Friday, 28 March 2014


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It's sixties in Western Germany. Thirty-something Gisela Werler is working in the wallpaper company during the day and looking after her sick invalid father at night. She has a boyfriend but is reluctant to marry him. She is waiting for a chance to get away, to be loved and truly alive. When her boyfriend forgets his suitcase at her place he triggers a chain of events. Step after step Gisela is turning into someone else. She is becoming a first ever, German female bank robber. They nicknamed her BANKLADY.

Actor Nadeshda Brennicke, who uncovered the real story of Gisela Werler and was successful in her quest to turn the idea into a movie, gives a reserved, but intuitively believable performance of Gisela, a woman in love, for whom the passion becomes a source of powerful determination. At the same time Gisela is not a heartless bitch, and never really understands the consequences of her actions.

Hermann Wittorff (Charly Hubner) is larger than life, a little goofy character full of grounded charisma. The chemistry between him and Gisela is undeniable. True friends in real life Nadeshda and Charly are natural on screen and as their characters' romance grows becoming something real and even touching.
The tight script with cheeky dialogue and some real tension, is full of twists and turns, with most of them being true to the real life story. Director Christian Alvart, whose Hollywood titles include thrillers CASE 39 with Rene Zellweger and PANDORUM with Dennis Quaid, has perfected the construction of compact, stylish and buzzy scenes, using split screen at times - a style which takes you straight into sixties.

Part of the success of the movie is recreating the atmosphere of the time. The shooting team travelled all around Germany, looking for the right architecture and managed to uncover some real gems. Although the budget allowed for only a few CGI shots,the cinematography and acting can make you believe you have travelled in time.

For it's topic BANCLADY is unexpectedly uplifting. The premise may suggest it, but this is not a German version of Bonny and Clyde, also the comparison is inevitable. This is always a nice surprise when the characters you love do something that makes you proud. With its sober look at the relationship between the leads and never faulting to ignore the true nature of their crimes the movie delivers a simple message: true love won't fade with time.

Friday, 21 March 2014


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Walter, Paul and Jacques are true friends. Or so it seems. Men in their fifties, they follow the traditions, catching up for lunches during the week and go away fishing on weekends. But there are secrets lurking underneath. Jacques is a closeted gay and Paul is dating Walter’s daughter Clemence - half his age. What adds complications is that Walter cannot stand secrets and expect only perfection from all around him. When truth is exposed something is going to hit the fan. Will three men be able to keep their friendship against the odds?

TRUE FRIENDS is easy to watch. It’s characters are amusing, its ending is predictable and the dialogue is swift and entertaining. Not going too deep into the problems of friendship and “true lies” the story touches lightly upon the subject at hand. TRUE FRIENDS is what you call “a slice of life” story. You live for two hours with the characters, doing things they do, visit places they visit. You like them enough to feel you want to become their friend yourself. 

Gerard Lanvin (WALTER) is charismatic in a role of loving, but a little controlling father who is not ready to let his daughter go. He is loved by his friends, because of the certainty of values he represents. But he makes you wonder if this gregarious man as forgiving as he is kind?

TRUE FRIENDS is a very even film, with conflict never escalating to a dangerous or tragic territory. The lack of intensity is probably the only negative side of the film - you never truly worry about the characters. It’s a sort of film you will watch at home on Friday night with an opened bottle of wine and someone you care about beside you.

Thursday, 20 March 2014


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Two actors in their fifties. One is a recluse, who shied away from theatre, movies and glory, considering that “LE METIER” does not worth to pursue for it's treacherous nature. The other one is a successful, compromising actor, who wants to break into theatre.

Celebrity actor Gauthier arrives to Ile De Re to ask his friend (and the actor he had been admiring it for years) Serge, to take part in his new interpretation of Moliere’s METHANTHROPE. Serge had been retired from his acting for years and reluctant (AKA SCARED) to take on the part. Hence two men begin rehearsing. The interruptions in the face of the beautiful Italian widow, a love interest to them both, and a glorious porn starlet, who reminds them of their true age, are welcome interruptions.  But can the differences between the two egocentric men be put aside for the sake of friendship?

