- David Parkinson
Parky At the Pictures (18/3/2022)
(Reviews of Three Floors; Hive; The Chaperone; Followers; The Metamorphosis of Birds; and Rebellion)
Lord alone knows what it's like out there for you folks who can move about at your own volition. From the vantage point of someone who has spent much of the last two decades as an enforced homebody, it can only be presumed that cinema-going is pretty much a normal activity again.
Nevertheless, the UK's various streaming platforms are still doing sterling work. In addition to subscription sites like Curzon Home Cinema. MUBI, Netflix and the BFI Player, the likes of iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Microsoft, Vimeo, Google Play, Rakuten, BT and Playstation are all ready to keep you entertained. Whatever choice you make, think of others to make sure everyone stays safe.
Nanni Moretti has been one of Italy's finest film-makers for almost 40 years. It's safe to say that Three Floors isn't one of his finest achievements. But this study of men behaving badly has been given something of a critical mauling for being tone deaf in the age of #MeToo. Yet, in showing how blithely Italian males raised in a patriarchal tradition often act, Moretti seems to be agreeing (albeit in a rather awkward way) with the right-thinking consensus that time is indeed up for boorish chauvinism.
In 2010, as the heavily pregnant Monica (Alba Rohrwacher) awaits a taxi outside her apartment building in a quiet suburb of Rome, neighbour Andrea (Alessandro Sperduti) drunkenly kills a female pedestrian before ploughing his car into the ground-floor office belonging to Lucio (Riccardo Scamaracio). Mother Dora Simoncini (Margherita Buy) tries to console Andrea, but father and fellow judge Vittorio Bardi (Nanni Moretti) lets him know in no uncertain terms that he is going to jail for his reckless arrogance.
As husband Giorgio (Adriano Giannini) is working away on a construction site, Monica gives birth alone and feels insecure bringing baby Beatrice back to her apartment. She confides in a doctor that she fears she is inheriting the psychological instability that afflicts her mother (Daria Deflorian). But he reassures her that her form of dementia isn't hereditary.
Elderly neighbour, Renato Lanciani (Paolo Graziosi) is also becoming forgetful. But Lucio and wife Sara (Elena Lietti) frequently ask him and spouse Giovanna (Anna Bonaiuto) to babysit their seven year-old daughter, Francesca (Chiara Abalsamo). Lucio is bothered by the fact that Renato insists on a kiss on the cheek whenever Francesca comes to stay and he is even more discomfited by the sight of the pair playing horsey. Sara assures him that Renato is a lovely old man, but Lucio insists that they find alternative child care.
While awaiting trial, Andrea pleads with his parents to use their influence to secure a lighter sentence. Vittorio is disgusted by his cowardice, while Dora is hurt by her son's accusation that they have ruined his life by setting such high expectations. Meanwhile, Dora has helped Monica bath her baby and has tried to reassure her that she will be an excellent mother.
When Giorgio returns to meet his daughter, he causes a scene when he discovers that Monica has accepted a gift from his estranged estate agent brother, Roberto (Stefano Dionisi). She is embarrassed when Giorgio dumps the carry chair on Roberto's doorstep and causes a scene in the street. But she is troubled by the fact that she can't remember why the siblings fell out.
Despite Lucio's misgivings, he is forced to leave Francesca with Renato, even though Giovanna is out. He is appalled to discover, therefore, that the pair are missing from the apartment and it's only after darkness falls and the police are called that he surmises that Francesca might have gone to her favourite place in the park. Barely able to contain his fury when he finds Renato lying with his head on Francesca's lap, Lucio hugs his child, who explains that they had gone for ice cream and that Renato had wet himself after he had forgotten the way home.
Sara doesn't believe that Renato would have harmed Francesca, but Lucio insists on the police becoming involved. Even when the girl sticks to her story, her father convinces himself that she has been frightened into keeping quiet and has her examined by a psychiatrist after noticing that she is so remote from her classmates at school. When Renato is taken to hospital, a frantic Lucio throttles him in a bid to make him confess and only Sara's intervention prevents Giovanna from bringing charges.
