Archive for January, 2014

Foreign Films New to View Feb 14

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Beck, directed by Kiell Sundvall
(In Swedish, with English subtitles)
This Swedish TV series features Martin Beck, a middle-aged police detective, who stops at nothing to solve his cases. He puzzles through the intricacies of a mystery, using wits and police skills, and he may even break a few rules on the way. But he gets the job done. In the first episode, two immigrant boys are found dead. The murder of children is bad enough, but then what appears to be a message from a radical right-wing anti-immigrant organization presents a threatening twist to the story. Each of the episodes involves complications that compound the mystery and reveal a little more about the twists and turns of crime in a modern society.

Becoming Traviata, directed by Philippe Beziat
(In French, with English subtitles)
This documentary takes us through various stages of rehearsal and preparation for the opera production of La Traviata, starring Natalie Dessay. From staging to choral practice to specific scene rehearsals, we get to see the offstage drama as well as the onstage performance. Of course, the music is splendid, and so is Dessay, who carries the production with her beautiful dramatics and charming voice.

Blood of the Vine, directed by Marc Riviere
(In French, with English subtitles)
HCPL has been able to acquire some very good European TV series recently, most of which are mysteries or police procedurals. Count this as one of the more unusual mystery shows. Benjamin Lebel is an enologist, expert not only in tasting wine but also in figuring out just what that red wine is in the glasses that surround the murder victim. In this first episode, Lebel is asked by the local police to figure out precisely that. Of course, his palate is up to the job, as he tastes the wine, thinks on it a little, names the wine, guesses the year it was bottled and then identifies the location where the grapes were grown. How helpful to have those detection skills! But why is it in the first place that the victim was killed in that fashion – the old man was bludgeoned, in fact, with the wine glasses arranged artfully around his body? And then more corpses show up, along with similar arrangements of wine glasses. How exactly does the wine connect the victims to the murderer? The police are very fortunate to have Lebel to help out on this one.

Borgen, directed by Søren Krach-Jocobsen
(In Danish, with English subtitles)
Birgitte Nyborg is Denmark’s first female prime minister. Out of a fragile coalition that excludes the more conservative parties, Birgitte, along with her staff and allies, must navigate a complex political world as local, national, and world crises hammer away at them. While she begins her term full to the brim with energy and her ideals in tact, gradually the necessities of governing forge her into a pragmatic and flexible leader, willing to compromise where need be but still trying to hold onto those original ideals. The plots that weave throughout this Danish TV series never seem to blunder into melodrama, but keep right on the edge of smart political drama.

Caesar Must Die, directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
The Taviani brothers do it again, producing an original and moving work of art, this one filmed in the high security wing of Rome’s Rebibbia Prison, where inmates prepare to perform Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. While not precisely a documentary, the film does allow us a glimpse of the transformative power of the Bard’s words on the prisoners, some newly arrived residents, some old-timers, some in for murder, some for lesser crimes, but all very much moved and changed by their participation in the play’s performance. Paolo and Vittorio Taviani also directed The Night of the Shooting Stars and The Lark Farm, both of which are owned by HCPL.

Commissario Brunetti, directed by Sigi Rothemund
(In German, with English subtitles)
If you like the Commissario Brunetti mystery book series by Donna Leon, you will find this German TV production to be a pleasant diversion. Filmed in Venice, nevertheless it was made for a German audience and is therefore in German. No matter. The mysteries are intricate and nicely drawn, with an occasional ciao or buon giorno to further the Italian effect. So far, HCPL has been able to purchase four episodes of this series, but each is an independent story, so pick up the series where you will. In each, Brunetti intrepidly studies a crime scene and makes what he can of it, using the evidence at hand and his wits and genius. Just to give you a taste of what to expect, in episode 5, the earliest episode that HCPL owns, Brunetti is faced with a dead orchestra conductor for an opera production, not particularly well liked, although highly respected for his skills. Complicating matters is the difficulty of dealing with the suspects, from divas to musicians. And then there are Brunetti’s family members, particularly his teenaged son, who is going through his Communist stage. So some drama, some mystery, some humor – what’s not to love?

