khatcher-2

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Reviews

Maroa (2005)

.......and when those dark eyes peer at you from the screen........ Obeying orders from two of my young Venezuelan students to have dinner with them and the boy-friend of one, I dutifully shuffled out one Thursday night, with a bottle of Ramón Bilbao tinto "Gran Reserva" 1985 under my arm, and enjoyed splendid company, a tasty roast chicken, and "arepas" (they told me "sin 'H'") which is a Colombian-Venezuelan speciality and extremely filling. And after dinner, slaking down excellent Colombian coffee, one of the girls put "Maroa" on her lap-top, while outside the rain fell silently and steadily, no doubt to add a little atmosphere to the proceedings.

We have here an almost "Billy Elliot" kind of film but in a very Hispano-Venezuelan tone set in the tough world of the "ranchos" around Caracas spread out on the "cerros". In other words, in the slums or shanty-towns on the hills around the Venezuelan capital. And a tough life it is indeed - poverty and violence living hand in hand amid corruption and police brutality.

Solveig Hoogestein, Belgian-born but "adopted" by Venezuela, does not shy from this authentic background of one of the most violent cities in the world; I could have well done without some of the beatings the little actress suffered at the hands of police and others; however that would have gone against the grain of the truthfulness of the story-line.

Yorlis Domínguez was an uncanny eleven-year-old when this film was made; even then she had - and I suppose and hope she still has - that physical capacity in her face and eyes with which to portray and transmit so many different feelings throughout this film - she is barely off screen - such that from the earlier sequences you are at once held open-eyed in wonderment and disbelief, which later in the film simply becomes admiration.

Tristan Ulloa (Lucía y el Sexo 2001 - qv) carries out his part well enough, I suppose, somewhat eclipsed by the presence of Yorlis, which does not surprise anybody. Very worthy of mention is Elba Escobar as Brígida, Maroa's not-so-elderly but very ailing grandmother, eking out a living from whatever in her spartan dwelling up on the "cerros" - her part is very secondary, but when on screen, her performance is compelling and convincing.

Carmen Frías once again excellent with the scissors after her extraordinary work in Truebas "Calle 54" (qv), as once again she has to edit film with music, in this case bits of Haendel and Mozart, mostly, and a very old friend turns up as producer - Gerardo Herrero - erstwhile director of such fare as "Territorio Comanche" (1997)(qv) "Malena es un nombre de tango" (1996)(qv), as well as being one of the producers for Polanski's great film "The Pianist" (1998) and the very recommendable "Martín (Hache)" (qv) directed by the Argentinian Adolfo Aristarain, among other not so memorable excursions, or forays - as you will.

The end result in "Maroa" is touching, but in the sense of plucking a few chords of sympathy mixed with regret and even a little guilt, tugging at one's conscience; but in no way is this film a mere "tear-jerker". Far from it. This film should have become known outside of Venezuela, apart from a couple of French film festivals. But I see it is about to debut in Berlin........

Ah: the Spanish - apart from Tristan Ulloa - is extremely dialectical, pure Venezuelan, and thus will not be easy to understand even by advanced students of this language.

Tarragona - Ein Paradies in Flammen (2007)

Tragic true-life as TV-fodder I missed the first 10-15 minutes of this film, such that it was a while before I cottoned on to what the film was about; when I did catch on I was utterly disheartened.

The film is loosely based on real facts: one dreadfully fateful day, just thirty years ago, a large tanker truck laden with highly combustible fuel went out of control, charged off the road and ploughed into the middle of a packed camping-site called "Los Alfaques" near Tarragona, Spain. The result was a couple of hundred killed and a couple of hundred others injured, mostly from burns, from the ensuing frightful explosion.

That such a horrendous subject matter should become the attention of some TV-film company near 30 years later is evidently open to very heavy criticism, to say the least. It is an appalling affront to anyone's sensibilities who can clearly remember that inferno on our TV screens at news-time, especially as it happened not very long after that terrible aviation accident at "Los Rodeos" Airport, Tenerife, Canary Islands, when two planes collided on the ground - and remains to this day the worst aviation disaster in history. Anybody want to make a film about that, too? Or do we need films about the attacks on the World Trade Center, New York, or on the public transit systems in Madrid and London?

