Browsing: Film Reviews

This handsome French/Czechproduced biopic from Stéphanie Di Giusto (adapting Giovanni Lista’s novel) is a sprawling, awkward and melodramatic piece that features a jumbled last quarter. The performances save it, however, with striking star Soko (AKA Stéphanie Sokolinski) shining in a characterisation of great intensity, serious sensuality and what looks like genuine sweat and pain. Marie Louise Fuller (Soko) is introduced living with her showboating French father Ruben (fabulous Denis Ménochet) in late-19th Century American Midwest. When he’s murdered, she retreats to New York and lives for a time with her uptight mother Lili (Amanda Plummer), whose association with the Temperance…

At the start of the Slovak drama “The Teacher,” a well-dressed, middle-aged woman enters a classroom with a confident strut and a smile on her face. After a brief introduction, she asks the students to tell the class two specific bits of information: their name and their parents’ line of work. The reason for this question becomes clear early in the film, a well-acted but rather dry and monotonous look at life in early ’80s Bratislava. The city was then in Czechoslovakia; post-Velvet Revolution, it is now part of Slovakia. In 1983, the Communist Party still ruled. Its power was…

Over the past 35 years and more than a dozen feature films, Aki Kaurismäki has maintained, along with cinematographer Timo Salminen, a distinctive aesthetic that uses high-contrast lighting, close-ups, and stoic faces to achieve a deadpan style perched somewhere between the sardonic and the severe. The Other Side of Hope upholds that standard, and follows on the heels of Le Havre, the writer-director’s 2011 film about a young Gabonian refugee on the run in the titular port city, with the tale of Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Finland. Kaurismäki has spoken of this film as being…

very year, summer gives way to fall, and in movie theaters, blockbusters give way to awards contenders. On this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, film critic Bob Mondello of All Things Considered and I spoke with Tasha Robinson of The Verge and film writer Bilal Qureshi about some of what we all saw at the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off the fall movie season. But if you need a list to carry in your pocket, Bob and I put together this rundown of some of the best, buzziest and otherwise noteworthy films coming to you over the next few months. (Keep in mind that release dates are…

Most Palestinian films focus on the impact of politics and how the fraught relations with the Israeli state affect the lives of Palestinians. This delightful feature from Maysaloun Hamoud takes a seemingly more apolitical approach. And yet there’s a palpable subtext at play here about the oppressive treatment of women from the territory by their own people, affecting those leading secular lives as well as the religiously observant, Muslims and Christians alike. https://youtu.be/GpUVQMDoewU In a Tel Aviv apartment, Muslim lawyer and chain-smoking party girl Layla (Mouna Hawa) and her friend Salma (Sana Jammelieh), a lesbian from a Christian family who…

It all began when French cinema’s golden boy Guillaume Canet was knocked down a few pegs by a tactless journalist, who all but called him past it. In a flash, the actor-director dreamt up the plot for his anarchic mockumentary Rock’n Roll. Turning the camera on (a heightened version of) himself, he charts his ‘own’ acute spiral into mid-life crisis. At 40-something his youthful looks are waning and, last nail in the coffin, he has just been cast in his first ‘father role’. Meanwhile, his real-life partner Marion Cotillard’s career is soaring, overshadowing his own – his greengrocer nicknames him…

very now and then, I like to highlight noteworthy films that aren’t, or are hardly, available to the public, both because they should be and because their unavailability, due to the vagaries of the marketplace and the milieu, is a kind of news in itself. So it is with a new film, “Gavagai,” by a sharply original and deeply accomplished filmmaker, Rob Tregenza, which screened in July, at the Maine International Film Festival, in Waterville, Maine; it will be playing this weekend at the local art-house theatre, the Reel Pizza Cinerama, in Bar Harbor, Maine; and it won’t, as of…

Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin spurs a question that applies to many countries through history, but might echo most pertinently with baffled observers of Trumpland: how much of what is happening in a government is venal, craven self-interest, and how much sheer incompetent bumbling? The political satire is not directed at the US president or any specific leader, though. It extends the world view that Iannucci has applied to British and American political manoeuvres in In the Loop, a black comedy about stumbling toward war, and the series Veep, one of the most poisonously truthful satires ever made. He…

Angelina Jolie’s celebrity makes her artistic ambitions easy to mock, but with “First They Killed My Father,” opening Friday at the same time that it begins streaming on Netflix, she proves she’s worth reckoning with as a director — for reasons good and bad. She has made an engrossing, dynamically shot movie that moves with real fluidity and complexity. Yet she also succumbs to familiar ideological pitfalls. The standard complaints about cultural appropriation, point of view and the ethics of aestheticizing war all apply. The movie’s source is Loung Ung’s 2000 memoir of her childhood under the Khmer Rouge, which…

Making its way to this year’s TIFF following an award-winning debut at the Venice Film Festival, French director Xavier Legrand’s Custody is a powerful domestic drama of a toxic father who continues to terrorize his family following an unsavory marital separation. The minute we meet Antoine (Denis Ménochet), there’s a sense of menace. He sits beside his lawyer as he and his soon to be ex-wife Miriam (Léa Drucker) seek arbitration on the custody of their youngest son following their split-up. The judge twice has to tell him to be quiet as he mutters to his lawyer. A statement is…

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