CYCLIG WITH MOLIERE can be compared to this years festival favourite (not my personal favourite) THE VENUS IN FUR. It focuses on two characters reading a play. But while VENUS IN FUR is a duel of sexes, CYCLING WITH MOLIERE is a duel of egos. It is about friendship love and theatre. And all the responsibility that comes with it.

For a film that only focuses on two actors, and clocks off just after two hours, CYCLING WITH MOLIERE can be considered a great success. Never before time went by so quickly. The scenes of two well known actors of French cinema swapping roles from METHANTHROPE are the best and most memorable moments of the film. They also have a sense of pure friendship and happiness that comes with it, but also highlight that any happiness is fleeting and only true friendship can endure the truest of tests - the test fame and envy.

Gauthier and Serge represent two sides of actor profession. A successful macho and a doubting Thomas have to co-exist in order to survive. If they can’t they will come to a sticky end.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


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Carole and Jerome, young cousins pretending to be an engaged couple on a romantic trip, arrive to Odessa, beyond the so called Iron Curtain, but not to sight seeing. They bring presents and stories to the Jewish community, people who tried to immigrate to Israel and failed. They meet good and bad people, many of them relatively happy, but all of them desperate to change their lives. When Victor, a banned physician, asks the young couple for a favour, a sense of real danger emerges. It releases sleeping passions and desires, taking the story far beyond the mission in Odessa.

FRIENDS FROM FRANCE is an atmospheric timepiece. It is a love story that pretends to be a thriller, that pretends to be a love story. You’ll know what I mean. The feeling that the plot is lost in some parts of the film evaporates by the end, when you realise that it was incredibly focused from the opening credits.

For once here is a film about Russia done right. It is not a surprise that the film is shot in Odessa, not Moscow or St. Petersburg. A scary thought, but Odessa did not change that much since 1979.

It is interesting that for its exotic setting the main focus of the film are the cousins and their strange, almost incestuous, love affair. Carolle (Soko) is an idealist full of optimism, courageous and trusting, while Jerome is a careful one. He is suspicious and is scared of every shadow.

Soko is an impressive actor. It took me a long time to understand, but she had already made a great progress since her role in last years Augustine. In FRIENDS FROM FRANCE she is building her character brick by brick, revealing  something special in the end.

The filmmakers do not take anyone’s side, showing some who is eager to escape Soviet reality as greedy and ready to do anything to get out. It also seems that most of the people who try to escape are simply looking for a better life and not freedom.

While Carolle and Jerome are absolutely free to pursue their passion, they make some strange choices as the story progresses, as if highlighting that they may not be as free as they think. Without giving any credit to the totalitarian regime, the film makes a suggestion that the real freedom is in our heads, and not some place far away.

Monday, 17 March 2014


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Violette Leduc is unhappy. She wants to be a great writer, but more than this she craves a human connection. The salvation comes in the face of Simone de Beauvoir, a beautiful and talented writer who takes Violette under her wing. But Violette is not looking for charity. Her insecurities and frustrations push her to the brink of disaster. Will she be able to save herself by focusing on what she does best - writing?

The biopic from Cesar winning director Martin Provost is uncompromising look at woman’s desires as a writer and as a human being. The story takes us into Paris of 1944 - robbed by war off its glamour, but not off its talent. It is inhabited by the famous figures of French literature such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau and Jean Genet. Violette, fresh from her strange friendship with French author Maurice Sachs, is plunged into the world of literature giants, where she is only a small fish that no one takes seriously (or so it seems to her). Eventually being praised by her colleagues and supported financially on her way to the top, she may just have to accept that true success for a writer - a financial independence - is an unreachable dream.

The film is split into chapters, the titles being the highlights on Violette’s journey, people and places she loved and abandoned and then returned to again. It’s not an easy film to watch. Although a sense of time and place is perfect and the performance from Emmanuelle Devos as Violet is impeccable, it is a dark and a heartbreaking ordeal.

In one of the moments of the film Simone De Beauvoir says: “You cannot be friends with Violette. I’m just fulfilling my responsibility towards her.” This is the core dilemma for Violette - she is trying to demand what she can only get for free - love and adoration. Instead she becomes a responsibility for everyone she meets on her way. Indeed, a road of an artist is a road walked alone.