I sincerely hope not: dramatised little stories trashed up and served for sensationalist tremendist appetites is more than somewhat unsavoury. This TV film is fairly well made in certain aspects, and rather weak in others. Acting and interpretation is too stereotyped into classical TV formulas, despite it being a German production (very many of the victims were indeed German people).

However, the scene-setting was more or less right, with just a few big faults. Firstly, there are only dead and injured bodies lying around in specific scenes, but not any can be seen in the more general shots of the camp-site burning hell. Secondly, the well-chosen vehicles of 30 years ago were using number plates which could only have appeared years later than this terrible tragedy.

It should be obvious that I do not like anything or anybody capitalising on true-story human tragedies.

Transamerica (2005)

Certainly, a film which adds up to more than its parts - and its parts are good To call this film, as is on IMDb, an Adventure/Comedy/Drama, does not quite rub off. This film is NOT adventure in the commercial sense, and far less a comedy.

Here is a good piece of dramatic "road-movie" as you call it over there on the other side of the big puddle.

Both Felicity Huffman and Kevin Zegers are up to the mark, though perhaps Huffman is occasionally a little over the top, but both are well carried forward by the technical team, as well as the secondary actors.

As the story unfolds I get more and more deeply involved in the main characters' role or place in life. Whether they are clashing front on, abiding time - or just occasionally getting along well - as well as other interesting "clashes" or simply "encounters", I found myself wanting to feel and know the outcome of the story. And in this I was not let down.

This is not a simple "road-movie" - it has a message, which is clear: whether by genetic or metabolic accident one is heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian or transvestite, is not important: we are ALL people herded together on this planet with feelings and sentiments, something which politicians and law-makers - and any religion - is incapable of understanding..

For this reason Duncan Tucker must be thanked and congratulated: a well-directed film: yes, as in real life, in this film the sum of the parts add up to more than the whole. But the whole of all its parts is well worth your time.

The high side of 7/10 - which is high on my scale for this kind of film.

Mujeres (2006)

If there's nothing else to go on.......... Here in Spain, after the main night-time news bulletin on the first State Channel, I generally switch over to the Second State Channel, called "La Dos". This is because if there is anything worth seeing above the mediocrity of all the other channels being fed by optic-fibre into my little kingdom called "home", or by any other means, including TDT, I may, with luck find it here on "La Dos".

There are programmes like "Enfoque", "En Portada", "Off Cinema" and other programmes worth watching on this second channel.

Hower, I do not include "Mujeres". It has about the same intellectual level as "Ana y Los Siete", and so should therefore be on the first channel - or not on any channel at all, preferably.

The "show" is pathetic at best, and tries to put women back into being the beautiful little piece at home and with the intelligence of a porcelain doll, or worse. The interpretations are as false as a €33 bank-note and are not at all indicative of any woman of today - however great-grandma they might be.

But it sells publicity spots, such is the prostitution of any TV-station anywhere in the world. The worst countries are the USA, Indonesia and Spain, in that order.

Unless you love superficial trivialities with no raison d'être except existing in itself alone and for no other purpose and you do not know how to read an interesting book, do not bother with this silly fandangle, but either change to another channel, or better still, switch the idiot-box OFF.

Independence Day (1996)

I stand by my first comment on this film Adapted Version Resubmitted 7th October, 2006

It would seem there are censureships at work on IMDb, and thus "free speech" or "open debate" or "free forum" is arbitrarily ruled out.

If a user expresses an idea and another user does not like what has been said, the magic hand of the censure can snip out the original comment.

Hum................. methinks ........ and am still thinking.........

Instead of spending 100 million dollars making this ridiculous film, Emmerich and his sponsors could have done a lot better helping REAL people in places like Darfur, Sudan, Bangladesh....... Need I continue? Even the most patriotic American must see that this film is trash. But it would seem that saying such obvieties hurts somebody's feelings somewhere and is why my original comment on this film has been deleted, as also happened with my original critique of La Pasión turca (1994) "From poetic novel to sordid sex" 20 February 2003.

