Pahanhautoja [Hatching] (2022)

Pahanhautoja
Director: Hanna Bergholm
Writer: Hanna Bergholm, Ilja Rautsi
Cast: Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Jani Volanen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila, Ida Määttänen
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 7./8.5.2022

Plot:
Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) grows up in what seems to be the perfect family. Her mother (Sophia Heikkilä) is an influencer who very carefully curates the family’s image to keep up this image of perfection. Her father (Jani Volanen) is not that present, but plays along. And her little brother Matias (Oiva Ollila) always tries to get the better of Tinja. When Tinja finds an egg in the forst, she decides to hatch it. Only it keeps growing. And when Tinja, an aspiring gymnast, fails to meet her mother’s expectations, trouble seems inevitable.

Hatching gives us a great set-up and a really interesting central metaphor, but it doesn’t quite come togethere. With the idea, I feel like we could have dug a little deeper and discovered a little more. Maybe even a sense of humor. As is, it feels a little like it’s missing the final oomph.

The film poster showing Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) in silhouette against a floral background. She is cradling a large egg that glows red.
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Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Jeon Jong-seo, Evan Whitten, Kate Hudson, Ed Skrein, Craig Robinson
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 6.5.2022

Plot:
Mona (Jeon Jong-seo) has been locked away in a psychiatric facility because she has special powers – she can control others with her mind. But now she is finally able to escape and makes her way to the next city, New Orleans. Unused to dealing with the world, she stands out. When she meets stripper Bonnie (Kate Hudson) and Bonnie realizes what she is capable of, she takes her under her wing and together, they start a more or less new life.

So far, I didn’t really like Amirpour’s movies, but I’m happy to say that I very much enjoyed Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon that is a film that is a) not as obsessed with style as her other features and b) doesn’t take itself all that seriously. That means, it’s a film that has room for heart – and that’s just what I like to see.

Mona Lisa (Jeon Jong-seo) pressing against the window of a diner.
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The Female Closet (1998)

The Female Closet
Director: Barbara Hammer
Seen on: 22.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

“Plot”:
The documentary looks at photographer Alice Austen, dada artist Hannah Höch and painter Nicole Eisenman, considering their lives and their sexual orientation, how that relates to their art and the way they are spoken about.

I wasn’t really familiar with any of the three artists portrayed in this documentary before, but The Female Closet serves as a nice introduction to their work as well as to the erasure queerness and queer people face in the art world, also suggesting a historic trajectory that may be questioned.

The film poster showing a photograph by Alice Austen with four women who are holding each other in pairs as if slowdancing.
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The Power of the Dog (2021)

The Power of the Dog
Director: Jane Campion
Writer: Jane Campion
Based on: Thomas Savage‘s book
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Thomasin McKenzie, Alice Englert, Peter Carroll, Frances Conroy, Keith Carradine, Alison Bruce
Seen on: 6.3.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, misogyny

Plot:
Rose (Kirsten Dunst) is a widow who runs a restaurant with the help of her son Pete (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Their restaurant lies on the herding trail of brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons). When they stop at Rose’s restaurant, Phil starts making fun of Pete’s softness, while George starts courting Rose. After they actually marry, and move to the brothers’ farm, Phil is taken aback and does his best to make Rose feel utterly uncomfortable. When Pete joins them during the summer break from school, things start to shift, though.

The Power of the Dog both ambles through a sprawling landscape taking its time, and it is a sharp analysis of power when it comes to gender and sexual orientation. I thought it was really interesting.

The film poster showing a rope tied to a saddle.

[Slight SPOILERS]

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Bilmemek [Not Knowing] (2019)

Bilmemek
Director: Leyla Yilmaz
Writer: Leyla Yilmaz
Cast: Emir Ozden, Senan Kara, Yurdaer Okur, Levent Üzümcü, Çetin Sarikartal, Ulascan Kutlu, Arda Aranat, Berke Bük, Sanem Öge, Özgür Daniel Foster
Part of: Transition International Queer Minority Film Festival
Seen on: 4.2.2022

Content Note: suicidal thoughts, (critical treatment of) homomisia, bullying

Plot:
Selma (Senan Kara) and Sinan (Yurdaer Okur) have been married for a long time, but there is a distance between them now that becomes harder and harder to bridge. Their son Umut (Emir Ozden) will soon leave for college – and who knows what will become of them then. But first they’re hoping that Umut will win a water polo scholarship and be able to go to college in the USA. When rumors abound within Umut’s team that Umut might be gay, his team mates start pressuring him, though, because he neither confrims nor denies it.

Bilmemek is a well-made film, but I did have my issues with the ending, I have to admit. Still, a lot of it was very engaging and interesting to me.

The film poster showing Umut (Eir Ozden) looking into the distance.

