Cenk Batu, Undercover Agent, directed by Matthias Glasner
(In German, with English subtitles)
Born in Germany to Turkish parents, Cenk Batu is an undercover agent with the State Bureau of Investigation (LKA) in Hamburg. His ability to analyze people and situations is put to good use as he works on a wide variety of cases ranging from industrial espionage and financial crimes to terror cells and political assassinations. Cenk Batu is part of the Tatort series, Germany’s longest-running TV crime franchise. EPISODE 1 – On the Sunny Side: Cenk Batu has been working for months as part of a risky undercover mission on the premises of the Petermann company, an ostensibly reputable contractor. Now, of all times, Batu is sent to the hospital with a new assignment: adopting the role of a Turkish small-time criminal. Subsequent episodes in this six-part TV series reveal a man who is a loner, a kind of chess-playing Philip Marlowe of undercover work, who rages at injustice and exploitation of the innocent.
Force Majeure, directed by Rubin Östlund
(In Swedish, with English subtitles)
Tomas and Ebba are enjoying a lovely vacation at a posh ski resort in the Alps, when something happens that irrevocably changes their lives. While they are enjoying a pleasant lunch with their two children on the restaurant patio, a controlled avalanche seems to be headed a little too closely to where the restaurant patrons are eating. While Ebba reaches for the children to cover them as best as she can, Tomas grabs his cell phone and runs. After the danger passes, Ebba is dismayed at Tomas, but what makes it worse is that Tomas denies that he ran at all. While he senses that he's done something wrong, he seems baffled by just what his transgression was. Only later, as the story unfolds, will he understand that the damage is done, but just maybe he can find redemption.
Goodnight, Darling, directed by Tor M. Torstad
(In Norwegian, with English subtitles)
Terje Lyngmo is probably like most musicians today – talented and underemployed. In fact, he’s had to resort to piano tuning, with occasional backup gigs with fellow musicians, for his meager income. But he is also a little on the unscrupulous side. He hesitates only a nanosecond when he sees a chance to steal a pricey digital camera from a car at a gas station. Then after tuning a piano for a customer, he plays with the new camera, accidentally recording what seems to be a murder next door. Well, he could hand over to the police the camera’s chip as evidence, but that would mean answering some uncomfortable questions about where he got the camera. Again, his unscrupulous side wins out. He tries blackmail instead. He is chronically poor, remember. But it’s possible that Terje has bitten off just a little too much here. Clumsy in his approach to the perpetrator, he clearly leaves himself and, as it turns out, some innocent bystanders vulnerable to a the wrath of a desperate murderer. This three-part TV miniseries grips the audience as Terje stumbles from one misstep to another.
Life of Riley, directed by Alain Resnais
(In French, with English subtitles)
Life of Riley is a blend of theatre and film, and as it turned out, it proved to be Resnais’s final film before his death in 2014. It is a kind of homage to the filmmaker as well, since Resnais experiments with this merging of forms, with stage settings for each scene, but skillful camera work in play as well. The play/film focuses on three couples, all of whom have known George Riley for years. Monica was married to George, but now lives with Simeon. Kathryn had a torrid affair with him in their youth, but is now married to the physician Colin. Jack considers George to be his very best friend, and so when Colin accidently reveals that George, his patient, has a terminal illlness, Jack is devastated. But Riley is a bit of a roué, asking Kathryn, Monica, and Tamera, Jack’s wife, to go away with him for a final two-week vacation/fling, without husbands, of course. Although dealing with an off-stage death and a few possibly bumpy marriages, this nevertheless is a comedy, with a kind of ironic joy running through it. Resnais also directed Private Fears in Public Places, another film based on a play by Alan Ayckbourn, the playwright of Life of Riley. If you like Resnais and want to enjoy the range of his abilities, try some other DVDs owned by HCPL, including Hiroshima, Mon Amour, Not on the Lips, and Wild Grass.
Salamander, directed by Frank van Mechelen
(In Flemish, with English subtitles)
Sixty-six safe deposit boxes have been burgled at the Jonkhere Bank in Brussels. Each box belongs to one of the Belgian nation’s elite, whether in finance, politics, industry, or even the royal family itself. But, oddly, no valuables were taken, like stocks and bonds, only personal items, the kind that could incriminate, even destroy, a person, and maybe take down the government. The bank’s owner, Raymond Jonkhere, does not want the police informed, but word leaks out anyway that something funny has happened at the bank. When people start dying or committing suicide, Paul Gerardi, a police inspector, goes against his supervisor’s orders and proceeds with an investigation. He doesn’t have much to go on: an informer friend’s mysterious death, a slip of the tongue by a bank official that reveals far more than Jonkhere would want, threats from the chief prosecutor’s office, and so on. Gerardi disregards the dangers and continues, even when death strikes close to home. As the story unfolds in this 12-part TV series, tension mounts and clues emerge. Somehow all of this has something to do with World War II and a burning desire for revenge. With the nation at risk, Gerardi can hardly stand by while someone plays puppeteer with the men and women of the country, just to exact revenge.
The Soft Skin, directed by François Truffaut
(In French, with English subtitles)
Pierre Lachenay is a respected scholar, a bit stuffy, but nice enough at his core. But when he sees the beautiful and much younger flight attendant Nicole on his way to a conference in Reims, he is smitten at first sight. One suspects that this is his first transgression when it comes to straying from his dutiful wife Franca. His attraction to Nicole is clearly electric, but her attraction to him may be softer. She might find his scholarly befuddlement a little endearing, or maybe his status in the academic world is the pull, or perhaps she just finds the whole affair a lark, but it becomes clear to her fairly quickly that this just isn’t going to work. Then Pierre, in his fumbling ways, will have to figure out how to patch it all up with the now-fiery Franca. The crime of adultery may lead to much, much more than Pierre can ever hope to handle. HCPL owns Jules and Jim, and in English Fahrenheit 451, also directed by Truffaut.
The Way He Looks, directed by Daniel Ribeiro
(In Portuguese, with English subtitles)
This is a story of young high school students in Sao Paolo, Brazil, with Leonardo at the center of it all. He is a blind teenager, has been all of his life, and is still doted on by his perhaps overly protective parents and his very best friend since childhood, Giovana. But Leonardo is a typical teen and as such wants his independence, even from his peers, Giovana included. When he suggests that he would like to study abroad for his senior year, his family and friends all wonder why. Why? Because he wants to do things on his own and find out more about who he is. Then a new kid comes to school, Gabriel, who is good looking, funny, and smart. And he takes a shine to Leonardo. The relationship that develops irks Giovana, who is secretly in love with her long-time friend, but the freshness of the developing relationship between Leonardo and Gabriel is sweet and endearing. How best pals become best pals and stay best pals is at the core of this story.