Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A film review, "Toni Erdmann" [2016 Germany, Romania]

Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek in "Toni Erdmann" (2016) Peter Simonischek as "Toni Erdmann" (2016)
Sandra Hüller in "Toni Erdmann" (2016) Sandra Hüller in "Toni Erdmann" (2016)

Maren Ade's oddball comedy "Toni Erdmann" is a uniquely German attempt at highlighting the need for reinforcing familial bonds even while pursuing hectic lifestyles and careers. The film wryly focuses on a father-daughter relationship weathering changes in their individual circumstances.

Ines (Sandra Hüller) is a high flying thirty-something corporate strategist whose work often takes her abroad on various assignments. Serious about her career, she allows little time for herself, let alone her parents in her hometown, which she occasionally 'passes through' only during important family events. Her eccentric father Winfried (Peter Simonischek), in the hope of reigniting their bond, springs a surprise by visiting Ines in Romania where she's presently working.

Ines puts him up in her apartment out of a sense of duty and drags him along to her official meetings and dinners, presumably to keep him company, but it doesn't work out too well due to Winfried's innate spontaneity and frankness. He leaves after an argument, but reenters her life soon enough in the form of 'Toni Erdmann', his even more forthright and practical-joking alter ego.

While Ines is no stranger to Winfried's ridiculous wig and false teeth wearing 'Toni', she plays along since she doesn't have to feel embarrassed while introducing him as her father. However, with each squabbling encounter that they have, Ines begins to loosen up, and the bond, frayed since she left home many years ago to pursue a career, gets stronger, first with 'Toni', and eventually also with Winfried...

A father's bond with his daughter is always special in normal relationships, but sometimes even they require a bit of work in a hectic world. Ms. Ade gets this point across in a delightful way that's not only refreshing, but also heartwarming and full of festive spirit. For an unusually long German film, it is a breezy and charming little family drama that's Highly Recommended Viewing..! Blu-ray Link


The Nudity: Sandra Hüller, Ingrid Bisu, and Thomas Loibl
In one of the absurd comedy sequences in the film, an impatient and socially awkward Ines, frustrated with the ill-fitting dress for her birthday house party, gets rid of it to answer the door, but soon gets annoyed with her American guest and tells her that it is supposed to be naked party - a 'team bonding' session among work colleagues, essentially forcing her to leave. Her colleague and occasional lover is turned away for the same reason - while she initially regrets her action, she also feels liberated. Her Romanian intern Anca (Ingrid Bisu) and boss Gerald (Thomas Loibl) upon instruction, duly oblige by entering the flat in the nude, and they're briefly interrupted by Winfried dressed in a Bulgarian folk mask. Ines recognises her father through the mask and follows him when he leaves.

Sandra Hüller, Ingrid Bisu, and Thomas Loibl from the German comedy, "Toni Erdmann" (2016)

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A brief film review: "To xypnima tis anoixis" [2015 Greece]

Constantine Giannaris is known for films focusing on the disenfranchised and dispossessed of urban Athens, often portraying his characters in ultra-realistic documentary style footage. His drama, "To xypnima tis anoixis" [Eng. Title: Spring Awakening] follows a similar vein in that it is set against the backdrop of post-austerity, riot-prone, present-day Athens with all its social issues.

A scene from "Spring Awakening" (2015) A scene from "Spring Awakening" (2015)
Daphne Patakia and Konstantinos Elmatzioglou in "Spring Awakening" (2015, Greece) Daphne Patakia in "Spring Awakening" aka "To xypnima tis anoixis" (2015)

The film begins at the police station where five teenagers are handcuffed and brought in for questioning. Part of a newly formed 'armed gang', they were found at the scene of a horrific crime where a couple and their two children were murdered in cold blood.

Interviews with investigating officers offer us a glimpse into the group members' individual attitudes, their family backgrounds, and social status. Coming from various backgrounds, we note that they could easily represent a cross section of Athenian society itself. The one thing they seem to have in common however is a collective hatred for any kind of 'authority', whether from domineering parents or law enforcement agencies.

