Pirmdzimtais [Firstborn] (2017)

Pirmdzimtais
Director: Aik Karapetian
Writer: Aik Karapetian
Cast: Maija Doveika, Kaspars Znotins, Dainis Grube, Kaspars Zale
Seen on: 28.6.2019
[Screener Review.]

Plot:
Katrina (Maija Doveika) and Francis (Kaspars Znotins) have been a couple for a while and things can be a little tense between them. When they are assaulted by a biker (Kaspars Zale), they are both pretty shellshocked. Katrina turns to a police officer for help, leaving Francis feeling inadequate: he couldn’t stop the assault in the first place and now he isn’t even good enough to help afterwards. Determined to prove his worth, he seeks out the biker himself, but their confrontation goes differently than planned.

Firstborn has a strong first half, but then lost me in the second half, unfortunately, when it becomes muddled, confusing and a little boring. But there’s a lot of material for thought about masculinity in the film, so that’s something.

The film poster showing Maija Doveika and Kaspars Znotins.
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Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal [The Incessant Fear of Rape] (2018)

Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal
Director: Aditya Kripalani
Writer: Aditya Kripalani
Cast: Shalini Vatsa, Chitrangada Chakraborty, Kritika Pande, Sonal Joshi, Vinay Sharma, Ahmareen Anjum
Seen on: 29.5.2019
[Screener Review.]

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Vibha (Shalini Vatsa), Chitra (Chitrangada Chakraborty) and Shagun (Sonal Joshi) don’t know each other, but they end up sitting in the same taxi, part of a fleet especially for women. Their cab is being driven by Shaila (Kritika Pande) who owns the taxi company. As they are stuck in traffic, the four women get to talking: about the need for a taxi service like this. About the constant threat of being raped if you’re out just a little too late. About the entitlement of men. Even on this night, they can’t get home unbothered: a man (Vinay Sharma) starts hollering at them from his moped. But this time, they strike back and soon they have the guy locked up in an abandoned building, ready to teach him what it means to be afraid all the time.

Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal is an interesting, character-driven film on a feminist mission. It has a good cast and is well-told, although the ending – while thought-provoking – is a little unsatisfying. But that shouldn’t keep you from watching it: the film is well worth it.

The film poster showing Chitrangada Chakraborty.
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Camp Death III in 2D! (2018)

Camp Death III in 2D!
Director: Matt Frame
Writer: Matt Frame
Cast: Dave Peniuk, Angela Galanopoulos, Darren Andrichuk, Emma Docker, Chris Allen, Starlise Waschuk, Terry mullett, Cynthia Chalmers, Gerald Gerald Geraldson, Hans Potter, Katherine Alpen, Jason Asuncion, Andrea Bang
Seen on: 6.1.2019
[Screener review.]

Plot:
Camp Crystal Meph was the scene of a horrific bloodbath by the killer Johann Van Damme (Terry mullett). But a few years later, Todd (Dave Peniuk) is ready to give it another try. His uncle Mel (Darren Andrichuk) owns the camp ground and Todd has set up a new camp concept. Together with his camp counselors Rachel (Angela Galanopoulos) and Barry (Chris Allen), they are ready to welcome their group. But soon after their arrival, people start dying – again -, murderous squirrels run wild and nobody has any clue what is actually happening

Camp Death III in 2D! is a parody of Friday the 13th Part III in 3D that has some nicely silly ideas, but unfortunately overdoes it a lot of the times. Plus, it is just so ableist that I really wanted to scream.

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In My Room (2018)

In My Room
Director: Ulrich Köhler
Writer: Ulrich Köhler
Cast: Hans Löw, Elena Radonicich, Michael Wittenborn, Ruth Bickelhaupt, Kathrin Resetarits
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 2.11.2018
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Plot:
Armin (Hans Löw) is growing older, though you couldn’t tell it from the life he’s living or the women he’s hitting on. It’s obvious that things can’t go on much longer the way they are. But it’s not Armin who gives in – he wakes up one morning and the world is changed around him: he seems to be the only person left. In this wasteland, Armin has to build himself a new life, relying only on himself.

It is interesting to contrast and compare In My Room with The Wall, but other than that there was little that I enjoyed about watching it. I found it pretty exhausting to be quite honest.

the film poster showing a man riding a horse in a desolate landscape.
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Premières solitudes [Young Solitude] (2018)

Premières solitudes
Director: Claire Simon
Writer: Claire Simon
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 2.11.2018
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“Plot”:
Following a group of teenagers from the same school in the Parisian suburbs, Premières solitudes listens to their conversations, their reflections, their plans and doubts and dreams.

Teenagers can be the cutest, and Premières solitudes is a film that makes sure we don’t forget that fact. As much as I liked the individual teens, the film is at its strongest when it studies the structures that become apparent in their conversations.

