Monday, May 22, 2023

Full Time Review

Full Time
opens in the half-light of the early morning, with the credits unfurling over the slumbering form of Julie (Laure Calamy). The camera is inches from her face and the only sound we hear is her heavy breathing as she snoozes through the final minutes before her alarm rings. Enjoy this moment of calm, because such peaceful interludes are few and far between in √Čric Gravel’s nerve-jangling film.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Under the Fig Trees Review

Erige Sehiri has adopted a deceptively simple structure for her debut narrative feature Under the Fig Trees. The film opens as the day breaks, with a small band of agricultural workers standing by the side of the road, waiting for their ride to work, and closes with the return journey. In between these commutes we spend a day in the orchard, where these people collect figs; we watch them work, listen to them talk, and gain a brief window into their lives.

The first words we hear in the film are “She took everything and left,” and while this stray comment doesn’t mean anything in the overall scheme of the movie – it’s just two women sharing a bit of village gossip – it does set us up for the film’s tendency to happen upon conversations in medias res and let us hear just a little of what’s being said before moving on. These snatches of talk suggest lives and relationships that exist beyond the confines of what we see on screen.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Joyland Review

In Saim Sadiq’s 2019 short film Darling, the transgender actress Alina Khan played an aspiring dancer auditioning for a central role at a mujra theatre, only to be told by the manager, “In this theatre, the men only come to watch real girls.” To appear onstage, Khan’s character ultimately has to present herself as a male backing dancer to a female star. The strictures of gender roles in Pakistani society is a theme that Sadiq pushes further in his debut feature Joyland. Khan again stars as a mujra dancer – this time her character Biba is established as a regular attraction – but Sadiq expands his focus to take in several characters, each of whom is struggling within the bonds of familial and societal expectations.

Read the rest of my review at Sight & Sound