Archive for October, 2014

Foreign Films New to View November 2014

Friday, October 31st, 2014

The Bridge, directed by Bjorn Stein and Charlotte Sieling

(In Swedish, with English subtitles)

Øresund Bridge connects Denmark to Sweden.  When a body of a woman is found precisely on the center of the bridge's span, investigators from both countries must become involved in solving the crime.  But what seems to be the body of one woman turns out to be that of two, cut and connected in the middle.   And the killings don't stop there.  A Truth Terrorist has surfaced, claiming to be committing crimes to draw attention to various social injustices, carrying out one horrific crime following another. This grisly and gripping Danish/Swedish television series has gone through a couple of hugely popular seasons, with Danish inspector Martin Rohde and the peculiar Swedish inspector Saga Norén handling the various cases.  Join them, if you dare.  Charlotte Sieling co-directed the excellent Danish TV series Borgen.  Bjorn Stein was a co-director of Storm, Underworld:  Awakening, and 6 Souls, all owned by HCPL.

 

The German Doctor, directed by Lucía Puenzo

(In Spanish, with English subtitles)

Lilith, bright-eyed and energetic but small for her age, lives with her parents Enzo and Eva, along with her siblings, in Patagonia in 1960.  Then her family moves to a hotel owned and managed by Eva's parents.  While they are there, a physician of German extraction insinuates himself into the family, quietly doing some sort of research and eyeing Lilith all the time.  We might not be certain just who he is or what he is up to, but the fact that a large  population of German immigrants has also settled in the region, some of whom are undergoing drastic plastic surgery, might give us a clue or two.  Lilith is so fascinating to Dr. Gregor, with her unnaturally short stature, that he offers advice on her growth performance.  While Enzo becomes alarmed at Dr. Gregor's persistent attention, Eva seems to have fallen under his spell, willingly cooperating when he proposes some little experiments on Lilith to help her grow.  When it becomes clear that Eva is now pregnant with twins, we can see Dr. Gregor practically salivating over that little detail.  Becoming increasingly creepy as the story progresses, the film broadens to reveal even more evil present in those isolated forests bordering the southernmost Andes.  While not a horror movie, it may as well be, based on fact as it is.

 

 

Gervaise, directed by René Clément

(In French, with English subtitles)

Years ago, I had read the novel L'assommoir by Emile Zola on which this movie is based, so I knew how this older classic film would turn out. And if you are familiar with the novels of Zola, you will no doubt guess correctly that our title character Gervaise has a tough time of it in 19th century France.  Gervaise and her useless lover Lantier live in Paris, where she works as a washerwoman and he lounges about, until he deserts her and their two little boys.  Alone, she uses her wits and wisdom to build up her own successful if modest business.  After marrying a roofer, the steady Coupeau, she seems to be on her way to a secure life, until Coupeau falls off a roof and damages himself permanently.  To ease his chronic pain, he turns to alcohol, an even speedier road to downfall.  From then on, Gervaise struggles against the odds to keep her and her little family from plunging into dire poverty, much as it is still today for the working poor.  This older classic has been in the library system for a while, but it is worth bringing it to your attention, should you wish to continue to view more Clément DVDs owned by HCPL.  Clément also directed Forbidden Games, Purple Noon, and The Damned (reviewed in the October 2014 issue of the newsletter).

 

Ida, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

(In Polish, with English subtitles)

Ida is a novice, just days away from taking her final vows in a Polish convent in 1962.   But Mother Superior insists that she first meet her aunt, whom she did not even know existed.  Wanda Gruz is, in contrast, a high-level judge in the Communist government's court system. She is also a chain-smoking, heavy drinking woman, who does not mind engaging in a one-night stand with a stranger.  But Wanda also holds secrets close to her heart, not the least of which is that Ida is Jewish, orphaned near the end of the war and then given to the convent for rearing.  Wanda wants Ida to travel with her to the Polish countryside to find out just what happened to Ida's parents when they went into hiding and Wanda slipped off to fight the Nazis in the resistance.  More than that, Wanda wants further truths uncovered, as sorrowful as they may be.  And so the film grows into a mystery as well as a road movie.  It is also a pronounced study in contrasts, as the serene Ida pairs with the restless and tortured Wanda.  Filmed beautifully in black and white, the soft greys lend an otherworldly air to this brilliant movie.

 

Ilo Ilo, directed by Anthony Chen

(In Mandarin, with English subtitles)

At first, I thought this movie might be another Yi Yibut, alas, it is not humorously poignant, taking instead a serious look at a middle class family in Singapore in 1997, on the edge of falling apart as the family finances falter.  Hwee Leng is a besieged, pregnant, working mother, whose incorrigible son Jiale is constantly in trouble at school.  Her husband Teck has lost his job and a lot of money besides on the falling stock market, all of which is unbeknownst to Hwee Leng.  When the family hires sweet-natured Teresa to mind the household chores as well as Jiale, Hwee Leng thinks matters will right themselves.  But with so much going on under her nose, if out of her sight, things just don't seem to be getting better.  Increasingly, the story shifts to Teresa, a Filipino immigrant in desperate need of money to send back home for the care of her own little child.  How she and Jiale eventually bond is touching in its long, painful process, but effective and moving.