Two among them - Alexandros (Konstantinos Elmatzioglou) and Ioanna (Daphne Patakia) are in a sexual relationship, but after they join the gang, things get a bit hazy because of a range of issues occupying Alexandro's mind, not least his killing of a cop who was about to arrest two of the gang members following a robbery. When the five attempt a second robbery, it goes horribly wrong after egos clash and latent hates surface between members and the hapless victims...

The director seems to be questioning the society that Greece had become, its prospects for the future - particularly the young who're usually the most affected, and the growing xenophobia amongst a population that feels let down even by friendly countries. While it is well made using largely new faces, one wonders if the screenplay could've been tightened up a little, especially since similar themed films are also the trend everywhere from Mexico to Russia. They may well be a sign of the times in which we're living, but from what I could glean from the DVD's subtitles, the nonlinear narrative could've been more effectively contextualised. The performance of Daphne Patakia playing Ioanna is nevertheless memorable. Recommended Viewing!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Daphne Patakia, Marlene Kaminsky, and Adrian Frieling
Daphne Patakia appears nude in a number of scenes, and one of them is surprisingly explicit when her character masturbates in bed. There is also brief nudity in a scene that involves a German couple interrupted by the gang while making love.

Scenes of Daphne Patakia from Constantine Giannaris's film, "To xypnima tis anoixis" aka "Spring Awakening" (2015, Greece).


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Irina Vilkova from "Eyo zvali Mumu" [Russia 2016]

I haven't had the chance to see any of Vladimir Mirzoev's work until his recent drama, "Eyo zvali Mumu" [Eng. Title: They Called Her Mumu]. The only reason I came upon this one was because it was shared on Vimeo recently.

Irina Vilkova in "They called her Mumu" (2016) Irina Vilkova in "They called her Mumu" (2016)

But since I had to watch it without subtitles, the significance (or otherwise) of the film completely evaded me, so I'll restrict my observations to the barest of details, and of course, the rather liberally sprinkled scenes of nudity. The offbeat film is supposedly based on a real-life social media personality who went by the name of Katya Mumu. In the film, Mumu (Irina Vilkova) is employed 'informally' by the Russian secret services for an undercover operation to discredit some prominent political opposition figures.

Mumu seduces and has affairs with their subjects with the intent of exposing and defaming them through social media, apparently with tacit approval even from her family members. But the freedom-loving rebel inside her resurfaces after a while, and she tries to break free from her employers's diktats. The film ends with her running away after starting a fire in her apartment. The film is well-produced even with a low-budget, has a cool soundtrack, and is also humorous in places. Perhaps the film should be Recommended Viewing - for those who could follow Russian.

Vimeo Link


The Nudity: Irina Vilkova and Irina Butanaeva
There are at least six scenes that feature nudity from Irina Vilkova who plays the central character 'Mumu' - some of which are also funny in a very 'Russian' way. Irina Butanaeva plays a maid/assistant and appears partially nude during a scene with one of Mumu's 'boyfriends'.

Irina Vilkova and Irina Butanaeva nude in the film, "They Called Her Mumu" (Russia, 2016).


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A brief film review: "I, Olga Hepnarova" [2016 Czech Rep., Poland]

Michalina Olszanska in "I, Olga" (2016) Klára Melísková and Michalina Olszanska from "I, Olga" (2016)
Michalina Olszanska in "I, Olga Hepnarova" (2016) Michalina Olszanska and Marika Soposká from "I, Olga Hepnarova" (2016)
A scene in "I, Olga" (2016) Michalina Olszanska from "I, Olga Hepnarova" (2016)

Petr Kazda and Tomás Weinreb make a memorable directorial feature film debut with their biopic, "I, Olga" [Orig. Title: Já, Olga Hepnarová]. Olga Hepnarová was the last woman to be executed in Czechoslovakia in 1975 after she was found guilty of intentionally causing the death of eight elderly people and injuring several others by running them over with her truck. the film tries to explore events in Olga's life that may have contributed to her desire to 'seek revenge' on society in general.