In the midst of this furore, Renato's teenage granddaughter, Charlotte (Denise Tantucci) pays a visit from Paris. She hasn't heard about the incident with Francesca and cheerfully flirts with Lucio in his office. He tries to keep her at arm's length, but succumbs to her advances and immediately regrets his actions. When Renato dies, Giovanna approaches Lucio outside the building and vows to prosecute him for rape because Charlotte is underage.
Five years pass and Lucio is living apart from Sara and Francesca (Giulia Coppari) while awaiting trial. By contrast, Andrea has just been released from prison, although Dora is having to tread on eggshells because Vittorio wants nothing more to do with him. Monica is also feeling fragile, as Giorgio keeps working away. Beset by visions of a black bird perched on the back of a chair, she frets that she is an unworthy mother to Beatrice (Alice Adamu).
Andrea informs Dora that he is going to make a complete break from his parents. However, when he gets into a drunken brawl and the cops call Vittorio, he gives his wife an ultimatum that she must choose between him and her son. She opts to stay with her husband, but is hurt when he erases an answerphone message that Andrea had made as a boy.
New breaks that Roberto has been swindling his clients and Giorgio delights in telling Monica that he always knew he was a bad egg. But Roberto breaks into the apartment and asks Monica if he can lay low until he makes plans to get out of Italy. She reluctantly agrees, but notices how much more attentive Roberto is towards Beatrice than her father. Increasingly finding it difficult to separate fact from fantasy, Monica starts to find her brother-in-law attractive and imagines him sharing her bed. She is slightly disappointed, therefore, when he flees before Giorgio returns home and admonishes her for giving sanctuary to a crook.
In court, Lucio is accused of statutory rape and is asked why he didn't stop when he realised that Charlotte was a virgin. He opts to victim shame in claiming that the encounter was consensual. Sara attends the hearing, as does Giovanna, who is dismayed when the verdict goes against her and Lucio walks free.
Another five years elapse and Lucio is as protective as ever towards Francesca (Gea Dall'Orto). He bumps into Charlotte when she comes to collect the furniture from her grandparents' apartment and she confides that she had always had a crush on him and felt awful about Giovanna using the case to exact her revenge for his treatment of Renato. It's not entirely clear that Lucio has learnt his lesson from the episode, however, even though Francesca reassures him that nothing untoward had happened that night in the park.
Forced to work closer to home to care for Beatrice (Letizia Arno), Giorgio awaits news of Monica. She calls from a railway station and informs him that she is with her mother. But she hangs up before he can find out where she is.
Now a widow, Dora starts sorting through Vittorio's clothes. At a clothing bank for migrants that comes under attack from right-wing thugs, she meets Luigi (Tommaso Ragno), who asks her to trust him and accompany him on a road trip. He reveals that Andrea has just had a child with his daughter and is now keeping bees in a remote house in the country. Dora is moved to meet her grandson, but is wounded when Andrea asks her to leave and never return.
Back in Rome, Dora goes to see the widower of the woman her son had killed. She asks if he will see Andrea so that he can express his remorse. But the man reveals that he has been sending him honey for several months and this prompts Dora to make a return visit to the countryside, where she is greeted by Andrea with a shrugging smile. Back in Rome,
Given that there is so much plot to shoehorn into this adaptation of Eshkol Nevo's Israeli novel, Three Floors Up, Moretti and co-scribes Federica Pontremoli and Valia Santella have to be commended for only needing two hours to cover ten years. There are kinks, particularly with regard to the convolutions involving Lucio, whose assault of Charlotte is distastefully clumsy in the extreme, whether he was overcome by lust while under duress or calculatingly avenging himself upon Renato. The ease with which he escapes the rape charge is equally insulting. But this doesn't mean that characters like Lucio don't exist and that his life can continue much as before in spite of his actions.
