Archive for July, 2010

Foreign Films New to View – August 2010

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Vol. 4, No. 8

The Foreign Films New to View newsletter is a monthly publication designed to keep you up to date on some of HCPL’s latest foreign films on DVD. The selections in this newsletter are just a sample of the rich variety of films available to you through your library.

Divided Heaven, directed by Konrad Wolfl
(In German, with English subtitles)

After suffering a nervous breakdown, a young woman in East Germany considers events from her recent past; her love for Manfred, a talented chemist; Manfred’s bitter disappointment in the face of rejection of a chemistry patent; his escape to West Berlin; and his hope that she will follow. This film was made during a brief cultural thaw in the early 1960s, and captures some of the dreary atmosphere and feelings of despair that surrounded workers, students, and intellectuals alike in their everyday lives in East Germany.

Everlasting Moments, directed by Jan Troell
(In Swedish, with English subtitles)

Living on the edge of poverty and respectability, Sigge and Maria Larsson struggle along with their family in early 20th century Sweden. Sigge is a brutish man, touched occasionally with love and tenderness for his family, but he is mostly selfish, stiffling, violent, drunken, and just downright mean-spirited. Maria, on the other hand, is not afraid to fight back to protect herself and her children, but her life is severely circumscribed by her husband in particular and by society in general. She finds an outlet from her small world through the lens of a camera won in a contest years before. A kindly photographer encourages her to study photography, and here she blossoms. Based on a true story and told through the eyes of their daughter Maja from an adult perspective, this period piece is filmed in an appropriate sepia tone that lends atmosphere to a story of a time long since gone.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by Nils Oplev
(In Swedish, with English subtitles)

Steig Larsson, of course, is all the rage these days, with his Millennium Trilogy. And now, here come the film versions of the books. In this first film, viewers are introduced to the two main characters, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Blomkvist, a middle-aged journalist, has just lost a libel suit against a corrupt industrialist and will soon be serving jail time for his crime. Before doing that, however, he is asked by a businessman to investigate a long-dormant crime involving the disappearance and possible murder of the businessman’s niece. In the midst of his investigation of members of the young woman’s unsavory family, Blomkvist meets Salander, a young, waifish woman with multiple body piercings and various tattoos (and is, thus, the girl of the title), who is also quite possibly mentally ill and a computer genius as well. What a team! Together Blomkvist and Salander do their best to set the world aright, while suffering at the hands of horribly sadistic and evil people. My friends familiar with Sweden have reassured me that this is only fiction, and it is unlikely that a visit to the Land of the Midnight Sun would result in meeting anyone quite as villainous as the dark figures who lurk at every turn in this movie.

The Maid, directed by Sebastián Silva
(In Spanish, with English subtitles)

It is crystal clear that Raquel has worked far too long at her dreary job of maid for a prosperous Chilean family – 23 very long too years, in fact. She shuffles between feeling that she is part of the family and stifling a seething rage. Thanks to the performance of actress Catalina Saavedra, this rage leans towards both horror and comedy; nevertheless, it is clear that Raquel needs a clearer perspective of and some relief from her daily tedium, as she grows older but not necessarily wiser in her unpleasant employment.

Mommo:  The Bogeyman, directed by Atalay Tasdiken
(In Turkish, with English subtitles)

Mommo is the monster invoked by Turkish parents who want to scare their children into proper behavior. It is doubtful that the young Ahmet and Ayse need such a creature in their lives, since life itself has given them enough to fear. Their mother is dead.  Their caddish father has abandoned them upon the occasion of his remarriage. And they now live with their frail, elderly grandfather, who is not necessarily the best caretaker. Ahmet, only nine years of age, prepares to take upon himself the full care of his younger sister, as they search for a way to fit into their small village in Anatolia. Viewers may long for their aunt in Germany, one possible source of love and stability, to clear her legal obstacles so that she can care for them, but their cold father thinks a children’s home might be more what is needed.

Red Desert,  directed by Michaelangelo Antonioni
(In Italian, with English subtitles)

This is Michaelangelo Antonioni’s first feature film in color, yet it might have been better suited remaining in a bleak black and white. The setting is a dark, polluted, nearly colorless industrial world, in which inhabits Guiliana, a young beautiful woman, who is, as it happens, losing her mind. Not long before, Guiliana was in a car accident that may or may not have percipitated her mental crisis. It is ostensibly the cause of her increasing fear and anxiety, but one wonders. Her patient husband Ugo seems to give her space to work out her anxieties, but he makes no attempt to rescue her from this poisoned world. They remain living in a stark, modern house in the midst of this industrial setting of machines, smog, poisoned water and earth, dangerous explosions of steam, towering ships passing within meters of their house, and so much more that screams danger. Guiliana’s one vivid dream is of a beach with pink sand and tranquil sea that offers some respite from, if not more mystery to, her miserable, terrifying world. Several other films by Antonioni are owned by HCPL, including La NotteL’avventura, and The Passenger.