Hilary and Jackie (1998)

The biographical book is not up to much and the film is up to even less I have before me a 1965 vinyl LP record with a beautiful portrait of the then twenty-year-old Jacqueline du Pré and her cello. On it she plays the Elgar and Delius Cello Concertos, classics in her repertoire which have never been bettered. Indeed, years later, the "gran maestro" Mstislav Rostropovich on being asked why was it that he had never made a recording of the Elgar Concerto, said that a young English woman had already made the definitive version to which he had nothing to add. I also have various remastered CD recordings - with or without her then husband, Daniel Barenboim as accompanying pianist or orchestra conductor, ranging from Paradis and Saint-Saëns to Fauré, Franck and Dvorák, as well as Sir Edward Elgar's beautiful "Enigma Variations".

Jacqueline du Pré was born just a few months before me and we thus celebrate 60 years on this iniquitous planet. Which is the best that can be said about the film "Hilary and Jackie" - iniquitous, "gross", vulgar............ When I learned she had got multiple sclerosis and had stopped playing her cello, I cried for a week; and when she finally died, another week. She shall be remembered for her exquisite music, not for the trashy version of a film like this one.

I am sorry, but I just could not bear seeing the film to the end. It had nothing to do with the Jacqueline du Pré whom I loved as a sensitive, intelligent, brilliant musician. Everything which this film lacks.

As the Spanish actor Paco Rabal once said: No god could be so cruel.

This film is cruel.

Even today, I show the LP recording with the beautiful portrait to my teenage students in an endeavour (mostly wasted) to persuade them to stop picking their noses.

I give this film a three out of ten - ONLY because there are fragments of her own music in it; as for the rest of the film - ZERO.

Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004)

The Forgotten Ones Around 50 million Kurds are divided up into five or six different countries - the biggest "nation" in the world without their own homeland. Isolated, abused even tortured, they survive as best they can in the middle of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Armenia y Azherbaijan. "Turtles can Fly" is testimony as to the real victims - women and children; in this film, specifically children. Women - except Margaret Thatcher - don't make wars. Children don't make wars. But here we see armless or legless children trying to "fight" each day of their dead-end lives. They have to avoid as best they can, or even pull out and deactivate, countless thousands of land-mines in the whole of "their" territory.

But the presidents or other political leaders of the aforementioned countries do not think in humanitarian terms, but in dominating and keeping control of the Kurdish minorities; and as for "world leaders" in the White House or in Downing Street, the Kurds do not enter into their reckoning or calculations. Bombs fly, bombs fall, and people are killed or maimed, whether Kurds or Sunnis or Shiites....... it does not matter, as long as oil keeps pumping along the pipelines.

But this film does not lay blame or accuse any political leaders. It limits itself to portraying the plight of maimed "survivors" - children - of what should be "Kurdistan".

The Kurdish-Iranian Bahman Ghobadi did not flinch in showing us the shuddering reality of these people - the forgotten ones.

Suite Habana (2003)

A poetic visual jewel: a harmonious suite "Suite" is a piece of music; well, that may be so until you see this visual jewel: music is converted into images. No great or famous actors or actresses - just simple ordinary people living out their daily lives in La Habana, Cuba, that so-poorly treated country.

But forget any and every political implication: this film has nothing to do with such pretensions.

"Suite Habana" is a splendid portrait of Cubans, from kids to the most elderly, so splendidly photographed, hopping from scene to scene, among the different persons making up this visual poem. There are no words to describe this; indeed, there is a saying which says "an image is worth a thousand words". And in this film of a little more than 84 minutes you have millions of words which get nowhere near the story-less story unfolding before your eyes: because these are real people living real lives - not actors trying to interpret some such rôle. Here you have the beauty of Cuban citizens en La Habana, white, black, mestizo or whatever, which just sums up into one glorious film.

It does not even matter that the portrayal is La Habana: it might just as well have been Manila, Kolkota, Mumbai, Kabul, Manaus.................. but Fernando Pérez and Raúl Pérez Ureta have masterfully carried out one of those little jewels that the great mass of the public will not appreciate, let alone comprehend, and ably helped by the suitable music of Alejandro and Cisneros (occasionally a little reminiscent of the music by Vangelis "1492: Conquest of Paradise")(qv).

I thoroughly recommend "Calle 54" (qv) and "Buena Vista Social Club", and "Suite Habana" will make more sense to you. But in no way should you see any of these films thinking of political stances: no such implications are present. Menos mal.........

Ah, no need for subtitles: there is very little dialogue, and what little there is, is obvious to any intelligent viewer with the scenes unfolding such that "translations" are totally unnecessary.

