Afer a Master's degree in linguistics (German-English, jawohl!), I decided to go for another degree in Filmstudies and Visual Cultures at the University of Antwerp. Watching films, and talking about films, is what I love to do most. But my other passions are music, literature, theatre and travelling. And before I forget, I am a trained barista too.
Thanks for hopping by, leave me a message, and maybe sometime we can discuss cinema with a nice cuppa?
I guess we all agree on the fact that 2020 has not been that good of a year for all of us. Theatres closed, sets shut down,…. And no Timothée Chalamet on the big screen for the first year since 2014. Both the releases of Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune are postponed until 2021.
Heartbreaking, but nonetheless, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for the Belgian film buffs. Next week, on October 13th, the annual Film Fest in Ghent takes place for a subsequent 11 days. Under specific safety measures though, but yes, the show must go on.
The 47th edition of the festival focuses on Belgian and German cinema and therefore, they created a beautiful poster with a combination of the German-Austrian actress Romy Schneider (Sissi) and German Actor August Diehl (Inglorious Basterds, A Hidden Life).
Jordan Peele is the master of the horror subgenre horror noir. Two years after his masterpiece “Get Out” (2017), he releases another horror film with Afro-American protagonists as a piece of social criticism.
The story starts in 1986, when the young Adelaide gets traumatised after walking off to a mirror palace by the beach all by herself. Two decades later, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) visits the same beach with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two kids, where they meet their friends, a Caucasian couple (played by the phenomenal Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker), and their twin daughters. That same evening, the family gets terrorised by a doppelgänger family, looking exactly like them, but wearing red suits and carrying golden scissors. What starts off as a cosy family trip, ends in a nightmare.
The doppelgängers are referred to as their shadows, called ‘The Tethered, chained to their originals by sharing one soul in two different bodies. The Tethered are here to claim their place in the world by replacing their original human beings. A recurring motif are the rabbits – a lot of rabbits!- referring to the rather unholy experiment the doppelgängers are submitted to by not being able to live in the world like normal people. These rabbits are a reference to “Alice in Wonderland” (book by Lewis Carroll, 1986) , where the wonderland in “Us” is rather dark and sinister.
“Us” is a dark piece of social criticism, since the title can also be read as the abbreviation of United Stated (one of the characters says ‘We are Americans’), by which Peele rather unsubtly refers to racism, poverty, class privilege and violence in his country. Unlike “Get Out”, this film is less about race inequality, but more about the haunting social conscience of the American middle class. There is no longer something like the so-called ‘American Dream’ everyone strives to live by.
Peele is originally a comedian, known for his sketches later turned into memes. For him to find his resort in the horror genre is not that surprising. Unless the genrespecific shift between scary elements and humour (p.e. a boat called ‘B’yacht’ch’), Peele gives a twist to the specific elements and turns the film into a unique piece of art. He manages to keep it subtle and mysterious, almost sophisticated. “Us” is not a slasher or gory horror. Most of the times you can see the blood, but you can’t see any actual stabbing. Violence and murder is shown implicitely.
When it comes to acting performances, Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”, 2013) stands out, giving substance to the term of the ‘final girl’, which has been a recurrent element in the horror genre throughout decades. Only this time, she is not a Caucasian virgin, but an Afro-American mother protecting her family against evil no matter what.
Personally, I think the soundtrack is what adds up to both the narrative and the visuals, which is composed by Michael Abels. He also wrote the soundtrack for “Get Out”. A recurrent tune is the bombastic creepy remix version of the 90’s R&B classic ‘I got 5 on it‘ by Luniz. Personally, I love the mixture of a classic soundtrack and pop hits. For example, the Caucasian family getting murdered on the tunes of The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations‘ , makes it so much more lightweight and almost sadistically funny, which reminds me of Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games US” (2007).
Peele’s “Us” is a masterpiece crossing borders between genres, where comedy and horror seem to intertwine easily. “US” refers to sources like “Funny Games US”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “The Shining” (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) and “Invasion of The Body Snatchers” (Don Siegel, 1956), but not really subtle, unfortunately. Nonetheless, I never really found it annoying, but rather enriching, because of Peele’s narration techniques and beautiful dynamic visuals. “Us” is a mysterious film, where punch lines are open for interpretation and add up to Peele’s social criticism.
“Us” is released in Belgian cinemas on March 20th.
