Saturday, 4 December 2021

WARSAW KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL

남산의 부장들 (THE MAN STANDING NEXT)

Watchable. The account of the developments which led to the assassination of president 박정희 (Park Chung-hee) a few decades ago is a proper thriller. A bloody one. Since it's based on actual events I can't blame the plot for too many characters. But captions flashed by too fast to read which hindered watching online, I had to go back every now and then, and at the cinema I would have lost the plot early on. The gripping action is set in Korea, the US and Paris and the tension gets magnified at times by superb music. The main protagonist is an uptight busybody high up the ranks. Not even one character is a decent person. Is there any honour, loyalty or remorse among the top villains of the country? The heavy-handedness of the authorities is scary, taking into account that the story and the thinking of those involved were real. The finale gets you thinking: what if?

Seen online. Cinematic reception might differ. 


HALLOWEEN KILLS

Watchable. The movie recaps the whole "Halloween" franchise so finally there's some action. But the plot's a mess. Combat is a hit-and-miss affair. Decent music is the film's saving grace, with the best piece played along with the end credits: 2021-recorded 80s style "Hunter's Moon" by Ghost.

THE BOSS BABY: FAMILY BUSINESS

Watchable. This released too early Christmas-themed animation looks professional, with an increasing number of visual effects as the story develops but it never dazzles. The plot is wacky, with a few disgusting bits, but with serious undertones of reluctant adulthood, the hardships of parenting and brotherly relationship. The ending is truly touching. In Poland it's only dubbed in Polish. Tabitha's song is first in Polish and then, during the end credits, in the English original. 

60TH CYBULSKI'S AWARDS

This year's nominees to the award created by Fundacja Kino were: Maria Dębska for "Bo we mnie jest seks" ("Autumn Girl"), Piotr Trojan for "25 lat niewinności. Sprawa Tomka Komendy" ("25 Years of Innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda"), Tomasz Włosok for "Piosenki o miłości", Tomasz Ziętek for "Hiacynt" ("Operation Hyacinth") and Magdalena Koleśnik for "Sweat" - she has won. The hardest scene for her was the one in the studio of Dzień Dobry TVN. The crew on set were all the actual film crew, e.g. the real make-up artist did her make-up, the producer was the cook. All the 5 young actors worked with 40 year old directors. "Hiacynt" ("Operation Hyacinth") director Domalewski is also an actor. Maria Dębska discovered how easy it was when in the bar scene the actors and extras danced her emotions. The actress is surprisingly petite in real life.

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO

Recommended. Worth the splurge even just to be transported to Soho of the swinging sixties. The movie combines modern-day London draws as the capital of fashion, debauchery and the big lights with the city's legends: the night life of the sixties, Jack the Ripper, numerous ghosts inhabiting the city and some skeletons in the closet. Top-notch script assisted with visual effects make the parallel times blend seamlessly and to the rhythm of period hits, especially Petunia Clark's "Downtown". Anna Taylor-Joy enthralls as Sandie. The first phantoms appear accompanied by perfectly surrounding sounds. You feel mesmerised more than scared. It's British to the core hence alluring more than frightening. The story holds a few surprises up the sleeve and grips until the end. And it's the first horror ever that made me want to dance.


WARSAW KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL

찬실이는 복도 많지 (LUCKY CHAN-SIL)

Watchable. A low-key tale about a loser: on the professional and personal level. The film is humdrum but goes from silly to damn smart. It's slightly ironic. The characters are ordinary folk you can relate to. 윤여정 (Youn Yuh-jung)'s character reflects on her lack of education: "in my times girls weren't taught because that led to promiscuity" - much-telling when you set it together with the other movie with the actress: "죽여주는 여자" ("The Bacchus Lady").

Seen online. Cinematic reception might differ. 

Thursday, 2 December 2021

WARSAW KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL

I skipped "다만 악에서 구하소서" ("Deliver Us From Evil") and "미나리" ("Minari") which I had seen and reviewed in the past. 

인트로덕션 (INTRODUCTION)

Recommended. Shot in black and white and very simple a tale but filled with so much geniality in the relationships, it was a truly warm introduction to the festival. It's basically an intimate tale of family, love and friendship. But it also showcases Korean etiquette which either refreshes your knowledge of Korean culture or introduces you to it. A perfect opening movie.

The safest screening ever. Vaccination certificates were checked on entry and only one old Polish chap was rude not to wear a mask.


CINEMAFORUM - KWESTIA CZASU (MATTER OF TIME)

MAIN COMPETITION 4TH SCREENING

The screening encompassed 4 short films:

WITNESS

Watchable. Very well acted, with decent script and cinematography. While the story's extraordinary, the image of Iran shows ordinary life like in any other country. No solution to the depicted problem is given though.

NOITE TURVA (THROUGH THE HAZE)

Watchable. I have no idea what it's about but varied pictures make it bearable.

INHERENT

Watchable. Gore fans will be satisfied but poor acting and unclear content spoil the film.

GOOD THANKS, YOU? 

Recommended. Realistic, the reactions to the rape manifest all sorts of prejudice, the camera emphasises her feeling surrounded by bigoted people as well her and her boyfriend's reactions. Excellent acting and camerawork form an effective allegory of societal vices.


WARSAW KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL

검객 (THE SWORDSMAN)

Watchable. Opens with gruesome images flashing, some acted, some drawn but unsettling enough. But the movie is a full-blown period drama, with locations, costumes and languages reflecting the reality of four centuries ago. The political intrigue, though, is confusing, especially if you don't know Korean history well. About mid-way through the core plot is revealed. And it's only the central storyline that I understood, the complexities of the political situation as well as customs of the time were beyond my comprehension. Plenty of fights in the second half, with a predictable ending. That part is also brutal, though not to the extent Korean cinema often is. Based on actual historical events. Sadly translated from English so with some inaccuracies. 

혼자 사는 사람들 (ALONERS)

Watchable. A compelling drama which sees a call centre worker come to terms with her and others' loneliness. In fact, it's a thought-provoking societal picture of contemporary life. The story itself is a mixture of everyday and unusual - though the protagonist takes everything in her stride. You never know which way it's going to develop, even with hints the girl is gradually rediscovering herself in relation to the world. Very well acted and enacted. Cinematography is perfect all the time but also offers one particularly awe-inspiring shot of a bus ride with the street reflected in the bus windows as she's leaving the city - the bus is blue meaning suburban or longer distance. It's only the cold she and her boss exude that makes you want to distance yourself from the protagonists.

Both seen online. Cinematic reception might differ. 


CINEMAFORUM

BAFTA 2021

7 short films of good quality:

EYELASH

Watchable. OCD perfectly explained, also in relation to love.

LIZARD

Watchable. Beautifully shot - sunny Lagos and the magnificent use of perspective - contrasts the harsh Nigerian reality - that's not always lucid.

LUCKY BREAK

Recommended. Masterful plot. With a pinch of salt. Perfect cast. Steve Oram is superb.

THE FIRE NEXT TIME

Watchable. Modern-style animation where wall and ground texture is either real or a perfect imitation, visually attractive but the yobs plot is rudimentary and superficial. 

THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT

Watchable. A pleasant poem. The animation doesn't look like wax, more like paintings. 

الهدية (THE PRESENT)

Recommended. Daily Palestinian life consists of humiliations and obstacles thrown in the way. Engaging.

THE SONG OF A LOST BOY

Watchable. The little wax figures are revolting but a beautiful use of light in the finale is the film's saving grace.


RUNNING FOR GRACE

Recommended. Splendid vistas of Hawaii dazzle you from the start. The tale, set a century ago, is captivating. Beautiful, verdant land, period costumes, flowers in the residence embellish a story which is warm and offers a bit of laughter, especially Jo's first conducted examination of a patient, tension when villains come to play, several heartfelt scenes and a fairy-tale ending. Gentle score, sound once coming from the right, which perfectly mimics what the 'docs' could hear leaving the patient's bedroom. Amiable goodies and awful, yet treated with a pinch of salt, baddies. A delight.

WARSAW KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL

죽여주는 여자 (THE BACCHUS LADY)

Recommended. An elderly lady suffering from an STD comes as a surprise, even more so when you learn what she does for a living. Oscar-winner 윤여정 (Youn Yuh-jung) in the leading role (it's a pre-Oscar film of hers). Also the kid is remarkable in the tear-jerking scene in the prison. The film tells about aging and the prospect of dying, moral choices, poverty, as wel as an untold part of history, the twisted fates of some Koreans and Americans resulting from politics high above them, as if transparent but affecting all those at the bottom the most. Never quite predictable but always consistent with the character and very humane. Powerful.

Seen online. Cinematic reception might differ.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

W LESIE DZIS NIE ZASNIE NIKT II (NOBODY SLEEPS IN THE WOODS TONIGHT 2)

Watchable. The action takes place immediately after the events from part one. The surprising opening sees a period costume party but that's quickly explained. Sadly with no return - sadly as it's about the best sequence. The movie plays with the horror genre. The "Maniac Cop" poster is there by no mistake. When you hear "all her friends are dead" it's a reference to another Netflix flick with Julia Wieniawa. The fortune-teller and Jarosław scene is a smart political reference. However the monstrous rape crosses the barrier of bad taste, though just for a while, and there are too many repulsive scenes. The monsters look like they badly need a dermatologist. Luckily you get surprises aplenty, some twists of action can't be foreseen. The music is original too. There's no denying one thing: the action's engaging. The ending is partly a closing when combined with the opening of part one, partly the set-up for part three. 

Seen courtesy of Netflix. It was a bit quiet on my laptop so I relied on subtitles quite a lot. Those were white which wasn't always practical and were too small to watch from a distance. In the less than full screen mode as soon as the end credits start rolling, the system suggests other films and series to you - annoying. 

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

NZARA  - HUNGER

Watchable. It's a compelling performance but not a movie - it has wonderful voice actors, the sound comes from both sides and the screen but the picture is awfully static, it's just decor which changes as seldom as theatrical decor would. The thing is voiced in English with insertions from Shona. The play is based on oral literature: with repetitions and a modern version of a myth explaining the world. No physical hunger features in the content, it's abstract only. Music can be heard only in the background to speaking. I hoped for more African tunes and on their own. The film's translated by writer-director Klara Wojtkowska herself which is surprising since in her version English 'fill' ('napełnić', 'wypełnić' in Polish) becomes 'zatkać' ('block', 'clog').

Klara Wojtkowska is a musicology and African studies graduate. For the last 2 or 3 years she lived mostly in Zimbabwe but she's been an emigrant all her life. The film has its own history: She fell ill in the US, saw a Zimbabwean healer who told her: "You're in the wrong place. Speak to your ancestors" which led to: "Go to Zimbabwe." She refused but got more and more ill. She healed in Zimbabwe. It took her 3 weeks to write the play. Originally it was a theatrical play on show in Zimbabwe but after just one day the police ordered to take it down. There's actual hunger in Zimbabwe which is a possible explanation. The police didn't say why. That's how censorship works. So you won't say a lot instead of that one thing the censor picked on. She had limited time and money to make it into a film which it became out of necessity. One of the actors did electronic engineering in Poland. A theatre in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is interested in making it into a musical.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

DUNE 3D

Recommended. This epic adaptation of the novel "Dune" by Frank Herbert is nothing short of spectacular and best appreciated at Imax or at least in 3D since here the depth does enhance the picture. Surrounding sound and unique music by Hans Zimmer let you immerse yourself in the universe. The suns and moons of Arrakis look magnificent. Some weapons, gadgets, aircraft and spacecraft are new to science fiction cinema. The language of the Emperor's planet imitates Amharic, the Fremen's is based on Arabic, the messiah is even dubbed "Mahdi".The plot is lucid even if you haven't read the book. The movie's captivating, builds tension gently and offers one profoundly touching moment. It's easy to feel empowered by the movie. Convincingly acted by Timothée Chalamet in the leading role of Paul Atreides but Oscar Isaac as Leto Atreides makes a lasting impression too. The pleasure lasts 155 minutes, including the end credits with their memorable score. True space opera. 

PETIT VAMPIRE (LITTLE VAMPIRE)

Watchable. I didn't quite get the historic opening, it's a mess. The contemporary part makes more sense: the undead creatures have their own outlook, e.g. they cry when monsters are killed in movies. Still, neither the animation nor the action is sophisticated. 

Friday, 26 November 2021

Sunday, 21 November 2021

BIALY POTOK 

Watchable. All dark, as if in a shadow, and greenish. Starts with a ludicrous and obscene conversation. Next the action finally starts and involves a lot of angry people arguing, yelling and fighting. The dream scene is ridiculous and obscene again. It could have been a comedy of errors. Instead it's a pathetic tragicomedy. 

Some info form the Q&Q with director Michał Grzybowski and actress Agnieszka Duleba-Kasza:
Normally the cost of a movie in Poland is about 3-5 million zlotys. This one, from a micro budget plan, cost 700 thousand zlotys. 1.5% profit from the cinema tickets returns to PISF. Michał Grzybowski wrote the script with a colleague within 2.5 months to obtain the funds. The director didn't make any money from it: "Głównie za złe rzeczy się płaci" ("Mainly bad things are paid for"), doing something good doesn't pay, as he remarks. 
The story took place in his neighbourhood. Biały Potok is the name of the osiedle (an estate comprising of a number of houses).
The actress who was to play the pregnant wife resigned so was replaced in the last minute. She left together with her cinematographer husband. 
The director says he wanted the film to take the form of a farce but a raw, realistic one so he treated it like a drama. The picture is dark "to break the comedy", to make it naturalistic. 
In the director and garrulous actress's opinion the opening scene expresses jealousy. The actress sounded as if she really had such dumb conversations at parties.
The kid with the gun had stood in the doorway aiming at them in real life so the director decided the boy had to act in it. 
Marcin Dorociński is said to be modest. He'd come to the set on bike. 
The Mazda car cost 1400 zlotys + 400 zl to get it running. 
My own impression from the Q%A is that with good movies the makers don't need to explain the film. 

