Planetarium (2016)

Planetarium
Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
Writer: Rebecca Zlotowski, Robin Campillo
Cast: Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp, Emmanuel Salinger, Amira Casar, Pierre Salvadori, Louis Garrel, David Bennent, Damien Chapelle
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2016

Plot:
Kate (Lily-Rose Depp) and Laura (Natalie Portman) are sisters who make their living with performances of psychic readings, with Kate’s youthful innocence convincing people of her talents as a seer, while Laura controls the show. The two don’t just perform for big audiences, they also do private séances. One of these brings them to film producer André Korben (Emmanuel Salinger) who lost his wife. Korben takes to the two women, wanting to use them for his filming business. But his interest becomes more and more obsessive.

Planetarium has promise but unfortunately it’s too messy and unfocused to really deliver on that promise. Ultimately it starts to drag and simply left me unsatisfied.

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L’avenir [Things to Come] (2016)

L’avenir
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Writer: Mia Hansen-Løve
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob, Sarah Le Picard, Solal Forte, Elise Lhomeau, Lionel Dray
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2016

Plot:
Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is an enthusiastic philosophy teacher, married to Heinz (André Marcon) for 25 years and has two grown children. She pursues her job with passion above and beyond the call of duty, keeping in touch with former students like Fabien (Roman Kolinka) and publishing school books and essays. The rest of her time is pretty much devoted to caring for her mother (Edith Scob). But then the rug gets pulled out from under her feet. In quick succession, Heinz announces he’s leaving her for another woman, her publisher announces that they can’t afford to publish her things anymore, and her mother moves into a home. Nathalie finds herself suddenly confronted with more liberty than she ever had in her life.

While I appreciate the story, L’avenir is telling, unfortunately it left me pretty cold, despite a great performance by Isabelle Huppert.

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La fille inconnue [The Unknown Girl] (2016)

La fille inconnue
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cast: Adèle Haenel,Olivier BonnaudLouka Minnella, Jérémie Renier, Christelle Cornil, Nadège Ouedraogo, Olivier Gourmet, Fabrizio Rongione, Thomas Doret, Marc Zinga
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2016

Plot:
Jenny (Adèle Haenel) runs a clinic in a rather poor area of town that she just took over from a now retired doctor. She’s the only doctor in the clinic and does her best,but also knows that she has to fight for her boundaries. So when the bell to her clinic is rung shortly after closing time, she ignores it, despite being still there. The next day, police show up at the clinic, informing her that they found the body of a dead young woman and they don’t know who she is. But it appears that it was her who rung the bell. Jenny is shocked and becomes obsessed with finding out who the woman was and what happened to her.

La fille inconnue was the perfect Double Feature with I, Daniel Blake. Like that film, it’s sociopolitical cinema that wears its heart on its sleeve and is absolutely (emotionally) engaging.

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I, Daniel Blake (2016)

I, Daniel Blake
Director: Ken Loach
Writer: Paul Laverty
Cast: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Briana Shann, Dylan McKiernan, Kate Rutter, Sharon Percy
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2016

Plot:
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.

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Mister Universo (2016)

Mister Universo
Director: Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel
Writer: Tizza Covi
Cast: Tairo Caroli, Wendy Weber, Arthur Robin, Lilly Robin
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2016

Plot:
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.

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Victoria [In Bed with Victoria] (2016)

Victoria
Director: Justine Triet
Writer: Justine Triet, Thomas Lévy-Lasne
Cast: Virginie Efira, Vincent Lacoste, Melvil Poupaud, Laurent Poitrenaux, Laure Calamy, Alice Daquet
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2016

Plot:
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.

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Elle (2016)

Elle
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writer: David Birke
Based on: Philippe Djian‘s novel Oh…
Cast: Isabelle HuppertLaurent LafitteAnne ConsignyCharles BerlingVirginie EfiraJudith MagreChristian Berkel
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2016

[CW: Rape]

Plot:
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.

[SPOILERS]

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Gimme Danger (2016)

Gimme Danger
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2016

“Plot”:
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.

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Under the Shadow (2016)

Under the Shadow
Director: Babak Anvari
Writer: Babak Anvari
Cast: Narges RashidiAvin ManshadiBobby NaderiArash Marandi
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2016

Plot:
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.

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Weiner (2016)

Weiner
Director: Josh KriegmanElyse Steinberg
Writer: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg, Eli B. Despres
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2016

“Plot”:
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.

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