Foreign

CHOCOLAT

Director / Roschdy Zem (OMAR KILLED ME/OMAR M’A TUER)
Stars/ Omar Sy, James Thierrée, Clotilde Hesme, Frédéric Pierrot and Noémie Lvovsky

In the late 1800’s, former Afro-Cuban slave turned circus performer Rafael Padilla, aka Chocolat (Omar Sy), entertains moderate sized audiences in the Northern parts of France. He earns his living playing a cannibal on stage, much to the amusement of a crowd who have never seen a man of colour before! During one of his routine yet lively performances, Chocolat is discovered by a reputable circus artist named Georges Footit (real-life circus performer and grandson of Charlie Chaplin, James Thierrée), who sees potential for success by forming a duo act to perform during the Belle Époque period in Paris.

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There is both a triumph and a tragedy to be shared in this biographical film that chronicles the life story of the first-ever successful black circus artist in France. The true story of a man who broke a barrier that needed to be broken for generations to follow, even if it had to be at his own expense.

As an entertainer and a man of colour, Chocolat’s success always had its limitations. Given the time and place he is situated, the willingness to play the submissive half of a duo slapstick routine intended to be of comedic nature to its audience was the only option he had at making ends meet. Unfortunately, this shameful and derogatory treatment was not restricted to the stage alone. When not in character, Rafael’s vulnerabilities would subject him to manipulation by colleagues and employers. What must be emphasised to this point regarding this French drama is the fact it is not depressing to watch at all. Actually, it is often delightful viewing and the story is consistently engaging. This is largely due to the superb performance from Omar Sy and the characterisation of who he portrays. Chocolat, quite admirably, never truly succumbs to playing the victim. He adds value to his choice of employment that rewards him and even enjoys life by pursuing some romance. Therefore, witnessing Chocolat’s growth as a performer and as a person does bring a sense of joy, as does Omar Sy’s best role and performance since 2011’s THE INTOUCHABLES.

3 ½ stars


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Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes, violence and coarse language) 

Trailer / CHOCOLAT

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films for the invite to the screening of this film.

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NERUDA

Director / Pablo Larraín (JACKIE, NO)
Stars/ Luis Gnecco, Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro and Mercedes Morán

The Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film is a fascinating pursuit story set in Chile during the 1948 Cold War that is narrated via poetically written dialogue.

The President of Chile, Gabriel González Videla (Castro) has just outlawed communism, which has forced famous poet, Pablo Neruda (Gnecco) and his wife Delia (Morán) to go into hiding. Using the situation to inspire further writing, Pablo becomes a wanted fugitive in his own country when President Videla assigns police inspector Óscar Peluchonneau (Bernal) to arrest him.

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In rather similar fashion to his previous work JACKIE, Pablo Larraín’s film renders a captivating story with a spotlight cast upon a real-life and famous personality that has a strong political connection to their position. Only here, the screenplay by Guillermo Caulderón is restrictive in its comprehension and therefore suited to more of an acquired taste.

Although much of the dialogue spoken in this film is heavily poetic in style, the plot developments made as Óscar Peluchonneau goes in search of the elusive Pablo Neruda remain clearly visible. In fact, the script gets extremely wordy at times during its narration. So as a tip, if you are struggling to keep up with the heavy reading of subtitles or deciphering the poetic wording, then keep your focus more on the visual storytelling. This aspect of the film is really beautiful to watch and features terrific acting from Luis Gnecco and Gael García Bernal. NERUDA really hits its peak during the final chapter as Peluchonneau seems to be closing in on his fugitive, but Neruda might just be writing another story that Peluchonneau is the subject of. These scenes also feature a stunning location to shoot, which the cinematography profoundly caresses.

NERUDA is quite an esteemed picture and a fitting retelling of a critical time in the life of the Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet and political icon.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong sex scenes and nudity)

Trailer / NERUDA

Moviedoc thanks Palace Films and The Backlot Studios for the invite to the screening of this film.

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THINGS TO COME (L’AVENIR)

Writer & Director / Mia Hanson-Løve (GOODBYE FIRST LOVE, EDEN, FATHER OF MY CHILDREN)
Stars/ Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Edith Scob and Roman Kolinka

If you are a person who is in some way involved with philosophy, then the name Laurence Hanson-Løve may be familiar to you. Mia Hanson-Løve, who is the daughter of Laurence, a philosophy professor and the writer of Philosophy A to Z, writes and directs THINGS TO COME, which is based on her mother’s life.

Changing her mother’s real-life name to Nathalie for the film, the role has been written specifically for recent Oscar-nominee Isabelle Huppert (ELLE). Nathalie, a philosophy teacher, lives in Paris with her husband and two grown-up children. She loves her job and encourages her students to question everything, despite the protests currently taking place on school grounds. Outside of work, much of her time is consumed by her sick yet possessive mother (Edith Scob). Nathalie is soon forced to confront significant change in her life, however, after an unexpected announcement.

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Not a great deal comes of THINGS TO COME, a French drama that is obliquely philosophical, which only sporadically and momentarily interests.