The cinema in Ursynowskie Centrum Kultury "Alternatywy" had comfy seats. 

MOSQUITO STATE

Recommended. It's like nothing I've seen before. While Aronofsky's "Pi" reverberates in this film - here the maths genius already works in the finance - the rest is unique. Masterful cinematography, studious shots, sound effects, great music and, next - in the order of appearance - an unusual tale. However unsettling the events are, the film keeps you calm, it's so captivating with style.

Monday, 15 November 2021

CEREMONIA

Watchable. The short film is partly a dysfunctional family drama, partly a realistic picture of the Polish society where people don't want to get involved when they witness violence. When family tensions are at breaking point, the puzzle is solved. Nothing special in the story or the way it was shot. Typically Polish.

Błażej Hrapkowicz, conducting the Q&A remarked the film transformed into a thriller with a riddle. The director explained it was inspired by how to build a family in case of contradict opinions, in particular the director's grandfather's cousin inspired the film character. 

PIEC DNI LEKU (FIVE DAYS OF FEAR)

Watchable. The short documentary shows a string of ordinary people confessing what they're afraid of. Rejection or death are the most common fears but also many people have their own anxieties incomprehensible to me. The division into days doesn't make any sense but the confessions give a fascinating insight into how vulnerable everyone is.

Each utterance took 2 minutes 30 seconds. There are 6 days because one woman said she feared nothing. The days serve as a division because the director needed to give a pause in between. The guy who feared he wouldn't set up a family is married and has 2 children now.

DROGA

Watchable. The short film gathers a few sorts of problems caused by men - realistic but no surprises. 

The director says the ending was inspired by "The Graduate". The film was shot before the October protests and "Wypierdalać" wasn't in the script but they left it in. A month later it was shouted by many women in the street. 

METY (FLOATERS)

Watchable. The short cartoon is on the artsy side but incomprehensible. To me anyway but I don't have floaters in my eyes.

Męty (floaters) are what some people, including the director herself, see in the eye. Someone from the audience remarked he had the same problem and had used to think he had been able to see bacteria so presenter Błażej Hrapkowicz joked: "Może zróbmy spotkanie terapeutyczne: nazywam się Maciej, widzę bakterie." ("Why don't we have a therapeutical meeting: my name is Maciej, I see bacteria.")

SYNTHOL

Watchable. The short film tells about a dim witted guy keen on bodybuilding and about how inspirational he is to people even though he's unsuccessful himself. Tongue-in-cheek, to the point and sad at the same time.

Piotr Trojan acted Eryk, wrote and directed the film himself.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

WYSZYNSKI - ZEMSTA CZY PRZEBACZENIE (WYSZYNSKI - REVENGE OR FORGIVENESS)

Recommended. What struck me first was top-notch sound, surrounding at times, next evocative visual effects, e.g. when soldiers walking through a meadow dissipate into thin air or when ashes fall down. The action keeps you in suspense but provides touching moments too. Music keeps up. Wyszyński's final stride is hero-like but totally in line with the story. The note of events of 20 years later explains how the wartime experiences shaped the cardinal and is a perfect ending. 

WSZYSTKIE NASZE STRACHY (FEARS)

Watchable. Only the grandma character is fun. All other conversations are blabber, the story conveys moral preaching, the film is protracted and awfully spiritual. Much depends on Dawid Ogrodnik to keep us interested by successfully depicting the protagonist's growing inner turmoil. The actor fails miserably. The story's based on actual events and the original protagonists are pictured at the end. 


PLANETA SINGLI. 8 HISTORII

EP. 1: ZJAZD ABSOLWENTOW

Watchable. Too slow at first, the school reunion finally picks up the tempo but the ending is cheesy and predictable. Piotr Witkowski's part as the woman's date stands out. The party is frequented by a variety of characters, a memorable one is a guy who preys on every woman using the same chat-up line.

EP. 7: WLADEK I HALINA

Watchable. Less predictable, with less common in the genre elderly protagonists but with a sad subplot of a lethal disease - really, Polish people can ruin the best of fun.


HER DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

MULLAH'S DAUGHTER

Watchable. The documentary looks like a chaotic mixture of home videos portraying a happy family and good living in a modern, well-equipped house with a garden offering shadow on hot days. The mullah's family is not as strict as I expected. A wonderful, though very brief song is played over the end credits. 


BO WE MNIE JEST SEKS (AUTUMN GIRL)

Recommended. CGIs are easy to spot but they create fairy-tale Warsaw of the 60s: sleek, colourful, undistinguishable from Western capitals, bar occasional jokes, e.g. a large poster with ambiguous slogan: "Partia słucha obywateli" ("The party listens to citizens"). Maria Dębska excels in the provocative role of Kalina Jędrusik. But also Bartłomiej Kotschedoff as her director and all other actors perform their parts alluringly and convincingly. Astute dialogues, wonderful characters, professionally choreographed (by Jakub Lewandowski) dance scenes sell the fable smoothly. Some bits are hilarious, e.g.: "A co ty tu robisz o tej porze?" "Telefon mi się zepsuł, więc przyszedłem porozmawiać ze Stasiem." ("And what are you doing here at this hour?" "My phone broke down so I've come to talk to Staś.") Unusually for Polish films, there's a post-credit.


HER DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

LEKCJA MILOSCI (LESSONS OF LOVE)

Recommended. Jolanta Janus is always immaculately dressed, made up, with her hair done. Every scene with her is delightful. She believes women should be feminine to attract men. She surely does, easier than her daughters. Unbelievable she's a long-term victim od domestic abuse by her violent husband. The story's built out of the contrast between her abusive husband and her new, gentle and loving partner. 

The screenings were so smartly scheduled that there was always enough time to get to each film, regardless of the cinema. And the cinemas were within a short metro ride from one another. The lack of a printed schedule or catalogue was a hindrance. But at least the extremely nice and helpful staff would let me read the synopses and view trailers on their laptop. I noticed the synopses by some guy from Filmweb sometimes skipped the core topics of the films - gender bias again? Spending so much time at the cinema I was apprehensive in regards to the risk of Covid infection. Here the core team proved to follow the health safety guidelines religiously, everyone in the customer service wore a mask talking to people and during the screenings. Their collaborators, like a presenter or the interpreter ignored the rules though. As you approached the festival desk at Kinoteka you could smell a fragrant vaporizer - a fabulous accent and unique to this enterprise. Altogether, mostly owing to the awesome film selection, but also to the hospitality of the staff, it was a wonderful experience.

