La La Land (2016)

La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Ryan GoslingEmma StoneRosemarie DeWittJ.K. SimmonsFinn WittrockJosh PenceJohn LegendTom Everett Scott
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 2.11.2016

Plot:
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist who dreams of owning his own club and devoting his life to saving jazz as he loves it. Mia (Emma Stone) is an actress and playwright who dreams of the big career and works hard to finally get her breakthrough. No better place for either of their dreams than Los Angeles, where they meet and, despite initial antagonism, fall in love.

I was lucky enough to see La La Land pretty early, before it really became the smash hit it has since gone on to become with the accompanying blowing out of proportion of its qualities and the resulting backlash. And I have to say that I was very much charmed by the film and its two protagonists. Did I think it deserved all of the love it was getting? Not really. Did I think it deserved all the hate? Definitely not. It’s sweet, fun and entertaining, nothing more, nothing less.

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Thithi (2015)

Thithi
Director: Raam Reddy
Writer: Raam Reddy, Eregowda
Cast: Thammegowda S.ChannegowdaAbhishek H.N.Pooja S.M.Singri Gowda
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 2.11.2016

Plot:
Century Gowda (Singri Gowda) is a cantankerous 101-year-old when he dies, leaving behind three generations of men. His son Gadappa (Channegowda) lives an aimless life, mostly occupied with smoking and drinking and doesn’t seem to be much affected by Gowda’s death. His grandson Thamanna (Thammegowda S.) on the other hand smells big business with finally being able to sell the land Gowda owns – despite Gadappa inheriting first. And his great-grandson Abhi (Abhishek H.N.) is interested in a girl and not much else. As the Thithi, a funeral that takes place eleven days after death, approaches, it becomes clear that the three of them have to not only face Gowda’s death but also each other.

Thithi is one of those films that I wanted to like better than I did. It starts off strong, but doesn’t quite manage to keep up that strength.

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God Bless the Child (2015)

God Bless the Child
Director: Robert MachoianRodrigo Ojeda-Beck
Writer: Robert Machoian
Cast: Harper GrahamElias GrahamArri GrahamEzra GrahamJonah Graham
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 2.11.2016

Plot:
Harper (Harper Graham) is still a child herslef, but as the oldest sibling, she is the one in charge of her younger brothers Elias (Elias Graham), Arri (Arri Graham), Ezra (Ezra Graham) and Jonah (Jonah Graham). It’s the summer holidays, it’s hot, and the four of them have to pass the day without any adult supervision, as their mother disappeared, again.

God Bless the Child sounded better on paper than it was on screen. While I did feel with the siblings, the film simply could not keep my attention for its entire runtime.

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Kater [Tomcat] (2016)

Kater
Director: Händl Klaus
Writer: Händl Klaus
Cast: Lukas TurturPhilipp HochmairManuel RubeyThomas StipsitsGerald Votava
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 1.11.2016

Plot:
Stefan (Lukas Turtur) and Andreas (Philipp Hochmair) have it all: they love each other as much as on the first day, they have a beautiful home on the outskirts of Vienna, good careers with the Radio Symphony Orchestra where Stefan is musician and Andreas a scheduler, and a large circle of good friends. Completing their luck is Moses, a tomcat they adopt. But with an sudden act, their life as they used to know it is instantly over.

Kater is one hell of a film. Well-acted, nice characters, beautiful music and emotionally engrossing, it shocked me like a film rarely has. It should probably come with a warning, but to specify that warning would also give too much away. So, if you’re not particularly fragile, read nothing more about the film and watch it.

If you feel, you need more information, read on, but beware: there will be SPOILERS.

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Certain Women (2016)

Certain Women
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Writer: Kelly Reichardt
Based on: short stories by Maile Meloy
Cast: Laura DernMichelle WilliamsLily GladstoneKristen StewartJames Le GrosJared Harris
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2016

Plot:
A small town in Montana. Here, Laura (Laura Dern) works as a lawyer, currently busy with her client Fuller (Jared Harris) who has trouble accepting an offer for worker’s compensation. Not far from Laura, Gina (Michelle Williams) and Ryan (James Le Gros) are working on their dream home. Gina has her heart set on some stones that go to waste in a neighbor’s garden, but they’ll have to convince the neighbor to part with them. Meanwhile, a young rancher (Lily Gladstone) who stumbles into night school classes out of curiosity finds herself in front of a new teacher, Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) and feels immediately drawn to her.

By now I’ve seen quite a few Reichardt movies, but Certain Women is the first one where I can say that I actually really liked it. Especially the last segment in this episodic film stole my heart.

[Slight Spoilers]

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Neruda (2016)

Neruda
Director: Pablo Larraín
Writer: Guillermo Calderón
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Mercedes Morán, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba, Diego Muñoz, Alejandro Goic, Pablo Derqui
Part of: Viennale (this year’s surprise movie)
Seen on: 30.10.2016

Plot:
Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) is a wanted man. Not only for his famous poetry, but also for his politics: having become a member and high-ranking official for the recently declared illegal Communist Party in Chile, the police try to capture him. It’s Detective Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) who gets tasked and increasingly obsessed with capturing Neruda, even as he tries to flee the country.

I probably wouldn’t have chosen to watch Neruda, given that I’m neither very familiar with his poetry, nor with Chilean politics, but that’s the risk you take with surprise screenings. With that caveat in mind, I thought that Neruda had some interesting ideas, but it didn’t really come together for me at all.

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Personal Shopper (2016)

Personal Shopper
Director: Olivier Assayas
Writer: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin, Nora von Waldstätten, Benjamin Biolay
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2016

Plot:
Maureen (Kristen Stewart) works as a personal shopper for celebrity Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) in Paris. It’s not necessarily her dream job, but she has to finance her life in Paris and she can’t leave Paris, until she has made contact with her recently deceased twin brother – and she is convinced she will make that contact, even if it is taking longer than usual. She is a medium after all. But as time passes and nothing happens, Maureen starts to consider leaving anyway. That’s when she starts to receive texts from an unknown sender who knows a lot about her.

Personal Shopper has a lot to offer and took me by surprise a couple of times. But then the plot moves in a direction that I didn’t particularly care for, which ultimately kept the film from going all the way into “wow” territory.

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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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