Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brothel Lights (2011)

Brothel Lights (2011)
 Director: Aleksandr Gordon
 Country: Russia
 Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes

 Odessa, 1958. The mistress of a small brothel is a real beauty with a strong personality, a character who is at once deep and tragicomic.
Mum Liuba quits her job. Her future is to become the wife of a sea captain and to spend the best years of her life quietly and without worries. Instead of the well-off captain, Liuba chooses the fragile poet and soothsayer Adam. The plan for her personal life changes suddenly. As Mum Liuba says, “a shame for people, especially everybody”.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Le Havre (2011)

Le Havre (2011)
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
Country: Finland
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes

 In this warmhearted portrait of the French harbor city that gives the film its name, fate throws young African refugee Idrissa into the path of Marcel Marx, a well-spoken bohemian who works as a shoeshiner. With innate optimism and the unwavering support of his community, Marcel stands up to officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic cinema of Jean-Pierre Melville and Marcel Carné, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight.

Marcel Marx was once a renowned writer. These days, he lives in exile in the town of Le Havre, where he works as a shoeshine boy. It is not the most remunerative of professions, but it brings him close to people and he is content with his life, which he divides between his work, his wife Arletty and the corner bar where he takes his daily tipple. Then one day, Marcel’s happy routine is suddenly disturbed when his path crosses that of an African child immigrant... ~ Fimsdefrance

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Native Dancer(2008)

Native Dancer
 Director: Gulshat Omarova
 Country: Kazakhstan
 Runtime: 82

 An aged femme shaman, gangsters and assorted innocents are thrown together in Kazakhstan-set drama "Baksy," helmer Guka Omarova's fluent sophomore outing. Although slightly less resonant than her similarly noir-inflected debut, "Schizo," the latest pic pulls off the same trick of making well-worn crime plotting look entirely natural within its Central Asian setting. Pic will definitely enjoy fest play, but the chances of "Baksy" securing wide distribution don't look any better than they did for "Schizo," which had a limited release Stateside and in a handful of Euro territories in 2005.
Wily and spry, but apparently as old as the windswept hills she lives beside, Aidai (Neisipkul Omarbekova) is a shaman, or baksy, in the local lingo. Endowed with psychic powers, she lives in a remote compound where visitors come in search of lost things, people or spiritual healing. Invariably, Aidai's predictions are correct, her healing powers the real deal, and the pic never questions the reality of supernatural forces in this contempo setting.

Some clients stay on to help Aidai out. Ten-year-old boy Asan (Almat Ayanov) is still living with Aidai after she cured him of his grief in the wake of his mother's death; the boy's father, businessman Batir (Farkhat Amankulov), who actually owns the ground the campsite's on, visits often.

Wanting to build a gas station and roadhouse on the campsite, super-smooth gangster Arman (Nurlan Alimzhanov) pressures Batir to sell the land, but he resists out of loyalty to Aidai. Nevertheless, Arman bribes cops into threatening to arrest the shaman. Rather than surrendering, Aidai wills her own heart to stop, although she miraculously resurrects later that day in the morgue and walks out.

About halfway through, the script, co-written by Omarova and Russian helmer Sergei Bodrov ("Mongol"), turns down the volume on the mysticism and ups the thriller element when Arman kidnaps Asan. Editing ratchets up the tension as Batir and Co. must either raise the ransom or find the hiding place, and the action incorporates scenes in the gritty, mean streets of Almaty, Kazakhstan's capital.

These urban sequences make a refreshing change from the continual emphasis on spectacular local scenery one finds in most Kazakh-set cinema. Indeed, Omarova and lenser Rafik Gallev don't rely on long shots for effect as much as one would expect, opting for tighter compositions that emphasize the people in the frame and their relationships. It's only when Aidai climbs the hills to her summon their magical powers, wailing on the summit and spinning around like a demented Kazakh version of Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music," does one get a sense of the synergy between character and environment.

