Category: Foreign


Ayka

January 15th, 2019 — 8:20pm

**

Ayka

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)

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

My Life with James Dean

April 13th, 2018 — 7:52am

Screened at the 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Unknown Opening date in USA

***

My Life With James Dean

This French movie with subtitles follows Geraud( Johnny Reese), a young film maker who is making the rounds of small coastal towns in France with his new film titled “My Life With James Dean.” A 15-year-old boy(Mikael Pelissler). who looks older than his stated age. is the projectionist who is smitten with Geraud who seems ambivalent about the attraction shown to him by the young man, although they end up in bed together. There also were a bunch of temporary pairings, which include a female hotel clerk with a driver and a lesbian film promoter with her girlfriend. After a while, the movie felt like a French farce or a slapstick comedy.

We met Dominique Choisy, the French film director of the movie and mentioned to him that in the United States, an adult having sex with a 15-year-old would usually be of great concern. He did not seem bothered by this and noted that in France the age of majority is 15 (2018).

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Romance

Salyut-7

April 13th, 2018 — 2:31am

Screened at 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Unknown opening date in USA

***

Salyut-7

We know this movie is based on some real events that happened in the Russian Space Program in the 1980s, but we believe it is mostly from the Russian creative team led by director, Kilim Spenko. It is in Russian with subtitles 

His story shows two Russian cosmonauts( (Lyubov Aksyonova, Ilya Andryukov) who get into dangerous trouble when they go up in space to rescue an unmanned Salyut-7 satellite that is having mechanical problems. There is an explosion, ice, oxygen problems and it is not clear whether even one of them might survive. This is a dramatic space thriller that reminds us of the dangers involved in working at the frontiers of space (2018).

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Loveless

February 8th, 2018 — 9:15am

**

Loveless

When a filmmaker decides to make a two-hour and seven minute film in Russian (with the subtitles of course), he has to have a storyline that is going to grab and hold the audience. This movie is a Russian finalist and is nominated for the Best Foreign Film of the Year. It featured Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov and Marina Vasilyeva and was directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev who wrote the screenplay with Oleg Negin. It was a beautifully made movie which examined marriage and how it can fail. It remind us how a destructive marital relationship can devastate a child who may feel that he has no place to go especially when the parents don’t show the caring and love a child deserves.

Early in the movie we see the child become literally lost and the audience is taken on the long search for him. It seems that we experienced every rock that is lifted, every brush that is moved aside and every deserted building, which is explored. We are impressed that there is the mobilization of volunteers to search for the boy We are also led to believe that the parents are desperate to find the lost child, although we really don’t understand the dynamics behind why they should care when we saw how they didn’t really give a hoot about him before he became lost. Of course we understand how guilt can completely takeover in situations like this. But guilt is not love. The title and theme of this movie is “Loveless.” We are following people who had a limited capacity for love for each other and even for their next partners. We get a glimpse of the dynamics of where this might originate in one of the characters. (Would it surprise you to learn it has something to do with the mother?) In situations like this the audience usually will not like or identify with the main characters. So we’re going to need something more than beautiful photography, a skillful sound background and a little suspense. After all, 127 minutes is a good chunk of time. We felt in the end, the film didn’t deliver. (2017)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Divine Order

January 28th, 2018 — 6:48am

****

The Divine Order

The suffrage movement, women’s rights and women’s liberation is one of the most dramatic and heartwarming stories of American history. It also resonates in a country such as Switzerland where women did not have the right to vote until the 1970s. Screenwriter and director Petra Volpe shows to focus on the particular process around a countrywide referendum whether women should have the right to vote. The story takes place in a small town in Switzerland and follows Nora (Marie Leuenberger), her husband Hans (Max Simonischek), her sister-in-law Theresa (Rachel Braunschweig), their family and mainly the women of this town. The story touches upon the changing traditional roles between men and women. It highlights generational differences and even puts the focus on women’s new awareness of their own bodies. The moving storyline about the interpersonal relationships as well as the emerging self-awareness of both men and women will push your buttons and touch your emotions. This has all the hallmarks   of a well done successful movie which is worth seeing now and preserving for future generations. (2017)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History, Politics

