kervern et Benoît Delepine went to a real Emmaus 'village' for their film location to slam unbridled capitalism and draw attention to people who are so often invisible to most of us.
After failing to amass dizzying amounts of material wealth, Jacques lands up in his sister's world and, through contact with her and the other residents, he undergoes an extreme transformation. The transformation materialises thanks to the enthusiastic embrace of capitalist values in a former communist country.
Both serious and ironic, the film had entertainment value as well. However, the humour can be cumbersome at moments and could leave a nasty taste for some. But the film actually is the bearer of a crucial message.
Degrees of whackiness aside, Kervern says their film is "optimistic because it shows that capitalism has its limits, that money cannot be an end in itself."
Full of good heart and the potential to become a cult film from the directors of Mammuth (2010) starting Gérard Dépardieu. Failing cult-status, it will be remembered for the screen presence of non-actors at the Lescar-Pau Emmaus village.
Le Vent Tourne (The Wind Turns)
Environment, ecology are muddled with the meaning of personal freedom. Pauline (Mélanie Thierry) invests her energy in her family farm in the mountains. Her partner Alex (Pierre Delandonchamps), an urbanite, is as committed to the project, and like a convert, tires himself with zeal. The couple tires too.
The two add-on characters, the wandering engineer and the young Eastern European house-guest who lands up to improve her health, pale into insignficance in comparison with the force of Pauline and Alex.
Swiss director Bettina Oberli's achievements in this film lodge in some dramatic moments, such as the challenges facing farmers caught between politically correct 'green' practices and those handed down by previous generations
The theme is definintely a popular European one these days. Some are more tightly interwoven on the human vs. environment issue however, such UK director Clio Barnard's Dark River this year, and Hubert Charuel's big hit of 2017, Petit Paysan.
Fourteen-year-old Ethiopian orphan Fortuna, played by Kedist Siyum lands up in a monastery in the Alps and unfortunately becomes attached to a fellow countryman, Kabir, 12 years her elder. Veteran actor Bruno Ganz anchors the story, and adds to the dramatic force of the black and white feature with his expressions of doubts and a few certitudes about life and human beings, in his role as Father of the few monks whose spiritual lives are disrupted by the migrants who are waiting for the asylum process to save them.
Sounds and silences mark this film steeped in snow and isolated from the world until a police raid interrupts the quiet concerns of all. It's a sad story, made of sad beauty in snowy, yet firey black and grey and white.
Young men make tough, clear choices in 'Shéhérazade' and 'Sauvage'
In this month's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams meets artists from two French feature films. Both stories about the rougher or tougher side of life: Shéhérazade and Sauvage.
In the sunny port of Marseille, director Jean-Bernard Marlin sets a true-story based on the experiences of teenagers who roam the streets in less salubrious areas and hang out with local, and barely older gang-leaders in housing estates near the city limits.
Marlin cast Dylan Robert who'd just been released from a deliquent's centre in real life, as his hero, Zac. Not a professional actor, but with charm and vitality, able to convey different emotions from joy to anger to love and Robert should be well on his way after this first on-camera try.
Marlin's leading lady, Kenza Fortas who plays the title role, makes a huge impact in her debut role. She incarnates a street-wise character, forced to grow up before her time, who after cracking tough deals in exchange for her body, falls asleep in Zac's arms like a baby.
With the city by night and by day as a backdrop, these unbridled youths seem to take possession of the streets, becoming involved in violent as well as petty crime.
The camera seems to be constantly on the go. Marlin stays close to Zac and Shéhérazade as they take on eastern European gangsters, local gangsters and disinterested parents.
The story could take place in any other city or any other region says the director, "I researched the background to the true love story that took place in Marseille between a very young prostitute and the boy who became her pimp. That was just the starting point. Afterwards I went to the areas where the prostitutes were. I talked to many of the yong girls, and then I dramatised the situations for my screenplay."
Marlin, admits an affinity with the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini, "especially his first two films, Amaroma and Accatone where he worked with actors who had no previous experience, and people we don't often see in cinema. Also Elia Kazan, for his ambiguous relationships and contradictions in the characters, like in America, Amercia or On the Waterfront... I think my main character is not so dissimilar to the main character in On the Waterfront [Marlon Brando].
Without giving the game away, one reason he chose a happy ending was to prevent his first feature (after an award-winning short called Fugue or Runaway) falling into the banality of real-life.