I just recently caught this mind blowing little short (and I do mean short..only 2 minutes)at a festival of Academy Award nominated short animated films. Despite the short running time, I laughed my a** off, big time. It's basically some kind of (very)surreal cooking show,where a pair of hands whips up a batch of Guacamole,using all kinds of household objects not associated with food. The results are pretty wacky (in a good way,of course). Veteran stop motion animator PES (who also did equal justice to cooking up a bowl of pasta in his earlier short, 'Western Spaghetti')weaves a few trippy moments of silliness (and also pulls down a cameo as the pair of hands) that some will get giggles from,others...probably not so (it depends on the grasp of surrealism). Not rated by the MPAA,but nothing to offend the staunchest of bluenoses
I just recently had the open window of opportunity to see this rather obscure MGM animated short which was obviously produced during World War 2 (references to donating rubber to the war effort are abundant here). A nameless donkey is dismayed to find that his neighbours have donated far more rubber than he,causes him to search out more rubber to donate. He finds an old tyre tube buried in the ground, but when he tries (over and over again)to dig it up,he finds the tube has a mind of it's own,and has a rather sadistic agenda to carry out on the hapless donkey. What follows is seven funny minutes of what MGM seemed to do best,produce a well animated (some brilliant animation,and use of Technicolor)short that must have had them rolling in the aisles,back in the day. Unfortunately,little is known of whom ever worked on this short (no animation supervisor/director,or screen writer listed...'tho Michael Lah,who worked with Tex Avery on some of his funniest work for his MGM era is listed as one of the animators). Don't let this throw you from enjoying a well produced short from an era that turned animation into an art form. Not rated by the MPAA (which,at the time was called The National Board Of Review),but perfect entertainment for the whole family (if you can find any youngsters that would have any relevant interest in the history of animation)
As much as I've always enjoyed the music of Neil Young (starting with his stint in Buffalo Springfield,thru C.S.N.Y & (most)of his solo out put, I found this curious little film a head scratcher. It seems to start out as a documentary about...well...um, Neil Young in various phases of his career. Starting with some blurry video footage of Buffalo Springfield,in a television appearance,thru some sparse footage of Crosby,Stills,Nash & Young (gee...who would have thought?). If this film had pretty much stuck to this premise,it would have made for a satisfactory documentary. The problem is that Neil opted to let his film go totally out of control,careening into some abstract episodes that even most midnight movie fans would have found utterly confusing (no matter how much Marijuana they're behind). Now,don't get me wrong. If you think I'm some typical old fart that can't deal with anything out of the ordinary (I list films such as Eraserhead & El Topo as personal head movie favourites),guess again. Part of the problem of personal vision films is that sometimes the vision is so personal, the only ones that could grasp the message is the artists themselves. I'm not saying 'Journey Through The Past' is unwatchable, it's just that there is a treasure trove of much better stuff out there. It's still worth at least one look (for those who were not born yet & want to get a better idea what the 1960's & 1970's Hippie counter culture was all about). Originally slapped with an R-rating by the MPAA,this film contains much pot smoking & salty language. Pretty tame by today's standards.
Derek Jarman was a British film maker who's films were an acquired taste for some,and reason to delight for others. He started out as an painter, and got into film from being a set designer for such films as Ken Russell's 'The Devils'. He started out making simple (but never simple minded) 8mm films,moving eventually to 35mm features. Along the way, he experimented,resulting in films such as 'The Garden'. In 'Blue' (a.k.a.Derek Jarman's Blue),he was nearly blind,as a result of AIDS, and wanted to film his final testament. The result is nearly 80 minutes of what appears to be blue light struck leader (generally used at the beginning of each reel of film,so as not to allow direct light on screen),augmented with spoken text,some of which by some of Jarman's favourite actors (Tilda Swinton),with various realms of music (classical,ambient,etc.). As with other experimental/expanded cinema, this film will leave some cold,and delight others. Not rated by the MPAA,but contains some naughty language
A Real Life Freddy Krueger (or...Cropsey will get you if you don't watch out)
As most of us growing up were told by (some,'tho thankfully not all) parents & older siblings/peers..."the bogyman will get you if you don't watch out",just to scare the living crap out of us. In Staten Island,New York,a real life bogyman was apparently doing so. Between 1972 to 1987,several children went missing in the area of Willowbrook State School for the mentally disabled. The prime suspect was one Andre Rand,a former inmate at Willowbrook in the 1950's,and who would be found creeping around the abandoned building. Andre Rand was eventually captured,put on trial & convicted for several grisly murders. Cropsey (Rand's nick name)attempts to try & make some sort of sense out of what could have happened (and makes attempts to try & clear Rand's name). Did Andre Rand commit all of those gruesome murders,or is he (Rand) just being used as some kind of scapegoat to pacify the community of Staten Island? Life long Staten Island residents,Joshua Zeman & Barbara Brancaccio direct this riveting documentary,from a scenario conceived by Zeman. Cinematography is by Chad Davidson & edited by Tom Patterson. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains some truly disturbing images & testimony that will haunt you for a long time after,as well as a bit of rough language. Not a good choice for children.