The Monica storyline also has its puzzling aspects. Her doctor dismisses her concerns far too readily, while it seems unfeasible that she would be able to disappear without trace when she had left the apartment on a whim without her bag or purse. The feud between Giorgio and Roberto also strains credibility, as it was caused by the former catching his brother ogling Monica (a fact she has forgotten) early in their courtship. Roberto's fall from grace is also contrived, with Monica being unable to equate the distress of a victim who stands to lose his home with the rapport Beatrice establishes with her uncle.
Despite these defects, the film does manage to explore various aspects of the macho mindset and largely sides with the female characters in having to put up with behaviour that ranges from the tactless to the toxic. Of course, it's not enough merely to tick off Italian males for perpetuating ingrained attitudes. But the criticism that Moretti has received for failing to heed the recent shifts in sexual politics seems harsh, when he makes no effort to condone the actions of any of the building's male occupants.
The impression isn't helped by the fact that neither Riccardo Scamarcio, Alessandro Sperduti nor Moretti himself give particularly persuasive performances. Even the ever-compelling Alba Rohrwacher struggles with the sketchily drawn Monica. But Margherita Buy conveys the anguish of a woman trying to keep up appearances while being torn in diametric directions. Her reunion with her son (in a pandemic-free 2020) feels somewhat corny, as Dora works through her emotions by leaving messages on the machine that her husband had used to hurt her. But she does emerge from his shadow and take control of her own destiny.
Thoughtfully designed by Paola Bizzari and unobtrusively photographed by Michele D'Attanasio, the action is steadily edited by Clelio Benevento and counterpointed by the clarinet and accordion passages in Franco Persanti's affecting score. Despite closing quirkily on dancers of all ages tangoing their way along the street, Moretti's direction is more functional than it was in Mia Madre (2015), less trenchant than in The Caiman (2006) and less insightful than in The Son's Room (2001). But the lesson to take from this is surely that he is better suited to working with original rather than adapted material and not that he is both morally dubious and unreconstructedly out of step with his times.
It's remarkable how many debuts reach UK cinemas and how rarely we get to see sophomore and follow-up features. Let's hope that Hive is not the last we hear from Blerta Basholli, as her fact-based critique of patriarchal tyranny in Kosovo leaves a deep impression.
Although the war ended seven years ago in 1999, Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) still doesn't know what happened to her husband. When new remains are recovered, she clambers into the back of a van to unzip the body bags before she is asked to leave. She lives with her disabled father-in-law, Haxhi (Çun Lajçi), and her children, Zana (Kaona Sylejmani) and Edon (Mal Noah Safqiu), who sleep on the floor in the same room. They survive on the money they make at the village market from the honey produced by their own bees.
Fahrije also helps Zamira (Aurita Agushi ) run a collective for the wives of missing men and they despair when no one takes advantage of some free driving lessons, as they are too cowed by the menfolk in their families to do stand up for themselves. Despite Xaxhi's protests, Fahrije gets her licence and joins Nazmije (Kumrije Hoxha) in striking a deal with a local supermarket to supply jars of a roasted red pepper relish called ajvar.
On returning home, someone sitting outside a café throws a stone through the rear passenger window and Fahrije is accused of being a whore. Everyone turns round, but no one comes to her assistance and the fretful Xaxhi reminds her that everything she does reflects upon the family. Undaunted, she sells her husband's buzz saw and reports spotting him in an old piece footage shown on the TV news.
Xaxha forbids the sale of the saw and Zana is also dismayed that her mother is giving up hope of her father ever returning. When Zana tells Fahrije that their neighbours think she's a disgrace, she gets slapped. But she agrees to help when Nazmije, Lume (Adriana Matoshi) and Emine (Molikë Maxhuni) come to the house to make ajvar. Nazmije shocks them by talking about her marriage and she encourages her friends to think about finding new partners while they're still young.
