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A Separation-Movie Review *** 04/11/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Asian Film Awards, César Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, Fajr Film Festival, Golden Globes, Iranian language film, Movies, New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Pula Film Festival.
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A SEPARATION (Iranian) 2011 ***
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin

Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Starring Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, and Sarina Farhadi

Among many other awards and nominations, here are a few:
WINNER, Best Foreign Language Film; NOMINATED, Best Original Screenplay, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Director; Best Editor; Best Film; Best Screenwriter; NOMINATED, Best Actress (Hatami), Asian Film Awards
WINNER, Best Foreign Film (Farhadi), César Awards
WINNER, Audience Award-Best Film; Crystal Simorgh-Best Cinematography; Best Director; Best Screenplay, Fajr Film Festival
WINNER, Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes
WINNER, Best Foreign Language Film, New York Film Critics Circle Awards
WINNER, Golden Arena-International Competition (Best Film), Pula Film Festival

Nadir (Moadi) and Simin (Hatami) are a couple facing separation and possible divorce when the wife wants to leave the country to provide a better life for their teenage daughter Termeh (Farhadi). After Simin moves back into her parents’ house, Nadir, who has been caring for his ailing father, gets embroiled in a possible murder charge when the housekeeper he hires suffers a miscarriage.

Very compelling performances by all parties, with the lack of a soundtrack contributing to the authenticity of the emotions portrayed.

The film was a big award winner in many international competitions (above are just a few examples). In the interview with the director, Farhadi provides insights about the culture behind the dilemma faced by the participants. Also, the girl who plays Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) is the director’s daughter and has appeared in some of his previous films.

Highly recommended.

123 min. Rated PG-13.

 

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Wild Grass-Movie Review 03/08/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Cannes Film Festival, César Awards, Comedy, French language film, Light Drama, Movies, Romance, Romantic comedy, Sant Jordi Awards, Suspense.
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Wild Grass (French) 2009
Les herbes folles

Directed by Alain Resnais
Starring André Dussollier, Sabine Azéma, and Anne Cosigny

WINNER, Special Award to Alain Resnais for all his works; NOMINATED, Palme D’Or (Resnais), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Editing; Best Film, César Awards
WINNER, Best Foreign Actor (Dussollier), Sant Jordi Awards

When dentist Marguerite Muir (Azéma) has a purse stolen, retired Georges Palet (Dussollier) eventually comes across the wallet from it. Although Georges delivers the wallet to the police, he remains intrigued with what he knows about its owner.

For those who like a quirky story and don’t need to understand where it’s going at all times, this one should fit the bill. There’s a bit of suspense, a bit of comedy, and a bit of romance (I think).

While this particular film was not a big award winner, director Alain Resnais has been making critically acclaimed films since the 1930s. He has released yet another, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, in 2012. I’ll be on the lookout for that, and for some of his earlier films.

104 min. Rated PG.

 

The Princess of Montpensier-Movie Review 02/12/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Based on a novella, Cannes Film Festival, César Awards, Emotional Drama, French language film, Movies, Philadelphia Film Festival, Romance.
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The Princess of Montpensier (French) 2011
La princesse de Montpensier
Based on a novella by Madame de Lafayette

Directed by Bertrand Tavernier
Starring Mélanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson, Gaspard Ulliel, Raphael Personnaz, and Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet

NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Tavernier), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Best Costume Design, NOMINATED, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Music for a Film, Best Production Design, Most Promising Actor (Leprince-Ringuet), Most Promising Actor (Personnaz), César Awards, France
WINNER, Audience Award-Honorable Mention, New French Films, Philadelphia Film Festival

A lavishly filmed story about duty, desire, and social customs, set in violently religious 16th century France. Marie (Thierry) is a beautiful young woman who must obey her father’s command and marry the Prince of Montpensier (the aptly named Leprince-Ringuet) against her wishes, denying her obvious sexual attraction to Henri de Guise (Ulliel). Also attracted to Marie, and presenting her with lessons about what true love is, are her much older tutor (Wilson) and the eccentric Duc d’Anjou (Personnaz). As the plot unfolds amidst backgrounds of battle scenes and court scenes, Marie develops an unexpectedly modern approach to love and matters of the heart.

The movie is over two hours, and will hold the attention of those who like such movies (as I do), but might seem overly long to those who don’t.

140 min. Not rated. Adult themes and content.

 

I Do-Movie Review 02/05/2013

Posted by Films to consider in César Awards, Comedy, French language film, Movies, NRJ Ciné Awards, Romance, Romantic comedy.
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I Do (French) 2006
Prête-moi ta main

Directed by Eric Lartigau
Starring Alain Chabat and Charlotte Gainsbourg

NOMINATED, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Bernadette Lafont), César Awards, France
WINNER, Best Comedy Film, NRJ Ciné Awards

Luis (Chabat), a confirmed bachelor in his forties, must fend off his five sisters and his mother by pretending to have finally found the right woman, Emma (Gainsbourg).

Not a big award winner, but a moderately funny film about love and family done in the French way.

89 min. Not rated. Adult humor.

