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Foreign Films New to View December 2014

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
 

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.

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.

Foreign Films New to View Sept 14

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Bethlehem, directed by Yuval Adler

(In Hebrew, with English subtitles)

Sanfur is a Palestinian teenager, who is working as an informant for the Israelis, under the supervision of Razi, an Israeli operative.  The relationship is complex, revolving around Sanfur’s brother, Ibrahim, an active militant now in hiding.  Sanfur and Razi like each other, but neither trusts the other very much.  Young and a bit naive, Sanfur is maybe just looking for a better life for himself and his parents.  Razi wants Ibrahim though and will employ whatever methods necessary to secure Ibrahim’s capture.  He wants to live in peace and safety, but so does Sanfur.  When Ibrahim does get cornered by the Israelis, Sanfur feels tremendous guilt.  There might be a way to make up for his slip, but the lure of living in a safe Israel as opposed to the oppressive West Bank is also at work here. His choices in these matters are dire, if he really does have any choices.

 

Bicycling with Moliere, directed by Philippe le Guay

(In French, with English subtitles)

Gauthier, a mediocre soap opera star, would like to revive Moliere’s The Misanthrope and can think of no better actor for a major role than Serge, an old acquaintance from acting days long gone by.  Serge, however, wants no part in the scheme.  He prefers living alone on a small island off the coast of France, stewing silently over the annoyances and evils of humankind.  But if he did accept, he would want to play Alceste, the lead.  Well, so would Gauthier, who hesitates to rehearse the less meaty part of Philinte.  They reach an agreement to rehearse alternating roles, and off they go, reciting the lines in Alexandrine verse, allowing the audience to share in a rare performance of this classic play…well, at least part of Act I.  Serge begins to pull out of his disagreeable funk, and Gauthier seems to be taking acting more seriously as the rehearsals progress.  Then along comes the disagreeable Francesca, an Italian woman in the midst of a nasty divorce, and the dynamics shift yet again.  Will Francesca, showing her lively and happier side, be able to move Serge away from his misanthropic view of the world?  Or will humankind live down to Serge’s expectations?   With both comedy and drama, the movie propels us along to our own conclusions. Philippe le Guay also directedThe Women on the 6th Floorcurrently owned by HCPL.

 

Capitaldirected by Costa-Gavras

 (In French, with English subtitles)

The director of the political thriller Z, also owned by HCPL, presents here an indictment of free-wheeling capitalism, the kind where behind closed doors, boards of directors hash out how to save money by laying off employees, while increasing their own bounty through various legal and illegal schemes.  The film follows Marc Tourneuil, who has risen through the ranks of the French Phoenix Bank.  Now he runs the bank but comes head to head with Dittmar Rigule, a hedge fund manager, who wants to own the bank to swell his own coffers.  Which character is more evil is hard to pinpoint, promising the viewer at least some satisfaction no matter what the outcome of the story. 

 

Children Without a Shadow, directed by Bernard Balteau

(In French, with English subtitles)

With the invasion of Belgium by the German army in 1942, all Jews were in immediate peril.  But through a collaborative effort of the resistance and Jewish families, thousands of children were hidden in Belgian households for the duration of the war. This documentary presents the story of Shaul Harel, whose parents placed him in the safety of the resistance.  It wasn’t an easy or particularly happy time for the little boy, but Professor Harel recalls for us the joys as well as the sorrows of those years. The film takes us beyond World War II into the post-war days when Harel stayed in a home for refugee children until his permanent move to Israel.  He is reunited with some of his childhood buddies, who reminisce together.  He draws his family into the story as well, as his children and grandchildren see where he hid and meet his friends from days gone by.  While the documentary holds unbearable sadness, it shows the happiness as well, with the resilience of children blooming afresh in a savage world.

 

The Jewish Cardinal, directed by Ilan Duran Cohen

(In French, with English subtitles)

Jean-Marie Lustiger was a Jewish child who converted to Catholicism in his early teens, while hiding with a Christian family during the Second World War.  Sincere in his faith and strong in his embrace of Christianity, he nevertheless felt in his heart the tug of his heritage.  This drama based on his life focuses more on the church politics during the reign of Pope John Paul II than on Lustiger’s earlier childhood experiences.  John Paul took a liking to this sharp, intelligent priest and elevated him from bishop to archbishop of Paris, and finally appointed him a cardinal in 1983.  This may not seem like much of a narrative for a drama, but the story heats up when Carmelite nuns set up a charity hospital in Auschwitz, usurping for their own the horrors that Europe’s Jews endured there, shifting the emphasis of the Holocaust from Jew to Christian Pole.  The outrage was universal, and Cardinal Lustiger needed to use all of his persuasive skills to urge the Pope, himself a Pole, to move the nuns out, against the will of other anti-semitic Poles.  Tensions were high as Europe reeled from a vicious right-wing resurgence in the European church, with the Jewish Cardinal doing his best to restore a more gentle vision of love and charity.

