The Foreign Films New to View newsletter is a monthly publication designed to keep you up to date on some of HCPL's latest foreign films on DVD. The selections in this newsletter are just a sample of the rich variety of films available to you through your library. Use the sign-up box above to have this newsletter sent directly to your e-mail every month, with new, recommended movies for you to view. See the Foreign Films New to View Archive for selections from back issues: http://blogs.hcplonline.org/avblog/index.php/category/foreign-films/.
Age of Uprising, directed by Arnaud Des Pallieres
(In French, with English subtitles)
Michael Kohlhaas is a prosperous horse trader, who is wronged by a young, arrogant nobleman, when two of his horses are mistreated by the lord's men. In 16th-century France, those who were wronged could turn to the courts for redress, but the nobleman holds threatening influence over the legal community, and Kohlhaas's petition goes unheard. This historical drama, based on fact, might have ended there, but when an even greater evil falls on Kohlhaas, he takes the law into his hands and exacts revenge. This leads to an all-out rebellion that threatens the stability of the domain. With a kind of aesthetic detachment, the filming of this drama is both beautiful and daunting in its cool depiction of the cruelties and injustices of a nation clawing its way out of barbarism towards a more humanistic level of civilization.
Bobby Jasoos, directed by Samar Shaikh
(In Hindi, with English subtitles)
Bobby Jasoos wants to be a private eye. So far, she has had no nibbles for cases, but never discouraged, she continues on. Then she gets a break. A wealthy man wants some people tracked down, and Bobby seems to be the P.I. for the job. Bobby has some obstacles, however: the slim clues given to her for each person to be found, a rival private investigating office whose boss berates her constantly, pressure from her family to marry someone she can't stand, and her very traditional father, who thinks her line of work is absolutely the wrong direction for her to take. Bobby remains steadfast, even as she begins to doubt just what this rich guy wants with his missing persons. Is he up to no good? Is maybe the suitor her family has chosen for her not such a bad guy after all? Can she reconcile her career with her formidable father? It's all part of the laughs, the songs and dances, and the general romp through a movie that offers good cheer and a little light suspense.
Le Chef, directed by Daniel Cohen
(In French, with English subtitles)
If an aspiring chef constantly gets fired from his jobs because he is so very particular in what his diners eat, what is he to do? Get a job painting the trim work at an old age home. That is Jacky's fate, a culinary genius, who just isn't appreciated by his customers. Once at the old-age home, in between touching up window frames, he inspires the cooks there to prepare the best food ever for their residents. Then he comes to the attention of his culinary hero, the famous chef and TV personality, Alexandre Legarde, who takes him on to try to revive his career – Legarde's, that is. Legarde's notion of cooking is becoming old hat, while more esoteric styles of the culinary arts are in full swing. Can Jacky really save the career of such a famous traditionalist? While the elements of farce are in full swing in this movie, viewers might catch an occasional glimpse of something yummy to eat and more than a few laughs.
Chinese Puzzle, directed by Cédric Klapisch
(In French and English, with English subtitles)
If you have seen either L'Auberge Espagnole or Russian Dolls, also directed by Klapisch, you will recognize a good portion of the characters in
Chinese Puzzle. This film completes a trio of movies about a cosmopolitan group of young folks striking out on their own in this big world of ours. In Chinese Puzzle we meet again Xavier, now an established writer, looking for inspiration for his next book and not getting very much of it, even when various 19th-century philosopers appear before him to offer advice. When his English ex-wife, Wendy, moves to New York, he follows if only to visit his children. There he comes across Isabelle and her lesbian lover Ju, who want children and ask Xavier to provide the fatherly half of that equation. Then along comes Martine, previously Xavier's girlfriend, as well as her two children. Xavier needs a wife to get a green card to stay in NYC so that he can continue to see his kids, and, well, it's complicated, and funny, even very silly at times, but always cheerful. Besides the two films mentioned above, HCPL also owns Paris, directed by Klapisch.
