Archive for July, 2013

Foreign Films Aug13

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Bleak Night, directed by Yoon Sung Hyun

(In Korean, with English subtitles)

Teenager Ki-tae seems to be something of a bully, mercilessly teasing and taunting his friends, but he is a tormented soul himself, even as he torments those around him. He tries to hide his own haunting demons, but occasionally they show through, as when he reveals his longing for his now-deceased mother. When he commits suicide, his bereaved father (first his wife and now his son!) searches for clues as to why this tragedy has happened. Sometimes it might be best to let the dead rest, but some comfort might await Ki-tae’s father if the truth comes out.

11 Flowers, directed by Wang Xiaoshuai

(In Mandarin, with English subtitles)

The Cultural Revolution is just coming to an end in China, and while eleven-year-old Wang may be oblivious to the previous years’ upheaval, he is keenly aware of his own child’s world. His friends, his school, his adventures and misadventures in his town all inform his daily life. His father and mother struggle to feed and clothe him and his little sister, so when Wang loses a precious new shirt, it feels more like a great tragedy. Everyday life twists into something else though, when Wang discovers that it is a murderer who has stolen his shirt, to staunch a bullet wound no less. How will he ever explain this one to his mother? Both serious and comedic, 11 Flowers will give the viewer more of a taste of an ordinary child’s life in China.

The Gatekeepers, directed by Dror Moreh

(In Hebrew, with English subtitles)

Six former heads of Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency, speak out on terrorism, how to fight it and how not to fight it, giving a retrospective view of their work and analyzing how Shin Bet’s actions and counteractions have impacted Israel as a nation. Their conclusions are not hopeful. What could have lapsed into a documentary of talking heads instead emerges as compelling drama, as these six cool, level-headed, seasoned warriors for and defenders of a nation speak out on the utter futility of efforts taken and the hopelessness of results garnered. Actual footage of terrorist and counterterroist actions is sometimes breathtaking in this raw and informative documentary.

The Giants, directed by Bouli Lanners

(In French, with English subtitles)

Young teen brothers Zak and Seth are learning the hard way how to survive on their own in the French countryside. Their mother has abandoned them, and although they have a roof over their heads, that will make no difference in their situation if they also have neither food nor money. When they meet up with the slightly more resourceful Danny, another castoff child, they seem at first to fare a little better. Then Zak and Seth fall prey to Danny’s older brother’s employer, a ruthless drug dealer, who more or less escorts them out of their house, when he wants to use it for his drug dealing. Homeless, the two brothers and Danny feel at once a kind of freedom and oppression. With some genuinely comic moments, this tale is ultimately one about kids learning to survive in a hard and bitter world.

No, directed by Pablo Larraín

(In Spanish, with English subtitles)

In October of 1988, something remarkable happened in Chile. After fifteen years in power, the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet offered the people of Chile a referendum on his rule. A yes vote would grant him eight more years as president. A no vote would mean new elections and new hope for the nation. But in the years Pinochet ruled, he also brought a degree of financial stability to the turbulent nation, and despite the brutality of his rule, the citizens of Chile were starting to slide into a degree of hesitation to alter matters. When a center-left coalition formed to push for a no vote, they needed something different to urge people to oust the dictator. This is the story, somewhat fictionalized, of how that urging came about. It focuses on René, an ad man, who is detached from politics but gets drawn into the campaign, even if he himself will shy away from any political confrontation. And the campaign he conjures up is unique. Instead of trying to appeal to people’s moral principles – look how bad it was under Pinochet; look at how he tortured and murdered the opposition – the campaign will offer the people of Chile a cheerful, happy alternative. While the yes-vote side will emphasize the new prosperity and stability, the no-vote side will pull in the younger voters with an emphasis on sunshine and dancing and jingles that run through a citizen’s head. The whole project is a gamble, but it has to be embraced for any kind of success. Those viewers who are familiar with this historical event know of that success, but just how it happened is lesser known. No shows us how such a victory can be grasped.

Off White Lies, directed by Maya Kenig

(In Hebrew, with English subtitles)

Libby is a thoroughly American teen, who is sent to Israel by her mother to stay with her father for a period of time. Whether this is a sort of vacation or the outcome of a custody agreement or what isn’t revealed to the viewer; all Libby seems to know is that she has to stay as a matter of convenience to her mother. Unfortunately, Shaul, Libby’s father, is pretty much a likeable ne’er-do-well, jobless and homeless, a sometimes inventor of gadgets but not terribly successful. Then he comes upon a scheme: why not pose as refugees from the Second Lebanon War? This is 2006, after all, and the war is in full swing. So Libby and Shaul find a new home, where they can remain as long as they do not reveal their real situation to their host family. That works for a while, until Shaul seduces the wife of the family and Libby rebels against the deception and subterfuge. But the happy-go-lucky Shaul may resourcefully climb out of his woes yet. We’ll see…

The Pool, directed by Chris Smith

(In Hindi, with English subtitles)

Venkatesh is a young hotel janitor, who also sells plastic shopping bags on the street for extra income, along with his one true friend, Jhangir, an orphan. He doesn’t ask for much in life, just a successful day of bag sales and a quiet gaze at a beautiful swimming pool in a garden that he can see if he climbs a tree and peers through the foliage. What he does long for is a swim in that pool. Then in the garden, he also sees a young woman and an older man, the owners of the house, garden, and pool. Eventually, Venkatesh finds a way to work in the garden as a kind of caretaker, and while doing so, he draws to him the friendship and confidence of both the young woman, the daughter in this little family, and the older man, the father. While Venkatesh is truly living on the edge of complete poverty, and while the father and daughter are much wealthier, they reveal a deeper sorrow from their past that Venkatesh just may be able to assuage in his cheerful, earnest manner. Director Chris Smith is a director of various genres and styles, making mostly English-language movies, some of which HCPL owns, including Collapse.

