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Accepting the Unexpected Changes in Life

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By Roger Costa

SUMMER 1993

A girl observes a woman in bed, contemplating the absence of a mother figure; Moments later, that woman embraces the girl, during her sleep, as if that was the only moment she can express her inner emotions. The 6-year-old girl has just lost both of her parents, and is now living under the care of her uncle and wife, while waiting on an uncertain future. Based on her own childhood memories, Catalan director Carla Simón crafts a wonderfully sensitive, realistic and extremely emotional tale of grieving and family shelter, filled with exceptional performances, especially Laia Artigas, who plays Frida our child protagonist. The young girl presents her silent despair with a devastating expressive technique, capturing precious moments of innocence loss: as she’s experiencing pain and suffering for the first time, Frida doesn’t know how to control her disoriented emotions, an instinctive early sense of competition and rivalry (with her younger cousin, collecting vegetables, swimming or playing into the woods), a quiet anger that reflects to her loneliness and how to cope with the parents’ death. Named Best First Feature at Berlin, AFI and Buenos Aires Film Festivals among several others, Simón’s delicate and observational cameras treat the adults in the film with the same sense of a “magical tragedy”: though she won’t understand much of it, most of the adults interactions, decisions and arguments, are curiously pointed to Frida, as she listens to everything surrounding. The fear of abandon is easily taking control of rebellious and hopeless Frida, as she increases her jealousy and fury, even towards a religious saint statue, for whom she brings gifts intended for her mother’s spirit. Visually striking, lyrical and built as an odyssey through a child’s traumatized emotions, Simón’s feature debut is a powerful family drama about accepting the unexpected and the inconsolable changes of life. (Oscilloscope Laboratories. 5/25. Film Society of Lincoln Center.)

RODIN

One of the most versatile performers in contemporary France, Vincent Lindon, (winner of the Best Actor prize in Cannes for his role in “The Measure of A Man”) gives a tour-de-force performance as the great, visionary and controversial sculptor Rodin. Set around 1880, Jacques Doillon’s subtly sensual and explosive drama captures his devotion, compulsiveness and sacrifices for his creative process, as well as his womanizer behavior. The screenplay introduces the women in his life, the wife, mistress, and muses as both obstacles and inspirational models, as they become vulnerable to his ideas, immediately reflected on his works, which includes those found in the “The Gates of Hell” state commission. César Awards winning Actress Izïa Higelin gives a courageous turn as Camille Claudel, the most important key in Rodin’s mentioned works, a student who becomes an influential assistant and lover. Depicting the obsession, challenges and personal involvements aggravating the modern sculptor, Doillon conceived  a masterful look on an artist’s incendiary affairs.(Cohen Media Group. 6/1. Quad Cinemas.)


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