Friday, 12 November 2021

HER DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

SILENCIO RADIO (RADIO SILENCE)

Watchable. Stunning cinematography renders Mexico City awe-inspiring. The pictures highlight immense modern buildings or glistening surfaces of the edifices or the road. The everyday reality is grimmer though, shocking even - with bodies of killed journalists or hanged drug dealers found in the streets. The Mexican documentary inadvertently reveals so much about the country authorities' wrongdoings, the drug cartels war manifested by dead bodies hanging in the streets, the army mutilating students, that I understood why the "Nuevo orden" ("New Order") director implicated the army in his feature film. It also brought to mind "Sicario" in regards to the drug crime and every day brutality. The actual story of the TV journalist was less comprehensible to me - an outsider. I loved the song over the end credits - the lyrics carry a meaning consistent with the topic and the melody is very enjoyable.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

SPENCER

Recommended. British through and through and superbly acted. Kristen Stewart manages the task and so do Jack Farthing as Prince Charles, Emma Darwall-Smith as Camilla Parker Bowles, and Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall and John Keogh as servants. Add the celebration of each costume and each meal. The royals do live well. But Diana - it's based on actual events, only with certain dramatisations - feels like in a gilded cage. As much as she would love to spare the pheasants, she hopes to spare herself. When the royals feel circled by the press, she feels watched by them - the pearl necklace dinner stands out, the gazes are superbly shot. Her loneliness in the world of tradition and form couldn't manifest itself better. Even the cinematography reflects the 80s. The 1986 song "All I Need Is A Miracle" by Mike and the Mechanics says it all. 

Saturday, 6 November 2021

HER DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

BODY AS BATTLEFIELD - set of 7 shorts:

BATTLEFIELD

Watchable. Vague black and white images. The music at the cinema sounds better than in the online trailer. No distinguishable topic or story. 

رقص الأجل عيوني (LET MY BODY SPEAK)

Watchable. The Syrian tale is unusual since it concerns a women's military school but to an outsider it's not clear if the woman is lesbian and if her schoolmates are. 

THE WEDDING CAKE

Watchable. The cake is evocative, the dolls less so. The story's shocking.

CERNOBILA (BLACK AND WHITE)

Recommended. A wonderful compilation of numerous movie excerpts.

ANKEBUT 

Watchable. Turkish. So vague it's the only thing I can say about this film.

NAPORNO (HARD)

Recommended. The film proves porn acting is the world's oldest profession. Or at least since the invention of the camera.

THERMOPLASTISCHE ELASTOMERE (THERMOPLASTIC ELASTOMERS)

Recommended. Very informative and eye-opening: the sex-doll brothel wins me over.

MORGANA

Watchable. This full-length feature film presented at the festival projects freedom. And joy. Morgana Muses, 53 years old at the time of shooting, is neither slim nor beautiful but she's creative and her films, whose excerpts we see, range from revolting - where she has cake smeared all over her body - to beautiful - most others, bonding was surprisingly the most awe-inspiring due to its artistry. When you hear her life story and how porn work saved her from suicide, it's even inspiring. The film is exciting but you also feel for her. It's also most body-positive which is wonderful once you drop your bias. And did you know the porn industry has its own film festivals? Those people seem so warm and joyful. Good for her. I personally don't always find it aesthetic. Still, personal liberty rules. 


TITANE

Recommended. Lots of violence and sex - by a woman. Directed by Julia Ducournau and superbly acted by Agathe Rousselle as Alexia and Vincent Lindon as Vincent - both in ultra difficult roles. Both the violent and erotic bits come as shocks, even when you can foresee them - they're so brutal and graphic. While some viewers claim the second part is more timid and even see love in it, I find that part to be even more shocking and the protagonists perfidious, e.g. smiling to each other in the dance which some see as loving and I view as false. In my perception Alexia goes with the flow of Vincent's delusions to take advantage of the situation. The story is ambiguous: blood is not black, is it? For the most part I wasn't sure if she was pregnant or imagined to be. Others discover the truth hence making it clear to viewers. What I find disturbing is crossing each others' personal boundaries in the second half: starts with opening the son's door without a knocking and grows in severity, e.g. at the injection request. What follows only increases in intensity and involves a kiss like in porn. The finale is on the verge of science fiction but also sheds new light on who the rape perpetrator could have been. Just like the opening, the ending refers you to mythical Titans. Some scenes mirror each other, e.g. twerking - even by Vincent - or Alexia's spread eagle. The pictures and the music captivate you. 

Friday, 5 November 2021

HER DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

NINA MAMA (MOTHER-CHILD)

Recommended. It's soothing to see 21, if I counted correctly, pregnant teenagers getting help and lots of care in a health centre in Argentina. Underlying issues are sometimes severe: domestic violence, drug addiction or the lack of easy access to abortion but many are positive: even unwanted conceptions are welcome by the girls and their boyfriends. An intimate look, full of warmth. 

SISTERS WITH TRANSISTORS

Watchable. You learn lots of surprising facts about the origins of electronic music, e.g. its first sounds were inspired by air raid sirens from the Second World War. Still, just those sounds are annoying and a long way from modern techno. "Synthesize Me" accompanying end credits is about the best tune.


WEGIERSKA JESIEN FILMOWA ON MOJEEKINO.PL

SEVELED (NEITHER WITH YOU)

Watchable. Engaging like every romantic comedy but silly and forgettable.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

HER DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

CALL ME INTERN

Recommended. Shocks you with the extent of young workforce exploitation: the US, Europe, even the UN. But also explains market mechanisms which gives both the smaller and the bigger picture of the issue of unpaid internships. Masterfully cut. Expert commentary to the point. Most importantly: an unpaid internship does not advance your career. 

BRAZEN

Recommended. 10 short animations about brave women from all over the world and various epochs and cultures who revolutionised our world. A fantastic bold music theme emphasises their audacity. This cartoon series features such strong, independent women I found it even intimidating. You see how much effort or even deception is needed to matter in life. But it's also revelatory how much we owe to those few women. The animations are lucid, using the pictures to display their stories comprehensibly, limiting the verbal narratives to the women's reactions to what we see happening in their lives. The protagonists are all admirably strong, never letting others to put them off. It's also unsettling how many vital problems are overlooked by men. Luckily those women didn't give a damn what others would think of them. They were not afraid either of criticism or rejection and would just get their own way. 

The film set was followed by a workshop for children which was inspiring even to an adult woman like me. And I'm impressed how smart and self-confident the girls were. 

ZE NOEMEN ME BABOE (THEY CALL ME BABU)

Recommended. A compilation of many testimonies of Indonesian nannies in Dutch households during the colonial rule, with period footage collected and cut so cleverly the images become one story. It's touching, warm but also fills you in on the times of Dutch occupation of Indonesia, Nazi of the Netherlands and Japanese of Dutch Indonesia. Beautifully told from a nanny's point of view. The archive footage is black and white but wonderfully shot, you can even see water glistening in the sun. 

93QUEEN

Recommended. About Ezras Nashim, the first women-staffed ambulance service in the large Brooklyn Hasidic community, and its charismatic leader. You follow Rachel Freier strive to bake plenty of hallahs at home, run for the civil law judge and kickstart the much needed emergency service for women. It's astonishing how badly the male competitors are trying to put her down. All the more I admire her thinking: "I am hurt, I've been hurt before, I surely will be hurt. That's life." Watches almost like a thriller. 

Monday, 1 November 2021

WEGIERSKA JESIEN FILMOWA ON MOJEEKINO.PL

DRAKULICS ELVTARS (COMRADE DRAKULICH)

Watchable. Another Hungarian flick set in communist times, again in the early years, this time shortly after the Cuban revolution. The plot where spies try to discover comrade Drakulics' (Drakulich's) secret is totally engaging, treated with a pinch of salt, but it's not a comedy. At least I was watching glued to the screen but without outbursts of laughter. 


