Sunday, 27 October 2013

Oksana Borbat and Valentina Vyntu in "Hutorskie strasti" [2008 Ukraine]

This is one of my 'guilty-pleasure' posts as I wasn't in a mood for anything particularly deep this week. Ukrainian director Aleksandr Parkhomenko's "Hutorskie strasti" translates as Hamlet of Passion, a comedy that resembles one of the gleefully naughty stocking-fillers that get released during Christmas. It has a festive air to it, with moustached gentlemen - Asterix and Obelix like, chasing, or being pursued by impossibly attractive women adorned in flowers and colourful ribbons, as if they were presents waiting to be unwrapped - also their only clothing in some scenes. The dress code however facilitate unfettered brandishing of their bountiful charms as they cast their 'come hither' gaze upon characters and the audience.

The story - I'm only guessing since the DVD came without subtitles, is about our pint-sized but strong and chivalrous hero Vakula (Oleg Dyachuk), who needs to somehow procure the pearl-studded knickers of the Russian empress (Lesya Kozachuk) in order to win the heart of reticent but voluptuous and sensual village belle Oksana (Oksana Borbat). With some help from no less than the devil himself, he will not only succeed (and get to poke the empress as a 'thank you' gift in the process), but also transform into a mighty hunk (Sergey Konyshko), just in time to pluck Oksana's demanding cherry. In between, we shall see antics from a Fellini-inspired witch (Vika Novitskaya) who goes on a date with the devil after having had, and gotten bored with every other man in the village, and the saucy Odarka (Valentina Vyntu) - a local S&M mistress with lesbian leanings, who's also a close friend of Oksana.

Granted, this isn't really exacting cinema, but it has its merits, not least in its kitsch characterisation and the presence of an incredibly sexy Oksana Borbat - a Ukrainian model who also appears to possess a natural talent for comedy. It's like watching a Bollywood film with tits and asses - totally outrageous and non-PC, but in a boisterously friendly, Slavic fashion. We also get to see a brief albeit hackneyed glimpse into traditional Ukrainian mores, costumes, and folk music. The editing is hilarious, and the camera unashamedly worships Ms. Borbat. But the film has helped me get over an otherwise forgettable week, and at least for these reasons, it is Recommended Viewing..!


The Nudity: Oksana Borbat, Valentina Vyntu, Vika Novitskaya, Lesya Kozachuk, and Yuliya Kolodyuk
The film is awash with nudity from various actresses with barely noteworthy nudity from the male actors - Oksana Borbat is the highlight of the film. Valentina Vyntu offers support with her sauciness, and there's plenty of groping and squeezing between the two. There's also brief nudity from Vika Novitskaya, Lesya Kozachuk, and Yuliya Kolodyuk.

Oksana Borbat and Valentina Vyntu nude in Hutorskie strasti


Looking back with bitterness and nostalgia: "Quellen des Lebens" [2013 Germany]

It's plain to see that director Oskar Roehler finds his late mother's life story fascinating - his latest film "Quellen des Lebens" [Eng. Title: Sources of Life] is the third time I'd seen him draw characters inspired by his mother. On this occasion it was perhaps unavoidable, for the film is about his own story, covering three generations of his family.

The film starts in 1949 when defeated soldier Erich (Jürgen Vogel) returns home from the Russian front after World War II, only to receive a rather indifferent reception from family members. It isn't helped by his bedraggled appearance either - having lost all his teeth, he's also dishevelled, and suffering a nasty bout of diarrhoea. To make matters worse, his communist sister and life long enemy Marie (Sonja Kirchberger) has now become wife Elisabeth's (Meret Becker) live-in lover. However, his eldest son Klaus (Kostja Ullmann, later by Roehler-regular Moritz Bleibtreu) takes pity and with his help, Erich sorts himself out and claims back his family. A former Nazi party worker, Erich will have to fight hard to gain acceptance by people in the household, including wife Elisabeth.

Klaus grows up to be a talented writer, and will also meet and marry Gisela (Lavinia Wilson), only to learn soon that she's even more talented than him. They name their child Robert (Leonard Scheicher), but the couple are unprepared for parenthood - each will start having affairs before they separate for good, and most of Robert's childhood will be spent with either Klaus' or Gisela's parents. Young Robert naturally struggles to grow roots anywhere, and spends his time when not alone, in bad company. Until he reconnects with Laura (Lisa Smit) - a childhood friend and neighbour of grandparents Erich and Elisabeth. He discovers true love, and the tenacious lad will come out of a messed-up childhood relatively unscathed.

