These screen stories at this year’s Adelaide Film Festival will take you through the variations of love – familial, sexual, forbidden, impossible or just tender. The love at the end of life or just a perfect puzzle completed, explore this incredible suite of love stories from all over the world.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s highly anticipated follow-up to the Oscar-winning Ida is a beautifully precise tale of love torn asunder in the postwar division of Europe. Viktor and Zula are working in a Stalinist folk music troupe and quickly recognise in each other a great passion. When they decide to defect, a momentary failure of nerve by one fatally divides them and sparks their own personal cold war. Their love endures back and forth across the Iron Curtain and into the jazz bars of Paris as they search for a way of putting their lives and their music back together. Pawlikowski was awarded the Best Director prize at Cannes for this monochrome masterpiece.
Shy suburban mother Agnes (Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire, Trainspotting) discovers she has a talent for solving jigsaw puzzles. Suddenly her life is transformed as she becomes a competitor on the professional jigsaw circuit. To do jigsaws you have to see the big picture as well as the fine detail. Can Agnes also find the missing pieces in her life in the form of ebullient fellow competitor Robert (Irffan Khan, The Life of Pi, The Lunchbox). Macdonald and Khan click wonderfully well in a heartfelt drama about realising your potential and finding the strength to express yourself.
This effervescent romance was banned in its own country as it was being celebrated in Cannes. But then, Kenya is no stranger to homophobia, with same-sex relationships punishable by lengthy jail terms. All the more reason to value the courage of a film like Rafiki, a tale of teenage first love made by Wanuri Kahiui, one of Africa’s brightest female filmmakers. Kena and Ziki long for something more than their conservative society offers young women. Tomboyish skateboarder Kena and non-conformist Ziki, with her flamboyant coloured braids, belong to families on opposite sides of Nairobi’s political divide. When love blossoms they must choose between happiness and safety.
We do well to remember that there is nothing new about being a refugee. Highly regarded German filmmaker Christian Petzold (Barbara, The State I’m In) has adapted a 1942 novel by Anna Seghers, which takes place during the German invasion of France. Petzold boldly sets the action here in a strangely ahistorical present-day Marseilles. Georg is a dissident on the run from occupying forces in Paris. En route to Marseilles he steals a dead author’s manuscript and transit visa. He meets a mysterious woman and their love exists in the shadowy half-life of the refugee, where they exist as phantoms. Transit seizes on the uncanny parallels between historical fact and present-day Marseille to tell a love story set amid escape, exile and a longing for a place one can call home.
The impressive second feature by young Brazilian co-directors Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon (Seashore) is a powerful examination of alienation and loneliness in the social media age. In daylight hours Pedro (Shico Menegat, outstanding) is shy and withdrawn young man in Porto Alegre, an economically depressed city full of For Sale signs. When his loving sister Luiza departs for a job in a far away town, Pedro is left alone in a shabby apartment. At night things are different. Pedro comes alive as Neon Boy, an erotic dancer who smears his body in fluorescent paint and performs for viewers in an internet chat room. But Neon Boy now has a rival. Boy25 (Bruno Fernandes) has arrived on the Porto Alegre chat room scene with a very similar act. Pedro’s decision to meet his challenger in person is the trigger for riveting and unpredictable events. Carefully steering clear of both bleak fatalism and false optimism, Matzembacher and Reolon weave a hypnotic coming-of-age tale that culminates in a moment of pure cinematic perfection.
Lean on Pete
Acclaimed British filmmaker Andrew Haigh (45 Years, HBO series Looking) casts a melancholy and deeply moving eye on the American underclass in this gorgeously photographed drama. Charlie Plummer (All the Money in the World) is superb as Charley, a bright 15-year-old from a poor and broken home in Portland, Oregon. He finds work with Del (Steve Buscemi, in top form), a cranky old racehorse trainer. Del’s crew includes Bonnie (Chloë Sevigny), a veteran jockey who’s seen it all and warns Charlie not to get too attached to the horses. ‘They lose too much, they get fired,’ she says. Her ominous message can’t prevent Charley from forming a powerful bond with Lean on Pete, a nag whose racing days are numbered. So begins a coming-of-age tale that’s anything but a simple “boy and his horse” movie. This is a rich, complex and immensely rewarding study of youthful yearnings, broken dreams and finding one’s place in the world.
The Old Man & the Gun
Robert Redford has announced The Old Man & the Gun will be his final acting role. The movie legend who first stepped in front of the camera in a 1960 episode of TV series Maverick brings his glorious career to a close in the true story of an American crime legend. Forrest Tucker was a career crook who busted out of prison no less than 18 times (and 12 times unsuccessfuly, according to the man himself). As we meet Tucker in the 1970s he’s well past retirement age and doin’ time in San Quentin. That’s before he nicks off yet again and embarks on a well-mannered crime spree with cohorts known as the Over-the-Hill Gang. On his trail is John Hunt (Casey Affleck), a dogged detective who can’t help but be captivated by Tucker’s dedication to his chosen profession. A terrific cast includes Sissy Spacek as Jewel, a fine woman whom Tucker can’t help falling for. Tucker’s amazing exploits and the twinkle in Robert’s eye make this an irresistible portrait of a man who simply loved robbing banks. Thank you, Mr. Redford.
Conflicting emotions and family ties lie at the heart of an exquisite drama by Hirokazu Kore-eda (Nobody Knows). Osamu is the head of an impoverished family of thieves and frausters. Three generations are cramped into a dilapidated house stuck between anonymous apartment blocks. His wife, Naboyo, works in a laundry and steals whatever she can from clothes’ pockets. Young son Shota accompanies dad on shoplifting expeditions. Teenage daughter Aki works behind a mirror in a sleazy peep-show joint. Grandma is addicted to pachinko gambling machies. Then there’s Yuri. She’s a neglected and frightened 4-year-old girl rescued from the street and informally adopted by the family. Everyone’s happy, especially Yuri, but she’s still a missing person and someone else’s daughter. When authorities eventually come calling Yuri’s given a disguise and a new name, but this is far from the end of the matter. Kore-eda’s masterful film highlights sharp social and economic divisions in contemporary Japan while asking the question of what makes a family.Back