Inspector Coliandro, directed by Marco and Antonio Manetti
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
As you have probably noticed, most of the European TV series acquired recently by HCPL are dramas and mysteries, engrossing, intriguing, serious in every way…but not this one. Well, it does involve murder and mystery, of course; it is a detective show after all, but it has its light touches as well, with more than a few laughs. Coliandro is a young police officer, who has apparently found himself in charge of supplies rather than murder cases, counting out the cases of yogurt for the police headquarters cafeteria. But when a motorscooter courier finds herself holding a package of cold cash that she was to deliver, she smells trouble. She decides to turn it over to the police rather than continue on with her delivery. But her troubles are about to be compounded at the station when she gets linked up with Coliandro rather than a more experienced detective. This is right up Coliandro’s alley – suspicious amounts of money being delivered to a man, who as it turns out winds up dead, and now Coliandro and the courier are the targets of the same killers. Just enough humor to give you some laughs but without diminishing the drama…

The Keys to the House, directed by Gianni Amelio
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
Gianni abandoned his son Paolo in his infancy when Gianni’s lover died in childbirth. Since then Paolo has been raised by his mother’s sister and brother-in-law. He’s developmentally disabled and a handful, if fairly functional at the age of fifteen. Now, however, his aunt and uncle need Gianni to step in as Paolo’s father to take him to Berlin for various tests and treatments. Gianni knows nothing about being a father, much less being a father to a child with special needs. But once in Berlin, he meets Nicole, a mother of a severely disabled daughter, who also is in the hospital for treatment. Nicole patiently guides Gianni towards his responsibilities as a father and shares her wisdom along the way. But is Gianni up to the task?

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear, directed by Tinatin Gurchiani
(In Georgian, with English subtitles)
Tinatin Gurchiani’s documentary explores what it is that Georgian young adults and teens would make disappear in their lives, if such a machine existed that could do just that. Appearing before her ostensibly to audition for roles in a movie, the guileless young people answer the director’s off-camera questions about their lives, their disappointments, their hopes. Our focus is on their faces, expressive and full of hope, but also sorrowful, the products of childhood nurtured in war and poverty. Sometimes Gurchiani follows the auditioners offsite to see how they live. Most of her subjects are poor and struggling. Many have dreams and ambitions. Others are also despairing, and to witness the deep despair of these young people is at times heartbreaking.

Reality, directed by Matteo Garrone
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
Luciano is a fishmonger, who gets by in life, enjoying a fair amount of happiness along the way. With his family and friends surrounding him, he measures prosperity by a different means from most of us – it is the joy that comes from his everyday routine and from his loved ones who are part of that routine. Then bitten by the bug of reality television, he finds himself consumed by a desire to be tapped as a participant on Grande Fratello, or Big Brother, Italian style. Making it big is all he wants now. He will stop at nothing to be part of that seemingly glamorous life on a set, under the constant scrutiny of the cameras for all of Italy to see. Going from his neighborhood, where everyone knows him, to a place where a nation might get to know him seems to be a dream just outside his grasp. And what will he do if he does grab that dream? We’ll see…Garrone directed the prize-winning Gomorrah, owned by HCPL.

Thérèse, directed by Claude Miller
(In French, with English subtitles)
Thérèse marries not because she loves her fiancé but because this marriage is expected of her. Should she marry Bernard, she will have made an excellent match, increasing her family’s forests by enormous amounts. The two of them will be the power couple of the province. But what of love? Thérèse can keep that at bay, until Bernard’s sister, her best friend, falls in passionate love with a man both charming and forbidden in this small provincial world of theirs. Only then does Thérèse feel an awakening, one so strong that she attempts to destroy Bernard to be free of him, an act that may spell her own downfall. Miller also directed A Secret, owned by HCPL.