We follow troubled teen Olga (Michalina Olszanska) from the day of her attempted suicide, when her mother (Klára Melísková) remarks coldly after bringing her back from the hospital, "To commit suicide you need a strong will, something you certainly don’t have". Olga, we're led to believe, has felt alienated even while growing up in an educated middle class household.

Olga's sense of alienation is reinforced during her spell in institutions where she's bullied and abused by others, even if some of her woes might have been brought upon by herself in pushing away people who may have even wanted to help her. Unable to hold down a job, she ends up working as a truck driver, and secretly nurtures a hatred towards a society seemingly unsympathetic to her suffering.

At twenty, Olga is a confused young woman even unsure of her sexuality and likens herself to a sexual cripple - she begins a lesbian affair and falls in love with co-worker Jitka (Marika Soposká), even though the latter is in a long-term relationship with another woman. She subsequently has casual relations with other women and men, but never tries to work on a long-term relationship with any of them. But some of them nevertheless remain with her until the end.

Two thirds of the film is thus dedicated to constructing Olga's confused, discontented character and her world, and until then it works well as a drama on its own. It's the final third of the film, covering events after she ploughs through a group of elderly people waiting at a tram stop that it falters slightly. We don't 'study' Olga any longer and are merely presented facts during and after her trial, in which she defiantly but unconvincingly proclaims death penalty on society itself, whose 'bestiality' she had allegedly been a victim of. It's as if the directors themselves didn't want to have an opinion about Olga's actions, but somehow want us to empathise with her.

This is partly because even though Ms. Olszanska gives an impressive performance as the confused and angry Olga, she doesn't convincingly come across as a psychopath; a geeky rebel going through a goth phase perhaps, but certainly not a scheming mass murderer (she's far too cute-looking and that doesn't help either). But then again, may be the world wasn't ready for Olga too and didn't quite know how to deal with her, who knows. However, despite these minor flaws, the film is well made and shows a lot of promise for the director duo. It also boasts impressive black and white cinematography, with some scenes as exquisitely framed as in a Frantisek Vlácil film. An imperfect gem, but Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Michalina Olszanska, Marika Soposká, and Malwina Turek
The film features two lesbian sex scenes of a fairly frank nature with nudity. The scenes may be justified for establishing Olga's self-proclaimed sexual ambiguity. There's also a scene where Olga flashes at a night club for perhaps the same reason.

Michalina Olszanska, Marika Soposká, and Malwina Turek in "I, Olga" [2016]


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Highbrow destape: "La muchacha de las bragas de oro" [1980 Spain]

Victoria Abril and Lautaro Murúa in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro" Victoria Abril in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro"
Victoria Abril and Lautaro Murúa in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro" Hilda Vera and Lautaro Murúa in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro"

If Vicente Aranda's groundbreaking exploration of sexual identity in "Cambio de sexo" made destape (a Spanish 'Glasnost' of sorts during and after Dictator Franco's final years, when censorship was relaxed) purposeful, his next feature, "La muchacha de las bragas de oro" [Eng. Title: Girl with the Golden Panties] with a nuanced articulation of the need for women's individual freedoms, made destape almost respectable. Films associated with this period were normally seen as little more than skin-flicks keener in disrobing rather than understanding women, not that either of these were entirely a bad thing, of course. It will, ironically, also propel the star of both the films, Victoria Abril, into becoming a household name and international sex symbol for well over a decade.

The film is set in Barcelona, where Luis (Lautaro Murúa), a retired member of the previous Franco regime, is writing his memoirs in the splendid isolation of his spacious villa, with a dog and housekeeper as his only company. He isn't overly perturbed when his niece Mariana (Victoria Abril) arrives with her photographer friend Elmir (Perla Vonasek) - Mariana after all, is here only to write an article about his forthcoming autobiography for a magazine she works in, and also to help out in typing his manuscript.