Fahrije is frustrated when Xaxha refuses to give a DNA sample to help officials trace his son's body. However, she is too busy cooking and creating a label for the jars, which are stacked high on a supermarket shelf. When someone breaks into the storeroom and smashes their stock, Fahrije hurls a brick through the café window. She also lashes out when Bahri (Astrit Kabashi) the shopkeeper tries to force himself on her. Her pain is somewhat assuaged, however, when Xaxha and Zana repair the frame containing her husband's photo, which Zana had accidentally broken during a row.
Troubled by nightmares of swimming underwater with husband Agim (Armend Smajli), Fahrije is relieved when Xaxha agrees to the DNA test. She even treats herself to a dance with her co-workers when they produce the first batch of ajvar in labelled jars. But, when she is called to identify Agim's watch and jacket when a DNA match is made, she insists they have made a mistake and returns to the hives that her husband had tended so diligently.
Closing captions reveal that in March 1999, more than 240 people were killed or went missing from the village of Krushe e Madhe. Sixty-four persons are still unaccounted for among the 1800 who were seemingly thrown into the river or buried in the woods. Two decades later, however, some continue to live in hope of being reunited with their loved ones.
We also learn that Fahrije Hoti now employs some 50 widows and her KB Krusha products are available in several European countries. Her children work with her and will eventually inherit the company. Yet, what the closing screeds don't tell us, is whether the everyday situation has improved for Kosovan women. Given other recent features and documentaries set in this part of the continent, one suspects not and it's unlikely that even a considered study like this will do much to improve matters.
Having made a solid start with the shorts Mirror, Mirror... (2006), Gjakova 726 (2009) and Lena and I (2011), Basholli concentrates more on faces than places and, consequently, captures the bond between the women rather than the atmosphere of the village or how the male population fits into the scheme of things with regards to age and occupation. We also get little insight into how older women view the plight of the `widows' and whether they expect them to conform to a tradition that has been fatally undermined by the war and its legacy.
Nevertheless, Yllka Gashi gives a laudably restrained performance as the dogged and sternly dignified Fahrije, who has to cope with her own sense of loss, as well as the ingrained patriarchal prejudice that even effects her children. Forever hiding her emotions, she allows herself a smile when her son becomes bashful around bathtime and a tear when he daughter starts menstruating. But she only succumbs to despair once, in the shower, as she wonders why even the bees sting her when they never once marked her spouse.
Çun Lajçi also impresses as the wheelchair-bound father-in-law grieving for his gentle son, while also being begrudgingly aware of how dependent he is on the highly capable Fahrije. Kumrije Hoxha also proves effective as the older Nazmije, who not only supports Fahrije in her scheme, but also tries to coax the other women into contemplating the prospect of remarrying and leaving the past to take care of itself.
Although he notes the narrow streets that mean everyone knows each other's business, cinematographer Alex Bloom keeps the handheld camera close to the characters so we get little sense of their environs, even the spot by the river where the massacre happened. But Julien Painot's score is more nuanced, as it reflects both Fahrije's emotional state and the gradual shifts in her fortunes, which she insists would have been applauded by a husband who had the wisdom to accept the necessity of changes that were thwarted by the loss of his generation.
A novel by Laura Moriarty provides Julian Fellowes with his latest big-screen venture, which sees him reunite with one of his Downton Abbey stalwarts for a fanciful account of the moment a small-town girl realised she could become a silent screen siren. Giving longtime TV director Michael Engler the chance to make his feature debut, The Chaperone looks good enough in a small-screen kind of way. But it scarcely does justice to its scintillating subject.
In 1922, Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson) is offered a place at the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts. Her social-climbing pianist mother, Myra (Victoria Hill), is anxious for her to go, but she needs a chaperone to travel from Wichita, Kansas to New York City. At a farewell dance recital, Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern) overhears their conversation and volunteers for the position, much to the dismay of her husband, Alan (Campbell Scott), who fears that she will use the opportunity to discover the identity of her birth parents, after she had been raised in an orphanage before being adopted by a Kansas farming couple.
