Monday, 9 July 2018

July 9th
Back to Burgundy
Sicario Soledad
Mary Shelley

Yes, after weeks of gadding in Europe and suffering mild movie withdrawal I'm back and into the catch-up viewing. Two of the recent releases (Sicario and Disobedience) are chalk and cheese. A couple of others I've seen previously at festivals and am glad to see their mainstream release. So here goes . . . again!

Back to Burgundy
Director: Cedric Klapisch
Length: 113 min
© StudioCanal - in a Burgundy vineyard
kids learn the subtleties of wine tasting young
Renowned director Cedric Klapisch has made a gorgeous movie about three siblings who inherit their father's vineyard in Burgundy. Lovingly capturing the change of seasons and the grape cycle, as well as the bonds and conflicts between the siblings, this is the sort of French film-making I most enjoy - tender, gentle, and intimate. One of the siblings Jean has returned from Australia when he hears of his father's impending death. There he has also been involved in winemaking and must face the choice now of returning, or staying in France at  his family home. This gives the film a nice connection with our great winemaking land. Nice also to see a strong female character in the form of sister Juliette, who is at the helm of the vineyard now that the patriarch has died. I saw this one at the French Film Festival and am delighted to see it get a mainstream release. 
4 - highly recommended! 

Director: Sebastian Lelio
Length: 114 min
© Roadshow  -  gripping emotional drama of
faith, repression and sexuality. 
Ronnie (Rachel Weisz) is a photographer living in New York. She returns home to London after the death of her father, a rabbi in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. There she reconnects with two close childhood friends - Esti (Rachel McAdam) and Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), both deep into the religious community. While Rachel has turned away from her orthodox upbringing, her presence reignites conflicts between tradition, faith and sexuality. Lelio directed the stunning trans-gender film A Fantastic Woman. No surprise that he is firmly in control of  the powerful emotions conjured up in this story. The three leads are at their best, conveying a story that is heartbreaking and also a testament to the inner strength required to stand up for who you really are in the face of restrictive morals and binding traditions within a very closed community.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended! 

Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Director: Stefano Solimar
Length: 122 min
© Roadshow  - the hitman is back!
A sort of sequel to the fabulous Sicario in 2015, this takes up another story of  Mexican drug cartels, who now, it seems, are trafficking terrorists across the border. FBI agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) hires taciturn hitman Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) to assist in a fake kidnapping of a drug lord's daughter, to set the gangs against each other (as if they already aren't). The film is stunningly shot, has truckloads of action and tension, but always for me I find these sort of plots so convoluted and hard to follow. However, that's my problem, and within the genre it's pretty good, but not as gripping as the first one, which had a strong emotional focus in the female lead character. This film by comparison feels somewhat empty emotionally, but del Toro is a standout again. 
3.5 - recommended! 

Mary Shelley
Director: Haifaa al Mansour
Length: 121 min
© Transmission  - Gothic romanticism meets
a creative feminist writer
Mary Shelley (Elle Fanning) was famous for two things - her marriage at 18 to poet Percy Shelley and having written the immortal classic Frankenstein. This biopic looks at her early life, in an era where woman were not supposed to achieve much and certainly couldn't lay claim to having written a book, so had to publish under another name. There is nothing earth-shatteringly original about the film, but it's handsome enough, and Fanning plays her role with a feisty feminist slant. As a die-hard Frankenstein fan, I found it engaging entertainment when I saw it earlier at the British Film Festival.
3 - recommended! 

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