An old cowboy ‘Grandpa Sudoku’ (Patrick Pevenage) leaves on a trip to Disneyland with the 6 year old Laura (Lisa Lelieur). When they stop at a gas station, they bump into two couples, who each have their own reason to make the same stop.
This synopsis shortly introduces Alexander Decommere’s western short film (surreal western to be precise) This No Land that made the selection for the Flemish Fiction Competition at the International Short Film Festival in Leuven this year.
Alexander Decommere, known for his documentaries End Credits (2013), Alaturka (2014) and the 2015 short film Where The Pelican Lands, is an experienced director. This No Land proves this fact. The end result is quite impressive, considering that it is shot in both Belgium and the Spanish desert, and crowdfunded.
This No Land has a top of the bill Flemish cast such as Titus De Voogdt (Cub (2014), King of the Belgians (2016)) & Peter Van den Eede (Dirty Mind (2009), Wasteland (2014) as a classy queer couple. Other names are Robrecht Vanden Thoren (Hasta La Vista (2011) and Anne-Laure Vandeputte. The film has a steady narrative pace, but the dialogues are rather trivial at times unfortunately. But the acting performances are flawless, which adds up to the final result.
Another asset of the film is the remarkable camera work by Jorge Piquer Rodriguez, who achieved to set the right atmosphere for the genre by using wide establishing shots and a symmetric framing for the dialogues.
In my opinion, the narrative is very action-driven, rather than character-driven, which makes the encounters look coincidental. It took me some time to get the story, but eventually I realised that the entire film was a dream sequence. The end pulls us back in the real world by a dramatic climax. This is where all things fit together, like the pieces of a puzzle. Important elements get explained, like for example why they meet the 2 other couples and who the young girl is. Despite the ‘aha’ experience, the main story plot lacks some backstory though.
To conclude, This No Land is satisfying when it comes to visuals, but the plot line could be made more clear. Although it’s typical for short films to have an open ending, here it is mainly vague and incomprehensible for a mainstream audience. Nonetheless, I sincerely liked the concept and the atmosphere.
I, Tonya is a biographical feature film directed by the Australian Craig Gillespie (The Finest Hour (2014)), starring Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Suicide Squad (2016)) as Tonya Harding, the American 90’s champion in figure skating. I, Tonya is Margot Robbie’s first film as both producer and leading actress. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017.
I, Tonya follows the life of the competitive figure skater Tonya Harding from Portland, Oregon and her connection with the attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. But unlike most media, the film mostly focusses on the human being behind it all, not only the ‘incident’. Tonya’s life is centred around the abusive relationships with her mother LaVona Fay Golden (Allison Janney) and her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), which influenced her behaviour during competitions and in other human relationships.
I, Tonya is nominated for 3 Oscars in the categories Best Actress in a Leading Role for Margot Robbie, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Allison Janney and Best Achievement in Film Editing for Tatiana S. Riegel.
As already announced in the introduction, I, Tonya is a biographical film featuring interviews with the characters in the present to create a sort of mockumentary. Remarkable about the narrative style is the recurrent fourth-wall breaking, which means the characters look into the camera during the action scenes as if they directly address the audience and involve them.
Next to Margot Robbie, you might also recognise Sebastian Stan (Captain America (2011), Logan Lucky (2017), Black Panther (2018)) as Tonya’s husband Jeff and Allison Janney (Juno (2007), The Help (2011)). The latter is phenomenally funny in the role of Harding’s mother, although I doubt that anyone would want someone this foulmouthed as a mother. Nonetheless, Janney’s convincing ‘viciousness’ makes her the ideal nominee for the Oscars.
The almost nauseating cinematography is by the Belgian Nicolas Karakatsanis (Bullhead (2011), The Drop (2014), Le Fidèle (2017)). He was the ideal Director of Photography for I, Tonya, because he was the first to agree on chasing the actors in their actions instead of simply following scheduled camera positions. The skating scenes are so dynamic and detailed, as if you are part of the setting yourself.
The editing is by Tatiana S. Riegel. Although Robbie was trained to do most of the choreographies herself, the hardest tricks were covered by a body double, after which Riegel flawlessly pasted Robbie’s face over it as if Robbie did them all herself.
In my opinion, the soundtrack of I, Tonya is another remarkable element. Some of the songs were actually used in Harding’s real routines, like ZZ Top’s Sleeping Bag. Most tracks are from the 70’s and 80’s and are classic rock songs. They are powerful, such as Heart’s Barracuda. This symbolises the narrative perfectly. I especially liked the cover of The Passenger by Siouxsie & The Banshees at the end. But of course, taste in music is something personal after all.