The Thief, directed by Pavel Chukhraj
(In Russian, with English subtitles)

Katia, a poor mother with few prospects, meets Tolyan, a rapscallion through and through, in post-World War II Russia. Like many rapscallions, Tolyan is a charmer, and it isn’t long before he’s charmed both Katia and her little fatherless boy, Sanya. But Tolyan is a dark force, full of brutality and lacking in love. He is a corrupting force as well, pulling Katia and even her child into his thievery and chicanery.

A Town Called Panic, directed by Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar
(In French, with English subtitles)

HCPL has a number of excellent foreign animation films, such as The Triplets of BellevillePrincess Mononoke, Princes and Princesses, and of course,Persepolis, among others. Add to this list  A Town Called Panic. Zany is a good word for this fantasia of animation. Like Toy Story, the film involves what appear to be ( and were inspired by) castoff toys. The trouble begins when Cowboy and Indian try to build Horse a barbeque for Horse’s birthday. They order the required number of bricks, fifty, but end up with fifty million. What to do? The next door neighbor, Steven, the angriest farmer in the world, is not pleased when the bricks tumble about, covering his pastures. One thing leads to another, with Horse falling in love with his piano teacher – also a horse - and then our main characters falling themselves into an underground world that leads them to a giant mechanical penquin operated by mad scientists, who like to throw enormous snowballs at people, and so on and so forth. Total chaos! Don’t miss it.

The White Ribbon, directed by Michael Haneke
(In German, with English subtitles)

Why does this film remind me of Wolf Rilla’s 1960′s film Village of the Damned? Maybe it is the images of the children in this staunchly Protestant northen German town, as they move through the streets in packs, offering to the adults their sinisterly benign smiles and nearly affectless tones of voice, as they give pleasant explanations of why they might be lurking outside a neighbor’s window or door. Despite the chill they may send down the viewer’s spine, it is the adults of the town who cause even greater apprehension. The tale is told from the perspective of the town’s school teacher, one of the few residents who recognizes and fights against the parents’ routine cruelty masquerading as normal acts of discipline. Children suffer corporal punishment meant to hurt and to humiliate and to sexual abuse by the very ones who should be protecting them. When a series of mysterious crimes are commited, is it any wonder then that we suspect the children? But the parents, who cannot see the deep and lasting damage they have inflicted on the young people, do not comprehend this at all. Haneke’s story hints that this is a basis for the rise of Nazism and its hatred and destruction that developed only a couple of decades later.

The Wind Journeys, directed by Ciro Guerra
(In Spanish, with English subtitles)

Ignacio Carrillo has been a traveling accordionist all his working life. Now that his wife is dead, he begins a journey to return his accordion to its rightful owner, the man who taught him to play. Fermin is a young man in the same village, who follows Ignacio, hoping to learn his craft and embrace the life of a troubadour, even if it seems to be both a blessed and a cursed one. This film has an edge of surreality to it, taking viewers from deserts to forests to mountain tops, in a natural world as foreign in its topography as the inhabited world is in its customs.

Newly Requestable DVDs

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

ADULT

The 39 Steps

Autopsy: Get Carried Away

Avatar

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Black & Blue

The Blue Tooth Virgin

The Broken

The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations

Cold Storage

The Collector

Crazy Heart

Crimes of Fashion

Damage

Defendor

The Descent: Part 2

Double Identity

Dying Breed

Expecting a Miracle

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Finn On the Fly

The Fourth Kind

Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove

Georgia O’Keeffe

Harlem Aria

Haunted Echoes: A Ghost Story

Homecoming

Housebroken

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

It’s Complicated

Jade Warrior

Jake’s Corner

Ladies Of the House

Leap Year

Life Blood

Love Finds a Home

The Lovely Bones

The Marine 2

Miles From Nowhere

Murder.com

The Nanny Express

Neowolf

Nine dead

Nine

Peacock

Perkins’ 14

Phantom Punch

Pirate Radio

Prom Wars

Relative Stranger

Ride With the Devil

The Slammin’ Salmon

Slaughter

Soldier Love Story

Splinterheads

Tenderness

Tetro

Voices

Working Miracles

Yesterday Was a Lie

The Young Victoria

JUVENILE

Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey

Dora the Explorer: Explore the Earth!

