Category: Foreign


Pad Man

January 4th, 2022 — 5:32am

Pad Man. nf
****

This is a quite remarkable story, and as usual truth can be stranger than fiction. Here we have a young man living in India who is concerned that his wife uses a dirty cloth during per periods who goes to the store and picked up a napkin for his wife for her to use during her menstruation and is amazed to find out how expensive it is and how rejected it is by the women of the town. This leads him to see if he can make a similar product by hand that might even be better, safer and cheaper! He goes through all sorts of trials and tribulations to do this. Of course, even discussing the menstrual period is usually taboo. His wife and family and friends and neighbors as well as other people cannot deal with his obsession to make a safer, less expensive and more effective product. His concerns about using a pad instead of the dirty rags that women generally use makes him a particularly aberrant and shunned indidividual

This film came out four years ago in 2018. It is in Indian Hindi language. It is a dramatic film with English subtitles, which recreates a true story about Arunachalam Muruganantham. It is written and directed by R. Balki and features Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, and Radhika Apte. The persistence and dedication of the main protagonist and his product and his belief that this would be revolutionary for women, (which it was) comes up against the cultural belief that this natural biological occurrence should never be openly discussed, especially by men.

There is a very engaging storyline as “Pad Man” tries to get various women to “test” his product. Ultimately not only does he produce a revolutionary pad, which is a safer and more sanitary product and probably save untold lives (who might have come down with infections and died), but he also has created a new industry for the production of his product, in which thousands of women are able to participate. It is amazing to contemplate that prior to the effective, safe and inexpensive production of this product about five days a month for women were eliminated from their lives as they would isolate themselves and certainly would not interact with men. The film deserves the recognition, which it appears to be getting and it is of note as was shown in the film, the Pad Man ultimately received worldwide acclaim and recognition for his accomplishment.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Arunchalam Murugaanantham, Drama, Foreign, Indian Hini language, Politics, Radhila Apte

Death in Venice

November 18th, 2021 — 8:39am

Death in Venice nf
***

This 1971 movie, which is more than two hours long, is based on a 1930 novella by Thomas Mann and is filled with classical music by Mahler, Beethoven, Mussorgsky, and Gill. The director and co-screenwriter was Luchino Visconti.

The main character is a composer Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde), who travels to Venice by himself for a vacation and rest due to health concerns. It is interesting to note that the city was then experiencing a pandemic due to cholera. Aschenbach becomes obsessed and attracted to an adolescent boy named Tadzio who is staying with his family at the same hotel. Most if not the entire film shows the struggle of this older man with his feelings of attraction towards Tadzio, although they never interact. The facial expressions of the main character and the strong musical background define this film leading to the ultimate fatal ending.

While the scenes are beautifully shot and it feels as though you are watching paintings on the screen, the film doesn’t really engage the viewer. The dearth of dialogue and the overall ambiguity is off putting and somewhat unsatisfying. While a unique film, it doesn’t seem worth the time for most people.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Belfast

November 18th, 2021 — 8:27am

Belfast. sp
***

This film has received much publicity before its opening and the opportunity we had to see it in preview. One of the major underlying themes is the conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants, and Catholic factions. We do not fully appreciate the fine points of the deep-seated antagonism between these two groups nor the many variations of thought within them. However, we could identify with the 9-year-old boy Buddy (Jude Hill) who is part of an Irish family living in Northern Ireland. His dad (Jamie Dornan) would go to London for work for periods of time while the family was feeling increasing tension in Belfast in Northern Ireland where they lived. This is obviously the story of writer-director Kenneth Branagh who grew up in Northern Ireland. We do not get much insight into the political underpinnings of this conflict, but we do see how it totally preoccupied this family. We see deadly violence all around them and are touched by the loving care in this family, which includes Judi Dench as the grandmother. The appropriate musical background was provided by Van Morrison. This is a well done movie, which brings the overwhelming tragic political situation down to its impact upon the members of one family living through it.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Politics

Nowhere In Africa

June 19th, 2021 — 4:00am

Nowhere in Africa
****

This is a 2001 German film which was written and directed by Caroline Link. It is based on an autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig.

We thought that we had seen every aspect of Holocaust books and films, yet this subtle, touching, thoughtful story tells a poignant tale that reflects the deep-seated impact as much as the classic well known literary and cinematic productions have done on this subject. It tells the story of a German Jewish family; father, mother, and young daughter, who fled Germany “to the middle of nowhere in Africa” which is actually in Kenya.

Perhaps this story is best reflected through the eyes of a young girl as she grows into early adolescence during what must have been a seven or eight year period. She is accepted into the native culture. Her parents have their struggles and conflicts. Their pain in missing their relatives and learning of their fate is a well-known part of history. The viewers must put themselves into the shoes of this threesome as they ultimately must decide whether to stay or leave and where to go once the war is over.