New Release Tuesday – January 28

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Bad Grandpa

Bonnie & Clyde

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Downton Abbey Season 4

Fifth Estate

Last Vegas

Lego: legends of Chima the lion

Snow Queen

Treme Season 4

Vera Set 3

Foreign Films New to View Jan 14

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Vol. 8, No. 1

The Attack, directed by Ziad Doueiri

(In Arabic and Hebrew, with English subtitles)

What would you do if you were told that your loving, sensitive spouse was actually a suicide bomber, responsible for the deaths of over ten children? You would probably react as Amin does in The Attack, with shocked incredulity. Amin is, after all, a prominent Palestinian surgeon, an employee at an Israeli hospital, a winner of national awards for his medical skills, a man, in short, respected and admired by his Jewish colleagues. He and his wife have mingled easily and often with these prestigious colleagues. Now Amin faces the bloodied sheet covering the remains of his wife. Yes, that is his wife, but she must herself be an innocent victim of this insane act. Gradually, Amin is convinced that his wife was indeed the bomber, but now he asks, why? The story follows Amin as he searches for answers, all the while experiencing the wrath of a startled people, who had accepted him as a friend but now must suspect him to be an enemy. His wife’s last act changes his life and his sense of himself, as he tries to maneuver in a now-hostile world.

Barbara, directed by Christian Petzold

(In German, with English subtitles)

Barbara is a physician, trapped in the surreal world of East Germany in the 1980′s, where every action is under surveillance, every word capable of arousing suspicion. For some minor infraction, applying for a visa to the West perhaps, Barbara has been transferred, exiled really, from Berlin to a tiny provincial hospital near the German coast. Further punishment includes constant surveillance by the Stasi, whose front man pays surprise visits to check on her. These visits include humiliations as well as the reinforcement of her sense of punishment. Then there is also the young physician Andre, who may or may not be playing a role with the Stasi, but who does have a sense of the need to help his patients, a need he tries to reinstill in the detached Barbara. When Barbara sees an opportunity to defect, the complexities of her life and her sense of duty urge her to think carefully before she steps towards freedom. Petzold also directed Yella, Ghosts, Jerichow, and The State I Am In, owned by HCPL in dvd format.

Eyes Without a Face, directed by Georges Franju

(In French, with English subtitles)

Dr. Grénessier has lost his beloved daughter Christiane, who has disappeared after being horribly burned in a car accident. The film opens with a body being dumped in a river, and then subsequently, the good doctor must go through the ordeal of identifying that body. Indeed, he affirms, this is his daughter. She is dead. Or is she? In fact, she lives yet in Dr. Grénessier’s house, wandering ghostlike around the villa, wearing a mask to cover her scars. The body found and misidentified was that of a hapless woman whose face had previously been transplanted, unsuccessfully, to Christiane’s by Dr. Grénessier himself. Now he needs a new victim. Together with his assistant Louise, a face transplant success story, he seeks out young women and tries yet again to give his daughter her face and her life back to her. But Christiane knows something of the evil that her father is performing, not just on young women but on animals used in experiments. She longs for freedom for herself and for all the creatures who suffer under her father’s scalpel. Her actions and her destiny are entwined in a morally ambiguous world.

Laurence Anyways, directed by Xavier Dolan

(In French, with English subtitles)

Laurence has been living a lie all his life. Although he is in a loving relationship with Frédérique (or Fred), he has long felt that he is really a woman in a man’s body. Now, in his mid-thirties, he knows it is time to become that woman he feels he has been all along. Given this new reality and the love he shares with Fred, will he be able to make that difficult, even dangerous, transition? Fred is willing to give it a try because she loves him. Even his mother shifts her point of view over time, but how about the rest of the world? Taking us through ten years of transition, Dolan shows us the joys and sorrows along the way during this great journey, while Fred and Laurence grow closer, then apart, then closer, and so on. Xavier Dolan is also the director of Hearbeats, and I Killed My Mother, owned by HCPL in dvd format.

The Painting, directed by Jean-Francois Laguionie

(In French, with English subtitles)

On this canvas live three kinds of beings: the Alldunns, who are completed figures; the Halfies, who have not quite been completed by the now-missing artist; and finally, the Sketchies, who are merely line drawings. The Alldunns rule the world of the canvas, humiliating the Halfies and enslaving and torturing the Sketchies. Ramo is an Alldunn who does not think this way. Together with his beloved Halfie, Claire, they journey off the canvas into the world of the abandoned art studio to find the artist to ask him for his help in making right what he has left wrong. With brilliant colors, hauntingly beautiful animated scenes, and artfully witty dialogue, this film should be a must-see for art lovers young and old alike. Laguionie also directed the charming Princes and Princesses, owned by HCPL in dvd format.

