BACURAU—the extraordinary epic of Antifa righteousness pitting fascist death squads against the inhabitants of a small village in northern Brazil—was written and directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles. An opening title card places the film a few years into the future. But in Jair Bolsonaro’s creeping state of siege, it’s less a world to come than a world already here.
On Friday night at the Nuart, join star Udo Kier for a post-screening Q & A.
Support your local art house. During the Covid-19 cinema closures, Kino Lorber and local theaters are offering BACURAU as an online screening option. See following links for details:
Pasolini might have loved Tom Mercier. As Yoav—the central character in SYNONYMS, NadavLapid’s exhilarating, autobiographical picaresque—the strapping judo master-turned-dancer-turned-actor ignites the screen as an improvisational work-in-progress, rough clay to be shaped and used by all who cross his path. An exile in Paris—he fled Israeli after his mandatory stint in the army—he loses his native language even as he teaches himself a new one, reciting seemingly random lists of French vocabulary. Applying for an embassy security job with a company run by his fellow countrymen, Yoav refuses to speak Hebrew and reminds anyone who will listen that his homeland is “obscene, ignorant, idiotic, sordid, fetid, crude, abominable, odious, lamentable, repugnant, detestable, mean-spirited.” (Descriptive words, he may discover, with applications everywhere.)
Befriended by an effete young French couple (Quentin Dolmaire and Louise Chevillotte), both of whom love him for interrupting their predictable lives with his energy and beauty, Yoav is horrified by his past but unable to outrun it. As his performance of Francophilia and acts of erasure encounter a series of dead ends, this man of deep feeling seems destined to remain a tourist in his own life.
My name is Alexandre Guérin. I’m 40 and married with five kids… Despite doubt and conflict with the Church, I’ve stayed close to Christ, and raise my children in the faith of his love. I recently ran into another father at school. We were both scouts at Saint Luc. We talked about school and camps. He asked me a troubling question. “Did Father Preynat fondle you too?”
So begins, in voiceover, François Ozon’s remarkable new film BY THE GRACE OF GOD, an investigation of pedophilia, sexual abuse, and cover-up in the Lyon diocese that plays like a great French policier. Originally planned as a documentary, Ozon interviewed and studied the case files of three men who, as children, suffered at the hands of Preynat, Cardinal Barbarin, and Régine Maire, the church psychologist charged with providing support to victims of priests. (To paraphrase Hannah Arendt, Maire is an exponent of the evil of banality.)
Guérin—quoted above and played in the film by Melvil Poupaud—remains a true believer, and often takes positions of abjection that may startle and alienate non-Catholics. François (DenisMénochet), an atheist, favors a less passive approach and goes on to co-found the activist organization Lift the Burden. Emmanuel (Swann Arlaud) bears the full burden of abuse, struggling through an afterlife of doubt and precarity.
BY THE GRACE OF GOD is centered around words, but it was also necessary to conjure images to evoke the violence these men experienced as children. For each of them, I created a flashback that shows almost nothing—a short walk, a door opening, a tent closing—but suggests everything in the space of an instant, through places, the use of light….
As I worked on these scenes, after interviewing many victims about the times they were abused, suddenly I remembered a scene from my own childhood that I had totally forgotten, or perhaps blocked out.
One day, at catechism, when I was eight years old, we were playing a game of hide-and-seek. A priest I liked very much told me he knew a great hiding place and took me there. I followed him innocently to a dark doorway, where he held me tight. It was strange. I felt his adult body against my small frame. His breathing was so loud. I remember thinking, “He’s breathing too loud, they’ll find us!” Now I understand he was fighting against repressed lust. A few long minutes passed. I can still see myself pushing him away and running to join my friends. The game of hide-and-seek was over.
This long-lost memory triggered a feeling of vertigo. Suddenly I had a deeper understanding of the victims. And I realized that I myself had come very close to a horrifying and tragic thing that could have greatly damaged me. If that priest had crossed the line, it would have altered the course of my life.
That’s when I truly understood why I wanted to make this film. Why I needed to make it. — FrançoisOzon
This past summer, Preynat was defrocked and is awaiting criminal trial.
I’m getting closer to the coast and realize how much I hate arriving at a destination. Transition is always a relief. Destination means death to me. If I could figure out a way to remain forever in transition, in the disconnected and unfamiliar, I could remain in a state of perpetual freedom. — David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives
The passage from Wojnarowicz’s “memoir of disintegration”—inscribed onscreen two-thirds of the way through END OFTHE CENTURY, the remarkable debut by writer and director Lucio Castro—suggests a directive for both the film’s characters and its audience as we parse distinctions between imagination and reality, dream reunions and deathless regret.
Marked by a fluidity that sets the present against a non-objective past, the film is a mysterious evocation of a passionate fling and its possible reminiscence—Ocho (Juan Barberini) and Javi (Ramón Pujol), both traveling for work, meet as strangers in Barcelona… but what happens next? Javi’s “Kiss” T-shirt—which functions, in a Lacanian sense, not unlike the small blue box in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive—may offer a clue.
END OF THE CENTURY / FIN DE SIGLO (2019, Argentina)—co-starring Mía Maestro as Sonia—won Best Film at the Buenos Aires Film Festival and Best First Film at Frameline in San Francisco.
Join the director for opening weekend Q & A’s at the Nuart. (See link below for details.)
Haunted by loss and regret, MS. PURPLE—the third feature directed by Justin Chon—is a brief, spellbinding take on loss and disfunction between a pair of siblings barely hanging on in a gig-economy Koreatown.
That the film—written by Chon and Chris Dinh—lands with such devastating impact despite the burden of an over-emphatic soundtrack is a testament to the powerful central performance of Tiffany Chu as Kasie.
This weekend, Chon and Chuwill join actor Teddy Lee (as Carey) at the Nuart for several post-screening Q & A’s. And for Film Independent members, there’s a Case Study presentation on Tuesday night.