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BFI London Film Festival

‘Bacurau’ Brutally Satirizes Brazilian Politics

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Following its Jury Prize win at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Bacurau has started to grow a decent following, and it’s easy to see why: a fever dream that’s often violent and imbued with the blackest comedy, it’s a wildly ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable satire on Brazilian politics.

The less known about the plot, the better; for those curious, the story revolves around a small village named Bacurau in Brazil that experiences strange goings-on following the death of their matriarch. This synopsis is the barest of bones for what turns out to be the main crux of the story; however, the film is in no hurry to get there, and instead focuses on exploring the eccentric cast of characters.

And what a bunch they are. The tight-knit community of Bacurau is the key to making the entire film work, and the cast has chemistry in spades, and if it were to be revealed that the village and its inhabitants were lifted from reality, this would be completely plausible — such is the way they interact with one another. Sônia Braga as the village doctor, Domingas, is striking — particularly in the way in which she in introduced — but the collective of characters is how the film really captivates.

As more of Bacurau unfolds and we take a brief detour from the village, the pace does slow slightly as the necessary unveilings begin to take place. However, moments away from the core group are smartly kept to a minimum. Secondary characters led by Michael (Udo Kier) are played far more overtly — close to scenery-chewing — but are restrained enough to not stick out like a sore thumb.

In fact, directors Kieber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles consistently manage to keep things in check throughout, as at moments Bacurau threatens to get out of hand, whether it be via a wandering narrative or Kier’s line delivery. And whilst surreal, the film treads a fine line without dipping into absurd.

The message is loud and clear, and its methods in reaching a conclusion are violently entertaining, but Bacurau’s most successful aspect is its tight narrative. The surreal, combined with its gorier aspects, makes it destined for cult status.

The BFI London Film Festival runs October 2-13. Visit the official website for more info.

Roni Cooper is a twenty-something from the UK who spends her time watching any and every film put in front of her. Her favourites include 'Singin' in the Rain', 'Rear Window', 'Alien' and 'The Thing', and she will watch absolutely anything in which Jessica Chastain stars. When not in front of a screen, be it small or silver, she can be found attempting to obtain her disinterested dog's attention.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rogerio Andrade

    October 16, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    A satire about Brazilian politics ? I must see that.
    Interesting… this movie has got pratically no advertsiment in its home country, despite good reviews. So far, it is kind of unknown

  2. Ricky Fernandes da Conceição

    October 17, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    The movie won a big prize at the Cannes Film Festival and has been making the rounds at various film festivals. Our staff are big fans. We actually have another review that you can find at the link below:

    https://goombastomp.com/bacurau-is-grim-bloody-and-politically-charged/

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BFI London Film Festival

All Hail ‘The King’: David Michôd’s Latest is a Rewarding Slow-Burn

BFI London Film Festival 2019

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In today’s world, Shakespeare isn’t an easy sell. Perhaps due to its links with school days, or the running time of the features which take inspiration from the plays, adaptations of arguably the world’s greatest writer are few and far between, with higher quality works coming around at an even less consistent pace. Luckily, then, that The King falls into this category.

Combining both parts of Henry IV and the later Henry V is a smart move by co-writers David Michôd and Joel Edgerton; The King is thoughtfully paced without awkward transitions from one play to the next. It may prove too glacially paced for some — Shakespeare was never known for his action-heavy plays, after all — but it’s a testament to the adaptation of the works that the potential dryness in this the tale of a medieval king never comes to fruition. The final moments may seem tacked on, despite its source material, but by combining the trilogy, Michôd and Edgerton make a dense story more palatable, and a seemingly straightforward story more interesting.

The King battlefield

The King will be much compared to Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Macbeth released in 2015, but apart from the fact that they are both Shakespeare plays filmed beautifully, that’s where the similarities end. Whilst Macbeth played with the surreal — a natural course as the story involves witches and premonitions — The King is rooted firmly in its realistic world. Had this not been based on the plays, it is simply another historical drama vying for our attention.

Timothée Chalamet is good as the titular king, but the part of Hal is arguably the least interesting in this iteration of Shakespeare’s ‘Henriad,’ so he has little to work with, remaining stoic and giving the occasional rousing speech; even Henry’s early hedonistic days are met with a dourness carried throughout the film. Chalamet, arguably one of the best young actors working today, is overshadowed by the supporting cast, particularly Joel Edgerton as Sir John Falstaff, friend and advisor to the king. Understated and naturalistic, Edgerton seems the most comfortable of the cast with the dialogue, understandable given the fact that he is co-writer, and has most likely lived with the play the longest.

The film is also beautiful to look at, mostly thanks to the wonderful cinematography by Adam Arkapaw. Imbued with the gray and blue hues present in many of Michod’s work — England has never looked colder with the sun (occasionally) beaming down on its fields — many beautiful shots are juxtaposed with the death so rife in Shakespeare’s works. A stitched tracking shot during a climactic battle sequence is quite literally muddy and unclear, but one of the most impressive sequences in the entire film, and worth witnessing on the big screen.

There is not much fun to be had with the ‘Henriad,’ so it’s no surprise that The King‘s lighter moments are rare. Edgerton occasionally brings a bit of humour to his role, but the comedic relief from the consistent war planning is unfortunately unintentional. Robert Pattinson is a fantastic actor, and his physical performance is not lacking, but, as The Dauphin, the Brit is burdened with the task of speaking in a French accent. Whilst not the most hideous fake accent ever to be heard, it is an incredibly distracting and odd note in the film.

