Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

Foreign Films July 13

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Breathing, directed by Karl Markovics

(In German, with English subtitles)

Roman is serving time in a juvenile detention center, and it looks as though he will remain there a long time. He has no family; he has difficulty connecting to others in society; and he’s in for a murder charge. With confidence neither in himself nor in the justice system, he doesn’t have much hope for probation. But a job in a mortuary changes his view of himself and of the world. When he sees a woman’s corpse, a woman who bears his last name, he wonders if this could be his mother. It isn’t, but this starts him on a journey, both a geograpic one and a deeper, spiritual one, in which he seeks out his mother, searches for answers to some dark, lingering fears, and grasps at an understanding of and redemption for the crime he has committed.

Cold Prey II, directed by Mats Stenberg

(In Danish, with English subtitles)

If Cold Prey wasn’t creepy enough for you, if you did not get your fill of bloodly and gory violence inflicted upon young adults just wanting to have some fun in an abandoned hotel in the mountains, then you may want to try this sequel. And it begins just where the original ended. Jannicke, our intrepid survivor, is in the hospital after her slasher ordeal with the mountain man/killer-of-young-adults, where his body now lies in the morgue. Unfortunately, when he exhibits signs of life, the medical staff feel compelled by various oaths of ethics to revive him, much to their later regret. Well, they should have known…really. With the mountain man on the loose once more, it is left to Jannicke, yet again, to stop him before too many more bodies pile up. I have heard a rumor that Cold Prey III is out – a prequel. I will be certain to consider it for purchase should it become available, to satisfy anyone’s curiosity about what has happened before all this mayhem and maybe also why the mountain man feels so compelled to cause blood to flow.

Gate of Hell, directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa

(In Japanese, with English subtitles)

A young samurai falls in love with a woman he has rescued during a turbulent and dangerous uprising, but finds out later that she is already married. With his ambition to marry her thwarted, he persists, to the point where she fears being compromised. She also finds her beloved husband in danger, when it becomes clear that the samurai would even kill to get what he wants. What is remarkable in this 1953 film is the color: sumptuous and ravishing. While the story hinges on an obsession strong enough to result in tragedy, it also grants the viewer a feast for the eyes.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, directed by Takashi Miike

(In Japanese, with English subtitles)

Something of a remake of an earlier Hara-Kiri, Miike’s version is different in both form and content. Tsugumo is a samurai fallen on hard times. He approaches the lord of the local noble house to request that he be allowed to commit ritual suicide as a way of leaving this world in honor. Before granting his wish, the lord tells him a cautionary tale of a recent similar event, one that ended very badly for a young man, who might have been bluffing about committing suicide, instead hoping for a much-needed handout. While Tsugumo listens patiently to the tragic story, one suspects that there is more to it all. Indeed, Tsugumo not only knew Motome, the young man, but loved him as a son. And so he in turn tells a tale that should put the lord and his court to shame, a tale of hard luck and tragedy, with desperate people taking desperate measures to survive, a tale that should inform the prosperous and arrogant lord of the need for mercy and compassion in a hard world. Miike also directed 13 Assassins, a popular samurai film owned in DVD format by HCPL.

Lore, directed by Cate Shortland

(In German, with English subtitles)

When the Third Reich fell in 1945, both guilty and innocent continued their suffering, with the occupation of troops and the disintegration of society. Hannalore, called Lore by her family, is both innocent and guilty. While the fourteen-year-old has not commited any war crimes herself, she is a Nazi child through and through. Before her parents are taken into custody for their parts in the horrors of their nation, they admonish her to travel with her younger siblings in tow to her grandmother’s house in Hamburg, a distance from the Bavarian Black Forest of about 500 miles. It is a nightmare of post-war chaos that greets Lore, with her young charges in hand. Together they discover that traveling on foot is less adventurous, as Lore tries to make her brothers and sister believe, and far more dangerous, even deadly. Along the way, they find Thomas, a young Jewish man, who is the only one with proper papers for safe passage north. While he helps them, he remains a mystery, since he doesn’t match the identity of the man whose papers they were. Even with his extended hand of help, Lore persists in believing in the Reich and in her hatred of Jews, Americans, and nearly everyone else not of Aryan German descent. Only later, at the journey’s end, will she glimpse some understanding of the real nightmare of the clash between beliefs and reality, between good and evil.

