Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A brief film review: "Dorsvloer vol confetti" [2014 Netherlands, Belgium]

Director Tallulah Hazekamp Schwab makes her feature-film début with the sweet and heart-warming coming-of-age drama "Dorsvloer Vol Confetti" [Eng. Title: Confetti Harvest].

Hendrikje Nieuwerf in "Dorsvloer vol confetti" aka "Confetti Harvest" From "Dorsvloer vol confetti" aka "Confetti Harvest"
Hendrikje Nieuwerf and Suzan Boogaerdt in "Dorsvloer vol confetti" aka "Confetti Harvest" Hendrikje Nieuwerf and Hannah van Lunteren in "Dorsvloer vol confetti" aka "Confetti Harvest"
Hendrikje Nieuwerf and Yannick de Waal in "Dorsvloer vol confetti" aka "Confetti Harvest" Hendrikje Nieuwerf in "Dorsvloer vol confetti" aka "Confetti Harvest"

Set within a conservative farming community in the Dutch countryside sometime during the early eighties, the film centres around a precocious twelve year old Katelijne (Hendrikje Nieuwerf) growing up in a large family.

We see a stoic mother (Suzan Boogaerdt) and a hard working father (Steven van Watermeulen) bringing up their seven children in an orthodox Christian environment where everyone knew their place. And the discipline, apart from their parochial education, also extended to sharing household chores and farming duties.

A naturally curious Katelijne, whilst wholeheartedly undertaking her tasks, is nevertheless drawn towards a wider, more modern world with secular and material values that she discovers during a brief stay at her aunt's in the city. She takes advantage of the liberal surroundings to try out fashionable goods and dress-up as an adult.

Katelijne also has a vivid imagination; she captivates her siblings by feeding them fantastical accounts made up by mixing truth with fiction, which while well-intentioned, will invariably land them in trouble, and sometimes, peril. One such occasion shall see her elder brother Christiaan (Yannick de Waal) forced into a marriage. It is her gesture to make amends in her very own way that lends the film its title.

Carefully composed and endearingly captured in bright hues, Talullah lends a nostalgic air to her film by accompanying it with a cheerful soundtrack. Her pleasant, sweet, and innocent protagonist might just as well be a pubescent version of Amélie. Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL] | Amazon Blu-Ray Link


The Nudity: Laurine Booij and Lotte Oskam
There is brief nudity in a scene when Katelijne narrates a story to Christiaan concerning two "pale" girls in the village who allegedly had the habit of sunbathing naked on the bed when their parents were not around. On one such occasion, a stranger who notices them will attempt to break in. Christiaan naturally gets curious and wants to know more...

Laurine Booij and Lotte Oskam nude in the 2014 Dutch film "Dorsvloer vol confetti" aka "Confetti Harvest".


Friday, 17 April 2015

A brief review: "Le mentor" [2012 France]

Veteran director Jean-Pierre Mocky started off as an actor and started making films by himself from the early sixties. Some of his films even find pride of place in the canon of world cinema. However, Mocky defies categorisation because he has dipped into almost every genre there is - and has written, produced, and acted in many of them. A non-conformist, he could be sublime and also eye-poppingly careless in the same film, but despite the occasional forgettable film showing up in his credits, he has maintained a loyal following among art-film fans.

Solène Hebert and Jean-Pierre Mocky in Le mentor (2012, France) Lean-Pierre Mocky in "Le mentor" [2012 France]
Solène Hebert, Jean-Pierre Mocky, and Clovis Fouin in "Le mentor" (2012, France) Jean-Pierre Mocky and Solène Hebert in the film "Le mentor" (France)
Jean-Pierre Mocky and Solène Hebert in Le mentor [2012, France] Solène Hebert in Le mentor (2012, France)

I'll start his filmography with one of his recent films, "Le mentor" (The Mentor), a contemporary comedy slightly out-of-touch with present times. The plot is naive perhaps, but it's charming nevertheless, and pleasant to watch. He also plays the film's lead character.

Businessman Ludovic (Jean-Pierre Mocky) becomes bankrupt thanks partly to a messy divorce. Living on the streets and getting by through questionable resourcefulness - he's now a con artiste and cheat extraordinaire, he overhears a conversation between lovers Christian (Clovis Fouin) and Annette (Solène Hebert), and figures out instantly that the man is anything but progressive and will make a terrible partner.

Ludovic decides to 'rescue' Annette from her relationship by becoming her mentor. Learning that she's looking for a job, he dupes her into applying for a fictitious job offer, and calls her for an interview in a friend's office after closing hours.