You have to admire Robert Duvall. For fifty,plus years now,he has starred in countless films portraying characters that are somewhat left of centre. In Get Low,he plays Felix Bush,a hermit who has,for the most part,retreated from society,due to some mighty dark daemons he has been carrying around for far too long. Felix is old & feels his time for shuffling off his mortal coil is not far away. Felix is either feared or hated by most of the people that live in the town (as far from his land,as possible). Felix gets the idea of having a funeral party before he bids farewell. He gets assistance in the form of two workers at the local funeral parlor,Frank Quinn & his partner Buddy. The three of them plan the mother of all funerals to take place on Felix's land (a mighty feat,considering most of the townies want little or less to do with him). In the midst of all this,a woman from Felix's past turns up (Mattie Darrow)to make things even more interesting. All of this makes for a multi layered story that,despite the dark subject matter,will have your head in the clouds (trust me). Besides the superb work of Robert Duvall,as Felix,there is ever so fine work from the likes of Sissy Spacek (where has she been lately?),as Mattie Darrow,Bill Murray,as Frank Quinn (ever deadpan as always),and Lucas Black as Frank's business partner,Buddy. With Bill Cobbs,Lori Beth Edgeman,Gerald McRaney...and featuring Gracie,as Felix Bush's mule,Gracie (who would have thunk it?). Aaron Schneider,working his way up from cinematographer & film editor for television projects,directs & edits from a screenplay written by Chris Provenzano & C.Gaby Mitchell,from a story by Scott Seeke & Provenzano. Cinematography by David Boyd. The film's musical score is composed by Jan Kaczmarek (incidental music),and legendary Bluegrass musician,Jerry Douglas (for some of the American roots oriented musical score),as well as some nice use of some actual 1930's period popular music of the era (Example:does 'If I didn't care'by the Ink Spots strum a familiar chord with you?). This is tasteful film making,with top notch acting from a superb cast. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for a few outbursts of rude language & some adult themes
Building Walls Of Brick/Building Walls Of/Around Emotion
Jean is a construction worker,who is invited by his son,Jeremy,to speak at his school on what he does for a living. While there,he is somewhat taken by Jeremy's pretty (and younger)school teacher,Vernonique Chambon, who after is thankful for Jean's speech on building. When Jean discovers that Veronique is a one time musician,specializing in the violin,he is further smitten with her,to the point of stalking her via daily telephone calls & parking outside of her flat and just waiting & hoping she will make an appearance. This may sound like the trapping for a psycho killer horror film,but goes in a totally different direction. Up to now,Jean & Veronique were both emotionally distant people,even to their individual families. Will they find one another,or will they merely drift apart? That's for you to find out. Stephanie Brize (Entre Adultes,Le Bleu Des Villes)directs & co writes the screen play,with the assistance of Florence Vignon,from the novel by Eric Holder. The film's striking cinematography is by Antoine Heberle,with editing by Anne Klotz. The cast includes the great Vincent Linden (Betty Blue,Welcome,School Of Flesh),as Jean,Sandrine Kiberlain,as Vernonique Chambon,Aure Atika,as Jean's loving wife,Anne Marie,Arthur Le Houerou as their son,Jeremy,and Jean Marc Thibault as Jean's Father. With Bruno Lochet,Michelle Gaddet,Anne Houdy & Jean Francois Molet. This is a film that is in no hurry to tell it's story,as it's pacing is V-E-R-Y slow (take note any & all fans of Michael Bay,or any other director of over the top bombast:you will be bored out of your skulls,so steer clear of this one,for both your benefit,as well as movie goers that have no issues regarding slowly paced films). Spoken in French with English subtitles. Not rated by the MPAA,this film serves up a few outbursts of rude language & some brief adult content (but nothing too graphic & explicit)
You May Want To Take A Pass On That Sloppy Italian Dinner Before (or after) This Film
Tom Six is a director from the Netherlands who's films are something of an acquired taste (he has not always made it easy for audiences to warm up to his dark humour). The Human Centipede (First Sequence)is another addition to his back log of films. In this one,two attractive young women from America,Lindsay & Jennie are traveling through Germany. They are invited to a party one night. While driving to the party,they experience a flat tyre in the middle of some dark woods. Walking around for hours (and in a rain storm to up the ante),they come upon a house in the middle of nowhere. They find out that the owner of the house is one Dr.Heiter,a once brilliant surgeon,who had successfully separated conjoined twins,but was kicked out & had his license suspended for unethical experiments. It seems the good doctor is looking for human victims for his latest experiment:the construction of a human centipede. What follows is an exercise in what is being regarded as one of the sickest,grotesque moments in cinema (which I digress:certainly there are things way more gross & disturbing out there,either in porn,underground video/film release, or on-line). Either way,most audiences are in for a corker of a roller coaster ride at whatever cinema will screen this. According to legend, Tom Six is currently at work on the next episode of this film,which is being co titled "Full Sequence" (and will make this film seem like 'My Little Pony',in terms of shock value). Dieter Laster plays what has to be one of the most deranged mad doctors since Udo Kier played Baron Frankenstein in Paul Morrisey's 'Flesh For Frankenstein' (released in the United States as 'Andy Warhol's Frankenstein',which was for it's time pretty extreme,as it received the dreaded 'X'rating for it's gory content),as the intense & deranged Dr.Heiter. Ashley Williams is Lindsay,Ashlynn Yennie is Jennie,Akihiro Kitamura is Katsuro. With Peter Blankenstein,Andreas Leupold,Bernd Kostrau & Rene de Witt.
