Vol. 4, No. 12
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.
Il Divo , directed by Paolo Sorrentino
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
The honorific Il Divo means “the divine” and was ascribed to the long-serving prime minister of Italy Guilio Andreotti. Andreotti was not at all a flashy or charismatic leader, but his connections to shady deals and more so to the Mafia were abundant. This film gives viewers a glance at Andreotti’s later years in power, including the investigation that led to formal charges brought against him for his corruption. Don’t worry too much if you are not up on your Italian politics of the 1970′s and 1980′s. The action of the film and the surreal quality of the story will move you along just fine.
(In Portuguese, with English subtitles)
If you get nothing else from this film, remember this quote, bound to stop conversation at a cocktail party: “Commerce shuns a sentimental accountant.” Our main character, Macàrio, is indeed a sentimental romantic, who works as an accountant in his uncle’s business. When he espies a beautiful young woman in a window across the street, he is smitten and pursues her with a determination that is almost uncomfortable for the viewer. Nevertheless, he is successful in gaining her affections. But then he incurs the wrath of his uncle, who not wanting his nephew to marry sends him away for a period of time. When Macàrio returns, flush with money from his overseas work, he loses it in a friend’s shady investment scheme. Still, he presists in his devotion to this beautiful woman. If the story sounds like it is from another era, consider its artful qualities: the way the story is framed, both with an actual framing device for relaying the narrative and with the camera shots; and the surreality of images – a clock chimes but has no hands, a poker chip falls to the floor and then disappears, and so on. Based on a 19th century Portuguese short story, the film possesses qualities of both a modern story and a romantic narrative from a century or two ago.
(In Bengali, with English subtitles)
Abhishek wants to be a hero, which at first I thought was just a bad translation of a difficult Bengali word, but no, he truly wants to be the hero of his own life. He moves to Kolkata to seek his fortune and then becomes aware of the fact that he can see things differently from others in a visionary way, which is both frightening and nightmarish and leads to complications in his path to his goal.
(In German, with English subtitles)
Gitti and Chris are hopelessly in love, two young people blessed to be able to share a summer vacation on sun-kissed Sardinia. It becomes apparent though that they are from two different worlds. Chris is an aspiring architect, in whose wealthy parents’ house they are staying. Gitti is freer in her views and ways and sometimes embarrasses Chris in her fresh and direct approach to life. She is amused as she applies makeup to Chris’s beautiful face, while he uses the occasion to question whether she finds him to be masculine enough. Oh, yes, those difficulties of a newly formed relationship: Is he masculine enough? Is she mature enough? Are they both really ready for commitment? All are questions that swirl around the viewers. We may find ourselves wishing that the two would just either get it over with and break up or go ahead and work it out and get married. The final scene gives a hint of what their fate is as a couple.
Forever, directed by Heddy Honigmann
(In French, with English subtitles)
Doubtless you have heard of the Pere Lachaise cemetary in Paris. It’s the sort of place that this documentary brings to the forefront of our thinking, a place full of sorrow and a kind of joy in the immortality of its residents. This documentary allows us to visit some of both its more prominent and its less known inhabitants: people as famous as Frédéric Chopin and Oscar Wilde, and yes, Wilde’s grave marker is indeed covered with lipstick from the kisses of devoted fans. We learn something of the living too, those who sweep and scrub the grave stones and place fresh flowers on the graves of their departed loved ones or the ones they never knew but love anyway. This is a quirkly little documentary that takes us to a world we might never see for ourselves, but it is worth the trip.
(In Swedish, with English subtitles)
In this second installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander is delving into the sordid sex trade in Sweden, when she is implicated in murder. Now she’s on the run, and only Mikael Blomkvist believes in her innocence. More heart-stopping action and tough-to-watch scenes make this a solid pick and prepare the viewer for the newly released third installment, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
(In Spanish, with English subtitles)
Verónica is a well-established dentist in Argentinian society, surrounded by a large and protective community of family and friends. So when she runs over – what? a dog? a person? – with her car, and bumps her head in the accident, she loses some of that connection with her family and friends. Just what has happened? She struggles to recall the event and even confides in some of those closest to her that something is amiss. Will anyone believe her? The headless woman is not so much without a head as disconnected from the world she knew before and even now from this new world of a grimmer reality.
The Warlords, directed by Peter Chan Ho-Sun
(In Mandarin, with English subtitles)
Set during the Taiping Rebellion in 19th-century China, this historical drama should provide lots of entertainment to those who are fans of Jet Li, who plays the tenacious General Pang. The lone survivor of a massacre, Pang befriends two bandits, who swear a blood oath with him to fight the rebels, who are disrupting the social order. Scheming warloards, treacherous alliances, a hopeless love for an off-limits courtesan, all contribute to a film filled with pageantry, action, treachery, and subterfuge.
Wild Grass, directed by Alain Resnais
(In French, with English subtitles)
First, Georges, an older man of uncertain sanity, pursues Marguerite, a stylish, if somewhat befuddled dentist; then, Marguerite pursues Georges, and so on. This odd little romance isn’t so romantic at times, with a darkness that can be uncomfortable at best but then elicits a laugh or two. Georges is a man on a mission to meet Marguerite, after he finds her wallet, previously stolen, in a parking garage. It reveals enough about the woman to make him want to find her, and not just to return the wallet. She has a pilot’s license after all, and that intrigues him to no end. He is a quirky man, who may unsettle the viewer unless one considers that the story is really about a conflict between one’s inner drives and one’s more civilizing forces of conscience. While humor may overlap the odd hostility and conflict, the image of the sprig of grass struggling to grow in the crack of asphalt reminds us of the isolation the surrounds Georges even as he makes his feeble and misdirected attempts at connection.