Like his earlier film Elementarteilken, Roehler provides ample evidence of his dexterity in interpreting events from personal history - the pleasant and the painful, with the right mixture of nostalgia and factual reporting, while lacing it with a touch of humour. Unlike the earlier semi-biographical drama about his mother - Die Unberührbare, he even retains his mother's original name (Gisela Ellers) here. It is beautifully put together, with fine performances, set design, cinematography, and score. The film is nearly three hours long and justifiably feels like an epic - filled with colourful memories, pithy observations, and melodrama. Highly Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity:
Lavinia Wilson, Eva Bay, Karoline Teska, Lisa Smit, Moritz Bleibtreu, and others
The film features several scenes of nudity, mostly for comedic effect, and some are outrageous even. Worth mentioning are two scenes - of Robert as a little boy, walking in on his dad (Klaus) having sex - first with the mother (Lavinia Wilson), and later with friend Dorothea (Eva Bay) - both these occasions lead to an impromptu biology lesson on female anatomy for young Robert. There is nudity from Karoline Teska in a pool - appearing as Robert's maternal aunt Erika, and a brief scene from Lisa Smit - playing Robert's girlfriend Laura. There is brief public nudity when women from Erich's garden-gnome factory skinny-dip in a stream after work. There is also nudity from Anne Wallis De Vries when Klaus is confronted by Erich for abandoning Robert one afternoon.

Lavinia Wilson, Eva Bay, Karoline Teska, Lisa Smit, Moritz Bleibtreu, and others nude in Oskar Roehler's Quellen des Lebens aka Sources of Life


Monday, 21 October 2013

A review of Michael Winterbottom's "I Want You" [1998 UK]

Michael Winterbottom's haunting melodrama "I Want You" is one more of his underrated works. For a British film set in coastal Kent and Sussex, it bears a distinctly continental flavour.

Having served eight years for murder and released on parole, Martin (Alessandro Nivola) returns to his home town and attempts to reconnect with former sweetheart Helen (Rachel Weisz), who was fourteen when she last saw him. He stalks her unseen at the beginning - Helen, now a hairdresser, is courted by local radio DJ Bob (Ben Daniels) for the last six months. We're also introduced to mute fourteen year old Honda (Luka Petrusic) and his protective adult sister Smokey (Labina Mitevska), after Honda gets knocked down by Helen in her bicycle. The siblings - refugees from the former Yugoslavia, have no parents and live in a seaside cottage. Honda has the strange habit of listening to and recording from a distance conversations of people who interest him, which includes her promiscuous sister and her sexual activities - it doesn't seem to concern her too much, and the siblings are also shown comfortable naked in each other's presence.

Honda develops a crush on Helen and begins recording her activities too, who in return will endear herself to her young admirer despite his questionable, yet somehow innocent hobby. Martin will confront Helen, and their relationship will resume from where it left off, much to parole officer Sonja's (Geraldine O'Rawe) dismay. She dissuades him from contacting Helen and asks him to leave town if he's to avoid being sent back to prison. It is only through her associating Helen with Martin's conviction, do we become privy to their collective connection with his crime. Helen's façade of a demure and simple woman comes crashing down from then on, and Honda unwittingly bears witness to disturbing events that'll unfold in front of him...

Made immediately after his critically acclaimed Welcome to Sarajevo, Winterbottom retains a Balkan connection with the film, alongside his collaboration with young Yugoslav-born Labina Mitevska - currently a prolific and respected actress in European cinema. It was also early days for the Academy and BAFTA awarded Rachel Weisz, whose character exudes a latent but dangerous sexual energy that'll attract men's attention, sometimes violently. She'll become a major international star following her next film (The Mummy). Alessandro Nivolo, and Graham Crowden who appears in a minor role, were perhaps the only recognisable names among the cast at the time, and these may have been factors that contributed to the film's relative obscurity. The performances nevertheless showcase their potential, and anticipates their future stardom. Young Luka Petrusic deserves a special mention, not only because it is his character (Honda) that threads through the other characters in the film, but also for stealing a march over other actors with his charm - quite unusual for a lanky teenager of that awkward age - and I'm sure most males will agree with me on this.