Go, Diego, go! The Great Panda Adventure

Madeline, the Movie: Lost in Paris

Martha speaks: Martha Says It with Flowers

My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Super Duper Super Sleuths

Where’s Spot? and Other Stories

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! Escape From Dino Island

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! Wubbzy Goes Green

New Release Tuesday

Monday, July 26th, 2010

New Release DVD Tuesday, July 27:

DVD:

Accidents Happen

The Art of the Steal

Barney Furry Friends

Busytown Mysteries: The Biggest Mysteries Ever

Clash of the Titans

Endgame

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

Home

Instant Expert: French Revolution

Instant Expert: The Mayflower

Life After People Series: Season 2

The Missing Lynx

The Secret of the Grain

Stargate Universe SGU 1.5

Vincere

MUSIC:

Avenged Sevenfold Nightmare by Avenged Sevenfold

New Release Tuesday

Monday, July 19th, 2010

New Release DVD Tuesday, July 20:

DVD

Caillou: Caillou’s Fun Outside

Cop Out

I Do & I Don’t

The Losers

Martha Speaks: Martha Goes to School

The Most Dangerous Man in America

Mother

Music, Music Everywhere

Nature: Moment of Impact

The Professional

Red Shoes

The Runaways

Super Why! Attack of the Eraser

Town Called Panic

The Wronged Man

The Wounded Platoon

MUSIC

100 Miles from Memphis by Sheryl Crow

Jonas L.A. by The Jonas Brothers

Teflon Don by Rick Ross

New Release Tuesday

Monday, July 12th, 2010

New Release DVD Tuesday, July 13:

DVD

Backyardigans: Operation Elephant Drop

Bounty Hunter

Busytown Mysteries: The Mysterious Mysteries of Busytown

Chloe

Girl by the Lake

The Greatest

Greenberg

Middle of Nowhere

Nickelodeon: The First Day of School

Our Family Wedding

Parasomnia

Psych the complete 4th season

Saving Marriage

SpongeBob Squarepants Triton’s Revenge

Thomas and Friends: Creaky Cranky

New Release Tuesday

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

New Release DVD Tuesday, July 6:

DVD

Brooklyn’s Finest

ER: The Complete 13th Season

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Gold Retrievers

How the Earth Changed History

Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World

Last Chance to See: Animals on the Verge of Extinction

A Single Man

The Wind Journeys

Foreign Films New to View – July 2010

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The Baader Meinhof Complex, directed by Uli Edel

(In German, with English subtitles)

In the late 1960′s and into the 1970′s, it seemed as though the world was falling apart. With the war in Vietnam, the iron fist of the Shah of Iran, and so much brutality sanctioned by governments, was it any wonder that people rose up to protest and defy their governments’ actions? So was born the Red Army Faction in Germany, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group. Composed of Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof, Gudrun Ensslin, and several other Germans, the group brought terror into Germany’s cities, robbing banks, blowing up newspaper offices and police stations, and attacking U. S. military bases. Director Edel brings together the story of how the group was formed, what motivated the members, how they operated, and how it all ended. Filmed as a docudrama, this film neither glamorizes terrorism nor totally condemns the motives behind the terrorist acts, but rather presents reasons and results in a pulsing, action-packed film. Edel has a few other films in HCPL’s collection, both in English: King of Texas and The Little Vampire. I suspect both are very different from The Baader Meinhof Complex.

Captain Abu Raed, directed by Amin Matalqa

(In Arabic, with English subtitles)

Abu Raed is not an important person in this world. A staid widower, living in Jordan and working as a janitor in the airport, Abu Raed lives a quiet life, while around him swirls the drama of other families’ trials and conflicts. When he plucks an airline pilot’s hat from the trash, he wears it for a lark and then finds that the neighborhood children think he’s the real thing, no matter what his protestations assert. He settles into the role of storyteller to the kids, most

of whom live on the edge of poverty and family disaster, with parents who are at best short-sighted and at worst murderously abusive. Tangled up in his life is also a young woman, Nour, a pilot herself and the real thing, who comes from a wealthy family and wishes most of all to shape her own destiny, free of the traditional patriarchal dictates of her society. Abu Raed somehow melds the lives of the children and Nour together, with great sacrifice but also with triumph.

