Sunday, May 25, 2014

Film Review - X-Men: Days of Future Past

Beginning in 2023 men and mutants march side by side along a dark dreary 1984ish tunnel to an uncertain fate in a dystopian future. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) provides the narrative describing the modern reality. Mutants are near extension, the man made Sentinels created 50 years earlier by Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) to eliminate mutants have turned on their makers as well. The answer to change the present and future is in the past returning to stop a key event that set the chain of events in motion that led to this current modern day.

Next up is the best action sequence in the whole production. At a different near future setting a small group of X-Men featuring a few unfamiliar to the movie franchise battle the above noted Sentinels. The machines are three times human size and appear to absorb the X-men's powers. The mutants work as a team lead by Blink (Bingbing Fan) visually stunning teleporting portals they use their gifts to help one another although as the intense battle progresses the Sentinels appear to be both immovable and unstoppable. The last two mutants standing Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and Bishop (Omar Sy) retreat to a small room as the enemy closes in.

Director Bryan Singer returns to the franchise after an 11 years absence. However, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not a sequel to his familiar group of characters from the early 2000's its instead more of a follow up to the 2011's X- Men First Class universe. Singer knows and respects these characters taking them seriously and paying them their due. He has a strong vision of the X-Men universe plus a solid concept on the story he wants to tell.

The bulk of the story takes place in 1973. Kitty Pryde sends Wolverine/Logan's (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back to his 1973 body where he's tasked to get Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Lehsherr (Michael Fassbender) on board to stop Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from performing and act that will lead to the current future.

The Film brings 1973 roaring to life. All aspects of the production play their part to achieve the rich display of the era on film. The costume design team get the wide ties, leather jackets, big furs and loud colours just right. Logan is clearly in his element from the moment he wakes up in 1973 New York City. His signature muttonchops are clearly from the time period and he is really at home behind the wheel of an early 70's muscle car. It's early on this section of the film that we meet Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who plays a major role in a key task required to get one of the main characters into the action.

An odd quirk in the proceedings is the apparent role reversal of Logan and Charles Xavier. Logan has to remain calm as Kitty Pryde works to project his consciousness into the past from the future while Charles is angry, raging and lost his faith given his current circumstance in the period.

One of the better action sequences in the piece is Ravens drop in to Saigon as the U.S. troops are moving out and a group of mutants identified by Major Bill Stryker (Josh Helman) for further study at Trask Industries are detained to be moved. Raven breaks up the travel plans with the help of the mutants and secures alternate travel arrangements for the group.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a full course summer ride. The writing team does an excellent job with the multitude of characters keeping them straight and in order. The story and message are simple. Choosing patience or to walk away as opposed to committing a violent act is often the best decision for everyone's long term future. The franchise is back in the right hands and on sold ground as evidenced by the green light for the next film X-Men: Apocalypse featuring the first X-man En Sabah Nur and his four horseman teased at the end of the credits and coming in 2016.

**** Out of 4.

X-Men Days of Future Past | Bryan Singer | U.S.A. U.K. | 2014 | 131 Minutes.

Tags: Time Travel, Mutants, 1973, Political Summit, Dystopia, 2023, New York, Paris, Moscow, Saigon.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Film Review- Godzilla

Gareth Edward's Godzilla returns to the 1954 roots of the story of the monster. It's based in the Pacific theatre. The evils of nuclear bombs, testing, plants and power are present at the outset and ongoing theme through the film. It's Godzilla battling it out with other nuclear power fuelled behemoths to determine whose king.

The story begins 15 years in the past. A mining company stumbles on a nest of a dormant creature in the Philippines that is awaken by their activity then heads to Japan for the nearest nuclear source for food and energy. That source is the plant where Joe Brody (Brian Cranston) is employed as an engineer. Brody discovers that the plant is displaying unusual seismic activity that spikes causing an apparent meltdown and the death of his wife Sandy (Juliette Binoche).

