By Roger Costa
THE MAN IN THE BASEMENT
Award-winning director Philippe Le Guay’s holocaust denial psychological thriller unravels trauma, anger and social conflicts through an excellent multi-character study structure. Jeremie Renier and Berenice Bejo play a mid-class French-Jewish couple living harmoniously with their teen daughter in a close-knit complex community. They decide to sell their cellar to a stranger (Francois Cluzet), who going against the rules, makes it a living place rather than just a storage spot. At first they try to settle the issue, trying to give the homeless man some help and hope, but soon things get twisted and dramatically dangerous. Turns out the stranger is a web influencer who feeds up others with anti-Semitic conspiracy including denying holocaust and other prejudice related to the Jews. Their confrontation is inevitable and will involve many parts and players, including risking their own sanity and lives. Director Le Guay conducts the material with firm hands, extracting convincing performances from the cast, creating an intringuingly mysterious puzzle about moral and historical values, all while exploring the disturbed emotions of the four main characters with precise depth. A honorable man pushed to his limits, a mother facing the enemy right at her door, a naive teen experiencing doubt and confusion, and a stranger who increasingly reveals his real intentions and threatening personality. Seen through these perspectives, Le Guay scores a brilliant, nail-biting thriller that resurrects the essence of suspense, the chills of hosting an enemy inside doors.
(Greenwich Entertainment. 1/27. Quad Cinema.)
Italy’s official entry for the Oscars, director Mario Martone’s beautifully aching male crisis portrait brings another top notch performance by one of that country’s most versatile, hypnotic players. The great Pierfrancesco Favino gives his most sensitive and affecting performance yet, surrendering to the role of Felice, a mysterious and emotionally wounded man who returns to his hometown Naples after living abroad for about 40 years. His first encounter is with his aging, partially-blind mother. Their reuniting sequence is deeply moving, and sets the mood for the film, which reflects Felice’s fascination with his memories, the streets and places he visited, and his intense, ambiguous relationship to his childhood best friend, Oreste. Loaded with an admirable, patient sensibility, and as much complex as it is delicate, Martone composes a dynamic, very efficient and subtly poetic investigation on male uneasiness and self assurance, as well as the human ability to search in the past, the healing process for the future.
(Breaking Glass Pictures. 1/27 Film Noir Cinema, Brooklyn. 2/21 on VOD)