Room 514, directed by Sharon Bar-Ziv

A young Israeli officer interrogates a soldier to get to the bottom of an incident of unnecessary violence towards an Arab family. Gradually, she discovers that the commanding officer of that unit was responsible for the brutalization of the Arabs, but her questions and the answers that emerge bring disturbing consequences, perhaps more than she ever expected when she began the investigation. The film occurs in a small interrogation room, giving the film a claustophobic feel, which tightens the drama and ratchets up the tension as the interrogations reach greater depths of truth.

Tai Chi Hero, directed by Stephen Fung

(In Mandarin, with English subtitles)

This sequel to Tai Chi Zero (reviewed in our March 2013 newsletter ) brings us once again into the world of steampunk kung fu, as Yang Lu Chan struggles to learn the proper way of tai chi fighting. The charming Chen Yu Niang, daughter of the town’s leader, has the task of instilling technique and discipline in the somewhat clumsy and seemingly dimwitted Yang. But there is room for growth here, and it just may be that by this planned-trilogy’s end, Yang and Chen will have a more interesting relationship than student/master. But first things first. When a government official sets his eyes on the village as a possible railroad passage, he and his British counterpart will stop at little to get what they want. It will be up to the villagers as well as Chen’s brother, an inventive wizard, to set things right. Lots of action, creative inventions, and a bit of comedy as well will bring amusement and thrills to kung fu action film fans.

New Release Tuesday – July 30

Monday, July 29th, 2013

New Release Tuesday, July 30:

American Girl Saige Paints the Sky

Filly Brown

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Veggie Tales MacLarry & the Stinky Cheese

New Release Tuesday – July 23

Friday, July 19th, 2013

New Release Tuesday, July 23:

Ginger & Rosa

Jeffrey Dahmer Files

Love and Honor



Welcome to the Punch

New Release Tuesday – July 16

Friday, July 12th, 2013

New Release Tuesday, July 16:

Arthur: Arthur Stands Up To Bullying



Evil Dead


Solomon Kane

New Release Tuesday – July 9

Monday, July 8th, 2013

New Release Tuesday, July 9:

Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That

Dead Man Down


Newly Requestable DVDs – July 2

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
Amazing Racer
Anna Karenina
Back to the Sea
The Bay
Breaking Dawn: Part 2
The Collection
A Dark Truth
Day of the Falcon
Fat Kid Rules the World
Hello I Must be Going
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Killing Them Softly
Lay the Favorite
Life of Pi
Miss Dial
Parental Guidance
Playing for keeps
Red Dawn
Rise of the Guardians
Silent Hill: Revelation
So Undercover
Straight A’s
This Must Be the Place
Toys in the Attic
Wreck-it Ralph
Zero Dark Thirty
Angelina Ballerina. The mouseling mysteries
Barbie in the pink shoes
Care Bears. Totally sweet adventures
Curious George. swings into Spring
An Easter bunny puppy
Madly Madagascar
Scooby-doo and the circus monsters
Sofia the first. Once upon a princess
Strawberry Shortcake. Berry friends forever
VeggieTales. The little house that stood

New Release Tuesday – July 2

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

New Release Tuesday, July 2:

Constitution USA with Peter Sagal


House I Live In

Identity Thief

6 Souls

Tai Chi Hero

Venus and Serena

Weiner Dog Nationals

Why We Laugh – Funny Women

Foreign Films July 13

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Breathing, directed by Karl Markovics

(In German, with English subtitles)

Roman is serving time in a juvenile detention center, and it looks as though he will remain there a long time. He has no family; he has difficulty connecting to others in society; and he’s in for a murder charge. With confidence neither in himself nor in the justice system, he doesn’t have much hope for probation. But a job in a mortuary changes his view of himself and of the world. When he sees a woman’s corpse, a woman who bears his last name, he wonders if this could be his mother. It isn’t, but this starts him on a journey, both a geograpic one and a deeper, spiritual one, in which he seeks out his mother, searches for answers to some dark, lingering fears, and grasps at an understanding of and redemption for the crime he has committed.

