A Fantastic Woman [Una mujer fantástica]

(Chile 2017)

“The thing is, Orlando started feeling sick. And he died.”

— Marina

“When I look at you, I don’t know what I’m seeing.”

— Sonia

Whichever meaning of the word fantastic is employed, A Fantastic Woman is a fitting title for Sebastián Lelio’s latest film; some might consdier the protagonist a fantasy (i.e., not real) or think her head is in the clouds, but she’s definitely marked by her extreme individuality. She also proves to be quite amazing.

Things are good for transgender singing waitress Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega): she just moved in with her older lover, Orlando (Francisco Reyes). He took her to dinner for her birthday (and surprised her with plane tickets). They have a dog, Diabla (Diabla).

Everything changes when Orlando has an aneurysm and dies in the hospital. Marina is forced to deal with Orlando’s son, Bruno (Nicolás Saavedra); his ex-wife, Sonia (Aline Küppenheim); the police, who keep insisting that she had something to do with the wound on Orlando’s head (he hit it against the wall when he fell down the stairs on their way out to the hospital); and mourning her profound loss — something no one but Orlando’s brother, Gabo (Luis Gnecco), will give her the space to do.

A mysterious key and a need to say goodbye to Orlando’s body are the impetus of the story. Lelio and Gonzalo Maza’s screenplay is not what makes A Fantastic Woman compelling; Vega’s sorrowful and quietly defiant performance does. Faced with a string of indignities over the course of two days, Miranda handles herself smartly with toughness and grace, giving in when she needs to but always pushing back — or at least ahead.

Benjamín Echazarreta’s sharp cinematography places Marina dead center in every frame, bathing her in color and shadow. The look is fluid, underscoring a water motif that runs throughout the story. Lelio’s dream sequences and hallucinations add a hazy, otherworld quality. This is eloquent.

With Amparo Noguera, Trinidad González, Néstor Cantillana, Alejandro Goic, Antonia Zegers, Sergio Hernández, Roberto Farías, Cristián Chaparro, Felipe Zambrano, Erto Pantoja, Loreto Leonvendagar, Fabiola Zamora, José Raffo, Pablo Cerda, Moises Angulo, Veronica Garcia-Huidobro        

Production: Fabula, Komplizen Film

Distribution: Sony Pictures Classics

104 minutes
Rated R

(Music Box) B

http://sonyclassics.com/afantasticwoman/

https://youtu.be/PJHex4ZitgA

Toni Erdmann

(Germany/Austria 2016)

Toni Erdmann is not a real person; he’s the alterego of retired divorced schoolteacher Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek). When Winfried, a weird old hippy jokester, appears onscreen in a shaggy wig and bad fake teeth, he certainly gives the impression that those around him have to excuse his relatively harmless but tiresome—and often annoying—penchant for silliness. He is caretaker of his elderly mother, and death surrounds him. Perhaps that explains it.

Winfried’s daughter, Ines (Sandra Hüller), a young corporate sellout working on a project in Romania, drops by for a birthday. She’s on her phone most of the time, distracted by work. She’s so serious—and severe. Predictably, she doesn’t stick around long.

When his dog dies, Winfried flies to Bucharest and stalks Ines in the lobby of the office building where she works. She sees him and takes him to a reception, where she networks with Henneberg (Michael Wittenborn), an oil company executive she wants to make a deal with. The weekend is bizarre, filled with small talk, blank stares, and uncomfortable silence. Ines doesn’t bother to pretend she’s happy to see her father; in fact, it’s pretty clear she’s relieved to see him leave.

This is where Toni Erdmann gets interesting: Winfried doesn’t actually leave. Instead, he becomes “Toni Erdmann, life coach,” and sets out to reach Ines through her professional contacts. Funny thing: it actually works.

Writer/director Maren Ade has a solid grasp of strained relationships and embarrassing situations, and a sick sense of humor to boot. It’s a winning combination in Toni Erdmann, which has its share of quite a few awesomely cringeworthy moments. Your goofy dad upstaging you at a networking opportunity? Check. Naked birthday party—with coworkers? Check. An Easter party that includes an apoplectic performance of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All”? Check. A cum-soaked petit fours? Um, check.

For all its distance, Toni Erdmann turns out to be a surprisingly emotional film. It takes nearly three hours to get to it, but it ends on a whallop. It’s touching in a way I didn’t see coming. The final scene offers all anyone needs to see about this dysfunctional father/daughter relationship. And it’s beautiful.

With Ingrid Bisu, Lucy Russell, Thomas Loibl, Trystan Pütter, Hadewych Minis, Vlad Ivanov, Victoria Cocias

Production: Komplizen Film, coop99 filmproduktion, KNM, Missing Link Films, SWR/WDR/Arte

Distribution: NFP Marketing & Distribution (Germany), Soda Pictures (United Kingdom), Enfilade (Austria), Sony Pictures Classics (USA)

162 minutes
Rated R

(Music Box) B-

http://www.komplizen-film.de/e/toni-erdmann.html

http://www.sonyclassics.com/tonierdmann/