But the film also has other virtues waiting to be uncovered, like the association of each of the main characters with a colour-coded palette - green for Martin, blue for Helen, and yellow for the siblings - reflecting their nature and outlook. Small wonder that the cinematographer also happens to be Slawomir Idziak - a Krzysztof Kieslowski regular who'd collaborated on memorable classics such as The Double Life of Veronique and Three Colours: Blue. The screenplay could have been better, but Winterbottom's imaginative direction delivers, by creating an atmosphere that keeps the audience engaged, and also by offering a surprise ending. Like most of Winterbottom's early films that require an upward reassessment, this film too is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Labina Mitevska, David Fahms, Dee Dee Menta, Alessandro Nivola, and Rachel Weisz
The nude scenes will interest both men and women since they're positively erotic without necessarily going overboard. It also includes a rare instance of sensual nudity from a black male (David Fahms) - it is unfortunate that an actor's race require mentioning in this blog, but I need to on this occasion, because whenever black characters are depicted nude in mainstream films, it's usually under duress (enslaved), or in distress (tortured). There is also rare frontal nudity from an exquisitely beautiful Rachel Weisz and a nubile Labina Mitevska. Dee Dee Menta appears nude as stripper Maxine who Martin engages. There is also partial nudity from an uncredited actress at the beginning of the film.

Rachel Weisz, Labina Mitevska, Alessandro Nivola, and others nude in the Michael Winterbottom film I Want You


Thursday, 17 October 2013

A brief review: "Ella" [2010 Peru]

It's unfortunate that I had to start an important Latin American director's filmography in the blog with a totally forgettable film - I'd wanted to review Francisco J. Lombardi's most recent film "Ella" [Eng. Title: She] before getting into his rightly awarded and famous earlier political and social dramas.

Ella - well she has a name too - Luna (Patricia Garza), is actually about her much older husband and painter Alfredo (Paul Vega), and his choice of actions/reactions after she decides to leave him for a lover that he wasn't aware of. Alberto has been going through a creative crisis and is under pressure to complete a series of paintings for a forthcoming show. It is nevertheless also plain to see that he'd been treating Luna, who's also his model, largely as an object of desire and obsession - capturing with camera her every movement in the house when she's not posing for him, and memorising her every physical feature, moles and warts included - he'd apparently counted twenty seven moles on her body. When Alfredo tracks down and entraps the lover she'd wanted to elope with (Rómulo Assereto), he'll discover that they both have more in common than merely desiring the same woman...

A cuckolded husband and his wife's lover getting to know each other and bonding over their common object of desire is as good a premise as any for creating drama - it is intriguing even, but it is in the execution - particularly the screenplay and rather pedestrian performances that the film is let down - it resembles the rough cut of an unfinished film or a nondescript TV drama than a major director's work. More worryingly, the film is not even being ironic when it seemingly rewards men for their selfish motives - artistic struggle or not, and it is always depressing to see a good plot wasted with poor screenplay and characterisation. The film's title too should have probably been El cuerpo de Luna - because we don't get to see a person - only her body, whether alive or dead. But for those still interested, a DVD order link can be found below. DVD Link [NTSC]



The Nudity: Patricia Garza
Cute Mexican actress Patricia Garza appears only in a few scenes, and she's nude in most of them with very few words to say, and we hardly get to know her character (Luna) any better, even after the credits start rolling.

Patricia Garza nude in Francisco Lombardi's Ella


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Well known Italian actress Valeria Golino makes an assured directorial début through her slick and stylish drama "Miele" [Eng. Title: Honey]. Co-produced by her partner and actor Riccardo Scamarcio, the film looks at the controversial topic of euthanasia and the moral dilemma it could pose.

Thirty year old Irene (Jasmine Trinca) leads a double life - to her father and friends, she's a fun-loving young woman working on a post-graduate thesis, but to her clients, she's known by the name of Miele (aka Honey) - the angel of mercy who helps to permanently alleviate suffering in the terminally ill. Through her frequent jaunts to Mexico via USA, high-flying Miele procures over-the-counter veterinary barbiturates to run her profitable enterprise, aided by leads generated through a male nurse-friend at a hospital. Professional in her dealings and following her own strict code of ethics, she will clinically supervise her clients' assisted suicide - they'll have to do the deed either on their own or with help from a family member, only after being assured of the incurable nature of their illness, and having duly signed the legal disclaimers. But Miele's motivation is nevertheless largely driven by a personal childhood trauma.

