Andrei Zvyagintsev's film "Loveless" is about a middle class couple getting divorced because they understand that their marriage is loveless. The beginning of the film is promising the son overhears his parents talking that they want to give him up to the orphanage after their divorce because he is an obstacle for their further happy life.
However after the child disappears, the film becomes completely pointless and uninspiring. It contains a lot of meaningless conversations, not very exciting sex with plain looking people, and all this occurs against the boring background of drab and colorless Moscow apartments.
Towards his characters director is clearly loveless; they are entirely uninteresting to him, but unfortunately they become uninteresting not only to the author, but also to the viewer. The director obviously skimped on the actors because he thought that for the depiction of such humdrum personalities good actors were not needed. The result is flat, lifeless, paper-thin characters. The course of events is mundane and very predictable. The sole protagonist the son vanishes so quickly that we do not have time to get to know or love him. It is especially important to note the mediocre camera-work. The centric composition is ordinary and inexpressive. Lighting is poorly thought out. The only beautiful shots are of the frozen lake and the rest of the footage is very banal. This is quite surprising, because cinematographer Mikhail Krichman is the same one who worked on Zvyagintsev's previous, much more visually expressive films. At the end of the film we see a television broadcast of events in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine loveless and divorced. However, this association looks contrived. The heroine wearing a tracksuit with Russia imprinted upon it, is a prototype of Russia, tired and not loving its children. But this metaphor by Zvyagintsev seems calculated, inorganic and senseless. The film looks very inexpensive and as if done in a hurry. Andrei Zvyagintsev, who previously proved himself to be a high level master with the film "Leviathan", is disappointing in this picture. In "Leviathan" there were brilliant acting performances, amazing locations and profound thoughts. "Loveless" unfortunately only manages to arouse epithets with a suffix LESS.
Read more at: http://indie-cinema.com/
Dnevnik masinovodje (2016)
Train Driver's Diary
Train Driver's Diary (Dnevnik mainovođe) was produced by Serbian film star Lazar Ristovski and directed by Milos Radovic. Ristovski plays the main part of Ilija in the film. It is a very funny black comedy which is also full of profound thoughts.
The picture is about people who are accidental killers; according to statistics, the average train driver kills approximately 20 people during his lifetime. The subject of the comedy is very original and also the approach to this topic is compelling.
Ristovski created a memorable character of a middle-aged train driver who spends most of his life in a cabin with his small dog. His girlfriend also died on the railroad. One day on the tracks he sees a 10 year old boy, Sima, who wants to commit suicide because he is not loved by anyone. He becomes the adopted son of Ilija.
The acting of Petar Korac as grown up Sima is also worth mentioning, he is not a professional actor and later decided to choose another career, but he was able to create a convincing and charismatic character on the screen.
Director Milos Radovic said that he was inspired by Aki Kaurismäki when making the film. Radovic was able to create his own unique style and was not afraid to make fun of anything love, death or destiny. It is also a film about growing up, maturing and making important decisions.Train Driver's Diary has a certain quality of fatalism and yet despite all the horrible experiences of the heroes the film is optimistic and full of humanism.
Read more at: http://indie-cinema.com/2017/08/train-drivers-diary-piff-2017/
Maya Dardel (2017)
Maya Dardel (A Critically Endangered Species)
Maya Dardel (A Critically Endangered Species) is directed and written by Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak. The film's protagonist is played by Lena Olin. Lena Olin, film veteran who was discovered by Ingmar Bergman, proved that she is still capable of captivating the audience with a brilliant lead performance. She plays the protagonist who is an aging poetess and the film's success owes her a great deal. Patrick Scola's lens exquisitely depicts her living in California's mountains among beautiful misty landscapes, in a house surrounded by half-withered plants. All this creates a special atmosphere in the film.
Maya Dardel is a rather original picture because it explores another side of sexual relationships usually men are described as dominant and the role of prostitutes is relegated to women. However in this film, the authors show how young and promising poets can easily become involved in a kind of prostitution hoping to get this woman's inheritance. Their intentions are more clear than Maya's; we can only guess whether she is going through a crisis, is really desperate because she is lonely or maybe is just testing how low young men can fall in their pursuit of money. We see how corrupt are these people who are supposed to be be spiritual and above simple earthly pursuits. In this sense Maya Dardel perfectly reflects the soullessness of our materialistic society.
Interestingly enough, that one of the directors, Zachary Cotler, is an award winning poet himself and has also composed the minimalistic piano driven musical score of the film. Maya Dardel combines elements of drama, comedy, satire and even romantic comedy. The film is not for every taste as it's contemplative pace may put some viewers off who are used to more conventional movies. However, it is a bold, inventive film featuring a great performance of Lena Olin and is among the finest American independent pictures of today.
