By Roger Costa
TEST PATTERN ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Don’t drive if you drink a lot!” tells him as she leaves the house to meet a friend for a girl’s night out. They have just met not long ago and have already developed a mutual co-dependent, respectful, totally intimate relationship. Both accomplished adults, living and transitioning in the Texan jungle concrete, this interracial romantic pair are celebrating their youth, their talents and progress, he as a tattoo artist and she as a spokesperson for an animal protection corporation. What initially starts like a modern, stylized and incredibly humane love story turns into a psychological #metoo dramatic thriller, as she experiences a hell of a night. At the club, her friend is easily attracted to a couple of guys seemingly celebrating as well, and they end up taking a stronger candy drug, a hallucinating version of marijuana. Uncertain of her condition and unable to communicate or defend herself, she is taken to a hotel room where she is abused by one of the guys.
As she regains consciousness, and bravely confesses everything to her partner, she is strongly supported by him, immediately engaging in the pursuit for healing and justice. Shockingly, they are confronted by a series of hardship, bureaucracy and lack of professionalism from the part of organizations and medical institutions supposedly assigned to perform the needed care in such cases, deeply reporting the negligence and prejudice found in the American health system.
Shatara Michelle Ford’s powerful debut addresses race, gender equality, sexual behavior and moral standards in utterly confident levels and fashionably involving aesthetic. Their authentic lenses and confidence are seen throughout the entire narrative, masterly pieced together with slow motion shots to the sound of classic gems, lyrical moments of self-examination and communal passion, neon infused psychedelic horror-like imagery brilliantly mirroring the horrifying effects caused by the aggression, and the unexpected reactions and lack of commitment of those responsible to catch
the truth and the violator. Impactful and genuinely affecting, the cast contributes a lot to the high quality of this drama, delivering finely crafted and convincingly synched performances. Undoubtedly a very promising and accomplished debut and the very first best film officially released in 2021.
(Kino Lorber/Kino Marquee. 2/19. In Virtual Cinemas and On Demand.)
MAFIA INC ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Since its shockingly explosive opening introduction, director Daniel Grou’s extremely violent and sumptuously crafted gangster epic saga leaves no doubt we are in for a treat with the same intensity of a Scorsese classic.
Based on real events, the film spans two decades in the lives of two families connected by friendship, vanity, desire, business and crime, centered on the empire of a Canadian/Italian mafioso working his influences with the European government as they plan to build a bridge in Sicily.
Vincent, the brutally skillful protagonist is the son of the tailor who dresses the crime family, and after a dispute he decides to enter the organization, becoming their number one essential leading man, especially after succeeding in the operation of transporting a large amount of drugs from Venezuela to Europe, which has caused an accident killing an entire soccer team made of kids. His influence over the family’s business is seen as a threat by the boss’ son Graco, who becomes sort of overshadowed and jealous of the opportunities given to him. Their competitive behaviors are vividly explored with nuance while observing topics of greed, rivalry and ego through these characters’ chauvinist cosmovision.
Engaging and seductive, director Grou extracts powerhouse performances from the entire cast, while accurately depicting the interior family conflicts, in contrast with the investigations occurring outside their doorsteps, and precisely going back in time to emotionally display the upbringing of a crime professional. He also shows incredible control as the camera witnesses their celebrations, parties and discussions, negotiations, the expansive money laundering activity and severely gruesome murderous crimes. There’s also a romance amidst all the masked chaos, between the mafioso’s youngest son and the gorgeous, luminous tailor’s daughter. And this romance is just the pivot and excuse for both patriarchs to come to terms with themselves and their roles in the game of endangering their children.
It is an intensely gripping dramatic thriller, filled with fast paced immersive combats and bloodbaths, as well as an efficient production about men seeking prestige, love, recognition and fortune.
(Film Movement. 2/19. In Virtual Cinemas and On Demand.)
Strangely beautiful, melancholic, poetic and deeply reflective, Russian veteran master Andrei Konchalovsky paints an accurate canvas of the great painter Michelangelo as he struggles with his tempestuous behavior running against time to finish the ceiling of Sistine Chapel, being pressured by the Pope and other authorities.
One of the oldest directors working today, 83-year-old Konchalovsky conceives an impressive and imaginative character study, cautiously designed and sensitively executed, totally engaged in the depiction of an artist at a crossfire with himself, his heavy drinking and his impressively profane inspirations.
A work of great admiration that demands extreme attention for its visual qualities, gorgeous landscapes and magical realism aesthetic, it is an eye-striking and indispensable feast for Medieval arts admirers, as well as a proof of a passionate director’s commitment to his work.
(Corinth Films. 2/19. In Virtual Cinemas and On Demand.)