Category: Foreign


Ida

April 24th, 2014 — 7:16pm

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 12.00.42 AM***
Ida – sp We are pleased to report that for some unknown reason there are a number of readers of this blog who are from Poland. So we hope we will get some comments at the end of this review from them. This movie won The Eagle, which is the Polish equivalent of the American Oscar. It is in Polish with English subtitles. We understand it is also dubbed with the local language rather than using subtitles in many European countries, as it was in France, where is was a big hit. The setting is Poland in the 1960s. A young woman who is studying to be Nun in a convent is told by the Mother Superior that before she takes her vows she must go and meet her aunt, her only known family member (previously unknown to her) since she was brought to the convent as a baby during the war. She travels to the city where her aunt is located and finds out that she is Jewish. The two of them set off on a haunting road trip to find out what happened to her parents and where they are buried. The aunt, played by veteran Polish actress Aguta Lulesza, is tough as nails on the outside but has her own secret pain which is ripping her apart. Ida the novitiate, also known as Sister Anna Ida, and now with a last name Lebenstein, is played by a first time actress who was discovered in a coffee shop by the director. Her name is Agata Trzebuchowska. She is beautiful, and now burdened with a dilemma of what to do with her new insight into her origin. She also has to decide whether to go forward and take her vows, which of course includes chastity. It should be mentioned that on her road trip she does meet a handsome musician (David Ogrodnik) and we do detect some chemistry between them. The ambience of this film befits the subject matter. It is in black and white using a 4×3 format (almost square) with many close-ups. The locations are old bleak buildings, churches, a cemetery, and old roads with a lot of snow. The dialogue, although in Polish with subs, is sparse. There is a Polish 60s musical background that is mostly ambient rather than with a soundtrack. There are reminders of the role of communist rule in post war Poland. Everything is not spelled out for the viewer but there is little doubt about the story and the internal pain that our characters are feeling. It will awaken feelings about atrocities in WW II, which are still not far from the surface in many people, some now two generations removed from it. Although director and screenwriter Pawel Pawlikowski in a post film discussion said he had no doubt about how this 80 minutes film should end, there is another point of view on this subject. Finally, this movie is one of many films that have a theme which shows the immense struggle that people have to connect with a biological parent or vice versa. A discussion and summary of this issue can be found at http://www.psychiatrytalk.com/2014/04/the-search-for-a-persons-biological-identity/ (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Tasting Menu

April 17th, 2014 — 5:47pm

***Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 11.08.21 PM

Tasting Menu- sp-  This film is mostly in Catalan with some English and has English subtitles. It is an ensemble movie nicely blended together as a well-crafted meal. None of the characters or their stories is very heavy with details but they are combined into an absorbing tale, lightly sprinkled with some comedy and some touching emotional moments. Chef Mar Videl (Viventa N’dongo), who has won the award for the world’s best chef three times, has her world famous restaurant which only seats 30 on Spain’s Costa Brava with her partner Max (Andrew Tarbel). They have decided to close their restaurant and move on to other things but will serve one last sensational meal. One couple has a reservation there on the final night for over a year. However, they split up but neither wanted to give up their table so Rachel, (Claudia Bassols) a famous writer and Marc, a young prominent pediatrician, (Jan Cornet) do attend this last meal. So does Danny (Timothy Gibbons), Rachel’s editor and wannabe boyfriend who wangles a reservation to be in this select group. There is the Countess (Fionnula Flanagan) who in her healthier younger days would eat there many times with her illustrious husband who will attend this time in the form of his ashes in an urn. Two competing businessmen, ( Toto Igawa and Akihiko Serikawa) from Japan, who want to reopen the restaurant in their country are in attendance as is Mina (Marta Torne), their guide for their visit to the U.S. The final main character and perhaps the most mysterious and interesting of all is Walter (Stephen Rea) who we never quite figure out. Before we get to the dessert there is a boat lost at sea which includes the musicians who were to play that evening and this unlikely group might even try to save them. There is very little logic to this screenplay by Roger Gual who also directed it but the chances are you will come away satiated with a good feelings and delighted by its charm. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Foreign

