After being rescheduled several times, São Paulo will finally be able to watch Nanni Moretti’s Habemus Papam, one of the highlights of the city’s last International Film Festival. With accolades coming from festivals as notable as Cannes’ Palm d’Or (for 2001’s drama, The Son’s Room), Moretti is clearly in familiar territory in this comedy about a newly-elected pope’s identity crisis.
Aside from Habemus Papam, this week’s releases feature everything from a drama about a sex addict to yet another action movie starring Denzel Washington, as well as a documentary about professional MMA fighting champion Anderson Silva thrown in the middle for good measure.
Nanni Moretti is better known for his first-person films that intertwine the details of his private life with observations about Italy’s political situation. Prime examples of the director’s usual approach are Dear Diary and Aprile, and are arguably his best films, even if critical acclaim for Moretti only arrived after 2001’s drama, The Son’s Room.
Habemus Papam is more of a classic comedy of manners. We follow the woes of a recently elected pope (Michel Piccoli), who suffers a crisis immediately following his first public apparition to the people crowding Saint Mark’s Square. A psychologist – played by Moretti himself – tries to help the supreme pontiff to (re)define his place in the world and within the religious institution he’s supposed to lead. The Latin roots of the word ‘pontiff’, by the way, come from ‘bridge builder’, and what we see in Habemus Papam is a man incapable of establishing any kind of connection with himself or the external world. In that sense, the hollow feeling experienced by this anguished pope mirrors the detached role of the Church in the contemporary world.
Dir. Nanni Moretti, Italy/France, 2011. Michel Picolli, Jerzy Stuhr, Renato Scarpa, Franco Graziozi, Camillo Milli, Roberto Nobile. 102 mins.
Shame’s leading man is a sex-addicted businessman forced to deal with an unexpected visit from his sister. Her presence becomes the catalyst that forces him to confront his compulsive behaviour. It’s not an easy journey, much less a conclusive one. Aside from brilliant performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, Shame succeeds without artificially psychoanalysing its characters.
A rough past is occasionally insinuated, but these hints never trap the characters in narrative straightjacket. Free to explore the possibilities of his protagonist, Steve McQueen's film works best as a study of a dislikeable character, a modern cousin to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. The audience doesn’t have to relate to the protagonist and writer/director McQueen doesn’t ask them to. It’s enough to exist in the same world as Fassbender’s character for a brief period of time and, in the end, leave him to follow his own path.
- Click here to read the review by Keith Uhlich
- Click here to read the interview with Michael Fassbender
Dir. Steve McQueen, UK, 2011. Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie. 101 mins.
Produced in the USA and directed by Pablo Croce, this documentary follows MMA fighter Anderson Silva from April to August of 2010, a time during which he prepared for a confrontation with his biggest rival, Chael Sonnen. Miles away from cinema vérité, Croce creates and develops a narrative around Silva's challenging moments, almost as if he’s working with a screenplay. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the glimpse Croce provides viewers of the dominating role media coverage plays in the UFC universe.
Dir. Pablo Croce, USA, 2011. Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, Junior dos Santos, Ramon Lemos, Lyoto Machida. 76 mins.
Summarized by its producers as an ‘action romantic comedy’, This Means War is neither. Or rather, it’s a McG movie. In this confused film, Reese Witherspoon simultaneously dates two CIA agents who engage in an insane battle for her affection using every resource CIA has to offer. The film comes off as a bastard child of James Cameron’s True Lies, in which Schwarzenegger’s shenanigans with his wife offered much more satisfying action and comedy scenes.
Dir. McG, USA, 2012. Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy, Chris Pine. 98 mins.
Mercenaries attack the CIA’s centre of operations at Cabo and an inexperienced agent (Ryan Reynolds) is forced to work with a convict (Denzel Washington) to make it out alive. The convict is -– of course – also a former agent with a shadowy past and the skills to match Jack Bauer. Working with this premise, Swedish director of half-Chilean descent, Daniel Espinosa, has the opportunity to use the genre’s clichés in his favour (like Nicolas Winding Refn in Drive) or have his film crushed by them.
Dir. Daniel Espinosa, USA/South Africa, 2012. Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard. 115 mins.
‘It’s like Superbad on crack’, says Warner Brothers’s tagline, allegedly quoting a viewer. The film, like many others these days, is told in the found footage style. But in lieu of losing a few terrified youths in a forest Blair Witch Project-style, these teens terrorize the neighbourhood with a party that goes entirely out of bounds. This unexpected take on the genre may be enough for people to rank this flick as a unique film, or at least a very particular type of apocalyptic movie.
Dir. Nima Nourizadeh, USA, 2012. Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Dax Flame, Kirby Bliss Blanton. 90 mins.
The title says enough: this is the fourth instalment in Robert Rodriguez’s franchise. In the USA, Spy Kids had a 4D launching, which featured a gimmick known as Aromascope. The idea isn’t new, though. In 1981, filmmaker John Waters released his trash classic Polyester in Odorama; at its cinematic release, each viewer received a scratch-and-sniff card to use as the film played. Without going into detail, Waters’s movie’s card offered participants some very different and nauseating scents than what Spy Kids 4’s Rodriguez brought back. In Brazil, however, Spy Kids will only get the old-fashioned 2D and 3D releases, as distributors couldn’t reach an agreement in regards to the importing of the ‘technology’. We’re sure everyone will survive.
Dir. Robert Rodriguez, USA, 2011. Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Jessica Alba, Joel McHale. 89 mins.