  

Like Father, Like Son, directed by Kore-eda Hirokazu

(In Japanese, with English subtitles)

Ryota and Midori seem to be living an upper middle-class dream.  They want for nothing, and they plan the same for their little boy, Keita.  Then their life is turned upside down when administrators from the hospital where Keita was born reveal that a terrible mistake occurred six years earlier. Keita and another baby were switched at birth.  While they love Keita tremendously, they also want their own son, Ryosuke.  He, in contrast, has been raised by a far less prosperous family, although an intensely loving one.  Ryosuke has siblings, or rather Keita does now, but Ryosuke is used to the rough and tumble of his less organized but happier family.  Keita, on the other hand, is used to piano lessons and private schools, tutors, and all the special attention a wealthy only child might expect.  How the two families cope with this dilemma and finally confront it is a testament to love.  Hirokazu also directed Still WalkingNobody Knows, and  After Lifeall owned by HCPL.

 

 

Omar, directed by Hany Abu-Assad

(In Arabic, with English subtitles)

Omar is a baker by trade, living on the West Bank, trying to make a better life for himself, but the usual obstacles seem to get in his way:  the Israeli occupation for one and pressure to participate in terrorist acts for another.  Then a friend of his kills an Israeli soldier, and everything changes irrevocably.  When Omar gets caught and sent to prison for the crime, it seems at first that despite the torture and interrogation, he might have a chance for release and freedom. Then he makes one tiny mistake and finds himself entangled in a collaborative effort with the Israelis to seek out the real killer.  He thinks he can cleverly turn the tables on the Israeli security forces, but he may be in way over his head on this one.  In war, do you ever know who your real friends are?  Abu-Assad also directed Paradise Now and  Rana’s Wedding, owned by HPCL.

 

 On My Way, directed by Emmanuelle Bercot

(In French, with English subtitles)

Families can be complicated.  When Bettie finds out that the love of her life has taken up with a much younger woman, she has had enough.  She throws up her hands, abandons her failing restaurant (in the midst of dinner), and drives off into, well, not the sunset, but something like that.  Her long drive takes a side trip when her estranged daughter, Muriel, calls to ask her to take her son, Charly, to his grandfather’s house, while Muriel accepts a new position at work.  Bettie doesn’t know Charly’s grandfather, having never met her ex-son-in-law’s family, nor does she even know her own grandson that well.  But she recognizes an opportunity to deliver a peace offering in accepting the task. And then the adventure begins, with Bettie and the young Charly traveling around France on an excellent road trip, hanging out together, working through their own issues, and generally finding that while not all of life’s problems can be solved on the road, many of them do go away with time and distance.

 

Prisoners of War, Season 1, directed by Yorem Toledano, et al.

(In Hebrew, with English subtitles)

I found this Israeli TV series to be riveting.  Three soldiers were taken prisoner by Palestinians seventeen years earlier, but through careful and persistent negotiations by the Israeli government, two of them have finally been released.  The third is probably dead, having suffered a likely fatal blow during a torture session years before. The world to which the survivors return is far more complicated than they would want.  It isn’t just the ambivalent nature of their release that unsettles a nation:  most people are jubilant, but some are resentful that terrorists were released in the exchange.  The Israeli army needs also to interrogate the men intently on their years of captivity.  And to cap it off, their families are having maybe more difficulty than anyone could have anticipated, with the men so long absent now back in their lives.  And there are in fact many unanswered questions that linger and hang over the soldiers, making their fragile return even more difficult and problematic.  When Season 1 ends, the cliffhanger presented makes one long for Season 2, now on order at HCPL.

 

7 Boxes, directed by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori

(In Spanish, with English subtitles)

Victor just wants to make a little money and maybe buy a TV set or a cool cell phone.  For now, he pushes a delivery cart in the market, looking for anyone who might need a load lifted and carted off.  When a shady butcher asks him to move seven wooden crates out of the butcher shop and keep them hidden for just a little while, the money offered is too much of a temptation. But then the boxes get stolen, and the butcher wants the boxes back, and Victor finds himself being pursued through the labyrinthine market of stalls and warehouses, all the while looking for his stolen cart and boxes.  Then he finds out what is in the boxes, and the game changes completely.  Life can be pretty dangerous in a Paraguayan marketplace.

   

Foreign Films New to View June 14

Friday, May 30th, 2014

The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer

(In Indonesian, with English subtitles)

This film is difficult and problematic.  In the mid-1960's, the Indonesian government condoned and supported the mass murder of anyone suspected of bearing left-wing sentiments, holding communist beliefs, supporting labor unions, or being a student or an intellectual – you know,  the usual suspects.  Hundreds of thousands of people died as a result. This movie documents the events not through newsreel footage but through the recollected narratives of the killers themselves, who, of course, roam freely throughout the land even now.  Nominated for an Academy Award this year, the film explores the actions of that handful of thugs who helped carry out a tyrannical government's edict to destroy dissension in Indonesia.  It is not a pleasure to watch, but it does exhibit something of the depths of evil to which people descend.  In between the narratives of the thugs, we see surreal scenes of musical numbers, while the killers playact the scenes of horror they performed so glibbly many years ago.  What is disturbing is the lack of compassion for the victims, the utter absence of any sense of wrongdoing, the continued support of the government for these policies, and the horrifying, ongoing presence of evil in that society.  Unsettling and nightmarish.