This is just one beautiful "suite" - a concerto, a symphony, a whole choral interlude. My vote is a little more than the 8,0 for 141 voters at present registered on IMDb

Historias mínimas (2002)

delicious, wonderful A "road-movie" you might say, but so different, so poignant, delicate, intriguing, absorbing......... purely delicious.

Three parallel stories take place in the "cono sur" of Argentina, more or less known as "Patagonia" (people with big feet). This is indeed a wonderful combinations of stories, almost amateurish in its making, and thus so endearing, so heartening, the film holds you to the last minute. This is not a "made in USA" road-movie. Forget that. This has real human-beings, real story-line, so passionate, so balanced, so finely tuned and exquisite.

From such minimal ideas, such maximum images and stories emerge. I wonder if Hollywood will ever learn to make films?

La pasión turca (1994)

From poetic novel to sordid sex If on the one hand Antonio Gala can be considered one of the best writers of real literature in Spain today, and is also one of the leading connoisseurs of Islamic history and culture, and on the other José Luis Alcaine is one of our best directors of photography and José Nieto one of the best composers for TV and films, and we add to all this that Ana Belén is not at all a bad actress as well as being a very accomplished singer, either alone or with her husband Víctor Manuel, one could say that this film was destined to be memorable.

However, Vicente Aranda, who may be considered one of our most representative film directors today, just does not hit it off with this film. I think mostly because somewhere along the line in transition from being a literary novel of subtle poeticness to being a somewhat crudely and hurriedly concocted passionate love affair in seething sithering Istanbul, especially laid on for Spanish tourists judging by the San Miguel beer spread out on the street-side café, quite a lot of deliberate delicacy got lost.

The result being a rather top-heavy show of macho bravura unbefitting intelligent women in today's modern Spain – or anywhere else in Europe. The overbearing macho tendencies attributable to Islamics just does not fit in: the film becomes 'trasnochada' even before it starts.

I have seen this film about three times, unfortunately: and each time I like it less. Maybe it is because I suffer from acute manias with everything associated with Islamic mentality. Perhaps. I will not argue that: and of course accept that all manias are rather silly, especially including my own. But the fact remains that I was not brought up believing that women were like cattle and thus to be treated similarly. And that is what purportedly this film is bent on showing. Definitely one of Ana Belén's more important roles, but I am afraid that in this film things go dreadfully awry.

Psycho (1998)

Remakes and Rehashes Gus van Sant is a good director in several films, but why he has to go in for remakes or rehashes is beyond me - especially talking about this masterpiece by Hitchcock. The original work should be left untouched, especially when it is superb in its making.

Do not get me wrong: I am not one of those penchants for upholding Hollywood's 30s, 40, 50s "great" (sic) days of film-making. All those Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Rita Hayworth, Randolph Scott, Rene Dunne, Cedric Hardwicke, James Stewart, David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Walter Pigeon, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra (yuck and double yuck), Tony Curtis, Brian Aherne, James Cagney..........and many more of the same ilk, have me retching and reaching for the "off" switch or button immediately.

"Vanilla Sky" is a recent example of a terrible remake-rehash of an originally good film. "Gone with the Wind" should have gone with the last hurricane, and "Casablanca" would have been nothing if the film had used the real Arabic name of 'ad-dâru l-baydâ' in Maghrabi or Addâru Lbaydâ in Berber..............

I mean, can you imagine anyone writing their own version of Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot"? Could anyone stand any of Shakespeare transposed into modern grunge-rap? Could anyone stomache Springsteen doing his version of "Ball and Chain"? Is it possible to imagine Gunther Grass' "Hundejahre" converted into a humorous farce? Could you take Vaughan-Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" played in flamenco.........?

I could go on, but I do not wish to bore anyone.

Remakes and other rehabilitations at best are only rehashes, and at worst sickening.

Ana y los 7 (2002)

The best example of the worst you can watch It took me ages to fill in all those forms and spaces and so on in order to put this series on IMDb.

And I did so with the sole purpose of reading other people's reactions. I am hugely delighted! This TV series is about as low as one can get reaching great heights of stupidity so as to entertain the silly masses. Which, unfortunately, not only in Spain, are the great majority. Seeing a fifty-year-old Ana García Obregón prancing about the screen dressed as if she were a fifteen-year-old, is enough to churn anyone's stomache, whatever dosis of gastric ulcer pills you may be taking. Yes, other contributors have said it all: rubbish, crap............

