Inspector Bellamy, directed by Claude Chabrol(In French, with English subtitles)
Police detective Paul Bellamy is on vacation, but like so many detectives of fiction, he finds a mystery wherever he goes. This time it involves a man who thinks he has killed a homeless person in an insurance fraud scheme. His wife thinks he’s dead and consequently is to come into that insurance money, if her health holds out long enough to collect on the policy. But that’s a big if. Along comes Bellamy’s rascal brother, who promises to mess up everything, including Bellamy’s friendships, peace-of-mind, and maybe even his marriage. But the good inspector is up for the challenge of it all, in this last film by the eminent Claude Chabrol .
Jaffa, directed by Keren Yedaya
(In Hebrew, with English subtitles)
Mali is the daughter of an Israeli garage owner. Tawfik is a young Arab who works at the garage. The two manage to have a discreet love affair, but when a brawl leads to a tragedy, Tawfik goes to prison, not knowing that Mali has decided to carry their unborn child to term rather than abort it, as she has told him in her final letter to him. Years later, his prison release will give him a chance finally to meet his daughter. Can the rift between him and Mali be bridged?
Kites: The Remix, directed by Anurag Basu
(In Hindi, Spanish, and English, with English subtitles)
Talk about a world fusion film. This one is Indian-made but set in Las Vegas and Mexico, with dialogue in three languages, and a plot both comedic and dramatic. J and Natasha fall in love, but there’s another man involved – Natasha’s jealous fiance, who is willing to kill rather than see Natasha with another man. Oh, and the fiance also happens to be the son of one of Las Vegas’s biggest casino owners, and he is also the brother of a young woman who adores J. J sees his share of danger, both before and after being left for dead in a Mexican desert. Full of passion, car chases, shoot-’em-up-real-good scenes, and even a few laughs, this might hold something for everyone.
Let It Rain, directed by Agnès Jaoui
(In French, with English subtitles)
Agathe Villanova is a feminist running for office but surrounded by needy men, who seem very good at blaming everyone else for their own problems. She barely tolerates them, but her long years of friendship with Michel and Karim soften her touch, when occasionally she might be tempted instead to lay on a slap of reality. The comedy of manners continues, however, with Agathe’s resentful sister Florence carrying on an affair with Michel, whose film documentary on Agathe is about as ineptly handled as it can be. Karim, Michel’s filmmaking partner, is equally inept, as he makes no pains to hide his own resentments and foibles. All of this occurs amidst what seems to be constant downfalls of rain that at once interrupt plans and urge the plot forward, trapping the characters or sending them on their way to another, brighter day.
Mademoiselle Chambon, directed by Stephane Brize
(In French, with English subtitles)
Véronique Chambon lives a rather ordinary, if rootless, life. She teaches elementary school in a provincial town in France, plays the violin, and pretty much keeps to herself. Every year or so, regardless of how hard her employers beg her, she moves on to another school. Jean is an ordinary man, married to a faithful and patient woman, devoted to his son Jérémy, steady at his construction job, hard working, quiet, and reserved. You get a sense that both yearn for much more beyond their ordinary lives. When they initially meet in Jérémy’s class, if there is an initial attraction, it certainly does not show. Only gradually is Jean awakened to a different road he might take, if he were a different person. When he does fall in love with Véronique, it is a love that barely manifests itself except in the most gentle of ways. She also sees a possibility of love in Jean. When Jean’s wife announces that she is pregnant, Jean needs to decide if he will leave his quiet, steady, and very ordinary life to join with Mademoiselle Chambon in hers.
Micmacs, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
(In French, with English subtitles)
The director of Amélie is at it again, with a film that just borders on magical realism. As a child, Bazil has suffered a terrible loss: while serving in the French military, his father was killed by a land mine. Years later, as an adult, Bazil also suffers a terrible accident: he’s shot in the head in a bizarre drive-by shooting. Although he survives his ordeal, just barely, he finds himself unemployed and homeless afterwards. Then his luck takes a turn for the better. Bazil teams up with a strange crew of fellow outcasts to get revenge on the arms companies responsible for these two horrors in his life. Beginning as the underdog, his posse strikes out against the big machine of armaments, using Rube Goldberg devices and every ounce of ingenuity they have to wreak havoc on those who usually are the ones who wreak the havoc. The film cast also includes Yolande Moreau, who stars in When the Sea Rises and Paris, Je T’Aime.
The Real Santa, directed by Peter Gardos
(In Hungarian, with English subtitles)
Misu just had to play that last melody on the piano. He felt compelled to touch the ivories, just as the bar where he was performing was being robbed by people who didn’t mind shooting the piano player. The consequence of that action nearly killed him then, but here he is, ten years later, just barely getting by and clearly still feeling some lingering effects of his ordeal. He’s never played since then, nor even has sung a song. When he is asked to don a santa outfit and give out candy to department store customers, he does so only reluctantly. Then he meets Liza, an eight-year-old orphan, whose demands for a bicycle seem to get Misu back on track. But he’s got a long journey ahead before he can find peace within himself and with the world around him.
Udaan, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane
Rohan is a teenager who wants to be a writer. His father, though, has other thoughts. He would rather that Rohan work in his steel factory and study engineering. He is also a bully and an abuser. After Rohan gets kicked out of prep school, he goes back to his miserable home, where his father rules him and his little brother with an iron fist. Rohan tries to obey, but he’s a teenager and rebels in the usual ways – sneaking off with his father’s car to take late-night drives with friends, drinking too much, getting into fights, the usual. What will happen when he’s caught? And even if he can get away from it all, what of his little brother, barely six years old and about to be sent to boarding school? How will they ever survive their domineering and even cruel father? Some critics have compared this film to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. I am not certain I’d go that far, but I would suggest that this draws on universal themes of alienation and rebellion in the face of tyranny.
The Vanished Empire, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov
This dvd has been in HCPL’s catalog for several months now, but it bears drawing your attention to it, because it is a gem. Sergey is an 18-year-old living in the Soviet Union in 1973. He is a typical teenager, with typical teenage feelings and desires. He loves listening to rock and roll, wearing blue jeans, hanging out with his friends, and flirting with the beautiful Lyuda. But his country is in its decline, ready to fall, in fact. He doesn’t know that, though, and feels more its oppression than its demise. More is going on in his life than the upcoming transformation of his society, however. His mother is ill, and he is about to crash head first into heartache. As a kind of touchstone to this is the City of the Wind, the crumbling remains of the ancient Khorezm civilization in present-day Uzbekistan, which his archaeologist grandfather excavated years before. Sergey connects to this lost world in a stunning and life-altering way that will inform him always, merging his contemporary vanishing world with that of the ancient one, already long gone.