Like Father, Like Son

January 24th, 2014 — 6:03am

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Like Father, Like Son- sp  This Japanese film with subtitles was an extremely successful in Japan earning so far more than 30 million dollars and is about to be released in the United States. It won a major award at the Cannes Film Festival where Steven Spielberg was the Chair of the committee that gave the award. Spielberg then optioned the rights to it and plans to make an English version. What is it about this movie that seems so captivating? In Japan it helps that the male lead is played by one of most popular singers and actors currently in Japan and that is Fukuyama Masahuro. Just as important is the screenplay written by the director Kore-Eda Hirokazu which presents a fascinating human dilemma which rarely happens in modern times but one to which just about everyone can relate. Early in the film, a young married couple with a six year old son, who is a bright, very delightful boy, learn that their son was switched at birth with another child born in the same hospital on the same day. They meet the other family and the differences between them, especially the fathers become very apparent. They must decide what will they do (in addition to suing the hospital). Will they switch children and how will they come to this decision? As we try to relate to the dilemma and see how the parents and children react to this situation, we get the impression that some of the responses seem to be culture bound. Of particular note was the depiction of the passivity of the women and the obedience of the 6 year-olds. In a post film discussion, we learned that in the 1970s when hospital practices in Japan in labeling newborn children were not as exacting as they are today, there were incidences such as the one depicted in the movie. Interestingly, we were told that 100% of the children were returned to the biological parent even in cases of 6 year olds! Director Hirokazu did a sensitive job of showing us the evolution in the thinking of one of the fathers as he leads us to the ultimate outcome of this dilemma. He also brought to the screen two delightful children who played the kids who were switched at birth.

The theme of this movie is a variation of the successful 2013 film Philomenaas well as other movies which we have reviewed and discussed this interesting psychological variable . These include The Kids Are All Right, People Like Us Stories We TellAdmissions, and Mother and Child. One of us (MB)has also discussed this elsewhere with real life case examples (Psychiatrytalk.com). Each of these movie reviews and the psychiatry blog can be reached directly by clicking the words in this paragraph. (2013)

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Broken Circle Breakdown

November 7th, 2013 — 7:57am

***The Broken Circle Breakdown

The Broken Circle Breakdown –sp (In Flemish with subtitles) This will be Belgium’s bid for the best foreign film of the year. Early on in the movie you learn about  a married couple, very attracted to each other, have a 5 year old child who is dying of cancer. Elise is a tattoo artist (played by Veerle Bactens a very popular Belgium actress who can also sing quite well ) who joins her husband Didier (Johan Heldenberg)  and his  bluegrass musical group. Their grief over the loss of their adorable daughter Maybelle  (Nell Cattrysse) tears them apart and they turn on each other. The anger and the hurt that they inflict on each other breaks up this wonderful relationship. This is one of the points of the film. Number two would seem to be the difference in how people deal with such a loss. Elise would like to believe that their daughter’s soul or spirit might reappear as a bird or is living on in some way whereas Didier believes that when you are gone you are gone! The third point we get from the film seems to come out of left field but is connected to the storyline. That is related to former President George W. Bush who vetoed stem cell research in the US and all the people who on religious grounds might have agreed with him. Didier in the film ridicules this point of view and goes on a tirade against it since he feels such research can save lives such as that of his daughter. The final point we believe that is made is that some people can never recover from such a tragedy, leaving one to believe that you should enjoy life while you can because you never know what terrible thing is around the corner . These are all worthy themes for a movie but we felt that they were dealt with in a relatively superficial manner thereby missing the opportunity to leave us with memorable film. Certainly the acting was outstanding. The movie was directed by Felix Van Groeningen who also wrote the screenplay with Carl Joos, after he saw the story written and directed on the stage by  Johan Heldenberg who played Didier in this film. Van Groeningen showed the sexual chemistry of the couple quite well. He also used flashbacks, which is often the vogue in today’s movies but which we thought was somewhat overdone in this one. Whatever shortcomings the film may have had was made up by the effective intertwining of some terrific country bluegrass music throughout the film which included vocals by the two stars. This is particularly interesting because we learned that bluegrass music is not yet a popular genre in Belgium today. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Romance