Louise is initially delighted to have Norma as her companion. But she is frustrated when Norma disapproves of her dining with a businessman and his nephew on the Chicago leg of their train journey. Vexed by her lecture on men preferring unwrapped sweets, Louise asks Norma if she is happy with her husband, as she detected a distance between them when he saw her off at the station. However, Norma (who is the mother of two strapping boys) claims to have been lucky in both her parents and her spouse.
While Louise takes classes with Ruth St Denis (Miranda Otto) and Ted Shawn (Robert Fairchild), Norma gets directions to her old orphanage from soda jerk Floyd (Andrew Burnap).When she is denied access to her records, she befriends handyman Joseph (Géza Röhrig), who allows her to sneak into the office while the nuns are attending mass.
After attending a Broadway show, Norma and Louise (who is now sporting her trademark bob) talk about breaking free from constraint. Norma is embarrassed by her shock when a Black couple sat beside them and admits that she has always been unworldly, as she had married Alan when she was 16. What she doesn't reveal, however, is that she had caught her husband with his gay lover, and had agreed to keep up the pretence for the sake of the boys.
Norma had retained a memory of her mother singing a lullaby in a foreign accent and she waits for a reply to a letter she had sent to a woman whose name she had found in her file. She meets Mary O'Dell (Blythe Danner) in Central Park and knows instantly that she is her mother. However, she is deeply hurt by the fact that she had told no one about her and has no intention of allowing Norma to meet her half-siblings.
Her spirits are raised when Louise is chosen to perform with the troupe in Philadelphia and she attends the dress rehearsal. Ruth confides that they are considering offering Louise a permanent place and moving her into the company boarding house. However, she is concerned that Ted has taken too much of a shine to the teenager and isn't convinced when Norman reassures her that Louise knows her moral boundaries.
She discovers the truth, however, after she has to wake Joseph in the middle of the night to get Louise out of The Velvet Cat nightclub and then learns that she had been deflowered by a dance teacher who had also photographed her. When Norma insists they report him to Myra and the police, Louise declares that she will never be a victim,
Norma takes this onboard, when she spends the night with Joseph and offers to help him settle in Wichita when he is fired when the nuns see them leaving the orphanage at first light. Louise goes along with the convoluted story that Norma spins because she is going to move into the Denishawn lodgings at the end of the week. Moreover, she is pleased to see that Norma (who still insists on wearing corsets) is finally less uptight.
Twenty years after the women wish each other well in New York, Louise returns to Wichita in 1942. Joseph and his daughter, Greta (Ellen Toland), are part of the family and Alan is just happy that he wasn't shamed in front of the whole community. Myra is bitter because her daughter's moment in the spotlight proved so short. However, Norma refuses to allow her to wallow and gives her $100 and orders her to return to New York and live on her own terms. She reminds her that she helped free a generation of women around the world and a closing caption reveals that Louise survived several years of struggle to become a bestselling author with Lulu in Hollywood (1982).
You know what to expect from Julian Fellowes and he delivers some more undemanding, middlebrow period melodrama in this carefully made, if entirely predictable picture. Elizabeth McGovern is her usual charming self as Norma, the caged bird preparing to spread her wings, while Haley Lu Richardson (who dances splendidly) provides oodles of vivacity as the 16 year-old who may as well be Louise Brooks as any other hopeful leaving the Midwest for the Big Apple. Each is exquisitely dressed by Candice Donnelly, while production designer Andrew Jackness does well to convey the sedate side of New York before it pitched into the Jazz Age. But their storylines diverge too frequently to suggest that Norma and Louise forge any sort of enduring bond.
The supporting cast is solid, with Géza Röhrig keeping the right side of the Capracorn line in playing the everyman with a pure soul and Campbell Scott just about retaining our sympathy as the tortured gay man who deceived everyone in nobly trying to fight his instincts and fit in.
Nick Remy Matthews's photography is as steady as Sofia Subercaseaux's editing and Marcelo Zarvos's score. But there's a reason this prosaic feature has taken four years to reach the big screen in this country and it's naggingly evident throughout - Louise is a darn sight more interesting than Norma and the focus has fallen on the wrong one.
