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Features Live Action Movies

Benediction

Director – Terence Davies – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 137m

****

The life of First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon, his homosexual lifestyle and his heterosexual marriage – out in cinemas on Friday, May 20th

It’s been five years since Davies’ previous film A Quiet Passion (2016) and the curious thing is, both these films have been about poets and poetry. The earlier film was about Emily Dickinson, with its discussion about religion and Christianity very much to the fore; the new film is about Siegfried Sassoon and while the Catholicism he embraced in later years is in the mix, alongside that element Davies’ research revealed others of far greater interest to the writer-director, notably that Sassoon was gay. As you might expect, the first half hour or so concentrates on the First World War, but more time is spent in the middle of the film exploring some of Sassoon’s gay relationships with a small section towards the end skimming over his later years and heterosexual married life.

Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden) saw action in the First World War and had the utmost respect for the men under his command – and they for him. He was appalled by the conditions under which they found themselves serving.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Benediction

Glum heroes

Benediction
Directed by Terence Davies
Certificate 12a, 137 minutes
Released 20 May

Films about poets are few; however, the director Terence Davies has now made two in a row as different as their historical subjects. The earlier A Quiet Passion (Reform, April 2017) concerns the introverted, isolated, American spinster Emily Dickinson while the current Benediction is about First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden) – a homosexual man when this sexual preference was illegal, before the word ‘gay’ was used to describe such things.

His Military Cross earned for bravery as a First World War officer drops into a stream then sinks, an image expressing Sassoon’s dissatisfaction with the way the war is being run, and the hardships endured by the troops. He writes in protest to the top brass, but instead of the court-martial and platform to speak he expects, he is diagnosed with ‘shell shock’, partly thanks to literary mentor Robbie Ross (Simon Russell-Beale). Sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh… [Read more…]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Trailer:

Categories
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:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

La Mif

Director – Fred Baillif – 2021 – Switzerland – Cert. 15 – 110m

*****

The lives of inmates in a girls’ care home, and the working lives of the staff who look after them – out in UK & Irish cinemas on Friday, February 25th

This ‘docudrama’ (for want of a better term) follows the residents of a Geneva care home for vulnerable young people.

Screaming blue murder, a young woman is escorted from the premises by a policewoman.

Lora (Claudia Grob), the manager of this care home, returns after time off to say “hi” to the girls. (The fact of her returning is thrown in to the narrative almost casually at this point; only later does its significance become apparent.) These girls are vulnerable children in the State’s care, and Lora feels like a mother to them. They, in turn, refer to the home – meaning themselves and the other girls, with their support workers on hand in the background as sort of substitute parents – as La Mif (French slang for “the family”; literally, “The Fam”).

Novinha (Kassia Da Costa) is a sassy, pushy teenager who talks frankly about sex, And everything else. Audrey (Anaïs Uldry) – the arrested girl from the opening – has been caught having sex with a boy three years younger than her; after this, the centre is turned into a home for girls only.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Flee (Flugt)

Director – Jonas Poher Rasmussen – 2021 – Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden – Cert. 15 – 83m

****

In a series of interviews, a gay man now living in Denmark tries to explain his experience of fleeing Afghanistan – in cinemas from Friday, February 11th

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 he speaks.

The style of the animation is almost perfunctory, a far cry from The Breadwinner’s colourful, detailed and rounded rendering which enable meshing with mythological storytelling and an equal distance from The Swallows Of Kabul’s pastel shades which so brilliantly convey a romance doomed by the circumstance of the regime.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Flee (Flugt)

On being a refugee

Flee
Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Certificate 15, 83 minutes
Released 11 February

Review for Reform magazine, February 2022.

There have been animated films about life under the Taliban in Afghanistan before, including The Breadwinner (reviewed in Reform, June 2018), but Flee is different. It covers not only the experience of fleeing your home country, but also the psychological aftermath once you successfully settle in another country. And although animated, it’s a documentary based on a real person. Amin (not his real name), a gay Danish citizen due shortly to marry his long-time partner Kasper, is persuaded by a radio journalist to give a series of interviews about his history as a refugee. His experiences have taken their toll and now threaten to undermine his relationship with Kasper.

Amin’s fond memories of childhood are very different from the way we now think of Afghanistan. As a young boy… [Read more…]

Full review in Reform magazine, February 2022.

Read my alternative review here.

Trailer:

Categories
Art Features Live Action Movies

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 – in cinemas from Friday, April 15th

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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Features Live Action Movies

After Love

A girl in both ports

After Love
Directed by Aleem Khan
Certificate 12a, 89 minutes
Released in cinemas 4 June, on Blu-ray and BFI Player 23 August

*****

The South Coast. Mary (Joanna Scanlan) is married to Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia), a ferry captain who regularly travels to France and back in the course of work. They fell in love as teenagers. She is white British, he is south Asian. She has converted to Islam, his religion, and integrated into his Urdu-speaking family, a language she has herself learned.

One day he comes home from work, and dies while she’s making him a cup of tea. Going through his effects, she checks his mobile phone, and discovers messages from another woman. She goes over to France to confront Geneviève (Natalie Richard)… [read more]

Full theatrical review in Reform magazine.

NB Blu-ray contains the director’s earlier short Three Brothers (2014) plus an informative 46-minute zoom Q&A, trailer and teaser trailer, a stills gallery, and (first pressing only) a booklet containing writing on the film.

Trailer:

2021

Cinemas

Friday, June 4th

Blu-ray, BFI Player (subscription exclusive)

Monday, August 23rd.

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Weekends (Wi-ken-jeu, 위켄즈)

Director – Lee Dong-ha – 2016 – South Korea – 95m

**1/2

A group of South Korean men are involved in an openly gay, male voice choir – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by the LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

Seoul. Fast-forward from a theatrical stage. Clubbing. Shopping. A medical check up. Buying medicines from the chemist. Serving drinks at the bar. Getting a cab. Looking at a musical score on the train. Welcome to the lives of a group of gay man, the members of South Korea’s first gay, male voice choir G-voice whose songs articulate issues of gay life and identity. Most of them readily admit to being mediocre singers and one confesses he’s only doing it because his lover is.

College student Sander finds himself thrust into the limelight when he volunteers to take over as the group’s leader. Musical director Jaewoo is a doctor while bass singer Cheolho is a pharmacist. “It’s hard to find songs dealing with gay love affairs”, says Jaewoo. When a friend asked him for some advice, he thought the words would make a great song and turned them in to one. He clearly has a gift for this – this documentary is awash with many such songs he’s written.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Justine

Director – Jamie Patterson – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 82m

***1/2

LGBQT romance. Fiercely intelligent, young woman living in Brighton with no prospects falls for a student teacher – out exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, February 5th

A young woman with a bruised lip soaks in the bath. Her landlord pounds on the door of the flat demanding rent. She gets out of the bath – in wet clothes, and answers, putting him off ’til another day.

Welcome to the world of Justine (Tallulah Haddon) – young, intelligent, in good health and damaged. She fills a plastic water bottle with vodka and swigs from it regularly. She hangs out and goes shoplifting with her best mate (Xavien Russell) who has his own problems – his mother has a new boyfriend who’s all over her and he can’t bear to be in the house. Regular meetings with her probation officer (Sian Reese-Williams) suggest a young woman closed in on herself, desperate for love and affection. No educational qualifications. No job. Lacking hope or ambition for anything. Except, perhaps, death or oblivion.

And yet, she loves to read. And one day browsing and lifting in a bookshop she spots a young woman.… Read the rest