This week’s releases are numerous but, for the most part, slightly underwhelming. Only one truly stands out and we’re saving it for last. Let’s get through the others first.
Written, directed and starring Viggo Mortensen, Falling is strong albeit traditional-feeling drama that’s essentially about a gay liberal struggling to care for his homophobic father during the final days of his life, after the latter has started showing signs of dementia. It’s carried by two fantastic performances from Mortensen and the oft-underrated Lance Henriksen, who gives the performance of his 60-year career. Mortensen does delve into some interesting terrain regarding generational divides and father-son dynamics, but the end result tends to feel more exhaustingly melodramatic than reach-for-the-tissues poignant. Nonetheless, a solid directorial debut that’s worth the price of admission for Henriksen’s spirited performance alone.
Elsewhere, Tom & Jerry: The Movie can be filed alongside the Garfield films in the ‘Kids Deserve Better Than These Uninspired Live Action ‘Toon Movies’ drawer; Dream Horse is a tooth-gratingly schmaltzy Brit flick that dramatises the real-life underdog tale of a Welsh village’s racehorse-funding alliance, one that’ll only delight those who consider Calendar Girls and Military Wives as flat out masterpieces. The fifth instalment in the Purge franchise, The Forever Purge, is a lot better than it had any right to be, and we’re ashamed to say we haven’t seen the Ryan Reynolds-starring Free Guy. We hope it’s good.
As for this week’s standout release, we nominate Nuevo Orden (New Order), the new film by Mexican provocateur Michel Franco. It won big at the Venice Film festival last year, nabbing the Grand Jury Prize for its bleak and distressingly not-so-unfeasibly-dystopian look at class revolt. It’s far from subtle on the socio-political allegory front, but it pulls none of its punches during its mean and lean 88-minute runtime. It’s worth watching, if you’re not averse to stomach-knotting tension and some hard-hitting bursts of violence.
On our radar events-wise is the 15th edition of the XPOSED International Queer Film Fest, which had its opening night yesterday. The core of the programme kicks off today and lasts until the 15th, featuring 17 feature films and over 60 shorts. Of note are three Berlinale alumnus (click on the titles for our reviews): Alice Júnior (screening tonight at Il Kino – 19:00), The Twentieth Century (also screening tonight, this time at Moviemento – 22:45) and the fantastic North By Current (screening tonight at Moviemento and on the closing night at Wolf Kino – – 20:15 and 21:10 respectively). The last entry, which screened this year in Panorama, is our top pick: Angelo Madsen Minax’s skilfully constructed essay follows the trans filmmaker returning to his Michigan hometown after the mysterious death of his two-year-old niece and the subsequent arrest of his brother-in-law as the culprit. By grappling with the fact that “when you speak the pain’s name, it dissipates”, Madsen Minax movingly delves into themes of childhood, grief, addiction and transgender masculinity. It’s a must-see. You can check out the full programme here.
Also kicking off tonight is the 27th edition of JFBB, the Jewish Film Festival (August 12-22). This year, the festival shines a light on the past and present realities between Israel and Palestine, as well as Germany and Poland. Two unmissable entries highlight the festival’s diverse line-up and tonal range when it comes to tackling this year’s theme: Shiva Baby and The Painted Bird.
On the lighter side of the spectrum is Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby, a refreshing and brilliantly scripted coming-of-age comedy that surprisingly manages to out-thrill most thrillers. It sees twentysomething Danielle (Rachel Sennott), who dabbles in both babysitting and sex work to support herself through uni, run into her secret sugar daddy at a shiva (a Jewish wake). As low-stakes as that sounds, the hyper-adrenalised execution would make the Safdie Brothers swoon, with Seligman managing to pull off an impressive tonal balancing act in which deadpan comedy, cringe humour and anxiety triggering claustrophobia have equal say. It screens on the 12th at Potsdam’s Thalia (20:00) and the 13th at Delphi Lux (20:00), as well as an open-air screening on the 14th at Sommerkino Kulturforum (21:00).
On the much, much darker side is The Painted Bird, Czech filmmaker Václav Marhoul’s adaptation of Jerzy Kosiński’s divisive and seemingly unfilmable 1965 novel of the same name. This beautifully filmed monochrome odyssey explores conflict through the chaptered story of a young boy’s ordeals through Eastern Europe during World War II. He is a witness to human depravity and the atrocities of war, reminding us that humankind has often shone through its malevolence and lack of humanity.
The film comes out early September in cinemas, but if you feel you can stomach it, rush to see this unforgettable piece of filmmaking at JFBB. Fair word of warning: it’s an endurance test, but one that reveals itself to be devastatingly cathartic and vital. It screens on the 16th at Passage Kino (17:00), 17th at Potsdam’s Thalia (19:00), 18th and 20th at Delphi Lux (20:00; 17:00). Keep an eye out for our full review when the film is released on September 9, as well as our interview with director Václav Marhoul.
And lastly, if those two recommendations don’t strike a chord, you can always head over to the third annual Berlin 24-Hour Sci-Fi Film Marathon at Babylon tomorrow evening. Lasting from 18:00 on Friday to 18:00 on Saturday (for those of you who were thrown off by the whole 24-Hour thing), the programme features genre classics like Flash Gordon, Terminators 1 & 2, They Live, Escape From New York, Event Horizon, and many more. All you need is a good sleeping bag and some comfy pillows; Babylon are throwing in a free breakfast for those who manage to keep awake, bless ‘em.
Happy screenings and see you next week!