Miele will be forced to confront a moral dilemma when one of her clients, a retired architect named Carlo Grimaldi (Carlo Cecchi), turns out to be in fine health - he's just fed up with life and wants to end it all, and demands the same rights she accords to a sick person. Miele refuses to carry forward his request, but Grimaldi, already supplied with the necessary drug, refuses to return it back. In the process of trying to retrieve it from him, a platonic relationship develops between the two, which will draw Irene out of her comfort zone, posing questions about her own life and the validity of her clandestine crusade.

Despite the strong cast and crew, two factors make the film what it is - Valeria Golino and Jasmine Trinca, as director and star respectively. It would be hard to tell that this film was made by a début director without formal training in film-making. The mature script, devoid of cliché (written by Ms. Golino, Francesca Marciano, and Valia Santella, based on Mauro Covacich's novel), and the cinematic flair it brandishes wouldn't go unnoticed by the viewer. Golino certainly has the eye of an auteur, but in her first outing has also mixed in some mainstream elements that doesn't quite work, but I guess she knows this already. Jasmine Trinca keeps us transfixed to the screen almost single handedly through the subtle nuances and attitude she displays in her character Irene - a refreshingly atypical characterisation that's rare to see these days. Together, Golino and Trinca present a film full of intensity and heart, which makes it Highly Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Jasmine Trinca
A memorable performance from the lovely Jasmine Trinca also contains three scenes in which she's featured in the nude. The first one is the longest, when her character is with a boyfriend in a caravan.

Jasmine Trinca nude in Miele aka Honey


Monday, 14 October 2013

Jean Eustache is not a name that'll instantly pop up when you mention Nouvelle Vague Cinema, for he never got around to make enough of them, and also committed suicide aged forty two. Even the works he'd done - around a dozen or so, have rarely been seen outside France. Except his seminal masterpiece, "La maman et la putain" [Eng. Title: The Mother and the Whore], which was duly awarded at Cannes and Berlin, and is studied by film students worldwide ever since. Despite the film's seemingly daunting three and a half hour runtime, it is not only one of the most absorbing and accomplished of cinematic works, but also an illuminating study of romantic relationships, that's as relevant today as the time when it was made.

Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is an unemployed twenty-something pseudo intellectual who talks a lot but doesn't say much. Since being dumped by girlfriend Gilberte (Isabelle Weingarten), he's been living with Marie (Bernadette Lafont) - an attractive thirty something divorcee running a garment boutique. She lets him stay at her flat, and also gives him occasional pocket money - they are lovers, and in an 'open' relationship that certainly suits Alexandre more than it does Marie, for he now has the freedom to sleep around with whoever he chooses and yet have someone looking after him. Marie on the other hand, tolerates his promiscuity but truly loves him.

Their relationship is tested when Alexandre meets and starts dating attractive young blonde Veronika (Françoise Lebrun), a nurse even more promiscuous than him. Not only does he inform Marie of his new 'conquest', but also uses the flat in her absence for his extended sex sessions. Veronika knows that Alexandre depends on Marie, but that doesn't seem to trouble her as much. One night, a drunk Veronika invites herself into Marie's flat when she's with Alexandre, and from then on, an uneasy ménage à trois is established that Alexandre wouldn't quite know how to deal with - for it sparks jealousy from one among the three every time they're together. He will soon be forced to choose between the two women who love him, and become a proper adult, against his will...

The above rudimentary outline barely does justice to what the film is about. It has no real plot, but analyses and eloquently conveys themes that would normally require several films to accomplish. It is achieved through Eustache's meticulous observations with a documentary eye, shot in series of real-time conversations and monologues that'll feature Alexandre and one or more of the central characters. The title refers to the collision between two simplified needs of a man - the caring and nurturing mother figure - in this instance Marie, and the erotic pleasures derived through a whore - which Veronika openly admits to being, as far as her sexual needs are concerned.

The film is faultless in every respect - right from the exemplary performances, to the exquisite screenplay and characterisation. And the ending, which shows Alexandre slump to the floor during the final scene, is a master stroke of genius. Exceptionally directed and edited, it is a shining, perhaps even seminal, example of the French New Wave, and therefore Highly Recommended Viewing..!

This gem has never been digitally remastered for DVD, and the only version currently available is a letter-boxed NTSC edition from Japan that I can't recommend, particularly to users of this blog for an obvious reason - the Japanese penchant for blurring certain parts of the anatomy. :)


The Nudity: Bernadette Lafont, Françoise Lebrun, and an uncredited actress
Reviewed from an uncensored HDTV-rip (even though I own a copy of the Japanese original), the film features several scenes of partial and frontal nudity from the lovely Bernadette Lafont, and brief nudity from the elegant Françoise Lebrun who's a former girlfriend of director Eustache. An uncredited actress also appears nude in pantihose, during a scene when she tries on a dress at Marie's boutique, gawked by Alexandre.

