Archive for the ‘Belgium’ Category

King Of The Belgians – **

Posted: November 10, 2017 in 2016, Belgium, Comedy, Satire, XX

The premise is good. The end result not so much. It’s an interesting mockumentary though that unfortunately looks too much like a movie.

The (fictitious) king of the Belgians, Nicolas, the third, is on a state visit in Istanbul when he learns that Wallonia (the French-speaking south of Belgium) decided to become independent ‘because they had enough’. He can’t return home because – due to a solar storm – all airports have closed. There’s only one way to get back and that’s via road through the Balkan! An idea of the movie maker that was filming a promo for the royal house in Istanbul. He’s also the one who registers and narrates the royal road trip.

There are some great moments, sure. It’s bilingual for instance. French/Dutch. In fact, it’s multilingual, because they speak English as well most of the time. Peter Van den Begin is really good as the king. Some situations and remarks/references are funny. My personal favorite is the encounter with a former Miss Serbia who’s now working as a customs officer ‘because just after she won the title, Montenegro became independent and she lost her title because of her Montenegrin roots’. Ha!

However, the voice-over doesn’t work. It’s annoying. And the social commentary is quite superficial. “Walloons are lazy and spongers. Flemish are arrogant. Walloons are warm-hearted. Flemish are innovative.” That’s about it when it comes to explaining the crisis in Belgium.

Nevertheless. An absurd, surreal tale about the king of an absurd and surreal country.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4818804

Advertisements

The remarkable thing about this new police thriller from Belgium is that it starts of really well and then falls totally flat by the end. Sadly, because the trailer looks promising.

A notorious chief of police is retiring to start a political career. But on the eve of his retirement he is tempted to do one last drug bust.  Not in the city of his jurisdiction (Antwerp), but in Charleroi. However, something is wrong. No drug lab is found. No drugs are found. A lot of people get killed and the informant seems to have damaging information about the soon to be politician. This does not look good…

Again, the movie starts of great. The tension and intrigue are built up well. The acting is good (Peter Van Den Begin is excellent in these kind of roles). Some of the scenes are shot in unique ways. The editing is excellent. The story lends well to an interesting collaboration between the movie industries from the north (Flanders) and the south (Wallonia) of the country.

But it’s all a bit predictable, and as the story comes to a climax it totally bombs.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5546540

The Red Turtle – **(*)

Posted: February 10, 2017 in 2016, Animation, Belgium, Drama, Japan, XX1/2

Wouldn’t it be cool is this movie won the Oscar for best animation movie? Everyone expected Finding Dory to be a contender, but this artsy, non commercial French/Belgian/Japanese co-production took the place of the animation blockbuster of the year.

Finding Dory it is NOT. It’s a beautiful animated tale of a man who strands on a deserted island, can’t leave because a giant turtle keeps breaking the rafts he builds. Until that turtle comes ashore and he takes his revenge. But the revenge changes his life on the island.

You don’t need to know more. Don’t watch the trailer either.

It looks like a moving European (Franco-Belge) comic book. The drawings are exceptional. The use of color and light and shadows and details is astonishing. The movement itself isn’t as stiff as you’d imagine from a hand-drawn animation movie. It’s actually quite smooth. It’s not annoying at all. But the story isn’t all that much.A lot of things happen to keep the movie going, but it’s not as poetic or deep as you might expect.

It’s looking at incredibly well animated shots of life on a deserted island with sunsets that you’ll never forget. And without the end credits it’s only 75 minutes long.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3666024

Problemski Hotel – **(*)

Posted: December 28, 2016 in 2015, Belgium, Drama, Flanders, XX1/2

Problemski Hotel is an absurd drama about several refugees living in an asylum centre. It’s based on a book by Dimitri Verhulst, who’s quite a successful writer, but isn’t really known to be politically neutral. He spent some time in an asylum centre for an article in a newspaper and decided to write a book about it. Back in the early 2000s. The book is still on the shelf, but now that the movie turned out to be good, it’s next on the ‘to read’-list.

This screen adaptation isn’t as moralizing as you’d fear. The stories just show you realities. There are only a few superfluous scenes with biased content. (the depiction of a school teacher as being insensitive and racist doesn’t add anything to the story) Luckily, there are many more scenes that won’t annoy you. Some are beautifully shot. Others are so absurd that they make total sense (the dragging of the christmas tree). Some are funny. Others are hard. All in all, it’s a very entertaining movie that evokes several emotions.

None of the performers are familiar faces in the Belgian movie and television industry. In fact, the main character is performed by a Palestinian-American living in Brussels! This Tarek Halaby should really audition for other parts as well. He’s great. His suave and cool performance gives his character the mysteriousness it needs. Gökhan Girginol and Evgenia Brendes both should get other parts as well.

It starts off as a weird arthouse movie for a select bunch of movie lovers, but once you get into the absurdly confronting mood, you’re in for a treat.

It’s homegrown, so it deserves a (*) extra.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4697586

Set in a (fictitious) luxury hotel in Brussels, several stories interact. Anna checks in with her husband and their son for the wedding of her sister. The guy she’s having an affair with, is a guest as well. Violette checks in and demands the ‘royal’ suite. She’s been diagnosed with cancer and wants to spend the rest of her days in luxury and close to her estranged daughter Vicky, who’s working as a cleaning lady in the hotel. Joyeux is a little African refugee kid who’s trying to re-connect with his dad after they got separated upon arrival in the West. The last words of his dad were: ‘meet me at hotel Swooni in Brussels’.

It’s a relatively short movie and feels more like a tv production than an actual cinematic experience. But it works. The stories fit together well and the limited locations (hotel rooms, hotel lobby, rooftop terrace) are a plus. The opening shot over Brussels makes you wonder why not more movies are made in the Belgian capital. The acting is solid. From class A actors like Geert Van Rampelberg to newcomers like Vigny Tchakouani, who doesn’t do much more than look adorable, but steals every scene he’s in. The characters are intriguing, and you want to know more about them, but you get enough information to get where they are going.

It’s all a bit predictable and superficial, but by the time you’re starting to maybe get annoyed a bit, the movie is over.

It’s homegrown, so it deserves a (*) extra.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1825974

 

There’s something really charming about the story of Seyolo Zantoko, who decided to become the general practitioner of a rural town in northern France back in the late seventies. Graduated from the university of Lille, he didn’t care about returning to his troublesome home country Zaire and preferred to stay in France. However, being the only black person (and having the only black family) in a very conservative community wasn’t all that easy. Until of course, times change and people become more accepting.

The story is pretty straightforward, predicable and simple. But it’s a great tale.

A few years ago, rapper Kamini Zantoko scored a hit with a silly rap song about growing up as the only black guy in a small rural village. (see below) Someone asked him to write a script about his youth, which he did and with some help of others it has now turned into an entertaining movie with some drama and a lot of humor. It’s an homage to his father, who decided to take the risk (and the opportunity) to integrate in unknown territory for blacks.

It’s a great example of the many French dramedies that mix the multicultural society with la France provonde. Maybe it’s something Hollywood should start focus on. Try and see it with subtitles because the accents are quite difficult to understand (the African accent sounds perfect compared to the rural accent of the other characters).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5555502

Two (criminal) brothers. One (ex) girlfriend. A trip to the Ardennes. Gore. Violence. Murder. Some thrilling moments. And a weird soundtrack combining hard core techno, trance classics and cool instrumental electronically sounds.

It didn’t do it for me. At all. But watch it anyhow. You may like it. And be surprised by the end.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2586118/