The Foreign Films New to View February 15


Dormant Beauty, directed by Marco Bellocchio

(In Italian, with English subtitles)

Based on real-life events in Italy, this movie focuses on the right to die, through multiple interrelated stories.  The foundational story is of a woman who has been in a coma for seventeen years and whose family is fighting to have her removed from life support.  Meanwhile, those in favor of allowing the woman to die and those opposed form another story, focusing on a young man and a young woman from opposing sides, who meet and fall in love.  Divina Madre is a movie star whose daughter is currently in a coma, a daughter she desperately wants to keep alive.  A physician tries to keep a drug addict from dying, a young woman who herself truly wants to end it all.  Finally, Senator Beffardi must make a decision about whether to vote for or against the right to die, in upcoming legislation, with his conscience pulling in a different direction from the position of  his political party.  The stories intertwine as the drama progresses, but ultimately we are left with questions from the complexity of this issue.



For a Woman, directed by Diane Kurys

(In French, with English subtitles)

Anne and Tania are clearing out their recently-deceased mother's effects, when they come upon various photos and letters that beg for more investigation.  As their mother's past emerges, the two daughters find out that Lena's life in the 1940s was more complicated than they had ever thought.  For one, their father had a brother, previously missing in the war, but now returned, whose presence complicates the family.  Lena feels strongly that she would never have an affair, but Jean is here now, and his quiet manner and air of mystery prove to be powerful forces, drawing Lena to him.  But what secrets does he hide from his wartime past?  And how will this impact the harmony of the family?


Honey, directed by Valeria Golino

(In Italian, with English subtitles)

Irene has a very peculiar occupation.  She delivers powerful medicines to the terminally ill who want to die.  It is a difficult job, emotionally and otherwise, involving some risk to Irene; nevertheless, she is dedicated to her task, feeling a committment to those suffering.  But she has standards for those whom she serves:  they must be terminally ill.  So when she meets Carlo, an older architect, who suffers from something more like depression or just plain ennui, she refuses to help him.  Unfortunately, he already has the powerful sedative in his possession, so short of breaking into his flat to retrieve it, Irene has little choise but to befriend him and more or less talk him out of his suicide.  That is her challenge  – to draw him back into life where he might find the connection he needs to hang on.  Irene might also find out that she herself longs for connection as well, and here is the very person who can hold out his hand for her to grasp in this lonely world or ours.


In Bloom, directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross

(In Georgian, with English subtitles)

Eka and Natia are best friends in Tbilisi, Georgia.  In 1992, Georgia had only been independent from the Soviet Union for a year.  The country is still unsettled politically, and turbulence and violence seem to be everywhere.  Eka and Natia witness the general tensions, even while they try to be normal teens, going to school, sneaking a cigarette here and there, playing music, doing homework, even flirting with boys.  But the violence gets personal when Natia is abducted by a young man who wants to marry her.  While Natia ultimately submits to the proposal, Eka feels a need to rebel against this kind of behavior, recognizing that there is something primitive in all this violence.   She fiercely defends her own independence, fighting back, even using violence to fight violence.  But is that the way to grow into a more civilized nation?  Perhaps Eka through her own behavior could lead the way.



The Little Bedroom, directed by Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond

(In French, with English subtitles)

Rose, an elder-care nurse, understands loss, not so much from her elderly patients, but from her own recent miscarriage, an event so painful, she cannot bring herself to dismantle the unneeded nursery in her flat.  When she meets Edmond, an elderly diabetic, she recognizes a fierce life force in him, a will to remain independent and free of all the misery of old age.  She in turn wants to protect that force, despite his increasing fragility.  We also meet Rose's husband and Edmond's son, both of whom wish to seize career opportunities that will take them away from home.  Rose makes a daring move to free Edmond from his nursing home and to safeguard his independence, but this will complicate her own life as well as that of her husband, not to mention that of Edmond's son.  What she considers doing is flat out against the law, very close to kidnapping, but Edmond is his own person and seeks maybe even more than Rose can offer him in order to live a life of dignity. 



Marius & Fanny, directed by Daniel Auteuil

(In French, with English subtitles)

Keep in mind that Marius & Fanny was originally an opera, and you might get a keener sense of the drama being played out here.  This is a romance of sorts, an old story of two young people in love, but not wanting to show it, and then finally embracing that love, despite Marius's longing to go to sea, to have adventures, and do more with his life than work in his father's bar.  Fanny, a fishmonger's daughter, knows he will never be fully happy, married and settled in a tradesman's life with a wife and children.  Should she instead marry the much older Panisse, a man who has money and position?  Or should she urge her lover to forget the sea's calling and marry her instead?   A story told in two discs, one devoted to Marius's point of view and the other focusing on Fanny, the movies have an antiquated feel, but the golden tones and soft lighting lend an almost fairy tale quality to the stories, something like, well, an opera without the singing.  Auteuil also directed The Well-digger's Daughter, owned by HCPL.




Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara, directed by Milan Luthria

(In Hindi, with English subtitles)

I am sorry to say that HCPL does not own Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, the movie that preceded this one, in which our main character, Shoaib, is introduced, but I do not think you will miss anything of the necessary background to understand this Bollywood extravaganza follow-up.  Shoaib is not only a gangster but the driving force behind the underworld in Mumbai.  When he meets Yasmin, she has no idea who he is and what a dangerous man he can be.  Her sass and sharp tongue don't so much offend as intrigue him.  Could the cold and ruthless Shoaib be falling in love?  Meanwhile, his young protege, Aslam, is also falling for the beautiful Yasmin.  With lots of song and dance, despite the rather serious subject of Indian organized crime, the movie propels us through the challenges and dangers of a love triangle once upon a time in Mumbai.



Slow Food Story, directed by Stefano Sardo

(In Italian, with English subtitles)

You have no doubt heard of the Slow Food Movement, the deliberate avoidance of fast food and the promotion of locally grown food, prepared in slower, more raditional ways.  Did you also know that the movement was begun by an Italian, who used what he had learned from his leftist politics to propel the Slow Food Movement forward?  Carlo Petrini found himself increasingly appalled by the growth of fast food worldwide, its unhealthy quality, and the way that fast food subverted and sabotaged the efforts of the local farmers and restaurateurs.  So in 1986, Petrini initiated his effort to restore food and the eating experience to their past levels of quality.  This documentary takes a decidedly playful approach to the subject, with a mix of interviews, narrative, and even animation, done with humor and wit.  Along the way, you may just find a craving for artisan cheese and maybe some nice Italian wine as well.  Prepare to watch this with healthy snacks before you.



Tosca's Kiss, directed by Daniel Schmid

(In Italian, with English subtitles)

This older documentary has been lovingly restored so that we might enjoy some of the enduring beauty of the music these elderly Italian musicians and opera singers produce.  The movie focuses not only on the residents of a retirement home in Milan but also on the home itself, Casa di Riposo per Musicisti.  More familiarly called Casa Verdi, it was founded by Giuseppe Verdi himself as an enduring offering of gratitude to those who produce the beautiful music of opera.  The documentary focuses mostly on soprano Sara Scuderi but allows us to listen to many others, who, even in their old age, use voice and musical instruments to bring us sublime pleasure.  If you like opera, or even if you don't, you might find this to be a lovely surprise, full of intense beauty in song that will lift up your very soul. 


To view past editions of the newsletter, see Foreign Films Archives.

Comments are closed.