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Benedetta

Director – Paul Verhoeven – 2021 – France – Cert. tbc – 131m

*****

A 17th Century nun subject to religious visions embarks on a lesbian relationship with a novice – exclusively on MUBI from Friday, July 1st

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

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Everything Went Fine (Tout C’est Bien Passé)

Director – François Ozon – 2021 – France – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

An elderly man recovering from a stroke enlists his two daughters to help him achieve assisted suicide and die with dignity – out in cinemas on Friday, June 17th

Emmanuèle Bernheim (Sophie Marceau) gets a phone call to say that her dad André Bernheim (André Dussollier), 85, is in hospital recovering from a stroke. She rushes to the hospital to meet her sister Pascale Bernheim (Géraldine Pailhas) in ER where he’s having an MRI scan. When they see him on the ward, mouth elongated on on side of his face, he can’t remember what happened. He has lost many everyday functions of his body.

While a fellow stroke survivor on his hospital ward makes rapid enough progress to soon be discharged, the less fortunate and initially bedridden André is moved to another hospital for more specialist treatment. Nevertheless, he eventually improves and in due course graduates to being sat in a chair in his room. Later still, he learns to use a wheelchair. His dietary abilities improve from initial intravenous drip feed through being spoon-fed mashed veg through to eating accompanied in a restaurant.

On one occasion early on when Emmanuèle visits him in hospital, she’s horrified to discover him lying in bed in his own excrement and immediately summons the manageress, who not only makes excuses about the amount of work required to look after a patient like this and how the hospital is short-staffed but also gives a personal assurance that this won’t happen again (and, indeed, no such further incident recurs).… Read the rest

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Everything Went Fine (Tout C’est Bien Passé)

Helping a loved one to die

Everything Went Fine
Directed by François Ozon
Certificate 15, 113 minutes
Released 17 June

France. Two daughters, Emmanuèle and Pascale Bernheim (Sophie Marceau and Géraldine Pailhas), visit their 85-year-old father André Bernheim (André Dussollier) as he recovers from a stroke. The process is slow and difficult, and he may never make a full recovery. André has lived life to the full, often looking to himself rather than those around him, and has come to a decision. Separately he tells each of them, “I want to die.”

In his current state of health, he considers life no longer worth living and wants to be able to end it while he still has the mental and physical capacity to do so. Ironically, this… [Read the rest in Reform magazine]

Read my alternative, longer review.

Everything Went Fine is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, June 17th.

Trailer:

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Sins of the flesh

Benedetta
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Certificate 18, 131 minutes
Released 15 April

The Dutch director Paul Verhoeven revels in controversy… His latest work, Benedetta, is… sexually explicit, but also tackles religion within a historical context. It clearly has plenty of potential to offend.

Benedetta is based on the story of the 17th-century Italian nun Benedetta Carlini who had visions and exhibited stigmata. She became an abbess and was investigated and discredited by Catholic officials. There were suggestions that Benedetta’s visionary traffic was with the Devil rather than God, while various nuns’ testimonies claimed her stigmata to be faked. Her roommate Bartolomea confessed to regular sexual activity with Benedetta. Benedetta was demoted.

Verhoeven eschews historical accuracy for the spiritual, the spectacular and the carnal… [Read more…]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Teaser trailer:

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Melancholia (2011)

Director – Lars von Trier – 2011 – Denmark – Cert. 15 – 135m

*****

End of the world drama concerns two sisters who must confront unspeakable disaster – UK release date 30/09/2011

There have been end of the world movies before, but this one, by Danish enfant terrible Lars von Trier, breaks the mould. It comes in three parts: a prelude of apocalyptic imagery including a view of the planet Melancholia crashing into and obliterating the planet Earth, followed by two lengthy sections concerning two sisters.

The first section has the newly-wed Justine (Kirsten Dunst) making a mess of her lavishly planned, obscenely expensive wedding party at the house of her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Claire’s wealthy husband John (Kiefer Sutherland).

The second has Claire, John their pre-teen son Leo (Cameron Spurr) and Justine awaiting what may turn out to be either the close passing by of Melancholia to the Earth or the fatal collision of the larger planet with the smaller. Depending on whether the prelude’s pictured events are actually going to happen or merely an imagined worst case scenario. A provocative game for a film director to play with an audience.

The prelude – slo-mo state of the art images underscored by classical music not unlike the opening to von Trier’s earlier Antichrist (2009) – has falling birds, static electricity, Justine in a wedding dress ensnared by forest branches and Claire carrying Leo through scenes of apocalyptic mayhem.… Read the rest