The plot moves ahead to modern day where Joe's son Ford returns home from his Navy deployment as a bomb tech to his wife and son. A call comes in from Japan, his dad Joe who never recovered from the event at the plant has been opposing the official meltdown story and trespassing in the quarantine zone where the family used to live. The seismic activity has started again and Joe is determined to lean the truth feeling a sense of guilt as he sent his wife and her team in to investigate at the core of the plant 15 years earlier.

Writers Max Borenstein and Dave Callahan take their time telling the story. The original disaster is only evidenced by smoke rolling up the hallways from the core and the silos and reactor containment buildings seen collapsing from a distance. They insert just the right amount of character development scenes first for Joe's family in Japan then Ford's in San Francisco.

Edwards uses a unique shooting style to show the action on the screen. The destruction of buildings and territory is often not shown as it happens. Instead glimpses and flashes of the monsters are shown  followed by the opening seconds of destruction. Next up on screen is the aftermath that the visual effects and art department team deliver spot on especially in Honolulu and Las Vegas.

One area where the film falls down a bit it's in the acting department. Aaron Taylor-Johnson deliverers a pedestrian performance as the films central figure Ford Brody.  Johnson is at just about all locations in the production but fails to elicit a strong reaction from the viewer. Elizabeth Olsen is better as his wife Elle attempting to hold down her family on the home front unsure where her husband is for the majority of the film. Brian Cranston and Juliette Binoche have supporting roles. The best performance is that of Ken Wantanabe (Dr, Ichiro Serizawa) who has links to the sea dwelling creatures, knows the history of nuclear power and that man often underestimates the power of nature to his own detriment.

The film features two memorable action sequences the first on train tracks that wind through a tunnel then suspended well above the valley below. The scene is more suspenseful than face paced but sound of the monsters as they pass near the army recon team is both deafening and eerily quiet all at the same time.

The other is the halo jump in to the theatre of battling monsters. Starting with the unit The team as the prepare on the bomber, opening of the rear hatch, the wave of solders jumping into the sky the free fall with lights and red smoke emanating from the each solider s kit as they parachute into the rubble filled streets of San Francisco.

Godzilla is a quality reboot of a classic cinematic character. Gareth Edwards had a unique vision for the character that's clearly presented on screen. The piece has a running theme that mankind's reliance on nuclear energy, power and weapons might not be the best course of action. The result of this risky endeavour are monsters forged in the core of the planet coming to the surface to show Mother Nature's displeasure.  The film is everything one is looking for in a summer block buster and is one that I can highly recommend.

*** 1/2 out of 4.

Godzilla | Gareth Edwards | U.S.A.| 2014| 123 Minutes.

Tags: Nuclear Power, Meltdown,Army, Navy, Secret Project, Quarantine Zone, Disaster, Philippines, Japan, Honolulu, San Francisco.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hot Docs 2014 Film Review - Everyday Rebellion

The New York City police thought they had a great idea to quiet the participants in the Occupy Movement. The banned the use of mega phones at their rallies. The members of the movement found another way to get their message out. A speaker would begin their story with the first sentence that was repeated by the group, followed by the second sentence that was repeated by more of the group. As the speaker got the end of the first stanza everyone in earshot repeating the sentence producing a sound greater and seemingly more unified that a megaphone could have ever produced.

The scene shifts to Madrid Spain focusing on the phenomenon of renters being kicked out of their homes.  The situation is so dire that many appear in second floor windows threatening to jump when the authorities come to move them out. Unfortunately many of them actually jump to their deaths rather than face eviction onto the streets. The main player in Madrid is Juan Carlos Aiyza who is facing eviction and a leader in the fight for the basis rights of citizens: housing, employment, culture, health and education. Citizens should also have the right to political participation and free personal dealing.

