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Director – Paul Verhoeven – 2021 – France – Cert. tbc – 131m
A 17th Century nun subject to religious visions embarks on a lesbian relationship with another nun – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player
Christianity. The Church. Religion. Treat them the wrong way, and you can get into trouble. Horror The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), drama The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) and comedy Life Of Brian (Terry Jones, 1971) remain controversial. Lesbian nun relationship drama Benedetta may be about to join their ranks. Or perhaps times have moved on. The film is apparently based on a real 17th Century case.
As a young girl, Benedetta (Elena Plonka) claims to commune with the Divine – convincingly so, too, enough to suggest to a bandit gang about to rob her parents and her that a chirping bird is God’s voice, especially when said bird deposits excrement in the eye of the bandit leader who promptly returns a gold necklace to Benedetta’s mother.
On arrival at the convent in Pescia, Benedetta’s father (David Clavel) must pay the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling who seems to have cornered the market in Reverend Mothers judging by Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) a dowry to enable his daughter to become a novice, which suggests that the institution, like the wealthy Catholic Church under whose umbrella it exists, may have ignored Jesus’ injunction to sell all you have and give to the poor.… Read the rest
Director – Juho Kuosmanen – 2021 – Finland – Cert. 15 tbc – 107m
A student taking a long, sleeper train from Moscow to the Arctic finds herself sharing a compartment with a drunken male slob – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player
Finnish archaeology student Laura (Seidi Haarla) lives in Moscow with her life of the party, professor lover Irina (Dinara Druckerova) in the latter’s Moscow flat where life is a constant round of social gatherings and parties. Irina’s busy schedule causes her to drop out of a proposed visit to Murmansk to see the petroglyphs, so Laura takes the Artika train (Artic train) alone and finds herself sharing her first class, two person sleeper cabin with Lhoja (Yuriy Borisov) who knocks back the vodka and leaves half-eaten packets of food all over the shared table. She takes an immediate dislike to him.
And that’s the setup of the film: not so much a road movie as a rail movie, the bulk of what follows taking place on the train (a fascinating location in itself) with off-train episodes at various stops en route including St.… Read the rest
Director – Jacques Audiard – 2021 – France – Cert. 15 tbc – 105m
The criss-crossing lives and loves of four characters in Paris 13th District – in cinemas and on BFI Player as part of from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player
Shot for the most part in stylish black and white, this starts off with apartment resident Émilie Wong (Lucie Zhang) naked in her grandmother’s flat with her new tenant Camille (Makita Samba), their situation swiftly explained in a “how it all began” flashback. Their intense passion cools after a mere couple of weeks, however, with Camille subsequently bringing another girl he fancies back to the flat.
Meanwhile, law student Nora Ligier (Noémie Merlant from Jumbo, Zoé Wittock, 2020) gets mistaken for online sex cam girl Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth) at a nightclub and the image of her (incorrect) identity immediately plastered over the internet. She quits university and gets a job at a real estate company, an area in which she has a lot of experience, run by Camille who is looking after the company for a friend and has no idea what he’s doing.… Read the rest
Director – Jonas Poher Rasmussen – 2021 – Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden – Cert. 12 tbc – 83m
In a series of interviews, a gay man now living in Denmark tries to explain his experience of fleeing Afghanistan – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player
Like The Breadwinner (Nora Twomey, 2017) and The Swallows Of Kabul (Zabou Breitman, Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec, 2019) before it, this is an animated film about life in Afghanistan under the Taliban. At the same time, it’s very different from those films for three reasons.
One, it details not so much the experience of life under the Taliban but the refugee experience of getting out of the country and its psychological aftermath on those who manage to get out.
Two, its central character is not fictional but real, the film being to all intents and purposes a documentary.
Three, although the film incorporates live action archive footage at various points, it’s essentially structured around an interview, visually represented in animation, in which the refugee subject recounts his experiences which are brought to life in a highly effective 2D animation as the speaks.… Read the rest
Director – Florence Miailhe – 2021 – France, Germany, Czechia – 84m
Two children undergo a series of adventures as they flee an ethnic cleansing pogrom in this animated feature made with oil paint on glass – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player
Kyona and Adriel live with their mother, father and younger siblings in their village. One day, soldiers and dark, hooded shadow men arrive to massacre the locals Yelzid people. Somehow the family escape and board a train, but it’s stopped by soldiers for Control and their parents and younger siblings are detained on the platform. Kyona and Adriel must continue on alone and cross the border to safety.
This stakes its place in cinema history as the first feature to be realised using the time-worn animation technique of oil paint of glass. This technique makes the film analogous to watching a moving oil painting, but director Miailhe marshalls her serial images with a strong sense of narrative and additional filmic technique which hold the whole together.
Kyona loves to draw. Her sketchbook, which accompanies her everywhere, opens and closes the film, providing a perfect jumping off point to enter the oil on glass produced narrative.… Read the rest
Director – Mamoru Hosoda – 2021 – Japan – Cert. tbc – 121m
A bereaved, teenage girl starts to emerge from her shell when she signs up for a virtual world on her smartphone – in cinemas in the BFI London Film Festival 2021 with its UK Premiere on Thursday, October 7th and its Scottish Premiere in Scotland Loves Anime on Saturday, October 16th
‘U’ is an internet, virtual world of high tech, futuristic architecture. When you sign up, you receive your own personalised avatar built from your biometrics. You have the chance to start over in a new world.
Teenager Suzu (voice: Kaho Nakamura) could do with that chance. She lives with her dad (voice: Koji Yakusho from Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda, 2018; The Third Murder, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017; Pulse, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001; Shall We Dance, Masayuki Suo, 1996; Tampopo, Juzo Itami, 1985) in a small town somewhere in the East of Japan. She doesn’t really communicate with people at her school – not Luka (Tina Tamashiro), the sax player in the school band, not Kamishin (Shota Sometani from To The Ends Of The Earth, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2019; First Love, Takashi Miike, 2019; Foreboding, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017; The Boy And The Beast, Mamoru Hosoda, 2015; Himizu, Sion Sono, 2011) who set up the canoe club but hasn’t been able to attract any members, not Shinobu (Ryo Narita) who proposed to her – well, told her he wanted to protect her – when she was six.… Read the rest
Director – Maung Sun – 2020 – Burma – 98m
The progress of a first time film director from whose production money seems to flee like a four-legged animal – in cinemas as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2021 from Wednesday, October 6th
An hilarious opening confronts film director Wai Bhone (Okkar (Dat Khe)) with the man from the Burmese censorship office, a bureaucrat with little sense of storytelling beyond the prohibitive. Lots of people are smoking. Could he tone down that word to furthermucker? Cut down the drinking scenes. We cannot let criminals escape. What is the point of this film? Then there are street scenes bursting into colour. All of this makes it into the attractive trailer.
On the set of his film, Wai is confronted by an actress who hasn’t learned her lines properly, so she’s reading them off her hand. Then there’s a location where a guard hasn’t turned up with the key to admit him and his crew. So he climbs over the wall with the camera only to get shut down by another guard. And his overly careless brother-in-law Zaw Wyint (Ko Thu) talks him into letting him appear in the film only to damage the camera when Zaw gets overenthusiastic about shooting a stunt.… Read the rest