Mia Hansen-Løve’s screenplay consists of several episodic dialogues of a philosophical nature that are shared between Nathalie’s students, sometimes involving Nathalie too, though she does her best to avoid becoming too collaborative. As THINGS TO COME progresses, the more evident it is that these stilted discourses are forming the foundation of this story. Should you find yourself in the right mindset or be enraptured by these topical discussions, then THINGS TO COME will absorb your attention like a sponge does liquid. For all others, these dialogues are bound to come off as meaningless rambling, making it difficult to sight any possible theme to extract from them. Thankfully though, the film does have a saving grace in the form of its lead actress. Isabelle Huppert completely anchors THINGS TO COME. Ultimately, her tireless acting work, the life-altering events that come the way of her character and her responses and reactions to these is what compels the viewer to remain invested until the end.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (coarse language and drug use)

Trailer / THINGS TO COME

Moviedoc thanks Palace Films for the distributor pass to view and review this film.

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BERLIN SYNDROME

Director / Cate Shortland (LORE, SOMERSAULT)
Stars/ Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt

The prestigious Australian film BERLIN SYNDROME casts an atmosphere of constant and escalating trepidation that is riveting to experience. Melbourne-born author Melanie Joosten, who was named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Novelists in 2012, visited Berlin herself as she backpacked through Europe at 22 years of age. This film is based on her debut novel that won the Kathleen Mitchell Award for Young Writers.

Teresa Palmer stars as Clare, a young Australian photographer who spends her first night of a backpacking expedition in the German capital. The intrepid and curious Clare, who is traveling alone, soon meets a handsome and charming local, Andi (Max Riemelt). He invites Clare back to his apartment and the two of them engage in a passionate night of romance. Shortly after Andi leaves for work, Clare discovers that she has been locked inside his apartment. And he has no intention of letting her go.


This is what many Australian films strive to be, but often fall short in their attempts. Steadily paced, yet never too drawn-out, BERLIN SYNDROME is a transfixing film that has the authenticity and compelling storytelling to match its powerful sensory presence.

Adapted for the screen by writer Shaun Grant (writer of JASPER JONES), BERLIN SYNDROME becomes unsettling yet utterly intriguing as the two lead characters engage in a battle of psychological warfare and welfare. A battle in which Andi may have a propensity for violence. He is a puzzling and complex character. A school teacher by day, Andi has a rather gentle facade and seems to possess a genuine kind of love for the imprisoned foreigner. As the script fascinatingly delves deeper into his personal life, it doesn’t neglect a helpless Clare who is becoming more aware that the longer she remains in his possession, the sooner an inevitable fate awaits.

Acclaimed filmmaker Cate Shortland, who was nominated for the dramatic world cinema Grand Jury Prize Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, is guaranteed to win several awards at home and around the world at upcoming festivals for this excellent film. Shot on location in Berlin before production moved to Melbourne, BERLIN SYNDROME is a stunningly photographed film that features a stand-out and spine-chilling score. Max Riemelt and HACKSAW RIDGE star Teresa Palmer give measured and magnificent performances in a film that Palmer has described her participation in as one of the most transformational experiences of her life as well as the most liberating film experience of her career. See it, and you’ll understand exactly why.

4 stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong themes, violence and sex scenes. Also contains nudity and some language.)

Trailer / BERLIN SYNDROME

Moviedoc thanks Entertainment One and The Backlot Studios for the invite to this film screening.

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FRANTZ

Director / François Ozon (SWIMMING POOL, 8 WOMEN, THE NEW GIRLFRIEND)
Stars/ Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber

This French/German co-production, which was nominated for 11 César Awards, is based on the 1932 film BROKEN LULLABY by Ernst Lubitsch and starred Lionel Barrymore.

Taking place during the aftermath of the First World War, Anna (Paula Beer, pictured below) is mourning the death of her German fiancé Frantz, who was killed defending his country in France. Residing at the home of Frantz’s parents Hans and Magda Hoffmeister (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber), she finds some comfort in paying visits to the grave of her beloved. One day during a routine visit, she witnesses a stranger placing flowers on Frantz’s grave. Raising suspicion and wanting to discover how this man knew her fiancé, Anna decides to meet with him.

 



Acclaimed French filmmaker François Ozon’s rendition of this tale is a compelling piece of cinema that is handsomely photographed in black and white and boasts exquisite acting work, yet ultimately does underwhelm.

During the first half of this French/German language drama, Anna begins to interact with the mysterious Frenchman who is visibly troubled by something unspoken. The screenplay loosely alludes to a few potential reasons that have brought Adrien (Pierre Niney) to Germany and keep its keenly observing audience finely attuned by doing so. To this point, a number of scenes that take place inside the Hoffmeister family home is what truly stands out. Each actor during these scenarios carefully and flawlessly nurse the emotion felt deep inside to the visible eye. FRANTZ also incorporates various forms of art including music and painting to add extra dimension to a story that evolves into a somewhat more psychologically complex tale in its second half.