Bernadette Lafont and Françoise Lebrun appear nude in Jean Eustache's La maman et la putain aka The Mother and the Whore


Friday, 11 October 2013

Lithuanian writer-director Kristina Buozyte's second feature "Aurora" [Eng. Title: Vanishing Waves] is a stylish sci-fi concerning a romance between a neuroscientist and a young woman in coma.

Lukas (Marius Jampolskis) is recruited for a scientific experiment to test a technology that might aid communication with someone in a state of coma - the person he doesn't know but assigned to connect with is a non-responsive accident victim named Aurora (Jurga Jutaite). Lukas isn't furnished details, and is instructed to merely observe and report back without interacting directly with the subject, for ethical and safety reasons.

But that is what he does after the experiment turns out to be far more successful than expected - he sees a beautiful and sensuous Aurora for the very first time in her abstract (psychic) world, floating in the water unconscious, and his attempt at reviving her will turn into a full-blown snog-fest between the two. During the next session he emerges in front of a funky modernist bungalow, and finding Aurora waiting inside - welcoming and sexual, even makes love to her. But Lukas doesn't disclose this and the experiment's efficacy to his colleagues, and lies to them instead of briefly having seen a man's face. Infatuated with Aurora, he wants to prolong his sensual experience in her psychic world, whilst also hoping to help her gain consciousness in the real world.

Behind Lukas' actions and his preoccupation with sex is his obsessive work ethic and an unstable marriage to Lina (Martina Jablonskyte). A sensual and always available Aurora, even if only through a dream, fulfils his physical needs that'll draw him closer to her emotional self, and also some dark secrets from her past. Aurora's unfortunate condition, on the other hand, meant that while she can see and hear in the landscape of her mind, she can't feel a thing - whether it is pain when bitten, or pleasure through fine food, and possibly sex too. It is her memory of these experiences, and the past trauma that led to her vegetative state, that'll evoke any feelings of pleasure or pain that she craves.

Watching the film, I couldn't help recalling Tarkovsky's Solaris, even if the protagonist's object of love is the exact opposite there - a physically present clone of his dead wife, as opposed to Aurora, who is alive, but given a shape and form only in mind. The unsettling ambience is similar in both films, which in this case is aided by an imaginative soundtrack from Peter Von Poehl - haunting, brooding, and eerie as the scene dictates. The film's other production values are equally impressive - right from the cinematography, editing, production design, special effects, and even the make-up, thanks largely to the film's co-writer and 'creative director' Bruno Samper.

Jurga Jutaite, with her natural, uninhibited performance, and certainly her exquisite physique, looks every bit the 'imagined' character of Aurora, even if in reality, she's as down-to-earth as can be during the festival interviews. Marius Jampolskis gives a restrained, if slightly underwhelming performance as the dazed and smitten Lukas. Ms. Buozyte, an admirer of Antonioni, is refreshingly modest in apportioning the film's achievements to her creative and technical team. But of course, we all know that it requires an uncompromising director to bring out the best in anyone, however talented he or she might be. And the result is there to see, with some spectacular imagery and memorable sequences that'll forever be associated with this film - the bungalow made from splinters, the erotic and disturbing orgy when bodies merge into one another, and the enchanting scene of Aurora and Lukas rolling and sliding naked on a floor bathed in streams of light, to name but a few. Highly Recommended Viewing..! 2-Disc DVD Link [PAL] | 2-disc Blu-ray Link


The Nudity: Jurga Jutaite, Marius Jampolskis, and Martina Jablonskyte
The film contains several scenes of sex and nudity between the characters played by Jurga Jutaite and Marius Jampolskis, executed with great care and precision. There is also brief nudity from Martina Jablonskyte who plays Lukas' wife Lina, in a scene when she almost gets assaulted sexually. Other uncredited nudes appear during an orgy scene.

Jurga Jutaite, Marius Jampolskis, and Martina Jablonskyte nude in Aurora aka Vanishing Waves


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Moacyr Góes' delightfully gaudy "O Homem Que Desafiou o Diabo" [Eng. Title: The Man Who Challenged the Devil] is not your everyday comedy, even if it might appear outwardly so at first glance.

