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RVIFF Reviews: Directionless in Oslo, Hitchcockian Cronenbergism, and a Rousing Epic of the Kazakh Steppe Tribes

September 15th, 2022 | Robin

A Ken and Robin Consume Media Special Feature

At the end of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, my wife Valerie and I decided to break up with it, after decades of attendance. We have replaced it with RVIFF, the Robin and Valerie International Film Festival. It’s the festival you can play along with at home, with a curated roster of streaming titles I’m excited to see. Daily capsule reviews roll out throughout the festival, with a complete list in order of preference dropping a day or two afterwards. Review ratings are out of 5.

Alone with Her Dreams (Italy, Paolo Licata, 2019, 1) In early 60s Sicily a preteen girl chafes at the authority of her tyrannical grandmother after her parents emigrate to France, leaving her temporarily behind. Syrupy, then harshly manipulative, coming of age drama.

Had I spotted it before today, the pull quote from Oliver Stone praising the film might have served as a warning that I was entering heavy-handed waters.

Unlike TIFF, at RVIFF it has taken until Wednesday to hit a film I fully disliked. This shows a remarkable unity between my taste and that of the programmer.

The Legend of Tomiris (Kazakhstan, Akan Satayev, 2019, 5) After a treacherous rival tribe murders her father, a Massagetae chieftain, the clever and brave Tomiris trains as a warrior and rises to power in time to defend the steppes from Cyrus the Great. Massive historical epic with thrilling fight choreography, impressive production values and one of the best blood-spattered proposal scenes in cinema.

Admittedly I am as much in the target demographic for this as anyone not from Kazakhstan, but if you are reading this, chances are so are you.

The last time I checked in on Kazahk cinema I saw a kinda slow emerging world verite drama about a man who drives around and has an epiphany at a school. Now comes this, with huge battle sequences and a CGI fire manticore. (Which appears strictly in dream sequences. This is not that kind of movie. If it was a mainland Chinese film the fire manticore would show up in the main action.)

Double Lover (France, Francois Ozon, 2017, 4) After moving in with her former psychotherapist (Jérémie Renier), a young woman (Marine Vacth) discovers that he has a secret twin, also a psychotherapist. Coolly controlled erotic thriller is Hitchcock homage with a Cronenberg homage growing parasitically inside it.

Plus allusions to Sisters and Eyes Wide Shut thrown in for extra seasoning. Based on a Joyce Carol Oates novel.

The Worst Person in the World (Norway, Joachim Trier, 2021, 4) Directionless woman in her late twenties (Renate Reinsve) struggles to find fulfilling love, and herself. Observant and moving character-driven dramedy with perfectly calibrated performances from Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie as her overly analytical cartoonist boyfriend.

Due to moderate demand, the RVIFF shirts I made for the two of us are now available in the Ken and Robin merch store.


If you enjoy this special text feature of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast and don’t already support our Patreon, consider tossing a few bucks in the tip jar. Or check out my book on action films and their roleplaying applications, Blowing Up the Movies. Or the roleplaying game inspired by the Hong Kong films I first encountered at TIFF, Feng Shui 2.

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