Cold Prey II, directed by Mats Stenberg

(In Danish, with English subtitles)

If Cold Prey wasn’t creepy enough for you, if you did not get your fill of bloodly and gory violence inflicted upon young adults just wanting to have some fun in an abandoned hotel in the mountains, then you may want to try this sequel. And it begins just where the original ended. Jannicke, our intrepid survivor, is in the hospital after her slasher ordeal with the mountain man/killer-of-young-adults, where his body now lies in the morgue. Unfortunately, when he exhibits signs of life, the medical staff feel compelled by various oaths of ethics to revive him, much to their later regret. Well, they should have known…really. With the mountain man on the loose once more, it is left to Jannicke, yet again, to stop him before too many more bodies pile up. I have heard a rumor that Cold Prey III is out – a prequel. I will be certain to consider it for purchase should it become available, to satisfy anyone’s curiosity about what has happened before all this mayhem and maybe also why the mountain man feels so compelled to cause blood to flow.

Gate of Hell, directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa

(In Japanese, with English subtitles)

A young samurai falls in love with a woman he has rescued during a turbulent and dangerous uprising, but finds out later that she is already married. With his ambition to marry her thwarted, he persists, to the point where she fears being compromised. She also finds her beloved husband in danger, when it becomes clear that the samurai would even kill to get what he wants. What is remarkable in this 1953 film is the color: sumptuous and ravishing. While the story hinges on an obsession strong enough to result in tragedy, it also grants the viewer a feast for the eyes.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, directed by Takashi Miike

(In Japanese, with English subtitles)

Something of a remake of an earlier Hara-Kiri, Miike’s version is different in both form and content. Tsugumo is a samurai fallen on hard times. He approaches the lord of the local noble house to request that he be allowed to commit ritual suicide as a way of leaving this world in honor. Before granting his wish, the lord tells him a cautionary tale of a recent similar event, one that ended very badly for a young man, who might have been bluffing about committing suicide, instead hoping for a much-needed handout. While Tsugumo listens patiently to the tragic story, one suspects that there is more to it all. Indeed, Tsugumo not only knew Motome, the young man, but loved him as a son. And so he in turn tells a tale that should put the lord and his court to shame, a tale of hard luck and tragedy, with desperate people taking desperate measures to survive, a tale that should inform the prosperous and arrogant lord of the need for mercy and compassion in a hard world. Miike also directed 13 Assassins, a popular samurai film owned in DVD format by HCPL.

Lore, directed by Cate Shortland

(In German, with English subtitles)

When the Third Reich fell in 1945, both guilty and innocent continued their suffering, with the occupation of troops and the disintegration of society. Hannalore, called Lore by her family, is both innocent and guilty. While the fourteen-year-old has not commited any war crimes herself, she is a Nazi child through and through. Before her parents are taken into custody for their parts in the horrors of their nation, they admonish her to travel with her younger siblings in tow to her grandmother’s house in Hamburg, a distance from the Bavarian Black Forest of about 500 miles. It is a nightmare of post-war chaos that greets Lore, with her young charges in hand. Together they discover that traveling on foot is less adventurous, as Lore tries to make her brothers and sister believe, and far more dangerous, even deadly. Along the way, they find Thomas, a young Jewish man, who is the only one with proper papers for safe passage north. While he helps them, he remains a mystery, since he doesn’t match the identity of the man whose papers they were. Even with his extended hand of help, Lore persists in believing in the Reich and in her hatred of Jews, Americans, and nearly everyone else not of Aryan German descent. Only later, at the journey’s end, will she glimpse some understanding of the real nightmare of the clash between beliefs and reality, between good and evil.

Neighboring Sounds, directed by Kleber Mendonca Filho

(In Portugeuse, with English subtitles)

A neighborhood of reasonably prosperous souls in the city of Recife in Brazil is the setting for this film. The inhabitants are a mix of those who live in relative prosperity and those who serve them, whether it be delivering bottled water, cleaning a flat, or providing security. While the movie has little plot and is perhaps overly long, it is worth sticking out if only to appreciate the subtle buildup to an unfolding tension with a surprising crescendo. The sounds of the neighborhood become a kind of character – a dog barking off screen, horns honking, doors closing, a car alarm blaring. All seem to follow the human characters, ever present, ever reminders of a foreboding that lies under the sweet familiarity of a neighborhood, a lurking danger that may or may not be out to get us.

Purple Noon, directed by Rene Clement

(In French, with English subtitles)

If you have read Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley or if you have seen the recent movie adaptation with Matt Damon, you may feel that seeing a film version made in 1960 is not necessary. Think again. First of all, Purple Noon stars Alain Delon in all his youthful loveliness. And secondly, this version is as tense and suspenseful as can be and is well worth the watch. If you have read the book, you know how this one goes; the film follows the book closely enough. If you are not familiar with the story, let us just say that the more-or-less impoverished Tom Ripley is hired by the father of Philippe Greenleaf to persuade the wealthy, profligate son to return from Italy where he has been living the life of leisurely abandon, to assume his more pressing obligations in the U.S. Tom finds along the way that he rather likes living in a wealthy lifestyle. So he contrives to make Philippe disappear and assumes his identity along with his riches. Murder, suspicion, and a cat-and-mouse game ensue, with the Italian police pursuing Tom, who is clever enough to keep the game going. Tense and gripping and, of course, there is Delon. Clement also directed Forbidden Games, Gervaise, and Is Paris Burning?