Having made a three shorts and a few TV documentaries, Marcus Harben passed away before he could savour the sight of his debut feature on the big screen. Seeking to scare while satirising the world of social media, Followers sits on a par with Graham Hughes's Death of a Vlogger (2020) and Jennifer Harrington's Shook (2021). Mercifully, it's nowhere near as obnoxious as Eugene Kotlyarenko's Spree (2020). But it's not remotely as innovative or unsettling, either.
Notorious for melting down on the reality TV show, Brats of Belgravia, Jonty (Harry Jarvis) views St Anne's University as a chance to embark upon a new journey and restore his status as an influencer. He finds himself sharing a house with videographer Zauna (Loreece Harrison) and Amber (Erin Austen), who actively seeks clicks on her social media account. Dismayed to discover he's bunking with fame-hungry freshers, Scottish graduate Pete (Daniel Cahill) hits the bottle and sneers at his housemates' narcissistic aspirations.
On their first night together, however, the sound of 90s rave music comes pounding through the walls. Pete obnoxiously accuses the neighbours, but further investigation leads to the discovery of an addict named Jim (Dominic Watters) hiding in the basement. Campus mental health officer Becky Dunbar (Nina Wadia) supervises Jim's removal and she tries to cosy up to the newcomers by asking them to cross-refer their followers to her own website.
Any hopes that Jim's eviction might return things to normal as soon dashed when an unseen force starts opening drawers and banging doors in the kitchen. Rather than demand alternative accommodation, Jonty regards the development as an opportunity for him to become an online ghost hunter.
Comments on his video sharing page suggest that the paranormal is viewer friendly and Jonty allows Zauna to film his investigation to provide back-up footage. He also makes a play for Amber, who is unnerved by the occurrences and Pete's boorish dismissal of the house being haunted. He refuses to change his mind after Zauna claims his laptop is possessed and he accuses Jonty of staging the supernatural happenings as clickbait.
His numbers plummet after he persuades a pal to play a juvenile prank on Amber (who is now his girlfriend) in order to frighten her. However, the quitters soon return after local medium Ilana Clark (Tanya Burr) senses the malevolent presence of someone named Dawn, who feeds off the energy of young people. Becky also warns Jonty and Zauna that they are playing a dangerous game, with the latter's grandmother even spotting Dawn (Jessica Webber) lurking behind her during a facetime call.
Tensions rise higher when Jim breaks into the house and threatens Amber with a kitchen knife before stabbing himself as Becky tries to calm him down. This sends interest through the roof and Pete throws in his lot with the others after they land lucrative sponsorship deals. Zauna uses the cash to fill the flat with cameras and assumes full control of online content, as she insists she is making a serious film rather than merely courting cyber celebrity.
Suddenly popular on campus, the housemates host a party, during which Amber appears to be inhabited by Dawn while she's dancing on a table. Everyone flees when they start bleeding from the mouth and Pete gets so wound up that he punches a hole in the plasterboard and discovers a cassette stuck to the inner wall.
On playing the tape, they hear Dawn committing suicide and their infamy peaks when psychic investigator Edward Lee (Orion Lee) comes to the house to make an episode of his high-rating TV show. He's exposed as a fraud, but he warns them that there are more dangerous things abroad than ghosts and Day 50 of the nightmare proves him right.
There are revelations aplenty in the final reel, as the truth about the ghost maker emerges. To his credit, Harben springs the odd surprise and even comes up with a clever last twist. But frights are at a premium, while the vlogosphere and its Z-grade luminaries are such easy targets that they scarcely seem worth lampooning. That said, nobody has really nailed the subject on screen thus far.
Making the most of the confined spaces, Harben and cinematographer Alan C. McLauglin suggest the entrapment of the students. But they don't always stick to the `found footage' rules and editor William Honeyball doesn't always bail them out. Nevertheless, they create the odd jolt, thanks to Ben Honeyball's visual effects.
