An intimate three-hour epic of deliberate pacing, Vietnamese writer-director Thien An Pham’s debut feature, Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, is a spellbinding tale of the soul’s unfathomable desire for the other-worldly, that does itself border on transcendental in its filmmaking and gradual blurring of apparent truth and suggested fantasy.
The film premieres in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight section, where the filmmaker was previously recipient of the Illy Prize in 2019 for the short Stay Awake, Be Ready, in which a roadside accident at a street corner interrupted a conversation between three friends having a meal. That short seems loosely remade for the new feature’s opening scene, which expands the idea to explore a man’s attempted overcoming of a deeply unsatisfied life, taking him from urban Saigon to the hinterland of Vietnam, out of both familial necessity and a quest to make sense of where and how to proceed with his life going forward…
Full review for IndieWire
While photographs can be lies and we’re probably all taking and distributing too many pictures of ourselves in the age of smartphones, there’s something to be said for having these accessible mementos of a life lived, at least as reference for later on, when you might be clamoring for proof that you actually existed. And while audio-visual evidence isn’t necessary for us to remember everything, there can be an extent to which an absence of documentation can prove an existential burden. It can be difficult to build an identity when your memories are unreliable. If you have no visual record of you as a child, your parents, or guardians at that time, or what your home looked like, to what extent can you trust what you think you remember?
This is one of the central ideas driving Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir’s riveting, inventive Un Certain Regard entry The Mother of All Lies. Her film starts with the desire to know why she has only one photograph from her childhood, and why the girl presented in the image seems to be so different from her. From that starting point, she reaches a point of recreating her family’s home and neighborhood in miniature form, as means of interrogating both personal and national history…
Full review for IndieWire
Few recent examples of opening narration have laid out so foreboding a mission statement for the film that follows as that which starts Tunisian drama Harka. Over various establishing shots, a young woman’s voice tells a tale passed on to her by her brother. Way out in the desert, a lake apparently appeared out of nowhere one morning. Producing crystal clear water, its seemingly perfect qualities attracted visitors from far away just to see or swim in it. No one questioned the apparent miracle, as the locals, we’re told, believe in the possibility of magic.
The stage is set for a story with a possible bent of magical realism. But the narrator quickly dispels that notion. Months on from the miracle spot’s beginnings as a tourist attraction, someone learned it was in fact a sinkhole filled up with run-off from a nearby phosphate mine. Despite this revelation, people still came; still swam. But then the water turned black, finally making people understand the full extent to which they were wallowing in poison. Cut to opening credits…
Full review for Little White Lies
Mainstream filmmakers face a tricky balancing act when it comes to tackling the climate crisis and portraying those who are fighting to avert eco-catastrophe. An approach that is either too light or too po-faced risks undermining the efforts of real-life activists. Even Kelly Reichardt’s generally solid thriller Night Moves (2013) went down a hackneyed route, in which paranoia tore its characters apart.
In contrast, the electric, forthright How to Blow Up a Pipeline excels as both truly riveting entertainment and an energizing call to action, in part through the cleverness of its genre conceit: what could be a better fit for a story about collective action and fighting the system than a heist movie…
Full review for Total Film
After a metatextual excursion with Bergman Island, writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve takes a more conventional approach with her latest feature, One Fine Morning. Channelling a recent personal tragedy into another masterful, humanist drama, the great French filmmaker is very much back in the mode of Goodbye First Love and Things to Come.
The autobiographical element refers to a neurodegenerative disease that’s taken hold of university professor Georg (Pascal Greggory), prompting daughter Sandra (Léa Seydoux) – a widowed single mother to eight-year-old Linn (Camille Leban Martins) – to try securing a respectable and affordable nursing home place, while also attempting to salvage her father’s immense personal library. During all this, she reencounters an old friend, Clément (Melvil Poupaud), with whom she begins having an affair.
Ahead of One Fine Morning’s UK cinema release, The Skinny caught up with Hansen-Løve on the festival circuit to discuss the film, shooting on celluloid, and trying to make audiences forget they’re watching a movie…
Full interview for The Skinny
Partly shot on 16mm with a Bolex camera, Andrew Legge’s resourceful sci-fi LOLA blends time travel with found footage to engaging effect. It begins with a framing device set in the modern day: the film we’re about to see is in fact a broadcast recorded in 1941.
