Vol. 4, No. 10
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. Use the sign-up box above to have this newsletter sent directly to your e-mail every month, with new, recommended movies for you to view. See Foreign Films Archive.
Ajami , directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani (In Hebrew and Arabic, with English subtitles) Ajami is the name of a mixed-ethnic neighborhood in Jaffa, housing Jews, Arabs, and Christians. The movie Ajami is a collaboration between a Palestinian and an Israeli Jew. Despite this mix, the film dwells not so much on the politics of identity as on the melodrama of an intricate crime thriller. Five stories involving people living in and around Ajami interweave into a narrative that touches on drugs, divisive relationships, extortion schemes, blood feuds, and much more. Omar’s uncle has injured a member of a gang extorting him for protection money for his restaurant. Malek is an illegally employed Arab working to secure money for his ill mother. Hadir is in love with Omar, but as a Christian, she can find no future in her relationship with an Muslem. Dando is an Israeli police officer who is seeking revenge for the death of his brother. And on and on in the intricacies of the lives of desperate people, whose real life problems lend poigancy and sorrow to already tragic lives.
Le Amiche directed by Michelangelo Antonioni (In Italian, with English subtitles) One of Antonioni’s early films, this movie follows the goings-on of a group of girlfriends in Turin. Clelia has arrived from Rome to set up a branch of a prestigious house of couture. While she oversees the interior design, supervises the architects, hires models, manages the opening event, and does everything she can to lift the venture successfully off the ground, she also finds herself drawn into the lives of some other women of the city, who have become her friends. One is Rosetta, tragically involved in a hopeless love affair with a married artist, who while mildly successful is still overshadowed by his more talented wife, Nene. Mariella is much more flighty, carefree, and even careless in her actions and words. Momina is friends with all of them and offers a kind of nexus to their friendship as well, even if she is wrapped up in her own issues involving a drawn-out separation from her husband. Clelia’s one stable relationship amidst all the drama rests with a struggling architect’s assistant, who loves her as strongly as she loves him. Yet Clelia using all her common sense must make a decision concerning her future that could bring happiness and fulfillment or sorrowful could-have-been questions.
John Rabe , directed by Florian Gallenberger (In German, English, Cantonese, and Japanese, with English subtitles) On the eve of World War II, the horrors of the Axis powers were already being felt in Europe and Asia. John Rabe, a German Nazi, ran the Siemens plant in Nanking in 1937. When the Japanese approached the city, Rabe set up a safety zone that ultimately housed and safeguarded more than 200,000 Chinese, protecting them from the barbarous invaders. Based in part on Rabe’s diaries, this historical drama lends vivid realism to an event that only recently has begun to receive the full historical attention it deserves.
OSS 117: Lost in Rio, directed by Michel Hazanavicius (In French, with English subtitles) Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, a.k.a. OSS 117, is France’s finest intelligence officer. He is also a racist and sexist fool, who manages to offend nearly every ethnic group as well. Nevertheless, when he teams up with a beautiful Mossad agent to find a Nazi war criminal hiding in Rio de Janeiro, his dignified and enlightened counterpart somehow manages to overlook his foot-in-the-mouth utterances that seem to fall no matter what the subject of conversation. It rests on Dolores, the Israeli spy, to find the Nazi, while OSS 117 wants the microfilm that lists French Nazi collaborators. Since the story occurs in the late 1960′s, Hubert hangs out with hippies on the beaches of Rio and takes LSD (or, as he mistakenly calls it, RSVP), dabbles in free love, and, thanks to Dolores, seems to begin to understand the meaning of equality of the sexes. But a fool never learns, does he? Still, if it’s a Friday night and you’ve had a rough week and really can’t watch anything the least bit intellectual, you may want to try a totally silly and meaningless movie that might elicit a few laughs as well.
Taking Father Home , directed by Ying Liang (In Mandarin, with English subtitles) Xu Yun is looking for his father, who abandoned his family several years earlier. Now, Yun’s family is about to be relocated to make way for an business industrial zone, and Yun needs his father to help out. Off to the big city of Zigong he goes, with only a vague address and a couple of geese to trade or sell. Unfortunately, when he arrives in Zigong, the city is on the point of being evacuated in the wake of an impending flood. His search must be quick. Befriending a street thug and a cop, both of whom have a soft spot for the innocent teen, Yun searches the labyrinth of city streets, while warnings air over loudspeakers of the inevitable flood on its way. The foreboding doom of the city hangs over the boy and seems to reflect something of the futility of Yun’s efforts.
Vivere , directed by Angelina Maccarone (In German, with English subtitles) Francesca, a hard-working taxi driver, must search for her younger sister Antonietta. She’s run off to Rotterdam with her ne’er-do-well Goth boyfriend, who professes his love for her even while skipping aside any responsibility for consequences of their relationship. Francesca is weary of all this drama, seeming to be the only young person in the film with a real job and sense of responsibility. When she meets Gerlinde, an older, heart-broken woman, she finds someone who may just understand her and love her unconditionally. Told from the perspectives of the three women, the stories merge and blend to form a single narrative that swirls around love, disappointment, and possible happiness.