“Le Fidèle”- Michaël R. Roskam @ Film Festival Ostend 2017

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

With a premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and a selection for the 90th edition of the Oscars, Michaël R. Roskam’s new feature film Le Fidèle seems an instant succes and will be internationally released as Race and The Jailbird. It is a Belgian-French-Dutch co-production by Savage Film, Stone Angels and Kaap Holland Film, shot in and around Brussels with high-level leading actors.

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Le Fidèle is a crime film and tells the story about Gino “Gigi” Vanoirbeek (Matthias Schoenaerts), a gangster who falls in love with the rich car racer Bénédicte “Bibi” Delhany”(Adèle Exarchopoulos). He carries a dark secret with him, which he can’t keep from her any longer and which weighs on their relationship.

Like mentioned before in the introduction, Le Fidèle is shot in and around Brussels. That’s why the actors switch to the Brussels’ Flemish accent at times. It is a bilingual film, which adds authenticity and at the same time turns it into a setting example of a true ‘Belgian’ film (not a specifically Flemish one).

Le Fidèle is another proof of the holy alliance between Roskam and Schoenaerts. They’ve worked together before for Rundskop (Bullhead, 2011) and The Drop (2014). Personally, I am a big fan of Matthias Schoenaerts, he is very down to earth and modest, which is reflected in his acting. Both Schoenaerts en Exarchopoulos (who you may know from the French controversial film La Vie d’Adèle) carry this film without any doubt. You cannot miss the natural chemistry between them on screen. All of this is enhanced by a beautiful visual style by DOP Nicolas Karakatsanis (Linkeroever (2008) and Rundskop (2011)) and a serene soundtrack by Raf Keunen to add the just the right amount of drama. Not too little or too much.

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The film holds the best of both worlds, namely passionate romance combined with fast cars and action, enough to please all sorts of audience it seems. Nonetheless, I felt more for the visuals than for the rather elaborate narrative. Roskam wrote Le Fidèle based on the classical 3-act structure. This 3 act-structure was originally designed to build up tension and provide a satisfying payoff. The first 2 acts, called ‘Gigi’ and ‘Bibi’ were intriguingly building up the tension. But the turning point in the 3rd act was disappointing and just too much drama. Bibi getting sick on top of it all, just kept me thinking: ‘Why is this necessary?’ Instead, Roskam could have focused more on the fertility aspect, on Bibi and Gigi’s wish to become parents. To conclude, the first two acts were thrilling, but the subplot in the 3rd act made the whole a bit superfluous.

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I am honestly glad, that the final long take is that exhilarating and peaceful. It gives you enough time to let it all sink in, not leaving you with a bitter taste. Fans of the genre and of Michaël R. Roskam will definitely love it.

Le Fidèle will be released in Belgium on September 23th.

 

 

“Cargo” – Gilles Coulier @ Film Festival Ostend 2017

On Friday September 8th, I was invited to attend the prestigious opening night of Film FestivalsOstend 2017. This festival is among the biggest in Belgium and is also where the Ensors will be awarded, which are very important awards in Belgium. I was a lucky girl to receive VIP-invitations to this night, that gave us the opportunity to network, check out famous people, drink champagne, but mostly, to attend the long expected premiere of Gilles Coulier’s first feature film Cargo.

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It was a special occasion for Coulier tonight. His feature film Cargo is set in Ostend and now officially was the opening film of the film festival in -yup- Ostend. Remarkable detail, the director as well as the DOP, producer and the cast wore the new Pink Ribbon. Pink Ribbon is the international organisation for breast cancer awareness. And by wearing the ribbon one expresses moral support. The Belgian design was released on September 5th. Very cool of Coulier and his cast and crew to support charity.

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As said in the introduction, Cargo is Coulier’s first feature film after a couple of successful shorts called Paroles (2010), Ijsland (2010) and Mont Blanc (2013), and the popular TV-series Bevergem (2015). Cargo is produced by De Wereldvrede, which Coulier founded himself with his friend and actor Gilles De Schryver in 2013.

Cargo tells the story about a fishermen family and more specifically about 3 bearded brothers Jean (Sam Louwyck), Francis (Wim Willaert) and William (Sebastien Dewaele) and Jean’s son Vico (Chiel Vande Vyvere). Their father Leon Broucke (Roland Van Campenhout) falls overboard in the icecold North Sea right in front of his eldest son Jean. Leon is in a coma, leaving his son with a large amount of debt, which is the start of an unfortunate series of conflicts, resulting in criminality in order for Jean to give his 8 year-old a better future. The film contains several subplots about love, criminality and loyalty.