Passione, directed by John Turturro

(In English and Italian, with English subtitles)

Exploring the richness of Neapolitan music, this documentary was filmed on location in Naples. While we hear both the doleful and the joyful strains of Italian song, we may also discern the roots of this music, from Europe to the north, Africa to the south, the Middle East to the east, and Spain to the west. The melange that emerges is enchanting in the sound produced. Performances are by contemporary Italian musicians and vocalists as well as by performers of the past.

Renoir, directed by Gilles Bourdos

(In French, with English subtitles)

In the summer of 1915, in the midst of the Great War, a young woman approaches the aged Renoir at his home on the French Riviera, responding to a request for a model. There Andrée meets not just Pierre-Auguste, the famous Impressionist painter, but his son, Jean, who will later become the distinguished film director. For now though he is a wounded soldier, recovering at home until he goes back to the front. And he is ripe for falling in love. Andrée, Renoir père, and Renoir fils spend that tortured summer together, the older man struggling to capture what he can of life on his canvases, his son torn between duty and his love for the young woman, and Andrée finding her own way in this idyllic world of summer haze and wild flowers.

Something in the Air, directed by Olivier Assayas

(In French, with English subtitles)

It is 1971 in France, and to young revolutionaries across the land, everything is falling apart. Gilles wants very much to be part of the action, in his cool, collected way. Not much seems to phase him as he drifts from one revolutionary action to another, but he is, after all, a high school student; summer break will be here soon, and then he can go to Italy or somewhere else to plot, plan, take some drugs, and party. It’s all part of the revolution. As listless as this young artist seems to be, he does have some ambitions and does in fact connect to other students. Being a tad self-centered, he drifts but still longs to effect change. It’s just something in the air. The prodigious director Olivier Assayas claims many films to his name, some of which are owned by HCPL in dvd format, including Clean, Irma Vep, Summer Hours, the biopic Carlos, and one of the short pieces in Paris, Je T’aime.

New Release Tuesday – January 21

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Adventures of Chuck & Friends: trucks versus wild

Best Man Down

Blue Jasmine

Captain Phillips

Charlie Brown: Touchdown Charlie Brown!

Donkey Kong Country – Kong Fu

In a World

My Little Pony Classic Movie Collection

National Geographic Classics: secret access

New Release Tuesday – January 14

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

20 Feet from Stardom

A Single Shot


Be My Valentine

Berenstain Bears Family Values

Blue Caprice


Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That

Donkey Kong Country – Kong Fu

Enough Said

Fruitvale Station


Lee Daniel’s The Butler

Spongebob & Friends: Patrick Squarepants


New Release Tuesday – January 7

Monday, January 6th, 2014


Copper Season 2

Despicable Me 2

Duck Dynasty Season 4

Fast and Furious 6

The Following Season 1

House of Lies Season 2

Inequality for All

Kiss the Water

Runner Runner

Scooby-Doo: 13 Spooky Tales for the love of snack

Thanks For Sharing

Newly Requestable DVDs – January 6

Monday, January 6th, 2014


The Baytown outlaws

Behind the candelabra

Bless me, Ultima

The bling ring


Cody the robosapien

The contractor



The East

Empire State

The English teacher

From up on Poppy Hill

The hot flashes

The iceman


Iron Man 3

Java heat

The kings of summer

Legend of Kung Fu Rabbit

Mary and Martha

Now you see me



Phil Spector

The place beyond the pines


Scenic route

Shanghai calling


Sisters & brothers

Star trek. Into darkness

The stranger within

Unfinished song

World War Z



 Barbie : Mariposa & the fairy princess

The Berenstain Bears. Beach bound

Care Bears. A belly badge for Wonderheart : the movie

Dora the explorer. Dora’s great roller skate adventure

Geronimo Stilton. Operation shufongfong

Lala-oopsies. A sew magical tale : the movie

My little pony. Equestria girls

Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky tales, Ruh-roh robot!

Sesame street. Elmo the musical

The Smurfs. A Christmas carol

The Smurfs. The legend of Smurfy Hollow

Sofia the first. Ready to be a princess

Strawberry Shortcake. Berry bitty mysteries.

The tails of Abbygail. New friends and adventures!

Thomas & friends. King of the railway : the movie

Veggie Tales. And now it’s time for silly songs with Larry : the complete collection

The wubbulous world of Dr. Seuss. The Cat’s adventures