Curtains have opened on the 14th Zagreb Film Festival, which is screening a huge and varied selection of brilliant international films. Here are some that you won't want to miss.
You can check out the full schedule here.
After the campy in-flight antics of ‘I’m So Excited’ and the creepy shivers of ‘The Skin I Live In’, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar is back on familiar ground with ‘Julieta’. A sombre, ravishing study of grief, guilt and burden, you could in all fairness sub-title the film ‘all about my daughter’ (a nod to Almodóvar’s arthouse hit ‘All About My Mother’). Told over 30 years, with two actresses (Emma Suárez and the younger Adriana Ugarte) playing one woman, this is the story of Julieta, who is facing a tragedy not dissimilar to those in Almodóvar melodramas like ‘Talk to Her’ or ‘Volver’. Based on three Alice Munro short stories, ‘Julieta’ doesn’t soar as passionately as those earlier films – the emotions are more buttoned-up, the twists more maudlin. But the way the film’s story is gradually pieced together through extended flashbacks offers a cumulative power that’s finally extremely moving and teasingly free of easy resolution. Suárez and Ugarte don’t just play the same woman at different ages; they play the same woman on either side of two family crises that change her forever. We first meet Julieta (Suárez) middle-aged and living in Madrid, preparing to move with her partner (Darío Grandinetti) to Portugal. But a chance meeting with Bea (Michelle Jenner), a childhood friend of her daughter Antía, changes her mind about the move and she starts writing notes about her earlier adult life. These memories lead us through the film. We meet Julieta as a punky young teacher
A novelist gets his own back on his ex-wife in the way he knows best - via fiction - in Tom Ford's high-gloss psychological thriller set in the uber-rich LA art world. It's the fashion designer's second movie after his 2009 debut 'A Single Man', and this is a far more ambitious film, with its sprawling cast, various periods, layered storytelling and musings on life and art. But it's also far less endearing and coherent, and feels almost unbearably cruel and cynical. Susan (Amy Adams) is a successful gallery manager who's no longer passionate about her work, living out a loveless marriage to Walker (Armie Hammer) in a stark modernist palace. She receives a novel called 'Nocturnal Animals' from her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). As she reads the book we see it play out, alongside scenes of Susan and Edward's life together, back when he was an aspiring writer. In the novel's story, Gyllenhaal plays Tony, a man on a road trip in Texas with his wife (Isla Fisher) and teen daughter (Ellie Bamber). They're attacked at night by three men, provoking the film's most confident sequence as Tony has to face up to what this tragic event says about his own masculinity and power. 'Nocturnal Animals' is blessed by remarkable photography by Seamus McGarvey ('Atonement'), who does exquisite work with barren rural vistas and soulless cityscapes. But Ford's script, adapted from the Austin Wright novel 'Tony and Susan', fails to get to grips with the psychological complexities suggested b
There are so many extraordinary moments, beautiful shots and intoxicating rushes of pure teenage adrenalin in British filmmaker Andrea Arnold's fractured portrait of American teenagers. Which makes it all the more frustrating that her fourth film stops short of being more than a fitfully exciting, occasionally trying and overlong experiment. Heavily musical, rowdy and fleshy, it’s structured less as a story and more as fragments hung together by disparate episodes with a strong air of on-the-road improvisation. 'American Honey' is an extreme road movie about a gang of teens selling magazine subscriptions door to door, state to state in the Midwest. Our guide to their anarchic lifestyle is Star (Sasha Lane), a searching, still unformed girl who we follow so tightly that she might remind you of Mia in Arnold's second film 'Fish Tank' (and once again Arnold's regular cinematographer Robbie Ryan shoots 'American Honey' right up close, claustrophobically, in the near-square Academy ratio). We first meet Star caring for two young kids and trying to avoid the gropes of a drunken man who seems to be her father. But it's not long before she bumps into funny but dangerous Jake (Shia LaBeouf), tough, suspicious Krystal (Riley Keough) and their door-to-door sales gang, and she makes the call to up sticks and hit the road with them. The rest of the film is an ensemble road movie. It flits between events that reflect Star's growing sense of self – encounters with potential clients, sex w
It’s that old story of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl falls for another boy, girl has illicit sexual relationship with other boy, original boy finds out and goes berserk, girl is then forced to choose between her heart, head and groin. That’s Andreas Dresen’s poignant, lightly philosophical and beautifully performed ‘Cloud 9’ in a nutshell, though it should be noted that all the ‘boys and girl’ are of pensionable age. And while the intricate sex lives of elderly, working-class German suburbanites may not get box-office bells ringing, there’s as much moral intrigue, erotic tension and heart-wrenching passion here as in any cheap romance populated by lithe, hormonal teenagers. Ursula Werner plays Inge, a prudent, sixtysomething hausfrau living in a dreary flat with her train-fancying partner of 30 years, Werner (Horst Rehberg). The spark of their relationship has definitely expired, which is why Inge has been secretly bedding down with Karl, a sunnier local man ten years her senior. Though it’s Inge’s choices that are central to the film, the emotions of all three are dealt with in depth. Yet Inge’s journey from guilt-free bed-hopping to shattering existential meltdown does take precedence. This film about the resilience and adaptability of the human body will inevitably draw comparisons between this and Fassbinder’s harrowing ‘Fear Eats the Soul’. But where that film explored the social context of an amour fou, ‘Cloud 9’ tells of an enclosed tragedy, one in