See more reviews at: http://indie-cinema.com/
The film Platonov was made in 2015 by a German director Andreas Morell and is based on an early play by Anton Chekhov which was found only after his death and did not even have a name. This play is less known than Chekhov's other plays and was staged not so often and rarely has been adapted for cinema.
Events in Morell's Platonov take place not in nineteen century Russia, but in contemporary Germany.
Morell's task of adapting this play into a film was not an easy one, especially when taking into account the limited budget he had. It could have been just another play on a screen, but thanks to the director and cinematographer Felix Cramer it became a brilliant cinematographic piece.
Andreas Morell showed that this play is still current.
There was an apocalyptic feeling before the revolution in Russia when society was demoralized and we see similarities with contemporary reality.
The director should be praised for his choice of actors. The role of Platonov was especially important, he was portrayed by the rising star Robert Besta who has all the qualities for this role; charisma, intellect and irony. The role was challenging as the character is complex: a disillusioned school master who is sometimes cynical and self-critical. He finds refuge in heavy drinking as finally he is not able to deal with reality.
Sonja is played by Franziska Petri. She is tender, feminine, romantic and at the same time she is cruel, violent and obsessive. It is interesting that this play was written specifically for Maria Yermolova, a famous Russian actress, but she rejected the role and so for a long time this play was left undiscovered. The film is more than just a love-triangle story; it is a critical analysis of the contemporary society with some elements of nostalgia for the beautiful but lost time. The role of the fiancé was played by the well-known actor Stefan Grossman. His character is also memorable and probably very close to what Chekhov wanted to see on the stage. He might look naive, but he is calculating and deceiving. He wants to build his marriage on sand and is afraid to face reality.
This is the best version of Platonov on film and is without a doubt among the top Chekhov adaptations.
Read more at: http://indie-cinema.com/2017/07/platonov-viff-2017/
With the film Bodyguard, Ebrahim Hatamikia managed to create a true masterpiece of cinematography.
It tells the story of a bodyguard, and although there were films on this topic before, but this picture stands apart. The film is perfect from the standpoint of cinematography, actors, and ideas.
The story begins with the main hero Hajji Heidar Zabihi, played by Parviz Parastoui, getting assigned to protect vice-president Dr. Solati. But during an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber the vice-president becomes injured and subsequently dies. After this Heidar receives another important mission to protect nuclear scientist Meisam Zarrin (portrayed by Babak Hamidian who received the Best Supporting Actor award at VIFF). The main character is constantly haunted by the images of his past and he questions his mission and his future. After some time he begins to doubt that he did everything he could to protect Dr. Solati.
The film depicts well the modern Iranian society and although this film is very realistic it is also highly expressive. The film was highly successful in Iran where it grossed $1.85 million in the box-office but it is less known in the West. Nevertheless it deserves attention of audience and critics worldwide because it is not only a popular film, but is also a powerful and spiritual art house picture.
Read more at: http://indie-cinema.com/2017/07/bodyguard-2016-viff-2017/
Million Loves in Me (2016)
Million Loves in Me
Million Loves in Me by director Sampson Yuen is based on real events and tells the story of a mother and daughter, their complex relationship and how they kept dozens of animals in cages in their apartment. The revelations of their actions led to their trial which is also depicted in this film.
It is interesting that the lawyer John Yiu who defended the protagonist (the daughter) in court is actually the producer and the actor who plays her in the movie. It is one of the very rare cases where a male actor brilliantly played a female role. His acting is very convincing and truthful although it was his first role in cinema. The role of Katy was quite complicated, it was funny and tragic at the same time. The mother, Mrs. Fong, was played by experienced stage and film actress Koon-Lan Law.
The film is a story about alienation of people in a consumerist society. The animals in cages are no more lonely than people. The mother and daughter spend all their time buying bags, clothes and animals whom the mother is afraid to touch, because of her fear of bacteria. It is a story of ultimate loneliness and false illusions. The man who the daughter thinks is interested in her is only after her money. It is a story about people creating their own cages, living in them and being afraid of breaking them.
There is a dramatic contrast of bright advertisement-like images of restaurants and shops with dark settings of the cages where the animals are kept. The film is quite original and provokes empathy towards the protagonist and poses many questions about life and love.
The protagonist is very lonely and her heart is full of unrealized love, rejected by her mother and cheated by her romantic interest. She is consoled only by the animals which she takes care of. There is a lot of childishness in her and only in the end she finds the strength to oppose her oppressive mother.