Another featured activist in is Inna Sherchenko a leading figure in the group Femen in the Ukraine. The group feels that their constituents have been raped by Europe therefore they appear half naked in silent with protest signs to demonstrate their point. After a stunt that goes a bit to far  Sherchenko finds herself on the run from the KGB and the subject of death threats that force her to leave the Ukraine.

The directors Arash and Arman Riahi present a film on non violent political activism in the modern world. They bring their cameras to the Youth for democracy summit in Copenhagen and feature Erica Chenoweth and Srdja Popovic two large proponents of non violent action. The two experts present the facts on the gulf of better success with non-violent over violent protests. The experts point out that personal risk is not a necessity to be active. You can sow support by banging on a pan outside your window at a pre-appointed time at night, turn a light on and off in your home in unison with your neighbours or spread your message through graffiti.

The production does suffer from an attempt to be too overreaching. In addition to the four locals mentioned above the film also checks in on and follows activist in Iran, London, Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

Everyday Rebellion spans the globe looking at civil disobedience and peaceful forms of protest. The leaders are ordinarily people changeling the establishment as the demand change. The film could have been served better with a narrow focus and further development of few individual movements to find out more about an end goal.  As the majority of the protest featured are ongoing it's too early to declare a final verdict. The directors may want to revisit two or three of the main movements in 3 to 5 years time to be in a better position to measure success or failure.

*** out of 4

Everday Rebellion | Arash T. Riahi /Arman T. Riahi | Austria/Switzerland/Germany | 2013 | 118 Minutes.

Tags: Non Violent, Occupy, Demonstrate, Shock, Sit In, Political Unrest, Banks.

Hot Docs Film Festival 2014 Review -The Notorious Mr. Bout.

March 6, 2008, Viktor Bout is in a boardroom meeting in Thailand discussing weapons he could supply for an attack on Americans moments later in bust the police, Bout is arrested, caught in an international police sting. Soon after headlines around the world announce that The Merchant of Death has been arrested.

The story shifts back to the mid nineties as Viktor exits the Russian army as a trained language expert looking for work at the time of the break up of the Soviet Union. His first venture is an import export business that brought in goods to Russia from the former Soviet world that were before not available. His next idea, purchase decommissioned cargo planes and ship in consumer goods. Then he happens on his ultimate venture obtaining a fleet of cargo planes then leasing them out for exorbitant amounts to third world countries. Unfortunately for Mr. Bout the countries that are in the market for this type of transportation end to be located in sensitive areas and the cargo they want to move tends to be weapons and other illegal items.

The Notorious Mr. Bout tracks Victor Bout from the late 80's all the way up to his conviction in an American court in 2012. The film makers Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdrovokin had an abundance of footage as their subject fancied himself as a film maker film everything from his first meeting of his future wife Alla and his 1991 marriage to his business activities and family life in all the countries that he set up shop. Bout shot video using the technology of the time from Brussels to the U.A.E. to several central and southern African hotspots. Viktor daughter is also a signpost to measure time in the film as she first appears moments after her birth. Later she is a little girl in first class when the family leaves South Africa to return to Russia then lastly a young woman at the time of the trial.

The film does not really take sides or show the protagonist involved in any arm sales or strong arm tactics. Instead as Mr. Bout describes it his fleet of cargo planes is no different than a car rental service. He asks if the renter uses the vehicle to commit a crime can the rental company be held liable? In other words he uses the businessman's excuse he is not breaking any laws nor is it his business what's in the back of his plane. His company was just hired to fly this stuff the content is not his companies responsibility.

The directors had an interest in the subject matter for a while before they started shooting the film. Maximum Pozdrovokin did a magazine piece with Alla and Viktor's daughter then began to meet with him in prison to develop the piece. They could not bring cameras in to the prison so they used the prison correspondence to shape the story. Starting with letters on his computer screen to voice over narration for Viktor as he told his story. The directors had 200 hours of home video footage to go through. They wanted to get away from the official story of The Merchant of Death with 6 billion dollars which did not make sense based on how he and his family actually lived.