The skill of the filmmaker is reflected in the fact that we forget that we are seeing a foreign film with subtitles. The setting is quite real as are the characters and their in-depth portrayal.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History

Madam Rosa

December 26th, 2020 — 8:18am

Madame Rosa (Hulu)
***

We recently reviewed the 1975 Italian film “The Life Ahead”, based on a French novel. There actually was a 1977 French movie based on the same book titled Madame Rosa. It stars Simone Signoret and has a similar plot. This version provides a more detailed story line about the young man who is taken under the wing of the aging woman who was once a prostitute and now cares for children of prostitutes. It costars Samy Ben-Youb as Momo who appears to be maybe 13 or 14 (a couple of years older than the boy in the Italian version.) The film is hampered by the subtitles at times being more difficult to read and the technical quality of the film projection was poor. While we favor the Italian version, it is quite interesting to compare two films and observe the outstanding acting of another great actress. The French version did win the Foreign Film Award in the 1978 Oscars.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Life Ahead

December 23rd, 2020 — 6:52am

The Life Ahead (Netflix)
*****

This is an Italian movie, based on a novel by Romain Gary, starring the great actress Sophia Loren who is now in her mid 80s. She does a great job as an aging woman who is a Holocaust survivor and takes care of young children of prostitutes. There are two other outstanding stars in this film. One is the young black boy who plays Momo and appears to be between 12 and 14 and is taken in by Ms. Loren’s character. He is played magnificently by Ibrahima Gueye. The other outstanding star is the director of the film, Eduardo Ponti. Mr. Ponti, who is Sophia Loren’s son, did an absolutely fantastic job directing Mr. Gueye as Momo. Speech (although in Italian) appeared to have perfect intonation and the young boy’s expressions and emotional reactions were unbelievable. We see Momo come into a completely new living environment for him, but he adapts very well. On one hand, he becomes a drug messenger to make money. He relates well to the other children and is tender and caring for Ms. Loren’s character. It is this amazing emotional performance created by Mr. Ponti and his young actor that makes this film unforgettable.

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Foreign

And Then We Danced

February 7th, 2020 — 2:02am

***

AND THEN WE DANCED-sp

This was the Swedish Oscar entry for best film. It is the brainchild of writer-director, Levan Akin, who is telling a story about dancers in Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, which is his native country. The film introduces the viewer to a very particular style of dancing, which we learned is practically a national sport in Georgia. We meet our main character, Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani), as he is auditioning for a professional Georgia Dance Company. He meets Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), who is also trying out for a position in the dance company. They ultimately are attracted to each other and have a forbidden sexual affair. The storyline gives us a glimpse into Georgian culture and particularly, the struggle of the main characters. The dancing although unique to our eye is nevertheless quite powerful. Although, we could appreciate the tensions between the various protagonists and their families, the film was unnecessarily long in trying to depict the societal pressures again gay individuals. We watched several characters as they grapple with and ultimately come to terms with who they really are, which while enlightening and poignant was just overly drawn-out.(2020)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Corpus Christi

January 30th, 2020 — 4:33am

****

Corpus Christi-sp

This is Poland’s entry in the Oscar race for best foreign film and it could be a winner. A young man escapes from his violent detention in prison where he has to work in a sawmill and gets into gritty fights. While he already knew that his desire to go to seminary and become a priest could not be possible because of his prison record, he finds a way to act out his fantasy. After he escapes from his detention, he finds refuge in a church in a small town. He convinces the vicar there that he is actually a recent graduate priest who is passing through and then accepts the role to temporarily be the Church’s spiritual leader when the older man has to leave for a period of time. Not surprisingly, interesting things happen and issues of spirituality, morality and fairness are all put on the table for the viewer to contemplate along with the characters in the film. The core of the story is based on a true incident of priest impersonation, but much of the story comes from the imagination and creativity of the screenwriter, Mateusz Pacewicz, director, Jan Komasa, cinematographer, Piotr Sobociński, Jr. as well as the great acting performance by Bartosz Bielenia, along with an excellent supporting cast.(2020)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Incitement

January 29th, 2020 — 7:47am

 

****

Incitement- sp

This award-winning Israeli film is based on the real-life events which led to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It is a well-done docudrama, which seemlessly interfaces actual video and movie clips with the excellently-constructed, very well-acted movie. It was put together by Yaron Zilberman who directed the film and co-wrote the screen play as well as leading the team of producers who researched all details of this movie for over a year prior to production. The preparation that they did included interviewing the actual assassin Yigal Amir (played by Yehuda Nahari Halevi) who is serving a life sentence in prison. Special recognition also should be given to the cast who played Amir’s family (Amitay Ousilio, Anat Ravnizky, Yoav Levi) and other important people in his life (Sivan Mast, Daniella Kertesz).

The seminal event which this film focused is upon was a pivotal moment in Israeli history. Rabin was assassinated in 1995, at which time, Yassir Arafat, was negotiating with him and planning the previously evasive possibility of agreed-upon boundaries and peace in the Middle East.

This film highlights the controversies within Israel among various groups. The viewer gets to understand the point of view of the young law student would-be assassin as he evolves his thinking into his deadly plan. How he rationalizes and justified his plan and finds support from the Bible and various religious leaders is quite fascinating and makes this movie well worth seeing. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Foreign

Truth and Justice

January 17th, 2020 — 9:21pm

***

Truth and Justice-sp

This film is Estonia’s entry for best foreign picture. It is based on a classic Estonian novel, apparently well known to everyone who grows up in Estonia. It takes place in the 1870s in the rural area as Andres (Priit Loog) and his wife Kroot (Maiken Schmidt) settle down on a rural farm, which they have gone into debt to purchase. Their goal is to be successful and bring up a family with a male heir who can carry on what they hope will be a successful endeavor. Things became complicated and difficult as the neighbor, Pearu (Priit Võigemast) is somewhat devious and there are personal and legal conflicts that soon develop. The young couple finds it not so easy to make everything the way you want to it. The story line allows the viewers to see the growth of children and how relationships and aspirations of the entire family young and old play out. While the setting beautifully captured by magnificent cinematography, and the time period may be unfamiliar to most of us, director and writer Tanel Toom has taken a classic Estonian novel by Anton Tammsaare and portrayed its humanity and universality, which will nevertheless touch some of the audience (2020).

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

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