 

Le Havre-Movie Review *** 01/19/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Cannes Film Festival, César Awards, Chicago International Film Festival, Comedy, David di Donatello Awards, French language film, Light Drama, Munich Film Festival, National Board of Review.
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Le Havre (French) 2011 ***

From the Criterion Collection

Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Starring Andre Wilms, Blondin Miguel, Kati Outinen, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin

Among many other wins and nominations:
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize; Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention; NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (all Kaurismäki), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Gold Hugo-Best International Feature (Kaurismäki), Chicago International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Director; Best Film; Best Production Design, César Awards, France
NOMINATED, Best European Film, David di Donatello Awards
WINNER, Arri-Zeiss-Award (Kaurismäki), Munich Film Festival
WINNER, Top Five Foreign Films Award, National Board of Review

In the harbor city of LeHavre, Marcel Marx (Wilms) is an older man who shines shoes for a living. When his wife Arletty (Outinen), who is seriously ill, goes to the hospital for treatment, Marcel accidentally meets Idrissa (Miguel), a boy who has immigrated illegally with his family. Idrissa managed to run away when authorities caught up with them, but he is actively being sought. With the help of friends and neighbors, Marcel harbors the boy in his home.

Winner of, or nominated for, many awards (see above), Le Havre’s story is touching and quietly funny at times. Prolific Finnish director Kaurismäki has boldly taken on a film in French, which is not a language he speaks or even understands fluently. Likewise, Kati Outinen, who plays Marcel’s ailing wife, is also Finnish and speaks French somewhat haltingly. Kaurismäki has chosen his French actors wisely, as you would never know they were receiving their direction either non-verbally or through a translator.

Highly recommended.

93 min. Not rated. Suitable for teens+ because of subject matter.

 

The Accompanist-Movie Review 11/06/2012

Posted by Films to consider in César Awards, Drama, FIPRESCI Award, Istanbul International Film Festival, National Board of Review, World War II.
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The Accompanist (French) 1992
L’accompagnatrice

Directed by Claude Miller
Starring Richard Bohringer, Elena Safonova, and Romane Bohringer

NOMINATED, Best Cinematography; Best Sound; Most Promising Actor (Julien Rassam), César Awards, France
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize; also Special Prize of the Jury (both Claude Miller), Istanbul International Film Festival
WINNER, NBR Award – Top Foreign Films, National Board of Review, USA

During the winter of 1942-43 in wartime France, while some people are starving, the musical crowd still indulges. Sophie (Romane Bohringer), a young woman who is a skilled pianist, is hired to accompany Irène Brice, a famed opera singer. Brice’s husband Charles (Richard Bohringer) is a businessman who collaborates with the Germans. Spending so much time in the company of the kind and caring Irène, the reserved, somewhat naive, but observant Sophie learns about love.

Notice that there are two Bohringers–father and daughter in real life–listed in starring roles; I just found that Richard Bohringer, who was also a director and singer, passed away two days before this post on Nov. 4, 2012. Romane Bohringer was especially suited for the role of Sophie, who has much in the way of talent herself, but is so understated in her personality compared to the crowd she becomes exposed to.

This film is from the early 1990s and I happened to watch it on a VHS tape, but the DVD is available (both are listed below). The music is absolutely outstanding; I believe there is an accompanying CD, but I couldn’t find a link to it.

102 min. Rated PG.

 

Séraphine-Movie Review *** 09/30/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, Cairo International Film Festival, César Awards, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, French language film, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Martin Provost, Newport Beach Film Festival.
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Séraphine (French) 2008 ***
Based on true events

Written and directed by Martin Provost (with co-writer Marc Abdelnour)
Starring Yolande Moreau, Ulrich Tukur, and Anne Bennent

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Actress (Moreau), Cairo International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Actress (Moreau); Best Film; Best Music for a Film; Best Original Screenplay; NOMINATED, Best Director (Provost); Best Sound, César Awards, France
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Moreau), European Film Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Moreau), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Jury Awards-Best Actor (Tukur); Best Actress (Moreau); Best Director (Provost); Best Film; Best Screenplay, Newport Beach Film Festival

Based on true events in the life of artist Séraphine Louis.

In early twentieth-century France, German art collector Wilhelm Uhde moves temporarily to the rural town of Senlis. There, he becomes aware that his cleaning lady, the humble Séraphine, privately produces exquisite paintings that he believes would thrill the art world. Séraphine is completely unschooled in art, and even makes her own paint colors. Uhde promises to become her patron and create an exhibition in Paris, but then he must flee France because of the war. Séraphine continues painting constantly. A deeply religious woman, she believes that her inspiration comes directly from God speaking to her, a belief that eventually carries her into madness.

For more about Séraphine Louis’s life, and to view a few of her magnificent paintings, visit Art Scene Today or do a search for Séraphine Louis. When I see the photograph of the real Séraphine, I appreciate the casting of the incredible actress Yolande Moreau in the title role.

Highly recommended.

125 min. Not rated. Suitable for older children and teens.