The film, about the hilarious adventures of a once-travelling salesman named José Araújo (Marcos Palmeira), liberally borrows themes from different genre to sugar-coat a deep irony it carries. As the title suggests, our hero does battle with the devil (Helder Vasconcellos), but there is also a separate albeit subtle battle being waged by the film's creator - he introduces stereotypes and myths of various kinds through the central character's adventures, only for them to be shattered - the film spews life-truths that mainstream comedies wouldn't normally touch with a barge pole.

Here, a forty year old virgin turns into a nymphomaniac, a wealthy and virtuous young woman dumps the love of her life to become a prostitute, and the lead female character - an opportunistic trick-turner, will become the heroic figure that the central character will fall in love with. Everyone, save the devil, will break stereotype and established clichés. Talking of breaking stereotypes - in how many mainstream films have you seen the lead's love interest (and darling of the audience) loose two front teeth for the sake of a gag, and stay that way till the end! The bitter-sweet ending is also more in keeping with a classic Spaghetti Western or a Alejandro Jodorowsky, than a conventional comedy.

Despite some local nuances completely escaping me as a foreigner - some dialogues spoken in dialect fail to make sense even with subtitles - it shouldn't put people off completely because there is also comedy of a universal kind to keep you engaged. The first part of the film, about Araújo's totally unplanned marriage to virgin Dualiba (played brilliantly by Lívia Falcão) is replete with visual humour. Palmeira himself is magnificent as the naive Araújo who changes into lone ranger and avenger Ojuara (his original name spelt backwards).

Fernanda Paes Leme is adorable as Ojuara's love interest - a prostitute called Genifer, and Flávia Alessandra is spectacular as sorceress Mãe de Pantanha (with a carnivorous vagina). There's also a hilarious hunchback (Leon Goes) whose role must sure have been fun to play. The over-the-top lighting effects lend atmosphere to the film, and the chaotic compositions - authenticity. The entertaining film also gives us something to mull over at the end - certainly Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [NTSC]


The Nudity: Marcos Palmeira, Fernanda Paes Leme, Flávia Alessandra, and Juliana Porteus
With an epic screenplay surrounding a protagonist obsessed with women, the intermittent scenes of sex and nudity is perhaps predictable. The cute and sexy Fernanda Paes Leme sizzles in most of her scenes, but credit should also go to Marcos Palmeira whose character make the lovely ladies he meets even more desirable.

Marcos Palmeira, Fernanda Paes Leme, Flávia Alessandra, and Juliana Porteus nude in O Homem Que Desafiou o Diabo


Monday, 7 October 2013

Eduardo Rossoff's romantic fantasy thriller "Reencarnación, una historia de amor" [Eng. Title: Family Blood] is about a perpetual family feud carried across several reincarnations.

Alejandro (Shalim Ortiz) meets Yolanda (Liz Gallardo) and falls in love. Yolanda's brother Lisandro (Raúl Méndez) knows that theirs is 'eternal' love and that they have been in love through different incarnations, but discourages their romance because their 'karma' prevents them from ever uniting - because one or the other will die trying. Their respective Chinese families have feuded over hundreds of years - Alejandro and Yolanda being present carriers of their soul...

The film starts promisingly with this intriguing premise, but I got myself completely lost a third of the way due to its confusing screenplay and the plethora of plot elements. I so wanted to re-watch the film to see if I've missed out the connecting threads before writing this, but the film - while visually good looking, is unfortunately boring due to some lacklustre performances and/or the dialogues, due to which I'm certainly not in a hurry to watch it again. Unless I draw the courage to put the disc back on in future, this will languish in my very short list of negative reviews...


The Nudity: Liz Gallardo and Khristian Clausen
The only reason for me watching the film is because thirstyrabbit is a great fan of lovely Liz Gallardo. She appears topless in three scenes, including a montage showing her character making eternal love with her partner during previous lives. There is also nudity from Khristian Clausen who plays Maria, in the midst of ending an affair with corrupt police officer González (Jorge de los Reyes).

Liz Gallardo and Khristian Clausen nude in Reencarnación: una historia de amor


Saturday, 5 October 2013

A review: "Keller - Teenage Wasteland" [2005 Austria]

Writer-director Eva Urthaler makes an assured début with her erotic sociological thriller "Keller - Teenage Wasteland" [Eng. Title: Out of Hand]. Surprisingly, this is her only film to date, and unless it is due to a change in her profession, it's fair to say that there are far worse directors plying their craft than what her work represents.

