Monday, June 26, 2017

Moonlight

Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris,
Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders

"This is the story of a Lifetime"


Barry Jenkins directs this chronicle of a man's life from his childhood, his teen years up to a young adult.  The first part shows how "Little" as he was nicknamed faces harassment on a daily basis from bullies in his school. Mocked for his small frame and being taunted as gay, he has no solid support system for guidance as his single mother works all the time. A father figure enters his life briefly in the form of a 'compassionate' drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) who teaches him how to swim, try to still some confidence and uplift his self esteem. 

The second phase focuses on him as a teenager, now called Chiron (his real name) yet still faces the same harassment from his schoolmates. He also develops an odd friendship with Kevin, his classmate. Meanwhile, Chiron's drug addict mother is always high and hardly around to be supportive of whatever dreams the hapless boy has for his future.

A decade later, 26 years old Chiron is known in the streets as "Black". He is a drug dealer and his physique has changed. Buffed and able bodied from working out while he was in prison for some misdemeanor.  Physically, he looks strong and menacing, but deep inside he is still a reticent man with hardly any social life. He has also suppressed his sexuality until he is reunited with Kevin.

Just when it seems that things and life in general will be a lot kinder for Chiron, the film ends with a significant scene of "Little" frolicking in the beach on a moonlit night. But you can't help but smile as there is a glimmer of hope and a chance of a happily ever after for a troubled person who has gone through many struggles.

It was a good move to cast 3 different and unknown actors to portray the 3 different chapters in Chiron's life. Their acting was highly credible, as they imbibe the hardships that Chiron endured throughout his entire life with such a visceral force.  

"Moonlight" is a deeply poignant film that deals with relevant issues like bullying, drug addiction, sexuality and isolation. It is significant as it features the life of a black person but I think it could be applicable to any race and still have such a powerful impact on its audience. It deserves all its best film awards. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

21 Nuits avec Pattie
(21 Nights with Pattie)

French Film Festival 2017
Greenbelt 3 Cinema


Caroline goes to a remote town in the southern France to bury her mother whom the locals know as Zaza. She was a colorful character and well loved in that closely knitted community. But this is just 'hearsay' for Caroline as she has been estranged from her lawyer mother. Cutting her vacation with family short to take care of the funeral arrangements, she thought it would be fairly quick and done within 3 days.

But then Caroline finds herself stuck in that town when her mother's body (which was just lying in her bed) suddenly disappears. Surrounded by strangers who are a merry, eccentric group of people and out of her comfort zone, Caroline oddly finds herself in a path of self discovery and sexual awakening - something she has knowingly or unknowingly suppressed for a long period.

Set in a wine making small valley with its own peculiarities and bizarre rituals, the story sizzles as hot as the August heat that embraces its residents. Led by Pattie who was Zaza's housekeeper/friend, a woman who has no qualms narrating her sexual exploits, being quite explicit in her details. Everyone in the town are unabashed about their sexuality, swimming naked in the lake or in the swimming pool in Zaza's mansion.  

The plot also takes on a bizarre tone with images of Zaza's ghost gallivanting in her mansion to Caroline's dreamy hallucinations. At this point, one might lose interest as one realizes this is NOT a simple story about a daughter's grief and her coming to terms with feelings of abandonment, isolation and despair. But it just got too quirky and weird for my taste, unfortunately and I dozed off in the dark theater. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Le Dernier Diamant
(The Last Diamond)

French Film Festival 2017
Greenbelt 3 Cinemas


A seasoned burglar Simon (Yvan Attal) who was just released on parole is persuaded by his partner in crime Albert to join him on another heist. Their target is a rare diamond that is worth millions of dollars which will be displayed during an auction. 

Julia (Berenice Bejo) is the auctioneer and this is her first task after the sudden demise of her mother who inherited the valuable diamond. Enter Simon who disguises himself as a security expert connected with Julia's mother. Soon enough, Julia and Simon become romantically involved which conveniently gives him direct access to his 'prey'.

Yvan Attal, an established French actor who resembles a younger Al Pacino is fairly credible as the wise, charming middle aged thief. While Berenice Bejo who gained fame through the award-winning film, The Artist doesn't really need to do much but be glamorous which is a waste of her talent as proven by her in-depth role in the Iranian/French film Le Passe.

Amidst the luxurious backdrop of a high society event, the story goes beyond a typical heist movie by tackling deception, greed, corruption and redemption through unexpected twists and some intriguing side plots. Entertaining enough for the most part but the need to conclude with a feel.good ending causes what could have been a gem of a movie to lose its sparkle.
 

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