Currently browsing the "Foreign" category.

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.

Review: Piranhas

In this adaptation of Roberto Saviano’s (Gomorrah) coming of age novel a group of fifteen-year-old boys in Naples transform themselves from one of the city’s many adolescent street gangs into a gun toting mafia presence. These boys begin the film as pretty naive, just out to have some fun, but when Nicola (Francesco Di Napoli) grows weary of his mom being extorted for “protection” money he seeks out the son of a murdered crime boss and soon he and his friends are working for a drug dealer and making some serious money. And from there they work their way up the food chain, leaving their childish lives behind in a pool of blood.

Review: Tel Aviv on Fire

You might not think that there’s much humor to be found in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Palestinian director Sameh Zoabi has crafted a very amiable farce that spans the borders and steps lightly around the conflicts. In Tel Aviv on Fire, Palestinian bumbler Salam (Kais Nashif) falls into a writing job on a very popular Palestinian soap opera. But he soon finds his freedom depends on the story going the way a certain Israeli Defense Force officer (Yaniv Biton) at the border crossing wants it to. Meanwhile Salam is also wooing an old flame and dealing with the diva antics of the soap’s French lead. And as he’s running around trying to please everyone, the show must go on.

Review: Luz

The classic horror film hasn’t entirely disappeared from the cinema landscape, but the current trend it to make more of it than just the easy jump out of your seat shriek-fest. Get Out, Suspria, and Hereditary have shown that there’s an audience for new kinds of horror. And Luz rides in on that wave with a minimalist demonic possession flick that takes place mostly in a police station.

Review: The Farewell

In this bittersweet dramedy based on a real story from the writer/director’s own family, Billi (Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians) a struggling New York writer discovers that her Grandma (Zhou Shuzhen) back in China has cancer. It’s a huge blow since they’re really close, but Grandma doesn’t know and the family wants it to stay that way. But just so they can all see her before she dies, they concoct a wedding where everyone can get together with her back in Changchun. The Farewell boasts a fabulous ensemble cast in a story that while set squarely within its Chinese culture and location feels universal in its truths about family relationships and the lengths we’ll go to for someone we love.

Review: One Child Nation

Nanfu Wang has made a couple of my favorite documentaries of the past few years. Hooligan Sparrow followed a Chinese women’s rights activist’s journey and put both the subject and the filmmaker in danger. Her follow-up film I Am Another You took place in the US as she lived for a while with a charming young homeless man. In both films she was as much a part of the story as her subjects. In her newest film, which she co-directed with Jialing (Lynn) Zhang, she returns to China with her new baby to peel back the curtain on the country’s horrifying one child policy and the toll the decades long social experiment took on the women of China. From 1979 through 2015 the Chinese government decreed that women could only have one child, and to that end millions of women were forced to have abortions, be sterilized, or abandon their children to human traffickers. It’s a harrowing film as you hear the stories from many of the perpetrators who still think the policy made sense.

Quickie Review: The Third Wife

Set in a remote compound in 19th century Viet Nam, The Third Wife is a beautifully shot story of a young girl’s journey from childhood to marriage to motherhood. It was a society that did not value women except for their ability to produce a male heir, and young May is delivered into her new home to learn as she goes about status and custom. The other two wives are friendly, as are their children, but their worth is measured for them only by their sons. It’s a sad tale, but one that has been told many times before. And in this telling, there is not a whole lot of new territory covered.

Quickie Review: Pasolini

Italian poet, philosopher and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini loved nothing more than to push the envelope, to scandalize, to shock the senses. So it’s only fitting that Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) should direct a film about his last days since they are gritty birds of a feather. Pasolini stars Willem Dafoe (Spiderman, At Eternity’s Gate) who bears more than a passing resemblance to the man who died in 1975, murdered and left to rot on a beach in Ostia. The film is a kaleidoscope of Pasolini’s final film and his final quotidian existence, eating with his mother, giving an interview to a journalist, writing away on his typewriter, and trolling for young men to have sex with. And throughout there are scenes from an imagined version of his final script. It’s in Italian and English, sometimes subtitled, and sometimes not. And the audience is left to make the connections. The film assumes a knowledge of the filmmaker and his films, frequently making it a frustrating experience. But mostly it’s just too coarse and pretentious for my taste.

Review: Non-fiction (aka Doubles vies)

After seeing Non-fiction, I found IMDB’s description of it to be kind of bizarre: Set in the Parisian publishing world, an editor and an author find themselves in over their heads, as they cope with a middle-age crisis, the changing industry and their wives. Whoever wrote that missed the part that Juliette Binoche is more than just an afterthought wife in this flick. For me, she was the most interesting character. Yes, it’s about the imminent demise of the printed page, and both lead men are in that world, but I’m not sure this film is about any middle-age crisis, but more about how two couples cope with infidelity and commitment. The world of publishing is definitely the milieu, and the many discussions of the digital future in the literary world are pretty fascinating. It’s a smart film, but it’s also extremely entertaining.

Quickie Review: Working Woman

This Israeli #MeToo drama centers on Orna (Liron Ben-Shlush) whose husband’s new Tel Aviv restaurant is struggling to get off the ground, so she takes a job with real estate developer Benny (Menashe Noy) who she knew from her time in the army. At first everything is great. She’s given a lot of responsibility and finds she’s really good at what she’s doing, but then come the unwanted and inappropriate advances and she’s not sure how to react, but hopes they’ll stop once she says no. They don’t. Working Woman is a story that will be familiar to many women. Orna wants the job. She’s given well-deserved promotions and people treat her with respect for the great job she’s doing. But the boss thinks he has the right to treat her however he wants. He knows she’s happily married and has kids at home. He’s married too, and she’s met his wife, but still.