Freaks Out (2021)

Freaks Out
Director: Gabriele Mainetti
Writer: Nicola Guaglianone, Gabriele Mainetti
Cast: Claudio Santamaria, Aurora Giovinazzo, Pietro Castellitto, Giancarlo Martini, Giorgio Tirabassi, Max Mazzotta, Franz Rogowski
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 7.5.2022

Content Note: sexual assault, sexism, (critical treatment of) ableism, medical experiments

Plot:
1943 in Italy. Israel (Giorgio Tirabassi) runs a circus with his four artists Cencio (Pietro Castellitto), Matilde (Aurora Giovinazzo), Fulvio (Claudio Santamaria) and Mario (Giancarlo Martini) – who actually all have supernatural powers that fuel their performances. The five try their best to stay out of the Nazis’ way, though there is the Circus Berlin stationed in Rome – supposedly the best circus in the world, headed by Franz (Franz Rogowski), a pianist with 12 fingers. Franz has superpowers of his own: he has seen the future and knows that it doesn’t look good for the Nazis. He is convinced that he has to find four superpowered people to prevent the Nazis from losing and he will do anything to find them.

I enjoyed Freaks Out for the most part. It is marred by the male gaze, but it’s entertaining and manages to combine comedy and Nazi horrors in a good way.

The film poster showing the four "freaks" in their performance poses, as well as Franz (Franz Rogowski) wearing a Nazi robe.
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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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Inexorable (2021)

Inexorable
Director: Fabrice du Welz
Writer: Joséphine Darcy Hopkins, Aurélien Molas, Fabrice du Welz
Cast: Benoît Poelvoorde, Mélanie Doutey, Alba Gaïa Bellugi, Janaina Halloy, Anaël Snoek, Jackie Berroyer, Sam Louwyck
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 6.5.2022

Content Note: misogyny, animal death/cruelty, incest

Plot:
Marcel (Benoît Poelvoorde) is an author, supposed to be working on his next book that has been a long time coming. Together with his publisher and wife Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey) and their daughter Lucie (Janaina Halloy), they decide to withdraw to Jeanne’s family estate in the country for a bit of calm. Shortly after their arrival, Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi) turns up, bringing back the family dog that ran off. Quickly, Gloria finds a place in their home as a housekeeper and friend to Lucie. But her presence has an unsettling effect on the family.

Inexorable had me rolling my eyes so much because it is, on the one hand, boringly familiar, and on the other hand, enragingly misogynistic.

The film poster showing Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi) and Marcel (Benoît Poelvoorde) grabbing each other by the throat in a sexy way. He is turning around in suspicion. Behind them we see Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey) on the staircase in the distance.
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Upurga (2021) – DNF

Upurga
Director: Ugis Olte
Writer: Ugis Olte, Bojana Babic, Lucas Abrahão
Cast: Igors Selegovskis, Inga Tropa, Reinis Boters, Rihards Sniegs, Elvita Ragovska, Morten Traavik
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 5./6.5.2022

Plot:
Andrejs (Igors Selegovskis) works in an outdoor store. His sister Eva (Inga Tropa) is an actress who is planning to shoot a commercial with her boyfriend Oskars (Reinis Boters) behind the camera, Matiass (Rihards Sniegs) starring alongside her and Mara (Elvita Ragovska) directing – though everything is supposed to look like Eva and Matiass were alone in the wild. When Andrejs learns that they actually plan to go to Upurga to kayak without any guide, he is appalled – and offers his services. So the five go to the river together. But strange things soon start happening.

Upurga does a good job setting up its mystery and then not such a great job with keeping the tension or unraveling the story. Ultimately, I fell asleep and missed the last third or so, but I can’t say I regret not finishing the film.

The film poster showing an upsode down image of water. In the water we can see a female silhouette. Andrejs (Igors Selegovskis) runs along the watershore, upside down as well.
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Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Everything Everywhere All at Once
Director: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Writer: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tallie Medel, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr.
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 5.5.2022

Plot:
Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) run a laundromat together, a business that has made it possible for them to raise their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) but that hasn’t been going that well and that is currently being audited by IRS. A fact that Evelyn’s father Gong Gong (James Hong) isn’t allowed to know. But Evelyn and Waymond have to take him with them to the appointment with their auditor Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). On the way there, Waymond starts behaving strangely though, giving weird instructions to Evelyn and finally telling her that he is from a parallel universe and the multiverse needs Evelyn to save it. Evelyn would rather not, but there is no escaping Jobu Tupaki.

I had extremely high expectations for this film. Not just because everything about it looked great, but also because I loved Swiss Army Man so very much. That, of course, also made me worried, because we all know how hard sophomore works have it when the first one is simply magical. In any case, I need not have worried. Everything Everywhere All at Once is an absolute delight.