As for Ana García Obregón herself, she phones up all those silly magazines so they photograph her in her new bikini on some beach or other - but getting paid for it of course. Isn't that some kind of prostitution?

Si te dicen que caí (1989)

Vicente Aranda is like the Spanish verb "erguir" - impossible to conjugate Aranda has directed a few things which might be worth talking about, or even mentioning; but he has also made a few films which I prefer to forget about, like........um......like.......I can't remember.

"Aventis" belongs to this category. If starting off from the fact that the novelist Juan Marsé has very little intellectually o literary going for him, if Jorge Sanz has never pleased me in anything at all, and Victoria Abril has satisfied me occasionally as being an actress (and not merely a sex-object), for example in "Bicicletas son para el verano, Las" (1984), "Pazos de Ulloa, Los" (1985) (mini), or Tiempo de silencio (1986), you might be ready to accept that apart from a vague story-line which seems to meander between nowhere and somewhere else, the sight of Jorge Sanz having sex "doggy style" with Victoria Abril, is about as appetising as eating live cockroach sandwiches for breakfast.

Too much tits, bums and testicles for my liking. Near pornography in classification. Poor stuff: just in case some of you reading my comments think I praise all Spanish films. I do not: some are dreadful. "Aventis" (Si te dicen que caí) is one of them.

La vie rêvée des anges (1998)

Endearing, but savage, heart-rending story This touching and compelling story is another one of those films which year after year drive me further and further away from Bollywood pot-boilers. In Europe we make films: in Hollywood they make spectacle turn-gate busters. This is a simple but sensitive story of two girls somewhat adrift in life, somewhat lost in the hopes for life, somewhat floating from day to day without much to go on or go by. But so refreshingly and carefully enacted and directed: Eric Zonca is indeed one of those directors who put great power into simple stories, so that the resulting film is captivating, beyond the story per se. Here is excellent European theatre, among the best. Mixing tragic moments with joyful experiences, mixing friendship in the deepest human values. "La Vie rêvée des anges" is a film for the intelligent and sensitive viewer who wants to see real life human drama at ground level.

If you like this film, do not miss Fernando León de Aranoa's "Princesas" (2005)(qv).

Princesas (2005)

There are films which climb to great heights "Princesas" is one of them. After seeing Fernando León de Aranoa's wonderful film "Los Lunes al Sol" (qv), I was hungry for more. I am a great lover of cinema which has either been taken from live theatre or which delve into the realness of the human condition, of human feelings, which explore the depths of what makes people tick, of what makes people think, feel, love, hate, of what makes people on celluloid be real live living people with character and personality and deep feelings. In this aspect "Princesas" is a beautiful, moving, thoughtful piece which deserves great accolade. I left the cinema with very very deep feelings running through my heart and mind, such that I missed the bus-stop, and in the end walked all the way home - about three kilometres!

Without any doubt, the young Spanish directors Amenábar and León de Aranoa are now well above the more famous Almodóvar. "Princesas" is about prostitutes. Well, forget that: it is about two beautiful people who find themselves working the streets - and the mobile (cell) phone - to get clients. But it is also about friendship, love between two women who have had to drop out into the seamier world of the big cities - in this case, Madrid.

León de Aranoa treats the subject matter with such poignant delicacy, with such understanding sensitivity, with such superb and tasteful exquisiteness, that towards the end of the film more than one little tear dropped from my eyes. And that does not often happen.

Candela Peña, (Todo sobre mi madre, qv) (Te doy mis ojos, qv), and Micaela Nevárez in her first film, offer us superb readings of their characters; both are superb; both won my heart. The chemistry between these two young women - Spanish and Dominican - was so magnificent, you would swear they had lived all their lives together. They had me feeling for them, for their situation, for their loves, and desires, and hopes, and Zulema wanting to get back to her child in the Dominican Republic.

The music by Manu Chao and Gato Pérez was at times a little over strident, but befitting the telling of the story. (There are also other pieces of music not yet mentioned in IMDb).

