Foreign Films New to View June 14

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.

New Release Tuesday – May 27

May 23rd, 2014

Child’s Pose

Covert Affairs Season 4

Dora the Explorer: Dora and Boots best friends

Jack Irish Series 2

Journey to the West

Kennedys: triumph and tragedy

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 2

Pioneers of television, Season 4

Suits Season 3

The Universe Season 7

New Release Tuesday – May 20

May 19th, 2014

About Last Night

Duck Dynasty: Days of Summer

Grand Piano

In Secret

Journey to the West

McCanick

Pompeii

Terry Fator: Live in Concert

The Monuments Men

Three Days to Kill

Vampire Academy

Warehouse 13, Season 5

New Release Tuesday – May 13

May 13th, 2014

Arthur: Arthur makes a movie

Eastbound and Down Season 4

Easy Money

Her

I, Frankenstein

Longmire Season 2

Martha Speaks: Martha’s superhero adventure

Nut Job

Orange is the New Black

Paw Patrol

Ride Along

Scooby-Doo 13 Spooky Tales: field of scream

Stalingrad

That Awkward Moment

Foreign Films New to View May 14

May 2nd, 2014

The Broken Circle Breakdown, directed by Felix Van Groeningen

(In Flemish, with English subtitles)

Didier is a Belgian who loves America, specifically American bluegrass music, but anything American is fine with him.  When he meets Elise, a tattoo artist from Ghent, he may not understand what lies ahead, but Elise has an idea that it will include her.  So she joins his bluegrass band as the lead singer, and off they go, down that road of life, with all its joys and sorrows.  The sorrows they find along the way are in fact overwhelming.  Cutting back and forth in time, the film shows us Maybelle, their youg daughter, who develops leukemia, the greatest trial of their life together.  All along the way, from marital spats to Maybelle's ordeals to Didier's gradual understanding that America does not necessarily hold the answers to life's worries, the music pulls them along, with both exuberance and sorrowful laments.  The music is purely American and a pleasure to hear, even if you are not a bluegrass fan.

 

The Grandmaster, directed by Wong Kar-wai

(In Mandarin, with English subtitles)

For those who like martial arts films, especially those of Wong Kar-wai, be prepared for a treat.  Although when the film opens martial arts hero Ip Man is forty, he is still in his spring of life.  The current grandmaster of martial arts fighting is retiring and is looking for a worthy successor.  Several masters of different martial arts styles present themselves to the grandmaster, but only one will reign.  While the fighting styles differ profoundly, while the rivalries between masters grate, and while tensions between masters smolder, what is most important is staving off the the Japanese, who have invaded China.  The film takes us through the worst of those terrible times and leaves us with Ip Man's place as grandmaster firmly in his grasp, with balletic, thrilling fight scenes all along the way.  HCPL owns several films by Wong Kar-wai in DVD format, including In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, Ashes of Time Redux, and the English-language My Blueberry Nights

 

The Great Beautydirected by Paolo Sorrentino

 (In Italian, with English subtitles)

Jep Gambardella wrote a novel forty years earlier, a huge hit, an enduring classic, but since then, he's done nothing much.  Yes, it is true that he is the king of the nightlife in Rome; true, he gives the best parties for his socialite friends; true, he glides effortlessly through a life of leisure, an increasingly bored observer of the world around him, but what else has he done?  When Jep finds out that the love of his life from many years ago is dead, he begins to reflect on the utter uselessness of his own life and just what his legacy will be when he also leaves this world. Some critics have called this an updated La Dolce Vita, and I agree that it holds a touch of Fellini in Jep's ennui and the film's images that at times feel hallucinogenic.  Winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this movie is visually stunning and worth a view just to gaze on the images of magnificent Rome, eternally beautiful.  Sorrentino also directed two other movies owned by HCPL in DVD format:  Il Divo and the English-language production This Must Be the Place.

 

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, directed by Elio Petri

(In Italian, with English subtitles)

This is a Blu-ray/DVD combination, so if you do not have a Blu-ray player, do not hesitate to borrow it anyway.  This older film focuses on a police detective on the threshhold of a promotion out of Homicide and into the political division, who murders his mistress and then helps in the investigation of the very crime he has committed.  He leaves clues, points out errors in the investigation, practically cries out his guilt, but he is so above suspicion that no one regards his efforts.  The film settles into a Pirandellian atmosphere as the police detective, who remains unnamed throughout, tries in more and more desperate ways to alert the investigators to his culpability.  Absurdity is only half of it.  The film stresses the dangers of fascism, as it becomes clear that the political division in this police department is deeply involved in disrupting political dissent in a time when all of Europe seemed to be exploding with rebellion.

 

Lost Islands, directed by Reshef Levi

(In Hebrew, with English subtitles)

The Levi family is large and full of life.  The parents and five sons live in Israel in the 1970's,when, like today, war is always on the horizon.  Still,they find joy in life and in each other, particularly the twin teenaged sons, Ofer and Erez. When a new girl begins attending their school, rivalry and conflict arise between the twins.  More than that, though, Erez begins to see chinks in the wall of solidarity and harmony surrounding the family, and he recognizes that families are way more complicated than they may seem.  Can a brother forgive a brother for wooing a girlfriend from him?  Can a son forgive a father for a betrayal?  Can a father forgive a son for an irrevocable act that changes the lives of everyone in the Levi family?  Despite this, the strength of family is maybe what will ultimately hold it all together.

