Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah – Black (2015)

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A 15-year-old girl in a black gang in Brussels must choose between loyalty and love when she falls for a Moroccan boy from a rival gang. The city of Brussels, plagued by high rates of youth unemployment, is home to nearly forty street gangs, and the number of young people drawn into the city’s gang culture increases each year. It’s in this criminal milieu that directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah set Black, a pulse-pounding contemporary take on a Shakespearean tragedy. Worlds collide when Mavela (Martha Canga Antonio), a teenage girl with ties to Brussels’ Black Bronx gang, meets Marwan (Aboubakr Bensaihi), a member of a rival Moroccan gang, at a police station. Keenly aware of the consequences of getting involved with someone from another gang, they at first resist their attraction to one another, but they can only resist for so long. Continue reading

Kostas Manoussakis – O fovos AKA The fear (1966)

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Plot:
A socially isolated young man (Anestis Vlachos) attacks the family’s deaf-mute adopted daughter, whom he abuses sexually and then kills. His parents, even though they discover his crime and are enraged, decide to hide the truth and throw the body into the lake to make it disappear. From that moment on, Anestis lives in fear, and all his actions are now defined by the crime he committed. Continue reading

Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne – La fille inconnue AKA The Unknown Girl (2016)

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Quote:
In Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s very best films, you know exactly what you’re getting — until the quiet dramatic pivot that gently ensures you don’t. In “The Unknown Girl,” only the first half of that assessment is true, though what we get is largely exemplary: a simple but urgent objective threaded with needling observations of social imbalance, a camera that gazes with steady intent into story-bearing faces, and an especially riveting example of one in their gifted, toughly tranquil leading lady Adèle Haenel. What’s missing, however, from this stoically humane procedural tale of a guilt-racked GP investigating a nameless passer-by’s passing, is any great sense of narrative or emotional surprise: It’s a film that skilfully makes us feel precisely what we expect to feel from moment to moment, up to and including the long-forestalled waterworks. Though it will receive the broad distribution practically guaranteed the Belgian brothers’ work these days, the film is unlikely to prove one of their sensations — more the healthy arthouse equivalent of a biennial checkup. Continue reading

Seijun Suzuki – Tantei jimusho 23: Kutabare akuto-domo aka Detective bureau 23 (1963)

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Japanese director Seijun Suzuki solidified his growing cult following with this offbeat adaptation of Haruhiko Ooyabu’s crime novel. Jo Shishido stars as Det. Tajima, a smug investigator who nabs a pair of criminal gangs with flamboyant aplomb while the police remain baffled. Suzuki treats the rather hoary plotline as an excuse for dark-humored camp, and young audiences were delighted with his irreverent approach, which made him one of the few distinctive names in the ’60s assembly-line of Nikkatsu Studios. ~ (Robert Firsching, All Movie Guide) Continue reading

Houda Benyamina – Divines (2016)

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A street teenager from a dysfunctional family from a banlieue (HLMs) in Paris comes across a young dancer who turns her life upside down.

Isabel Stevens (Sight & Sound) wrote:
From the opening credits – a grainy breakneck tour of the lives of two teenage girls who lark about, posing and dancing via vertical-aspect cameraphone footage, I had a suspicion we were onto something special. Then comes the unusual opener: a hazy, abstract shot. Gradually, the interior of a mosque comes into focus. The smaller of the two girls, who only seconds ago stared us down and asked “You looking at me?” with full Taxi Driver-esque bravado, is outside trying to get her praying friend’s attention through a grate in the wall. Continue reading

Guillaume Nicloux – Le poulpe AKA The Octopus (1998)

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“Le Poulpe” is adapted from one of a series of French crime novels, each written by a different author. They are quick reads and often of dubious quality. This film adaptation by Guillaume Nicloux is, however, a different matter.
Gabriel, dit Le Poulpe (The Octopus), played superbly by Jean-Pierre Darroussin, is a laid-back private investigator who works on cases for his own pleasure. He is drawn to the fictional Loire Valley port of Angerneau (St. Nazaire, Loire-Atlantique), with his lover Clotilde (the luscious Courau) who has been summoned by the police concerning the defacement of a deceased relative’s grave. Since Angernau is her home town, she wants to leave it as soon as possible to avoid old acquaintances, but Gabriel stumbles on intriguing events concerning the cargo of a ship in port. Central to the scheme of things is a drunken Scotsman (Faulkner) who seems stranded in the town. Continue reading

Pilar Miró – El Crimen de Cuenca AKA The Cuenca Crime (1980)

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The Cuenca Crime (79) became a cause celebre for critics of the limitation on freedom of expression in Spain (the film is set in 1912 and is about an innocent peasant tortured by two members of the Civil Guard in order to extract a murder confession). The film was briefly suppressed and Miro was tried unsuccessfully for defamation. When released in 1981, it became the highest grossing film in Spanish box office history. Continue reading