Ramiro Civita's photography, especially in the facial close-ups is astounding, bringing out the best of the actresses feelings, anguish, torments. Superb work, though some scenes with hand-held camera were at times chaotic. Nevertheless, I pass over this.

The same as in "Te doy Mis Ojos"(qv) we have here an important sociological document in the form of a film with a story to tell. Women find themselves in bad situations directly due to men's vain and stupid attempts at being superior over them. Men fail miserably; as I have said in "Te doy mis ojos": this film makes me feel ashamed of being a man. So does "Princesas". A beautiful, warm, tender, hard story, so wonderfully told.

I shall see this film again before it is taken off from the local multi -cinemas, and will buy the DVD as soon as it is in the shops.

Here is another film to add to the best six Spanish films of all times:

El Sur

Los Santos Inocentes

Mar Adentro

Princesas

Te doy Mis Ojos

A los que Aman (all commented on in IMDb)

The African Queen (1951)

A well-deserved classic of the times I cannot remember Bogart ever making a film in which he had to interpret a character - except in "African Queen", now a classic in the world of cinema. And the chemistry between him and Katherine Hepburn comes off just so well. Maybe I have seen this film four or five times, and no doubt I will see it again.

The beautiful photography along the great river, plays in so well with the story-line, as the development of C.S. Forester's characters take shape. Indeed, I think Forester must have been charmed by the film. As you will be charmed by many of his novels - all good reading. How a film with essentially only two actors can hold your attention with so much fascination, beggars belief, but this odd coupling does so with great success.

I am not a Huston fan: but with this one, I take off my hat and congratulate him.

Bangkok Hilton (1989)

Arguably one of the best Australian TV productions ever I have just had the luck to see this TV mini again recently. The second viewing just reinforced my impressions from my first viewing a few years ago.

This is Nicole Kidman playing an extraordinary rôle in a great film, before she became another one for the Hollywood heap. Since this film, I have only ever seen her in two better rôles: "The Portrait of a Lady" (qv) and Robert Daldry's astounding masterpiece "The Hours" (qv).

A two-part mini of 90 minutes each, I had to watch the whole three hours in one go: but was not at all tired on either experience. "Bangkok Hilton" does not mess about with unnecessary details, but gets you right into the story from the beginning, especially in the second half which includes those tremendous prison scenes in Thailand's capital, from whence logically the film's title.

Yes, one of Nicole Kidman's earlier works, but one in which you know she was on the road to great things. A few stupidities got in the way - like "Moulin Rouge!" (qv) - but even so, one can now see where she did her spade-work, and "Bangkok Hilton" is one of the best examples.

El hombre y la tierra: Serie ibérica (1974)

A documentary series which should never be forgotten Having now been shown again on the Spanish State Network recently (though I have the complete collection on VHS many years hence), Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente's incredible animal life series is worth anybody's money and time. Now celebrating 30 years, this series has lost nothing as it is as fresh and as invigorating as when it first appeared on TV.

If "Cosmos" (qv) is arguably the best documentary TV series ever made, I can assure you that "El Hombre y la Tierra" is not far behind. The photography is superb, reaching right into those furtive hard-to-see animals lives; here is all the cruelty of birds of prey catching their rabbits; here is all the beauty of wild wolves roaming in packs through the dense forests; here is the Pyrenean bear in mountain streams catching his daily fish; the otter eking out its living along river banks; here is the majestic Iberian Golden Eagle soaring to great heights, and swooping on its prey; here is his own hunting dogs. If you are a nature-lover of any kind, this superb series will thrill your senses. Similarly to Carl Sagan in English, Rodríguez de la Fuente's careful speaking and didactic techniques offers you more: wonderful lessons in the Spanish language.

You might like to read my mini-biography of Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente on IMDb.

Festen (1998)

Orchestrated family drama - in which you, the viewer, take part Evidently following the Dogme-95 technique, rather like a latter day Imagiste writing his last verses, and equally evidently influenced by Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterburg gets us intermeshed personally into the unfolding story. The viewer at once feels as if he is one of those present at the family gathering to celebrate father's birthday, not simply a spectator in a comfortable seat in the fourteenth row. For Hollywood-bred people, you might argue that everything seems so "amateurish". But those of us able to reach higher, deeper, and profound story-telling in the best tradition of European film-making, "Festen" must not be missed. The character-playing, camera technique and use of light and shade, is unique, something quite apart from the run-of-the-mill fodder mass-fed to the undiscerning pop-corn squad. "Festen" has to be seen three or four times for you to be able to digest what is simply pure basic hardcore cinematography at its best: wonderfully executed by actors who put Kodak Theatre red-carpet walkers to shame. A must see.

