Tag Archives: Sonia Braga

60th London Film Festival – 12

The last day, no more dashing to the bus to get to the cinema, no more scrappy meals grabbed between films, more sleep and less stimulation – until October next year.

This has been a great festival, most of the screenings have been well attended, certainly the ones I have been at all through the week. Fewer people at the golden oldies, but that is understandable, I suppose.

Three films today, or four if you count the extra silent movie at the beginning of the day.

16-10-1-a-woman-of-the-world

The short film was a comedy turn envisaging a world where the dominant sex was female, and the “blushing groom” was the one to be given away…it had all the expected gags and was very amusing. The main film though, A Woman of the World, joins several other films that I have seen this year with a feminist agenda – even in 1925.

Like animé, silent films are not for everybody. Compared to a modern film, the quality even when re-mastered is moderate, and the acting is overtly over-the-top. It is very much a case of “the eyes have it”. Expressions have to be exaggerated, and therefore look to us rather ludicrous. But setting that aside, there is often a great story as with this one, and Pola Negri is delightful as the countess…

On to more serious stuff then. My second film was the new film from Ashgar Farhadi.16-10-2-the-salesmanRight at the start of the film, everyone is having to evacuate their building because it is collapsing. It is chaotic and alarming, and one sees that diggers are excavating a huge hole right beside the building and cracks are appearing in walls and windows.

Two of the evacuees are actors in an amateur theatre company that is putting on Death of a Salesman.  Rana, played by Taraneh Alidoosti and Emad played by Shahab Hosseini, are homeless and are preparing to sleep on the set, but the manager Babak offers them an empty apartment that he owns. What he fails to mention though, is the nature of the previous tenant…

Any one who has seen previous films by this accomplished director will recognise immediately the tonal quality of the colours and the messages. Very conscious of social structures, obligations and rituals, this film has struck at the very heart of family life, trust and honour being paramount in Middle Eastern society.

This is a shocking story but a brilliant exhibition of some of the best actors from Iran, Shahab won best actor at Cannes, but his partner in the film Taraneh Alidoosti was also wonderful, expressing more in a single look than a thousand words. Everything about this film was vivid and remarkable.

As you might expect, this has already got UK distribution.

Finally an offering from Brazil, the new film by Kleber Mendonça Filho.

16-10-3-aquarius

A beautiful, active and vibrant grandmother of 65 lives in an old apartment block overlooking one of the most popular beaches in Recife. We see one apartment full of people celebrating the 70th birthday of another resident, Tia (Aunt) Lucia. Then later, in a lower floor apartment, the one belonging to our principal player, Clara played by Sonia Braga, we see some of Lucia’s furniture, so we can assume she has moved out.

It then becomes apparent that all the flats are empty except the one in which Clara lives, and the developers who have bought all the other apartments in the block are hoping to pull it down to make room for a larger block. Clearly also, they have approached Clara before but she refuses to entertain their offers.

Slowly the menaces build up: noisy parties are held in the flat above, ordure is left on the staircase; a mass gathering of a religious group suddenly arrives. The family starts to worry…

Although his previous film was shown at the London Film Festival, it was very specifically Brazilian, which is not to say it was not a good film. Aquarius though has a much more universal message, in every city all over the world there is a similar situation, tenants are being moved on, moved out and bigger, more profitable buildings are replacing older housing stock. The threats and menaces of unscrupulous developers may be different, but the effect is the same – the weak go to the wall.

Added into the impressive story there is a shockingly sudden racial incident, the exact nature of which might not have struck a less well-attuned audience.

Mendonça Filho is like Mike Leigh and Ken Loach in that he does a lot of work with people who are not necessarily actors, mixed with professionals like Sonia Braga, this can have a distinct downside. Still this is an expressive and dominating piece, and since Clara’s life is the main point of the film, this was not particularly an issue for me.

A great film, definitely worth looking out for.

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