Category: Foreign


One Child Nation

November 17th, 2019 — 10:57pm

 

***

One Child Nation-  amazon

In 1979, the Chinese government came to the conclusion that if they did not make some radical changes, the next generation’s population would grow enormously. 

They believed that the population would be in the billions and would lead to widespread starvation and be very difficult to manage. Therefore the Chinese government instituted a mandatory one child policy, which was widely publicized and became the “patriotic approach” expected from every Chinese family. Those who disobeyed this dictum and had a second child would be severely punished sometimes by having their home destroyed. Midwives not only performed numerous sterilization procedures and abortions but also at times had to kill newborns who were second children. This policy continued for 25 years before it was finally changed allowing a second child.

Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang directed this documentary film. Much of it was in Chinese with subtitles. It captures and personalizes the impact of this all encompassing social policy. Through interviews with various Chinese people, the viewer can appreciate the very personal meaning of being deprived of the ability to have a second child if one wanted one. Family dynamics are examined especially in some settings where there might be a desire to have a boy and the first child was a girl. The newborn and the very young were abandoned in the streets. There was human trafficking where children were sold to adoption agencies. Many of these children were internationally adopted and ended up in American homes where the adopted parents were not told the true story of their newly adopted child. There also is the story of the search by adopted Chinese children growing up in America who might be interested in finding their birth families.

This film deals with these complicated issues, which have political, social, as well as emotional implications. You come away from this documentary film educated and also moved by the human implications of what you have seen and experienced. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Foreign, Politics

Parasite

November 7th, 2019 — 8:40pm

*****

Parasite-rm

This was an elaborate production of an interesting and complicated story. The movie is set in South Korea and is in the Korean language with English subtitles. We meet a wealthy Korean family with two children who can hire a maid/cook, tutor for the kids, as well as a driver. Through some complicated manipulations, a poor family from the other side of town is able to work it out, so they are serving all of these positions although the rich family does not realize that they are actually members of one family. The disparity and yet the similarities between the rich and the poor become highlighted. There is a strange undercurrent of the film that not only takes place in the basement of the wealthy mansion but in the heart and souls of some of the characters. Credit must be given to Bong Joon-Ho, who wrote the screenplay and did a magnificent job directing the movie, which turned out to be 2 hours and 12 minutes but never feeling too long or drawn out.

The film which starts out comedically, albeit with strife and poignancy, moves into creative and surprising genres which keep the viewer engaged even after the final credits roll. While difficult to classify, it is definitely worth seeing. 

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Horror

Farewell

July 31st, 2019 — 5:21am

****

Farewell-rm

This film written and directed by Lulu Wang is mostly in Chinese with English subtitles. A young woman (played by Awkwafina known for her performances in Crazy Rich Asians and other films) joins her American family as they descend upon nai-nai (grandmother) who lives in China and whom they believe has a fatal diagnosis of cancer). However, the family is set on keeping the information about the deadly prognosis from grandmother because they believe it is the fear that would facilitate her demise. The American relatives join the Chinese relatives in China in what the grandmother thinks is a wedding celebration for her grandson who is supposedly getting married. But really the American family has flown over to China in order to see grandma who they understand has a fatal prognosis. The love and tenderness for grandmother is quite touching as is the extent the family will go to, to keep the fatal prognosis from her.

There is singing, as well as speeches by many family members mostly in Chinese but some in English (but all are translated into English on the screen). There is a rich depiction of Chinese culture. The respect and love for elders permeates the film and is quite touching. Time goes by quite quickly as it does in real life when we believe our time with a loved one is limited. Also, to the backdrop of this family crisis, other family issues emerged. We appreciate the underlying feelings when some family members leave their homeland to immigrate to another country while other members stay behind. Also, family issues seem more intense when we believe we are about to lose a loved family member.

