Vol. 4, No. 11
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.
9th Company , directed by Fyodor Bondarchuk
(In Russian and English, with English subtitles)
Although the historical facts might be stretched a bit in this film, the truth is that the 9th Company of the Soviet 345th Guards Airbourne Regiment in Afghanistan was held under relentless attack by the mujahideen in 1988, in the Battle for Hill 3234. The film 9th Company explores this battle as well as the soldiers of the company. Critics have warned audiences that the movie is too much like a typical American war movie, with all the blow-’em-up-real-good explosions and so forth, but in this film, viewers are given a closer look at the men behind the guns and under fire as it explores boot camp days and events on from there. If you like war movies with a European bent, you may want to try this.
(In French and Russian, with English subtitles)
Coco Chanel seems to be having something of a revival in movies about her life, with the release of Coco Before Chanel a couple of years ago, and now this movie about a short-lived and little-discussed affair between the fashion designer and the composer. Chanel, already fabulously successful in the early 1920s, offers refuge and artistic sanctuary to Igor Stravinsky and his family. There, in the comforts of an expansive home, he composes in peace and soliture. Ah, but there is a sweet price to pay for this. Chanel has taken a fancy to the composer and encourages an affair that is both torrid for the lovers and tragic for his long-suffering wife, now nearly bed-ridden due to tuberculosis.
(In German and French, with English subtitles)
Ostensibly a story about a forlorn foster child, Ghosts begins to operate on a more disturbing level if taken within the context of another of Petzold’s DVDs owned by HCPL, Yella. Nina is a child with no real home or family, who witnesses an assault on Toni, a teenager who is a homeless thief looking for a break in the film industry. As outlandish as that may seem, she is persistent and in befriending Nina finds a partner for a screen test as well as for a shoplifting spree and other unsavory pastimes. Both teens meet Françoise, a woman obsessed with finding her daughter, who was kidnapped and possibly murdered years ago. Nina is just about the right age now to pass as Françoise’s daughter, were she still alive. With a bond of sorts forming between the lonely foster teen and the desperate Françoise, they seem just on the edge of shaping into a solid mother-daughter relationship, but the ghosts of their haunted past and their disoriented present interfere at every turn.
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
Beginning with a celebration of an elderly patriarch’s birthday and ending with a funeral, I Am Love is lavish and extravagant in both setting and character. Emma Recchi is married into a wealthy Milanese family, now with grown children and a settled life. But when she meets her son’s friend Antonio, the forces of passion shift for her. Now she finds herself following the young man, in a restless and possibly dangerous way. Will an affair with the working-class Antonio disrupt the cool harmony of the Recchi family? Possibly, but it could also lead Emma to find her identity at last as a woman, a fully-formed human being, and not just a dutiful wife and devoted mother.
(In Bengali, with English subtitles)
Between the early years of Satyajit Ray’s filmmaking, when he made the Apu Trilogy , and his later films, Ray filmed a number of movies that focused on the time of the British Raj. Among these was Charulata or The Lonely Wife. The movie looks at Charu, a housewife benignly neglected by her husband even if her life is one of reasonable wealth and comfort. When her husband asks his cousin Amal to help her with her writing efforts, Charu finds that Amal may be able to offer her something more than his literary skills. But this could be the end of her quiet, secure life as she knows it.
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
Gianni has a problem, well, maybe four of them. First, he lives with his aged mother, and the two of them are behind in paying their rent. The condo administrator will forgive them their debt if Gianni agrees to look after the administrator’s mother during the festive Ferragosto celebration in mid-August. Fine, that sounds fair enough. But then Aunt Maria comes along too, as does Grazia, the mother of Gianni’s family physician. What on earth will Gianni do with four older women? Keeping them entertained and in good spirits may warrent great effort and a special place in heaven for this good son. Di Gregorio used amateur actors wherever he could, and the natural voices of the older women add a charm usually absent in movies about cute old folks.
(In Korean, with English subtitles)
Unlike Bong’s other film owned by HCPL in DVD-format, The Host, this film focuses on a more ordinary, human-sized monster…or is she? Mother has only one child, Yoon Do-joon, who is a mentally challenged young adult, barely able to navigate safely in this world. Mother watches him like a hawk, a protective one, that is. Yoon may hang out with unsavory types, and he may have next to no good judgement. His memory is so imperfect that it serves very little good when he is accused of a hideous murder of a young woman. The police think the case is closed. Mother thinks otherwise and sets out to do her own investigation. Up until now, we think of Mother as a not particularly likeable person, but her devotion to her dear son is perhaps understandable. But then her investigtion takes a darker turn, and we begin to see a monster of another form. Bong’s exquisite camera work should be entertaining enough if the story itself isn’t enough for fans of crime thrillers.
(In Spanish, with English subtitles)
Part romance, part legal thriller, part political drama, this movie won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010. Done with style, wit, and a good script, the film follows Benjamin Esposito, a court investigator in Argentina, who is haunted by a hideous crime from twenty-five years earlier. At that time, his supervisor, Irene Menéndez Hastings, was both his advocate and his partner in an investigation of the rape/murder. But in the course of the initial investigation, when the convicted killer was released during the political upheaval of the 1970s, Benjamin and Irene knew their work towards justice was all for naught. More threateningly, the killer was then employed by the government for his work as in an informant on lefist sympathizers. He was a ruthless and brutal little man, who then seemed to vanish from the scene, as other events took over. Under all this, then as now, is Benjamin’s secret love for Irene, not ever consumated because of class separation. But Irene loves Benjamin as well. Now, twenty-five years later, events urge them to look into the case again, and the world shifts a bit for all involved.
(In Danish, with English subtitles)
Stephen Holden of the New York Times noted that Terribly Happy was like Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon “…but stripped of historical and political subtext.” Well, yes, as far as the creepiness factor goes. Robert Hansen is a police officer whose past misconduct has led to his reassignment to a small town in South Jutland. There he finds himself in another world, where justice has in the past been meted out by the town’s inhabitants. The town, you see, sits very close to a bog, and anything that sinks into a bog is likely not to live, nor to decompose. As the big-city cop begins to see that there is something very sinister under the rosy town facade, he also finds himself increasingly and dangerously at odds with the inhabitants. Couple that with his own profound flaws of extremely poor judgment and a weakness for beautiful women, and he just might find himself in deep trouble.