The Notorious Mr. Bout is a piece forged with the purpose to deconstruct a media driven image. The creation of these villains is an  advantage to the U.S. ,Russia and other countries that profit from greatly from the Arms Industry to distract from the fact that they continue to make new product and in order to sell it people like Victor are needed to find a place for the old product to go.  The directors did an excellent job in delivering their point.

**** out of 4.

The Notorious Mr. Bout | Tony Gerber & Maxim Pozdrovokin | Russia /U.S.A. | 2014 | 94 Minutes.

Tags: Sting, Arrest, Trial, Video, Military, Transportation, Weapons, New York, Moscow, Congo, South Africa, Import Export, Cargo Planes.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hot Docs 2014 Film Review - The Actress

Brandy Burre had a significant recurring role on The Wire she was cast to play Theresa D'Agostino the campaign manager for the central character for season four of the show. Her role, scenes and lines continued to increase as the episodes progressed. The writers even began to hint at a romantic storyline between her character and mayoral candidate Thomas Carcetti. Then Brandy found out she was pregnant, left the show and acting to move to upstate to Beacon New York to have her child and then a second with her partner.

As the story begins Brandy is doing mundane tasks for her two children Henry and Stella. She dresses them in winter clothes, does the groceries and minds the house while her partner Tim runs the family restaurant often returning at all hours of the morning. Tim takes the kids to his parents in California for Stella's 4th birthday.  While along back in Beacon Brandy meets up with her former circle of acting friends word of the outing gets back to Tim and the theme of the piece shifts to the deconstruction of a relationship tracing back to where it started and working through all the details of separation which are particularly painful as there are kids are involved.

Director Robert Green presents a melancholy narrative centered on a woman who made voluntary some choices that severely effected her professional career and personal life. The camera holds Burre straight on as she tearfully recounts the history of her relationship after the discovery. Burre points to one incident that appeared minor at the time that as the seed that started the split. After break up the camera often catches Burre with glass of wine in hand as she tells her story. Greene also presents a sequence where the camera follows our heroine into the shower where she demonstrates motion and hand movements over her head. The scene shifts to our lead walking around her house accepting a hanger from her daughter and continuing down the hall repeating the same hand motions with the hanger over her head.

An underdeveloped part of the documentary is Burre's attempt to get back into acting. We see one in person outdoor meeting with an agent plus a few searches of potential roles on a lab top that are clearly not for her.  the production could have used a larger focus on Burre's the hunt for a role or a deeper exploration digging into female actress nearing 40 are considered washed up while the male equivalent is playing comic book hero roles.

The Actress has some good passages but looses its focus partway through the film. It turns into a relationship tale featuring a woman who is just plainly not likeable. Director Green could have jumped on some other elements which could have made a better production but did not do so. It is not a film that I can recommend.

** out of 4

The Actress| Robert Greene|  U.S.A.| 2014| 86 Minutes.

Tags: Mother, Suburbs, The Wire, Dishonesty, Separation, Sexism, Choices, Consequences.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hot Docs 2014 Film Review - The Agreement

Yugoslavia broke up into several smaller countries in the mid to late 1990'. Border disputes have long been settled amongst most of the countries except for territory between Kosovo and Serbia. Serbia was the heart of the former Yugoslavia united Baltic States and includes the former capital Belgrade.  Kosovo is the last state trying to formally distance themselves from the old regime. Kosovo's northern territory features 4 areas that are mainly Serbian. The dispute between the two has some similarities to the current dispute in the Ukraine that mainly centres around Crimea a part of the Ukraine that has a mainly Russian population.

The task to reach an Agreement between the two sides falls to Chief U.N.  negotiator Robert Cooper. Cooper a history junkie full of timely antidotes from the past and a habit of multiple tie changes per day knows the relationship between the two factions is so volatile that recognizing Kosovo's independence is not even on the table.  Instead if they can agree on a border and establish an independent voice for Kosovo in local affairs Serbia can begin the process of joining he European Union.