HER DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

COMO EL CIELO DESPUES LA LLOVER (THE CALM AFTER THE STORM)

Watchable. Only for bits of Argentinian life, like a girl stung by a scorpio. But the film is a random assembly of home videos and footage of making a movie - always a mistake as a topic and here, what's worse, lacking any sign of editing. Junk.

LES PRIERES DE DELPHINE (DELPHINE'S PRAYERS)

Recommended. Beautiful, smart, yet illiterate Cameroonian recounts her life. The story's shocking and frustrating with the amount of abuse she's been through and inability to escape her predicament. She's a wonderful actress so it watches like a monodrama, with the difference it's real. 

I wish she would venture into acting, which probably hasn't crossed her mind but which she has a flair for, and finally break free. I'm definitely rooting for her.

THE CASE YOU

Recommended. Harrowing. I felt as if I was being sexually abused - it was so suggestive. The film details the spate of manipulative tactics - legal and psychological - hence letting you understand how the crime was so successfully committed on a string of innocent young women. 

What I learnt from the interesting Q&A with two of the protagonists: In Germany many such cases are dropped before they get into court, or if they get in, there are many myths around them in court. Such cases are silenced also in Switzerland. What's more you have to report a sexual assault within 3 months and that's too little time even to process it mentally by the victim.The producers made them sign consent that the footage from the audition could be used in the subsequent feature film - that is luckily legally invalid. What the vicious producers have tried for real was to show the documentary from the audition at a festival - unsuccessfully. What the victims legally achieved so far is that in the documentary from the audition obscures their bodies and voices. Now the court has halted the premiere of the abusive recording for the duration of the trial. They hope to have it removed from the internet and any public space entirely. I wholeheartedly hope they'll succeed.

Journalist Remigiusz Kadelski and interpreter Marta sadly lacked professionalism. Not only would they avoid wearing masks whenever not asked directly to wear them, he wasted time asking questions about nothing, insisted on using the interpreter even when everyone understood English and she would occasionally misinterpret which resulted mostly from her not having seen the films but also sometimes her insufficient English. As for him, why is any 'him' conducting interviews, instead of a 'her' at such a festival? Well, at least both were gentle to the victimised actresses.

STATELESS

Watchable. The film's chaotic but also all the depicted formal legal struggles are futile so it's all the more frustrating. 

The expert activists' panel after the screening was more interesting. 

Friday, 29 October 2021

ETERNALS IMAX 3D 

Watchable. The protagonists have names referring to Greek, Roman, Babylonian myths, Sumerian or Celtic history and European folk tales. The actors speak English in a variety of accents. There's even a Bollywood dance scene and Indian actor Harish Patel embodies a Bollywood director. Still, few actors are as annoying as Kumail Nanjiani - who barely makes a few moves, clearly not knowing how to dance, or as wooden and mumbling as Barry Keoghan in this film. Angelina Jolie is as stiff as if she suffered from a chronic backache. And the whole thing is cut so randomly you don't know the actual order of events. The music's bombastic. Still, if you need to see it, Imax is your best bet. The Imax-worthy bits include: London Natural History Museum in 3D - you feel as if you were really there, London's Camden Lock area, Eternals' celestial adobe and spacecraft, Babylonia, Sumer - both wonderfully enacted, with the Ishtar Gate or the Hanging Gardens, just like we learn from ancient artifacts and history books. 3D is not necessary, only some scenes have it and it's generally mediocre. Sadly, all the awe-inspiring visuals are put into the first half. You can take a nap during the second half which sees interchangeably: inflated arguments, fights against the monsters or each other, arguments, fights etc. Unbearably epic. The mid- and post-credit scenes are both quite promising sequel-wise.

BEFORE YOU MARVEL AT ETERNALS

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have long been accustomed to characters derived from Norse mythology, like Thor, Odin or Loki. The latest Marvel’s release, however, expands the superhero universe incorporating protagonists heavily inspired by myths and legends from other regions of the world.The below characteristic of Eternals, Deviants and Celestials traces their cultural origins only and is therefore spoiler-free even if you aren’t familiar with the comic books:

Thena is derived from Athena, Ikaris from Icarus, Sersi from Circe, Ajak from Ajax, Kro from Cronus, Phastos from Hephaestus - all of those, just like Eros, appear in classical Greek myths.

  • Athena possessed boundless knowledge and was a fierce combatant as the goddess of wisdom and warfare.

  • Icarus was the man who flew too close to the sun hence melting his wax-coated wings.

  • Sorceress Circe could change others into animals.

  • Ajax was a human renowned for strength and bravery, an intrepid and swift warrior.

  • Cronus personified time and belonged to immortals – obviously.

  • Hephaestus mastered iron hence would forge weapons and shields.

  • Eros was the god of love and fertility.

Makkari stands for Mercury from Roman mythology. Mercury was the god of tradesmen, intermediaries, but also of thieves. He often showed his cheeky face playing pranks on others. On the other hand, he bridged the world of gods and humans and often served as a mediator. In arts he’s traditionally presented with wings attached to his shoes. The guy definitely thought on his feet.

Kingo can be decoded as Kingu and Tiamut as Tiamat. Both come from Babylonian mythology.

  • Kingu wore the Tablet of Destinies which gave him immense power. When he was killed, his blood was used to create humans.

  • Tiamat embodied primordial nothingness but also gave birth to the first generation of deities.

Druig can be deciphered as Druid. Druids were actual Celtic priests and were closely connected to nature and familiar with healing properties of various plants.

Sprite hails from European folk tradition where sprites were elves or fairies and often acted childishly.

Gilgamesh is simply Gilgamesh and harks back to Sumerian history. Most likely he was a king who was posthumously deified. Ancient poem The Epic of Gilgamesh” depicts him as part mortal part divine. He quests for immortality but fails to obtain it. Remarkably, after his friend’s death, he questions the meaning of life and the value of human accomplihment in the face of ultimate extinction. Yet he becomes immortalised in the poem.

Bearing in mind who was who helps you guess the attributes and superpowers of Marvel’s new cinematic protagonists. Are they what you expected them to be?



HER DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

Watchable. Masterfully acted, with a number of sharp lines about toxic masculinity. Also, all the actresses are made to look beautiful, whether young or old and regardless of race. Impressively shot: both the Peace Room and the black and white insertions. The plot comes with a few smart twists of action. The discussion is thought-provoking, multi-angle. Sadly no solution to the issues is offered. But that, again, necessitates a question: are we doomed?

LOVEMOBIL

Recommended. Prostitution inside out. If you've ever wondered what a hooker's life looks like, this is their daily reality. The documentary tells about their clients, the job - so hard, often unpleasant and dangerous it's unbelievable anyone wants to do it. What you hear scares you off men. The story of the three women shows their past, present and likely future. Or a lack of thereof. 