Read more at: http://indie-cinema.com/2017/07/million-loves-viff-2017/
"The Student" "(M)uchenik" directed by Kirill Serebrennikov is an attempt to reconsider religious fanaticism in the modern world. The picture is based on the play "Martyr" by German author Marius von Mayenburg and it was adapted to the reality of modern Russia.
In a way the problems touched upon in the film are universal and not connected to one particular religion. An interesting aspect of the film is the constant quoting of the Bible which shows that any religion can become an instrument of aggression. The picture is a sharp and humorous satire. The teachers in the film are very well depicted, they whose heads are full of self contradictory ideas combining Stalinism, Putinism, Communism, Liberalism and religion. The school administration cannot confront a religious fanatic because they themselves do not have any ideas or principles.
When the biology teacher tries to confront Veniamin, she also looks into the Bible, which she interprets in a vulgar and primitive way. The relations between Veniamin and Grigori are interesting; he becomes very close to Veniamin but we see later that Grigori is gay which is the real reason why he becomes his disciple.
The film is shot in a minimalistic way in this low-budget production, but the actors play well and the dialogues are very funny. The ideas of the picture are important, the film has an open end just as our society has an uncertain future with growing extremism and radicalism.
Logan is high quality entertainment and is the best movie of the X-Men series. This picture has a vibrant style characterized by a dark creepy atmosphere, expressive lighting, interesting locations and good camera work. The film's plot has original ideas and grips the viewer throughout the film.
The main gripe which the critics had was excessive brutality, but this film is R-rated, and the violence is not vulgar or disturbing like in many films of today. The casting was excellent, all the main actors played very well, especially Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen.
It is obvious when watching Logan that the director together with the crew watched many classic films and created a film influenced by the best of cinematography.
Many pictures are made purely on a green screen with excessive quantity of SFX which makes these films unrealistic, unimpressive and claustrophobic. In this respect Logan avoids this cinematographic dead end. The film was shot in many fascinating locations and the landscapes were chosen very well. The details were chosen with good taste and attention. The special effects are present, but are reserved and not intrusive like in many other pictures. The film serves as a good example on how to make a superhero picture without sacrificing artistic integrity.
Read more at: http://indie-cinema.com/2017/03/logan-review/
La La Land (2016)
La-La Land is a very important film. It received so many Oscars, but we have seen weak films awarded before that. It is important as a proclamation of incompetence. This film invaded the musical genre which traditionally belonged to artists who can sing and dance.
The film is about a young woman who wants to become an actor and a young musician. Ryan Gosling who plays main protagonist is a good actor but this role is not for him; he is extremely clumsy and when he dances around a streetlight it resembles a parody on Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. His voice reminds one of a whining mosquito. Concerning Emma Stone, she also cannot sing or dance. At least she is not as clumsy as Ryan.
The film's choreography was made with the imagination of a kindergarten teacher. The plot is a collection of trivialities and the camera work is made by a person who does not known anything about composition except for the central position in the frame, which makes this banal film even more boring and trivial than it could be. Only positive aspect is the light feeling of nostalgia is left by the film.
Read more at: http://indie-cinema.com/2017/02/la-la-land-review/
Le jeune Karl Marx (2017)
The Young Karl Marx
The Young Karl Marx chronicles the period when young Karl Marx meets his future long-term friend and co-author Friedrich Engels and the several following years. During the Berlinale press conference dedicated to the film Raoul Peck was asked if he read Karl Marx. He answered that he attended seminars dedicated to Marx's Capital. His film is reminiscent of such a seminar; interminable and tedious.
There are many dialogues, questions, answers however the film completely lacks artistic vision. There is no interesting music, camera-work or a gripping plot.
Raoul Peck tried to underline the more materialistic side of his relationship with Jenny, showing his sex life and child birth. To deprive Marx of certain romanticism is also not fair, the young philosopher was a romantic of his own kind; he was engaged for seven years to Jenny and dedicated many poems to her.
The discussions depicted in the film are too primitive for such great thinkers such as Marx, Engels, Proudhon and Bakunin. The proletariat, on the other hand, is shown as a group of people with abject faces and feeble children, which makes the ideas of Marx about the proletariat too idealistic and not connected to reality.
One of the positive sides of the picture is that Peck did not try to distort facts about the people in the film, however after the film finishes one feels relieved that the drawn-out seminar on Karl Marx is finally over.
Read more at: http://indie-cinema.com/2017/02/young-karl-marx/