Summer Hours

August 11th, 2017 — 10:10pm

***

Summer Days-nf

This almost 10-year-old French film (with subtitles) captures some of the beauty of the French countryside, family tradition, love of artistic paintings, beautiful furniture and even old and modern vases. It is also a sensitive depiction of three siblings who have to decide how to handle their mother’s estate of the family countryside house and its possessions. Director/writer Olivier Assayas with four great performance by Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jeremie Renier and Edith Scob does an excellent job in getting us to relate to the various family members and their mother. As we were enjoying this very realistic development of each of the characters, we kept imagining where the storyline might lead us. There were hints of a secret love affair, art objects with an unsuspected history, possible miscalculation of the value of the art and teenage children of the next generation who might undermine their whole legacy. But the film did not take us on any interesting journey. All of life doesn’t have to have an intriguing storyline. However, there are unlimited choices for a Netflix movie for our viewing pleasure so we had expected more than we felt was delivered. (2008)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Fill The Void

July 29th, 2017 — 4:44am

***

Fill the Void-nf

By sheer coincidence, after we had just previewed Menashe on this blog, the next film in our Netflix queue is the 2013 Israeli film about Orthodox Hasidic Jews (in Hebrew with subtitles).

Fill the Void examines the orthodox tradition of arranged marriages. The movie centers around 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron) after Esther (Renana Raz) her older sister tragically dies in childbirth. Esther is survived by her newborn son and her grieving husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein) as well as her parents and sister. Shira is now of marriageable age and is considering possible candidates provided by the matchmaker and of course is being considered by eligible men. Yochay is being “offered” a woman who might move to Belgium if he were to marry her. The idea of losing touch with their newborn grandson is horrifying to the grieving grandparents which makes them want Shira to consider Yochay.

This film is a sensitive and penetrating view of the orthodox community steeped in this tradition of prayer and customs. It also suggests the complicated perhaps guilt-ridden feelings that Shira might have as she considers becoming a substitute wife for her handsome brother-in-law to whom she is ambivalently drawn to as he is to her.

Director/writer Rama Burshtein knows well the community about which this film revolves. This allows the storyline to be developed in some depth. The setting, costuming, covered heads, flowing beards, attractive head coverings, chanting, rocking and singing prayers and the conflicted theme of this storyline are all very genuine and realistic. The photography and lighting are done particularly well. This movie does fill a void in depicting the subject matter in this setting that most people are unfamiliar. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Romance

The Wedding Plan

May 16th, 2017 — 11:52pm

**

The Wedding Plan – sp

This is an Israeli film (a comedy of sorts) written and directed by Rama Burshtein who is an Orthodox Hasidic woman. This is her second feature film and both have dealt with the subject of marriage.

In this current movie, Michal (Noa Kooler) is a young Orthodox Hasidic woman who despite the attempts of matchmakers has not been able to achieve her goal of finding a husband. In fact, she thought she was getting close and was planning her wedding when her boyfriend Gidi (Erez Drigues) told her that he really didn’t love her. This didn’t make her call off her hope to get married, in fact she told Shimi, the guy who runs the wedding hall that he should reserve the eighth day of Hanukkah as the date that she would be getting married (this is the day the miracle of Hanukkah took place where the Maccabees had run out of oil for their lamp in the synagogue but the small amount left burned for eight days) even though she didn’t have anyone to marry yet. She was putting her faith in God that in the next couple of weeks, she would find her husband-to-be. That of course was putting a lot of pressure on the matchmaker, her family and herself. She even goes on to meet Yos, a rock star (Oz Zehavi) in a holy shrine but it didn’t look that she was going to take him or anyone else to the Chuppa on the day that is set for her wedding. Her strong faith and even the faith of her mother (Irit Shelleg) and her best friend Feggie (Ronny Merhavi) that things are going to work out was very touching but truthfully, that is where the theme of the movie becomes challenging to us to say the least. It becomes difficult to identify with this very appealing and likable protagonist as well as her entourage of family and devoted girlfriends.

On one hand, we sensed that this is presented as a comedy with everything somewhat exaggerated. On the other hand, we understand that we are being given an insight into a culture and religious sect where love and marriage are very sacred, but the former probably is supposed to develop after the later. (First marriage, then love) We were not touched by the movie and in fact found the premise of the plot unbelievable. That would make the film somewhat unsuccessful in our eyes because after all, it wasn’t that funny to be a great comedy. However, if we view the story as not so much a comedy, but rather an exposition of the optimism and faith of this religious group that we occasionally encounter but don’t really understand, then perhaps the film is somewhat of a success on another level but not enough for us to recommend it.

The movie opens not only in Israel, New York and Los Angeles but all over the world and it will be interesting to see how it is received. (2017)

1 comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Foreign

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