Neighboring Sounds, directed by Kleber Mendonca Filho

(In Portugeuse, with English subtitles)

A neighborhood of reasonably prosperous souls in the city of Recife in Brazil is the setting for this film. The inhabitants are a mix of those who live in relative prosperity and those who serve them, whether it be delivering bottled water, cleaning a flat, or providing security. While the movie has little plot and is perhaps overly long, it is worth sticking out if only to appreciate the subtle buildup to an unfolding tension with a surprising crescendo. The sounds of the neighborhood become a kind of character – a dog barking off screen, horns honking, doors closing, a car alarm blaring. All seem to follow the human characters, ever present, ever reminders of a foreboding that lies under the sweet familiarity of a neighborhood, a lurking danger that may or may not be out to get us.

Purple Noon, directed by Rene Clement

(In French, with English subtitles)

If you have read Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley or if you have seen the recent movie adaptation with Matt Damon, you may feel that seeing a film version made in 1960 is not necessary. Think again. First of all, Purple Noon stars Alain Delon in all his youthful loveliness. And secondly, this version is as tense and suspenseful as can be and is well worth the watch. If you have read the book, you know how this one goes; the film follows the book closely enough. If you are not familiar with the story, let us just say that the more-or-less impoverished Tom Ripley is hired by the father of Philippe Greenleaf to persuade the wealthy, profligate son to return from Italy where he has been living the life of leisurely abandon, to assume his more pressing obligations in the U.S. Tom finds along the way that he rather likes living in a wealthy lifestyle. So he contrives to make Philippe disappear and assumes his identity along with his riches. Murder, suspicion, and a cat-and-mouse game ensue, with the Italian police pursuing Tom, who is clever enough to keep the game going. Tense and gripping and, of course, there is Delon. Clement also directed Forbidden Games, Gervaise, and Is Paris Burning?

HARFORD COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY SEARCHES FOR STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE FOR BOARD MEMBERSHIP

Monday, January 7th, 2013

(Belcamp, Maryland – January 7, 2013) The Harford County Public Library Board of Trustees is seeking a Student Liaison representative as an ex officio member of the Board. The Student Liaison is chosen in cooperation with public and private high schools in Harford County and applicants should currently be in their junior year and will serve during their senior year. Student applications must be submitted by Friday, March 15th. The role of Student Liaison is to obtain input on library services, policies, and materials collections from their peers, to encourage teens to consider librarianship as a career, to encourage use of library services by teens, and to gain practical experience in the operations of their government.

The Board of Library Trustees will interview candidates and select a Student Liaison representative to serve for one year, beginning July 2013. The Student Liaison representative is a member of the Board and receives agendas and all non-confidential Board materials. He or she is a non-voting member and is excluded from participation in executive sessions.
The student representative must:
• Be a resident of Harford County
• Have parental/guardian permission to serve
• Meet the Eligibility Requirements for Participation in Extra-Curricular Activities of the county schools or their private school

No salary is paid for the service, but appropriate expenses will be paid on the same basis of other Board members. Credit for the student representatives’ service may be provided if their schools’ policy permits.

The application can be found online at hcplonline.org. Please return completed application and essay to: Mary Hastler, Director, Harford County Public Library, 1221-A Brass Mill Road, Belcamp, MD 21017 no later than March 15th.

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New Release Tuesday – January 8

Friday, January 4th, 2013

New Release Tuesday, January 8:

Angelina Ballerina Dance Around the World

Barney: Let’s Go to the Moon

Dredd

Enlightened Season 1

Frankenweenie

Game Change

George Lopez: It’s Not Me, It’s You

The Hour Season 2

House At the End of the Street

Jim Henson’s Pajanimals: Pajanimals Play

Midsomer Murders Set 21

Now Is Good

Red Dwarf X

Samsara

Stolen

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! – Best of Widget