Director Karen Stokkendal brings the viewer directly to the negotiation table. The proceedings are  tense, dry, procedural, sarcastic and surprisingly funny The action is driven by the two delegation leaders Edita Tahiri for Kosovo and Borko Stefanovic for Serbia. The camera follows each to their home base. Stokkendal camera explores the building where former teach Tahir hid during the Balkan War when the Serbs were hunting her. Stefanovic speaks of his former days in a rock band and gets his former mates back together for a song for the production.

The tedious nature of back and forth negotiations are keenly followed in the piece. Leaving the table, the room, the building and the country is used as a tactic. Shutting off communications all together is another tool used as well. How discussing actions of the past easily open old wounds or the inclusion of one word in the final draft can almost derail the negotiations entirely. All the while Cooper plays the role of Mediator keeping the negotiations somewhat on track browbeating a side when needed but also realizing that letting people vent is required to get to the next point.

The Agreement is a captivating presentation that appears at times to be a cross between high stakes poker and a game of chicken. Then on other occasions appears to feature adults acting like 4 year olds that can't play together in a sand box. It's history unfolding before Stokkendal's lens. With the current events in the Ukraine one wonders if a companion piece featuring Cooper may be in the offering for that conflict in the near future.

*** 1/2  Out of 4.

The Agreement |Karen Stokkendal |Denmark/Serbia & Montenegro/UK/Serbia/Belgium| 2013|58 Minutes.

Tags: Negotiations, Diplomacy, Balkan Wars, European Union, United Nations, Brussels, Serbia, Kosovo.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Hot Docs 2014 Film Review - Whitey The United States of America vs James J. Bulger.

The first person on screen is an extortion victim. He is an elderly man but as he tells his account it is easy to see that these events are fresh in his mind as if they just occurred yesterday. As liquor storeowner he was confronted at his first door by Bulger and an associate. He is told that the men are here to kill him but they don't want to do it. Instead they will become his partners. When the victim protests his family is brought into the equation. The main think he remembers is Bulger standing in is doorway grinding his teeth and appearing that he was ready to do just about anything.

Director Joe Berlinger presents an all encompassing piece on Buglers life centred around the trial that commenced on June 12, 2013. The documentary features a unique interviewing style of the main players. They mainly told their story as they were driving to and from the courthouse. The courthouse itself was another character in the story with many overhead sweeping shots of the building use to signal the next day of testimony starting then to end the events of the day. Since the production team was not allowed to film their main subject overhead shots were also used of the prison to situate Bulger along with conversations with his legal team that were voiced in reenactments.

The piece focused on three relatives of the 19 victims that Bulger was accused of killing. Steve Davis the brother of Debra Davis, Michael Donahue's wife and son Patricia and Tommy Donahue and son and the afore mentioned liquor store owner Stephen Rakes. The relatives tell the story of their loved ones how their murders gong back 30 years still effect them daily and how that are looking forward to their day in court a chance to face Bulger face to face and the unexpected opportunity for Justice.

The documentary uses excellent devices to transition from the present to the past. An overhead shot of a Boston neighbourhood in colour that changes to black and white as details of Bulgers past life are presented on screen.

The main question of the Documentary is how Bulger the reported leader of the Winter Hill Gang had  never been charged by the police. Was it because he was a F.B.I. informant under the care of John Donnelly or was he as Bulger presented a powerful local boy who paid off the F.B.I., Local Police and the States Attorney's office to be left alone. Berlinger presents the information on film that shows three corrupt levels of policing who were defacto Winer Hill Gang members and who all except for Donnelly got away with their entanglement with Bulger scott free.

Whitey: The United States of America v. James J. Bulger is a dense presentation that features a lot of interwoven material. The film is greatly helped by the soundtrack that helps to keep the viewer engaged and the story moving. The episode the still pretty fresh from the newspaper pages and Bulger has been the direct or implied subject in media and film projects before but Berlinger has crafted a valuable take on an underworld figure that is seen in some circles as a popular folk hero.