But Harben is hamstrung by the fact he has created so many resistible characters. What is it about screen students who never seem to do a jot of work? With his baseball cap perched at a jaunty angle on the back of his head, Harry Jarvis is slappably smug as the preening preppy, but Erin Austen and Daniel Cahill are required to do little more than simper and snarl as the damaged princess with daddy issues and the stereotypically dour Scot. However, Loreece Harrison strives to tread the line between sensation seeking and journalistic instinct, while the ever-reliable Nina Wadia makes the most of a showy role that allows her to play against type. As for the performances of the message board commenters, the less said, the better.
THE METAMORPHOSIS OF BIRDS.
Every now and then, a film leaves you lost for words. You could expend thousands in trying to describe the audiovisual content and get nowhere near capturing the mood and meaning of the piece. Such an item is Portuguese debutant Catarina Vasconcelos's The Metamorphosis of Birds, which seeks to trace a family history by using voices, tableaux, montage and metaphor to blur the line between fact and fiction.
Over a shot of his old age eyes, Henrique (variously voiced by José Manuel Mendes and João Pedro Mamede) reassures wife Beatriz (Cláudia Varejão) that he has settled into a retirement home and informs her that their six children are in the process of emptying and selling their family home. As he had spent much of his life at sea, the couple had corresponded frequently and we hear snippets of their news and musings. We are also introduced to Zulmira, the family maid who so identifies with birds that we seen her chopping fruit with a surreal bird's head on her shoulders.
As their first-born, Jacinto, grows towards adolescence, Henrique writes about the loneliness of life onboard a ship and reveals that one member of the crew has his tattoos of his parents on his calves so he can remember their faces. In describing the daily work done by a woman's hands, Triz also turns her thoughts to preserving items relating to their children, such as drawings and cigar boxes full of seashells, so he can revisit the youth he missed by being so far away.
On discovering his father's stamp collection, Jacinto came to despise his homeland's colonial legacy, while his sister, Teresa, came to realise that electrical sockets were female and were fixed in one place, while plugs were male and could go wherever they liked.
While planting trees to ensure they would always have fruit and shad, Triz worries about how her children will create a new world following the death of the dictator, António Salazar. But she didn't live long enough to see them try and Jacinto recalls saying the word `mother' for the last time on the day she died in 1984.
Amidst images of fish being gutted and a dead seahorse being used as a hairclip, we learn how Triz's children struggled with her loss and how Catarina felt her absence after she was born. A Polaroid of a Catarina's mother giving birth slowly develops (but the accompanying subtitle is illegible because the white text is lost in the bright background) before Catarina pieces together a jigsaw of what appears to be her mother's face. She later takes a flag emblazoned with her eyes up a mountain.
We learn that J.S. Bach wrote `La Chaconne' to raise the dead and hear how Jacinto came to understand the language of the birds as he grew older and started to feel as fragile as they are. Over reversed footage showing leaves being restored to branches, Catarina talks to her mother about the changed world of smartphones and the Internet. Time-lapse images show flowers bursting into bloom before we see Jacinto's eyes reflecting in a mirror being held in a woman's hands. He sits to read a letter from Catarina that explains that she has called him Jacinto rather than Henrique in the film to avoid confusion.
We then see other members of the family re-enacting Henrique's last wish to burn his letters to Triz so that the intimate moments and emotions perish with them. Shots of the plants and trees that Triz had planted are following by footage of two people putting out to sea from the beach in a small dinghy. But we close on a black screen, as we hear a taped message that Triz and her children had made for Henrique all those years ago.
Poignant and poetic, this is a phoenix-like chronicle that seeks to rescue a lost love story from the flames. At times, Paolo Menezes's 16mm images resemble still lives in Academy ratio frames, as Vasconcelos composes exquisitely lit shots of fruit, fish and dead birds to contrast with the dramatic natural views of woodland, mountain crags and rolling waves.
Some of the symbolism is strained, but there are indelibly striking moments, such as the trompe l'oeil forest sequence and the selection of stamps from Mozambique and Angola that subtly critiques Portugal's imperial past. The use of mirrors is also often inspired in forging connections between people and places.
