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VIFF 2019: THE TWO POPES, KNIVES And SKIN [Capsule Reviews]

By Marina Antunes [10.12.19]


Director Fernando Meirelles has proven himself a great director. From his debut City of God to Blindness, he's shown not only his talent behind the camera but also demonstrating a streak for taking risks and though it may not appear so on first glance, what with its stars, The Two Popes is a risky offering.


Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce go head-to-head in this dialogue-heavy dramatization of an important meeting that took place at the Vatican between conservative Pope Benedict and progressive Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who, at the time of Benedict's succession, was also a favourite for the title of Catholicism's highest office.


Meirelles and writer Anthony McCarten manage not only to humanize both men but also their differing points of view and how they came to them. While the performances are a central showcase, the movie wouldn't be as effective, or beautiful to watch, if not for the work of cinematographer Cesar Charlone who has worked with Meirelles since City of God. His camera work adds energy to the conversations and there's a profound sense of awe as his camera moves through the spaces at the Vatican.


While a movie about two old men talking theology sounds like the least interesting thing to watch, The Two Popes is full of gravitas, emotion, laughs and deep thought that makes it a joy to watch regardless of one's feelings on religion.






I love the idea of a supernatural drama about what happens to a small town, and specifically the girls in said small town, when one of their own goes missing. Knives and Skin is that movie except it gets lost along the way.


While writer/director Jennifer Reeder takes the "dead girl" trope and tries to turn it on its head, she doesn't quite manage to get there mostly because her script is, to put it mildly, disjointed. The plot is a mess of stories loosely held together by the fact that everyone involved either knew the missing girl or knew of her. The dialogue is laughably terrible with colloquialisms and one-liners that fall flat or simply don't make sense which also holds true for some of the other decisions Reeder makes which seem to be more for the sake of being different than to service the storytelling (case in point: the glowing blood).


For all its terribleness, Knives and Skin has a few notable qualities: the teenage girls have agency and control of their decisions, and the make-up, costume, and production design are unique and visually interesting. Easily the best part of the movie, though it feels completely shoehorned in, are the numerous acapella renditions of popular 80s tunes. Sadly this isn't enough to recommend the movie.




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