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Arty Chick’s Seven Flicks: Week 4

This week’s picks run the gamut from a classic Hollywood epic to one of my favorite action flicks. I’ve also chosen a bunch of foreign fare. Something from Russia, from Hong Kong, from France, from Iran, and from Spain. There’s romance, betrayal, chases through the Paris Metro, and desert battles.

And what they all have in common is great storytelling. Great characters. Compelling stories.

 

 

 

Check out: Lawrence of ArabiaBurnt By the SunLeon: The ProfessionalThe Skin I Live InIn the Mood For Love; Diva; A Separation

 

Review: Sputnik

Russia, 1983. The Cold War is still raging. Two men are orbiting earth in a spacecraft, preparing for their reentry when there is an incident. And when they crash land in Kazakhstan, the commander is found dead and the flight engineer in a coma. When he awakens, he has no memory of the accident or what happened up there in space. Hoping to get to the bottom of it, secretive Colonel Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk) lures psychologist Tatiana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) who is known for her unconventional methods to a remote, high security facility where the cosmonaut Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) is being held. It doesn’t take long for her to find out that there is an alien living inside him, and her quest becomes trying to find a way to get it out without harming the host. Director Egor Abramenko is upfront about his love of space horror flicks. “Alien was always in the DNA of Sputnik.” But it’s no rip-off. It has its own satisfying trajectory.

Review: The Painted Bird

Based on Jerzy Kosiński’s novel, The Painted Bird is a brutal tale of a young nameless boy’s fight to survive on his own during World War II in the wilds of Eastern Europe. He’s beaten and abused wherever he turns, and all he wants to do is find home, though he doesn’t really know where that is. And as he makes his way towards that imagined home, he grows more and more hardened and more like the people he meets, scared and mistrustful of the world at large. Though it takes place during the war, the conflict is distant even if the effects are all around The Boy. While it’s beautifully shot in black and white, it’s also 169 minutes long and essentially a litany of horrors. It’s not a film for the masses.

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.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Festival Download

What a great festival! It’s my first year at Middleburg, now in its 5th year, but I was truly impressed by their  selections. It’s a small festival, as yet pretty unknown, but not for long, I suspect. In all I went to 14 films in just over 3 days. It was exhausting, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Films included here are: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ; Mudbound; Last Flag Flying; Faces/Places; I, Tonya; In the Fade; The Divine Order; Lady Bird; Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold; Meltdown; Loveless; Darkest Hour; The Other Side of Hope; and Hostiles.

Quickie Reviews: I Do… Until I Don’t; Crown Heights; Polina

Nothing gets you pumped for the start of the Fall movie blitz quite like the final weeks of summer at the box office. Bring it on! I’m ready for Awards Season! But first… a quick look at the latest releases that are unlikely to gain much traction as families enjoy a final long weekend of togetherness before the days get shorter, kids return to school and commuter garages reach capacity by 8 a.m.

First up on the altar of sacrifice: I Do… Until I Don’t, an ensemble comedy from writer/director/actress Lake Bell (In a World) about marriage and commitment. Here’s the gist: a bitter documentarian from the BBC shows up in divorce-mecca Vero Beach, Florida to test and prove her theory that marriage should be a seven-year contract with the option to renew. She recruits three seemingly diverse couples to appear in her documentary. They include Alice and Noah (Bell and Ed Helms), a boring couple struggling to keep their window-blinds business afloat while also attempting to have a baby; Alice’s kooky sister Fanny (Amber Heard) and her peace-loving soulmate Zander (Wyatt Cenac) who claim to be happy in their forward-thinking ‘open relationship’; and Cybil and Harvey (Mary Steenburgen and Paul Reiser), an older couple going through a bit of a midlife crisis as their anniversary approaches.