Braveheart (1995)

Courageous film-making and story-telling I am by no means a Mel Gibson fan, as in many of his films I find too much violence, often unnecessary (Lethal Weapon series, Mad Max sequels, etc).

However, with "Braveheart" he came up with an extraordinary story that just had to be made known to the general public. I shall skip any historical inaccuracies: I am talking about the film in itself, beautifully photographed by John Troll and well backed by James Horner's excellent music.

I shall add no other comment to the hundreds thus far submitted to IMDb. However, this story of Wallace fighting the English was only the beginning. If after seeing this film you would like to know more about Scotland and how the English carried out genocide against the clans, I thoroughly suggest the following reading:

John Prebble: Fire and Sword: the destruction of the clans

I - TheHighland Clearances

II - Glencoe

III - Culloden

In this meticulously documented trilogy, John Prebble uncovers the genocide carried out in Scotland from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution through to the late 1800s, documents well hidden from the general public.

These books, though dating from the early 1960s, should still be available from Penguin (London), or Penguin-Bantam (USA and Canada).

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Pleases the pop-corn public Put a couple of "beautiful people" together in a romantic fantasy musical rather like in a modernised version of anything by Rogers and Hammerstein, lots of songs all strung along any-old-how, with a story-line which doesn't matter, and box-office success is assured and everyone is HAPPY! Great show-biz, but dismal film-making; about as original as a cold pizza on a park bench in the bleak mid winter, and throwing in a handful of snow - whether artificial or not - makes no difference. Supposedly Paris in the early 1900s but laden with songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, with anything - but ANYTHING - from Dolly Parton to Sting, passing through Buffy Sainte-Marie and Elton John and a bit of Lennon/McCartney - and throwing in for good measure the only pieces to have existed then from Offenbach (which must have had Les Folies Bergères splitting their sides and gurgling with mirth backstage), this film lurches along in a frivolous capriccio accompanied by lurid overblown photography.

Spectacular show, but pretty lousy film-making. The only good thing going for it was that it did not have Richard Gere (who probably can't sing) and Jennifer López (who can), or, even worse pairing up somebody like the unbearable Keanu Reeves with Shannon Elisabeth.

I give "Moulin Rouge" just under three out of ten as some of the songs were "nice" and at times were cleverly strung together. Which is why I cannot understand why the US vote is lower than the rest of the world.......... I was watching a superb piece by Iosseliani the other night......... shucks, forget about it.........

Adieu, plancher des vaches! (1999)

Each scene is a suggestive treasure Here indeed is film-making in its purest art form. Iosseliani has, in this film, the only one of his I have had the greatest pleasure of seeing, manages to evoke such subtle ideas in each pan, in each scene, which in themselves are miniature stories, each one a little jewel, which little by little begin to string along, creating a thread which tells the whole story. And the result is a treasure, something to value for a long time.

To call this film a comedy, is almost an insult: it is far too subtle for such simplistic definition. Here is wit, which is not just for easy laughs; here is wit in its subtlest form, such as the British sense of humour in the fifties and early sixties of the past century. Here is the voice of a visionary who creates unforgettable tid-bits, visual savouries, such that each scene in itself is a suggestive, evokeful treasure, combining to thread together an intelligent story for intelligent viewers. No, one should not try to compare Iosseliani with Almodóvar or Lynch, perhaps a slight influence or comparison with Fellini at times, because the concepts of how to exhibit subtle nuances of wit in exquisite expressiveness, very often with hardly any dialogue, belong to another sphere.

The presence of a great bird, similar to a pelican, as well as the two dogs - a Labrador puppy, and a short-legged variant of the Border Collie, affords that emblematic and enigmatic delicate touch which helps this film to be something else: it is not comical and it is not laughable; this film is cinematography as art.

My vote is much higher than the present average shown in IMDb.

