Fokus: Films from Germany Preview

Now in its fifth year, Fokus: Films from Germany (running from November to January across the country) presents an exciting, eclectic snapshot of the contemporary film scene in Germany. The festival is a partnership between the Goethe-Institut in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, but the two-month tour of Scotland also incorporates screenings at Byres Theatre in St Andrews, the Hippodrome in Bo’ness, Dundee’s DCA, Ayr Film Society and Aberdeen’s Belmont Filmhouse, plus the GFT as an extra venue in Glasgow.

The opening film – which screens at Filmhouse on 21 Nov before making its way to the other participating venues – is the UK premiere of Bauhaus Spirit: 100 Years of Bauhaus. The documentary, funnily enough, explores the history and lasting influence of the Bauhaus period of art, design and architecture at the time of the school’s 100th anniversary…

Full feature for The Skinny

Earthquake Bird (Wash Westmoreland, 2019)

A few minutes into Earthquake Bird, Alicia Vikander’s Lucy Fly is shown translating an English-language film into Japanese for what we soon learn has been her job in Tokyo for a number of years. The film in question is Black Rain, Ridley Scott’s cross-cultural action movie in which Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia play New York City cops escorting a Yakuza member back to Japan for extradition.

It’s a cute nod given that Scott Free Productions is one of the companies behind this Netflix-distributed film, and that Black Rain opened in 1989, the year in which Earthquake Bird is set. But the reference ends up backfiring. While the general consensus on Scott’s film remains largely negative, not least due to its use of Asian stereotypes, many of its detractors have nonetheless pointed to the director’s stylistic excesses as a positive. By contrast, Wash Westmoreland’s adaptation of Susanna Jones’ 2001 novel is a pedestrian thriller lacking any zest or flair…

Full review for Little White Lies

Adam Pearson: ‘I thought it was a really clever script and premise for a film commentating on the history of disability in cinema’

A meta filmmaking comedy set around the making of a low-budget horror, Chained For Life skewers and examines notions of on-screen representation of disabled or disfigured bodies to entertaining effect, while also avoiding being a patronising, didactic story.

Activist Adam Pearson transitioned into acting with Under the Skin, opposite Scarlett Johansson. In Chained For Life, he plays Rosenthal, one of a number of disfigured or disabled performers in the ensemble of the movie-within-the-movie, under the questionable direction of a supposed artistic visionary. Jess Weixler (The Good Wife) plays the able-bodied lead actor, whose role is as a blind woman, slowly connecting with Rosenthal in-between filming…

Full interview for The List

Chained for Life (Aaron Schimberg, 2018)

A lengthy Pauline Kael quote about the good looks of actors benefitting cinema precedes Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life. Its opening shot, of a young woman (Jess Weixler) navigating a corridor in a shell-shocked but glowing state, appears to complement Kael’s musing.

Yet beauty is about to be imperilled as this woman is actually starring in a horror movie. And then it’s quickly revealed that this horror movie is within another movie, where notions of beauty and representation of bodies that don’t fit societal norms will be skewered to delightful effect…

Full review for Little White Lies

Non-Fiction (Olivier Assayas, 2018)

Arriving just before his new political thriller, Wasp Network, and just after his Kristen Stewart-led horror riff, Personal Shopper, Non-Fiction finds writer-director Olivier Assayas back in the witty ensemble story mode of earlier career highlights Summer Hours (2008) and Late August, Early September (1998), but merged with the industry satire of Irma Vep (1996). There, it was the film industry skewered with affection; here, it’s the world of novels. Non-Fiction’s original French title, Double Vies, translates to ‘double lives’, and the inherent narcissism found in concealing one’s infidelities while also profiting from them is of particular interest to the director…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Monos (Alejandro Landes, 2019)

The blistering third feature by Colombian-Ecuadorian filmmaker Alejandro Landes starts with training rituals that recall the physicality of Claire Denis’ Beau Travail. Its characters are eight teenage guerrillas serving the orders of a mysterious force known as The Organisation, stationed to wait for further instructions beyond guarding both an American prisoner (Julianne Nicholson) and a loaned dairy cow.

While some have code names referencing pop culture (Rambo, Smurf), others (Bigfoot, Wolf) evoke folklore, myth and fairy tales. Their base of operations does similar, with a mountaintop fortress filmed by DoP Jasper Wolf as though it’s an island floating in the clouds, while the arrival on horseback of their adult drill sergeant, a minuscule but extremely muscular man, amplifies the surreal, fantastical quality. Were it not for the fact they’re firing guns and holding a woman hostage, the group’s early joviality and camaraderie would suggest a more gender-inclusive Lost Boys (JM Barrie’s, not Joel Schumacher’s)…

Full review for Little White Lies

Kantemir Balagov talks ‘Beanpole’

Beanpole, the extraordinary sophomore feature of writer-director Kantemir Balagov, earned the young filmmaker the Best Director prize in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, where it also won him the FIPRESCI Prize for the section – his second in a row after Closeness in 2017.

Set in Leningrad after the Second World War, it follows a number of injured or, at least, traumatised survivors attempting to restart their lives anew any way they can. Although a number of compelling characters shine in subplots, Beanpole’s central relationship is that between Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko), a very tall, pale and softly-spoken woman, and Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), a smaller brunette with a more outwardly fervent personality…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams