Friday, March 30, 2012

The Old Man Who Read Love Stories(2001)

The Old Man Who Read Love Stories
Director: Rolf de Heer
Country: Netherlands | France | Spain | Australia 
Runtime: 109 min

 The Old Man who Read Love Stories is one of those rare experiences you as a film audience will ever receive. It is a wonderful movie with excellent acting with Richard Dreyfuss as the all dominating force. Hugo Weaving shows why he is one of the worlds greatest character actors with his portrayal as the very loving and slightly lazy dentist. The story is really not important as it is the acting that really puts this film on the map. I don't mean this in a negative way, mind you!The plot is simply not that important once you hear the rusty voice of Dreyfuss doing a marvelous Spanish accent. The same goes for Weaving.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monsieur Lazhar (2011)

Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
Director:Philippe Falardeau

Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, is hired to replace an elementary school teacher who died tragically. While the class goes through a long healing process, nobody in the school is aware of Bachir's painful former life; nor that he is at risk of being deported at any moment. Adapted from Evelyne de la Cheneliere's play, Bachir Lazhar depicts the encounter between two distant worlds and the power of self-expression. Using great sensitivity and humor, Philippe Falardeau follows a humble man who is ready to transcend his own loss in order to accompany children beyond the silence and taboo of death. Written by micro_scope

Saturday, March 24, 2012

La source des femmes(2011)

La source des femmes(2011)
Director: Radu Mihaileanu
Country: Belgium
Runtime: 1 hour, 59 minutes

 Romanian-born filmmaker Radu Mihaileanu offers up another certifiably crowd-pleasing slice of world cinema in The Source (La Source des Femmes), a modern-day fable exploring female empowerment in the Arab world. Never one for subtlety, the writer-director tosses everything he can into this two-hour-plus humanist couscous, stirring in a mix of songs, sentiments and socio-religious questions set beneath breathtaking North African landscapes, and carried by a strong central performance from actress Leila Bekhti. Like his previous films, The Source boasts an Arthouse for Beginners appeal that could reach broad audiences beyond Europe. Beautifully photographed amongst the harsh light of the dry, desert landscapes, The Source frequently feels like a musical and the women constantly burst into song as a way of expressing their feelings and grievances.

Set in a mountain village in an unnamed country (most likely Morocco; the Arab dialect spoken is Moroccan), the film tells the story of a group of village women who, fed up with the unwillingness of the men to help them with the straining task of fetching water from a mountaintop source each day, decide to organize a 'love strike': no more sex until the men either help with the water haul or arrange for running water to come to the village. At the forefront of this 'revolution' is Leila, wife of the village's school teacher Sami. An outsider in the village (she was not born there), and married to a progressive husband, Leila urges the women to fight for a better life. Not all the women want to go against tradition, and it earns her the scorn of her mother-in-law, so it is only with help from the well-respected widow Mother Rifle that Leila manages to organize the strike. As if the opposition of both the men and the more conservative women is not enough, things are complicated by a journalist coming to the village, who turns out to be a former sweetheart of Leila before she was married off to Sami. This puts her at risk of losing one of her strongest allies, her husband.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hors Satan (2011)

Hors Satan (2011)

Director: Bruno Dumont
Country: France
Runtime: 105 min
In a sleepy French farming village, a mysterious stranger appears to the teenage Elle. She is distraught at the abuse she receives from her stepfather and so the stranger takes a shotgun and shoots the stepfather. The stranger lives out in the open. She begins to follow him everywhere. She desires him but he does not want her back. He beats up a guard who is pestering her to go out with him. The stranger also appears to have the ability to heal.

. . . . . . . . . . .

"With every film he makes, Dumont seems to delve deeper into a humanity that, in its connection to nature in all its mystery and force, is a deeply conflicted one. In "Hors Satan", the division of what is good and evil and how it relates to the man we encounter at the start of the film, is somewhat less clear-cut.
We know nothing of the origins or nature of this man, not even his name. Since very few words are spoken either, everything must be gleaned from his face – and what a fascinating face it is. At times, there is a satanic look in his features, but there is also something of an appearance of the traditional image of Jesus in his appearance. The questions raised by this duality are intensified when we see him genuflect to the sunrise and take in the glory of the landscape, his hands cupped in offering or for receiving of grace, and when he is called upon by another woman in the community whose daughter is ill and seems to be demonically possessed. The ambiguity, I’m sure, is intentional. The traditional understanding of the concepts of good and evil are meaningless here – you might as well ask (and in a way you are) whether nature itself is good or evil.
Much of this is very familiar Bruno Dumont material and it’s filmed in his usual style. "Hors Satan" is made up of long silent scenes, very little dialogue, non-professional characters chosen for the earthiness of their appearance and lack of conventional beauty (yet striking and even beautiful in their own way), with images of strong violence and disturbing scenes of a sexual nature. With such emphasis placed on inexpressive faces, the use of non-professional actors, a preponderance of near-religious significance and solemnity (albeit in an unconventional, paganistic manner), there are clear parallels here not only to Bresson, but also to Dreyer, particularly "The Passion of Joan of Arc" and, certainly in the opening and closing scenes, with "Ordet".

