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3.9 out of 5 stars23
3.9 out of 5 stars
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 11 October 2012
This is a South African story about a middle aged, family man Francois (Deon Lotz). He has a wife and two daughters and a successful lumber firm, at one of his daughter's weddings he is reunited with an old friend and business acquaintance who has brought his 23 year old son along. This is Christian (Charlie Keegan -`The Sinking of the Laconia') and he has charm, wit and matinee idol good looks `to die for'.

The thin veneer of familial bliss is soon seen to be cracking with casual racism, homophobia, an unfaithful wife and children who lie. Also daddy isn't exactly what he seems to be as he goes to bear type all men swingers groups. Needles to say he is not gay, but he soon becomes smitten with Christian. But Christian lives in Cape Town and Francois is in Bloemfontein which is a fair old drive. Undeterred he invents an excuse to go to Cape Town where he will orchestrate a meeting to go to the next level. Well as Oscar Wilde famously said, `there is only one thing worse than unrequited love.....and that is when it is requited'.

Beauty or `Skoonheid' to give it its original title is an art house film in many ways. It is both cleverly and artistically shot, the acting is outstanding and the music is understated but works almost subliminally. The pace will be a bit slow for some, but that reflects the narrative which is hardly planned from the players perspective either.

There are some bedroom action bits but not in the least frequent but there are some scenes that will be upsetting to some, this is most definitely not a feel good movie. It was South Africa's best foreign language film entry to the 84th Academy awards, so by all accounts there is a lot to merit attention here. I found it slow, brooding and initially unsatisfying; however, on reflection this is a film that will stay with you. The only reason I felt a bit let down is it did not play out how I was expecting and that is in actual fact a very good thing, hence my rating. In Afrikaans and English with a run time of 105 minutes not your run of the mill film and more power to director Oliver Hermanus for that.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 14 October 2012
I've had to watch Beauty twice to feel I've more or less understood it, but this is not because it is unduly obscure; rather, it has a certain pared-down quality and fairly little dialogue, leaving a lot to the admirable Deon Lotz (as Francois) to convey simply through his expressions. Some of the most revealing moments come when he is in his car, as if it is only in such periods of isolation that he has some sense of the truth about himself. As a middle-aged married man, he manages to express his homosexual desires in secret group meetings with other married men, but when he falls for the 23-year-old son of an old friend from the airforce he is no longer able to keep this precarious balance and goes dangerously awry. To watch this happening is quite unsettling, and it is blended with other social observations suggesting the homophobia of his social milieu in South African society and also a degree of racism, although both remain somewhat nebulous. In other ways the film plays a bit like Death in Venice, but it could hardly be more different in terms of the contact he has with the object of his obsession in the end which has quite a shocking thwack. The film keeps the main character as the sole focus right to the final credits and does not deal with legal repercussions or tie anything up. A scene near the end reminded me strongly of the last scene in Michael Haneke's Hidden - a wide shot with many characters, where you scrutinise the image to find what matters! At other moments it feels as if the camera has been left on at the end of a scene by mistake, and the widescreen format leads to some interesting topping and tailing of characters that does seem to serve some expressive purpose. It is quite a fierce film, by no means easy to watch, and with a very flawed main character. Director Oliver Hermanus says he wanted you not to have an easy empathy with the character, but to feel different reactions to him at different times, and in this he has succeeded brilliantly. Francois is in many ways monstrous, but he is also the victim of a macho culture where his true feelings have been savagely repressed all his life. You sense that Deon Lotz has a far broader humanity than his character, but this is precisely what enables him to project the character in such a way that we don't reject him out of hand. It's altogether a tough but fascinating film.
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on 18 March 2014
A rather grim film, it moves along slowly, that in itself is fine for me but I found myself at the end thinking what was the point of this. It leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. I kept thinking why would anyone want to make this nasty film?
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on 8 December 2014
‘Beauty (Skoonheid)’, the second Afrikaans film that I have seen so far, is one of the finest achievements in contemporary cinema. Sleek, innovative, realistic and flawlessly realised, it is an intensely powerful, socio-political and psychological analysis of duplicitous behaviour. From the mysterious opening sequence, that gradually reveals the protagonists, to the challengingly enigmatic conclusion, the film sustains a sense of foreboding throughout, a suspense greater than that of a couple of Hitchcock movies put together. It does this quite intelligently by not giving anything away too easily to the audience. Instead, we are constantly enticed to interpret the behaviour of each character, just the way we normally react to one another in daily life, a narrative approach that I cannot recall experiencing before.

Deon Lotz, who performs the central character, is a stroke of genius in casting, because of his naturally menacing presence. He plays François van Heerden, a reasonably affluent and middle-aged, timber-factory owner, who outwardly is a happily married and decent figure in an exclusively Afrikaner community. He is openly racist and homophobic as everyone else in the neighbourhood is. Inwardly though, he is a volcano of sweltering homoerotic desire that is waiting to explode sooner or later. Whilst he frequents a secretive circle of racist homosexuals as an outlet for quenching these needs, his insatiable lust for the son of a close friend drives him to a desperate frenzy that soon gets out of control.