The Eurovision Song Contest (2005)

Politically correct - unique thinking On the one hand it is very satisfying to see any and every kind of activity which helps to strengthen a united Europe. Thus, each and every addition of countries forming the European Union can only be hailed as a great success. I love Europe: it is the cultural cradle of our planet; it is a microcosm of our planet; it has the greatest mixture of cultures and languages of the entire planet. Europe is not perfect: nothing is perfect. However, Europe is the insignia of multiracial integration, as can be found nowhere else on our spaceship earth.

But from there to Eurovision...................

Excuse me, but there is a great violation of perspectives. Evident political overtones and manipulation are in process, such that the millions of telephone calls - on "special" numbers which are the most expensive, thus generating wealth for TV companies and the organizers - are just one gigantic fraud. However, with all the hype, there is more than enough ingenuousness to keep the inexorable wheels turning - and churning out much of the same about the same each year.

Gone are the days when countries sang in their own language - ABBA made sure of that with their pretty songs - and nearly all participating countries sing in English. Therein lies the disaster: it all sounds the same. What but, forsooth, if the contesting singer is from Latvia or Croatia, if they sing in English? Only France and Spain, occasionally Germany, keep to their own languages. Other than that, "Eurovision" is nothing more than a fastuous pop concert, carefully rehearsed and re-rehearsed, so that in the end, it might be a good idea if a hearse carted it off to some out-of-city rubbish-dump and left it there unceremoniously and unprostituted for future generations.

But as is the case with most contests, whether they be Hollywood Oscars, Pullitzar Prizes, or the Eurovision Song Contest, they only exist to perpetuate themselves and make profits - good hard cash for all involved.

Reindeer Games (2000)

Scandalous Mess Whether you have been waiting for this one, or not, you have been wasting your time. You have either been wasting your time waiting for it, or watching it. Pathetic is not the word: try disgusting, disgraceful, and any other synonyms you might like to extract from your "thesaurus", if you have ever gone to the bother of getting one. However much Ben Affleck might get female hearts throbbing and masculine genitals doing something else because of Charlize Theron, is not important. The afore-named might have done something more decent in his career - I haven't yet seen it - or the latter-named likewise - which she has, though not by much - I can assure you that this indigestible panache aimed at the screen, be it big or small is meaningless, and a thorough waste of time for anyone whose mental capacities climb out of the foaming pool of senselessness left behind by anybody worth mentioning, be it Rousseau or Richard I.

The story (is there any?), the acting (is there any?) is hopeless, helpless, useless, and is aimed at half-wits. Even in its parts, this film adds up to very little - or even worse - and in its whole is left in the same category. A few dollars here, a few dollars there, and everyone is happy: except the intelligent viewer who has paid his bucks/yen/euros/pounds or whatever seeing this or hiring this ridiculous charade.

I cannot help thinking that there are too many bamboozlers and tricksters embezzled into the ingenuous and senseless Hollywood razzmatazz, such that if Ms. Theron goes back to South Africa, nobody will miss her, and if she comes to Europe she might just make a name for herself - worthy or not depends on her and her luck.

In this case, luck ran out, as much for Ms. Theron as for Affleck and Frankenheimer, as well as practically anybody else connected with this mess of a film that had nothing to say.

It is one of the best films representing Hollywood's brainless, mindless, twaddle.

Ah, now I understand why Bush is still president..........how silly of me. Excuse me. Beg your pardon. Please forgive me - but better still - forget this apology of a film. Definitely aimed at 15 year-olds with not much inside their bonces.

Definitely worth a miss; definitely worth a beer on the couch with your friends, or snuggling up with your girl-friend with the volume switched off so as not to invade on your privacy or intimacy, and you will certainly get the better of things, or - anyway - your girl-friend will.

Trust (2000)

Contrived ending ruins the rest What at first appears to be an excellent 'whodunnit' in the best British style, with pretty good performances all round, 'Trust' carefully constructs an interesting scenario in a very plausible step-by-step process which keeps the viewer glued to the screen. A woman's body is spewed out of the back of a refuse truck onto one of those great urban rubbish dumps; she is thought to be a prostitute.......but is she?

The film is up to the level of and comparable with Diarmuid Lawrence's highly recommendable 'The Echo' (1998) (TV) (qv) - until the final scenes, that is. As the denouément is sputtered out, the totally implausible outcome renders all that has gone before to the level of a cheap Agatha Christie story.