Currently browsing the "Foreign" category.

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.

Review: The White Crow

“White crow,” as the film informs us early on, is a term used to describe a person who is unusual, extraordinary, not like others, an outsider.

A Rudolph Nureyev.

For those unfamiliar with political and dance history, Nureyev was a promising young talent in Leningrad’s famed Kirov ballet company when he shocked the Soviets and the world by defecting to the West at the conclusion of a Parisian tour in 1961. The White Crow is Nureyev’s story, as told through the lens of actor/director Ralph Fiennes who pulls double-duty as Nureyev’s Russian dance instructor Alexander Pushkin. Fiennes chose a dancer over an actor to portray Nureyev – a leap of faith that ends up sacrificing story in the service of art.

Review: Dogman

Bullies need enablers and Dogman is all about one such relationship. At the center is Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a diminutive and timid dog groomer, who lives for his time with his daughter Sofia and never met a dog he didn’t love. But he also sells cocaine on the side to make ends meet, especially to pay for his scuba trips with Sofia. One of his buyers is the hulking brute Simone (Edoardo Pesce) who Marcello looks at like one of his dogs that could be tamed, if only. Simone only sees the relationship as what he can get from Marcello and pushes it to the breaking point. It’s a dark and dreary character study with flashes of comedy that you know won’t end well.

Quickie Review: Girls of the Sun

In our #Girlpower era, a film about battalion of Kurdish women fighting ISIS in North Kurdistan should be a slam dunk. But somewhere between idea and execution Girls of the Sun got a bit lost. Part of that may be that it is framed as being about a French war correspondent who embeds herself with this group of women and her story is a distraction. I was never sure why I should care about her. After all, the women she’s with have lived through absolute hell. The more interesting story is that of the female commander Bahar (Golshifteh Farahani) who lost her husband and son to ISIS and has a reason to be fighting the fight.

Quickie Review: Ramen Shop (Ramen Teh)

Following in the tradition of a spate of recent foodie flicks, Ramen Shop wraps a slight story in a culinary journey and has you drooling and wishing the film would be over quickly so you can get out to the nearest ramen shop yourself. This time around the story centers on a young Japanese chef Masato (Takumi Saitoh) whose father dies at the start of the film, sending him on a quest to find his culinary roots in Singapore. Dad met Mom there and there are a lot of unanswered questions about her and her family. She died when he was a boy, and his discovery of her diary among his father’s possessions, sends him in search of his uncle and the story of his mother’s estrangement from his grandmother. But all along the way there is a lot of cooking and eating mouth-watering food.

Quickie Reviews: Gloria Bell; Yardie

What’s with all the remakes of decent if not exceptional foreign films lately? In recent months, we’ve seen Americanized versions of the 2011 feel-good French film The Intouchables (remade as The Upside), the 2014 Norwegian crime drama In Order of Disappearance (remade as Cold Pursuit), and now, Chile’s 2013 romdramedy Gloria (remade into Gloria Bell). In the case of Cold Pursuit and Gloria Bell, we’re treated to nearly shot-by-shot, word-for-word redundancy delivered by the same directors who helmed the original, well-received foreign flicks. Hey, let’s just throw in a lead actor popular with American audiences and do it all over again. Box office gold, right? Um, no.

Review: The Invisibles

There are plenty of films about the Jews who lost their lives to the Nazis, but this is the first I’ve seen about those who hid in plain sight in Germany through the war and survived. Part narrative feature and part documentary, The Invisibles tells the stories of four young people who refused to leave Berlin, and through their own smarts and the kindness of others, lived to tell the tale. All four of them in their old age are interviewed throughout the film, and since you know they lived, you also know that no matter how close it comes to them getting caught, they won’t be found out. Nevertheless, it is an audacious story about four exceedingly brave young people.