A deserved winner of a FIPRESCI Best Feature Award in Berlins Encounters section, this is a demanding watch. Yet, it touches on such simple themes as life, death, loss, joy, grief and family that everyone will find something to latch on to and ponder.
Since its founding in May 2018, Extinction Rebellion has changed the tone of the debate on climate change in this country. As divisive as it has been effective, XR has also had its share of internal strife, as Maia Kenworthy and Elena Sanchez Bellot reveal in the intriguing documentary, Rebellion.
Only two of the original founders appear on camera, as Welsh farmer Roger Hallam and activist Gail Bradbrook recall how they founded XR and established its core aims to force the UK government into declaring a `climate emergency', adhering to a policy of net-zero emissions by 2025 and granting the creation of a citizens' assembly to guide policy on climate and ecological justice.
Among the first to sign up were actor-activist Sam Knights and Farhana Yamin, an environmental lawyer who had attended virtually all COP conferences since 1991. Also won over by the notion of peaceful protest to spark debate and reform were campaigner Sophie Cowen and Hallam's daughter, Savannah Lovelock.
Thanks to their insider access to XR's evolution and its determination of strategy, Kenworthy and Sanchez Bellot are able to capture the conflicting temperaments and approaches of the group's leaders, as they prepare for what they hope will be a major act of civil disobedience in April 2019. Nobody is really sure how things will pan out, but the numbers at Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square brought traffic to a standstill and showed how hitting the economic life of the nation could attract media attention and provoke a government response.
There were arrests, as the Metropolitan Police was instructed to regain control of the streets. However, Yamin made the nightly news when she superglued herself to the pavement outside the headquarters of Shell. Even Greta Thunberg turned up on Day 8 of the protest, as the concerted action resulted in Knights and Yamin being invited to meet with Michael Gove, whose unctuous response to their demands led few to suspect that, a few days later, the Conservatives would become the first governing party in the world to accept that there was a climate emergency.
Having achieved so much in a short space of time, however, the leadership couldn't agree on what to do next. A growing number of XR Youth members, including Colombian Alejandra Piazzolla Ramirez wanted to focus on the eco justice side of the issue, as she didn't want to live in a world that continued to exploit child labour and decimate the landscape in the name of green solutions. But Hallam was determined to use drones to disrupt traffic at Heathrow Airport and the movement began to fracture around his contention, `If you are not in prison you are not in resistance.'
Moreover, so did Lovelock's relationship with her father and the co-directors focus on this human interest aspect of the struggle before switching their attention to the October Rebellion of 2019. The campaign got off to a misfiring start with the spraying of fake blood on the steps of the Treasury. Then, while occupiers took over Trafalgar Square and others camped peaceably in the park, the Met's Technical Support Group raided XR's offices.
The tactic of disrupting the Tube and rail networks also backfired, as people were prevented from getting to work and one text suggested that the bourgeoisie were telling the working-class what to do. Eventually, the campers were dispersed and Home Secretary Priti Patel introduced the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in an attempt to limit the right of assembly. Moreover, the leadership voted Hallam off the committee and he is seen reuniting with Lovelock after his arrest at Heathrow. We hear what the principals feel XR has achieved (and is has quite a legacy), as the documentary concludes without really reaching a conclusive verdict or revealing how the group operated during the Covid pandemic.
Interweaving talking-head interviews with footage amassed during Kenworthy and Sanchez Bellot's time with Extinction Rebellion, this is a lively account of how good intentions can be deflected by clashing personalities and ethoses. It would be interesting to know, however, why co-founders like Simon Bramwell opted not to appear on the film and why the co-directors decided to consider XR's rebellion in isolation, when the Black Lives Matter campaign was very much part of the reason why the Tories moved to clamp down on mass protest.
But the film does remind us that the clock is ticking and that real change won't happen until the fossil fuel industry is prevented from using its obscene wealth to lobby decision makers. What really matters, therefore, is what Extinction Rebellion and others like it do next, if we are to avoid a global catastrophe.