Tom Six writes,directs & edits this parable in unorthodox medical experiments that will obviously thrill some,and totally disgust others. You have been warned. Spoken in English,and German & Japanese with English subtitles. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains outbursts of strong language,bloody violence & some truly disturbing images that are grotesque.
It is one year since Mikael Blomkvist has been cleared of a slander charge that could have landed him in jail for some time,and Lisbeth Salander has disappeared without a trace. Mikael is back writing for Millennium,and is currently writing a piece on sex trafficking in Sweden from eastern Europe (and,as usual,getting himself in deep doo doo with those who would love nothing better than to silence Mikael for good). When two murders indirectly linked to Lisbeth occur,the police figure Lisbeth Salander is to blame. In due course time,Lisbeth & Mikael are back together working on trying to clear Lisbeth,who finds out some eye opening truths about her past. It's up to the pair to sort out the complex jigsaw puzzle,and try to make the pieces fit. Daniel Alfredsson directs from a screenplay written by Jonas Frykberg,based on the second installment of the millennium trilogy,'Flicken Som Lekte Med Elden',by Steig Larsson. The film's cinematography is by Peter Mekrasinski,with editing by Mattias Morheden. Noomi Repace returns as everybody's favourite kick butt computer hacker,Lisbeth Salander,as well as Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist. Adding to the cast is Lena Endre,as Mikael's co worker & girl friend,Erika Berger,Georgi Staykov,as Alexander Zalachenko,and Mike Spreitz,as Ronald Niedermann,what has to be one of the most intense baddies on screen since Richard Kiel's performance as Jaws in 'The Spy Who Loved Me'. Also new to the cast is Yasmine Garbi,Jacob Eriksson,Tehilla Blad,and keep your eyes open for a brief walk on by veteran actor,Per Oscarsson. This is a taut,intense thriller that although not nearly as brutal as 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' (not too much,but there are a few certified seat squirmers in store),but still packs a punch. Spoken in Swedish with English subtitles. Rated 'R' by the MPAA,this film contains strong sexual content,graphic nudity,some rather unpleasant violence,including flash backs of a rape,and strong language. Leave the little ones home.
When Akira Kurosawa's film, 'Do-Des-Ka-Den'(1970)was deemed both a critical,as well as box office failure,Kurosawa found it difficult to obtain financial backing for film projects. In 1974,after a failed suicide attempt,he decided to seek money from outside Japan for a film. Good fortune came in the form of a trip to the former U.S.S.R.,where he was offered to direct a film adaptation of the classic Russian novel, Dersu Okhotnik,by Vladimir Arsenyev,a tale of a friend ship between a Captain in the Russian Army & a elderly man,Dersu Uzala living in the forest. Kurosawa jumped at the chance,and to make a long story short, in 1975,'Dersu Uzala' was released in the U.S.S.R. to acclaim,and eventually released world wide. It's easy to see what would make this beautifully shot,edited & directed tale of a simple man of the Earth, and the friendship he shared with a (so called)learned man,who would learn much more as a result of that friendship. Akira Kurosawa (The Seven Samurai,Ran)directs from a screenplay written by Kurosawa & Yuri Nagibin,from the novel Dersu Okhotnik,by Vladimir Arsenyev. The film's breath taking cinematography is rendered by no less than three directors of photography:Fydor Dobronvov,Yuri Gantman & Asakazu Nakai. The film's editing is supervised by Lyudmila Feiginova. The lush music score is by Issak Shvarts. The cast is headed by Maxim Manzuk,as Dersu Uzala & Yuri Soloman as Captain Vladimir Arseniev,with Svetlana Danilchenko,as Mrs.Arseniev,and Dimitri Korshikov as their young son, Wowa. With Suimenkul Chokmorov,Aleksander Pyatkov,Nikolai Valkov,and others. A well written screenplay,superb acting,lush cinematography,and a sublime musical score make for this,a film that should be experienced by those who are sick to death of the usual garbage from the septic tank that has become Hollywood. This film was produced in two editions:the original Soviet version,filmed in 70mm,in six channel stereophonic sound,and a 35mm wide screen "scope" version (alas,in mono sound,only). Sadly,there are only two surviving 70mm stereo prints of Dersu Uzala available:1) in an unsubtitled print,that is currently in a film archive in Moscow 2)The only other 70mm,stereo print is only available in Sweden (with Swedish subtitles)in a film archive in Stockholm (all other prints are 35mm scope,in mono). Spoken in Russian & Mandirin with English subtitles. Rated 'G' by the MPAA,this film has absolutely nothing to offend,making it a perfect family film
...And You Thought Arizona Has Some Tough Immigration Laws
Illegal immigrants from other countries are a hot button issue across the globe (with some countries enacting some pretty draconian laws of their own). In France,it is a tightly enforced law,where one can face jail time for merely helping illegal immigrants try to make a new life for themselves. In this case Bilal,a 17 year-old boy from Iraq,of Kurdish back ground has been trying to get to England,so he can find his girl friend,Mina,who was taken there by her strict family to get away from Bilal,to marry a wealthy restaurant owner (against her will). Bilal has walked all the way from Kurdistan (which is located in the northern sector of Iraq),and ended up in France,with some money & ends up trying to get swimming lessons from a once Olympic hopeful,Simon Calmet,so that he can swim all the way across the English channel from France to England (only after a botched attempt to get to England by truck,via the Chunnel). Simon has certainly had more than the lions share of bad breaks in life (and it shows in his