 

The Best of Youth-Movie Review *** 08/06/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Cannes Film Festival, César Awards, David di Donatello Awards, European Film Awards, Movies, National Board of Review, Seattle International Film Festival.
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The Best of Youth (Italian) 2003 ***
La meglio gioventù

Directed by Marco Tullio Giordano
Starring Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Jasmine Trinca, Maya Sansi, Sonia Bergamasco, and Adriana Asti

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Un Certain Regard Award (Giordano), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best European Union Film, César Awards, France
WINNER, Best Director (Giordano); Best Film; Best Editing; Best Producer; Best Screenplay; Best Sound; NOMINATED, Best Actor (Lo Cascio); Best Supporting Actor (Fabrizio Gifuni); Best Supporting Actress (Trinca), David di Donatello Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Lo Cascio); Best Director (Giordano); Best Screenwriter, European Film Awards
WINNER, NBR Award-Top Foreign Film, National Board of Review, USA
WINNER, Golden Space Needle Award, Best Director (Giordano), Seattle International Festival

An epic Italian film about two brothers, starting out during their young adult years in the 1960s and following them through several tumultuous decades into the early 2000s, a time during which their lives separate but often intertwine. Nicola (Lo Cascio), the thoughtful and responsible brother, becomes a psychiatrist; Matteo (Boni), impetuous and hot-tempered, ignores his true yearnings and becomes a policeman.

When I say the film is epic, I mean long, and, in this case, I mean very long (approximately 6 hours), but viewing times can easily be broken up as the story covers different parts of the brothers’ lives. The entire ensemble cast is outstanding and, similar to reading a good lengthy book, I didn’t want their stories to end. And if the ending doesn’t make you tear up or yell “Kiss her, you fool,” don’t brag about it.

According to Wikipedia, Director Giordano made a previous film about the death of controversial Italian poet and director Pier Paolo Pasolini. The title of this film is taken from one of Pasolini’s poems.

Highly recommended.

366 min. Rated R (language and brief nudity).

 

The Chorus-Movie Review *** 06/01/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, César Awards, David di Donatello Awards, Drama, French language film, Golden Globes, Highly recommended, Lumière Awards.
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The Chorus (French) 2004 ***
Les choristes

Directed by Christophe Barratier
Starring Gerard Jugnot, Jean-Paul Bonnaire, Marie Bunel, François Berléand, and Jean-Baptiste Maunier

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Music in Feature Film; Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Music; Best Sound; NOMINATED, Best Actor (Jugnot); Best Director (Barratier); Best Film (Barratier); Best First Film (Barratier); Best Design; Best Supporting Actor (Berléand), César Awards, France
NOMINATED, Best European Film (Barratier), David di Donatello Awards, Italy
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Film (Barratier), Golden Globes
WINNER, Best Film (Barratier), Lumiere Awards, France

In post-war France, Clément Mathieu (Jugnot) takes on a new job teaching music at Fond de L’Etang, a school for incorrigible boys. Mild-mannered but tough, Clement has an unusual approach – he teaches the boys to sing. One in particular, Pierre Morhange (Maunier) has a special talent. Although Clement soon finds himself on the outs with the cruel Principal Rachin (Berléand), he finds solace in the knowledge that he has played a role in helping Pierre’s talent get recognized.

This was the first film for director Christophe Barratier, and it met with much critical acclaim. The lyrics of the Academy Award-nominated song “Look to Your Path” (Vois sur ta chemin) were written by Barratier. The film’s story line is certainly not unique, but it is definitely worth seeing. Besides outstanding acting by all parties, the music is absolutely beautiful, as is Jean-Baptiste Maunier’s angelic voice.

Favorite line: Action – reaction! (Principal Rachin’s chilling modus operandi for punishment)

Highly recommended.

97 min. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual references and violence

 

The Ghost Writer-Movie Review 05/06/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Berlin International Film Festival, British, César Awards, European Film Awards, National Board of Review, Political Thriller, Suspense.
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The Ghost Writer (British/German/French) 2010

Adapted from the novel The Ghost by Robert Harris
Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, and Olivia Williams

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Silver Berlin Bear, Best Director (Polanski); NOMINATED, Golden Berlin Bear (Polanski), Berlin International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Director (Polanski); Best Music; NOMINATED, Best Cinematography; Best Sound, César Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (McGregor); Best Composer (Alexandre Desplat); Best Director (Polanski); Best Film; Best Screenwriter (Polanski and Harris); NOMINATED, Audience Award-Best Film, European Film Awards
WINNER, NBR Award-Top Independent Films, National Board of Review, USA

When a ghost writer (McGregor) is hired to write the memoirs of Adam Lang (Brosnan), a former British Prime Minister, he discovers that the writer he is replacing died under mysterious circumstances. He becomes caught up in political intrigue and physical danger when the Prime Minister is accused of war crimes.

Although this movie is somewhat long (just over two hours), the suspense builds enough to keep interest going. The scenery, a desolate shoreline area, contributes to the spooky atmosphere as the ghost writer (who remains unnamed throughout) uncovers the mystery behind the unlikely political rise of Adam Lang.

Director Polanski, despite his ongoing troubles, does know how to show-and-tell a good story.

128 min. Rated PG-13.