But it does turn Luis's life inside out, because with her visit, his real past - not the one he'd been concocting in his memoirs, returns to haunt him and his conscience. Mariana, who wears no undergarments save the body-painted gold panties that Elmir meticulously paints on her person, is a wild and carefree young woman, openly indulging in drugs and taking lovers from both sexes as she pleases. Before long, Luis also discovers that Elmir is actually a woman, and that she and Mariana are lovers. For a former Falangist, he displays remarkable restraint even when Elmir brazenly gropes Mariana in his presence.

Years ago, Luis used to love and date Mariana's mother, Mari (Raquel Evans), before a mix-up in a darkened room forced him to marry Mari's sister Soledad (Isabel Mestres) instead. Mari also went on to marry his best friend José María (Josep M. Lana), but not before a one-night stand with Luis. After pealing away the layers of lies he had hidden behind, Mariana finds the vulnerable Luis desirable, and even succeeds in seducing him. But a secret about Mariana's real father will come out in the open when an older Mari (Hilda Vera) visits Luis to check up on her daughter. But will the truth really matter to Luis or Mariana any longer..?

The story, based on an award winning novel by fellow Catalan author Juan Marsé, touches upon hitherto taboo topics such as lesbianism and incest, and questions the validity of a conventional family unit in the modern age. They were shocking subjects for their time, and Aranda always excelled in shocking his audience (sometimes I wonder if this is also a Catalan quirk). In the technical department, there is a marked departure for the better from his earlier films despite the tight budget, and the soundtrack is also appealing. The film can be considered a milestone for Vicente Aranda, emerging from a genre-film maker into a mainstream dramatist, and for Victoria Abril, from a talented actress with tomboyish looks to a sex symbol of the eighties; at twenty years old, Ms. Abril was in the prime of her youth in this film. At least for these reasons, the film should be of interest for both the fans and those interested in Spanish culture, even more so after it has been released on Blu-ray.

Amazon Blu-ray Link


The Nudity: Victoria Abril, Perla Vonasek, and Raquel Evans
Victoria Abril's Mariana comes out as a hedonistic, naturist and exhibitionist, and perhaps appears nude onscreen for longer than in any other film in her illustrious filmography - obviously all good reasons to cheer about. Perla Vonasek plays the bisexual and frequently whistle-blowing Elmir/Elmira. South American beauty and destape-queen Raquel Evans appears only briefly nude on a couple of occasions in Mariana's fertile imagination when Luis opens up about his past.

Victoria Abril and Perla Vonasek in "La muchacha de las bragas de oro" aka "Girl with the Golden Panties" (1980 Spain).


Friday, 8 July 2016

A film review: "Meu Amigo Hindu" [2015 Brazil]

Willem Dafoe and Maria Fernanda Cândido in "My Hindu Friend" (2015) Selton Mello in My Hindu Friend (2015, Brazil)
Willem Dafoe and Rio Adlakha in "My Hindu Friend" (Meu Amogo Hindu), Brazil. Bárbara Paz and Willem Dafoe in "My Hindu Friend" aka "Meu Amigo Hindu" (2015, Brazil)

After a gap of nearly eight years, Hector Babenco makes a full-length feature with a personal film "My Hindu Friend" [Bra. Title: Meu Amigo Hindu]. Confessing that this was something that he always wanted to make but never got around to, Babenco's film isn't biographical, but certainly draws some material from personal life. In his own words, "What you are about to watch is a story that happened to me and I present it in the way I know best." Cinematic, it certainly is.

Diego (Willem Dafoe), a successful film writer-director, had been living with cancer for a number of years, and during this time, had also met and been living with Livia (Maria Fernanda Cândido). When his doctor suggests that he requires a bone marrow transplant in the US, and also warns him of the low probability of his survival, he proposes and weds Livia.

His brother reluctantly agrees to be the donor, but Diego's surgery and its subsequent complications make his road to recovery harder; laying sedated during the day and having after-hour visitations from Death himself (Selton Mello), along with his suspender belt and stockings clad sidekick and wife. Their casual conversations, interspersed with games of chess, are among the more refreshing and amusing parts of the film.

