Augustine (2012)

Augustine
Director: Alice Winocour
Writer: Alice Winocour
Cast: Soko, Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Olivier Rabourdin, Roxane Duran
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Augustine (Soko) is a maid in the late 19th century in Paris. When she suffers from a kind of epileptic episode one night, she heads to the hospital and is promptly kept there and diagnosed with hysteria. When Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot (Vincent Lindon) becomes aware of her case, he sees an opportunity to prove the effectiveness of his hysteria-treatment through hypnosis and so secure financial backing for his research.

Augustine was a really excellent movie, with a fantastic cast and an interesting story critically told. Plus, it looked really good. Definitely one of the highlights of the Viennale for me.

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The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich (2012)

The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich
Director: Antonin Svoboda
Writer: Antonin Svoboda
Cast: Klaus Maria Brandauer, Julia Jentsch, Jeanette Hain, Jamie Sives, Birgit Minichmayr, Kenny Doughty, Gary Lewis, David Rasche
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Wilhelm Reich (Klaus Maria Brandauer) used to be a psychoanalyst who started studying orgones after leaving Germany for the USA. Orgones were supposed to be this cosmic life force. But the FDA gets wind of the whole thing and puts Reich on trial, convicting him of fraud and forbidding him to continue working and distributing his theories.

I am a huge fan of Antonin Svoboda’s first film – Spiele Leben – so I did expect a lot from this one, too. Maybe it was because of my high expectations, maybe not, but unfortunately I was bitterly disappointed and very much bored by the whole thing.

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The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

The Deep Blue Sea
Director: Terence Davies
Writer: Terence Davies
Based on: Terence Rattigan‘s play
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Hester (Rachel Weisz) is married to William (Simon Russell Beale), but left him because she fell in love with Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). Now the two of them are kind of living together, but actually it’s more like they are continuously tearing themselves apart. It gets so bad that Hester tries to kill herself, which leads the three of them to finally confront the situation they find themselves in.

The Deep Blue Sea is a wonderfully written and performed movie that does have some weaknesses, especially due to the overuse of a soulgrating violin solo.

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Killer Joe (2011)

Killer Joe
Director: William Friedkin
Writer: Tracy Letts
Based on: Tracy Letts‘ play
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Matthew McConaughey, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Chris (Emile Hirsch) is in trouble and needs money desperately. So he hatches the plan to have his mother killed to cash in on the insurance. He heard about a cop who can be hired for assassinations – Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey) – and soon his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and stepmother Sharla (Gina Gershon) are also on board. When they can’t pay Joe’s downpayment, he asks for Chris’ sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as a retainer instead.

Killer Joe is a tense, surprisingly violent film with a good cast, but the ending was pretty lackluster.

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Student (2012)

Student
Director: Darezhan Omirbayev
Writer: Darezhan Omirbayev
Based on: Fyodor Dostoyevsky‘s Crime and Punishment
Cast: Nurlan Bajtasov, Maya Serikbaeva, Edige Bolysbaev
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
A Student (Nurlan Bajtasov), working at a photo shoot, witnesses how a friend gets beat up after spilling some tea on the model girlfriend of a rich banker. That incident, coupled with the survival of the fittest rhetoric he hears at uni, leads him to rob a shop, shooting the owner and the only witness in the process. But that doesn’t seem to improve his situation at all.

I have to admit that I missed most of this film as I fell asleep after the first half hour or so and only woke up towards the end. In my defense, that happened because it grew really boring really quickly.

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Electrick Children (2012)

Electrick Children
Director: Rebecca Thomas
Writer: Rebecca Thomas
Cast: Julia Garner, Rory Culkin, Liam Aiken, Bill Sage, Cynthia Watros, Billy Zane
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Rachel (Julia Garner) lives with her family in a religious, technology-abstaining community, headed by her father Paul (Billy Zane). One day, a tape recorder is introduced into their world and Rachel is fascinated by that technology. She sneaks out to listen to a music tape at night and is enraptured by that song. A short while later, Rachel appears to be pregnant. She believes that the voice of the tape recorder is the father and wants to find him, while her parents suspect her brother, Mr Will (Liam Aiken) instead. But Rachel decides that she has to find the guy the voice – and her child – belongs to and heads out into the real world.

Electrick Children was a really sweet film with an excellent cast and a nice soundtrack. The topic could have been easily turned into a very heavy thing, but instead Thomas keeps it light without shrinking from the hard questions.

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Anton tut ryadom [Anton’s Right Here] (2012)

Anton tut ryadom
Director: Lyubov Arkus
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Lyubov Arkus is a Russian magazine editor. A few years ago she got her hands on an essay written by an autistic boy, Anton, where he writes about how he sees the world. They decided to make a documentary about him, and when the originally planned director has to cancel in the last minute, Arkus takes his place. This kicks off a very tight relationship between Anton and Lyubov and an accompanying of Anton from living with his mother until she gets sick, to federal institutions, uncovering the woeful state of mental health care in Russia.

Anton tut ryadom has an interesting story to tell, but it does so in a rather manipulative and overlong fashion. Also, it doesn’t tell the story it thinks it’s telling – rather than being an indictment of the mental health care in Russia, it is a pretty interesting look at how the film crew grows ever more involved into the story.

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Somebody Up There Likes Me (2012)

Somebody Up There Likes Me
Director: Bob Byington
Writer: Bob Byington
Cast: Keith Poulson, Jess Weixler, Nick Offerman, Stephanie Hunt, Marshall Bell, Kate Lyn Sheil, Jonathan Togo, Megan Mullally
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Max’s (Keith Poulson) life is slowly passing him by. He is still attached to his ex-wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) who is not really interested in him anymore. Just to get by, he works as a waiter in a restaurant with Sal (Nick Offerman), where he meets Lyla (Jess Weixler). Lyla and Max hit it off, at least at first. But as the years pass, things develop differently than planned.

Somebody Up There Likes Me has all the hallmarks of a mumblecore movie, which are usually really not my cup of tea (though they do tend to draw me in) – with one crucial distinction: it wasn’t necessary for me to like Max to like this film. And that makes it very enjoyable.

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Room 237 (2012)

Room 237
Director: Rodney Ascher
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Room 237 is a documentary about Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining, or rather it’s about how obsessed some people can get with a topic. It showcases the various theories about The Shining floating around – like, really, The Shining is about the genocide of the Native Americans. Or actually, it’s about the Holocaust. Although, really, it’s all about subliminal sex messages. And of course, Kubrick meant it all exactly like that.

I do like conspiracy theories and hearing about the nuttery that goes along with them. And Room 237 gives you a healthy dose of just that. But nevertheless it does grow long.

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Francine (2012)

Francine
Director: Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky
Writer: Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky
Cast: Melissa Leo, Victoria Charkut, Keith Leonard
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Francine (Melissa Leo) was just released from prison and is trying to rebuild her life. She starts working in a pet store, but soon her withdrawn, a bit surly attitude costs her that job. The local church group, headed by Linda (Victoria Charkut) tries to help her find a new job. But Francine generally has a really hard time connecting to people. The only really meaningful relationships she can make are with the various pets she keeps collecting.

Melissa Leo is fantastic, and the film was a wonderful, sensitive character study that uses her in the best possible way. I loved it.

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