Thursday, 16 March 2017

It's in the blood: "Sangue del mio sangue" [2015 Italy]

Marco Bellocchio returns with his kin to give us two hauntingly connected tales from different times in his drama "Sangue del mio Sangue" [Eng. Title: Blood of My Blood].

Lidiya Liberman in "Sangue del mio sangue" (2015 Italy) Alberto Cracco and Pier Giorgio Bellocchio in "Sangue del mio sangue" (2015 Italy)
Roberto Herlitzka in "Sangue del mio sangue" (2015 Italy) Pier Girogio Bellocchio and Roberto Herlitzka in "Sangue del mio sangue" (2015 Italy)

The first half of the film is set in a cloistered convent in seventeenth century Bobbio. Young nun Benedetta (Lidiya Liberman) is accused of 'bewitching' a promising priest, who commits suicide upon discovery of their affair. To redeem his honour so that his remains could be reburied in a proper cemetery, Benedetta needs to 'confess' worshipping the devil - his brother and man of arms Federico (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio) is told by the priest conducting the hearing.

Upon witnessing the horrors heaped upon Benedetta in the name of cleansing her spirit, Federico, who had already fallen under the spell of her beauty, is torn between allegiance to his brother and his own desire for Benedetta. The inquisition is also witnessed by a mysterious cardinal (Roberto Herlitzka).

The second half of the film moves to present day Bobbio, where the convent, now a disused prison, is about to be sold to a Russian tycoon. Unbeknownst to them, a frail old Count Basta (Roberto Herlitzka) resides in it, and only ever ventures out in the night. His canines are now causing him pain and he has long given up sucking illegal immigrants' blood. Having 'disappeared' from public life nine years ago, his existence is accidentally discovered by tax inspector, estate agent, and con-man Federico (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio).

It transpires that Count Basta still calls the shots in town when it mattered, thanks to his masonic group of fellow vampires, who continue to run the town's important affairs in one form or another. He nevertheless needs to stop his lair from being sold and sets out in the night to personally deal with the issue...

By juxtaposing characters across seemingly different tales, Bellocchio is obviously drawing parallels by suggesting that the 'dark' ages hasn't quite ended after all. Just as religion overwhelmingly influenced people's lives during the medieval ages, the affluent and people in authority in today's world too treat the general populace as children and dictate how they should live their lives. Both the tales reach a satisfactory ending during the final moments of the film, which features fine performances and is also ably supported by its atmospheric cinematography - especially the 'gothic' first half. There may be some loose ends like the Perletti sisters and the madman, but we get the film's message all the same. Of particular interest would be the authentic looking inquisition which Bellocchio had already worked on in an earlier film (La visione del sabba). Highly Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL] | Bluray Link


The Nudity: Lidiya Liberman
In a brief scene, Benedetta emerges in the nude.

Lidiya Liverman in Marco Bellocchio's "Saangue del mio sangue" (Blood of My Blood), 2015, Italy.


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Playing the waiting game: "Tarde para la ira" [2016 Spain]

Seasoned actor Raúl Arévalo makes a surprisingly impressive directorial debut in the revenge thriller, "Tarde para la ira" [Eng. Title: The Fury of a Patient Man].

Antonio de la Torre in "Tarde para la ira" (2016, Spain) A scene from "Tarde para la ira" (2016, Spain)
Antonio de la Torre and Luis Callejo in "Tarde para la ira" (2016, Spain) Antonio de la Torre in "Tarde para la ira" (2016 Spain)

The film begins with Curro (the brilliant Luis Callejo) driving the getaway car following a robbery - he gets knocked down by a police car and is arrested following a chase. He's the only one in the gang who gets caught, and since the robbery ends in the murder of one of the victims and permanent life support of another, Curro ends up serving eight years. The film fast forwards to the day of his release, and his girlfriend Ana (Ruth Díaz) turns up to receive him.

Ana, during these years, has also been having an affair with José (Antonio de la Torre), a mysterious but sociable customer who frequents her cafe and joins her partner-brother Juanjo (Raúl Jiménez) for poker. An irascible Curro joins them upon his return and violently confronts José following a game. To pacify a worried Ana, José invites her and her five year old son to spend a weekend at his vacant country house - he hadn't used it since his fiance's murder during a robbery eight years ago.

José returns to Madrid and calls Curro using Ana's mobile phone. With his not-so-subtle message conveyed in the subtlest manner, José asks Curro for some 'cooperation' so that Ana and his son could be returned home safely. The rest of the film works like a road movie as José and Curro piece together clues in determining the whereabouts of the other members of the gang - the actual murderers, because they had stopped keeping in touch with Curro following his incarceration...

I watched the film on a whim, without any clue about the plot (thankfully so, for I'm not the greatest fan of the genre), but the first minute was enough to have me transfixed. The director doesn't put a foot wrong from the word 'go' with great screenplay, timing, and shot selection. Aided with the judicious use of Steadycam and some masterful cinematography, not least the ultra realistic performances from the ensemble cast, it is small wonder that the film bagged a handful of Goya Awards this year. If more thrillers were as good as this, they'll surely win a new fan in me - Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Ruth Díaz
The reason for this post is obviously not for the nudity, which by the way is fleeting when it happens; whether during Ana's conjugal visit in prison, a post-coital chat between Ana and José, or when Curro realises that all's not well with matters concerning Ana. Ruth Díaz gives an impeccable performance as Ana.

Ruth Díaz from the Spanish thriller, "Tarde para la ira" aka "The Fury of a Patient Man" (2016).


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Morning Interim: "The Safe House" [2016 Portugal, UK]

Morning Interim - The Safe House (2016) Morning Interim - The Safe House (2016) Morning Interim - The Safe House (2016)

João Paulo Simões's anthology "The Morning Interim" is a series of experimental short films exploring 'the darker side' using a combination of abstract motifs and atmosphere. The first in this series, "The Safe House" pertains to a woman (Helena Salazar) discovering that her lover (João Paulo Simões) is not all that he seems, as she watches in dismay video recordings portraying another woman (Luisa Torregrosa) willingly held captive under his 'spell'.

The film borrows themes and characters from Simões's feature length prequel made over a decade ago (Antlers of Reason). When asked about the context for his anthology, the director, who firmly believes in a film's ability to delve deeper than a supposed plot, reluctantly discloses the backdrop, "There's a pagan secret society masquerading as a philanthropic organisation. They have a benevolent track record in helping individuals living in the margins of society, but are in fact harvesting amongst those that no one will miss. They seek the perfect vessel for their antlered god Thalus and seem to have found it in my character."

The minimalist film however doesn't shy away from using explicit imagery to drive its narrative, and the genre can best be described as an "erotic mystery". For those who'd like to stream the full episode and its prequel, you can follow the below link.

The Vault [Streaming Link]


The Nudity: Luisa Torregrosa, João Paulo Simões, and Helena Salazar

Luisa Torregrosa, João Paulo Simões, and Helena Salazar from "Morning Interim - The Safe House" (2016 Portugal, UK).