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Jerichow-DVD Review 02/22/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Action/Thriller, German Film Awards, German Film Critics Association Awards, German language film, Movies, Suspense, Venice Film Festival.
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Jerichow (German) 2008

Written and directed by Christian Petzold
Starring Benno Fürmann, Nina Hoss, and Hilmi Sözer

NOMINATED, Best Direction; Outstanding Feature Film, German Film Awards
WINNER, Best Film (Petzold), German Film Critics Association Awards
NOMINATED, Golden Lion – Petzold, Venice Film Festival

Ali (Sözer), a German citizen of Turkish background, hires dishonorably discharged veteran Thomas (Fürmann) to help him run a string of snack bars. Thomas falls in love with Laura (Hoss), Ali’s wife, who has more than one reason to be indebted to her abusive husband.

A satisfyingly suspenseful retelling of The Postman Always Rings Twice. Christian Petzold directed The State I Am In as well as Yella (which also starred Nina Hoss) and Gespenster which together comprise what is known as Petzold’s Gespenster trilogy.

93 min. Unrated. Adult themes and content.

For more info:
Jerichow

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White Material-DVD Review 11/11/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Drama, French language film, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics Awards, Satellite Awards, Venice Film Festival, Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards.
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White Material (French) 2009
The Criterion Collection

Directed by Claire Denis
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Lambert, Isaach De Bankolé, and Nicolas Duvauchelle

WINNER, Top Five Foreign Films, National Board of Review, USA
THIRD PLACE, Best Foreign Language Film (Denis), National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Satellite Awards
NOMINATED, Golden Lion (Denis), Venice Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards

As civil unrest invades the countryside, Maria Vial (Huppert), a headstrong but not totally rational white woman, is determined to remain on the African coffee plantation that has been in her family for generations.

Isabelle Huppert is physically slight and somewhat vulnerable-looking; her portrayal of Maria Vial combines that appearance with an inner strength that inexplicably refuses to acknowledge the very real physical and emotional dangers facing herself and her family. At times the story does seem disjointed and confusing; this I think is mostly because there are so many different factions active, and the story covers a very short span of time (about two days). Still, Huppert’s performance (as well as those of the other actors named above) definitely makes it worthwhile watching.

105 min. Not rated. Adults and older teens.

Check it out on Amazon: White Material (The Criterion Collection)
or
Netflix

Cell 211-DVD Review *** 06/24/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Action/Thriller, Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Goya Awards, Seattle International Film Festival, Spanish language film, Suspense, Toronto International Film Festival, Turia Awards, Venice Film Festival.
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Cell 211 (Spanish) 2009 ***

Directed by Daniel Monzón
Starring Alberto Ammann, Luis Tosar, Antonio Resines, Carlos Bardem, and Marta Etura

Among many other awards and nominations:
OFFICIAL SELECTION, Venice Film Festival; Toronto International Film Festival; Seattle International Film Festival
WINNER, CEC Award, Best Actor (Tosar); Best Director (Monzón); Best Film; Best Editing; Best Score; NOMINATED, Best Cinematography; Best New Artist (Ammann); Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actors (Bardem; Resines); Best Supporting Actress (Etura), Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain
WINNER, Best Actor (Tosar); Best Director (Monzón); Best Editing; Best Film; Best New Actor (Ammann); Best Screenplay; Best sound; Best Supporting Actress (Etura); NOMINATED in several other categories, Goya Awards
WINNER, Golden Space Needle Award, Best Actor (Tosar), Seattle International Film Festival
WINNER, Audience Award-Best Spanish Film; WINNER, Turia Award-Best Spanish Film, Turia Awards

When it comes to prison movies, here is one that is definitely worth watching. Prison guard Juan (Ammann) shows up a day early for his new job and gets caught up in a prison riot. Juan, whose wife is expecting their first child, must figure out a way to survive inside the cell block, which is run by vicious inmate Malamadre (Tosar).

The number of awards the film received, especially in Spain, is not surprising. This story takes many unpredictable and well-executed twists and turns. Actor Luis Tosar has many credits to his name, but this is the first film for Alberto Ammann.

111 min. Not rated, but do expect a good deal of bloody violence (it is a prison riot, after all).

Check it out on Netflix
or
Amazon Cell 211

Still Life-DVD Review*** 03/02/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Asian Film Awards, Durban International Film Festival, Highly recommended, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, Kinema Junpo Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Venice Film Festival.
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Still Life (Chinese) 2006 ***
Sanxia haoren

Written and directed by Zhang Ke Jia
Starring Tao Zhao, Zhou Lan, and Sanming Han

Among other awards:
WINNER, Best Director (Zhang Ke Jia); NOMINATED, Best Composer; Best Film, Asian Film Awards
WINNER, Best Direction (Zhang Ke Jia), Durban International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Silver Ribbon-Best Non-European Director (Zhang Ke Jia), Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists
WINNER, Best Foreign Film; Best Foreign Director (Zhang Ke Jia), Kinema Junpo Awards
WINNER, Best Cinematography (Nelson Yu Lik-Wai); Best Foreign Film (Zhang Ke Jia), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Golden Lion (Zhang Ke Jia), Venice Film Festival

To document the ravaging effects of the Three Gorges Dam project on a town along the Yangtze River in southeast China, director Zhang Ke Jia combines his visual observations with parallel fictional stories of two people separated from their spouses. Sanming has traveled to Fengjie looking for the wife and daughter he hasn’t seen for sixteen years. Shen Hong (Zhou Lan) has come back to visit her husband after two years apart. The stories are punctuated by the pounding of sledge hammers as buildings are destroyed.

The controversial Three Gorges Dam project is one of the largest artificial projects in Chinese history, flooding 60,000 hectares of land; many 2,000-year-old towns, along with the history and culture they contained, are being quickly destroyed. In the process, more than 1,000,000 people must be relocated, with many family members ending up in vastly different parts of the country.

The simplicity and pace of the stories might not appeal to some. I appreciated the opportunity to see what is happening to these towns, villages, and cities. The director’s interview is worthwhile viewing, as it gives a perspective on what he was trying to accomplish and how. The film is separated into four parts: cigarettes, liquor, sweets, and tea. Although the country now has a “market economy,” these are reminders of the “planned economy” projects of the past, when such items were rationed.

Highly recommended.

111 min. Not rated.

For more information about the Three Gorges Dam, click here and here.

For more about the film:
Still Life