Browsing: Film Reviews

Academy isset to announce the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film on December 17.For me, personally, this has always been the most exciting category, where Ican find some of the best films of the year. However, we should understand thatto win on Oscar or even get a nomination, a film needs a powerful USdistributor with the will, money, and connections to get the Academy members’attention and draw them to vote for the film. So, while films like Roma,Girl, Cold War, and Shoplifters are consideredfrontrunners, I would like to take the chance here to discuss and possiblycelebrate some films submitted to…

If you thought daring, genre-bending Iranian filmmaking peaked with Ana Lily Amirpour’s vampire spaghetti western, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night or Asghar Farhadi‘s Oscar-winning The Salesman, think again. Iranian-born Danish writer-director Milad Alami’s The Charmer reinvents the classic, stranger-in-a-strange-land immigrant tale as a sexy, slow-burn erotic thriller with a heartbreaking twist. Co-written by Alami and Danish screenwriter Ingeborg Topsøe, Charmer’s title, like many of the events taking place in the film itself, grossly oversimplifies the depth and complexity of this hugely compelling drama. For while the lead character, Esmail, played by handsome newcomer Ardalan Esmaili, is indeed charming, the soulful sadness in his eyes belies…

No Date, No Signature, the new movie from director Vahid Jalilvand, is an engrossing family drama that feels quite similar to Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, which won the Oscar and may prove prophetic come awards time this year. Both Iranian films detail gripping tales involving families that become undone by bad luck and human frailty. In Jalilvand’s film, the car of Dr. Nariman (Amir Aghaee) hits a family riding on a motorbike. The accident causes the mother and father on the bike (David Mohammadzadeh and Hediyeh Tehrani) to begin an argument and check the health of their two children, who were…

Few would have dared touch Delphine de Vigan’s bestseller, Based on a True Story, with a ten-foot pole. Hailed as gloriously “un-adaptable” – warning off salivating directors everywhere – translating the introspective ‘autobiographical novel’ to the big screen seemed tantamount to career suicide. That is, for lesser filmmakers than Roman Polanski. And he’s coaxed quite the thrill-fest out of the original. Crippled by writer’s block after the double-edged response to her last book, Delphine is on the brink of depression when she crosses paths with L, a bewitching ghostwriter. The parasitic woman wastes no time in making herself insidiously indispensable by…

To contrast Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1973 Papillon with its remake is to underscore certain differences between commercial films of two distinct generations. The original is the sort of pungent prison drama that could have only been made in America in the late 1960s or ’70s, as it evinces a grasp of detail and cruelty that’s almost entirely absent in contemporary mainstream cinema. Michael Noer’s remake is more generic and romantic, with a duller sense of character and setting. It’s a reasonably diverting genre exercise, but Schaffner’s original humbles it by every criterion of excellence. https://youtu.be/5UnbHKp1cQo Also based on the novel by Henri…

Like the recent Brazilian film Araby, Dominican writer-director Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias’s Cocote grafts a fictional narrative onto the sturdy stock of documentary filmmaking. Here, the story concerns Alberto (Vicente Santos), a gardener for a wealthy upper-class family in Santo Domingo who’s forced to return to his remote rural hometown of Oviedo when he receives word of his father’s recent murder by decapitation in retaliation for unpaid debts. (The film’s title refers to the nape of the neck, thus to the wounds inflicted on Alberto’s father.) Tensions quickly arise within Alberto’s family due to the moral and theological conflicts between Alberto’s…

Vahid Jalilvand’s No Date, No Signature is so worked out that you know that every nuance is pointed and intentional. Jalilvand’s formal craftsmanship and attention to detail are accomplished, though his self-consciousness has a way of drying out the drama for the sake of socially minded sermonizing, which is frequent in Iranian imports inspired by Asghar Farhadi’s live-wire parables. Farhadi isn’t without a didactic streak either, but he’s a wizard of movement and performance, fostering a mysterious kinetic energy that often enriches and transcends the parables themselves. Jalilvand’s direction here belongs more firmly and routinely to the tradition of the moral procedural,…

The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company (a.k.a. Grandeur et Decadenced’un Petit Commerce de Cinema), from 1986, never received a release in theatres, in part because it was made for French television but also due to fears by distributors following the controversy and protests over Hail Mary, Jean-Luc Godard’s “blasphemous” 1985 feature. Yet, the director’s follow-up venture was much less overtly edgy: As if to make up for Hail Mary, a deliberately provocative critique of the Catholic Church, The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company is comparatively light, quirky and insular, at least in its initial portions. In fact, the maverick filmmaker…

Filmmakers Laura Collado and Jim Loomis’ Constructing Albert, a release from Juno Films,follows Albert Adrià as he brazenly launches five different restaurants in Barcelona from 2013 to the end of 2016, hoping to forge his own food empire and get out of the shadow of big brother Ferran, the wunderkind behind Spain’s world-class eating mecca elBulli. While this culinary-themed doc offers a little kitchen sizzle and artistically plated tastings (a delicious shrimp dish sautéed, a daring soy sorbet, etc.), the film has more of a scattershot, look-at-me Facebook feel. We experience Adrià onscreen or via voiceover as he nonstop shares—whether with journalists,…

Max Angely’s (Jean-Paul Bacri) birthday is not going well. Having spent the morning with “complicated clients” attempting to downsize their luxury downtown Paris reception for about the fourth time, the wedding planner has now relocated to the 17th Century Chateau setting of some seriously lavish nuptials, only to find virtually everything in disarray. Down a wait-staff member, he’s had to replace the original band, is stuck with the photographer (Jean-Paul Rouve) nobody else will hire and is having to bite his tongue while the early-arriving pretentious groom (Benjamin Lavernhe) informs him that they will have adjust the evening’s schedule to accommodate…

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