Friday, 22 October 2021

ADDAMS FAMILY 2

Recommended. The storyline is partly similar to the previous cartoon where the Addams' world and the ordinary life collide, partly different - like in superhero flicks there is a mad super rich scientist, Wednesday has school science competition aspirations and an experiment goes horribly wrong. But it's the same delightful family with their odd habits. And some rational ones: Thing uses a hand sanitizer and Wednesday "has been keeping social distance since she was born". The story takes you on a tour through the south of the US, with peculiar Addams' attractions and certain stranger's hunchmen in their wake. The finale ties up any loose ends. And you enjoy Bartek Fukiet's translation into Polish dubbing again. The theme music, even though a bit scarce in this instalment, still kept playing in my head long after leaving the cinema. 


WEGIERSKA JESIEN FILMOWA ON MOJEEKINO.PL

SZEP CSENDBEN (ON THE QUIET)

Watchable. Sometimes there's a thin line between sexual harassment and caring attention. This writer's debut movie deals with such a case, showing it from a few people's perspectives but, as we only see what the characters do, observing the developments from the outside, their motives remain unclear. 

What I said earlier about the legibility of subtitles or sound volume on mojeekino.pl remains true.


ANTLERS

Watchable. Quiet, yet perpetually cloudy and gloomy Oregon. The tale is psychologically true and becomes more and more gripping as the action develops. Dark pictures build a climate and one scene sees the teacher's black silhouette in a doorway, lit blue and red from the back by a police car as she enters the monster's den - almost like a female James Bond in a horror  realm. Another time an insect buzzing sound surrounds you. Skillfully made. But horror-wise it's not only not really scary but even quite rubbish - people turn gradually into legendary bloodthirsty monsters - how many times have you seen that? Or school bullying and adults' horrible childhood reminiscences - also trite. Predictable and skippable. 

The ladies' in KinoGram is amazing: the restroom mirror tells you you're beautiful and it's sealed with Marilyn Monroe's kiss.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

WEGIERSKA JESIEN FILMOWA ON MOJEEKINO.PL

TREZOR (VAULT)

Watchable. Up to a point it's a decent crime comedy: ironic, with good twists of action. But it's also brimming with communist politics down to mentioning breaking hands and fingers. It mars the entertaining part even though it ensures the consistency of the plot and offers a set design to match the historical period. We all know communists turned out to be bad people, no need to remind us over and over again, that period is happily long gone. Still, the plot's engaging and keeps you glued to the screen till the satisfactory finale.

Convenient big Polish subtitles on transparent black backgrounds facilitated reading the dialogues. Excellent sound volume will satisfy those speaking Hungarian and Russian (the dialogues are in both these languages).

ETERNALS IMAX 3D

I've seen it already but will be allowed to post my review no sooner than on Sunday night. 

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

APENSTREKEN MET AAP NOOT MIES (MONKEY BUSINESS FROM A TO Z)

Recommended. The Netherlands make the best out of their centuries-old architecture. The tale is set in 1889 and the mostly grim reality is depicted convincingly. While bad experiences befall Wim, the whole thing is kept at children's level. The story's engaging, adventurous, yet clear and consistent, even though never predictable. It's well acted, especially by Tygo Bussemakers as little Wim, but also all adults, no matter how big or small the role, put in memorable performances.

SMIERC ZYGIELBOJMA (DEATH OF ZYGIELBOJM)

Watchable. Writer/director Ryszard Brylski misfires badly with this Holocaust-time drama that focuses on a Jewish man's last months in England. Just like neither Karski nor Zygielbojm was heard by British wartime authorities or media, I doubt the Brits will appreciate a movie which directly accuses them of negligence. What's worse, the film drags awfully. OK, it'll do as a film noir but it's overtalked and everyone seems to be constantly deep in thoughts. Wojciech Mecwaldowski, a marvellous comedian, here in a dramatic role, excels as Szmul Zygielbojm, his despondent eyes do the acting. Most of the cast, even some 'Brits' are Polish which explains the often poor English but it does distract you from the content. The images are not as harsh as those we've always seen from the Holocaust, few words reflect the horror either. It's too mild to move. Only intellectually do you register the film is about helplessness. It's just too slow and flat to evoke emotions. A monument, not a movie. 

My second thought is that the film mentions "The Times" which published just a note and "Manchester Guardian" which devoted an article to Zygielbojm's revelations. When you look at the tiny little role of "The Times" now and how well regarded "Guardian" is you feel some satisfaction. 

Some trivia from the Q&A:

Wojciech Mecwaldowski hasn't seen the film, he doesn't like watching himself so doesn't see his own movies. He had no audio or video material on Zygielbojm so he built the character from photographs - the actor is a photographer's grandson. He "wouldn't sacrifice his life for any idea but wouldn't sacrifice his family for anyone". His opinion is that nowadays our voice is listened to even less than then. He had the guts to tell his maths teacher at school he wouldn't learn some of the stuff because it was useless in life and he concludes now that he was right. His acting teachers would tell the students they could surpass the teachers, while some of his counterparts had to listen to the 'greats'. He's teaching acting himself these days

The film-makers treat Zygielbojm's suicide as heroic. It's typical for Polish mentality but I'm not going to dwell on it. Let me just conclude this explains Poles' adoration for the film. 

In reality Szmul Zygielbojm also spent a year among American Jews who didn't believe when he was telling them about the Holocaust either. 

It took 7 years to make the movie from A to Z. The director decided to shoot it as a film noir because the genre had been popular back then. He used detailed storyboarding which facilitated shooting. The music was composed in Poland and recorded in a studio in Czech Prague. 

NOTTURNO

Watchable. However much I'm interested in the issues of the region, the film drags. It's an assembly of random scenes with no rhyme or reason to the selection. Did the director mean to juxtapose ordinary life with that under the brutal rule of ISIS? Well, nothing I wouldn't have heard of before. Only the amount of rainfall astonished me, the region is known to be dry. Lovely, if morose, Arabic music over the end credits completes the documentary. 

Reviewed from the distributor's screener, cinematic reception might differ.


WARSAW FILM FESTIVAL

DZIEN, W KTORYM ZNALAZLEM W SMIECIACH DZIEWCZYNE (THE DAY I FOUND A GIRL IN THE TRASH)

Watchable. The futuristic set-up is not bad. The best point is how natural the science fiction post-2026 Polish reality appears. But when I read the opening notes on 'vaxine' whose injection equalled forced subjugation to the state rule I wondered whether the scriptwriters were anti-vaxxers or only had become inspired by such fantastical conspiracy theories. The male lead's motivation is off. He's going to sacrifice his life fighting for the dignity of the worst of criminals, yet when he encounters one, he keeps her naked for the first few hours. I'm also not sure of the time set-up: it's around New Year in Poland just a few years ahead of our time and all you see is summer weather, what's more, protagonists swim in the sea without the risk of freezing to death. 'The new Polish anthem' is much intriguing but played with totally indistinguishable words and no subtitles. Still, the most woeful bit is that Blue resembles Pris from "Bladerunner" - in a clumsy version, not ultra fit. In addition she acts dimwitted rather than possessing only automatic reactions. The result is a sort of lame "Bladerunner" rip-off. All characters, major or minor, have psychological issues - typical for Polish cinema, I've watched too much of the stuff. The movie could have been a decent actioner but, I guess, not in Poland. The lead, Szymon Hertz, instead of  feeling trepidation at his imminent death, reflects on the events which led to him becoming an activist. The convict, Blue, is so fresh-faced and naive any possibility she could be a serious criminal is implausible. The action frequently falls flat. Every other scene is protracted, the ending is cornball as if the writers ran out of ideas. On the other hand, admirable performances of all 'automatons' and sci-fi-appropriate cinematography drag the movie towards respectability. 

