“Phantom Thread” – Paul Thomas Anderson

 

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.

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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.Phantom thread

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.Phantom thread3

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.

“Silent Campine” – Steffen Geypens

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 modern spaghetti-western.

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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?

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By Kris Dewitte
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.

 

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“Petit Ami” – Anthony Schatteman

Petit Ami is a short drama film by Anthony Schatteman and is selected for the Flemish Competition: Fiction at International Shortfilm Festival Leuven 2017. This is his 4th selection already. Petit Ami is the final piece of a trilogy along with Kus me Zachtjes (2012) en Volg Mij (2015). They all focus on the main character Jasper (Ezra Fieremans), a young boy struggling with the problems of adulthood.

Petit Ami3Petit Ami is set on Christmas Eve in an obscure rendez-vous hotel. Jasper, who is now 20 years old, meets the older and mysterious Vincent (Thomas Ryckewaert). For Jasper this is a date like any other, but then he discovers the secret that Vincent carries with him.

The title refers to the rendez-vous hotel where Jasper and Vincent meet, which in reality is also a rendez-vous hotel in Ghent called ‘Ptietami’.

The use of colours is very interesting in this one, with an emphasis on the pink and blue neon of the rendez-vous hotel, which adds a mainly sexual atmosphere to the film. The cinematography on the other hand symbolises the intimacy between the two men. DOP Ruben Appeltans uses a lot of close-ups and headshots, by which he symbolically creates portraits of Jasper and Vincent, although the audience never really is able to discover what is going on in their minds. When you watched Schatteman’s 2 previous shorts in the trilogy, one is able to apprehend Jasper’s psychology more. (This is a tip ;)!) Personally, I felt like the relationship between the 2 of them went beyond the sexual aspect, moreover, it seemed as if they implicitly acknowledged each other’s emotional presence.

Petit Ami2The film ends with a shot of Jasper looking straight into the camera, which allows us to take a look into his soul. He clearly struggles with becoming an adult and with finding what he’s looking for in life. Jasper is still looking for his own identity, doing this by meeting men and reflecting on himself as a homosexual man. This is never explicitly confirmed in Petit Ami, so let’s say this is my subjective interpretation.

Whoever loves the coming-of-age genre and colourful films should watch Petit Ami. This only takes you 16 minutes of your precious time, which you won’t regret.

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“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.

“Patti Cake$” – Geremy Jasper

“PBNJ, PBNJ,….” It’s an anthem you can’t get out of your head, that’s for sure. Geremy Jasper’s first feature film Patti Cake$ was an instant success at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, receiving a standing ovation. The film premiered at the Sundance Festival on January 23rd this year and could be called a ‘Sundance Charmer’. The music and acting performances are what make this indie drama outstanding.

patti-cakePatti Cake$ tells the story of Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle MacDonald), a 23 year-old curvy girl usually mocked at by the name of Dumbo. She is fighting her quest for fame and fortune in her hometown New Jersey as an aspiring rapper a.k.a. Killa P. Along with her Indian best friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) and the anti-social Basterd (Mamoudou Athie) she makes rap music to get out of that place.

Mother Barb (Bridget Everett) is a former singer in a rock band. Their mother-daughter relationship is very rough, with Patti mostly relying on her grandmother (Cathy Moriarty, who is known for her part in Scorsese’s 80’s classic Raging Bull). Patti’s Nana also contributes to the earworm “PBNJ” and seems to be the only one who believes in Patti’s ambitions, whereas Barb does not consider rap music to be real music. The 3 generations-family has financial struggles, for which Patti has to work fulltime. But together with her friends she can record a first hip-hop record anyway. patti-cake3

Danielle MacDonald hadn’t rapped a single tone before she stepped into the role of Killa P. Nonetheless, it looks like she’s born “spittin’ ” Did you know Danielle is not even American? She is Australian, but her accent is remarkably flawless. She definitely is the breakout star of this film.

Director Geremy Jasper is known for directing videoclips, like Florence + The Machine’s Dog Days Are Over. Although he frequently adds dreamlike and fantastic visuals, his debut leans towards realism, because of its poignant and identifiable narrative.

Patti Cake$ has a happy ending, which turns it into a feel-good film, whereas the film is very emotionally loaded throughout, almost cathartic. Slowly, but sustained Patti earns the respect she deserves. Her ‘spits’ reach an audience and eventually, she even finds love. Kind of cliché unfortunately, but hey, Patti deserves her happy ending…patti-cake2

Patti Cake$ is an emotional rollercoaster, telling you to never give up on your dreams and ambitions. Even how hopeless your life seems, you can make your dreams come true.

Patti Cake$ will be released in Belgium on August 30th.