It may be surprising to see a Russian film nominated for the Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, especially considering the country’s deeply conservative laws that effectively stop the financing of any films with LGBT themes. But director Kantemir Balagov, in just his second feature, has made something far more ambiguous, and dripping in queer subtext; a haunting tale of repressed emotion in the aftermath of the Second World War, where the conflicting desires of two women leads to a miserable, quasi-abusive relationship masquerading as a friendship.
Maxime is two weeks away from leaving his life in Canada behind to take a two year world trip, starting on the opposite side of the globe in Melbourne. He plans on spending the last couple of weeks seeing friends, and on one weekend getaway, volunteers to star in a student short film – his friend Matthias losing a bet and having to take the opposite role. The scene requires the pair to kiss, something which Maxime doesn’t think twice about, but causes Matthias to unpack a lot of suppressed emotions.
Celine Sciamma’s films are uniquely attuned to examining the female body, without a whiff of exploitation or a sexually charged agenda to be seen. After tackling films dealing with puberty and gender dysphoria, she’s taken a seemingly unusual step for her fourth feature, 18th century period drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire. No longer is she dealing with the struggles of young people as they deal with their changing bodies, but she is taking the logical next step, crafting a romance all around the very idea of capturing the essence of the female body in a work of art.
The film to which Pain and Glory has been most extensively compared is Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, the Italian director’s genre-bending, meta textual examination of a filmmaker crafting his most ambitious project to date. Both films are excellent, but the comparisons prove to be something of a dead end; Fellini was more preoccupied with the process of filmmaking itself, while Almodovar is interested in exploring the human factors that would inspire somebody to tell a story in the first place.
As far as first dates go, you’d struggle to think of any that are worse than this. Josef arrives at the lavish apartment where John lives. The pair had met before and agreed to a date, but Josef was too wasted to remember the specifics – a detail that becomes insignificant due to the mounting awkwardness that envelops their evening.
Marilyn is based on a true story, but tries its hardest not to transform into reductive misery porn, or emotional exploitation. It offers an intimate look at the life of a queer teenager figuring out their identity in a small town, acknowledging the (often violent) hostility they would face, while still acknowledging the expected identity crisis that is teenage life beyond these harrowing moments.
We all are aware of the phrase “Patient Zero”, but the man who would be identified under this damning codename has become increasingly forgotten over time. Named in journalist Randy Shilts’ influential non fiction tome And the Band Played On, which finally brought the AIDS conversation into the mainstream several years after its first reported outbreak, a French-Canadian flight attendant named Gaetan Dugas was widely believed to be the first person who brought the disease to the USA and around the world.
The Ground Beneath My Feet is a slow burning delight, that manages to effectively balance its arthouse style with its genre inclinations. As an exploration of the emotional toll on women in the male dominated world of business, it would definitely make for a delightfully oddball double bill with Toni Erdmann.
Pitched somewhere between a behind the scenes look at downtrodden cabaret acts previously seen in a film like The Full Monty, and a high camp tale of an ageing drag queen reminiscent of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Tucked feels very distinctively like a throwback to the most successful of those efforts.
Most directors feel the need to overcompensate their material with cinematic flourishes, but Fitzgerald’s stripped down and intimate approach to the drama is far more rewarding. Splinters is a simple, quietly affecting family drama told in a humble manner; an authentic portrayal of an estranged family, where both the funny and moving moments come from the everyday. There’s no out of the ordinary dramatic twists here – and the film is all the better for it.
Mati is a tomboy nearing her final high school exams, who devotes most of her free team on her motorbike, hanging with an irritating group of boys. One day, when helping out her mum at the vets, she meets Carla, a local shop assistant who she is instantly attracted to. As her attraction to Carla grows, the rifts within her friendship group become more palpable, especially between her and Sebi the son of a local farmer who clearly has feelings for Mati.