 

Approved for Adoption, directed by Jung Laurent Boileau

(In French, with English subtitles)

Filmmaker Jung Boileau was just a little five-year-old orphan in Korea when he was adopted by a Belgian family forty-some years ago.  Through a blend of animation, photography, and film, we follow Boileau as he adjusts to his new life and loving family.  Adjusting is not that easy, although his first several years seem only mildly difficult, with an occasional disturbing incident of racial prejudice or a vague sense of inequality that adopted children may feel now and then, that sense of not being quite loved as much or not belonging as fully as other family members. When Boileau grows into his teen years, problems do arise – in his behavior, in his sense of identity, in the manifestation of his rebellion.  These are difficult years for Boileau and his parents and siblings.  He looks into how he fit in or didn't fit in his family.  He returns to Korea as an adult only to understand that he is as much a foreigner there as in his home country of Belgium.  But above all in this story,  he seeks and finds where he is truly loved and where he truly belongs.  It is both a sad and joyful story documented here for us.

 

Armadillodirected by Janus Metz Pedersen

 (In Danish, with English subtitles)

Like other war documentaries before it, I am thinking of Restrepo, also owned by HCPL, this film focuses on the soldiers engaged in warfare in Afghanistan. The soldiers happen to be Danish.  Stationed in an isolated outpost called Armadillo, they are committed to making Afghanistan a better place, although  viewers and the soldiers themselves may have their doubts that this is an achievable goal.  We follow the men from deployment through a year of service and then beyond into a followup after they return home again.  While they long for actual engagement, most of their work is a daily grind of dealing with local village issues and just passing the time.  When they do see combat, we are right there with them, seeing what most of us hope never, ever to see, in all the realism that makes documentaries more than art, closer to life and, in this case, death. 

 

Bestiaire, directed by Denis Côté

(In French, with English subtitles)

The stars of this film are mostly four-legged.  They are animals who live in a safari park in Quebec, where we see them over a winter of being penned in and then into milder weather, when the two-leggeds of the world, we humans, visit them to gaze upon them in something of surprise and wonder.  The beasts of this safari park would rather that we not bother.  They clearly are not happy, and are distressed outside their natural environment and inside these cages and pens and fenced-in fields.  Still, the camera captures a beauty in them that shames us for holding the animals of the world in any kind of lesser status than we hold ourselves.  There really isn't any dialogue here; what words we hear are only background sounds and not important to the movie. What is important is the quiet dignity of these beautiful creatures, as they struggle to live on in a world unnatural to them and to their souls.

 

Disco & Atomic War, directed by Jaak Kilmi

(In Estonian, with English subtitles)

One of the more humorous of the documentaries discussed in this issue, maybe the only humorous one, this film looks at life in Estonia during the Cold War.  Our narrator grew up in the city of Tallinn, while Estonia was a nation within the Soviet Union, a nation perhaps a little too close to Sweden and Finland for the comfort of government officials.  Here, a clever person might figure out a way to rig an antenna that maybe could pick up Swedish and, by extension, American television.  Here, a resourceful boy might turn into the purveyor of news of what happened to J. R. Ewing in the lastest episode of Dallas.  Here, neighbors might collectively join ranks to outwit the police, hiding TV antennas and sharing news and secrets of the outside world.  And, yes, in that dark time of blocked access to information, our own "beautiful, fragile culture" that produced Dallas and Baywatch served to open a Soviet Bloc nation to the West, while people waited with bated breath to find out who killed J. R.

  

Hitler's Children, directed by Chanoch Ze'evi

(In German, with English subtitles)

So we know what happened to Hitler and his top henchmen – some killed themselves, some were hanged unto death, some served time in prison – but what of their children, their sons and daughters and grandchildren and nieces and nephews?  What of them?  How did they go on living, knowing their parents, grandparents, and uncles did what they did?  This documentary explores just that issue.  The children carry the guilt, and most seem fully aware of their family's deep shame for the past.  They make amends as best as they can, visiting places of their childhood that spark memories of darker times, exploring those memories for clues of what was really going on around them, but now with eyes open and hearts breaking.   

 

Le Joli Mai, directed by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme

(In French, with English subtitles)

In 1962, the people of France experienced something they had nearly forgotten existed:  peace.  The war in Algeria was over, or at least was at a standstill; the horrors of the previous world war were fading, as were its scars; and for the first time in years, Paris was alive with happiness.  This is a document of those heady days in the spring, when May was once again lovely.  Marker and Lhomme shot hours and hours of film of random Parisians, interviewing them and asking them about their lives and beliefs, their politics and convictions.  From shopkeepers, to laborers, to members of a wedding celebration, to students, the people of Paris speak out with bemusement and with annoyance, with joy and concern.  Collectively, they give us a sense of what it was like in those lovely days of spring in Paris.