face,which almost always has a weary,hang dog look to it). Simon,some how takes a shine to Bilal,and at great risk to himself,helps the boy to try & get to England to his love (he walked thousands of miles from Iraq,and is willing to swim hundreds of meters in ice cold,choppy waters to a potential death,just for love). Determination,or just a crazy dream? Philippe Lioret ('The Light','Don't Make Trouble')directs from a screen play written by Emmanuel Courcal,Olivier Adam,Serge Frydman & Lioret. The film's impressive cinematography is by Laurant Daulland,with editing by Andrea Sedlackova. The cast includes Vincent Lindon,as Simon Calmet,Firyat Ayverdi,as Bilal,Audrey Dana,as Simon's ex wife,Marion,Darya Ayverdi (yes,Firyat's actual sister),as Mina. With Thierry Godot,Selim Akgul,Firat Celik,Jean-Pol Brissart,and many others. Spoken in French,Kurdish & Dari with English subtitles,and English. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains outbursts of strong language,a bit of violence & a brief sensual moment
Hats off to Ireland's Neil Jordan. For years now,Neil has directed an impressive back log of feature films for the cinema (and for television). Ondine,his most recent addition, is another shining example of his talents as a gifted film maker. In this one,a lone fisherman,Syracuse,is out on his boat,when his net snags something really big,he draws in his net,finding a near dead attractive young woman in it. After reviving her,he takes her to a family owned cottage where nobody ever ventures to. There,he finds out a wee bit about her (but not much,outside of her name being Ondine). When Syracuse tells of his discovery to his young daughter,Annie,she sets about to find out about her,and imagines she's a Selkie (a creature drawn from Celtic lore,which is supposed to be related to seals). Eventually,the whole village finds out about Ondine,and warm up to her. Things begin to warm up between Syracuse,Ondine & Annie,until a mysterious stranger turns up on the island that threaten to tear it all apart. Neil Jordan writes & directs this beautiful story with a tart twist of lemon. The breath taking cinematography is by Christopher Doyle,with editing by Tony Lawson. The film's musical score is by Kjartan Sveinsson,of the Icelandic band,Sigur Ros,with songs by Sigur Ros & others. The cast includes Colin Ferrell,as Syracuse,Allicja Bachleda,as Ondine,Alison Barry,as Annie,Neil Jordan regular,Steven Rea as the priest,and Tony Curran,Dervla Kirwan,Emil Hostina & Norma Sheehan. Another crowd pleaser from Jordan. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some salty language,brief sensual content & some brief,but not too graphic flashes of violence
"A Change Is Gonna Come" (homage to Luchino Visconti)
With all respects to Sam Cooke. That aside, Luca Guadagnino's, 'I'o sono l'amore,released in English speaking countries as 'I am love',is a story that could have been told by fellow Italian film maker Luchino Visconti during his life time. A middle aged woman,Emma Recchi,and her loving husband,Tancredo are hosting a lavish dinner party,along with their three adult children. On the surface,life would seem perfect (guess again). One of her sons,Edoardo,Jr.has hopes to be the co owner of a restaurant with his best friend,Antonio,a chef. When Antonio prepares a lavish lunch for Emma & her friends,sparks start to fly for her. Could this trigger a full blown affair between the two? The obvious metaphor for this film is change,in one form or another (her son's choice to open a restaurant,her husband's promotion in the family business,her daughter opting to switch from a future in painting to photography,plus Elisabetta is just about to come out of the closet as a lesbian,and other subplot elements). The cast includes the always welcome on screen, Tilda Swinton as Emma,Flavio Parenti as Edoardo,Jr.,Alba Rohewacher as her daughter,Elisabetta,Pippo Delbono as Tancredi,and Edoardo Gabbrielli as Antonio Biscaglia,and a cast of Italian actors who do best with what the material they work with. Luca Guadagnino directs from a screenplay written by Barbara Alberti,Ivan Catroneo,Walter Fasano & Luca Guadagnino,from a story written by Guadagnino. The film's breath taking cinematography is supplied by Yorick LeSaux,with editing by Walter Fasano. The film also gets kudos from a musical score adapted by American composer,John Adams. The film's pacing could have been a little more snappy,but is none the less,lovely to look at. Spoken in Italian & Russian with English subtitles,and English. Rated 'R' by the MPAA for sexual content & nudity
The place:Korea. The time:sometime in the 1940's. When a botched train robbery goes horribly wrong,three men are thrown together in search of a promise of buried treasure,via a mysterious map of the Russian empire. These three men:Yoon Tae Goo,Park Chang Yi & Park Do Won,are bitter adversaries from years back (for reasons that are eventually revealed in time). The three try by hell or high water to get hold of that map,to find the lost treasure. Throw in elements of crime gangs,bounty hunters,and the Japanese military,and you have yourself a slam bang,over the top western (eastern?)that is guaranteed to keep you at the edge of your seat until the end. Ji-woo Kim directs from a screen play written by Ji-woo Kim & Mon-suk Kim. The film's breath taking wide screen cinematography is by Mo-gae Lee & Seung Chul-Oh, with tight editing by Nam-na Young. The cast includes:Kang-ho Sung,as Yoon-tae Goo,Byung-hun Lee,as Park Chung Yi,and Woo-sung Jing,as Park-do Won. With Dal-su Oh,Seo-won Oh,Ji-won Uhm & Je-mun Yun. This fast paced shoot 'em out is obviously an homage to Italian Spaghetti western director,Sergio Leone,as well as Hong Kong action/adventure director Ringo Lam. Spoken in Korean,Mandarin & Japanese with English subtitles. Rated 'R' by the MPAA for pervasive non stop violence,some of which is quite graphic,bloody & brutal at times,some salty language & drug use.