Dumont however has his own philosophical outlook that is completely different from Bresson and Dreyer, and a visual vocabulary that is also very much his own and often very striking indeed. "Hors Satan" is not easy viewing and it’s not pleasant viewing – but then you probably knew that already. It is however an immensely powerful film that deepens the themes and the body of work of one of the most distinctive and uncompromising film directors in France and the world today." (Ciné-vu)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Fairy (2011)

The Fairy (2011)
Director: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
Country: France | Belgium
Runtime: 1 hour 29 minutes

 Dom works the night shift in a small hotel near the industrial sea port of Le Havre. One night, a woman arrives with no luggage and no shoes. Her name is Fiona and she tells Dom that she is a fairy that can grant him three wishes. Fiona makes two of his wishes come true then mysteriously disappears. Dom. who has fallen in love with her by then, searches for her everywhere.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Future Lasts Forever (2011)

Future Lasts Forever (2011)
Director: Özcan Alper
Country: Germany | France | Turkey
Runtime: 01:48:43

Sumru is doing music researches at a university in Istanbul. To work on her thesis on gathering and recording an exhaustive collection of Anatolian elegies she sets off for the south-east of the country for a few months. The brief trip turns out to be the longest journey of her life. During the trip, Sumru crosses paths with Ahmet, a young guy who sells bootleg DVDs on the streets of Diyarbakir, with Antranik, the ageing and solitary warden of a crumbling church in the city and with various characters who witness the ongoing 'unnamed war'. During her three-month stay in Diyarbakir, while she was looking for the stories of the elegies, she finds herself to confront an agony from her own past.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Il villaggio di cartone (2011)

Il villaggio di cartone (2011)
Director: Ermanno Olmi
Country: Italia
Runtime: 93 min

A priest (Michael Lonsdale) descongregación helplessly to his parish, forever closed to the public. The same afternoon, a group of illegal immigrants took refuge in the establishment. The priest decides to grant them asylum and protect them as best he can. Totally dedicated to a new mission of Christian solidarity, the priest delivered to the homeless to the supreme sacrifice. His life, which hitherto rested on the word of God, takes a new direction with the holy act of charity

Monday, March 05, 2012


Director:Joseph Cedar
Runtime:103 min 
 Rivalry in the field of Talmudic studies may not seem like the most compelling premise for a feature film but perhaps the greatest surprise in Joseph Cedar’s Footnote is that the basics of the story, embittered personal politics and family divides amongst Talmudic scholars, is by far the film’s greatest strength.
At the centre of the confusion and resentment that provides the film’s reasonably brisk forward narrative drive are father, Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar-aba), and son, Uriel Shkolnik (Lior Ashkenazi); the former a washed up scholar who clings to a footnote in his past and the latter a successful and dare I say hip young Talmudic professor. Eliezer looks down on his son’s work, believing it to be lacking real substance whilst the son struggles to connect to his curmudgeon father who seems unable to connect with the world around him.
Writer/director Joseph Cedar does a reasonable job of fleshing out these two lead characters and there is even a point at which the focus switches from father to son quite effortlessly, providing the audience with a differing view of the story and at it is also at this point that the film settles into its stride a little more strongly. By this point though far too much damage has already been done by Cedar in his unnecessarily dopey stylistic choices. These are perhaps intended to signpost that Footnote is something of a black comedy rather than a po-faced scholarly drama but there is surely no chance of it being misread in this way and instead the style feels like Cedar over explaining a joke that is only mildly amusing to begin with. Throwing a lot of visual absurdity at the screen in the opening thirty minutes Cedar uses on-screen text, split screens and side wipes that add nothing and strip a lot away, making the whole venture feel more preposterous and flimsy.
The biggest culprit in Footnote’s downfall though is not the visual hooey but the bizarre aural disaster of a score that accompanies the film. Ludicrously invasive throughout the score is so misjudged that it becomes an (unintentionally) hilarious addition to some of the more off the rail sequences. Surely never before has a scene of a man walking down a narrow corridor been scored with such bombastic and excessive grandeur. Things fall apart at crucial moments too, when for instance Eliezer begins to piece together the truth behind an award at the centre of the film’s main conflict. Cut to a whip panning montage of Eliezer putting the pieces together with an increasingly alarmed look on his face, whilst the soundtrack blasts out like an epic sea battle is taking place.
Shlomo Bar-aba as Eliezer is quite wonderful though, despite the often derailing direction, as the gloomy and occasionally vitriolic patriarch and Lior Ashkenazi too impresses as the conflicted son often just trying to do the right thing. What’s so striking though is that two fine actors playing interesting characters in an oddly compelling story is not enough to save Footnote from being a messy film that does little too impress.

