Sequin in a Blue Room, is a striking character study, doubling up as a micro examination of a generation far more comfortable making anonymous connections over hook-up apps than discovering anything meaningful in real life.
Emilia is a fun-loving, free-spirited experimental actress, with the ideal non-committal lifestyle to go with her non-committal personality; she gets invited to cool parties with drama students, has drunken sex with her sort-of girlfriend Mariana, and has a laugh with a trusted group of pals in her spare time. The only problem? Emilia is 35, and while everyone else has grown up and found stability, she’s been stuck in the same rut for the past two decades. Second Star on the Right, explores Emilia’s reluctance to let go of her arguably childish ways, and gently mulls over the true meaning of maturity.
It’s scathing and satirical as it sinks its teeth into predatory men and far right conspiracy theorists, providing the broadest dark laughs while offering something far more groundbreaking for the vampire genre below such surface pleasures. It’s a humble film that has no intention above making horror fans howl in delight – but on closer inspection, it’s clear that it deserves far more credit than a film in this style is likely to receive.
There is a moment in Chanya Button’s long-awaited Vita & Virginia where all the adornments of the period drama fall away to peer within the timeless image of sexual discovery – as one Virginia Woolf, admits to her almost-lover Vita Sackville-West that she “cannot” give her what she longs for. Her body tense, her tone one of desperate confession, this insight into one of the greatest minds of the 20th century feels almost sacred.
A Dog Barking at the Moon was this year’s winner of Berlin’s Teddy award, and will be continuing its festival run at this year’s Outfest. The sheer bravery that led to this singular art film getting made, even lying to the Chinese censorship board about the subject matter in order to secure necessary funding, shows how passionate Xiang Zi was about sharing her story, warts and all.
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.