 

 

Mademoiselle C, directed by Fabien Constant

(In English and French, with English subtitles)

Who is Carine Roitfeld?  She just happens to be one of the biggest names in high fashion, the editor of fashion magazines, including Vogue Paris, a constant presence in the world of designers, models, photographers, and magazine editors, in short, a fashion icon.  In this documentary, Fabien Constant follows Roitfeld as she shifts to a new endeavor, to create and publish a fashion magazine, CR Fashion Book.  Well, if any of the documentaries in this list unsettle you in their harsh realism, you may find this to be a delightful, if superficial, amusement, as the fashionistas of New York and Paris flit about, concerned about their own deadlines and rivalries, adornments and hairstyles.  Some excitement is truly infectious as Roitfeld prepares for the publication of her magazine that seriously puts the noses of other fashion editors out of joint.  In between Roitfeld's sessions with her personal ballet instructor and her consultations with designers, we meet her family and her associates, to add more to the celebration of her life.  If you find yourself leafing through Elle or Vogue while standing in the supermarket checkout line, wishing you were any place but there, you may want to lose yourself in Roitfeld's world.  This documentary will certainly open the door to another world for you.  If you like fashion documentaries, not necessarily foreign, you may want to try something even better than this,  Bill Cunningham New York, also owned by HCPL.  While Cunningham is not exclusively a fashion icon, his photography is iconic in itself, and a delightful segment of the film explores Fashion Week in Paris.

 

  My Perestroika, directed by Robin Hessman

(In Russian, with English subtitles)

Like Michael Apted's Up Series, this documentary focuses on adults, who reflect on their childhood and on how growing up in a world now gone impacts those adults even today.  The subjects of the film just happen to be children who lived in a very different Russia from what we know today.  Russia of the 1970's seemed almost a fairy tale in the recollections of the featured men and women.  It presented to them a magical, carefree time.  Then along came change in massive ways, with perestroika, the crumbling of the Soviet Union, the attempted coup in 1991, the unsettled decade of crime and capitalism that followed, and now, their present life under Putin.  The women and men reflect and consider life then and life now, with the expectations and realities that ordinary people must confront from day to day.

 

This Is Not a Film, directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmash and Jafar Panahi

(In Persian, with English subtitles)

Jafar Panahi is an Iranian film director forbidden to work on his craft by the Iranian government, which considers his work too controversial, too challenging for the Iranian people.  Panahi was arrested in 2010, tried, and sentenced to six years in prison, a sentence which he is now appealing.  While he awaits the outcome of that appeal, he resides as obscurely as possible in his apartment.  In  the same trial, he was also forbidden to direct films for twenty years; thus, his denial that this is a film.  It isn't, in a way, since he uses only a small video camera or his smartphone to record his actions occurring in a day.  While he allows us to see what he is doing on a typical day of confinement, he also reflects on the films he might make, were he allowed to make them.  This sort-of film also allows him to regard film itself as a medium and the nature of art within the real world.  Yes, it is philosophical and emerges as its own art form – at once a film and not a film; no, it is never a film, lest the Iranian government clamp down even more.   HCPL owns two other films directed by Panahi, Crimson Gold and Offside, and another in which he had a hand in the making, Border Cafe.

 

To Dance Like a Man, directed by Sylvia Collier

(In Spanish, with English subtitles)

This is perhaps the only truly joyful documentary in this month's list, and its attention is directed towards three boys, triplets, who love to dance. They are studying in the National Ballet School of Cuba, which hundreds of young people strive to attend to refine their skills in dance.  Cuba, by the way, is a country where ballet is a national pastime, greatly appreciated by the masses.  We follow the young boys as they audition for parts, go through routine exercies at the barre, and dance joyously in classical ballets.  We also meet other young students, as well as several young adult dancers and their instructors, who share their philosophy of dance.

Foreign Films New to View April 2014

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

An Enemy of the People, directed by Satyajit Ray

(In Bengali, with English subtitles)

This DVD is part of a larger collection of three Satyajit Ray films called Late Ray, which HCPL has chosen to offer individually.  This version of the Henrik Ibsen play is set in Bengal in the 1980's.  The dedicated Dr. Gupta is seeing more and more patients with cases of dangerous water-borne illnesses. When he suspects the source to be the sacred waters from a popular fountain in a Hindu temple, his efforts to close the temple to prevent illness and death are met with hostility by the local priestly and business communities.  And when his family is threatened as well, he sees how easily a society can turn against the bearer of difficult news. In short, he finds himself to be an enemy of the people.   HCPL owns several other films by Satyajit Ray in DVD format, including The Big CityThe Apu Trilogy, The Lonely Wife, and The Chess Players.

 

Himalaya, directed by Eric Valli

(In Tibetan, with English subtitles)

Tinle has been the village chief for decades, but when his son dies on a trading journey to the lowlands, he refuses to accept his son's friend Karma as his  successor.  Karma is fully as capable as Tinle's son and takes a sensible approach to village matters.  In fact, he wants to lead the next caravan before the winter snows set in, while Tinle would prefer to wait for the most auspicious moment to depart,  as determined by the gods.  Each man is hard-headed, and that stubborn nature may lead both into danger, but maybe together they can pull through successfully, if only they could lay aside their pride.