You Will Be My Son

August 20th, 2013 — 5:25pm

images-1****
You Will Be My Son-sp
-(French with subtitles) This is an intense drama involving family relationships, specifically fathers and sons. The characters and their personalities are clearly defined through the story line and the great acting. There is Paul de Marseul(Niels Arestrup) owner of a magnificent French winery who is self centered, arrogant and insensitive to the desire of his son to please him and follow in his footsteps. Martin de Marseul (Lorant Deutsch) is the owner’s son, college trained in the science of wines, married to Alice and living on the grounds of the winery. He is emotionally tortured by his father’s neglect. Alice (Anne Marivin) is Paul’s beautiful and supportive wife. Francois Amelot (Patrick Chesnais) is the Estate Manager of the winery, the man who has been the brilliant wine expert who knows when and how to harvest . He has been vital to the success of the business. He also lives on the grounds with his wife and is slowly dying of pancreatic cancer. Phillip Amerlot (Nicolas Bridet) is Francois’ son, an up and coming wine expert himself who has just left his last job and visits his ill father. Paul de Marseul the owner and honcho clearly likes Phillip and favors him over his son to take over the fading Francois’ position and ultimately the winery. The movie is filmed and framed in the lush French countryside. The winery itself is a character in the movie played by a vineyard estate with endless fields of growing grapes, modern harvesting equipment including shaking machines which remove the picked grapes from the vines, large temperature controlled vats where the wine ferments deep in the vast cellars where there are also thousands of stored bottles of valuable wine. There are close ups of the interesting attractive faces of all the characters as well as of the swirling glasses of wine which they are frequently analyzing and drinking during the dialogue. Wine aficionados will particularly appreciate the banter about wine and how the two sons seem to be measured by Paul de Marseul based on their knowledge in this regard. However even deeper insight into his feelings about his own son due to some unresolved grief comes out in a brief cemetery scene. Sometimes we complain that characters are too underdeveloped. In this case who they are is very clearly put forward, perhaps a tad too much. A little more subtlety in the writing and direction by first time director Gilles Legrand might have made this film even better than it turned out. Overall it was thought provoking, unpredictable, out of the ordinary and worth seeing. One more thought which is not very important for the enjoyment of this movie but worth contemplating when the film is over. That is the question of whether cell phones would work in a wine cellar? (2013)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Romantics Anonymous

July 13th, 2013 — 5:34am

Romantics Anonymous****

Romantics Anonymous- nf- (French with subtitles) This is a romantic comedy about an extremely anxious and shy woman (Isabelle Carre)  who is hired  at a chocolate factory to be a sales representative,  by the owner (Benoit Poelvoorde), who is equally anxious and shy. In fact, he sees a therapist on a regular basis who gives him little assignments to carry out to try to socialize him. She is in a therapy group of equally afflicted men and women who tell their stories while supporting each other. She is actually a talented chocolate maker but is afraid to let it be known because she feels she couldn’t handle the recognition. The screenplay is by Diane Bardinet and by Director Jean Pierre Ameris. The writing, direction and magnificent  acting  results in a laugh out loud comedy which also tugs at your heart and has you rooting for the characters. Perhaps it is characteristically French that even after the couple eventually have sex together they are still hilariously shy and anxious about being together. This is really a gem of a movie that should not be missed.(2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Foreign, Romance

Love Is All You Need

May 2nd, 2013 — 5:21pm

Love is All You Need***

Love Is All You Need- sp  This is a mostly romantic and somewhat comedic film. It is mostly a Danish film with  English subtitles when needed, but a somewhat English film with Pierce Brosnan. The Screenwriter and director is two time Oscar nominee  Susanne Bier who directed the  2011 Academy Award winning Best Foreign Film In a Better World . This current film opens with Ida  (Trine Dyrholm) having just completed her course of cancer treatment hoping that she is cured. She is about to travel to Italy for her daughter’s wedding in a beautiful mansion on the Italian Mediterranean where the two families will get together for the ceremony. On the way she bumps into Philip (Pierce Brosnan) the father of the groom. Everyone but Ida seems to be dysfunctional in some way or have some interpersonal and personal conflicts. As family and friends prepare  for the wedding their interactions reveal their  conflicted lives and relationships. The storyline is engrossing despite the fact that most of the characters are cardboard stereotypes which does allow for some good comedic moments. Nevertheless, you cannot help but be drawn to the heroine Ida whose inner and outer beauty shows through despite the results of her treatment for cancer, personal affronts suffered and even losing her suitcase on her trip to Italy. There are easily predicted outcomes, some surprises and an unanswered question. The photography of the beautiful setting is magnificent by Morten Soborg which compliments Ms Biers very fine directing. Dean Martin provides the familiar musical themes of Italy. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Foreign, Romance