The very colorful filmposter showing drawings of characters, various symbols and a whole lot of googly eyes arranged in a psychedelic circle.
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Kung Fu Zohra (2022)

Kung Fu Zohra
Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
Writer: Mabrouk El Mechri
Cast: Sabrina Ouazani, Ramzy Bedia, Eye Haidara, Tien Shue, Lina Hachani
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 5.5.2022

Content Note: domestic violence

Plot:
When Zohra (Sabrina Ouazani) meets Omar (Ramzy Bedia), they connect over a shared love for kung fu movies. It doesn’t take long until they are married and Zohra finds herself in a new city with a new job and a new friend in Binta (Eye Haidara). But after a rather smooth start, things get bumpy. Omar starts hitting Zohra and she finds herself unable to leave him. Instead she finds strength in training her fighting skills.

Kung Fu Zohra is probably the funniest film about domestic violence in existence, combining a martial arts comedy with astute commentary on DV – a combination that shouldn’t work but does somehow.

The film poster showing Zohra (Sabrina Ouazani) in a fighting pose wearing a red kimono-like shirt with an arab letter on the back.
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Luzifer (2021)

Luzifer
Director: Peter Brunner
Writer: Peter Brunner
Cast: Susanne Jensen, Franz Rogowski, Monika Hinterhuber, Theo Blaickner
Seen on: 26.4.2022

Content Note: ableism/cripping up, abuse

Plot:
Maria (Susanne Jensen) lives off the grid in the mountains with her son Johannes (Franz Rogowski) who has a learning disability. They spend their days mostly quietly and calmly with a lot of prayer and Johannes’ birds of prey. But their idyllic existence is threatened when plans are made to create a skiing area around them – and the developers are desperate to buy their land, unwilling to accept that Maria won’t sell. An evil is coming for Maria and Johannes.

My history with Peter Brunner movies isn’t without its issues, but I have liked his films increasingly more – and Luzifer is probably the one I liked the most so far. It doesn’t always work, but it is definitely engaging.

The film poster showing Maria (Susanne Jensen) sitting on Johannes' (Franz Rogowski) shoulders. Both have their arms spread wide. Behind them is a mountain.
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The Northman (2022)

The Northman
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Sjón, Robert Eggers
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Elliott Rose, Willem Dafoe, Björk
Seen on: 26.4.2022

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) only barely escaped with his life when his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) murdered his brother, Amleth’s father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) and took over the kingdom. Amleth, only a boy then, had to leave his mother Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) behind, but swore to save her and take his revenge. Now he is grown up and makes his living as a viking. During a raid, he hears news from his uncle and, pretending to be a slave like Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) and many others, lets himself be carted off to finally fulfill the promise he gave as a boy.

I was hoping for The Northman to be a bit of a bloodfest, knowing that with Eggers, I’d probably get a bit of a challenge as well. But unfortunately, mostly what I got with The Northman is darkness – and I mean that quite literally. It’s a film we barely see and that was pretty boring to boot.

The film poster showing Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) standing on a cliff, watching a fleet in the sea.
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The Lost City (2022)

The Lost City
Director: Aaron Nee, Adam Nee
Writer: Oren Uziel, Dana Fox, Adam Nee, Aaron Nee
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Brad Pitt, Oscar Nuñez, Patti Harrison, Bowen Yang
Seen on: 24.4.2022

Plot:
Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is a very successful romance novelist whose heroine Angela is an archaeologist – like Loretta herself. But since the death of her husband, Loretta has been unable to write. And so her latest novel ends in an awkward place for Angela and her love interest Dash. The planned book tour is off to a bad start then, especially since Loretta’s agent Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) invited cover model Alan (Channing Tatum) along. At least on a visual level, he is the embodiment of Dash. But Loretta absolutely loathes him. A feeling that is not reciprocated. And when Loretta gets taken by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) for her archaeological expertise, it is Alan who sets out to rescue her, however inept his efforts are.

The Lost City is excellent fun, a great fusion of romance and adventure that pays hommage to both genres but not without some humorous irreverence. I had a great time with it.

The film psoter showing the main characters of the film in a collage in front of a volcano and jungle and an explosion.
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Rimini (2022)

Rimini
Director: Ulrich Seidl
Writer: Veronika Franz, Ulrich Seidl
Cast: Michael Thomas, Tessa Göttlicher, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Inge Maux, Claudia Martini, Georg Friedrich
Seen on: 23.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, fascism

Plot:
Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) is a “schlager” singer whose heyday has long been over. He lives in Rimini now where he barely gets by with performances for busloads of German-speaking tourists, the occasional sex work and renting out his house to fans while he himself goes to stay in a shabby room in one of the many hotels that are empty for winter. When his estranged daughter Tessa (Tessa Göttlicher) shows up to demand money from him, Richie needs all his (more or less sleazy) survival skills to comply with her request.

Rimini is a typical Seidl movie in a way, but there is an almost optimistic note at the end of the film that is rather untypical. In any case, it’s the portrait of a sleazy man that spares nothing, as it is the portrait of a tourist town without tourists.

The film poster showing Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) performing on an empty stage in front of a glitter curtain.
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