Diego does however, manage to strike a new friendship with someone living - a young Hindu boy and fellow patient (Rio Adlakha), with whom he shares his stories and dreams. After returning home following his recovery, Diego realises that his marriage with Livia is nevertheless finished, with the illness being just one of the contributing factors. With an almost wiped-clean slate, Diego meets Sofia (Bárbara Paz), an actress and ardent fan of his work. Perhaps, there might now be a new story waiting to be written on it...

Babenco's film makes frequent nods to the golden age of Hollywood, and in a way, is an ode to cinema itself. It's a story about cheating death, a story about rebirth. Portions of the film, particularly those relating to Death, is reminiscent of a film by another Argentinian-born director Eliseo Subiela. Having said that, Mello and Dafoe take it to a far higher, engaging level. While the fact of Brazilian characters conversing in English takes a little bit of getting used to, the script is nevertheless coherent and mindfully avoids using local idioms that might not work quite so well in translation. Different in tone and intensity to his better known works such as Pixote and Carandiru, Babenco's latest film comes out as something deeply personal, and the cast and crew appear to have done a commendable job in bringing it to life. Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link (NTSC)


The Nudity: Ana Clara Fischer, Ondina Clais Castilho, Vera Barreto Leite, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Clara Choveaux, and Bárbara Paz
  • Ana Clara Fischer appears briefly nude playing a woman that Diego follows one day, hears her chant Buddhist mantras, and they end up having sex (naturally!).
  • Ondina Clais Castilho plays an understandably elderly Mrs Death.
  • Vera Barreto Leite flashes her breasts during Diego's after-wedding party.
  • Maria Fernanda Cândido, as Livia, is briefly shown nude in the bathroom, and after Diego had seen her masturbating.
  • Clara Choveaux plays a woman thrown out of a club and, surprisingly, has a no-holds-barred encounter with Diego. Finding him unable to satisfy her, she settles for something battery-powered - it's an explicit scene verging on hardcore.
  • Actress and possible future director Bárbara Paz plays Sofia and gives a delightful interpretation, almost in the nude, of a Gene Kelly from the golden era of Hollywood musicals. It's made all the more endearing in that she starts the dance, as if to give us a hint, much earlier than the music kicks in. There is also a brief performance on stage, a sex scene, and a conversation in the nude preceding this memorable scene.
Bárbara Paz, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Clara Choveaux, and others nude in the Brazilian drama "My Hindu Friend" aka "Meu Amigo Hindu" (2015).


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

A film review: "Kray" [2010 Russia]

Yuliya Peresild and Vladimir Mashkov in "The Edge" (2010). A still from "Kray" aka "The Edge" (2010, Russia)
A still from "The Edge" (2010, Russia) Sergey Garmash in "Kray" (2010, Russia)

Aleksey Uchitel's action-packed adventure drama "Kray" [Eng. Title: the Edge] is set in a Siberian labour camp (gulag) immediately after the end of the Second World War.

Ignat (Vladimir Mashkov) - a decorated War hero, is sent to work as a locomotive mechanic in the labour camp, despite carrying symptoms associated with PTSD, like frequent blackouts. He wasn't supposed to operate those metal beasts either, but in the unusually lenient camp where safety regulations are nothing more than recommendations that can be set aside due to necessity, Ignat manages to do just that.

The greater (and more interesting) part of the film is about Ignat's resourcefulness in not only reviving and taking possession of an abandoned old locomotive, but also retrieving it through a "little bit broken" bridge so that it could be put back in use. He is helped along the way by feisty young German Elza (Anjorka Strechel), who'd made the locomotive her home for a number of years. She'd been hiding in the island to escape the clutches of a murdering sergeant, and locked out from the outside world, wasn't even aware that there was a war. Nor was she aware that all Germans in Russia were henceforth seen as the enemy.

Friction arises when Ignat brings Elza to live in the camp, especially with inmate and young mother Sofiya (Yuliya Peresild) who'd been sharing her bed with him. Local jealousies come to a head when Ignat defends Elza against the open hostility shown towards her, that they soon had to leave, but not before an eventful locomotive chase to rescue Elza from the deranged sergeant Major Fishman (Sergey Garmash), who recognised her as the girl who escaped years ago.

