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The Page Turner
Seething resentment fuels a sly revenge plot in Denis Dercourt’s The Page Turner, an expertly-crafted psychological thriller set against the world of classical music. Deborah Francois is Melanie, a piano prodigy whose dreams of conservatory acceptance are ruined by the thoughtless actions of one of the judges, the musical great Ariane (Catherine Frot). Melanie seeks out a job as Ariane’s PA and sets in motion an intricate and ruthless dismantling of her new employer’s career, marriage and sanity. Full of slow-burn ‘Hitchcockian’ flourishes and a simmering undercurrent of Sapphic sexual tension, Dercourt’s A-grade B-movie is slick, melodramatic French cinema of the highest order. (SF)
When a disabled woman commits suicide on her wedding night, her grieving brother Jacob (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) develops a near crippling sense of injustice, linked to the shadowy figure of the man she left behind, Anker (a quietly disturbing Nicolas Bro). Jannik Johansen’s claustrophobic study of one man’s internalised pain manifesting as guilt and suspicion, is a textbook study in Danish cinema minimalism, here servicing a nailbiting spin on the ‘serial killer’ genre. Cinematographer Rasmus Videbaek’s (Noi the Albino; A Royal Affair) framing of the steely blue-tinged countryside adds immeasurably to the suspense. (SF)
Kiwi Kerry Fox plays a hot shot prosecutor at The Hague, investigating crimes emanating from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Her decades-long faith in the legal system is irrevocably shaken when her ‘clear-cut’ case against a former Bosnian Serb General is met with political obfuscation at the highest levels. Her commitment places her life – and that of her valuable eyewitness – in grave danger. A taut thriller from the Netherlands (in English). (FW)
The title is derived from the ninth highest mountain in the world, situated in Pakistan. In 1970, Reinhold Messner and his younger brother Gunther attempted to scale the treacherous peak; tragically, only one of them returned. Director Joseph Vilsmaier shot this thrilling survival drama on the very mountain that tore a family apart. This version of the events divided German moviegoers, many of whom remember the controversy surrounding the disputed facts of the tragedy. Starring Florian Stetter and Andreas Tobias as the ill-fated mountaineering siblings, this spectacular man-vs-nature epic won a Grand Prix Special Honour at the Tokyo Film Festival. (SF)
The universal plight of inner city youth is captured with a stark realism in Izzat, director Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen’s vision of the crime-riddled street life of East Oslo. Wasim (Emil Marwa), Riaz (Assad Siddique) and Munawar (Khawar Gomi Sadiq) break out of the Pakistani enclave where they have been doormant for so long and embrace the life of the petty hood. When they start to run with the gang known as the East Side Crew, their confidence escalates in proportion to the severity of their crimes, until an inevitable price is paid. Like The Outsiders, Romper Stomper and La Haine, Rolfsen’s tough-minded drama examines the macho creed and pack mentality that puts many young men’s lives at risk. (SF)
The immoral machinations of those wielding ultimate power provides a backdrop to director Nicolaj Arcel’s political thriller, King’s Game. Ambitious journalist Ulrik (Anders Berthelsen) enters the hallowed halls of government at a turbulent time; a near fatal car accident involving a party leader has ignited a powder-keg of rampant ambition. Ulrik uncovers a labyrinthine plot involving the Prime Minister, but the story is too hot for anyone to touch, leaving the young idealist to take on the top office alone. A Best Film winner at Denmark’s Bodil awards, Arcel weaves a Shakespearean tale of ambition and intrigue in his reworking of the adage, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’. (SF)
Director Rumle Hammerich lends a commercial touch in this compelling, Grisham-esque tale of family betrayal and corporate maneuvering set against the window-panelled boardrooms of Danish big business. Martin Ving (Lars Mikkelsen) is the best high-level headhunter in the game and finds himself employed by the imposing Niels Seiger (Henning Moritzen) to source a fresh face to take over his family company. Of course, this riles the wayward son Daniel (Flemming Enevold), who feels entitled to the family fortune. Ving soon finds himself and all he holds precious has become currency in a high-stakes power struggle. (SF)
From the near pitch-black opening scene that aurally assaults you with the sounds of a young family being brutally attacked, Alfred Lot’s Melody’s Smile is a gripping sensory experience that has been justifiably called the French Silence of the Lambs. In one of the roles that set her on the path to stardom, Melanie Laurent stars as detective Lucie Hennebelle, the lead investigator of the ritualistic slaying of a young girl. The intricate plotting, filled with a myriad of characters and complex shifting of time and place, is masterfully handled by Lot; connections to The Coen Brother’s classics Fargo and No Country For Old Men can be drawn, but the French auteur has a clarity and confidence to his technique that is all his own. (SF)
Two police officers (Cecile De France and Fred Testot) are asked to provide false statements when the shooter of a colleague, killed during a routine doorknock, is revealed to be the drugged-up son of a prominent politician. With their careers on the line, the pair goes undercover to rat out the drug kingpin, restore their reputation and honour their slain colleague. Nicholas Boukhrief’s pacey procedural paints no one in a good light; from commissioners to ex-cons, nobody forges through the quagmire of deceit and egotism to fight for the truth. Except De France and Testrot, whose performance are tightly-wound and fuelled by their character’s integrity. (SF)
A classic ‘hunter becomes the hunted’ Danish thriller. A defence attorney who makes a tidy living getting murderers acquitted has his world turned on its head when he becomes a murder suspect. On the morning after a wild night, a woman is dead and all of the evidence points to him. He embarks on a mission to clear his name, and unearths a conspiracy that rocks him to his core. (FW)
The Vanishing Point
Sylvie Testud plays an obsessive art student, compelled to discover the hidden meaning in the works of famed artist Antoine Watteau. Fascinated by his mysterious canvasses, she loses herself in her investigations into the painter's real identity, which uncover a centuries-old plot. (FW)
The CEO of a multinational company enjoys a high public profile that makes him a prime target for a kidnapping. A very high ransom is requested against his liberation but the police and the members of his close family play against each other, in a very public way. A fascinating thriller about public people’s private lives, from France.