Reviewed from the distributor's screener, cinematic reception might differ.


AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL

According to the organizers, opening movies typically hit you hard and next  become hits. Joaquin Phoenix hates giving interviews so his role in one of the opening films is surprising. Among documentaries there'll be one on the last abortion clinic. A retrospective of Jim Jarmusch's early 7 movies will be presented - the director influenced Jakub Gutek, the festival director and distributor. Waters' retrospective will include "Hairspray" and "Serial Mom", his masterclass and his stand-up "This Filthy World" - the performance is modified every time. Ida Lupino's films retrospective will feature too. The online program will be revealed only after the cinema version is over. Out of 9 short films 3 will be attached to full-length ones, the other 6, selected together with Błażej Hrapkowicz from Cinemaforum festival in Warsaw, cover social issues in America. 

One of the festival movies is going to be:

LANGUAGE LESSONS

Recommended. Scripted and self-directed by the actors but acted perfectly plausibly. The story offers emotional highs and lows, is sometimes funny, e.g. when he says he's "embarazado" and is then taught what it actually means, sometimes sorrowful andengaging all the time due to a number of little cliffhangers and wonderful acting. As I was starting to think the plot had succumbed to the sappiness of the grave disease of a protagonist, the feeling quickly dissolved owing to further plot complications. The teacher (Natalie Morales) comes across as a real one - as I recall my own online studying. Mark Duplass as Adam masterfully performs the emotional gamut. 

Reviewed from the distributor's screener, cinematic reception might differ.

The festival organizers are of the opinion the film can't have been created before the pandemic. I dare to disagree. I knew of distant teachers working internationally a few years before Covid-19.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

WARSAW FILM FESTIVAL

НОСОРІГ (RHINO)

Watchable. Well, "Носоріг" is not too special. From the "Номери" ("Numbers") director I expected better. Set in 1990s and inspired by facts it talks about private and 'professional' life of a brutal gangster. We've seen this plot rehashed so many times it would really need to be a special story to stand out. What you get, however, is a class B movie hoping to attract the audience with violence and sex. It's acted by non-professionals and it shows. Excessive use of close-ups doesn't help. The plot is a bit all over the shop. The "Sated Pig" song pretty much sums up the protagonist's attitude to life. 

The movie was screened with big English subtitles while Polish ones were small and very low, below the screen.

It's Oleh Sentsov's first movie after his freeing from 5 years' imprisonment in a Russian penal colony, he had started making it before and finished after. The Ukrainian writer/director says he was released following international public pressure. As for the plot, director Oleh Sentsov is unrepentant. To him it's a human life story - can a bad man return to doing good? The country was hurt by the USSR and by the 90s after the collapse of the USSR. The type of people he depicts took over the positions of power, ex-president Yanukovych came from such circles. As for actors, 700 candidates took part in the casting, most non-professionals - Oleh Sentsov in general hires non-pros, many of them had been embroiled in similar events, including the one who acted as Носоріг (Rhino) - he had been a football hooligan, also in a far right group since that would let youngsters blow off steam and achieve life success, later he was in the war which changed him, now he's become an activist. Nowadays Ukrainian young people have more options to choose from. Oleh Sentsov stresses he spent 5 years in jail, not in director's school so in those 5 years he learnt a different type of art. He got to understand criminals. He also read a lot and wrote 3 scripts which will become future movies. 


VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE

Watchable. Tom Hardy co-wrote and produced and Andy Serkis directed this frenetic Marvel Comics adaptation devoid of fresh ideas. Just like in the title, expect carnage. Too much is happening to let you feel any tension. The garrulous monster sounds moronic. There's too much of Eddie and Venom's squabbling anyway. References to works of high culture: the quote from Shakespeare and Ray Bradbury: "Something wicked this way comes", a hint at "Natural Born Killers" by Woody Harrelson, Venom pictured as a gargoyle, "Lacrimosa" from Mozart's "Requiem" accompanying a wedding are feeble attempts at elevating the content. The movie boasts Atmos sound. I saw it in ordinary 5.1. It was not excessively loud but the vrooming shook my seat a couple of times so no need for 4DX. The film ends in rough and tumble. The sequel is a bold statement of intent never backed up by a film that, despite numerous attempts, is just not smart enough to be memorable. For hardcore fans only. An astonishing cross-over is announced in the mid-credit. There's no end-credit.

BIGFOOT FAMILY

Recommended. An engaging tale, with fascinating human, half-human and animal characters. Bartek Fukiet has translated it for the Polish dubbing. Some audio effects are perfectly surrounding. 


WARSAW FILM FESTIVAL

EL HOYO EN LA CERCA (THE HOLE IN THE FENCE)

Watchable. Joaquín Del Paso's second movie is like "Lord of the Flies" with added racism, sexism and Catholic religious hypocrisy. The boys constantly hear they're the elite - mind that. It also shows how toxic masculinity is created at an early age. This community was so bizarre I was intrigued enough to keep watching, however tedious it was due to amateurish script, directing and acting. It was meant to hit you hard but the director shies away from showing any direct violence. It's just lots of school boys bullying one another. Overtalked too. 

The topic arose from the screenwriter/director's own memories. He went to both types of school. In the male-only religious school, based on discipline, he witnessed lots of aggression between the boys and from the teachers. Basically, just like in the film, aggression was allowed which results in the boys lacking empathy afterwards. What you see on the screen is management by fear, creating an enemy behind the fence. Child kidnapping and trafficking is a big issue in Mexico which explains some protagonists' reactions. The flag game has no grounds in any historical event but is a loose reference to Aztecs and invaders. The killing, luckily, does not reflect any real case either. The director debuted with "Maquinaria Panamericana" ("Panamerican Machinery") about workers who lock themselves in the factory where they've lost jobs. He appears to like shooting films in enclosed spaces, not much variety.


PENGUIN BLOOM

Recommended. The Blooms wrote and produced a movie based on an autobiographic book about their family. A disabled mum after a spinal cord injury and a sick magpie named Penguin, or Peng for short, are the main protagonists. Sounds sappy, doesn't it? Luckily it's not. Wonderful Australian scenery beautifully shot by Sam Chiplin makes it attractive and the family story is depicted realistically down to the mum's wound, a son's vomit and the bird's poo. But they and their acquaintances are so supportive of each other you can't help but love them all. Happiness is all about attitude, not circumstances. Naomi Watts is perfectly convincing in the difficult role. Peng was acted by 10 or 11 different magpies. The pictures of the authentic Blooms and Penguin accompany the end credits. 