Bringing The Family Back Home (one way or another)
The scene is Mexico,modern times. A divorced woman,Nora, is getting things ready for Passover Seder (ordering the food,invitations,and every thing else). She then takes a fatal overdose of sleeping pills. Her ex husband,Jose,who lives directly across the street gets the box of meat for preparing,instead of Nora. When Jose takes the package of meat to Nora's flat,he discovers that she is dead in her bedroom. Jose, a weary,bitter man,makes calls for his son to come over & get things cleared up. Things only get in state of chaos when a host of folk arrive to deal with the deceased (various Rabbi's,Nora's long time domestic,other family members,etc.). The family for Nora to have a traditional Jewish funeral,despite the fact that she committed suicide (an absolute no no in the Jewish religion,where life is regarded as sacred). Problem is,Jose has become something of an atheist in his later years. All of this,and more,make for a sparkling black comedy that has a surprise element in the end (I'm not saying)that makes for a life affirming film. Mariana Chenilla writes & directs this film from her own screenplay. Cinematography by Alberto Anaya. Edited by Oscar Figueroa & Chenilla. The cast include:Fernardo Lujan as Jose,a somewhat unlikable soul (at first)that experiences a transformation of sorts. Silvia Mariscal as Nora,Enrique Aireola as Moises,Ari Brickman as Ruben,and Veronica Langor as Tia Leah. With Marina De Tavira,Max Kerlow,Juan Pablo Medina & Vanya Moreno. Well worth seeking out. Spoken in Spanish with English subtitles. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains some rude language & brief sexual content
O.S.S. 117 Is Back (and there just may be trouble)
O.S.S.117,is the French version of James Bond. Although (for women anyway)he is handsome & suave,he is a walking catalog of neuroses. He is vain,a racist,sexist,homophobic,xenophobic clod,he does get the job done. Although I've never read any of the O.S.S. 117 novels,or seen any of the original films (with the first dating back to the late 1950's),I did see the last outing,'O.S.S.117:Cairo,Nest Of Spies',which I did admire & find drop dead funny. This time,well...it had good intent. O.S.S.117 is sent by the agency to go to Brazil to find an escaped Nazi war criminal,who is hell bent on setting up a branch of the Nazi party in Rio De Janero. This time,he is sent over with a partner,an attractive Colonel in the Isreali Army,Col.Delores Koulchou. O.S.S. isn't exactly thrilled to be working with a woman (especially one who outranks him),but tries to make good (but not without the best intentions). While in Rio,they team up with an informant,who just happens to live in a hippie commune. After a wild night of sex,drugs (O.S.S.117 is given a hit of L.S.D.),but no rock & roll. The three take after Von Zimmel to try & bring him back for trial for war crimes. Jean Dujardin returns as O.S.S.117,with Louise Monot as Delores Koulchou,Rudger Volger as Von Zimmel,and Alex Lutz as Heinrich. Michel Hazanavicius,who directed Dujardin in 'Cairo:Nest of Spies',returns to direct from a screen play written by Jean Francois Halin,based on the character originally devised by Jean Bruce. The film's breath taking cinematography is by Guillaume Schiffman,with film editing by Raynald Bertrand. Not nearly as good as 'O.S.S. 117:Cairo,Nest Of Spies',but if you're a fan of the series,you may want to check it out,anyway. Spoken (mostly)in French with English subtitles,and English & Portugese. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains strong language (including some racist & sexist banter),sexual content,nudity,drug references & some violence (although nothing too graphic)
As I have had the pleasure of seeing the original Book of Kells,twice, while on holiday in Ireland,when I heard about this film,I thought, "I have to see it,if it plays in my area". Imagine my surprise when it was announced that it would play for a full week at one of my local art cinemas. The Secret of Kells,an Irish,French,Belgian co production,is a beautifully illustrated & animated film,that although is something of a fantasy treatment of how the Book of Kells came to be,it is still worth seeking out. The story is of a young monk,Brendan,during Ireland's monastic period during the 8th century. The elder monk (Brendan's uncle) is more concerned about the very real possibility of invasion by the Vikings (who are never mentioned by name,instead referring them as the warriors)then about anything else. When the monastery of Kells receives a visit by another monk on the run from the Vikings,it is discovered that this monk possesses a mysterious book that could change day into night/good into bad,etc. Brendan is obsessed with the idea of finishing the book (although not without chagrin from his uncle). When young Brendan goes into the forest to find special ink berries to complete the book,he meets with a young faerie/spirit/nymph/sprite/take your choice,who resists Brendan (at first),but takes a liking to him and helps him find the berries. Will Brendan finish the book & rid the village of Kells from the invaders,forever? Tomm Moore & Nora Twomey co direct,from a screen play written by Fabrice Ziolkowski,from a story written by Tomm Moore. The film's breath taking art direction is by Ross Stewart. The film's music score is supplied by Bruno Coulais,with contributions by the Irish rock band,Kila. The voice talents are led by Brendan Gleeson,with Ewan McGuire,Christian Mooney,and many others. A real treat for those into Celtic culture,mysticism,or just a well animated film. Not rated by the MPAA,this film has some scary & intense moments that may frighten very young children.