To conclude, you should watch I, Tonya for plenty of reasons. The acting performances, the rocking soundtrack and the cinematography are only a couple of them. But also, just check the film so you know why Allison Janney will win that Oscar ;).
Phantom Thread by the American director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood (2007) and Inherent Vice (2014)) will be actor Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film ever, like he announced in 2017. He reached the age 60 of and after winning 3 Oscars for Best Actor (My Left food (1989), There Will Be Blood (2007) and Lincoln (2012)), he now throws in the towel. One of Britain’s most acclaimed actors decided to retire from acting, in order to focus on his private life and his career as a shoemaker. Therefore, the costume drama Phantom Thread needs that little bit of extra attention.
The story is set in London in the 1950’s, where the life of the renowned and genius dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is disrupted when he meets the young Alma (Vicky Krieps), who becomes his muse and lover. Reynolds is a narcissist and control freak -with mommy issues on top of it- not only in his work, but also when it comes to the people he loves, he only settles for perfection. The breakfast scenes are sometimes simply funny, because he demands absolute silence and peace, so the sound of a toast getting buttered could already make him cranky for the rest of the day.
Phantom Thread looks like a simple love story at the beginning, but soon enough evolves in a fascinating power struggle between the 2 lovers. Their relationship seems to be based on ‘repel and attract’, where Reynolds’ male dominance gets challenged by Alma’s female charm, wit and persistence. In my opinion, Phantom Thread is about the male ego giving itself over to the power of the women who rule his life; who in this case are Reynolds’s lover Alma and his beloved sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). He never argues with the latter, because he knows he will lose.
Daniel Day-Lewis is known as a method actor, which is also the case in Phantom Thread. As preparation for his part as Reynolds Woodcock, he worked with a dressmaker for months before shooting. This can be seen on the screen, because his hands are full of hard skin. These months of mental preparation turn him into a purebred and tormented artist. The female lead is Vicky Krieps, who is an actress from Luxembourg and rather unknown, but her performance isn’t overshadowed by Day-Lewis at all. Her acting is rather modest, but still powerful and unpredictable. Alma is the woman who manages to push Reynolds from his pedestal and it’s unimaginable for an alpha male like him, but he actually is attracted to her pushing him over. Although he is afraid of losing his controlled and planned life, he finds himself overwhelmed by love.
Phantom Thread is nominated for 6 Oscars, for Best Achievement in Costume Design for Mark Bridges for instance and there is another nomination for Daniel Day-Lewis as Best Actor in a Leading Role. Imagine him winning another Oscar, then he will be the very first actor ever to win 4 Oscars in this category.
To close this article, I’d like to point out that it is very remarkable that Paul Thomas Anderson did his own cinematography for Phantom Thread although he never refers to himself as the Director of Photography and he is uncredited as such. He rather calls the film’s photography a close collaboration with his gaffer Michael Bauman and camera operator Colin Anderson, which after months of experimenting definitely resulted in a magnificent cinematic style.
To conclude, Phantom Thread is a skillful movie when it comes to decors, costumes and also cinematography. But the biggest strength definitely lies in its scenario and the acting performances of both Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps.
And as an extra, you can watch this YouTube-clip with an overview of Daniel Day-Lewis’ top 10 acting performances.
Patser is the 3th feature film by the directors duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, 2 young men from Moroccan origin making films in Belgium and -yes!- in LA. This film is long expected, because of its cast and thematic, namely the drug trafficking and gang war in Antwerp.
Patser tells the story of 4 friends living in a multicultural district in the city of Antwerp. Their uncertain futures and desire for wealth drives them to dealing hard drugs, despite the tough competition of other drug dealers. Their only goal is to become ‘patsers’ (gangstas), and the main force that drives them is their lifelong friendship.
The film is divided into 7 chapters, according to the Christian seven deadly sins (sloth, greed, wrath, gluttony, pride, lust and envy) Why they opted for the seven deadly sins as a narrative structure? Well, one of the main characters Adamo is one part Italian and one part Moroccan, but raised as a Catholic. The story is told in chapters by Adamo in voice-over, so he is the one who relates the story of the 4 friends to the capital vices.