The Woman in the Septic Tank (2011)

The Woman in the Septic Tank (2011)

Director:Marlon Rivera
Runtime:87 min

 Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (The Woman in the Septic Tank), directed by Marlon Rivera from a screenplay written by Chris Martinez, earns most of its laughs from the misadventures of director Rainer (Kean Cipriano), producer Bingbong (JM de Guzman), and production assistant Jocelyn (Cai Cortez), an overly ambitious troop of filmmakers who are out to make their dream film entitled Walang Wala by exploiting the picturesque poverty of Manila. As they brainstorm on the casting, the look, the story, the poster design, and down to the English translation of the title of their precious project, the film takes shape inside the mind of perennially quiet Jocelyn (perhaps Rivera and Martinez's homage to the production crew rendered voiceless by noisy auteurs and capitalists), showcasing what's depressingly wrong in the current state of Philippine filmmaking in the most hilarious of ways.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank delights in caricaturizing filmmakers, films, and the business of making films. There are practically no real characters to speak of, and no real story for the characters to navigate in. The filmmakers are just comical representations of deplorable traits of filmmakers tend to have. The plot is essentially what happens in a typical day in the pre-production of the film, where meetings, pitches, and location checks are crammed within the few working hours of the day in true independent film fashion.

Rivera and Martinez thickens what essentially is a thinly plotted experience with wit and exaggeration, creating both a chilling and charming indictment of Philippine cinema for creating monsters that feed on fame and fortune at the expense of the truly marginalized. Unfortunately, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank trips on its own trap. In its quest for some sort of comeuppance for its erring characters, it draws up a twist that makes use of the most common stereotype of poverty, which is abject criminality.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank's biggest commodity is reliable Eugene Domingo, who plays the various versions of Walang Wala's Mila, the hapless mother of too many children who is forced to sell one of her kids to a pedophile to survive. She also plays an overly distorted version of herself. Domingo hilariously hams up the role of the overly-pampered product of mainstream projects and television shows.

Lately, Philippine cinema has been represented internationally by the films of Brillante Mendoza which are predominantly focused on lives persisting in extreme cases of poverty. With the success of Mendoza and the demand of film festival programmers for exoticized visions of third-world penury, other filmmakers followed suit, filming various stories back-grounded by mountains of trash, acres of slums, and never-ending violence.

The Philippines, sadly, is proud of a cinema that most of its citizens have not seen. It is proud of a cinema that is taken hostage by the international film festivals that dictate upon it its inevitable direction. It is proud of a cinema that is only part of a vicious cycle of international demands and artists too willing to fill in these demands. Of course, that is only one spectrum of the debate. The other spectrum belongs to what's right in Philippine cinema, which is obviously not the focus of Martinez and Rivera and would have made the film a less effective parody.

With its brave and seamless sense of humor, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank is a sure crowd-pleaser. However, let not its comedic machinations be mistakenly considered as the summation of the bigger, more complex and more beautiful thing that is Philippine cinema.

 (Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)

Octuber (2010)

Octuber (2010)
Directed by: Daniel Vega Vidal
Country: Peru
Runtime: 83 min

 Clemente, a moneylender of few words, is a new hope for Sofía, his single neighbor, devoted to the October worship of Our Lord of the Miracles. They're brought together over a new-born baby, fruit of Clemente's relationship with a prostitute who's nowhere to be found. While Clemente is looking for the girl's mother, Sofía cares for the baby and looks after the moneylender's house. With the arrival of these beings in his life, Clemente has the opportunity to reconsider his emotional relations with people.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sidewalls (2011)

Sidewalls (2011)
 Director: Gustavo Taretto
 Country: Argentina
 Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes

 Martin is a phobic in recovery process. Little by little he manages to step out of the isolation of his one-room apartment and his virtual reality. He is a web designer. Mariana just broke up after a long relationship. Her head is a mess, just like the apartment where she takes refuge. Martin and Mariana live in the same street, in opposite buildings, but they never met. They walk through the same places, but they do not notice each other. Shouldn’t they meet? But How can they meet each other in an overcrowded, caotic city as Buenos Aires? What separates them is what brings them together.

SIDEWALLS is a clever romantic comedy examining with charm how the architecture of a city conditions the lives of two of its residents. Taretto pays homage to the city of Buenos Aires as he reflects on how urban chaos, as well as new technologies, can unite people but also keep them apart (as the sidewalls of the title). Mixing animation, photography and graphic art he reveals the characters’ isolation and anxieties that are a staple of modern life in a noisy city that nonetheless has an irresistible charm. ~ Ifcfilms

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Siberia, Monamour (2011)

Siberia, Monamour (2011)
Director: Slava Ross
Country: Russia
Runtime: 1 hours, 42 minutes

 Siberia. Late autumn. In taiga, in the deserted village there lives an old man Ivan & his seven-year-old grandson Leshia. A pack of feral dogs devours everything alive in the neighborhood. One of these dogs is Leshia's best friend. Sometimes their relative uncle Yuri brings food to them. Once on his way back from Ivan's village uncle Yuri is attacked by dogs & perishes. Ivan & Leshia stay without supply. Once Leshia witnesses Ivan shooting at 'his' dog & runs away. The old Man finds him in a dry well, but he fails to get him out on his own. Ivan sets out through taiga in search of help. Now the dogs are hunting him... And the boy is waiting for his father