Co-writer and director, Oliver Hermanus uses this story metaphorically as a scalpel to dissect the universal ailment of repressed sexuality and its myriad implications on our society as a whole. He demonstrates an admirable flair in direction by restraining the violence to an essential minimum, through the effective deployment of relentless suspense as a way of preparing the audience for the inevitable shock. Even so, ‘Beauty’ is a deeply disturbing movie that some viewers may find too hard to watch, and more so for the homophobic. It shouldn’t be the case though, because the film is a stark reminder for us to confront prejudice, no matter how it manifests in the world today. I particularly recommend it to men who indulge in sexual violence in pornography, for the trauma of watching a man being brutally raped instead of a woman might shock some sense into their deteriorating grey matter.
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on 17 March 2013
A film about a middle aged white mans racism, hide homosexuality and repressed desires in actual South Africa. A serious approach to the complexed mentality of a man having a life far from his own nature in a middle class environment. He is married, has a daughter, with who he keep a distant and conservative father daughter relationship. His intimated bed life with his wife is non existing and this origins a tension that he tackle with indifference or will not confront at all, just for maintain his status as a respected man of family. He can keep his homosexual desires under siege thanks secret sexual meetings with other men in his predicament. Well, he seems to have control over almost everything so far until that young, handsome man can into his life. He is the son of his best friend, he a promising young lawyer attending a party in our main characters house. This movie reminds me about Death in Venice... Older man with perfect and respectable petit bourgeois life falling in love and desire for younger guy with all the consequences this situation may bring for him. I saw another movie, italian, about the same theme David's Birthday. In both films I recognise the implicit repression in social boundaries and moral conventions that rule our lives and the tensions and frustration they can produce when nature is pointing in the contrary direction.
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on 21 February 2013
I'm sure many people would find this very slow and maybe even give up before the end but I was totally engrossed from beginning to end. Very disturbing and shocking scenes towards the end. Stick with and you will remember it for a long time to come. Beautifully acted photographed and directed.
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on 8 September 2014
Worst film ever(((
Written quite a few reviews and quite honestly, i have no idea what the positive reviewers were watching
Definately not this film
Save yourself the death boredom and abusive male rape scene, by an older out of shape frustrated gay married lout!
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on 1 January 2016
This was bleak, in a wholly negative way, and unresolved. The way it was put together, the style of its composition, was repeatedly to extend a shot of a scene as far as it could be taken, and then add another fifteen seconds, so that the viewer's sense of tension (I think tedium is probably the word) was pushed beyond limits. And it's not as if the shots themselves had any intrinsic attractiveness - they were just bland. Probably with deliberate irony there was very little beauty in the film: the main character was gloomy and depressed and repulsive as an individual from the start - entirely lacking in any warmth or empathy. As a study of a certain type of mental illness it might have merit, as a picture of obsession it had no tenderness or affection, as photography it was dead, and as entertainment wholly unrewarding. Nasty, sad - avoid.
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on 3 March 2013
Beauty is a generally well-made movie about the ugly consequences of sexual repression in an intensely, violently homophobic society in South Africa (although it could just as well have been set in the United States or most other countries). The movie's few serious flaws--Deon Lotz is not believable as a gay man, even as a severely closeted and homophobic gay man; and Charlie Keegan is nowhere near the beauty the movie makes him out to be--in a way aren't really flaws at all, because those incongruities reinforce the fundamental impossibility of anything approaching health and sanity in such a perverted society. The true perverts are the homophobes, and this movie exposes them and portrays the hypocrisy, depravity and violence of their lives with great power and clarity.

The characters are bilingual; the movie's dialog is about 30% English and 70% Afrikaans, often switching back and forth several times within a single multi-person conversation. That would be okay if either both languages were subtitled (the best solution) or if the English were not spoken with a pronounced South African accent--but instead they chose to subtitle ONLY the words spoken in Afrikaans.

Often I found myself wondering why the subtitles suddenly stopped in the middle of a conversation only to realize too late that they were speaking English now so I was supposed to know what they were saying; then they would switch without warning back to Afrikaans and the subtitles resumed.

That's a big mistake, it would have been easy to avoid, and it's unacceptably and unnecessarily distracting. When the same voice alternates between Afrikaans and Afrikaans-accented English, a non-bilingual listener can't make the instantaneous adjustments required to understand every word. It would have cost them practically nothing to subtitle the English too, but they didn't. It became slightly less a problem later in the movie just because I got used to it, but it never ceased to be a distraction. That's the main reason I deducted a star.
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on 29 May 2013
I know very very little about south African cinema but found this film a real treat. It is slow paced , visual and only tells you about the characters what it wants . How I love world cinema when it dares to tease its audience . This isn't a loud coming out love triumphs gay movie and I can imagine a much wider audience say those who enjoy Danish cinema , if it wasn't just classified because of this [ amazon does love a pigeon hole] . This is an africaans version of death in venice but because of the more masculine violence society a much more brutal ending . I did find some of the English hard to hear and also the ending is one to leave you hanging rather than satisfy . For those those like to think along side their late night movie . A rather forgotten classic .
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