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Coulier found some of the best actors to play the 3 brothers (Wim Willaert is one of my personal favourites). Their performances are very realistic and they speak the authentic West-Flemish dialect as we know from Ostend -Thank god for the subtitles ;)! The fact that all dialogues are spoken with an authentic tongue, makes the whole even more charming and adds credibility. I believe that the way you speak tells a lot about your identity.

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Very remarkable is that Cargo is male-only, there are only a couple of women in the entire film, and they are only extras. Nonetheless, the brothers have a symbolic relationship with the -sometimes turbulent- sea, which is reffered to as a ‘she’. She is the only metaphoric woman in the this film, but is undoubtedly one of the protagonists.

I watched Coulier’s shorts and the TV-series and I can clearly find a specific style in both narrative and visuals. Coulier always works with DOP David Williamson, who is also known as the DOP of Peter Monsaert’s award-winning Le Ciel Flamand (2016). Coulier and Williamson are a very compatible pair, together they create a kind a kind of melancholic tristesse. I was impressed by the beautiful, yet simple establishing shots of the ship and the open sea. Most scenes are dark, strongly contrasting with the bright shots of the sea. The dialogues are in a dark and sober setting, almost without any colour.

Coulier worked long and very hard on this film, and I do think it was worth the wait. Cargo is a drama that moves you and teaches you about family values set in Ostend, the Belgian city by the sea.

cargo4PS: The organisation distributed fake Cargo-tattoos. Post a picture of your tattoo with #cargofilm to spread the news ;).

Cargo will be released in Belgian theatres on September 13th and is also selected for the San Sebastian Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival.

“IT” – Andy Muschietti

IT is the second feature film by the Argentinian Andrés ‘Andy’ Muschietti about a killer clown called Pennywise, who feeds on fear. Based on the 1138 paged-book by Stephen King and 27 years after the successful mini-series by Tommy Lee Wallace (1990), its remake is long awaited. Muschietti’s version is the first one to ever make it to the theatres worldwide. IT is a global cult story since the 90’s. With the red balloon as a symbol of fear and death.

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Muschietti’s last feature film Mama (2013) was considered a failure, but nonetheless the audience is not prejudiced towards this feature film. King’s book, on which the film is based, is so voluminous that it seems impossible to maintain all subplots in a 135 minutes-film, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The story starts with the magnificent prologue where Bill’s younger brother Georgie folds a paper boat to float on the rain stream outside. That’s the moment when little Georgie meets Pennywise, the dancing clown (Bill Skarsgard). The story then continues with Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and his friends Richie (Finn Wolfhard, also known as Mike Wheeler in the Netflix-series Stranger Things), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Mike (Chosen Jacobs) and the only girl in the pack Beverly (Sophia Lillis) searching for what happened with all the missing children in their hometown Derry. The hideous clown terrorises, kidnaps and kills children, but when he meets Bill’s so-called Losers Club, het gets more opposed than ever. He wants to haunt them too, by playing tricks with them and scaring them. Because that’s what Pennywise lives from, the fear of children. You know you’re finished when you see the red balloon.

If anything, or anyone, makes this book adaptation a succes, it will be Bill Skarsgard (also known from David Leitch’ Atomic Blonde released in August this year) as Pennywise, the dancing clown. Bill is only 27 years and is the youngest Skarsgard, brother of Alexander, son of Stellan. He  comes from a good family, let’s say. His performance is frightening and he succeeds in becoming a demonic being with a chilling grin. IT3

In comparison to the 1990-version of IT on ABC, the original Pennywise (Tim Curry) was more clownlike and entertaining, also more talkative, where Pennywise now is simply cool and creepy staring and grinning at the children. It’s that demonic grin of his that makes it 10 times scarier than the mini-series. On the other hand, Pennywise gives you the creeps, but the special effects of the film (like his monstrous teeth) pull away all mystery and turns it from a thriller into a gory horror. Arms being ripped off, blood all over the place, etc….

This film is not only telling the story of a killer clown, but is also about friendship, loyalty and belonging. The Losers Club sets a very good example of how it should be. Very morally educative in my opinion. IT succesfully combines horror with coming of the age satisfying different types of audience. I guess this is Muschietti’s big commercial succes he was hoping for.

To conclude, although IT conveys the beautiful message of friendship, the film is most definitely not for those who have coulrophobia (or more commonly explained as fear of clowns 😉!). Personally, I am no clown fan either, so I guess I missed some crucial details of the film while hiding against my neighbour’s shoulder. Forewarned is forearmed.