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Heating Lovers, Nostalgic Wagon, Existential Parable & Gun Violence

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By Roger Costa

SIMPLE PASSION

As a pair of insatiable lovers consummate their intimacy, a French teacher running away from a previous failed marriage and an adulterous Russian diplomat, the camera persistently devours their bodies in heat, observing the sweaty details, the intense moaning, the breath of relief, offering one of the most sexually-charged romances in recent memory. At the beginning of this incendiary erotic drama, the female protagonist explains the affair to a doctor, while recalling the torrid sexual moments and how she wrongly mistook lust for love. Little by little, other characters pop up in the scene, including her child son, and ex-husband, both affected by her negligence: she increasingly becomes infatuated with her lover, obsessed to the point of forgetting everything, and willing to risk anything for him. In her latest exploration of carnal desire and female obsession, French-Lebanese Award-winning writer-director Danielle Arbid crafts an enigmatic and efficient modern erotic tale that will certainly heat up temperatures with its fresh and unashamed depiction of sexual interaction. An immersive experience filled with satisfyingly hot sex scenes and marvelously performed by Laetitia Dosch and Sergei Polunin, the film’s aesthetic and use of lights resembles the work of Kieslowski, giving it a sophisticated and unconventional tone to the genre.

(Strand Releasing. 1/21. Quad Cinema.)

COMPARTMENT No 6

A Finnish archeologist seeking identity and purpose travels to Russia attempting to explore some ancient rock drawings in the company an unlikely stranger. After celebrating her departure with a girlfriend, she embarks on a chaotic train where she is forced to share the cabin/compartment with a misogynist young drunk. Without anywhere to escape to, she tries to make the best of it, tolerating his mood and abusive manners, but eventually learning that, despite they have nothing in common, they might have important lessons to teach one another. Unpredictable, sensitive, humanistic and very touching, director Juho Kuosmanen’s Cannes Grand Prix Award Winner is an admirable and fabulous journey through the Arctic Circle, capturing the gorgeous snowy scenario of rural Russia, as well as changing moods at every station stop, and pulsating energy and vigor at every frame. The delicate dialogue, the chemistry among the actors, the convincing atmosphere set in the late 90’s and the subtly optimistic humanitarian call for equality and a world without borders demonstrate the talent of a committed filmmaker and how fond he is of his characters. An authentic, nostalgic and enthusiastic poetic travelogue for the Generation Z.

(Sony Pictures Classics. 1/26. Angelika Film Center.)

INTRODUCTION

For his 25th feature film and first as a cinematographer, Korean master Hong Sang-soo focuses on young love, its confusions and impulses and how the world around it reacts. A young spoiled actor, living under the guidance of both his doctor father and aspiring star mother, tries to consolidate his life in Korea and the trips he must make to Berlin in order to spend time with his soulmate. As he intends to discuss his future, (professional, economical and romantic) with his parents, Sang-soo fills the screen with his usual tenderness and observational honesty, displaying a naturalistic portrait of human connections, behavior, dreams and frustrations. Structured as a three-act piece, shot in a marvelously thick B&W that highlights the melancholy and social satire of the narrative, and populated by Sang-soo’s usual elements and philosophies (hugs, cigarette smoking, money issues, artistic conflicts, camera zoom-in, soju), this Berlin Award-winning soft comedy is an organic and gentle humoristic exercise.

(Cinema Guild. 1/21. Film at Lincoln Center.)

PLAZA CATEDRAL

The harsh reality of gun violence in Latin America is fully explored in director Abner Benaim’s latest production, which is this year’s Panama’s shortlisted Oscar entry. Through the unlikely friendship between a grieving architect and a street kid who works randomly parking cars, the director conceives a powerful, heartbreaking and alarming portrait on the uncontrollable human corruption, as well as an engaging look at compassion, empathy and the risks one must take in order to help a stranger. Beautifully acted and impressively crafted, it is a triumphant drama about standing up for righteousness.

(Cinema Tropical. 1/23. Museum of the Moving Image.)


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