120 battements par minute [BPM (Beats Per Minute)] (2017)

120 battements par minute
Director: Robin Campillo
Writer: Robin Campillo, Philippe Mangeot
Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel , Antoine Reinartz, Félix Maritaud, Ariel Borenstein, Aloïse Sauvage
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 23.10.2017
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Plot:
It’s the early 1990s and HIV/AIDS has already claimed many lives, but little is done to combat it. Advocacy Group ACT UP is trying to change that, planning several different interventions. Nathan (Arnaud Valois) has just joined the group and is swept up in their relentless energy. Or is he more swept off his feet by Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) who seems to live for the activism?

120 BPM is not perfect, but it is a strong film, a love letter to activism and an emotional journey that will leave you breathless.

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Félicité (2017)

Félicité
Director: Alain Gomis
Writer: Alain Gomis, Olivier Loustau, Delphine Zingg
Cast: Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia, Papi Mpaka, Nadine Ndebo, Elbas Manuana, Diplome Amekindra
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 23.10.2017
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Plot:
Félicité (Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu) earns her living as a bar singer. It’s there that she meets Tabu (Papi Mpaka), a flirt who drinks too much but also has a sweet side. When Félicité’s 14-year-old son has a motorcycle accident, she desperately needs to find a way to get some money to pay for his hospital bills. The search for money also makes her confront her past.

Félicité has a fascinating relationship with music and I did enjoy revisiting Kinshasa, but after the set-up the story veers off into a direction that left me a little cold.

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Helle Nächte [Bright Nights] (2017)

Helle Nächte
Director: Thomas Arslan
Writer: Thomas Arslan
Cast: Georg Friedrich, Tristan Göbel, Marie Leuenberger, Hanna Karlberg
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 22.10.2017
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Plot:
Michael’s (Georg Friedrich) estranged father recently died in Norway. Michael has to go there to take care of things and decides to take his own son Luis (Tristan Göbel) with him. Luis lives with his mother and he and Michael don’t get along all that well, either. For Michael, this trip and the ensuing drive across Norway is supposed to be a chance for the two of them to connect. For Luis, it’s less clear what he wants from his father and this trip.

Helle Nächte doesn’t tell a very new story, but it tells it well. It wasn’t the film I was most emotionally invested in, but I enjoyed it.

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Beach Rats (2017)

Beach Rats
Director: Eliza Hittman
Writer: Eliza Hittman
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate HodgeNeal Huff
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 21.10.2017
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Plot:
Summer is hot and long. Getting away from his oppressive family environment, Frankie (Harris Dickinson) spends it hanging around with his rough group of friends and flirting with Simone (Madeline Weinstein). When he’s alone, he uses the internet to meet and sleep with older men. These two parts of his life are strictly separated as Frankie tries to figure out who he is and where he belongs.

Beach Rats is not a bad film, but I didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would. It stays a little too much on well-established grounds for its own good.

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Casting (2017)

Casting
Director: Nicolas Wackerbarth
Writer: Nicolas Wackerbarth, Hannes Held
Cast: Andreas LustJudith EngelMilena DreißigStephan GrossmannCorinna KirchhoffUrsina LardiAndrea SawatzkiMarie-Lou SellemVictoria TrauttmansdorffNicole MarischkaMarkus von LingenTim KalkhofToby Ashraf
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 21.10.2017
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Plot:
Vera (Judith Engel) is preparing to direct her first television film, a remake of Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant. Everything is pretty much set to go and things are about to start. All that is missing is the lead actress. Vera has a day of casting lined up with the available candidates and Gerwin (Andreas Lust) as a stand-in to read the lines with the actresses. But things don’t really go the way Vera, or anybody else, planned.

Casting may not be a laugh out loud comedy, but it is funny, emotional, smart and full of biting, feminist commentary that I didn’t expect, but very much appreciated.