The scene is Paris on the 29th of May,in 1913. Although World War 1 would not envelope Europe for another year,or so, another battlefield would take place. The Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky's 'The Rite Of Spring' would open to an outraged Parisian audience (tipping off a small scale riot,causing the police to break things up). In the audience, fashion designer,Coco Chanel was in attendance (trying to move on,since the death of her lover,Arthur 'Boy' Capel),utterly captivated that a piece of work could evoke such a reaction. Flash forward seven years later. Coco Chanel is now a widely respected business woman with a line of clothes (and hats),while Igor Stravinsky is living penniless as an exile with his family,living in what ever hotel that would take them. Coco Chanel suggests that they move in her chalet. With family in tow,Igor Stravinsky moves in Chanel's opulent palace,where he & Coco eventually have an affair that is mainly a lot of sweaty, joyless sex (Stravinsky rarely displays any kind of joy,even while he is composing music,as does Chanel---perhaps both their passions are held within themselves). This begins to have an impact on Stravinsky's wife & family (Kayta Stravinskaya is almost always depicted as sickly),and his sons begin to suspect that dad is up to no good. All of this makes for a film that is breath taking to look at,as well as to listen to (some of Stravinsky's music graces the soundtrack,including the original 1913 arrangement of his now celebrated 'Rite',as well as the 1947 revised version,as well as snippets of some of Stravinsky's other music). Dutch born director,Jan Kounen ('Darshan:The Embrace','Renegade')directs from a screenplay written by Chris Greenhaulgh,adapted from his own novel of the same name. The film's striking cinematography is by David Ungaro,with editing by Anny Danck. The cast includes Anna Mouglais as Coco Chanel. Denmark's own Mads Mikkelsen as Igor Stravinsky,Yelena Morozova as Katya, and Grigori Manukov as Sergei Diaglev. With Clara Guelblum,Maxime Danielou,Sophie Hasson,Nikita Ponomarenko,and far too many more to mention here. I especially admired the creative use of expressionism to convey visual metaphors (Coco's abode is a wash of bold,striking washes of black & white in every room,while Mrs.Stravinsky favoured a more colourful motif,as exemplified by her use of red,gold,etc.) A film that is well worth seeking out,if you've always admired the creative and/or performing arts. Spoken in French & Russian with English subtitles,and a wee bit of English. Rated 'R' by the MPAA for some strong sexual content & nudity.
After a five year hiatus from making films,after 'A Very Long Engagement',director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ('Amelie,'City Of Lost Children',etc.)has gone and directed another crowd pleaser. This time, it's 'Micmacs' (released in Europe as 'Micmacs a'tire-larigot',for reasons I will not reveal,which would spoil a central element of fun),a tale of retribution against two merchants of death. Bazil is a young man who lost his parents as a young boy,all due to weapons produced by two rival companies. If that wasn't enough,he is accidentally shot in the head by a bullet produced by one of the same companies during an adjacent robbery attempt,elsewhere. When it seems Bazil will never be a "normal" person,he ends up homeless,where he is taken in by some equally homeless people living in the local trash dump,in dwellings made up of refuse. While among them,Bazil & his new "family" decide to take both harbingers of death down several notches. The results make for a funny,loopy & sometime surreal evening at the movies. Dany Bloom,as Bazil,leads a mostly unknown cast (but does include long time Jeunet regular,Dominiue Pinon,as one of the street persons),with Andre Dussollier,as Nicholas Thibault de Fenouillet,and Nicholas Marie,as Francois Marconi,as the guilty parties that are responsible for Bazil's misfortunes in life. Jean Pierre Jeunet directs from a screenplay written by Jeunet,in collaboration with Guillaume Laurent. The film's cinematography is by Tetsuo Nagato,with editing by Herve Schneid. I enjoyed the various nods to fellow film makers such as Jacques Tati,Terry Gilliam,and way too many to mention. Spoken in French with English subtitles. Rated 'R' by the MPAA for some outbursts of rude language,brief flashes of violence & some sexual content
It's A Small World,After All (in a world that's not so small)
Italy has long been a country for producing small films about everyday people,and 'La Pivellina' is no exception. A middle aged woman,once a dashing figure in the Circus world is out looking for her dog,when she comes upon an abandoned two year old girl,Asia,sitting on the swing. Patty asks where her mother is,and Asia has no answer. Patty decides to look for both her dog,as well as Asia's (alleged)mother. Patty decides to take little Asia back to the trailer where she & her husband,Walter live. Walter isn't exactly happy to have the toddler in tow (fearing police intervention),but agrees to let Asia stay,at least until Asia's mother turns up. When the mother shows no sign of coming back to get her daughter,the couple take care of little Asia (and end up bonding with her). With the help of a next door neighbour,Tairo,a 14 year old boy,they try to make an existence for the little girl. Will Asia's mother ever show up to reclaim Asia? This is a little film with a big heart that will work it's way to your heart. Documentary film makers, Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimme co direct this little charmer of a film from a screen play written by Tizza Covi (who also acts as producer & editor),with cinematography by Rainer Frimme (who makes very good use of hand held camera work,as well as co producer,too). The cast includes Patrizia Gerardi as Patty,Walter Saabel as Walter,Tairo Caroli as Tairo,and Asia Crippa as Asia. At long last,a film dealing with children that doesn't paint children as smart mouthed,snotty little punks that seem to know more than adults (Tairo actually looks up to Patty & Walter with genuine respect & admiration,and not as a couple of farty old fogies one would expect from your typical garden variety situation comedy). A film that is well worth seeking out for thinking persons who are sick to death of all of those predictable made for TV looking (so called)comedies. Spoken in Italian with English subtitles. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains some outbursts of rude language,and an unpleasant scene of animal abuse.