MALIGNANT

Watchable. That James Wan has made a horror with a monster looking like Sloth from "The Goonies, like even the policewoman in the movie describes him, and speaking like Jigsaw from "Saw" is more troubling than whatever the freak is up to. Hot detective Kekoa Shaw (George Young) makes for some light touches. The finale is even feminist which puts a new angle on the story. Joseph Bishara's score and 4 songs are decent. The flick is not scary and the interhuman monster-free parts are better than the hackneyed horror tropes. James Wan would be better off shooting a family drama next. 

OBLOKI SMIERCI - BOLIMOW 1915

Recommended. This documentary with actors' battle scenes charts the history of creation and use of chemical weapon. Its origins are presented through a comprehensible historical background and with a much-helpful map. Everything is lucid even to an ignorant like me. The acted scenes are sepia-toned and grainy but the written and spoken testimonies are sufficient. Some facts are shocking.

Film editor, now director Ireneusz Skruczaj hails from Bolimów and the topic used to be discussed at his home. For the film he used international archives in Europe and the US. It took 5 years to make the documentary. The battles were enacted by non-professional actors, they were all historical reenactors who had done such scenes before and had their own historically accurate, down to every button, uniforms. It was -15 degrees Celsius in the trenches at the time of winter shooting - similarly as a century ago.

FATIMA

Watchable. The cinematography is remarkable - engrossing, you feel as if you were there. A handful of scenes are truly moving. But only the adamantly religious explanation of the events is offered. Also, the apparition told the children it was essential they learn to read but that thread isn't continued.


WARSAW FILM FESTIVAL

VIRGJERESHA SHQIPTARE (THE ALBANIAN VIRGIN)

Recommended. Right when I was beginning to think the festival level had subsided I got to see my first Albanian film ever. My first impression was it looked poor, the village setting didn't entice. Then it seemed to turn to folklore. The society was not religious but patriarchal. That resembled a famous Turkish film so I thought: oh, no, not another "Mustang". But midway through the movie comes the first major twist of action and the plot becomes gripping, with a sequence of events whose outcome is hard to foresee. 3/4 in come a few truly touching moments but without ever turning sappy. Only the finale is heartfelt on the verge of being mawkish. The story brings a novelty in the context of gender roles. Also the make-up aging two of the protagonists is superb: convincing yet not altering the actors. Cinematography makes the best out of the rolling hills and majestic mountains of Albania, sunrises and sunsets. I bet you've never seen a tale like this before.

Reviewed from the distributor's screener, cinematic reception might differ. 


TO MUSI BYC MILOSC

Watchable. The new Polish Christmas comedy is lough-out-loud funny, very well directed, fantastically acted, especially by excellent Iza Sobala as Wiola, particularly entertaining when she trips over - more than once. Witty lines, e.g. "Kim jest Maria?" "O Jezus Maria!" ("Who is Mary?" "Oh Jezus Mary!"), abound. Poland is picture-perfect: a winding road amid a large swathe of forest, fairy-tale towns. Written by Agnieszka Pilaszewska, yet the script has one big downside. Why do two women forgive their partners' unfaithfullness? Just how could a woman script that? That's upkeeping pathology. 

THINK LIKE A DOG

Recommended. A wonderful family comedy with some awesome CGIs, adorable dogs, amiable people, hot Chinese actor Neo Hou and easier to recognize American faces, an engaging and enjoyable modern plot.

UN TRIOMPHE (THE BIG HIT)

Watchable. I never thought a movie about preparing a play could be that interesting, French in that. But it's based on facts - from Sweden, fast-paced, with some twists of action and perfectly acted - just watch them practise speech techniques. Kad Merad steals the show for the remaining part. Luckily the theatre takes relatively little time, prison-type conversations at least carry a meaning and the whole thing is rather crime with a drama of human yearning for freedom and of how freedom manifests itself. The comic potential is obvious but the gags failed to make me laugh. It applies the tried and tested structure: the further in the film the better it gets. 

CAPTAIN MORTEN AND THE SPIDER QUEEN

Watchable. Meticulous puppetry and decoration coupled with wonderfully surrounding sound - albeit with annoying brass music - awe you from the first minute. It's a magical world where a person can turn into a penguin when they feel freezing, consisting of 2 realms: micro and full-size. An overly complicated plot where some characters are downright stupid and the music mar the visual mastery.

THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS

Recommended. Subtle music, soothing forest vistas, dogs - wonderful from the beginning. Equally gently you're introduced to the truffle hunters, their dogs, a truffle broker, but also noses and other merchants. It's incredible how much the men love their dogs. It's also a praise of slow life and natural aromas. The documentary was shot in Alba, San Damiano (Regione Piemonte). Ah, long live Aurelio! (88 years old, still fit and impressively astute)

ALLSEASONS

Recommended. This Polish sports documentary offers awe-inspiring cinematography and matching music, as it presents all kitesurfing styles and an environmental issue down below the surface on which or over which the protagonists glide, jump and fly. Makes you want try it out yourself.

BAYALA - A MAGICAL ADVENTURE

Recommended. This German-Luxembourgish co-production dazzles you with a myriad of colours, all warm, mostly pastel, of elves' eyes, wings and attires, of flowers, dragons - a cute newborn and mosaic-like-scaled adults - as well as cute animals: a raccoon, a wolf, birds. Absolutely fabulous. I want all fairy-tales to look like this. 

MA FAMILLE ET LE LOUP (MY FAMILY AND THE WOLF)

Watchable. Carmen Maura is amiable as granny, though neither does she look 80 years old (she was 74 when the film was released in 2019) nor does it make sense in relation to the rest of the family - she'd have to have given birth at about 50 years old. The sun-drenched French coast and cicadas are irresistible. The plot is silly, with the exception of a touching passing away. The wolf is all fake. So it's not really worth watching but once you start, enjoy the summer. 


WARSAW FILM FESTIVAL

HELL OR CLEAN WATER

Recommended. Sometimes the protagonist makes the movie. This is the case. Diver Shawn Bath has committed himself to cleaning with his own hands the Atlantic off Newfoundland and Labrador coast. The opening images of the amount of trash he finds on the sea bottom are shocking and justly eye-opening. Next I felt tired just from watching his daily toil. Or tyred, should I say. It's not just plastic, turns out decades ago people would even sink old cars off-shore. Sadly, the trash is endless and he's still full-time occupied dragging old tyres from the water. He's so dedicated that he went on for a few years without external funding. In my opinion he should be the Minister of Environment for Canada, were he not so busy down there. Because the flip side of the coin is Shawn Bath stepped in where the governments, both provincial and federal, disgracefully failed through inaction. The man, struggling also because of his stage fright when speaking in public, is a proof perseverance pays off eventually. But as much as it defied belief when he was denied funding before, that much I'm anxious how long it's going to last. We need hundreds of people like him to remove all the trash, all on governmental payroll. Instead it's just him with a small bunch of helpers from Clean Harbours Initiative and some one-off donations. The documentary kept me awake at night as I was mulling over the issue.

Reviewed from the distributor's screener, cinematic reception might differ.