“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.

Première “Life” – Anton Corbijn

On a rainy Monday night – September 21st, 2015 – I took the train to Bozar in Brussels, for one simple reason: the premiere of Life. The screening of the long-expected 4th feature film by the Dutch director Anton Corbijn, who is also a photographer by profession, was attended by the great man himself, after which he enthusiastically answered all of our burning questions.

life3The film depicts the friendship between the iconic 50’s actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan, star ofChronicle and Kill Your Darlings) and the photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson, Twilight). With the title of the film Corbijn refers to the US magazine for which Dennis Stock took pictures as a freelance photographer. Stock wanted his pictures of Dean to be more personal and not like those of the ‘red carpet maggots’. Therefore, he followed Dean to New York, Indiana and back to LA. Keep in mind that this all took place in the short period between East of Eden and Rebel Without a Case, after which Dean died at the age of 24.

The film seems divided in two parts, the first of which follows Stock, a very hardworking photographer, who almost has to stalk the slack, rebellious and egocentric Dean. The second part of the film, in which the two go for a trip to visit Dean’s Quaker family in Fairmont, Indiana, shows Dean open up, enjoying the little things in life, such as reading to his little cousin. There is then a reversal, and it is Stock who seems the arrogant and unthankful one, who forgets to actually ‘live’. Nonetheless, both of them are so self-fulfilled to think that they do each other a favour, Dean by posing for Stock and Stock by publishing pictures of him.

life2As a Corbijn fan, I felt very much pleased with Life, but can’t deny that he made a serious mistake by casting Robert Pattinson as Dennis Stock. Just like in every other film he acts in, his physical appearance remains static, and his acting is not really convincing due to his eternal poker face. Dane DeHaan on the other hand surprised me by showing some of his best method-acting skills. DeHaan has that cool aura that turns him into Dean – only, theSLOW, whispering speech made me wonder at times whether the real James Dean was a drunk with a never-ending hangover.

Unlike with his 2007 production Control, a biopic about the deceased Ian Curtis, lead singer of 80’s-band Joy Division, Corbijn shot this film entirely in colour. He told the audience at the premiere that although he initially wanted to shoot the film in black and white like Control, he eventually opted for full colour, to show the contrast with Stock’s original black and white images. Also worth noting is the accuracy of Corbijn’s film, namely how he manages to come close to copying Stock’s original and epic pictures of James Dean – for example, the well-known shot taken in Times Square in New York.

lifeDid I already mention that Corbijn is a professional photographer? He is mostly known for his artist photography, such as for U2, Depeche Mode and Michael Stipe (R.E.M). This similarity caught my attention. Both photographers, Corbijn and Stock, have their own protégées and muses – a good motivation for Corbijn to tell the story of Dean’s relationship with Stock. By making Life, Corbijn wants to convince the audience how a photographer and his subject mutually inspire and construct one another. It is not plainly a biopic. And this is how he told it at the premiere in Bozar, the passion flowing from his enthusiastic smile.

One could also tell from the visual and aesthetic style of the film, that Corbijn is more than a filmmaker. Every shot simply looks like a perfect picture in a frame. Everything fits in, such as colours, composition and camera angle.

Life, simply, is a visual masterpiece. Enjoy the complexity of every shot, how it is built up in several layers yet seems so simple at the same time. The director’s passion for photography is clear, and for those who loved his former work, this film will be another pleasure to the eye.

 Check the trailer on YouTube.