Currently browsing the "Foreign" category.

Review: The Whistlers (La Gomera)

A beautiful woman. 30 million euros. A detective who’s tired of his job. All the elements of a classic thriller are present in this Romanian film noir. Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is a cop in Bucharest. Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) is the femme fatale whose boyfriend Zsolt (Sabin Tambrea) is behind bars and knows where the money is hidden.  To that end she enlists the not so honest cop in a scheme that involves traveling to the Canary Islands to learn a whistling language called El Silbo Gomero that was invented by the locals and is used by the mobsters to communicate without the cops being able to understand. The plan is to use it to get the boyfriend out and make off with the dough. But of course, Cristi falls for the dame, and things don’t go exactly as planned.

Review: Bacurau (Nighthawk)

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Brazil is a village called Bacurau. It’s cut off from the world. They have to truck in water and supplies. But the people live their everyday lives pretty normally. Then strange things start to happen. The town disappears from maps. Their cell signal is gone. Their water supply truck arrives with bullet holes in it. And then a couple on motorcycles appear. Turns out they’re part of a gang of blood-thirsty tourists who aim to use the town for target practice. They chose the wrong town.

Review: Corpus Christi (Boze Cialo)

Based on a true story, Corpus Christi is the tale of 20-year-old Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) who, just sprung from a violent juvenile detention center and heading for a new job, decides to visit the local church and stumbles into becoming the new priest for the small Polish town. It’s the story of his redemption, but also that of his new flock, a community healing from a tragedy that has divided them against themselves. Once he’s committed to the ruse as the impostor Father Tomasz, Daniel slips into the cassock and wings it well enough to fool the whole town. It’s not a con, so much as a calling. And you’re just wondering how long he can get away with it.

Review: Incitement

Talk about a film that is hard to watch! In this political thriller, you’re watching the evolution of assassin Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi), a law student who decides that it is religiously justified to murder Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because he is signing a peace treaty with the Palestinians. It was in September 1993 that Rabin sat down with PLO Chairman Arafat and President Clinton and hammered out the Oslo Accords, sending the Orthodox Israelis into the streets to protest the agreement because it was giving up territories they believed were theirs by God-given right. Incitement is a film that takes you inside the ultra-Orthodox community where all question of right and wrong are vetted by rabbis, and their view is that Rabin is a traitor to the Jewish people and murder is justified. And while it may take place a couple of decades ago, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in Israel or many other places around the world where extremist ideology can subvert democracy. It’s a scary movie.

Review: Balloon (Ballon)

Seems like all I’m seeing lately are film based on true stories. In this one, two families living in Cold War East Germany in 1979 plan a daring escape to the West in a homemade hot air balloon with a Stasi officer hot on their tail. It’s one of those films where you’re holding your breath and hoping for the best, since the first scene is of a group of border guards being instructed to shoot to kill. What follows is an entertaining political thriller set in the horrifyingly claustrophobic surveillance state where everyone you meet might be the informer who gets you killed.

Review: Beanpole (Дылда)

War is hell. And life after war is, too. Most war films concentrate on the effects that the carnage has on men, but this Russian melodrama looks at how the women are scarred, too. Set in Leningrad just after World War II has ended, when the Siege may be over, but the people are still dealing with the hunger and deprivation, Beanpole is a character study of two young women, friends from the battlefield, both trying to make sense of their lives after the war.  Iya affectionately known as Beanpole (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) works in a hospital tending the wounded. She has a cute little boy at home that she dotes on. But she is afflicted with a condition caused by an explosion that makes her “freeze” from time to time – staring into space and making tiny clicking sounds until she comes back to life. And it causes her to make a tragic mistake. But then her wartime buddy Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina) arrives back from the front, and though it begins as a warm reunion, their relationship takes some very dark turns.

Review: Weathering with You

I’m not a big animation watcher, at least not of the big Disney/Pixar variety. But anime is a different story. Films like Spirited Away or Akira feel every bit as “real” as any live action film. The stories are complex and the visuals stunning. I haven’t watched many lately though. But I was happy to return to the genre with Weathering With You. It’s the story of a climate disaster and a teenage girl who has a mysterious power to fix it, alongside a love story set in Tokyo with a runaway boy. It’s a narrative that will probably resonate most with adolescents, but adults will certainly appreciate it for it’s jaw-dropping animation.

Review: Synonyms

Based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Nadav Lapid (The Kindergarten Teacher), Synonyms is the strange story of a young Israeli man named Yoav (Tom Mercier) who comes to Paris to escape his Israeliness and meets French couple Emile and Caroline who become his best friends and more. You’re never really sure who he is and what he wants, but you’re along for the ride as he walks the streets of Paris memorizing his French vocabulary (particularly synonyms), dancing in his tiny apartment and in streets and clubs, and doing everything he can to shed his former skin.

Review: Britt-Marie Was Here

We’ve seen this one before. An older woman finds out her husband has been having an affair and leaves him. First she struggles with it and then she finds herself. Last year’s Finding Your Feet explored this topic nicely. And now comes the Swedish version Britt-Marie Was Here, based on a novel by the same author that brought us the wonderful A Man Called Ove back in 2016. He certainly excels at writing older characters. Britt-Marie is no Ove, but it’s a pleasant enough little self-discovery flick for a matinee with some gal pals.

Review: This is Not Berlin

In this coming-of-age film set in Mexico City in the 80s, 17-year-olds Carlos and Gera are on the cusp of adulthood. And when they’re invited to the coolest club in town, they’re suddenly thrust into the dizzying world of punk rock and drugs and unbridled sexuality, and everything changes, especially their friendship. This is Not Berlin is a paean to rebellious youth and the urge to find your tribe, seen through the eyes of an inquisitive young man. It’s an emotionally absorbing ride.