 

 

The Home and the Worlddirected by Satyajit Ray

 (In Bengali, with English subtitles)

An adaptation of a Tagore novel called Ghare Baire, this is perhaps the best of the three DVDs in the Late Ray collection, if one could choose a best Ray film.  Bimala knows only a little of the world outside of her domestic realm.  But when her husband, Nikhilesh, introduces her to his friend Sandip, she wonders if her sedate life is enough.  Sandip is a revolutionary; he holds radical political views in this time of  transition and rebellion in early 20th century India. Sandip's views are seductive to this isolated woman, but she will need to learn what love is and who it is who truly loves her and trusts her to seize the world on her own terms.

 

The Prey, directed by Eric Valette

(In French, with English subtitles)

Franck is a convicted bankrobber, who understands almost too late that his family is in imminent danger from a psychotic serial killer.  Complicating matters is the location of the loot from Franck's original crime.  Only he knows where the stolen money is hidden, and now a few others, such as his partners in crime, would also like to know it.  But first he must break out of prison to save his wife and child.  And then, on the run, he needs to outwit a serial killer, dodge the cops, and so much more.  Lots of action in this one…

 

 

The Returned (Season 1), directed by Fabrice Gobert and Frèdèric Mermoud

(In French, with English subtitles)

So what would it be like if one of your loved ones came back from the dead, looking pretty darn normal, acting normal as well – except for maybe that newly acquired voracious appetite?  Prepare to make a lot of sandwiches and snacks for your dearly departed. This is what happens in a small French city in the French Alps – worth watching just for the scenery, by the way.  Back they come, those departed loved ones, some from recent deaths, some from long ago, all seeming to be OK, as though nothing much has changed or occurred.  But then funny things begin to happen in the community, such as the water level upstream behind the nearby dam is dropping for no apparent reason.  Power outages occur as well.  Strange marks are developing on the living and the returned.  Something ominous is brewing in this town.  I'm sorry; I am not certain that I will be able to watch beyond Season 1 on this series; it just is getting a little too creepy.  But should the second season become available, count on HCPL purchasing it.  Maybe you will be able to watch beyond the climax of the first season, and then you can tell me what happened to all those police officers who were protecting the townspeople on the hill in that last sequence. 

  

The Stranger, directed by Satyajit Ray

(In Bengali, with English subtitles)

This is the third film from the Late Ray series.  Anila receives a letter from a long-lost relative, an uncle, who is a world traveler.  He hasn't been in Calcutta in decades, since Anila was a little girl, in fact.  Now, he wants to visit his only remaining relative.  At first Anila is thrilled, but her husband is suspicious that Manomohan may be truly a stranger and no relative at all.  Uncle Manomohan proves to be charming and seemingly who he claims to be.  Doubts persist though, and when doubt leads to insult, the family must consider what is truth and what is not, and what is the proper behavior towards strangers.

 

 

Wadjda, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour

(In Arabic, with English subtitles)

This Blu-ray also has a DVD, so if you do not have a Blu-ray player, watch it in DVD format.  Wadjda just wants to have fun.  But being a girl in Saudi Arabia doesn't give her much leeway.  Still, she strives for a bit of independence and individuality.  She wears hightops when every other girl at school settles for the ubiquitous plain black Mary Janes.  She counts a neighbor boy as her best friend.  And most of all, she wants a bicycle.  There isn't exactly a law forbidding her from riding a bike, but somehow it could compromise her virginity, according to her mother and many others.  Despite this admonition, she works and saves for a beautiful bike at a nearby toy store.  Meanwhile, her mother is fighting with her father because he wants to take a second wife so that he can have his precious son.  Wadjda is a determined girl, and sees hope where others would despair.  Well, it is a beautiful bike she wants, and that is reason enough to fight for what is right.

 

 

 

Young Detective Dee:  Rise of the Sea Dragon, directed by Tsui Hark

(In Mandarin, with English subtitles)

If you have seen Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame and enjoyed it, you may want to watch Young Detective Dee, which explores the early life and deeds of this inestimable Chinese official.  Detective Dee, by the way, is drawn from a real Chinese official, Di Renjie, who worked within the Tang Dynasty (618-906).  In this story, Empress Wu has sent for Dee to help with an investigation of a mysterious and very dangerous sea monster that is destroying whole fleets of ships.  More than that, it has slipped into the waterways inland and has even attacked a temple procession, thwarting the sacrifice of the beautiful courtesan, Yin.  But the plot involves more than a violent sea dragon.  There is also a nefarious plot in the works to overthrow the emporer.  Further, the sea monster is not all that he appears to be, and, yes, he has more to his life and features than a horrible monster might have.  Regardless, an even deadlier monster is about, and Dee needs to use all of his wisdom and his martial arts skills to save the empire.

