With “Madly,” the international cool set comes together to make an omnibus film about passionate love, spanning place and sexuality, but not the limitations of the form. Like most compilation projects, the effort yields an uneven anthology with little thematic glue holding it together, although for the most part, the six shorts could stand alone and overall quality is high. Tones range from dramatic (Anurag Kashyap, Sebastián Silva) to moody (Mia Wasikowska, Gael García Bernal, Natasha Khan) to silly (Sion Sono), most made in English, presumably to boost viewer numbers. Even so, “Madly” will see traction largely through streaming platforms — which should suit Viacom just fine.
In terms of story, Kashyap’s “Clean Shaven” is the most interesting and the most subversive, addressing traditional marriage constructs, inter-generational friendship and the male-female divide in a refreshingly frank manner. Archana (Radhika Apte) is a housewife and mother, unquestioning in the inequitable power relationship with husband Sudhir (Satyadeep Misra). She’s developed a close friendship in her idle hours with neighboring teen Allwyn (Adarsh Gourav), palpably in love with the woman and, though a virgin, far more aware of the naked form than Archana.
Kashyap found the perfect apartment to shoot it all, with a birdcage-style balcony reinforcing Archana’s trophy-like status: She’s meant to be seen (fully clothed, of course) but denied independence. Allwyn, probably only a decade younger but fluent in internet temptations, is carnally more aware yet lacks experience, plus he has youth’s selfishness. The performances are especially strong during this segment.
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Wasikowska’s “Afterbirth” is a more sensory film, featuring a young woman (Kathryn Beck) full of love for her newborn son but completely unequipped to be a mother. Lacking any know-how and apparently completely alone in the world, she looks with covetous wonder at other new parents. The helmer, in her second omnibus short, uses a montage style of impressionistic counterpoint, juxtaposing full-screen images in Academy ratio to convey mood and a sense of an interior life otherwise not obvious in this strange, and strangely quiet, woman. Musical choices, including Melanie Safka’s “Brand New Key,” perfectly suit the quirky material.
“Dance Dance Dance” is more straightforward, with occasional clumsy moments. Bronx teen Rio (Lex Santos) meekly tries to kiss older show-off friend Diami (Antonio Stewart), who flips. Dejected, Rio returns home and blurts out to his religious parents that he’s gay, whereupon his father (Marshall Brandon) kicks him out. On the street at night, Rio finds a homeless shelter, but the female supervisor (Jo Young) tries to sexually molest him until a protector comes along. Director Silva (“The Maid”) has a lively style but subtlety is not a strong suit.
The same can be said for Sion Sono, whose “Love of Love” is a very clean celebration of sexual subversion. Younger daughter Mio (Ami Tomite) is engaged to Shota (Dai Hasegawa), but they’re not giving up their wild side, scandalizing her married sister Sayaka (Yuki Sakurai). That is, until Mio brings Sayaka and her husband Takuya (Eita Okuno) to the Love of Love sex club, where pleasure and fulfillment are enjoyed by all. There’s nothing genuinely outre in Sono’s conception, just a candy-colored fantasy evocation of sexual hijinks, and while it’s all mildly amusing, the emphasis is on the mild.
García Bernal’s Buenos Aires-set “The Love of My Life” makes a sharp turn back to emotional resonance, in a story of a woman (Justina Bustos) and her older husband (Pablo Seijo) seated in a café, dissecting their crumbling relationship. A flashback, with the energy, hopes and fears of her pregnancy, nicely reveal García Bernal’s sympathies for the young lady. Shot with great attention to the city’s golden light, using a slightly unsettled camera, the short skillfully privileges tone over narrative.
Singer-songwriter-turned-helmer Khan is behind “I Do,” a very English tale of bride Nora (Tamsin Topolski) approaching her wedding day with trepidation until a chance encounter with an important figure from her past helps to balance her mind. While attractively shot and nicely played, the entry has the feel of an extended music video, and the symbolism of wild horses should have been put to pasture ages ago.
Opening credits, with lurid neon and footage of vintage strippers, feels more hip than pertinent, though the same can be said for many similar omnibus projects. Each short begins with a nice montage to establish locale.
Running time: 22 MIN.
Executive producers, Madhu Manikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Behl. Co-producer, Dipa de Motwane.
Directed by Anurag Kashyap. Screenplay, Kashyap, Eisha Chopra. Camera (color), Jay Oza; editor, Prerna Saigal; music, Karan Kulkarni; production designer, Dhara Jain; costume designer, Shruti Kapoor; sound, Manik Batra, Vinit D’Souza.
With: Radhika Apte, Satyadeep Misra, Adarsh Gourav, Salone Mehta, Yashwant Singh, Manya Shah. (Hindi, English dialogue)
Running time: 14 MIN.
Produced by Kath Shelper.
Directed, written by Mia Wasikowska. Camera (color), Stefan Duscio; editor, Mat Evans; music supervisor, Kim Green; production designer, Annie Beauchamp; art director, Charlie Revai; costume designer, Amelia Gebler; sound, Liam Egan.
With: Kathryn Beck, Emma Lung, Kate Mulvany, Ewen Leslie, Alison Collins, Benjamin Scott, Lyn Lee, Joseph Solano.
Dance Dance Dance
Running time: 16 MIN.
Produced by Charlie Dibe.
Directed, written by Sebastián Silva. Camera (color), Shawn Peters; editor, Sofia Subercaseaux; music, Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans; sound, Stephen Sean Hewett, Eli Cohn.
With: Lex Santos, Antonio Stewart, Oladimeji Akinwande, Erika Wood, Marshall Brandon, Savion Nembhard, Jo Young, Bernard Mayhew.
Love of Love
Running time: 16 MIN.
Produced by Shinjiro Nishimura, Azusa Yamashiro, Naoko Komuro, Sion Sono. Executive producer, Akifumi Sugihara.
Directed, written by Sion Sono. Camera (color, b&w), Hajime Kanda; editor, Junichi Ito; music, Susumu Akizuki; production designer, Yoshio Yamada; costume designer, Tomomi Kato; sound, Hiroshi Ishigai.
With: Mariko Tsutsui, Yuki Sakurai, Ami Tomite, Asami Shibata, Akari Ozawa, Dai Hasegawa, Eita Okuno, Kei Nagase, Masahiro Toyota, Yukimasa Tanimoto, Chihiro Shibata, Taro Suwa. (Japanese dialogue)
The Love of My Life
Running time: 14 MIN.
Producer, Eric Mahoney. Executive producers, Nusrat Durrani, Santiago Gallelli, Matias Roveda, Benjamin Domenech, Gael García Bernal.
With: Justina Bustos, Pablo Seijo, Mariana Chaud, Fernando Tur, Diego Barca, Alan Goldbaum. (Spanish dialogue)
Running time: 16 MIN.
Produced by Alasdair Flind. Executive producer, Charles Steel. Co-producer, Geraldine Hawkins.
Directed, written by Natasha Khan. Camera (color), Chloe Thomson; editor, Arttu Salmi; production designer, Jacqueline Abrahams; art director, Ruta Daubure; costume designer, Jane Petrie; sound, Paul Paragon.
With: Tamsin Topolski, Emma Fielding, Vincent Franklin, Zoe Castle, Sarah Ridgeway, Camille Ucan, Leanne Flinn, Debra Baker, Barry Ward, Joe Dempsie, Gerald Kyd, Betty Flind.