Matteo Simoni plays the role of Adamo and is supported by his 3 sidekicks Junes (Junes Lazaar), Badia (Nora Gharib) and Volt (Said Boumazoughe), the latter actor is mostly known as a rapper in the Antwerp collectives NoMoBS and SLM and also provided some songs for the soundtrack. Simoni is the only known actor of these 4, and we all know his presence will be one of the main reasons for people to go check Patser. He is a very talented actor and his Antwerp-Moroccan accent is flawless.
The main opponent of the 4 drug dealing friends is the notorious Dutch gangster Hassan Kamikaze, a role played by the well-known Dutch rapper Ali B. His performance is phenomenal. I almost believed that he is as misogynist and aggressive in real life as in he is in the film (which he obviously isn’t)! In my opinion, his performance is the most convincing and brutal of the entire film.
Another important part is the role of the police officer Yasser (Nabil Mallat), whose main goal is to end the drug war in Antwerp. Some of his colleagues on the other hand are very corrupt (Jeroen Perceval & Axel Daeseleire), but believe me, what goes around comes around. By the way, you might also recognise the DJ-duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike in a small role, just to close the circle of famous faces in Patser.
El Arbi & Fallah worked with Robrecht Heyvaert (The Ardennes (2015), Black (2015)) as the Director Of Photography. He is one of my personal favourite cinematographers in Belgium and he proves himself again this time. The shots follow each other at a very high pace, leaving no details in the dark. The visuals hit you like a line of coke and are dazzling. Every single shot and all camera perspectives are well considered, keeping both the characters and the location in mind. When watching, I felt like I had no time to think things over, because the pace is really overwhelming at times. Not even mentioning the inserts of neon titles, which make the whole even more flashy. The film takes over 2 hours, but it never felt this way, because of its solid pace and action-driven narrative.
Patser is full of vulgar language, which resembles the actual way of interacting between youngsters and thugs in Antwerp unfortunately. It was disturbing at times, a bit too much, which I guess some viewers will confirm. Nonetheless, this is the only negative aspect, and I found the cursing less disturbing than how some of the male characters act overtly disdainful towards women. Moreover, the use of Moroccan slang (‘tfou’, ‘drarrie’, ‘tnawies’,….) and Arabic dialogues add credibility, which is definitely an asset.
The audience seemed to have the tendency to compare Patser to the directors’ previous feature films Image (2012) and Black (2015), but in my opinion they are simply incomparable. Black was already a hit, but more modest and raw than Patser and with a young unknown cast. Patser is over the top in every single way, just like El Arbi and Fallah announced. Also visually, Patser is the most colourful film in the directors’ oeuvre. Narratively, El Arbi & Fallah offer us more backstory this time. We get flash-backs of the 4 friends when they were kids and how they grew up together. This enables us to identify with them and to feel empathy, instead of seeing them as mere thugs.
Patser is a gangster film beyond imagination with a lot of filmic references to gangster films or characters like Tony Montana in Brian De Palma’s Scarface (1983). El Arbi & Fallah announced it to be epic and after watching the trailer a month ago, my expectations were as such. These expectations are definitely met, but I would describe Patser as ‘love it or hate it’. If you don’t like foulmouthed dialogues and violence, it is not your thing. Nonetheless, Patser is unique in the Belgian cinema because of its hyperkinetic pace and colourful visuals. To conclude, go and check it out for yourself!
Patser will be released on January 24th in Belgium and on February 1st in The Netherlands.
Silent Campine is a 15 minutes drama written and directed by Steffen Geypens and was selected for the Flemish Competition: Fiction at the International Short Film Festival in Leuven. This short film is his 3rd selection for the Film Festival after Buitenspel (2002) and Zien (2003). As a former historic, Geypens was always fascinated by the American westerns from the 50s, this interest strongly influenced Silent Campine, which can be called a modernspaghetti-western.
The story goes as follows. A traumatised soldier called Albert (Jurgen Delnaet) and his son Juul (Brecht Dael) go hunting every day in order to survive. They also take care for the sick mother. Every day is a struggle, until there is no way back. Geypens wanted to show a troubled father-son relationship. Albert is very authoritarian and there is a quiet tension between them and the other characters in the film. This tension is visualised by gazes and expressions, and enforced by the dialogues.
It is very remarkable that there are no women in the film. You can only hear the sick mother in the backroom, which emphasises the absence of a mother figure and how it affects the son’s upbringing.
The entire film is shot from Juul’s perspective and how he perceives the men surrounding him as well as how he feels towards his own father. He gets confronted with an inner conflict: will he follow his father’s example or will he push himself off from his authoritarian behaviour?