 

 

  Zaytoun, directed by Eran Riklis

(In Hebrew, Arabic, and English, with English subtitles)

Refugees from Palestine now living in a camp in Lebanon,  Fahed's family wants only to go home again.  The 12-year-old's father, in fact, nurtures an olive tree sapling that he wishes above all to plant in the yard of his ancestral home. After Fahed is left an orphan, he has nowhere to go but to the men of the camp who train young boys to be fighters and terrorists.  When an Israeli jet crash lands and the pilot is captured, Fahed sees a way to get his olive tree and the pilot as well back to Israel.  And  from there, we have a road trip with Fahed and Yoni, helping each other through the treacherous journey back to Israel.  Struggling through adversity, stepping carefully through mine fields, both metaphoric and real, they pull together as road buddies to get to their destination alive.  Riklis also directed The Syrian Bride and The Lemon Tree, owned by HCPL.

 

Foreign Films New to View March 2014

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Anno 1790, directed by Richard Petrelius, Levan Akin, and Kristina Humle
(In Swedish, with English subtitles)
It is the end of the Age of Enlightenment, on the cusp on the Romantic Era, and Europe is engulfed in uprisings and revolutions.  A survivor of the Russo-Swedish War, Johan Gustav Dåådh is a physician, who just wants to go home after years of serving in the Swedish army. But first he has been asked to join the Stockholm police – not that he really wants to do so, but when he sees the level of corruption and injustice that irks, no, angers him, he submits and stays to solve a crime or two.  This Swedish TV series adds some historical perspective to what might have been yet another police procedural.  What is notable about the series is the historical details, mingled with the philosophy and thought of the late 18th century. Dåådh’s firm commitment to justice, no matter if the accused be a rich aristocrat or a poor shoemaker, enriches the already solid stories.
  

Berlin Alexanderplatz, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
(In German, with English subtitles)
Originally released in theatres, this 15.5-hour film, based on the novel of the same name by Alfred Döblin, found itself immersed in controversy when it was reshown on German TV as a miniseries.  Ostensibly, the outcry was over technical elements of the broadcast, but it may have emerged more from the story itself, especially from the portrayal of the main character.  In 1928, Franz Biberkopf has just been released from Berlin’s Tegel prison for murdering his sweetheart.  The series follows Franz as he readjusts to life outside of prison, engaged in dubious employment, dabbling in National Socialism and then Communism, falling in and out of love with various girlfriends, going on drunken binges, and generally engaging in unrepentive behavior.  While the world around him is becoming increasingly chaotic, with the unstable Weimar Republic, Biberkopf continues to stumble through life, erring and sinning and simply not understanding the dangers of life around him.  Fassbinder also directed The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and World on a Wire, both owned by HCPL.

Bombay Talkiesdirected by Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, and Anurag Kashyap
 (In Hindi, with English subtitles)
While there really was a film company in India called Bombay Talkies, this film is a celebration of movie-making in India on the occasion of its centenary year.  Consisting of four short films, each made by a different director, Bombay Talkies covers a variety of narratives.  One explores the complications that coming out can have in a young gay man’s life.  Another is an adaptation of a story by India’s greatest film director, Satyajit Ray, about a failed actor who finds joy in amusing his ailing daughter with his antics.  Still another takes a look at a young boy who wants nothing more than to be a Bollywood star,  and the last examines a father-son relationship in which a father asks his grown son to fulfill a last wish for him. All four reveal the modernity and sophistication of Indian films today, in this 100th-year celebration.  

Don Matteo, directed by Enrico Oldoino
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
HCPL owns for now only two sets of episodes in this long-running Italian TV detective series.  Don Matteo is a much-loved parish priest, who hears confessions, says Mass, and solves crimes, not necessarily in that order.  He excels in his priestly duties, but he’s very good at this business of crime-solving too. Riding his bicycle, blue eyes flashing, priestly cassock flowing about his legs, beret jauntily perched on his head, he cuts a fine figure in the streets of his town.  There goes the priest, off to solve another mystery, using his deep awareness of the complexities of human nature to help him along.  Since his spirituality also informs his crime-solving, this adds another level of interest to the stories. 

The Hunt, directed by Thomas Vinterberg
(In Danish, with English subtitles)
What would you do if you were accused of being the worst kind of criminal, a pedophile, and all of your known world of friends and community turned against you?  This is what Lucas experiences when he is accused of exposing himself to one of his kindergarten charges.  It is truly all a misunderstanding that the little girl tries desperately to undo in her five-year-old inarticulate way, but the damage is done. The suspicion is there.  Worst of all, the supposed victim is the daughter of Lucas’s best friend.  Now he faces losing everything – his job, his place in his community, his friends, even his family.  He lives in a close-knit small town, so to be cast out is bad enough, but then  Lucas decides to fight back, to stick it out and demand that his accusers see his innocence.  This could be a devastatingly dangerous strategy in a rural community of hunters well honed in their skills with their rifles.  But Lucas also is a hunter and understands the nature of hunters and prey.    

