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CINEMA Film round-up: April 30, 2020

MARIA DUARTE and ALAN FRANK review Ema, The Assistant, Reborn, Enemy Lines and Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy,

Ema (15)
Directed by Pablo Larrain

CHILEAN film-maker Pablo Larrain opens his extraordinary drama with a riveting shot of burning traffic lights high above the night-time streets of Valparaiso, an unforgettable image that perfectly introduces the dancer Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo), who's an aficionado of pyromania.

A fascinatingly complex character, her search for emotional truth and its accompanying contentment is impelled by the end of the marriage to her choreographer Gaston (Gael Garcia Bernal), forcing them to abandon their seven-year-old adopted son Polo.

Larrain vividly transforms his compelling screenplay into a riveting psychological drama, embellished by perfect contributions from Di Girolama and Bernal.

Unforgettable and visually stunning dance numbers and evocative Valparaiso locations embellish a consistently gripping narrative that — to the director’s considerable credit — never allows unconvincing melodrama to weaken the potent performances that drive the story so memorably.

Alan Frank

The Assistant (15)
Directed by Kitty Green

INSPIRED by real events, The Assistant follows a day in the life of an ambitious young woman working for a powerful film producer which could irrevocably define her future.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, this fictional drama is an exploration of the system that enables and excuses a powerful individual in abusing and exploiting women in the workplace.

Directed by Kitty Green the film shows Jane (Julia Garner) as she arrives at work before daybreak and is forced to deal with situations as the day progresses which are definitely above and beyond her job description.

She disinfects her employer's supposed casting couch, babysits children in the office and deals with the boss's irate wife when he blocks her credit credits and later can't reach him when he is at a plush hotel with a new intern.

When she decides to report his behaviour to HR's Wilcock (Matthew Macfadyen) he questions her judgement and whether it is worth throwing her dream job away, adding that she has nothing to worry about as she isn't her boss's type.

Garner gives a mesmerising performance, saying very little for long sequences of the film. But her  look speaks volumes in what's a highly nuanced and thought-provoking insight into the culture of abuse and exploitation at work.

Maria Duarte

Reborn (15)
Directed by Julian Richards

THE B-FEATURE shocker so beloved by horror-film fans rises gleefully from the grave with director Julian Richards’s zestful, few-genre-tropes-ignored terror trip.

Brightly lit by cinematographer Brian Sewell, the increasingly creepy setting is contemporary Los Angeles, where a stillborn baby girl is brought to life by electro-kinetic sparks and, abducted by a morgue attendant, escapes by killing him on her 16th birthday.

She embarks on a search for her birth mother, leaving a trail of terror and corpses in her bloody wake.

Kayleigh Gilbert is suitably scary as the teenage killer and her monstrous mother — appropriately, a Hollywood actress? — is brought to effectively creepy life by Barbara Crampton.

A dead good time is had by all.


Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy
Directed by Elizabeth Carroll

DESCRIBED as a legend, a prophet and the Indiana Jones of the food world, Diana Kennedy is widely regarded as the global authority on Mexican cuisine.

This documentary explores the life and work of this extraordinary 95-year-old ex-pat British chef who has written nine definitive cookbooks about authentic and traditional Mexican dishes.

Kennedy comes across as  a total force of nature, who still lives in the ecologically and sustainable home she built and designed in the middle of the jungle outside Zitacuaro in Michoacan in 1974. She continues to drive her truck into town and cooks and grows her own vegetables and coffee.

Her love and passion for Mexican cuisine is truly infectious and leading chefs attest to her influence and legacy.

She's a true inspiration and, if nothing else, the film will entice you to make proper guacamole with no garlic.


Enemy Lines (15)
Directed by Anders Banke

GIVEN that the outcome of WWII is now history, period combat film-makers face obvious problems in coming up with something new.

So, credit to screenwriter Michael Wright — working from a Tom George story — director Anders Banke and a hard-working cast led by Ed Westwick for delivering a fast and furious WW2 thriller that reworks genre tropes well enough.

Westwick, playing a soldier with Polish ancestry, leads an Allied mission to extract a vital rocket scientist held captive by the nazis in occupied Poland in 1943 and legions of Allied troops, Poles and Germans bite the dust before the mission is accomplished and a plane flies the scientist to safety.

Banke’s brisk, direct storytelling keeps you watching, Slovakia stands in splendidly for snowbound Poland and competent, though unfamiliar, actors add narrative credibility.



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