The creation of a truly memorable movie character is a complex process: it’s not simply a case of having a great script or a talented actor; equal attention must be paid to the world in which the character finds himself and the other figures he comes into contact, and often conflict, with.Garda Sergeant Gerry Boyle, the hero of writer-director John Michael McDonagh’s debut feature ‘The Guard’, is a spectacular creation: a drug-sniffing, booze-swigging, blarney-spouting iconoclast with an eye for the ladies, an exhaustive knowledge of literature, film and the arts and a penchant for infuriating the higher-ups at every conceivable opportunity. But the devil is in the details. So while McDonagh has created an unforgettable central figure, and Brendan Gleeson has responded with a towering, Oscar-worthy performance, the rest of the film struggles to rise to the occasion. The plot is familiar buddy movie fare – when a murder takes place in Boyle’s sleepy Connemara village, he soon pinpoints the perpetrators as a gang of ruthless international drug smugglers, but the powers that be have assigned a by-the-book FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to the case. The usual fish-out-of-water shenanigans ensue, but eventually these two proud policemen reach an understanding.There’s an enormous amount to enjoy in ‘The Guard’: McDonagh’s script crackles with memorable one-liners, the rapport between Gleeson and Cheadle is note-perfect and the film’s observations on small-town life are piercing and often
Mordantly funny and unexpectedly poignant, Lenny Abrahamson’s Dublin-set debut feature about two hapless junkies in search of a fix benefits greatly from his confident, low-key direction. There is some nicely judged acting, too, from Tom Murphy and Mark O’Halloran, the latter of whom wrote the script. Waking on an abandoned mattress in the middle of nowhere, the titular pair start their tragic-comic, city-wide search for the elusive, Godot-like ‘what’s-his-name’. Fusing the slapstick comedy and verbal misunderstandings of Laurel and Hardy with the bleak absurdities of Samuel Beckett is a tall order, but the film’s subtle modulations and unforced humour never lose sight of the pair’s last scraps of humanity. This is particularly hard to pull off, since Adam (O’Halloran) and Paul (Murphy) are so innately unsympathetic. Their inept attempts at thievery are played for laughs, as are Paul’s multiplying physical injuries, and their spiky conversation with a Bulgarian also down on his luck (‘I had to leave Sofia.’/‘Was she pregnant?’). These comic scenes, though, are contrasted with interludes of quiet tenderness, squirm-inducing awkwardness and alienating amorality. We learn, for example, that Adam and Paul have been too selfishly preoccupied with their drug habit to mourn the recent death of a childhood friend. Even more shocking is the desperate duo’s callous robbing of a vulnerable young lad with Down’s Syndrome. What might have been an indulgent or evasive comedy about two li
From its gobsmacking opening to the bravura climax, this first feature has a verve, energy and surprise that knocks you sideways. Another movie with myriad characters crisscrossing the city - an Altman-esque template that's proved relevant and adaptable to many film-makers, many cities - this Dublin film about love offers the excitement of a thriller and more laughs than most comedies. Murphy is John, who's split up with Deirdre (Macdonald) because she didn't refuse when he suggested it. Now she's seeing Sam (McElhatton), a banker, and John doesn't like it a bit - so when hardman Lahiff (Farrell) suggests a spot of robbing (with vengeance on top), John's there. His mate Oscar (Wilmot) wants none of it. He's more concerned about his own sexual hang-ups, which lead him to a golden-oldies disco in search of a sure thing, and into the angry arms of Noeleen (O'Kane), whose husband Sam has just walked out on her. Then there's Jerry (Meaney), one of Dublin's finest, who models himself on Dirty Harry. That's barely the half of it, but it gives some notion of screenwriter O'Rowe's restless, roustabout ingenuity, his readiness to mix up sentiment, anarchy and farce. The hand-held, NYPD Blue-style camerawork doesn't always disguise some low budget wobbles, but Intermission kicks with sharp comic detail, great gab and top notch character acting.
Day Lewis' re-creation of writer/painter Christy Brown's condition is so precise, so detailed and so matter-of-fact that it transcends the carping about casting an actor without cerebral palsy. He couldn't have done it better. More to the point, he does it with so little show that the character of Christy - cussed, frustrated, indulged, immature - comes through powerfully. Writers Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan take extraordinary liberties with Brown's autobiography, but they've caught the spirit of the man, and satisfied the family, who are presented as saintly, if chaotic. Brenda Fricker, wonderfully eloquent in her silences, and Ray McAnally, in his last screen role, make an utterly convincing Mam and Dad, stopping just the right side of sentimentality. Less happy is Fiona Shaw as the fictional Eileen Cole, an amalgam of several characters in the book. Sheridan gives us an atmospheric Dublin and the economy of the best TV drama; and 13-year-old Hugh O'Conor, playing Christy as a boy, makes an admirable job of holding the ring before the arrival of the main act.
An apocalyptic voyage into violence triggered by a chilling sectarian double murder of which Danny, a sax player in a rock showband, becomes first witness and subsequently avenger. The movie bristles with visual ironies, downbeat humour, upbeat action, and is powered by a sequence of chance encounters as Stephen Rea's Danny, like Lee Marvin in Point Blank, picks up the trail of the killers and, swapping his sax for a gun, pursues them through the towns and countryside of Armagh. Ostensibly a naturalistic thriller, but reaching beyond to hyper-realism and surrealism, Angel carries subtle echoes of Buñuel and the early Scorsese films (Who's That Knocking at My Door?, Mean Streets), but remains uniquely true to its time and place - contemporary Ireland. A stunning debut from an esteemed novelist.
An English Travelling Players? Three peasant types trek across a forest...and through a polemically structured account of 400 years of British history. Not the 'standard' history of monarchs, battles, disasters and dates (although all of those are there), but an 'alternative' history of political and cultural fragments. What emerges is a militant analysis of the origins of the modern British working class, fashioned by Mulloy with exceptional acuity and a brilliant gift for synthesis.