Guka Omarova's fiery new feature sets witchcraft and the mob against each other on the dusty plains of Kazakhstan. Aidai (Nesipkul Omarbekova) is an elderly spiritual healer, a “Kazakh Baksy” who has the power to find a person's lost soul, heal the crippled and locate stolen cattle. For years, Aidai has been serving her local Kazakh community and living off the land of a rich businessman, Batyr (Farkhat Amankulov), who feels indebted to her because she helped his wife to conceive. When local gangsters decide that Batyr's land would be a prime location for a petrol station and a motel, Aidai puts up a fight, as the land is what connects her to her spiritual powers. Ignoring threats from the gangsters, Batyr goes away on vacation, but when he returns Aidai has disappeared and his land has been excavated. He is furious, so when the petrol station burns down in a freak accident, it seems like just revenge – until his son is kidnapped. Devastated and at a loss, Batyr goes looking for Aidai's help. Co-written and produced by the great Russian director Sergei Bodrov (Mongol), Native Dancer evokes the mysticism of fantasy and the thrills of a gangster film. Featuring strong, naturalistic performances, especially from Omarbekova (a real-life witch doctor), Native Dancer recalls the earthy visual style of Omarova's last film, Schizo, which played at the Festival in 2004. But with its hybridized genres, Native Dancer is far more epic in its scope. In this highly accomplished work, Omarova has crafted a captivating story that astutely highlights the clash between old Kazakh customs and the new Kazakhstan. Aida Begic's Snow, also playing at the Festival this year, touches on similar issues. As capitalist forces begin to encroach on tradition, the first casualty is often a culture's most fundamental inheritance – land. (Dimitri Eipides)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Faust (2011)

Faust (2011)
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
Country: Russia
Runtime:134 min

 The film depicts the instincts and schemes of Faust, and the world that gives rise to his ideas.The film is the final part in a series of films where Alexander Sokurov explores the corrupting effects of power. The previous installments are three biographical dramas: about Adolf Hitler in Moloch from 1999, Vladimir Lenin in Taurus from 2001, and the Japanese emperor Hirohito in The Sun from 2005.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Poliss (2011)

Poliss (2011)
 Director: Maïwenn
 Country: France
 Runtime: 1 hour, 59 minutes

 The police officers who belong to a squad that has been set up to protect minors are never short of things to do. When they are not rounding up paedophiles and juvenile pickpockets, they have to confront negligent parents who abuse their children and come to grips with the vagaries of adolescent sexuality. But how do these dedicated men and women manage to balance their private lives with the varied routine that fills their working days? ~ Filmsdefrance

From its opening scene, in which a little girl tells one of the officers, Chrys, that her father sometimes “scratches her butt,” the film presents the difficulties in distinguishing truth from speculation in child sex abuse cases, especially when kids and parents offer conflicting testimonies, or take issue with police workers poking into their private lives. Maiwenn and co-writer-star Emmanuelle Bercot insert a number of such interrogations throughout the story, and they run the gamut from disturbing to hilarious to downright tragic, especially in one emotional wallop of a sequence where a little boy is separated from a mother who can’t provide him adequate shelter.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No Rest for the Wicked(2011)

No Rest for the Wicked
Director: Enrique Urbizu
Country: Spain
Madrid, early twenty-first century. One day, the police inspector Holy Trinity, coming home very drunk, was involved in a triple murder. But there is a witness who manages to escape and could incriminate him. Santos undertook an investigation to locate and eliminate the witness. Meanwhile, Judge Chacon, charged with investigating the triple murder, meticulously advances in finding the murderer. Santos and Chacon soon discover that what seemed a simple case of drug trafficking is actually something far more dangerous.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Days of Santiago (2004)