Madras Cafe, directed by Soojit Sircar
(In Hindi, with English subtitles)
A political spy thriller, Madras Cafe takes a look at very real events in India’s recent history, to wit, the civil war in Sri Lanka and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.  Vikram Singh serves in the Indian Army Special Ops, working on  complicated and dangerous Sri Lankan issues.  Along the way, he meets a beautiful British journalist, who is investigating the current events of the region.  Fast-paced and action-packed, the film might reveal to American viewers some of the murkier aspects of Indian politics. 

Maria Wern, directed by Erik Leijonborg
(In Swedish, with English subtitles)
Maria Wern is a police inspector on the Swedish island of Gotland.  As a widow with two young children, she seems to be living under the delusion that she will find peace and security on this quiet island.  Ha! In the very first episode owned by HCPL, she has a killer in her own backyard.  In fact, her little daughter finds a corpse.  So there you go, Maria; no peace and quiet for you.  But the crimes are intriguing and the cases complicated enough to keep a viewer on edge and looking forward to the next episode.

Spiral, season 1, directed by Pascal Chaumeil and Pilippe Triboit
(In French, with English subtitles)
I almost had to stop watching this TV series because of the gruesome content, but the stories and characters from episode to episode are compelling and pull the viewer in.  When a once-beautiful young woman is found in a dumpster, dead and mutilated, a team of Parisian investigators get to work.  But the crime is much more complicated than they have anticipated, and murky lines begin to emerge in the investigation, confusing the path of clues that this homicide squad has.  The plot spins further out, with questions of corruption in the justice system and adding more layers of crimes to the story.  I have been told that this series is completely addictive, so be prepared to watch all the episodes owned by HCPL.



The Foreign Films New to View Dec 13

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

December 2013

To subscribe to our Foreign Films Newsletter, click here.

Foreign Films
New to View

Vol. 7, No. 12

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/.

All About My Mother, directed by Pedro Almodóvar

(In Spanish, with English subtitles)

Pedro Almodóvar does it again, with a complex plot involving numerous female characters, all with their own issues and problems, displayed with both a touch of humor and the serious. Manuela is a nurse who works in an organ transplant department in a medical facility in Madrid. She is a single mother, raising her splendid son, Esteban, who wants two things in life: to be a writer and to find his father, long missing from Manuela’s life. When tragedy strikes, Manuela goes on a journey to Barcelona to find answers to puzzles in her own life. Here we meet that cast of eccentric women and female wannabes, from an aging actress, to a social worker nun, to a transsexual, and so on. This film feels epic in its scope but on a domestic level, raising the question: are our ordinary lives in and of themselves epic? Maybe so…If you like Almadovar, try some other DVDs of his films owned by HCPL, including Volver and Talk to Her.

The Big City, directed by Satyajit Ray

(In Bengali, with English subtitles)

How does Satyajit Ray do it? How does he take ordinary people and make their little lives so compelling? Arati is a young housewife, trying to make ends meet on her husband’s small salary, while caring for her little son, her young sister-in-law, and her husband’s elderly parents. When it becomes clear that Subrata’s salary will no longer be enough, Arati gets a job. Although she has little confidence in herself, before long her self-esteem grows, as does her salary. But tensions rise in the little household, and conflicts edge into the open. When Arati is faced with a moral injustice at work, she has to make a decision, one that may involve a level of courage she is not certain she has. Considering that this movie was made in 1963, it is unusually enlightened and progressive in its message, but then again, it’s a movie by Satyajit Ray. If you like this film, consider watching some other Ray films on DVD owned by HCPL, including the renowned Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito, and The World of Apu), The Chess Players, and The Lonely Wife.

Gippi, directed by Sonam Nair

(In Hindi, with English subtitles)

Fourteen-year-old Gippi is a typical teenager, maybe just a tad overweight and definitely not very sure of herself. She sulks and complains, but basically, she’s a good kid, cheering up her divorced mother and keeping her pesty little brother in line. When the school mean girl goes after her, while flaunting a new, good-looking boyfriend, Gippi maneuvers her way into the life of an older high school student, who is very, very hot. Mean Girl can see through that one, and a big public humiliation for Gippi leads to some soul-searching and turnarounds in her life.

In the Fog, directed by Sergi Loznitsa

(In Russian, with English subtitles)

The fog of this film is both the real fog that drifts in and out of the dense woods of war-torn 1942 Belarus, as well as the fog of war. The confusion and mistakes in understanding when in the midst of battle congeal in the story of Sushenya, a simple railroad worker, who is mistaken for a collaborator with the German occupying forces. Actually, he is innocent, but that is not the impression the members of the resistance have, or even of his own community and family. For his supposed betrayal, he is to be executed for seeming to be something he is not. But at the moment of execution, a firefight erupts, with one resistance fighter disappearing into the woods and another severely wounded. Now it is Sushenya who must consider his moral position here – to carry the wounded fighter to possible safety or to flee into the forest as well. The meanness of war and the darkness that it evokes swirl around the men, like the ever-present fog drifting through the trees in a haunted world.