Despite the film's apparently mainstream appeal, it is technically well produced with appealing cinematography, set design and sound engineering. It gives us a vivid account of ordinary life inside a gulag and its internal economy. But for a foreign audience, the stars will naturally be the plain yet magnificent Soviet-era steam locomotives bellowing across the snowy landscape. Rail enthusiast or not, the audience will easily find the film entertaining. Recommended Viewing! DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Yuliya Peresild, Anjorka Strechel, and others
Apart from a sex scene with Sofiya and Ignat, there is a bathing scene where Sofiya gets into an argument with Elza and things get a bit physical.

Yuliya Peresild, Anjorka Strechel, and others nude in "Kray" aka "The Edge" (2010, Russia)


Thursday, 30 June 2016

A brief film review: "La pelle" [1981 Italy]

Liliana Cavani:
Veteran Italian director Liliana Cavani's films aren't always easy to love because they tend to tackle subjects that are often skirted around during mainstream discourse, and because they make for uncomfortable viewing and also leave behind a bitter aftertaste. Perhaps best known outside her native Italy for the controversial The Night Porter and the more recent Ripley's Game, Cavani's films nevertheless form a unique strand within the broader tradition of commedia all'italiana.

A scene from "La pelle" (1981), Italy Liliana Tari and Ken Marshall in "La pelle" (1981)
Alexandra King and Marcello Mastroianni in "La pelle" (1981) Burt Lancaster and Alexandra King in "La pelle" aka "The Skin" (1981)

"La pelle" [Eng. Title: The Skin], based on a novel of the same name by writer, journalist, and diplomat Curzio Malaparte (whose villa was also famously featured in Jean-Luc Godard's unforgettable Le Mépris), is Cavani's attempt at a narrative of the Second World War from the losing side, particularly those women and children who not only became a commodity for sexual exploitation in wartime Naples, but also an essential engine of the local economy.

Set towards the end of Italy's active participation in the war, an American regiment has recently arrived to firstly liberate the city before marching on to Rome. The film follows Malaparte himself (Marcello Mastroianni), hired by the US General Mark Clark (Burt Lancaster) as his chief interpreter and liaison officer. He is also helping out with the logistics, and befriends young US officer Jimmy (Ken Marshall) in the process.

Events are woven around three central female characters in the film, each of contrasting circumstances and standing, to compare and analyse the consequences for women during the time of war; Principessa Consuelo Caracciolo (Claudia Cardinale), a woman of independent means and occasional lover of Malaparte, Deborah Wyatt (Alexandra King), a pioneering American aviator and powerful US senator's wife who insists upon joining the war effort and gets her way, and young working class lass Maria Concetta (Liliana Tari) that Jimmy befriends and falls in love with.

Part of Gen. Clark's brief to Malaparte is to accompany, entertain, and somehow persuade Ms. Wyatt to return back to the US. Malaparte does show her, to little effect, the seedier side to Naples, the suffering, and the chaos in the city, but it will take an apocalyptic event to finally make her change her mind. For Caracciolo and Concetta however, the same event will nevertheless be liberating, albeit in slightly different ways.

Cavani's film is not as much a political statement as a well-reasoned argument against generalisations in history and the need to examine the sociological impact on all sides during conflict; it opines that war is messy, extreme situations change people's values and allow them to do the otherwise unthinkable, and that trauma of war isn't merely restricted to the combatants. Cavani doesn't flinch from using shock when necessary to make her point. Some scenes verge on the graphic, like the unsuspecting final sequence when the audience are mostly waiting for the end credits to roll, where the director uses a shocking accident to make a plea against 'whitewashing' history for whatever it is worth. A difficult film in typical Cavani-style, but Highly Recommended Viewing..!