The movie has a certain universality, which will appeal to many viewers and make us contemplate the importance of family and what a potential loss of a loved one would mean to each of us. It is also an opportunity to reflect how when a young person immigrates to the United States for opportunity, there is a cost of being a stranger in a strange land and not having the support of your loved ones who are left in your homeland. All and all, this film will touch your heart as well as telling you an interesting story. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Storm Boy

March 27th, 2019 — 4:37am

*****

Storm Boy-sp

This is an Australian film directed by Shawn Seet based on a screenplay by Justin Monjo which is based on a novella by Colin Thiele. It is a well-known legendary Australian story about a young boy (Finn Little) and his connection to pelicans. His mother and sister had died and he lives with his father (Jai Courtney) in a house on the beach in a deserted area of his country. The boy rescues three baby pelicans after their mother was killed by bird hunters. The little birds grow into big pelicans and stay connected with the young boy, particularly one pelican named Mr. P.

The story is told by the grown boy, now a grandfather, (Geoffrey Rush), as he talks with his granddaughter (Morgana Davies) about his youth. There is also an indigenous man (Trevor Jamieson) who lives nearby and lends support to the father and son. The storyline has a sense of urgency, as there is a conflict over land use of a trust on whose Board the grandfather sits. There is also a dramatic rescue episode, which has significance in our young hero’s future life.

The story is magical, captivating, emotional and has all the elements which make it a very worthwhile cinematic experience. (2019)

As usual, your comments about this film are welcome below.

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids, Foreign

Ash Is Purest White

February 12th, 2019 — 11:25pm

***

Ash Is Purest White -sp

This movie is in Chinese with English subtitles. The director and screenwriter is Jia Zhangke who is married to Zhao Tao, the accomplished star of this film.

The movie was extremely well done with beautiful photography in part because of the French director of photography, Eric Gautier, and an excellent riveting performance by Ms. Tao.

However, in our view, the storyline did not go anyplace. Perhaps the main value of the movie was to show a glimpse into the underworld life in modern day China. There appears to be a gang culture that exists with the usual expected loyalties. The story also depicts the classic situation of unrequited love. If a film is going to take us for 2 hours and 20 minutes, it should develop a pretty tight hold on us, which was not the case here. Maybe the language barrier hindered the ability of the movie to do it for us (2019).

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Everybody Knows

February 6th, 2019 — 1:56am

 

***

Everybody Know-sp

Veteran Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi brings together Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz (who happen to be married to each other) to this Spanish film made in Spain.

Laura (Cruz) and her husband (Ricardo Darín) come to Spain from Argentina with their two children to celebrate a family wedding. Things get complicated when their thirteen-year-old daughter is abducted and held for ransom. Why is Paco (Bardem) a close friend, wiling to sell his share of the vineyard to pay the ransom? Who are the kidnappers? The scenery, the acting and the characters are quite attractive and intriguing. In the end however, the storyline was not quite believable but it was an interesting ride. (2019

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama, Foreign, Romance

Take It Or Leave It

January 25th, 2019 — 10:55pm

****

Take It or Leave It-sp

This was the entry from Estonia for the Best International Film in the Oscar competition. The story line of the movie could probably happen in any country. A young woman delivers a newborn baby and she tells her ex-boyfriend that the baby is his, but she doesn’t want to have anything to do with the child. The young man feels obligated to take possession of the baby, whereas the girl gets out of town. The young man’s mother can help a little but to take care of the baby he is forced to quit his construction job and take small jobs where he can take the baby in a carrier with him. A few years passed and the baby is now a little girl with great affection for the most important person in her life as he carries on the role of both mother and father.

Director and screenwriter, Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo puts the spotlight on this role reversal of the more common situation where the man walks away and leaves the woman to raise the child. However, what probably makes this movie a contender in the Oscar race is that the storyline goes one step further by providing a surprising twist in the plot of the movie.

