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International Film Festival & Awards Macao: Our Picks
December 12, 2018
Our 2nd installment of film’s we managed to catch this week the International Film Festival & Awards – Macao.
Scarborough is a theatre production at its core, based on the play by Fiona Davies, a follow up to director Barnaby Southcombe’s debut I Anna, starring his mother Charlotte Rampling. The focus of the film lies on two separate stories with exactly the same theme and the same location; two teachers engaging an illicit affair with their students, both at the tender of sixteen, sixth form college at a stretch. Daz (Jordan Bolger) goes on a romantic getaway weekend with his teacher Liz (Jodhi May) at the faded Scarborough Vcitorian Ground Hotel. This is alternated with a parallel reality, seemingly in past, Nokia mobiles provide vague hints, where another forbidden escape between teacher Aiden (Edward Hogg) and Beth (Jessica Barden, the most convincing of all four). Over the course of the weekend; obvious declarations and revelations eventually reveal how the two stories are linked. A rather lacklustre affair with potentially interesting ideas but unsuccessfully delivered; mostly attributed to the film’s miscasting with a knock-on effect of appearing amateurish, to the point of cringe.
An heart-breaking entry in the New Chinese Cinema section, by established director Liu Jie, the third chapter of his trilogy. With Baby Jie aims to highlight China’s legislative system that juxtaposes the country’s social fabric. A young lady Jiang Ming (Tang Mi) starts her new job at the hospital as a cleaner. Jiang discovers a father who is unwilling to allow life-surgery on his new-born as he believes that a life of disability, is not one worth living for. Jiang mirrors her own life in the baby, herself suffered from the same congenital defects and abandoned to foster care by her own family, is spurred on to save the baby when she discovers the baby’s father has checked her out of hospital and into a hospice to die in. Jiang does everything in her power from roping in friends, the welfare agency and police, to the point of frustration and endangering imprisonment, in a bid to save her. Yang Mi, a superstar in China, is simply faultless as Jiang, the urgency and desperation in her performance is praiseworthy, making the injustice and hopelessness of the situation befittingly unpalatable, a stealthy inner spirit that refuses to succumb to a society steeped in bureaucracy and prejudice.
A new substitute teacher Pierre (Laurent Lafitte, recognisable from Paul Verhoeven’s Elle) is sent to replace a teacher who jumped to his death from a classroom window during a lesson. Straight off the bat, Pierre, notices a rather indifference and hostility coming from his class, specifically from a clique of six pupils spearheaded by creepy head girl Apolline (Luàna Bajrami). Pierre senses they are scheming some sinister plan and attempts to solve the mystery before it’s too late. His quest turns into an obsession turning his own life into a nightmare in the process. An enjoyable suspense thriller by director Sébastien Marnier, channelling works by Carpenter as well as Sofia Coppolla’s The Virgin Suicides but also injecting sombre themes of the worlds’ eminent environmental disaster, the peculiar dynamics between the teachers, Pierre’s fascination with unattainable men and a comedic school choir, all thrown in for maximum effect.
Mary Queen of Scots
Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie flex their acting muscles to play to historical figures. Ronan plays Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, as she returns to her native Scotland after being widowed at just 18, to reclaim her throne, but Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I (Robbie), her cousin. Opponents in power and love, reigning in continuous contrition in an inherently masculine world, each playing the game of marriage versus independence. Directed by Josie Rourke, a theatre director, contributing to theatrical feel, such as its commendable colour-blind casting and the declaratory fashion of most of the dialogue. There is also a small gay strand thrown in for good mix. Despite its effort to subvert the historical drama genre, the whole thing felt generically Working Title, unsurprisingly the production company behind it. It’s a given that Ronan and Robbie are talented actresses but there is a sensation that they are both trying to hard in this instance, possibly for an Oscar nod. Furthermore, through all the continuous shifting powers between the Queens and their rivals wishing to dethrone them, this relentless to and fro confuses and the few battle scenes that we get appear anaemic and half-baked.
The 3rd International Film Festival & Awards Macao runs from 8-14th of December, 2018.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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