Set in Vienna, we see two bored school boys strike up an unlikely friendship - Paul (Ludwig Trepte) is from a poor background, living with an ill single-parent mum, whereas Sebastian (Sergej Moya) comes from a wealthy family with an entrepreneurial dad. They don't seem to have any other friends. Most of their after-school time is spent with Sebastian trying to impress Paul - whether it is target-practising with a gun, stealing vodka from the local supermarket, or awkwardly trying to chat-up passing girls. It's plain to see in no time that Sebastian isn't really interested in girls, but very much so in the oblivious and shy Paul. All his efforts go towards earning Paul's affection.

When shop assistant Sonja (Elisabetta Rocchetti) catches Sebastian stealing and orders the two to leave, they follow her after work. For no apparent reason, they knock her unconscious in the basement laundry room of her apartment, and kidnap the unconscious woman in a shopping trolley by taking take her to a disused factory. Having performed the audacious act without perhaps even wanting to, and clueless as to what to do with her next, they tie her up in a chair and leave for the night.

The dynamics of the trio  - the captors and the captured, undergo a distinct change over the next few days through various interactions. Sonja, even while being held under stressful conditions against her will, starts playing mind games with Paul who's already infatuated with her but only too afraid to admit. But Sebastian can see it, and he'll be the one tortured in the heart from here on. The audience begin to sense that things are not heading towards a happy ending...

While there may be plenty to nitpick on the screenplay in terms of its believability, Ms. Urthaler nevertheless focuses resolutely on the themes she's concerned about. As it turns out, the film is not necessarily about unrequited gay love, even though it forms part of a broader, darker backdrop within a social and psychological context. It is not only about the boys, but also the young woman.

We know that assault and kidnapping are serious crimes with consequences, and the director doesn't delve into these acts to preach us what is good and evil, but instead explores the circumstances leading up to these random acts of motiveless violence. Sonja too realises instinctively that the only way she will survive is by creating a rift between the two boys, and manipulates them for her own ends, tellingly when her violent boyfriend (Georg Friedrich) comes to rescue her. It requires a bold director to take on a subject and imbue it with strong erotic overtones, more so for someone making a début, and Ms. Urthaler is sure bold. On the film's technical merits, there are scenes that are extremely well executed in terms of cinematography and set design that adds to the atmosphere. Georg Friedrich shows his promise in this early limited role as Sonja's boyfriend. Both the male leads, still in their teens when the film was made, also give a commendable performance. Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL] | DVD Link [NTSC]


The Nudity: Elisabetta Rocchetti and Ludwig Trepte
Elisabetta Rocchetti's character might as well not have a name - she's treated largely as a female object by both her boyfriend and captors until Paul (Ludwig Trepte) falls for her and starts treating her with a degree of respect. But it is not helped by the fact that she often comes across as a wanton vamp who secretly craves to be whipped - which for me was the most disturbing aspect of the film, because it sends the wrong signal to people with a slightly less endowed frontal lobe to start assuming that assaulting, kidnapping, and starving women won't bother them as much. In addition to the sex scene when both Rocchetti and Trepte are shown in the nude, Ms. Rocchetti intermittently appears in various stages of undress throughout the film.

Elisabetta Rocchetti and Ludwig Trepte nude in Keller - Teenage Wasteland aka Out of Hand


Friday, 4 October 2013

A brief review: Cosimo e Nicole [2012 Italy]

Francesco Amato's second full-length feature, "Cosimo e Nicole" is about a love affair between a French girl and an Italian boy that begins in the port city of Genoa during the 2011 G8 summit.

When seventeen year old Nicole (Clara Ponsot) gets knocked down by police during a demonstration, a passing Cosimo (Riccardo Scamarcio) pulls her to safety, and after the coast is clear, hails a passing van so that he could take her to the hospital for treating her injury. The driver, Paolo (Paolo Sassanelli) advices against taking her there as they could get arrested, and instead drives to his place so that she could be seen by a private doctor. Paolo runs a business organising rock concerts, and also offers Cosimo a job. Cosimo and Nicole will become lovers.