Chance pe Dance, directed by Ken Ghosh

(In Hindi, with English subtitles)

Sameer needs a career break. He just wants a chance to dance and perform…no, more than that, he wants to be a star. To do that, he needs to overcome obstacles and disappointments that confront him at every turn. Lucky Sameer. He has the help of a particularly talented and beautiful choreographer, Tina. Maybe he will win that national talent contest after all, if he’s got Tina by his side.

D13-U – District 13: Ultimatum, directed by Patrick Alessandrin

(In French, with English subtitles)

If you like parkour in action movies, you may first want to watch District B13, an older film also owned by HCPL, just to get a taste of the characters and background before venturing into this more recently purchased sequel, but there’s no harm in starting here either. D13-U picks up a few years after

District B13. Paris is still divided into enclaves, where the poor immigrants live in a kind of organized anarchy under the governance of various drug lords. But some very evil businessmen, who work for a company named Harriburton, along with the usual corrupt government officials, want this district emptied out to make way for – what else, but another glorious shrine to consumerism, a giant shopping mall and luxury apartment complex. First, Captain Damien

Tomaso, one of the heroes of District B13, is framed for drug possession and jailed. Naturally, he calls Leito, our parkour champion, who rescues him with his usual finesse and ease. But now it’s time to prevent the bad guys from contriving a civil war to justify emptying the district so that they can build their mall. Well…it’s all great fun, with drug lords teaming up to battle very bad men, using guns and karate kicks and parkour to make their point.

La France, directed by Serge Bozon

(In French, with English subtitles)

War rages in France, when Camille hears that her husband is in danger. The only way she can get to him is to disguise herself as a man and go in search of him. She meets up with a group of soldiers who seem to be wandering aimlessly in the forests near the front. Surreal blends with real in this fairytale of a story, with a mix of images of war and sounds of song working to bring a poignancy to the story of loss and search, danger and sorrow, and sometimes joy.

Gigante, directed by Adrian Biniezi

(In Spanish, with English subtitles)

Jara is really a big nobody – overweight, shy, and definitely out of his league when it comes to attractive women. He works as a security guard at a supermarket and as a part-time bouncer at a nightclub, when he sees Julia, an employee at the store. One look and he’s smitten. From there he follows Julia, watches her on the store security cameras, and basically stalks her, except this is a movie that is more lighthearted than that, and we are not to get hung up on reality here. Besides, Jara wants to protect Julia, not harm her. So kick back and enjoy a light comedy of of the Uruguayan, neo-realist sort.

Love Songs, directed by Christophe Honore

(In French, with English subtitles)

Darker than Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, this movie musical/operetta/love story involves a host of young adults, who express their deepest feelings towards each other through song. Tragedy and hardship seem to

contrive to part the lovers, and the young Parisians must struggle to find some brief comfort in each other’s arms.

Loves of a Blonde, directed by Miloš Forman

(In Czech, with English subtitles)

Part of the Czech New Wave in cinema and nominated for an Oscar in 1967 for Best Foreign Language Film, this film by Miloš Forman offers a bit of comedy, some romance, and a lot of realism, as Andula, an employee at a shoe factory, meets Milda, a piano player with a small-time band. She falls for him, of course, and is reluctantly seduced by him. And she believes him when he hints that she’s his only girl. Off she goes to visit him and his parents, and what a surprise. He’s not so interested after all. Andula, however, is a survivor in this and will muddle through somehow. HCPL owns a number of Forman’s films, most of them in English, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus.

Mirush, directed by Marius Holst

(In Albanian and Norwegian, with English subtitles)

Mirush wants to become reacquainted with his father, long estranged from the family, so he travels from his home in Kosovo to Oslo to work in his father’s restaurant. In this journey of connection, Mirush begins to understand that his father’s situation is far more complex than he had envisioned, with debts owed to the Albanian mafia and other issues that signify deeper flaws of character.

Owl and the Sparrow, directed by Stephane Gauger

(In Vietnamese, with English subtitles)

In literature and film, one motif occasionally used is the bright, optimistic person who somehow influences whomever he or she touches. Browning’s Pippa Passes comes to mind. Owl and the Sparrow adds a twist to that theme. Thuy is an orphan, who lives with her uncle. He makes her work in his factory and treats her badly enough for her to run away. So, unlike Pippa, she isn’t able to change him very much. However, once in Saigon, Thuy joins a group of street children, who hang together, sharing their joys and woes as best as they can in their everyday acts of survival. She befriends a zookeeper, Hai, and also a flight attendant, Lan, and then it’s a matter of very hard work on her part to try to bring the two together through some artful matchmaking. Maybe, just maybe, she will find that family she so needs.