Daniel (Dave Johns) has worked all his life – until he had a heart attack. Now his doctors haven’t cleared him to work yet, but after completing a standard questionnaire at the employment agency, they disagree. Now Daniel is caught in a conundrum: he can’t claim support on the basis on health issues because he is deemed healthy enough to work, but neither can he claim unemployment benefits because he can’t actually look for work. Caught in the bureaucracy he finds Katie (Hayles Squires), a single mother of two who just had to move to Newcastle and away from her entire support network or risk losing the government housing and support she so desperately needs. Daniel and Katie start facing this inhumane conditions together.
I, Daniel Blake is political cinema at its finest. It’s emotional, realistic and a damning statement about what’s left of the welfare system in the UK. If you don’t go out of the film ready to tear down neoliberal austerity politics, I really don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Tairo (Tairo Caroli) is a lion tamer in a small circus traveling through Italy. The circus is struggling and Tairo is struggling with him. His elderly animals aren’t all that strong anymore and he probably won’t get new animals. And then Tairo loses his talisman, a piece of iron he got from Arthur Robin (Arthur Robin) who was once crowned the first black Mister Universe and now works in a circus himself. Hoping to get his luck back when he gets a new talisman from Arthur, Tairo sets out to find him.
Mister Universo tells a fictional story with real people and this blend of documentary and fiction becomes pretty magical. I really loved it.
Victoria (Virginie Efira) is a successful lawyer, divorced, and has two cute children, so between her job and her kids and leading her own (romantic and sex) life, it’s no surprise that things get a bit messy around her. But it is stressful and unclear how long she can actually keep doing it, when she’s already spending large amounts on babysitters and therapy. When she meets two old acquaintances at a wedding, her life takes a turn: Vincent (Melvil Poupaud) is an old friend and becomes a client when his girlfriend accuses him or murder and Sam (Vincent Lacoste) used to be a client who dealt drugs and is now looking for a job and becomes her assistant/babysitter.
Victoria is an entertaining, enjoyable romantic comedy that nicely turns some of the more sexist genre tropes on their head. Contrary to most Viennale films, it’s a bit of lightweight fun and I liked that gear switch.
Michèle (Isabelle Huppert) is the head of a video game company. Successful, rich, happily divorced with two grown children, Michèle has a great life. But that is disrupted when an intruder brutally assaults and rapes her in her home. Afterwards Michèle struggles to get her life back under control, by alternatively pretending that nothing happened and buying various weapons. And it may very well be that this encounter with the rapist won’t be her last.
In the hands of another writer and director, Elle might have been a film that was smart about the difficult topic it approaches and that I would have actually liked. But I absolutely hated the film we got. SO MUCH HATE.
Gimme Danger looks at the history of Iggy Pop and The Stooges, mostly through the eyes and words of Iggy Pop himself.
I admit that apart from a generally favorable impression of him being a nice guy and Ewan McGregor swinging his dick on stage in Velvet Goldmine, I don’t really have much connection with Iggy Pop, his band or their music. I decided to watch this documentary mostly because it was made by Jim Jarmusch. And as an introductory film to the music and Iggy Pop as a person, it works really well.
Shideh (Narges Rashidi) was barred from university because of her leftist politics, but now she hopes to return to university as the war between Iran and Iraq shakes Tehran. But it doesn’t work out that way. Downcast, she returns home to her husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi) and their daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). When her husband – who works as a doctor, is called in, Shideh and Dorsa remain alone in their apartment. Iraj urges her to go to his parents’ place, but Shideh doesn’t want to confront his family, especially not after the bad news she’s had, and Dorsa is feverish, so she remains. When a missile strikes their building, the already fearful Dorsa is increasingly disturbed. And it does seem like something entered their home with the wind that now blows through the cracks.
Under the Shadow doesn’t just offer an absolutely interesting setting with Tehran in the 80s, but it’s also a super creepy film that manages to really scare. I loved it.
In 2011, Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress after it was revealed that he sent photos fo his junk to various women. In 2013, he campaigned to become Mayor of New York when new photos and sexts were uncovered. The documentary follows him and his campaign during that time.
Weiner is an fascinating and above all funny portrait of Anthony Weiner. At times it becomes so absurd that it took almost a miracle that his humanity isn’t lost, but Steinberg and Kriegman manage it.
Lynn (Brioni Farrell), Sharon (Elaine Giftos), Phred (Karen Carlson) and Priscilla (Barbara Leigh) are studying to become nurses and also share an apartment. But despite those communalities, they all have different issues to face: Sharon is assigned to take care of terminally ill teenager Greg (Darrell Larson), and finds herself caring more deeply than she bargained for. Lynn stumbles into the political activism of a Mexican group through the alluring Victor Charlie (Reni Santoni). Phred starts an affair with one of the doctors and Priscilla meets a biker she falls in love with, but both their relationships take unexpected turns.
I very much enjoyed The Student Nurses, a feminist take on what would probably have become the set-up for a more or less explicit porn film in the hands of a guy. Instead we get treated to four complex female characters and a sharp look at the politics of the 60s/70s in the USA.
Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) lives with his mother Marianne (Sandrine Kiberlain) in a rural area. His mother is the local doctor, his father is a soldier who is gone most of the time. But Damien’s life would be alright if it wasn’t for Thomas (Corentin Fila) who bullies him. As chance will have it, Marianne gets called to Thomas’ place, a farm a long way from school, because Thomas’ mother is ill. To help more than just medically, Marianne suggests that Thomas could stay with her and Damien for a while, which means that Damien and Thomas have to reshape their relationship with each other.
Quand on a 17 ans tells a sweet and touching story in an unusual setting that I very much loved because it sticks to the complexity of its characters and their relationships without overloading the story.
Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is a widow with a 16-year-old daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark). Susan very much enjoys her widowhood and has garnered quite a reputation as a seductress. Her most recent conquest, Mr. Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearáin), has left her in a bit of a delicate situation, so she retreats to her brother’s (Justin Edwards) estate. Her sister-in-law Catherine Vernon (Emma Greenwell) is not pleased as she suspects Susan’s scheming ways. Catherine’s brother Reginald (Xavier Samuel), on the other hand, is rather intrigued by her, despite the warnings. Susan knows she will have to find good husbands for Frederica and herself to secure their futures, so that’s what she sets her mind to.
Love & Friendship was an utterly delightful film. Funny, romantic and filled with great characters, the film is the novel Jane Austen could have written if she had wanted to spend more time on Lady Susan. I absolutely adored it.