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Milla (2017)

Milla
Director: Valérie Massadian
Writer: Valérie Massadian
Cast: Severine JonckeereLuc ChesselEthan Jonckeere
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 20.10.2017
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Plot:
Milla (Severine Jonckeere) and her boyfriend Leo (Luc Chessel) find shelter in an abandoned house. They are both very young and Milla is pregnant. While Milla looks at the world with a certain carefree outlook, Leo struggles to find a job to support them. But somehow they make it work, at least for a while.

Massadian’s first film Nana was an almost magical experience, so I knew I had to see Milla, while at the same time worrying if it could ever possibly live up to Nana. But I need not have worried – Milla is a beautiful, emotional film and a worthy sophomore film.

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Street Kings (2008)

Street Kings
Director: David Ayer
Writer: James EllroyKurt WimmerJamie Moss
Cast: Keanu ReevesForest WhitakerHugh LaurieChris EvansCedric the EntertainerJay MohrTerry CrewsNaomie HarrisCommonGameMartha Higareda
Seen on: 18.10.2017
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Plot:
Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is an undercover cop. He is successful, but he rarely sticks to the law. Neither does his superior, Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker), which is how Tom got away with it for years. But now Internal Affairs in the form of James Biggs (Hugh Laurie) have started to investigate, just as Ludlow’s colleague Terrence Washington (Terry Crews) has espressed doubts about Ludlow and his methods. It doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse for Ludlow.

Street Kings is an utterly grueling film, and not in a good way at all. While the cast promises much, the script doesn’t deliver and what you get is a boring film filled with unlikeable characters.

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Horror

Horror
Director: Jakop Ahlbom
Writer: Jakop Ahlbom
Cast: Luc van Esch, Yannick Greweldinger, Silke Hundertmark, Judith Hazeleger, Sofieke de Kater, Gwen Langenberg, Maurits van den Berg, Reinier Schimmel
Seen on: 17.10.2017

Plot:
A group of friends come to an old house to spend the weekend there. But there are strange things happening there.

It may seem like I’m shortchanging this play with the plot description, but that’s pretty much all the plot there is. And that is also the play’s biggest weakness: it focuses so hard on translating horror movie tropes to the stage that it forgets that tropes only make sense within a narrative.

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Wir töten Stella [Killing Stella] (2017)

Wir töten Stella
Director: Julian Pölsler
Writer: Julian Pölsler
Based on: Marlen Haushofer‘s novella
Cast: Martina GedeckMatthias BrandtMala EmdeKatja BellinghausenJulius Hagg
Seen on: 16.10.2017
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Plot:
Anna (Martina Gedeck) has the perfect family: she’s married to successful lawyer Richard (Matthias Brandt), they have a teenage son, Wolfgang (Julius Hagg), a beautiful home and more than enough money. So when their friend asks them to take in the 19-year-old Stella (Mala Emde), a beautiful but unrefined and withdrawn young woman, Anna accepts and gives Stella a bit of a make-over. But Stella’s presence disturbs the carefully cultivated family appearance.

Wir töten Stella is a strong, incredibly sad and very critical film. It’s beautifully made and despite a couple of lengths, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

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Tiere und andere Menschen [Animals and Other People] (2017)

Tiere und andere Menschen
Director: Flavio Marchetti
Writer: Flavio Marchetti, Katharina Mückstein
Seen on: 16.10.2017
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“Plot”:
The Wiener Tierschutzverein (Viennese Animal Protection Society) is among the oldest and biggest animal shelters in Europe. They not only a house a wide variety of animals – from cats and dogs to chimpanzees – but also treat injured wild animals and occupy themselves with strays. The documentary takes a look at the every day life of the shelter animals and their employees and volunteers.

Tiere und andere Menschen is a nice look behind the scenes of the animal shelter and gives you a lot of insight into just their day to day challenges. I really enjoyed it, but be warned: if you’re a sap like me, you’ll probably want to adopt every single animal they show after the film.

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