Film, Film Review, IFFBoston

IFFBOSTON ROUNDUP: Three Films, Three Reviews

Claire Denis, Peter Strickland, Cooper Raiff!


The Independent Film Festival Boston is currently ongoing at various venues – click here for showtimes and ticket info!

Both Sides of the Blade dir. Claire Denis

A melodrama set during the pandemic, Denis’ bonus film this year is not going to be the definitive lockdown art. Not that I’m claiming to know what will – it’s not something I’m giving much thought to. I’m glad Denis got her pandemic movie out of her system while waiting to move forward with The Stars at Noon, a much larger production that sounds more in line with her ambition. With Both Sides of the Blade, Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon depict a couple on the verge of dissolution, torn apart by chance reunions and the unfairness of the world. Lindon is an ex-convict with a teenage son who lives with his mother, trying to get his life back on track and turning to the man who may or may not be planning an affair with Binoche. It is, as we say, très français. For a story featuring people over 50, they act terribly immature. There’s not enough drama for the film’s length, scenes become repetitive quickly with too many anguished glances and tense arguments. Denis makes too many films for them all to be total masterpieces, so we can just put Blade behind us and look forward to The Stars at Noon and whatever else the director plans to make in the future.

Flux Gourmet dir. Peter Strickland

Where to even begin! Strickland, noted lunatic, is back with a film about ridiculous people doing bizarre things that have never happened. Here we meet a group of food based musicians who provide “sonic catering” by producing sounds from lavish meals. A strange woman named Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christine) has offered the group an artistic residency at her mansion somewhere in the countryside. The artists accept and are joined by an outside observer (Makis Papadimitriou) who wishes to study and record their work, only to find himself plagued with strange gastrointestinal issues that he cannot hide forever. There’s no real way to describe how strange this film is, though its rhythm is surprisingly easy to lean into. Christie and Fatma Mohamed seem to understand Strickland’s intent the best, playing characters with deep idiosyncrasies and unique fashion choices (Christie’s pink nightgown and enormous bow have not left my mind) and acting like they are the most normal people in the world. Burps, farts, invasive surgeries, excrements, and hypnotic fluids abound. One shudders to think of what Strickland could create next, but it is a welcome shudder.

Cha Cha Real Smooth dir. Cooper Raiff

A favorite out of Sundance, Cha Cha Real Smooth is a solid, modern take on the coming-of-age story. Andrew (Raiff) is a recent college graduate, somewhat heartsick, very broke, unsure of his next move. He becomes a ‘party starter’ for bar mitzvahs as an attempt to escape his food court job. Here he encounters Domino (Dakota Johnson), a young mother with an autistic teenage daughter (Vanessa Burghardt). They strike up a friendship simmering with tension as Andrew takes stock of his life and drowns his anguish in vodka. There’s a threat of everyone finding Andrew too charming or too pathetic, but Raiff manages a balance, a rare thing for a new director directing himself. The crowd at the Brattle loved this kid, which seems like a good sign for Raiff’s future career.

IFFBoston continues this week through May 4th at the Brattle, Somerville, and Coolidge Theatres.

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