There is a particular fascination to the trajectory of later proceedings in FRANTZ, which remains a beautiful film to the senses. The finale is digestible, however, certain unmistakable subtexts detected earlier in the film have been left abandoned by Ozon and linger with the viewer.

3 ½ stars


Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes and violence)

Trailer / FRANTZ

Moviedoc thanks Sharmill Films and Cinema NOVA for the invite to this film screening.

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THE INNOCENTS/LES INNOCENTES

Director / Anne Fontaine (ADORE, COCO BEFORE CHANEL)
Stars/ Lou De Laâge, Agata Buzek, Agata Kulesza and Vincent Macaigne

Poland, 1945. War is over. Fear is not.

The new film from Anne Fontaine, who assists with the writing adaptation of LES INNOCENTES, earned four nominations including Best Film at the 2017 César Awards. Taken from the experiences of scenario writer Philippe Maynial’s Aunt, LES INNOCENTES is the true account of a French Red Cross Doctor who is treating the survivors of a former German camp. During a routine shift, Mathilde (Lou De Laage from 2015s THE WAIT) is approached by a young nun, Maria (Agata Buzek) who desperately pleas for her help. Maria takes Mathilde to the convent she is from where she soon discovers that several of its nuns are pregnant.

If the truth hurts, there are times that LES INNOCENTES is agony to fathom. Despite this fact-based story having more than its fair share of tragedy to occur, there are elements of comfort present in this very involving French/Polish drama.

After reading the film synopsis, it is clear that these nuns have sadly been raped. The timeline that this film is set in will give you a strong indication as to who is responsible for these callous and reckless actions. As LES INNOCENTES explores the magnitude of these crimes, the script clearly and effectively conveys the risks and complications that both Mathilde and the inhabitants of the convent are faced with. Once some further shocking revelations are made in LES INNOCENTES, there are moments that are so distressing that they can be difficult to stomach. And that’s when Anne Fontaine, directing with heart and sheer presence of mind, brings to the fore the spirit of humanity which is inherent to Mathilde. This, as well as a few of the nuns who are inclined to think more independently, definitely bring some form of warmth during these cold-hearted times.

A stand-out display of acting from the young French actress Lou De Laâge as well as the dreary atmosphere captured by the striking cinematography of LES INNOCENTES respectively complement its quality and add to the poignancy of this fine picture.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and sexual violence)

Trailer / THE INNOCENTS/LES INNOCENTES

Moviedoc thanks Annette Smith, Rialto Distribution and The Backlot Studios for the invite to this film screening.

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A SILENT VOICE (KOE NO KATACHI)

Director / Naoko Yamada (TAMAKO LOVE STORY, K-ON! THE MOVIE)
Stars/ The voices of Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Aoi Yuki and Kenshô Ono

First and foremost, A SILENT VOICE (or THE SHAPE OF VOICE, a literal translation) is not a Studio Ghibli production. This Japanese animation, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful YOUR NAME which grossed ¥10 Billion (about US$98 Million), has experienced some of its own success. Earning ¥2.3 Billion (US$19.56 Million) at the Japanese box office, it has also collected Film and Screenplay Award wins at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival.

Based on the award winning manga of the same name, A SILENT VOICE is about disability, bullying, guilt and redemption. Shōko Nishimiya (Voiced by Hayami) is a new student at an elementary school. Upon her induction, Nishimiya does something no other student at this school has done before – she politely makes a special request regarding the method of communication used to speak with her. Holding a note book, she asks for all spoken dialogue to be written in her book due to her hearing disability. As class commences, Nishimiya experiences exclusion and is soon being bullied by fellow classmate Shōya Ishida (voiced by Irino).


The meaningful intentions and importance of its themes are at first heard loud and clear in A SILENT VOICE. A tenderly rendered production, this is such a heartfelt film during its poignant opening act. It is shortly after crossing that wonderful first chapter of A SILENT VOICE that almost everything it has pitched is about to become unstitched.

With a total duration exceeding two hours, it later becomes known that A SILENT VOICE has absolutely no self-awareness. As the audience are bullied by excessive mundane detail surrounding the friendships of various characters on-screen, A SILENT VOICE finds itself caught up in a tedium-inducing whirlpool of meandering dialogue exchanges, sporadic melodrama and rigid storytelling. Sadly, the ability to feel genuine care dwindles the longer this far-too-lengthy film goes. The other obstacle that A SILENT VOICE will face here in Australia is finding an appropriate audience. As advised by its M classification, certain themes and the nature of their depiction are simply not suitable for a younger crowd. The audience age bracket that A SILENT VOICE stands it best chances at finding is from pre-teens and above, however its obvious needs to be profoundly felt often speak in a language that will likely be too foreign to most audiences here and therefore lost in translation.

By its own inadvertent undoing, A SILENT VOICE has ultimately silenced its own valuable voice.

2 stars


Viewer Discretion/ M (mature themes)

Trailer / A SILENT VOICE

Moviedoc thanks Madman and Cinema NOVA for the invite to this film screening.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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