The story is told through flashback by both Cosimo and Nicole, while being interviewed separately in prison - their happy times together, their challenges, and finally how they ended up in prison. Their problems start when Alioune (Souleymane Sow), an illegal immigrant and casual worker for Paolo falls off a scaffolding. Assuming him to be dead, a panic-struck Paolo doesn't want to take him to hospital because he too would end up in prison for hiring an illegal worker. After a heated discussion, Paolo, Cosimo, and Nicole place Alioune in an abandoned caravan park. But the guy miraculously survives, even if he'd lost his memory after laying comatose in a hospital bed for several months. Frictions arise between the couple after they learn that he's alive, and a guilt-ridden Nicole wants to help Alioune and his distant family in any way she can, which gets Cosimo very concerned...

The film has a strong narrative and the drama is imaginative with interesting plot devices, and is helped by some fine performances from the main cast. The cinematography is appealing, as is the punk-rock soundtrack where concert scenes are seamlessly inserted into the narrative. But I felt the film is perhaps slightly longer than necessary - some scenes, especially in the second half, appeared to repeat itself. But apart from this, it is a well made mainstream film that's Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL] | Blu-ray Link


The Nudity: Clara Ponsot, Riccardo Scamarcio, and Angela Baraldi
The film features several sex scenes, and hence the nudity, mostly of Clara Ponsot. Riccardo Scamarcio also briefly appears nude during a sex scene.

Clara Ponsot, Riccardo Scamarcio, and Angela Baraldi nude in Cosimo e Nicole


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A friendship tested: "Gioco al massacro" [1989 Italy]

Damiano Damiani's filmography is also one of the most disparate - he doesn't mind dipping into different genre. But he also has this unique quality of transcending it using cinematic flair, making his films acceptable to even a critical mainstream audience. His rather obscure "Gioco al massacro" [Eng. Title: A Human Portrait] is an intelligent mystery and psychological drama, made entirely in English using a multinational cast.

Film makers Clem Da Silva (Tomas Milian) and Theo Steiner (Elliott Gould) are childhood friends, although now estranged. While both are gifted and equally passionate about cinema, their destinies couldn't have been any different - multiple Oscar winner Theo is successful and admired around the world, whereas few have ever heard of Clem, because he often gets to work only for television. Clem has accused Theo of plagiarising his ideas that, to add insult to injury, went on to win awards. As if it weren't bad enough, Clem's girlfriend of many years Bella (Nathalie Baye), will also leave him to live with Theo. Harbouring a degree of resentment and also jealousy - towards a man that he thinks had stolen both his work and life, Clem breaks contact with Bella and Theo for ten years. But he has also been closely following Theo's work all the time, and during a visit to Capri, couldn't resist approaching Theo's villa. When he changes his mind and turns back to leave, he's promptly hailed back by Theo who had seen him approaching. He persuades Clem to stay in his villa at least for the weekend. It appears that, despite all that's happened, there is perhaps still a bond connecting the two.

His stay will not only see Clem reconcile with Bella, but also resume an affair, that's also tolerated by Theo. He will meet a major producer at their private party, and will also be offered a contract to work on a film. However, Clem gradually becomes suspicious of Theo's intentions and begins to feel that he is being exploited once again. A game of wits will ensue between the two, to which Bella will act as the referee. The audience will be kept guessing on the real intentions of Theo until the very end, as the film goes through various Hitchcockian twists and turns...

This is also a film about film-making, and there is plenty to keep an enthusiast engaged. It is also full of surprises - from its intelligent script and storytelling, to its gripping suspense. Not to forget - the eclectic cast - how often would you see a Nathalie Baye and a John Steiner in the same film - both may be talented, but belong to completely different worlds altogether. The performances by all the main actors live up to their reputation, and Damiani handles them extremely well. The obscure gem has never been remastered in DVD, and is crying out to be rediscovered. If you can get past the foreign accents, you will certainly enjoy this film. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

eBay DVD Link [PAL]
Stamped in Greece, this seems to be the only DVD edition that's ever been authored at the time of posting.


The Nudity: Jennifer Rubina Laser and Eva Robin's
Cute Jennifer Rubina Laser (don't remember seeing her in any other film) plays promising starlet Noni, who in a scene undergoes a screen test by Theo under Bella's watchful eye. In another scene, a more familiar and pretty Eva Robin's (true - her name has an apostrophe) plays Rosita, authentically cast in the lead role for a film about a transsexual, in which she has an outdoor shower, au naturel..! Ms. Robin's however doesn't like being referred to as a transsexual, but rather a transgender. I find it hard to differentiate between the two - perhaps someone could enlighten me...

Jennifer Rubina Laser and Eva Robin's nude in Gioco al massacro aka A Human Portrait