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


The Nudity: Rosaria della Femmina, Liliana Tari, and others
Apart from one scene where poverty forces the father of Maria Concetta to exhibit his daughter to American soldiers as the 'virgin of Naples' (an outraged Jimmy effectively succeeds in stopping the show from happening again), nudity in the film is largely fleeting and nonsexual. Alexandra King (Ms. Wyatt) has her dress torn while making an emergency landing on her plane. Rosaria della Femmina, in a scene tame when compared to her other film, plays a onetime society girl looking for a meal ticket. It is humorously illustrated when she compliments Jimmy's 'rump' in bed while eyeing the leg of ham he'd brought for her. Blonde merkins, apparently worn to attract black US soldiers, are randomly flashed by 'working women' in the streets. So, there's something frequently happening in this department throughout the film. :-)

Rosaria della Femmina, Liliana Tari, and others in Liliana Cavani's Italian drama "La pelle" aka "The Skin" (1981).


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

A short holiday: "Isla Bonita" [2015 Spain]

Veteran Spanish filmmaker Fernando Colomo not only writes and directs, but also plays one of the central characters in his latest romantic comedy, "Isla Bonita" [Eng. Title: Pretty Island].

Olivia Delcán, Tim Bettermann, and Lluís Marqués from "Isla Bonita" Fernando Colomo and Olivia Delcán in "Isla Bonita" (2015)
Olivia Delcán, Nuria Román, and Fernando Colomo in "Isla Bonita" Olivia Delcán, Tim Bettermann and Lluís Marqués in "Isla Bonita" (2015)

The film is set in the island of Menorca, where sculptor Nuria (Nuria Roman) lives with her teenage daughter Olivia (Olivia Delcán). Olivia had invited her Swiss boyfriend Tim (Tim Bettermann) for a holiday and the couple were having a great time together, until Lluís (Lluís Marqués) - her ex boyfriend, bumps into them in the market. Unmindful of Tim's presence, Lluís briefly gets touchy-feely with Olivia like the good old days. He pulls back after being introduced to Tim, but Tim is already upset. When Olivia confesses that she ended her affair with Lluís only after she was certain of Tim's visit, Tim packs up his bag and leaves in a hurry, even when there were no flights available.

Around the same time, film maker Fernando (Fernando Colomo) had been invited by his old friend Miguel (Miguel Ángel Furones) to shoot a documentary about the island. Miguel had hoped to host Fernando at his place, but had to change plans and convinces friend Nuria to put him at her place for a few days. Miguel wants to help the down-and-out Fernando who's just been through his third divorce and is having a tough time finding work. The documentary was hence Miguel's idea.

Olivia is distraught and wants Tim back, but he couldn't be found despite Lluís helping her search for him. When her mother had to go away on business, Olivia strikes up an unlikely friendship with Fernando. They share their stories, and go sightseeing and swimming together. Fernando soon becomes fascinated with both Nuria and her work, and decides to feature her too in his upcoming documentary film.

Having had an opportunity to study Fernando, Olivia tries to pair him up with her mother and even sets-up a dinner date between the two, but it backfires, because Nuria felt he was taking things 'too fast' for her liking - after all, "poc a poc" is the way of the island. Olivia gets a shock too when she discovers that Tim was not only in town, but to add insult to injury, was in an intimate relationship with Lluís all this time. They patch things up in a thoroughly modern way of course, by becoming a threesome..! :-)

Colomo is known for his gentle comedy arising from awkward situations and improvised dialogues, and he loves the beach too, and the skinny-dipping that comes with it (naturally), as evident from his earlier films such as Al sur de Granada, and Los años bárbaros. He is one of those rare veteran filmmakers who's not only moving with the times, but also carrying the spirit of the seventies and eighties wherever he goes, and at least for that reason, "Isla Bonita" is Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Olivia Delcán, Tim Bettermann, and Lluís Marqués
The main film features nudity, mostly from the charming young débutante Olivia Delcán who plays Olivia, along with Tim Bettermann and Lluís Marqués. The DVD however includes an alternative ending shot in full-frame, which feature additional nude scenes from the same trio. One scene has a particularly awkward moment when mum Nuria sees Olivia, Tim, and Lluís sleeping in the nude after sex with the door wide open, and she quietly slips out of the house to avoid embarrassing them.

Olivia Delcán, Tim Bettermann, and Lluís Marqués from "Isla Bonita" (2015 Spain)