Even with this slight mishap and a few short scenes that could probably be cut, The King is an adaptation worth watching. Methodically paced, its near three-hour runtime is for the patient and fans of extended conversations, but its subtlety and lack of urgency become the narrative, instead focusing on the mastery of the original art, with the added bonus of some great performances.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on October 3, 2019, as part of our coverage of the BFI London Film Festival.

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BFI London Film Festival

‘The Girl with a Bracelet’ is a Quiet Look at Courtroom Drama

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Accused of murdering her best friend, Lise (Melissa Guers) is arrested whilst spending time with her family at their beach house. Two years later, she is placed on trial; The Girl with a Bracelet follows the events at the courthouse, and the impact they have on her family.

An incredibly quiet movie, The Girl with a Bracelet avoids any last-minute dramatic revelations in court, family screaming matches, or tearful confessions. Somberly played by Guers, Lise herself is controlled and distant (we are later told that she has become withdrawn following the murder), and whilst the various members of her immediate family react differently to the ordeal, they are all plagued by the fatigue the last two years have brought them.

This makes for an interesting set-up to explore the effects the initial investigation and subsequent trial can have on a family — mother, father, daughter, son — and this avenue is pursued, but only to an extent. The father, Bruno (Roschdy Zem), is firm in his decision to attend the trial, whilst mother Céline (Chiara Mastrioanni) does not. Bruno is clearly not happy with her choice, whilst their daughter does not seem to be able to care less; yet, any discussion the parents might have had regarding the matter has already happened before we get to them.

In fact, many elements of the family drama seem to have already transpired between the time of the arrest and when we rejoin the characters two years later, so there is little to no dramatic tension in the household. Strangely, The Girl with a Bracelet seems to want to focus on the actual court proceedings themselves, taking a more factual and strategical approach. We know almost nothing of the case prior to the hearings, so facts unfold when the lawyers question those on the stand. This does make the film somewhat gripping, but with one minor flaw: whilst these characters know exactly what has transpired and what evidence they have been given, we do not, and some information could easily slip through the cracks if we’re not paying close enough attention.

But perhaps this is the point. Whether or not Lise is guilty is entirely up to the viewer, as one can weigh the evidence as the story plays out, almost like an interactive experience. This method is often (intentionally) frustrating; the prosecutor, played by Anaïs Demoustier has a job to do, and that can sometimes wander into comments far too personal for a court case. Meanwhile, Lise does little to help her situation in trying to establish her innocence, but this enhances the experience.

Without being showy or grandiose, The Girl with a Bracelet does well as a courtroom drama, despite there being little in the way of dramatics. It’s a purposefully ambiguous piece of work, but all the better for it — a chance for the audience to debate the outcome and present their arguments as they see fit.

The BFI London Film Festival runs October 2-13. Visit the official website for more info.

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BFI London Film Festival

‘Just Mercy’ is a Well-Made Though Entirely Standard Courtroom Drama

BFI London Film Festival

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Just Mercy is a typical example of the kind of movie awards season loves: based on the book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by lawyer Bryan Stevenson, which is based on a true story, the film maintains a theme of hope and plays as broadly to an audience as last year’s Best Picture winner, Green Book.

Just Mercy begins as the aforementioned Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) has just graduated law school and moved to Alabama to start the Equal Justice Initiative with Eva Ansley (Brie Larson). Hoping to provide legal support to those who cannot otherwise afford it, he meets Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx), a man who has been wrongfully convicted of the murder of a white woman.

Just Mercy movie

Although standard courtroom drama it may be, where Just Mercy prevails is in its compassion; it makes not only an argument against racism (the story is set from 1989 onwards, yet is still painfully relevant today), but also the death penalty, and in this regard proudly wears its heart on its sleeve. This is to the film’s credit, particularly in the case of the character of Herbert Richardson (Rob Morgan), who is neither exploited nor shied away from.

Just Mercy does utilize an incredibly straightforward narrative, however, and its broad strokes are occasionally frustrating. The antagonists are one step away from mustache-twirling, particularly Sheriff David Walker (Kirk Bovill), whose main purpose is to stare daggers into Stevenson as he strives to prove the innocence of his client. The negligence and corruption of the justice system is evident from the get go, but here is signposted with neon lights.

Despite this, Just Mercy couldn’t have gone wrong with its incredibly charismatic cast. Jordan, (always a welcome presence) is excellent, wisely knowing when to pull back; he refuses to make the movie all about his performance. He also has good chemistry with Larson, who seems to be on the same wavelength. This is only partly Ansley’s story, and Larson takes a back seat whilst maintaining the strength of the character; she is memorable as the woman who works with Stevenson, as opposed to for him — an important distinction made without shining a spotlight on it.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, The Glass Castle) is in no doubt talented and directs solidly, but there is nothing remarkable about his execution. Whilst never dull, the film reaches from A to B efficiently, but does little to make it stand out from the crowd. It may not become an instant classic, and is far from the most exciting film released this year, but what Just Mercy lacks in flair, it makes up for in likable performances and deeply felt convictions.

The BFI London Film Festival runs October 2-13. Visit the official website for more info.

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