In the House, directed by Francois Ozon

(In French, with English subtitles)

Germain is a literature teacher at a high school of rather typical students: no one in particular stands out in terms of talent; no one holds much interest for him. Then one student, Claude, turns in his composition assignment, and Germain’s attention perks up. Claude, it seems, is a bit of a voyeur. While he himself lives a sad life in a broken home with an ailing father who needs his care, Claude has been observing from afar the loving, stable family of his classmate Rapha. He has since insinuated himself into the family and then has written about his escapades, drawing closer and closer to Rapha and his mother in particular. Germain must consider the moral aspects of this continuing writing assignment: does he continue to encourage an obviously talented young man to write (perhaps in the style of Flaubert or Dostoevsky!), or does he stop this nonsence that could easily lead into dangerous territory? His debates with his wife about this lead nowhere, as Germain is his own man, bound and determined to find that one potentially great writer, no matter what the outcome. Ozon also directed Hideaway and Potiche, also owned by HCPL.

War of the Buttons, directed by Christophe Barratier

(In French, with English subtitles)

Please note that HCPL owns an Australian production of this same story, bearing the same name, but of course with different young actors and so on. Try this one, if you would prefer to see a French story in, well, French. We find ourselves in occupied France during World War II, and although this country village lends a certain degree of protection to its occupants, the war is very much present in the form of collaborators, willing community supporters of the Nazis, and those fighting them or hiding from them. Children in two neighboring villages engage in their own war of sorts, with slingshots and cudgels. It’s something closer to play or childish rivalry, with some bruises and bruised egos, but nothing serious. It’s a matter of collecting buttons from the losers in each engagement, with some embarrassing consequences, as kids make their ways home sans culottes. But war is war, and a young Jewish girl needs to keep her identity hidden in the midst of the children’s frivolity – not easily done in a small village. The children just may be able to help her, though, despite the evil around them.

The Young Montalbano, directed by Gianlucca Tavarelli

(In Italian, with English subtitles)

If you like the Detective Montalbano series, of which HCPL owns many episodes, you may want to meet the same characters in their younger manifestations – Salvo Montalbano, Catarella, Augello, and even the young Fazio. Besides giving viewers some details on the background of these police detectives, the mysteries are solid and usually devoid of the typical grizzly and gruesome images that some TV detective series have. Episode One focuses on a peace-loving shepherd accused of killing a local bully. Episode Two takes a look at the murder of a man in a hotel room on New Year’s Eve. Episode Three involves a kidnapping, from which the young victim is released, but why was she kidnapped in the first place? As is typical of these stories, not just one, but a few plots are deftly interwoven to add levels of complexity to the stories.

New Release Tuesday – October 7

Monday, October 7th, 2013

New Release Tuesday, October 7:

After Earth

Alaska: the last frontier

American Horror Story Season 2

Bones Season 8

Hangover Part III

Home Run

Jesus Christ Superstar Live Arena Tour

Much Ado About Nothing

My Little Pony: a very minty Christmas

Psych Season 7

90210 Final Season

Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc.

Swan Princess Christmas

The Middle Season 3

We Steal Secrets: the story of Wikileaks

White Collar Season 4

WWE Goldberg: the ultimate collection

Newly Requestable DVDs – September 9

Monday, September 9th, 2013
ADULT DVDs
Beautiful Creatures
Cloud Atlas
A Common Man
Dark Skies
Dorfman in Love
Duke
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
A Haunted House
Hitchcock
Hyde Park on Hudson
If I Were You
In the Hive
Jack Reacher
John Dies at the End
The Last Stand
Liz & Dick
Mighty Fine
The Num8ers Station
Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn
The Oranges
Parker
Promised Land
Revenge for Jolly!
Safe Haven
The Seven Year Hitch
Stand Up Guys
Steel Magnolias
Texas Chainsaw
Wuthering Heights
JUVENILE DVDs
Adventures of Bailey : A Night in Cowtown
Barney : Dance with Barney
Bubble Guppies:  Sunny days!
Doc McStuffins: Time for your checkup.
Fraggle Rock:  Meet the Fraggles
The Jungle Book
LEGO Batman: DC Superheroes Unite
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Princess Twilight Sparkle
Pound puppies: Mission adoption
Team umizoomi: Animal heroes

 

Parkour – A Moving Art

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

In case you missed the article in the 8 August 2013, edition of The New York Times, parkour is back in the news.  Parkour is the art of moving through urban spaces from point A to point B by using anything in that space that can get you where you want to go.  It was at least in part inspired by military obstacle-course training, but now shift that to an urban setting, where you have walls and balconies, steps and nearly anything else to enhance your movements.  It is a combination of gymnastics, obstacle-course movement, and much more.  For anyone interested in seeing some  exciting sequences of parkour, why not watch a couple of DVDs owned by HCPL?  They are District B13 and D13-U – District 13:  UltimatumBoth star David Belle, one of the founders of parkour.  Be prepared for great, heart-stopping action in both movies.

D. L. S.