  

The Last of the Unjust, directed by Claude Lanzmann

(In French, with English subtitles)

Director Claude Lanzmann, best known for his monumental documentary Shoah, brings us now a close look at Benjamin Murmelstein, one of the members of the Jewish Council at Theresienstadt, that mock Jewish ghetto near Prague, used by the Germans to show the world that actually the displaced and uprooted Jews of Europe were living quite well in spa-like locations.  But Murmelstein provides another side to that story, narrated in a series of interviews in 1975 with a much younger Lanzmann.  As an Elder on the Jewish Council of Theresienstadt, he was one of only two Jews allowed in the presence of Adolf Eichmann, and his insight into Eichmann contrasts sharply with Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil."  How he survived it all is a miracle in itself, but his survival brings with it the suspicion that he was greatly at fault in matters of the fate of Theresienstadt's captive inhabitants. This documentary is long, well over three hours, but it is packed with intense dialogue and moving documentary footage from that horrible era.  Lanzmann allows Murmelstein to talk and share his memories and his perspective on persons, places, and events that will bring you to the edge of a nightmare that you can only pray will never happen again.

 

 

The Suspect, directed by Sin-Yeon

(In Korean, with English subtitles)

Dong-chul has already had a rough time of it, finding defection from North Korea his only option after a painful betrayal some time preceding the film's present action.  Now his current South Korean employer has been murdered, and it is up to Dong-chul to complete a mission his dying employer bestowed upon him in his last moments of life.  More than that, he has been wrongfully accused of that very murder. The key to it all is in the eyglasses the old man gave to him before he died.  Now Dong-chul's task is multi-fold.  He needs to find the secret information necessary to prove his innocence; he needs to learn what happened to his family still in North Korea; he must determine the importance and significance of the information he is tracking down; and finally, he wants revenge.  This movie promises lots of action scenes, with car chases, the usual blow-'em-up incidents, and much hand-to-hand combat.  Something for almost everyone…

 

 Tabu, directed by Miguel Gomes

(In Portuguese, with English subtitles)

This is the sort of movie that marks just how foreign a foreign film can be.  It is a story within a story, one we see first-hand, the other narrated for us by one of the characters.  The link between the stories seems weak at first glance, but the two are connected.  Pilar is a woman whose frail, elderly neighbor Aurora is sinking. Her health is tenuous at best, and her only companion is Santa, her patient and kind maid.  As Aurora slips closer to death, she urges Pilar and Santa to find Gian Luca, someone from her past.  When they do find him, he also is ailing but is well enough to meet them and tell them a story, that of Aurora and him many years ago in a lush, steamy Portuguese colony in Africa.  Here we find ourselves in the heart of the movie, but it is done in pure storytelling format, with Gian Luca narrating in a voice-over to a black-and-white tale of the illicit love affair between Aurora, married to a wealthy landowner in the colony, and Gian Luca, who is a friend passing through, until he sees Aurora and decides to linger a while.  So this is a story told from the memory of an elderly man about his perception of something that happened many years earlier in a land on the verge of revolution.  He and his lover are themselves moving temptingly close to a revolution of their own, as their affair deepens and the rules of society shift and loosen to accommodate their forbidden love.

 

We Are the Best, directed by Lukas Moodysson

(In Swedish, with English subtitles)

Sweden in the early 1980's, when this story takes place, probably feels like the nexus of rebellion to kids like Klara and Bobo, best friends forever, who are working out how to wear their nonconformity for the greatest effect. Right now it's punk, goth, heavy metal – definitely outsider stuff in their middle school.  When the clueless staff of the local youth center won't let them practice music, they decide to form a band, although neither can play an instrument. No matter – Klara takes the bass guitar and Bobo gets the drums, the only two instruments available at the center.  Then they ask their classmate Hedvig to join them.  The trouble is Hedvig is a devout Christian, but she's also an outsider and, better yet, she can play a guitar, I mean, really play it well.  That's all they need to get started.  More than the band though, the film focuses on the three girls and their home lives, their interactions with parents and with friends.  It is a funny, poignant tribute to teens finding themselves in what seems to be an alien world, this thing called adulthood.

New Release Tuesday – October 7

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Against the Wild

American Horror Story Season 3

Bates Motel Season 2

Edge of Tomorrow

Million Dollar Arm

My Dog the Champion

Obvious Child

Sleeping Beauty (Diamond Edition)

Tasting Menu

Vikings Season 2

When Calls the Heart: a telling silence

When Calls the Heart: lost & found

When Calls the Heart: the dance