There was a recent episode of Intervention that was a documentary about the meth labs that dot the hard scrabble landscape of the mid West & deep South of the United States. This could be one of many stories that emerged out of (I'm sure)many stories dealing with the denizens of that sorry existence. A 17 year-old girl,Dolly Rae,who's father is a "cooker" (producer of meth,or crank as they call it)is on the run from the police for a non appearance at his court trial for drug manufacture. The sheriff is threatening Dolly,her two siblings & catatonic mother with being thrown off their land if the father doesn't turn up soon. It's up to Dolly to find her father & make things right. This is a very well written,directed & acted drama about how times change (and not for the better),and is bleak & somewhat depressing to watch,but easy to appreciate. Jennifer Lawrence heads a cast of mostly unknowns,but does include John Hawkes (known mostly for his work in television dramas),as her Uncle,Teardrop (the closest thing she has to family,other than her own close knit,but fractured family),and Sheryl Lee (who will always be known for her role in Twin Peaks,as well as it's prequel,Twin Peaks:Fire Walk With Me,as Laura Palmer,although she did appear at the end of David Lynch's Wild At Heart,as the good witch),as April. Debra Granik (Down To The Bone,Snake Feed)directs from a screenplay written by Anne Rosellini & Granik,adapted from the novel by Daniel Woodrell. The film gets some it's bleak,pessimistic look from cinematographer Michael McDonough,with editing by Affonso Goncalves. Well worth checking out if you have had your fill of superficial Hollywood crud. Rated 'R'by the MPAA for salty language,drug use & some disturbing images
I have been an fan of the films of Ken Loach since I saw 'Hidden Agenda' some years back. In the years since he first directed films for television,working up to his first feature film,'Poor Cow',up until recent,he has painted a portrait of the English blue collar working class,most times unvarnished (they live their day by day lives,drink, smoke,swear a lot,and are sometimes brutal,unflinchingly,but generally never demonize them). In this tale,a middle aged man,Eric Bishop,is at the lowest point of his existence. His ex wife wants next to nothing to do with him (he walked out on his marriage early on),and his two sons (one adopted)are a stranger to him. About all he has is his football chums that he spends most of his time in pubs,arguing football,etc. to call his own. One night after sneaking some of his son's Marijuana,Eric is sitting in his room in a depressed gloom,wondering what went wrong with his life,when he gets a visit from the kindred spirit of French born footballer,Eric Cantona (Eric's hero,as exemplified by the posters of Cantona in the bedroom),giving Eric advice on how to get his life back in check. Heeding Cantona's advice,Eric sets about to make amends for his short comings (including a sub plot element involving his eldest son Ryan,who is hanging out with gangsters who make Ryan hold onto a gun used in a shooting). Will Eric Bishop clean up his act,become the father he is supposed to be to his sons,and try to reconcile with his wife? That is for you,the audience to find out. Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes The Barley,Hidden Agenda,and way too many to list here)directs from a screenplay written by Paul Laverty (who wrote the screenplay for 'Barley',as well as 'My Name Is Joe',also directed by Loach). Featuring Steve Evets as Eric Bishop,Eric Cantona as himself,Stephanie Bishop as his wife Lily,Gerald Kearns as Ryan,and Stefan Gumbs as Jess,Eric's other son. With Matthew McNulty,Laura Ainsworth,Max Beesley,Kelly Bowland & John Henshaw. A flawed,but crowd pleasing,life affirming comedy/drama about finding one's own niche later in life. Not rated by the MPAA,this film serves up pervasive strong language,adult content,including drug references & some harrowing confrontations for our protagonist.