*** out of 4.

Whitey: The United States of America v. James J. Bulger | James Berlinger |  U.S.A. | 2014| 120 minutes.

Tags: Crime, Trial, Boston, Murder, Extortion, F.B.I. , States Attorney's Office, Department of Justice, Winter Hill Gang.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hot Docs 2014 Film Review - The Overnighters

We first meet Pastor Jay Reinke as he walks through what appears to be a dorm knocking on doors to wake up individuals who appear to be all males and making the viewer think that this could be a teacher or coach waking up students or players for an activity. Then he continues through the halls the sleepers continue to be males but are obviously too old to be students confusion begins to set in.  Finally as he heads outside to wake people up in their cars all early suppositions are lost.

This is the introduction to director Jesse Moss' The Overnighters. The tough U.S economy, extreme unemployment in many States, and desperation amongst the down and out lead thousands of people to Willston, North Dakota. The State features the fastest growing economy in the Union skyrocketing  housing and food prices along with plenty of jobs in the oil fields as fracking is booming in the area.

The migrant workers many of whom are from the lower rungs of society, some with criminal records have a polarizing effect on the community.  They are not invested as most have family members back home in other states. Violence is on the uptick and the local paper fuels the fire glorifying any and all transgressions in the migrant community both big and small.

Director Jesse Moss first came across this subject from an economic and business sense. The North Dakota oil boom is due to hydraulic fracturing. The new technology meant business and employment drawing men from all over the country to the state seeking employment. But once in the state he read an article from Pastor Reinke drawing him to his Concordia Lutheran Church in Willston to chart a different type of story.

Pastor Reinke is a fascinating character as the majority of the town closes their doors and shuts their blinds to the visitors he champions the notion of love thy brother doing whatever he can to help these men out. He lays out a simple set of rules for the men upon arm stances surrounding rival then does all that he can along with is family to be an advocate. He even takes a worker to his home on occasion when their past is too controversial for them to stay at the church and potentially jeopardize the Overnighters program.

Moss focuses his lens on a half a dozen men. Some have a lack of success in the beginning then find steady work. Others get hired on right away and some don't have any luck at all finding work. But at the heart of the piece is the realization of all involved that Willston is not their home, they are all just passing through and despite a strong supporter like Paster Reinke it is very hard today in the United States to pull oneself up from the lower levels of society despite being willing to go anywhere in the country for work especially if you have a serious mark against you name from past actions.

*** 1/2 out of 4.

The Overnighters | Jay Moss | U.S.A. | 2013 | 101 Minutes.

Tags: Fracking,  Oil Boom, Sexual Offender, Adultery, Lutheran Church, North Dakota, Migrant Workers.

Hot Docs 2014 Film Review - The Last Season

The Matsutake mushroom is a sought after delicacy in Japan. It is a top dollar item in Japanese cuisine that is fond in abundance it the most unlikely place Chemult, Oregon. Every fall until the first real snowfall is hunting season.  The participants are mainly from Cambodia, Thailand and Laos with a sprinkling of local pickers.  The focal point of the hunt is known as Mushroom Camp where the workers live, play traditional music, celebrate the Buddhist fall holidays, Karaoke and bring in the days work for weighing.

Director Sara Dosa builds a multi layered production that constantly unearths new information as it progresses. The piece features several sequences of hand held camera work as the action follows the main players as they hunt through the Oregon woods in search of the prized fungus. Dosa also mixes in archival footage of the main events from the past that shaped the lives of the two main protagonists. Kouy Loch and Roger Higgins.

Loch, a Cambodian refugee who fought against the Khmer Rouge has been coming to Chemult from Southern California for years for the fall mushroom picking season. His style is slow and plodding. Armed with is trusty walking stick he scours the forest for that special mushroom that depending on weight, shape and appearance could be worth up to $1500.  He is trying to provide for his 7 year old daughter Jeanette while living with the effects of the war in Cambodia and what it did to his family and himself.  Roger Higgins is a Vietnam veteran who served in the early days of the conflict back in 1963. He is now weak and on a breathing apparatus having abused alcohol for decades trying to rid himself of the nightmares of what he saw and did during the war 50 years before. The two met in the Mushroom Camp 6 year prior starting with small talk they realized that they both had similar South Asian war time experiences and modern day struggles leading to a bond of friendship. Then more as their relationship grew and changed again after Loch's mother his last family connection passed.

Dosa brings the viewers into the world and culture of mushroom picking. The ups and downs of the hunt. The pricing of the daily haul based solely the daily Japanese Stock Market price. The camera catches the nightly activities in the camp plus the set up for and pageantry of two Buddhist ceremonies. However, the main focus of the Documentary is the relationship between two men with decades old scars from war that have ravaged each both mentally and physically. Dosa digs deep into this relationship between the two who met in the most unlikely of places and ultimately help each other to heal as their relationship grows.

*** 1/2 out of 4.

The Last Season | Sara Dosa | U.S.A. | 2014| 93 Minutes.

Tags: Matsutake Mushroom, Oregon, Khmer Rouge, Vietnam, Sniper, PTSD, War, Family, Cambodia, Buddhist.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hot Docs 2014 Film Review - Ne Me Quitter Pas

Opening with a heart wrenching scene chronicalling the death of a marriage Ne Me Quitte Pas sets the tone early for the viewer makes them well aware that this documentary about two older men drinking constantly in the woods will not be a feel good story.

We first meet Marcel and his wife as they discuss their separation. The couple has three small children meaning that their decision will have a significant impact on 5 lives in total. Marcel is clearly not ready to end the marriage as he makes fleecing half joking attempts for one more intimate encounter.

The piece moves ahead to the other main character Bob who has picked out a tree where he wants to be near when he carries out his plan to kill himself. Marcel now sensing that he has nothing to live for decides that he wants to join Bob in his plan but the event is derailed due to unexpected developments surrounding Bob's tree.

Directors Sabine Lubbe Bakker and Niels van Koevorden spent two years with the lead actors gathering footage to tell their story. The interaction between the two is so seamless that at times it feels that the production is a scripted piece (which it is not). The directors explain that they spent an extraordinary amount of time with the pair in order to get the magical exchanges between the two that are presented on screen.

Throughout the piece Marcel and Bob spend time together discussing their lives and how things did not work out for the best.  Marcel constantly speaking about his 16 years of marriage that has evaporated while Bob laments the fact that his son has not come to see him in the woods for far to long.  While they talk mainly at a table propped up against a brick wall Marcel drinks beer and wine as Bob makes his way through his daily allotment of 1.5 litres of rum.

One of the best and cringworthy sequences in the piece occurs parts when the protagonists both go for back to back appointments at the dentist. Marcel is up first legs spread wide as the dentist digs into his mouth with various sharp squealing instruments.  Bob is up next much more relaxed legs crossed as he endures the removal of a tooth right on screen.

The narrative is very physical and raw mainly due to Marcel who is often extremely inebriated and not able to property function. The film features some sections where the actions of the two are down right dangerous and plants the question in the back of the viewers mind as the event plays out if the directors need to stop filming and step in to stop the action.

Marcel eventually makes an attempt at Rehab while Bob manages to get some time with his son while he is in town for a day.

Overall these are two men in the later stages of life who are locked into a way of living and acting that is not easy to change.

***1/2 Out of 4.

Ne Me Quitte Pas | Sabine Lubbe Bakker, Niels van Koevorden | Netherlands /Belgium 2013  90 Minutes.

Tags: Alcoholism , Divorce, Rural, Woods, Suicide, Rehab, Flemish, Walloons, Roxette.