Renoir

April 20th, 2013 — 6:15pm

Renoir***

Renoir- rm  - This movie becomes an enjoyable stroll through a museum filled with the paintings of French Impressionist Pierre- Auguste Renoir. However, instead of looking at the beautiful colorful paintings of this master you are watching a film about him and the people around him living on his picturesque farm on the French Riveria. The photography and the lighting , so often during the magic hours preceding sunset along with the delicate colors and the characters gracefully moving through the French countryside or  in the period living quarters, transport the viewer into so many of Renior’s paintings. The screenplay is written by writer/director Gilles Bourdos and is based on the writing of the painter’s great grandson Jacques Renoir. The movie takes place in 1915 during World War I and opens as Andree (Christa Theret) a young beautiful girl with red hair comes to work as a model for the aging Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet). His wife having recently died, he is surrounded by women of various ages who act as his housekeeper, cook and assistant with the suggestion that some may have been previously his models or even more than that. Shortly thereafter his oldest son Jean Renoir (Vincent Rottiers) returns from the WW I battlefield to recuperate from a leg injury. We also meet young Coco Renoir (Thomas Dorot) the sulking youngest son of Renoir and learn of another older son who is also in the military. The story revolves around the role of Andree becoming the inspiration of the elder Renoir and his appreciation of her beauty and velvety skin, which is amply framed in the movie. At the same time there is her connection to son Jean and we get glimpses of them planning their possible future together. But alas, while Andree has aspirations to be an actress and plants the seed that Jean should become a filmmaker (which of course he did but beyond the time frame of the film), this young man is determined to return to fighting in the Great War. Whether you did or did not know the reality not exactly shown in the film that Andree was actually the muse for both father and son, will not influence your appreciation of this film. The almost 2 hour movie was easy to digest and the storyline mattered very little as the true effect of this movie was a visceral sense of this old master mixing colors, putting down his whirling brush strokes  and capturing the beauty of the people and the countryside surrounding him. (2013)

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

Reality

March 8th, 2013 — 3:09am

***reality_ver3

Reality sp –  To fully appreciate this film, you have to suspend any tendency that you might have to diagnose significant mental illness, which is somewhat difficult for us to do. This Italian Fellinisque film is directed and co written by Matteo Garrone and it won second prize behind Amour at the Cannes Film Festival. It supposedly is based on a true story which happened to a relative of the Director who became obsessed with the Italian version of the TV reality show Big Brother . He is initially urged by his friends and family to try out to audition for the show where participants become avidly followed as heros  by the mass viewing audience as they live in a beautiful luxurious house and frolic with the others on the show. The main character Luciano (Aniello Arena) is married with two children and has a fish store in Napoli. He becomes convinced that he is on the verge of being chosen for this show and is being checked out by the producers who may be secretly observing him.  In what appears to be a paranoid delusion he begins to give away many of his possessions to people who are down and out,  to the consternation of his loving wife (Loredana Simioli) and other family members.  As he spirals deeper and deeper into this fantasy, if we can put aside our desire to put him into a psychiatric hospital, we perhaps can understand that we are being presented with a satiric  social commentary on the power of mass media, in particular, reality TV, on contemporary life. The background score by veteran movie composer Alexandre Desplat helps to create the mood which may help you lose your reality and appreciate the message of this film. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Foreign

War Witch

February 22nd, 2013 — 1:41am

itunes_warwitch***

War Witch sp – We saw this  Oscar nominated movie for best foreign film a few days before the Academy Award ceremony. It is the Canadian entry since that is the home country of Director Kim Nguyen who also wrote the screenplay which he told our screening audience in a post film interview that he has been writing on and off for 10 years. It is set somewhere in the African Congo where a rebel army abducts children and makes them soldiers. The movie, which was primarily filmed in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo, appears to be quite authentic. It  follows Komono, a  12 year old girl, for two years, starting with the point where she is captured, made to shoot her parents and become a soldier. Circumstances lead her captors to believe that she has special powers, can see things that are going to happen and therefore protect them. She is played by a first time local actress Rachel Mwanza, who actually grew up in the streets without a family and was chosen by Kim Nguyen after auditioning over 2000 young girls.  She is on the screen just about all the time and expresses clearly her inner pain and emotions  well as her  own thoughts and images with a little help from the visual effects of the film and the voiceover  in French by another actress (with English subtitles of course). It also has a great soundtrack of  what appeared to be African folk music which captured the atmosphere and mood  of the film. Mwanza for her first film has already won the the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this month and also won the award for the Best Actress in the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. In the film she is accompanied most of the time by another child soldier who is an Albino known as the Magician, also very well  played by a local actor Serge Kanyinda. This movie presents us with a glimpse at a lesser known atrocity  which has occurred in modern times. It is also a simple and beautiful, if not,  sad love story . It well deserves the recognition which it is receiving. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Foreign, History, Romance, War

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