A Coffee in Berlin, directed by Jan Ole Gerster
(In German, with English subtitles)
Niko is not having a good day. His girlfriend leaves him; a motor vehicle official denies him his driver's license; and his wealthy father pretty much sloughs him off when it comes to a little spare cash to tide him over – that's all before nightfall. And to make it all worse, he can't seem to get a cup of coffee anywhere, in Berlin, where some of the best European coffee is ubiquitously available on every street corner. What seems like the set-up for a comedy has its more serious, brooding side, though, as Niko struggles to consider his options. His friends are no help, making light of Berlin's dark past and generally proving useless. Shot in slick black and white, with a cool jazz soundtrack so fitting to this at-once brooding and lively city, this movie begs to be watched a second time.
Easy Money: Hard to Kill, directed by Babak Najafi
(In Swedish, with English subtitles)
I just wanted to bring to the attention of action movie fans this film and its sequel, Easy Money: Life Deluxe, both of which are follow-ups to the very popular Easy Money. The three movies follow the same characters, all criminals, living dark, tormented lives, fighting goodness and each other as well as themselves, as they shift uneasily in their actions and conflicts, worrying about their loved ones and how they inevitably fail them at turn upon turn. Bad guys with a conscience? Not entirely unheard of, but don't trouble yourself with the thought that any of these three movies might be too morally ambiguous or too intellectually deep. They are full of action and fights, and if the occasionally angst-ridden mobster wrings his hands over the right or wrong of his actions, find some comfort in the fact that the existential crisis will pass in a moment or two, and the characters will be up to their usual shenanigans once more.
The Empty Hours, directed by Aaron Fernandez Lesur
(In Spanish, with English subtitles)
When Sebastián's uncle leaves the seventeen-year-old in charge of his motel while he undergoes a medical procedure in the city, Sebastián finds that his job involves more than just registering people for rooms. The maid never shows up, so all of the housekeeping falls to him. The kid across the road is stealing coconuts from the trees on the motel's grounds. And then there is Miranda, a woman who regularly meets her lover at the motel for the afternoon. But Miranda is finding that she has to wait more often than not for her boyfriend, and Sebastián finds that the time passes very, very slowly when the chores are done. It is natural that the two should form a friendship that aids both of them in their empty hours.
Five Star Life, directed by Maria Sole Tognazzi
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
What if your job involved staying in five-star hotels as a secret shopper, so to speak, to rate the hotels? Imagine an all-expense-paid visit to five-star hotels in Switzerland or Morocco, Paris or Berlin. What a life. And there we find Irene, whose seemingly lonely life might not be so bad after all. She has a solid relationship with her sister and her sister's family; she has some firm and fast friendships, and she is secure in her career. But when her best boy pal finds his true love, it isn't Irene, but another woman. And her sister's family is time-consuming for her younger sibling. Can Irene find satisfaction living a life as a loner? When she meets an astute feminist scholar in Berlin, she gets a glimpse of the worth and value of her life and what she can offer to the world and to herself.
The Last Sentence, directed by Jan Troell
(In Swedish, with English subtitles)
While Norway fell to the Germans in World War II, Sweden declared its neutrality, keeping itself in the precarious and fragile middle of a horrific conflict. But there were Swedes who understood perfectly the evil confronting their country and the world. Tornny Segerstedt was one of them, a journalist who boldly stood in opposition to Hitler, calling him an insult and then reading aloud in triumph to his office staff a telegram of opposition from Göring. This film takes a look at Segerstedt's heroic journalistic fight, but does not hesitate to scrutinize his personal life as well. That was anything but heroic, as he virtually ignored his wife, flirted in public with his mistress, his best friend's wife by the way, and probably paid more attention to his dogs than to his family. Segerstedt may have been a Swedish wartime hero, but he was also arrogant and at times insufferably boorish. For a portrait of a complex man, whose lonely crusade and obstinance nearly toppled his country out of its neutrality, take a look at this splendidly shot movie. Troell also directed Everlasting Moments, available at HCPL.