[SPOILERS]

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Encanto (2021)

Encanto
Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith
Writer: Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, Lin-Manuel Miranda (songs)
Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa, Maluma
Seen on: 3.1.2022

Plot:
Many years ago, Abuela (María Cecilia Botero) had to flee her home together with her husband and her three children. On their flight, her husband didn’t make it, but Abuela got a gift, a miracle that gave her and her family magic powers and a safe haven in a magical house. Now the Mardrigal family uses their gifts to keep the village going. Everybody in the family got a different gift. Everybody but Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) that is. Now it is Mirabel’s little cousin Antonio’s (Ravi Cabot-Conyers) turn, and there is a certain tension in the air. What if Antonio doesn’t get a gift either? But even after Antonio is successful, there is something wrong – and Mirabel is determined to fix everything.

Encanto is sweet, touching and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, its colorful world-building and characters.

The film poster showing a house wrapped in flowers and the Mardigal family in its courtyard, with Mirabel at the front.
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Miss Julie (2014)

Miss Julie
Director: Liv Ullmann
Writer: Liv Ullmann
Based on: August Strindberg‘s play
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
Seen on: 1.1.2022

Content Note: dubious consent

Plot:
It’s midsummer night and Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) is alone at home. That is, her father the Baron is gone and most of the servants are at the festivities, but Jean (Colin Farrell) and Kathleen (Samantha Morton) have stayed behind. Jean and Kathleen are an item and they are rather disturbed by Julie’s presence in their kitchen. Jean, with the power of propriety, tries at first to push Julie away, but when Julie, with the power of her social position, pushes back, both of them get caught in a sexually charged power struggle.

Miss Julie is an intense film with extraordinary performances that fails to subvert its heteronormative perspective in the slightest, thus becoming too hopeless for its own good.

The film poster showing Jean (Colin Farrell) standing behind Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain).
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Berthe Morisot (2012)

Berthe Morisot
Director: Caroline Champetier
Writer: Sylvie Meyer, Philippe Lasry
Based on: Beth Archer Brombert’s book Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat
Cast: Marine Delterme, Malik Zidi, Alice Butaud, Bérangère Bonvoisin, Patrick Descamps, François Dieuaide, Jeanne Gogny, Grégory Gadebois
Seen on: 31.12.2021

Plot:
Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) and her sister Edma (Alice Butaud) are both very interested in painting, a passion they can both pursue as long as they stay unmarried. And that is something that they plan on. When a painting by Édouard Manet (Malik Zidi) scandalizes pretty much everyone, they are both intrigued, both by the painting and the man. Much to Edma’s disappointment, though, Manet shows more interest in Berthe.

Berthe Morisot is an overall well-made film about a woman who is often forgotten by art history. Unfortunately it seems more interested in her relationship with a man than in her person or her work.

The film poster showing Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) painting at the beach. The sea behind her dissolves into an impressionist painting.
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La folie Almayer [Almayer’s Folly] (2011)

La folie Almayer
Director: Chantal Akerman
Writer: Chantal Akerman, Henry Bean, Nicole Brenez
Based on: Joseph Conrad‘s novel
Cast: Stanislas Merhar, Marc Barbé, Aurora Marion, Zac Andianas, Sakhna Oum, Solida Chan, Yucheng Sun, Bunthang Khim
Seen on: 30.12.2021

Content note: (critical treatment of) colonialism, mention of rape

Plot:
Almayer (Stanislas Merhar) lives in the jungle in Malaysia, hoping to come to riches there, from trading or from finding gold. He is married to a Malaysian woman, Zahira (Sakhna Oum) whom he despises, much like he hates pretty much everything but their daughter Nina (Aurora Marion). When his patron Captain Lingard (Marc Barbé) comes to visit and insists that Nina needs an European education, to learn to be white, Almayer is reluctant to let Nina go, but gives in, even against Zahira’s protestations and attempts to run away with Nina. This decision further cements all of their desperation.

La folie Almayer is an interesting attempt to criticize colonialism that doesn’t always work as well as it should. But it does have many strengths that make it worth thinking about.

The film poster showing Almayer (Stanislas Merhar) sitting next to a record player, looking pensive.
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I basilischi [The Basilisks] (1963)

I basilischi
Director: Lina Wertmüller
Writer: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Antonio Petruzzi, Stefano Satta Flores, Sergio Ferranino, Luigi Barbieri, Flora Carabella, Mimma Quirico
Seen on: 26.12.2021

Plot:
Antonio (Antonio Petruzzi), Francesco (Stefano Satta Flores) and Sergio (Sergio Ferranino) have grown up together and are now in an age where decisions have to be made about what their lives should look like. In their own small town, options are limited and the three spend most of their time just hanging around and trying to flirt. When Antonio gets a chance to go to Rome and study at university there, things might change for him. Might.

The Basilisks doesn’t so much tell a story as capture a mood, and in a very impressive way. Much will depend on whether you like to be exposed to that mood, but the effective filmmaking here can’t be denied.

The film poster showing a couple of scenes from the film, as well as a close-up of Francesco (Stefano Satta Flores).
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