It doesn't take long for Annette to identify Ludovic for the pauper that he his, but accepts him for his charming ways and kindness towards her. Besides, he finds her a 'real' job through an acquaintance, and also plays cupid to get herself a new boyfriend. Annette too readily joins 'papa' in his various hustles, and all ends well...

This might be light entertainment with lots of credibility issues, production goofs and technical mistakes, but it is also a film that's charming enough that you'll momentarily forget its imperfections. As a bonus, the camera is in love with the very French, very easy-on-the-eye Solène Hebert - and the charismatic young newcomer can also act. At least for these reasons, the film is Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Solène Hebert, Bettina Kox, Daphnée Lecerf, and Anksa Kara
There's frontal nudity from Solène Hebert when her character surprises Ludovic by stepping into the room naked. In another scene, we see three female customers in a spa where the never-say-die Ludovic tries his hands, as a masseur.

Solène Hebert, Bettina Kox, Daphnée Lecerf, and Anksa Kara nude in the comedy "Le mentor" [2012, France]


Sunday, 12 April 2015

A film review: Így jöttem [1965 Hungary]

In his third feature, noted Hungarian director Miklós Jancsó presents a war-themed drama in the film "Így jöttem" [Eng. Title: My Way Home]. Considered by many as a masterpiece, it is a detached observation made with great detail but very little commentary, and focuses, as the title suggests, on a young soldier's return home.

András Kozák in My Way Home [1965, Hungary] András Kozák in Így jöttem [1965, Hungary]
András Kozák and Sergey Nikonenko in Így jöttem [1965, Hungary] András Kozák and Sergey Nikonenko in My Way Home [1965, Hungary]
Sergey Nikonenko and András Kozák in Így jöttem aka My Way Home [1965, Hungary] András Kozák in My Way Home [1965, Hungary]

Set somewhere in Soviet Union during the final days of the Second World War, the film begins with an unarmed seventeen year old soldier, Hungarian Jóska (András Kozák), getting separated from his friends while fleeing a Cossack unit on horseback. Since Hungary had sided with Nazi Germany, he's duly taken prisoner. However, he is soon released over a technicality and allowed to continue on his journey.

But Jóska gets captured again, this time by a Russian regiment after he's caught sleeping covered in an abandoned Nazi jacket. Owing to the fact that he's still a schoolboy, they send him to help tend a dairy farm run by a Kolja (Sergey Nikonenko), a young Russian soldier. Kolja had been given this relatively lighter duty owing to an injury, with a bullet still lodged inside his body.

On one occasion, Kolja saves Jóska from being blown up by a landmine after he attempts to escape custody, and later Jóska too reciprocates by refusing an offer to join fleeing Hungarian prisoners, telling them that it would get Kolja 'into trouble'. Despite neither of them understanding the other's language, an unlikely friendship develops between the two. Away from the sounds of war and in the barren landscape, Jóska and Kolja bond and begin to behave as teenagers do during normal times.

We observe their everyday chores and pranks; milking cows, target-practising on frogs in a canal, loading cans of milk onto trucks, chasing after naked women bathing, and fooling around with statues in a ruined museum. Yet just when we'd momentarily forgotten that there was indeed a war happening, a fighter plane ominously passes by, sometimes low over the lads' heads who had stopped to watch. The reality of war will also separate the two, and Jóska sets out on his journey home once again...

One of the stars of the film has to be the breathtaking cinematography - orchestrated in what will become the director's signature style. The well-choreographed aerial and panned shots firmly pin characters to their immediate surroundings to remind us of a 'bigger picture' whilst deliberately disallowing us the ability to read thoughts and motives. In some scenes, characters are either followed from behind or silhouetted altogether; we observe their actions, but rarely their state of mind. Apart from the film's title, the only time Jancsó affords us any emotional contact with his characters is in the closing shot of the film, where he pans to a bruised and exasperated Jóska looking into the camera with an air of defiance, as if to raise a plea.

The idea of a 'natural' friendship between a Hungarian and a Russian, with the short but brutal 1956 revolution still fresh in many people's memory would've certainly caused a stir at the time of release. But to his credit, Janscó dilutes any potential propaganda value by succinctly focusing on the social dislocation and humanitarian implications of war. Consequently, we get to see a rather simple film without too many loaded metaphors, made with admirable skill and technical sophistication, and yet holding a charm that can relate to audiences even today. Highly Recommended viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

The Nudity:
There's just a single scene that features nudity - when the boys chase down girls bathing in a canal. But it is also one of the most beautifully crafted sequences in the film, where we see the 'hunters' themselves being 'hunted' by a plane swooping threateningly low over their heads - as if to deliver some kind of poetic albeit harmless justice. The scene is amusing as it is dramatic, memorable, and calling for all to see and appreciate.