If you had the open window of opportunity to see Disney's Earth last year,you owe it to yourself to check this one out,also. It is a beautifully photographed & edited film on our water ways & the marine life that inhabit it. Jacques Perrin & Jacques Cluzard,who also filmed 'Winged Migration',back in 2001,now do for our deep water friends,what 'Migration' did for our airborne ones. The films narrative & scenario was written by Perrin & Cluzard,with Christophe Cheysson, Laurent Debas,Stephane Durand,Laurent Gaude & Francois Sarano. The films breath taking cinematography is by Luc Drion,Philippe Ros & Luciano Tovoli,with editing by Catherine Mauchain & Vincent Schmitt. If I have any quirk about this film is that,although I've always admired Pierce Brosnan,I could have done without the spoken narrative,instead opting for a 'Baraka'like wordless meditation on our waterways & the very real danger that they,as well as it's inhabitants are facing,due to man's stupidity (the message would have been just as clear),plus the music score would have been improved greatly by an Ambient score composed by the likes of Stomu Yamashta,or David Sylvain (or even,just the use of natural environmental sound would have been nice,too),although the musical score is somewhat of a (slight) step up from the "New Agey" dreck that the music for 'Winged Migration' was. There are at least two versions of this film in circulation:the American version,distributed by Disney Nature,which clocks in at 87 minutes,as well as the European version,which runs the full 100 minutes (word has it that Disney cut some of the more disturbing footage of sea creatures at the mercy of nature to lock in the requisite 'G' rating). If you got your groove on with films like 'Winged Migration','Microcosmos',and Disney's Earth,this film will be another feather in your cap. Rated 'G' by the MPAA,this film does,however,contain some footage of the various sea creatures in peril that may disturb very young children.
In the days following the London train bombings,hundreds of people from England,as well as other parts of Europe scrambled anxiously trying to find out about their loved ones. In this story,we get stories of two single parents in search of their children. There is Elizabeth,a fifty something woman,living as far north of the (so called)big,evil city of London,being perfectly content to work the earth on her farm,while Ousmane,a tall,lanky man of African descent is trying to find out about his estranged son,whom he hasn't seen since he left home to work in France,when his son was only six. Through a series of chance meetings, they both find out that the daughter & son were lovers,living together in London. Both travel there in search of their estranged children. Do they find them & find some kind of closure? Brenda Bleythn (Secrets & Lies)is Elizabeth,a woman who obviously fears the unknown. Mali actor, Sotigue Kouyate is Ousmane,a worry worn man,who just wants to live out his days,tending the Elm trees. Also featuring Francis Magee,Sami Bouajila, Roschady Zem & Marc Baylis. Rachid Bouchareb ('Little Senegal')directs from a screenplay written by Zoe Galeron,Olivier Lorelle & Bouchareb. Cinematography by Jerome Almeras,with editing by Yannick Korgoat. This is a heart breaking,but very well written,directed & acted drama of a woman trying to rise above fear & ignorance & banding together with a stranger who is attempting to find some reasoning in the middle of chaos. As this film has no North American distribution,it may be a bit hard to track down (it has been screened mostly at film festivals,and as far as I know,there is no DVD release available). Spoken in English,and French,Arabic & Bambarra with English subtitles. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains some rather gruesome images of some of the victims of the London train bombings that could be traumatic to young children
Sharon Maymon & Eriz Tadmor's 'A Matter Of Size' is one of those "feel good about yourself" kind of films that sends audiences smiling as they exit the cinema,while giving them something to think about. In this case,it's about body size. Herzl,an morbidly obese Isreali man,is fired from his job working in a restaurant,due to his size,which is making diners uncomfortable. He,and his cadre of equally overweight friends,Aharon,Gidi & Sami,are constantly berated at the weight loss clinic by the coach in charge. When Herzl takes a job at a Japanese restaurant,he sees a Sumo wrestling match on the television in the bar, and decides to form a Sumo club,with his friends. Also figuring into all of this is a romantic interest in the form of Zehava,a pretty,overweight woman who likes Herzl,but doesn't trust men,as she figures all of them as potential liars. Herzl's mother doesn't make matters any better,as she constantly makes weight remarks about her son to his face. Also add to all of this Herzl's boss at the restaurant,Kitano,who fled from Japan (allegedly from the Yakuza)to operate the Sushi restaurant,and becomes the Sumo coach for the team,as well as other sub plot elements to make things interesting. Will Herzl & his team get into shape to become the Sumo club of his dreams,and finally get the respect that he wants (and finds the girl of his dreams)? The cast (mostly known from their work in Isreali television & films)includes Itzik Cohen,as Herzl,Dvir Benedek,as Aharon,Alon Dahon as Gidi,Shmulik Cohen as Sami,Irit Kaplan as Zehava,and Togo Igawa as Kitano,with Yuki Iwamoto,Shawl Azar & Oshri Sahir. Sharon Maymon & Eriz Tadmor co-direct from a screenplay written by Maymon & Danny Cohen-Salal. Your best bet is to try & catch the original Isreali version,as an American re-make is due for release sometime next year (and you all know just how bad American remakes of foreign films can be--and,for the most part,are). Spoken in Hebrew & Japanese with English subtitles. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains outbursts of strong language,some adult content,including some rather lurid on-line photographs of a gay dating website,down loaded by one of the plus sized men that is just about to come out of the closet.