“The Red Turtle” Mini-Review

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The Red Turtle (2016)

The Red Turtle” is this year’s best animation Oscar nominee that surprised people in a way it masterfully combined visual simplicity and metaphoric depth. The film borrows the theme of Robinson Crusoe to tell the story of a shipwrecked man who experiences both desperation, sorrow and then happiness on an isolated island. The director of this gem is Dutch Michaël Dudok de Wit who partnered with the Japanese Studio Ghibli to produce a wordless, but very meaningful animation which explores the theme of a man’s survival on an island, but also the bigger topics of a man’s place in the universe and his relationship with nature. Given the film’s visual simplicity, it is astounding how much there is to experience here for the viewer. Even if the content of this animation may be described as “thin”, the underling symbolism of the movie guarantees that the audience engages in emotive reflection.

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“Raw” Review

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Julia Ducournau’s debut feature film “Raw” provoked extreme reactions from the critics and audiences alike. Despite its grim story and graphic imagery, the film managed to gain an all-round critical acclaim. “Raw” is a French-language film about an adolescent girl Justine (Garance Marillier) who enters her first year at a veterinary school in France. There, Justine joins her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), and soon realises that the life of first-year students at the school is not an easy ride, and her recently-acquired (and initially forced) passion for raw meat is the cause for major concern. Realistic in its presentation, the film is known for its graphic scenes of cannibalism, but, ironically, its most shocking premise is not the immoral craving of another being’s flesh, but the film’s ghastly and disturbing setting.

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“Personal Shopper” Mini-Review

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Personal Shopper (2016)

In “Personal Shopper”, a film of Olivier Assayas (“Paris, je t’aime” (2006)), Kristen Stewart plays a young woman Maureen who mourns the loss of her twin brother Lewis. Maureen visits the house where Lewis lived with his girlfriend, and believes that his ghost will try to communicate with her. In her daily job, Maureen is a personal shopper to a rich and famous star in Paris, a job she dislikes and only too keen to break the “rules” of her employment now and then. Soon her personal identity issues mix with her paranormal beliefs, producing restlessness and paranoia. Although admirable in its fresh approach, the film is also unfocused and dull. It tries at least three different points of focus: a ghost story; a murder mystery; and a high-society critique, all of which are underdeveloped and none of which work to a satisfactory conclusion.

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“The Neon Demon” Review

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The Neon Demon (2016)

 “Beauty isn’t everything. It’s the only thing, says Roberto Sarno inThe Neon Demon. Director of this movie, Nicolas Winding Refn, seems to have taken this statement close to heart, and crafted a film where visual beauty is, indeed, the only thing worth paying any attention to, seemingly forgetting that, in film-making, visual representation is never the only thing that counts. Refn (also director behind critically-acclaimed “Drive” (2011)) is now here also the writer, and his story is about Jesse (Elle Fanning), an underage aspiring model, who comes to LA to try her luck in show-business. After gaining initial success, Jesse realises that the climb to the top is thornier than she had previously imagined it to be, especially when a group of fellow models start to covet her natural attributes and instantaneous success. Despite its outstanding visual effects and a promising premise, “The Neon Demon” is preposterous and misguided, that kind of a film which one can easily stop watching half way through, never really caring about the ending.

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“Elle” Review

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Elle (2016)

**SPOILER ALERT**

A Dutch director known for “Basic Instinct” (1992) and “Total Recall” (1990), Paul Verhoeven, has produced his first French-language film to date – “Elle”, based on a novel by Philippe Dijan (also known as the writer of “Betty Blue” (1986)). “Elle” has already competed for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2016, and deals with a very sensitive topic of a rape perpetuated on a successful businesswoman Michele Leblanc, whose complex relationship with her family and the deeply-seated psychological trauma experienced during childhood, lead her to have an unconventional response to the attack. This film is as disturbing as it is engrossing, and, overall, proves to be a very satisfying experience, thanks to an outstanding performance by Isabelle Huppert (“The Piano Teacher” (2001)), and due to a masterful (though also confusing) mix of a psychological thriller, a Hitchcockian detective story and French black humour.        

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“Two Days, One Night” Mini-Review

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Two Days, One Night (2014)

Two Days, One Night” is a critically acclaimed French-language film directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, probably better known for their previous film “The Kid with a Bike” (2011). The plot here is uncomplicated: Belgium; a depressed married mother of two, Sandra (Marion Cotillard), is having problems at work. The management of her solar-panels-making company proposed to make Sandra redundant if the majority of the staff (9 out of 16 workers) agrees to do so (there will be a secret vote). If the majority votes for Sandra to be redundant, each of the workers will receive €1,000 bonus, but will also be required to work slightly longer hours. In that vein, the film portrays the two days and one night which Sandra spends trying to convince her co-workers to vote in favour of her staying with the company (and against their bonus). Read more of this post

“Tale of Tales” Mini-Review

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Tale of Tales (2015)

**SPOILER ALERT**

Directed by Matteo Garrone, best known for his raw crime drama Gomorrah (2008), “Tale of Tales” or “Il Racconto dei Racconti” is a fantasy horror film which comprises three main stories seemingly running in parallel. The first story starts with the Queen (Salma Hayek) and King (John C. Reilly) of the kingdom Longtrellis, desperately wanting a child but who are unable to have one, thereby resorting to extreme clandestine measures of killing a sea monster and consuming its heart to have a son, whose identical twin is also the son of a servant woman. Another story tells of the King of the kingdom Highhills (Toby Jones) arranging a tournament to wed his only daughter Violet (Bebe Cave) by making participants guess the large creature whose skin is on the display – the skin is that of a flea. The third story centers on two elderly sisters who live calmly away from the public eye only for their peace to be shuttered when one of the sisters becomes bewitched and transformed into a young beauty (Stacy Martin) who, in turn, becomes the centre of affection for the lustful King of the kingdom Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel).

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