  

Our Children, directed by Joachim Lafosse

(In French, with English subtitles)

The horrific crimes committed in this film happen early on, so the story focuses on the why of it all.  What is it that can push a person to do what is done?  Based on a true crime committeed some years before the making of the film, the story protrayed is both intriguing and deeply sorrowful.  When Murielle and Mounir marry, they seem to have everything, thanks to Mounir's adoptive father, André.  But André has a way of slipping into the young couple's lives, with Murielle being more disturbed by his intrusions than Mounir, who is, after all, André's son.  While on the one hand the family grows and thrives, Murielle's life is becoming more and more diminished.  Her struggles to articulate her confusion and frustration as well as her feelings of being trapped are met with some scepticism from her young husband and outright opposition from André.  How can Murielle escape this prison of generosity with such a huge price?  Frustration builds to rage, with leads to horror.  Lafosse also directed Private Property, owned by HCPL in DVD format.

 

 

Patience Stone, directed by Atiq Rahimi

(In Persian, with English subtitles)

An unnamed woman ministers to her comatose, unnamed husband in their house in an unnamed city in Afghanistan, amidst an unnamed conflict.  In this way, The Patience Stone reflects the universality of this particular woman's ongoing plight.  She stands for many more women in Afghanistan and other lands supported by patriarchal societies.  Her husband used to be a fighter, who in a stupid argument was shot in the neck and now lies immobilized, all but abandoned, as is also his wife, by family and friends.  A mullah makes a half-hearted attempt to appear to be concerned, but for the most part, our protagonist works alone to keep her husband alive and comfortable.  What will she do if her husband dies?  Is there a way  that she can survive on her own?  As she slowly discovers, she is doing that right now, surviving through her own wits and wisdom, doing what she has to do to keep on living in a world as cold as a winter morning, while her husband lies staring with the nothingness of a man dead to her plight.

 

 

Polisse, directed by Maiwenn

(In French, with English subtitles)

Polisse tells the stories of a Parisian police unit that focuses on crimes against children, and those crimes are legion. They include sexual abuse and violence, some of which is not even recognized by the perpetrators as abuse, so ingrained is it all in the culture.  An imam wants to marry off his child daughter; Gypsies groom their little ones for a a life of pickpocketing and other petty and larger crimes;  a father sexually abuses his daughter.  The police in the unit may have their own messy lives, but when on the job, they lay that aside to fight for what is right and just.  The various stories can be hard to take, but they are riveting and bring home two points:  that this is a harsh world, especially for female children, and that in some countries, the state is willing to fight to protect those children to the bitter end.

Newly Requestable DVDs – May 2

May 2nd, 2014
ADULT DVD TITLES
A.C.O.D. Adult Children of Divorce.
Bad grandpa
Be my Valentine
Best man down
Blue caprice
Blue Jasmine
The butler
C.O.G.
Captain Phillips
Carrie
Cloudy with a chance of meatballs. 2
Despicable me 2
Don Jon
Enough said
Fast & furious 6
The fifth estate
Fruitvale Station
Hidden away
I’m in love with a church girl
In a world
Jobs
Kick-ass 2
Last love
Last Vegas
Muhammad Ali’s greatest fight
Richard the Lionheart
Runner runner
Short term 12
A single shot
Snow Queen
The sound of music : live!
The spectacular now
Thanks for sharing
You’re next

 

 

JUVENILE DVD TITLES
The adventures of Chuck & friends. Trucks versus wild
Angelina Ballerina. On with the show
The Berenstain Bears count their blessings
Cat in the hat knows a lot about that! Let’s celebrate!
Chuggington : Special helper Wilson.
Donkey Kong Country. Kong fu.
LEGO legends of CHIMA. The lion, the crocodile and the power of CHI
Martha speaks. Puppies! Puppies! Puppies!
Mickey Mouse clubhouse : super adventure!
My Little Pony : Classic movie collection
Pokemon the movie. Genesect and the legend awakened
Scooby-Doo! 13 spooky tales : for the love of snack.
Tom & Jerry’s Global games.
Touchdown Charlie Brown!

 

New Release Tuesday – May 6

May 2nd, 2014

Adventure Time: the suitor

Justin Bieber’s Believe

Simon and the Oaks

Veronica Mars

New Release Tuesday – April 29

April 30th, 2014

Approved for Adoption

Bad Country

Bag Man

Devil’s Due

47 Ronin

Gimme Shelter

Gloria

Legend of Hercules

Little Rascals Save the Day

Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob You’re Fired

Super Skyscrapers

New Release Tuesday – April 22

April 21st, 2014

Chinese Zodiac

Good Witch’s Garden

Monster High: frights, camera, action!

Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Neighbors from Hell

New Release Tuesday – April 15

April 14th, 2014

Anger Management, Volume 3

Angry Birds Toons: Season 1, Volume 2

Barney: Happy Birthday, Barney!

Black Nativity

Bletchley Circle, Season 2

Endless Love

Flowers in the Attic

Gabby Douglas Story

Great Expectations

Invisible Woman

Making of a Lady

Murder on the Home Front

Philomena

Ripper Street, Season 2

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Thomas & Friends Railway Mischief