The standout actor who plays Eric, the young man is Reimo Sagor. The mother of the child is played by, Liis Lass. Kudos also go to the infants and toddlers and the little girl who played the role of Mai, the baby that we watched grow from an infant to the little girl about ready to go to school.

Estonia is a small high-tech country that has a budding film industry. If this movie is any indication, we’re going to see some interesting cinematic productions from this country. (2019)

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Ayka

January 15th, 2019 — 8:20pm

**

Ayka-sp

This is the Kazakhstan international entry for the Oscars and it is in the top nine entries being considered for best picture. It is directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy who also is the main screenwriter and producer. It stars Samal Yeslyamova who is on the screen 99% of the time and has already won the Cannes Film Festival award for best actress. It took six years to make and the film was extremely realistic as it shows the main character in the snowy streets of Moscow suffering as she tries to survive as an illegal immigrant in Russia.

Having said all this, we cannot really recommend that you spend the 100 minutes of running time to watch this film. It is basically about the full-time misery of this young woman which we get is her plight and that of many others. There is no delving into how this all came about, any options or variations or even any significant back-story of the main character. We admire the skills of the filmmaker and the talent of the actress but we need more of a storyline in regard to relationships, background and message to make this film worthwhile, in our opinion. (2018)

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Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Roma

November 15th, 2018 — 8:28am

***

Roma

When this veteran filmmaker decided he would tell a very personal story, he made sure to take on major roles in the aspect of making this movie. Alfonso Cuaron was not only the director and screenwriter, but he also was the cinematographer and editor. Afterall, it was a story about Cleo who was his maid/servant had helped to raise him in his upper-class home which was probably in Mexico City in the 1980s.

After a slow start (be prepared for lots of water and a viewing of what seem to be every credit for this film at the beginning of the movie). The movie then drills down to an in-depth sensitive portrait of this obviously beloved woman who played a significant role in raising Mr. Cuaron. It is interesting and probably revealing that the director/screenwriter bypassed his choice of many experienced actresses and chose an unknown, non-actress school teacher from his hometown to ultimately play the starring role in this movie. Yalitza Aparicio, no doubt with the assistance of the director, did an excellent job of conveying the genuine, sensitive caring of her character. In contrast, the other co-star was a veteran actress, Marina De Tavira who also turned in an outstanding performance as the mother of the four children and the wife who is realizing the true state of her marriage.

In many ways this movie, although it is a man’s tale of his childhood, he really is providing insight into the feelings and emotions only of the women. Men are not portrayed as very nice people. Notably also, there is a small piece of gratuitous nudity that really isn’t necessary for the story and it is a scene of a naked man approaching his sexual partner in the bed. There also is a notable undercurrent of the human rights and civic action which occurred in the 1970s in Mexico City which is depicted very realistically in this movie.

This is a very well-done film that will resonate well with many moviegoers. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Summer 1993

May 17th, 2018 — 4:53pm

***

Summer 1993-sp

This is a personal story of the writer/director Carla Simon. The movie tells a story of when she was a little girl and her parents died of AIDS at the height of the HIV epidemic which in Spain was in 1993 (a little later than in the United States). She was sent to live with her uncle, aunt, and a younger cousin and had to deal with her inner turmoil at this very tender age. It was quite an accomplishment that the director/writer was able to find a seven-year-old girl, Laia Artigas to play her at this young age as well as a four-year-old, Paula Robles to play her younger cousin Anna. These child actors joined Bruna Cusi, David Verdaguer and Fermi Reixach, who play some of the other members of her family. The story line shows the everyday interactions of these two younger girls mostly with each other but also with Frida’s aunt, uncle and also with the grandparents who come to visit.

It is rare that the personal emotions of a young child are captured so well on the screen. Perhaps it is even more of a feat that the movie was made in Spain, in Catalan with English subtitles. As much as we admired the unusual cinematic accomplishments of bringing the inner feelings of young girls to the screen, we felt that the 96-minute running time to watch them play and cry may not have been worth the time spent watching it. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

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