Silent Campine refers to the western genre and more specifically to the film Once upon a Time in the West by Sergio Leone (1968) with the phenomenal Henry Fonda. The references are both on the narrative level as visually. This for example in the well thought-out use of colours, namely the dominance of yellow and brown as well as in the slow shots of the open nature or in the quick montage of the fight scenes.
Another important element in Silent Campine is the soundtrack by Bert Dockx (Dans Dans, Flying Horseman), which captures the atmosphere of the film perfectly. Furthermore, the entire film is really silent, like the title already explains.
To conclude, Silent Campine is an outright clever short film. Steffen Geypens took every single detail into consideration and this is what makes the film so fascinating. I guess that cinephiles who know the western genre and recognise the elements will love this one even more.
Ce qui demeure (‘What remains’) is a 14 minutes short film by Pegah Moemen Attare and was selected for the Flemish Competition: Fiction at the International Short Film Festival in Leuven. The film is her graduation film for LUCA School of Arts in Brussels and is her very first festival selection, but it is also the one that will offer her acknowledgment as a female director, I’m sure.
Chloé (Zoé Lejeune) -a woman in her 30’s- visits her hometown after a long time. She peeks inside the old house of her grandparents, until a young girl takes her inside to watch what changed. She is also reunited with her grandfather again after all those years. According to Moemen Attare, the film is “about memories and holding on to little details in order to keep the memories alive”. So for example the recurrent reference to the pear tree in the garden of Chloé’s grandfather. She is holding on to it in order to recall details from her childhood. Also their dialogues have a nostalgic tone.
Ce qui demeure is rather poetic in style, but still accessible. There is a good balance between narrative and visual style. I specifically liked the opening shot of Chloé walking in a field of flowers. This image caught my attention, because of its aesthetically perfect framing, its symmetry.
The overall atmosphere in the shortfilm is very light, literally and in a figurative sense, by using light wooden details and rays of sunlight for example. This adds tones of frivolity and happiness to the film, as if in a dream.
Although it is typical for a short film to be rather linear in its narrative, I really missed some backstory to it. Let’s say it is pure curiosity from my side. Why did Chloé leave the small village? Who is the little girl that shows her around?…
The modest acting of Zoé Lejeune, along with the nostalgic atmosphere and the balance between visual style and narrative are the main elements that make Ce qui demeure easily accessible and pleasant to watch at the same time.
Saint Hubert is a thriller short by the Blegian director Jules Comes and was selected for the Flemish Competition: Fiction at the International Shortfilm Festival in Leuven this month, which is his 4th selection after Stadskind (2010), Pelgrim (2011) and Dit Is Ronald (2012).
During a big police investigation in the oldest nature park in the German-speaking region of Belgium, the police officers meet a local forester called Werner (Wim Opbrouck). He is the protector of the area and he does the best he can to keep intruders distanced. Nonetheless, the confrontation gets out of hand.
Comes describes his latest short as a ‘clash between nature and the modern world’. This can be illustrated by the film’s ending with the forester chasing the police officer (Wouter Hendrickx) on a race track, which in my opinion symbolises the clash between nature and the modern society, where Werner is the one who loses his power.
Comes casted some of Flanders’s best actors with Wim Opbrouck. The role of German forester suits him to a tee. Maybe this is because of his posture including his natural woodchopper-beard. But what amazes most is the fact that he talks German throughout the entire film. In another life, I used to work as a German teacher, so I must say you can tell that German is not Opbrouck’s mother tongue, nonetheless, the result is quite flawless. And actually, it just proves Opbrouck’s capacities as an actor.
According to Comes Saint Hubert is a “combination between the nature documentaries by David Attenborough and a Rambo-film”. Funny enough, this is exactly how I perceived his film while watching it. The visuals of nature are wild and pure. Cinematographer Grimm Vandekerckhove alternates close-ups and extreme wide shots to show the beauty of untouched nature, where Werner is the lord of the hunt and protector at the same time. Unfortunately, the police officers disturb his peace, and therefore they get hunted by him in a violently psychotic way.
The title of the short film refers to the Christian Saint Hubertus, the patron saint of hunters, which declares Werner’s role as the protector of his area. Another remarkable aspect of the film is the thrilling classical music. The music is a very important element to raise the tension, just like in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster (2015). Combined with the montage techniques like slow motion in crucial sequences, Comes succeeds in getting you on the tip of your toes like a real master of suspense.
Check the Facebook-page for more info and check Comes’ site for more info on his previous work.