At this point in the Second World War, two sisters, Thomasina (Emma Appleton) and Martha (Stefanie Martini), have created a large machine, LOLA, that can intercept future audiovisual broadcasts, allowing them to document the music of as-yet-unborn musicians such as David Bowie and Bob Dylan – and to receive Nazi telecommunications. Realising the machine’s potential for the Allied war effort, the sisters send anonymous warnings about imminent bombings, earning them the moniker ‘the Angel of Portobello’; they’re quickly recruited to assist the military…
Full review for Sight and Sound
When it comes to the International Feature Film category at the Academy Awards, the somewhat archaic submission process involves a country nominating just one feature from the year’s filmmaking output. Regarding eligibility criteria, international co-productions are in a tricky spot, whereby factors such as how much funding came from a specific country, or what per cent of the dialogue is in a certain language, determine which nation can most justifiably claim it as their own in the pursuit of an Oscar.
Awards season rumours suggest director Hlynur Pálmason’s darkly comic epic Godland fell victim to those eligibility debates. While some funding came from France and Sweden, the film was also backed by Icelandic and Danish production companies, is set mainly in Iceland after a Denmark-set prologue, and follows a Danish character’s attempted assimilation in Iceland. There’s a roughly even split between Icelandic and Danish dialogue, but in the end, neither territory submitted the film.
Godland may have been not Icelandic enough, but also not Danish enough. But then, this is a quite fitting outside-the-film circumstance for a story in which cultural clash and notions of societal belonging are explicitly part of the text; a film that includes separate title cards in both Icelandic and Danish at its open and close…
Full review for Little White Lies
Set in a County Kerry fishing village, God’s Creatures is American director Anna Rose Holmer’s long-awaited follow-up to breakthrough feature The Fits (2015), with that film’s editor, Saela Davis, now joining her as co-director. “Two really cool, super smart young women from New York, who were very quiet but very powerful,” is how the film’s star, Emily Watson, describes the pair. “They ran a set in a way that they had this Irish crew eating out of their hand, dancing on the head of a pin.”
Watson plays initially somewhat doting mother Aileen, coming to terms with doubts and suspicion after providing an alibi for her son, Brian (Paul Mescal), when the young man – long absent from the community and recently returned from an extended stay in Australia – faces an accusation made to police by Aileen’s fellow factory worker, Sarah (Aisling Franciosi)…
Full interview for the BFI
Winner of the Sutherland Award for best first feature at the 2022 BFI London Film Festival, writer-director Manuela Martelli’s 1976 offers a refreshingly woman-centric narrative about Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship. It operates in a vaguely similar thriller mode to that of Pablo Larraín’s early breakthrough films Tony Manero (2008) and No (2012), while still presenting a distinctive and confident new cinematic voice.
Before her first screenwriting credit (working with fellow Chilean director Dominga Sotomayor on 2014 feature Mar), Martelli was primarily an on-screen presence, making her film debut as the lead teenage character of 2003 drama B-Happy. “I studied and went into acting because I was very curious about that world,” she says, “but in the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to direct a film. I’d wanted to since I was a teenager, when I would go to the cinema a lot…”
Full interview for the BFI
In October 2022, the British film world was rocked by news that the Centre for the Moving Image – a registered charity comprising Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Filmhouse cinema and the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen – was suddenly going into administration, with immediate closure of its various operations. At the time of writing, a shorter reincarnation of the film festival for 2023 has just been announced for August, through the support of the month-long Edinburgh International Festival, but the fate of the two major Scottish exhibition hubs is still in question.
That cloud looming in the east must surely have affected the organisation of Scotland’s other big film festival over in the west to some extent. That said, it’s hard to gauge just how much of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival programming may have been directly influenced by increased desire to showcase up-and-coming independent talent – whose films don’t necessarily have wider distribution lined up as of yet – in light of the abrupt closure of another crucial launching pad. Until an acquisition announcement mere days before the festival started, this was the status for director Adura Onashile’s opening-night film Girl, fresh out of Sundance for its UK premiere, which also happens to be a Glasgow-shot production…
Full feature for Curzon Journal