Dark and involving, this shocking Belgian drama not only earned an Oscar nomination but propelled its director and leading man into much bigger movies. And deservedly so. With a strikingly internalised approach to a shattering story, writer-director Roskam gets deep under the surface. He also somehow manages to address a seriously important issue without ever getting preachy about it. And while the film focusses on lead actor Schoenaerts, it's absolutely riveting.
Set in Belgium's cattle country, the story centres on Jacky (Schoenaerts), a beefy young guy who runs his family farm and seems to inject as many muscle-building hormones into himself as his cattle. But there's a secret reason for this, dating back two decades to a grisly incident he is suddenly forced to confront when his long-lost childhood friend Diederick (Perceval) turns up to negotiate with a rival gang leader (Louwyck). The doping gangs are nervous about two detectives (Vandenborre and Sarafian) who are investigating the murder of an undercover drug-enforcement agent. And with his memory sparked, Jacky looks up Lucia (Dandoy), a woman from his past.
When Jacky is on-screen we are completely engaged. Schoenaerts plays him as a likeable hulk, fiercely intelligent even though he's uneducated, with a gentle manner that's being undermined by too many hormones. So he sometimes loses his ability to cope, lashing out with horrific violence in ways that worry him as much as us. We could watch him all day, but Roskam has a bigger story to tell, cutting away from Jacky to explore the war between drug gangs, the authorities and the capitalists who insist that long-established farms increase their productivity regardless of whether this means breaking the law.
Continue reading: Bullhead [Rundskop] Review
An idly rich father and son, trying to sidestep the grief brought on by the death of their wife and mother, become obsessed with acquiring a varied private harem to exorcise obscured erotic fantasies in eccentric, elitist director Peter Greenaway's sexual pseudo-satire "8 1/2 Women."
The Japan-based, 30-ish son (Matthew Delamere) comes home to his father's (John Standing) Geneva estate with two girls in tow: A taciturn kabuki actress and a pretty young gambler who has agreed to become his concubine to repay gambling debts owed the family's pachinko parlor.
Over the next few weeks they add several more wildly divergent women to their personal bordello -- a "retired" nun (Toni Collette) with a shaved head, a wannabe aristocrat (Amanda Plummer) recovering from a horse-riding accident in a bizarre body brace, an extremely fertile beauty (Barbara Sarafian) who makes a living as a surrogate mother -- but remain confounded, discontented and unfulfilled.
Continue reading: 8 1/2 Women Review
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.