The film poster showing drawings of groups of teenagers and their shadows.
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Leto [Summer] (2018)

Leto
Director: Kirill Serebrennikov
Writer: Michael Idov, Lili Idova, Ivan Kapitonov, Kirill Serebrennikov
Based on: Natalya Naumenko’s memoir
Cast:Teo Yoo, Irina Starshenbaum, Roman Bilyk, Aleksandr Kuznetsov
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2018
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Plot:
1980 in Russia. Despite severe censorship of music and concerts, Viktor Tsoy (Teo Yoo) dreams of becoming a rock star like Mike Naumenko (Roman Bilyk). When he gets to meet Mike and plays for him and his wife Natalya (Irina Starshenbaum), Mike sees his talent and decides to take him under his wing, soon giving him first successes. Viktor is very much taken with Mike, and soon with Natalya, too.

I don’t know much about Russian punk and of the bands who are portrayed in the film here, I only new Kino a little (Bezdelnik is a great song), but even so, I enjoyed Leto a lot – in fact, much more than I thought it would. It gives us a look at a relationship between two men that is allowed to be much more complex than the usual portrayal of them in film. But that is not all.

The film poster showing Mike Naumenko (Roman Bilyk), Natalya Naumenko (Irina Starshenbaum) and Viktor Tsoy (Teo Yoo) in black and white with yellow graphic elements.
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Beoning [Burning] (2018)

Beoning
Director: Chang-dong Lee
Writer: Jungmi Oh, Chang-dong Lee
Based on: Haruki Murakami‘s short story Barn Burning
Cast: Ah-in Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun, Soo-Kyung Kim, Seung-ho Choi
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2018
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Plot:
Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo) meets Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jun) again by chance: they grew up in the same neighborhood when they were kids and are now both pretty much on their own in the big city. Hae-mi asks Jong-su to watch her cat while she goes on a trip to Africa. As he is quite smitten with her, he gladly agrees. When she returns, though, things don’t really take the romantic turn Jong-su had hoped for. Instead Hae-mi introduces him to Ben (Steven Yeun) who she met on the trip. Jong-su is in euqal parts jealous of and fascinated by the richer, suave Ben who he doesn’t trust at all.

Burning starts off well but loses steam in the last third or so, leaving me with an overall feeling of disappointment: despite many good qualities, the film could have been more in my opinion.

The film poster showing a man in a hoody running through a sunset landscape.
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In Fabric (2018)

In Fabric
Director: Peter Strickland
Writer: Peter Strickland
Cast: Gwendoline Christie, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Caroline Catz, Julian Barratt, Hayley Squires, Richard Bremmer, Leo Bill, Susanna Cappellaro, Steve Oram, Fatma Mohamed, Jaygann Ayeh, Simon Manyonda
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2018
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Plot:
Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) is a shop assistant at a big department store. But ther is something else going on in the store than your usual shopping experience. Miss Luckmoore does sell a dress, though. In fact, she sells the same dress to several women. A cursed dress that spells trouble for all of the women who buy it.

In Fabric is a weird film, in a very special, entertaining and enchanting way. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it from its horror to its absurd sense of humor.

The film poster showing a floating red dress in front of a black background.
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Minding the Gap (2018)

Minding the Gap
Director: Bing Liu
“Cast”: Keire Johnson, Bing Liu, Zack Mulligan
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2018
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“Plot”:
In Rockford, IL there’s not much to do, jobs are scarce and the town’s young people congregate at the skater park. Among them is Zack, a charismatic boy who becomes the center of attention for his friend Bing’s cinematic efforts, capturing their skating, their homes, their relationships. Keire is a little younger than they are, but he looks up to the older boys and becomes part of their friend group. They grow up together – with all growing up entails.

Minding the Gap starts life as a documentary about a group of skaters, a group the director himself belongs to. But spanning over a decade in their lives, the film’s subjects change as much as the film itself, ultimately becoming not only a coming of age story, but also a hard and highly personal look at how a boy can become a good man when he has mostly bad experiences with the men around him.

The film poster showing two skateboards lying over each other to form a heart with a photo collage in the background.
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Drift (2017)

Drift
Director: Helena Wittmann
Writer: Helena Wittmann, Theresa George
Cast: Theresa George, Josefina Gill
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2018
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Plot:
Two women spend time at the North Sea together. It is pleasant, but it is also finite and when they have to part, one (Josefina Gill) leaves for Argentina, while the other (Theresa George) heads to the Atlantic Ocean that carries her to her new destination.

Drift is an experimental film and I can image that it can develop quite a pull if you manage to lose yourself in it. I didn’t manage and the talk with the director after the film didn’t help improve my impression of the film either.

The film poster showing a grainy image of the ocean.
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