Days of Santiago (2004)
Director: Josué Méndez
Country: Peru
Runtime: 83 min

Unfolding in alternating color and black-and-white, this prescient Peruvian drama tells the story of Santiago (Pietro Sibille, PROOF OF LIFE), a 23-year-old former soldier who has recently returned home after serving in the army. Haunted by his past and filled with pent-up rage and paranoia, he is increasingly alienated from his family and his young wife, and unsure of how to make his way in the world. Although he wants to pursue his education, he takes a job as a Lima taxi driver, while his friends and fellow ex-soldiers try to convince him to join them in a life of crime. When his equally violent brother's girlfriend turns to him for help and possibly something more, Santiago finds himself on an inescapable path of destruction. Recalling Martin Scorcese's TAXI DRIVER in its gritty portrayal of the effects of war on the individual psyche, DIAS DE SANTIAGO brings to light the crucial predicament of Peru's "lost generation," boys who became men under the auspices of war. DIAS DE SANTIAGO won numerous awards on the festival circuit.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Almanya - Willkommen in Deutschland (2011)

Almanya - Willkommen in Deutschland (2011)
Director: Yasemin Samdereli
Country: Germany
Runtime: 101 min

On 10 September, 1964, Germany’s one-millionth ‘guest worker’ was welcomed. Spanning a period of no less than forty-five years, this film by sisters Yasemin Samdereli (director) and Nesrin Samdereli (screenplay) tells the story of guest worker number one-million-and-one – a man named Hüseyin Yilmaz and his family. ‘Who or what am I – German or Turk?’ asks six-year-old Cenk Yilmaz when neither his Turkish nor his German schoolmates pick him for their respective football teams. In an attempt to comfort Cenk, his 22-year-old cousin Canan tells him the story of their grandfather Hüseyin, who came to Germany at the end of the sixties as a ‘guest worker’ and who later brought his wife and children to ‘Almanya’. Germany had long since become the family’s home when without warning one night, Hüseyin surprises his loved ones with the news that he has bough a house in Turkey and now wants to return to the old country. Refusing to brook the slightest opposition, the entire family set off for Turkey. This marks the beginning of a journey full of memories, arguments and reconciliations – until, that is, the family trip takes an unexpected turn … The young filmmakers have plundered their own memories of childhood and youth for this, their cinematic debut. Yasemin Samdereli: “Even at an early age, we were always struck by the way people found it amusing whenever we told them stories about our childhood: that Nesrin for instance once played German carnival figure ‘Funkenmariechen’ and used to belt out Catholic hymns fervently during mass. Or that I used to play the flute in a marching band and wrote my name Jasmin – until my second grade teacher torpedoed my attempts to hoodwink her.” –Berlinale

Who Wasn't There (2010)

Who Wasn't There (2010)
Director: Ramil Salakhutdinov
Country: Russia
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes

 A meeting of two characters happened in a deep forest, on the bank of a small pond, while it was raining heavily. This meeting is a node of the whole story. Once a gypsy predicted death to the main character. He believes her, for all her predictions have come true. The fear of death makes him look for solution and he dares to take part in an experiment which is fantastic in real life. He asks the doctor to help him in avoiding death. And finally the doctor agrees…

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Gandu (2010)

Gandu (2010)
Director: Kaushik Mukherjee
Country: India
Runtime: 85 min

Gandu hates his life. He hates his mother. Gandu raps out his hate, anger, dirt and filth of his existence. He and his rickshawpuller friend enter the world of smack, rap, porn and horror. Reality and fiction, surreal and bizarre come together. Can Gandu survive?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Captains of the Sands(2011)

Captains of the Sands
Directors: Cecília Amado, Guy Gonçalves
Country: Brazil
Runtime:96 min

 Captains of the Sands - Pedro Bala, Professor, Cat, Legless, and Dora Good Way - Jorge Amado are characters that once created to dwell forever in the memory of his readers. Abandoned by their families, they are forced to fight to survive the streets of Salvador. More now than ever, the story of immortal characters of world literature moves us and inspires deeply.