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After the Wedding-Movie Review *** 08/01/2013

Posted by dbinder in Academy Awards, Bodil Awards, Danish language film, Drama, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, Highly recommended, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Rouen Nordic Film Festival.
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After the Wedding (Danish) 2006 ***
Efter brylluppet

Directed by Susanne Bier
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgård, Sidse Babett Knudsen, and Stine Fischer Christensen

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Christensen); NOMINATED, Best Actor (Lassgård); Best Actress (Knudsen); Best Film (Bier), Bodil Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Mikkelsen); Best Director (Bier), European Film Awards
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize-Best Actor (Mikkelsen), Palm Springs International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Actress (Knudsen), Rouen Nordic Film Festival

Jacob (Mikkelsen) has dedicated his life to working in a Bombay orphanage. In order to secure funding from wealthy businessman Jorgen (Lassgård), Jacob is summoned back to Denmark. There, at the mercy of the manipulative Jorgen, Jacob is forced to confront his complicated and dissolute past.

Mikkelsen will likely be a familiar face, as he has appeared in movies such as Casino Royale and more recently A Royal Affair. He starred as Ivan in the 2005 crime comedy, Adam’s Apples (see my review of that film).

Highly recommended.

120 min. Rated R.

 

A Time for Drunken Horses – Movie Review *** 07/21/2013

Posted by dbinder in Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Drama, Independent Spirit Awards, Kurdish language film, Movies, National Board of Review.
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A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES (Iranian) 2000 ***
Zamani barayé masti asbha

Written and directed by Bahman Ghobadi
Starring Ayoub Ahmadi, Rojin Younessi, Amaneh Ekhtiar-dini, and Madi Ekhtiar-dini

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize, WINNER, Golden Camera, both Ghobadi, Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Silver Hugo-Special Jury Prize, Chicago International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Film, Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Freedom of Expression Award; WINNER, NBR Award-Top Foreign Films, National Board of Review, USA

In a Kurdish family living at the border between Iran and Iraq, 12-year-old Ayoub becomes the head of the household of four siblings when his father dies. His brother Madi is severely handicapped and needs immediate medical attention. Rojin, the older daughter, is forced into an arranged marriage in order to get the money for his surgery, but Ayoub chooses to enter the dangerous world of smuggling across the border.

It’s difficult to explain the story behind A Time for Drunken Horses without making it seem like something you might not want to watch. The film is commonly called heartbreaking (and it is), as viewers are given an intimate glimpse of life in this harshly beautiful area of the world. The children, who are not professional actors, will draw you immediately into their world of struggles and strengths.

I’ve also seen (and recommend) the very different 2009 film by director Bahman Ghobadi, called No One Knows About Persian Cats, about a band trying to leave Iran. I’ll post it sometime soon.

*** Highly recommended.

80 min. Not rated. Difficult subject matter.

 

Distant-Movie Review 05/25/2013

Posted by dbinder in Ankara International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Istanbul International Film Festival, Movies, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkish language film.
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Distant (Turkish) 2002
Uzak

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Starring Muzaffer Özdemir, Emin Toprak, and Zuhal Gencer

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Cinematography; Best Director; Best Editing; Best Film-National Competition (all Ceylan); WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Gencer), Ankara International Film Festival
WINNER, France Culture Award, Foreign Cineaste of the Year and also Grand Prize of the Jury (Ceylan); WINNER, Best Actor (Özdemir and Toprak); NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Ceylan), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Silver Hugo-Special Jury Prize (Ceylan), Chicago International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Turkish Director of the Year; Best Turkish Film of the Year; FIPRESCI Prize Turkish Competition (all Ceylan), Istanbul International Film Festival

Yusuf (Toprak) travels to the big city of Istanbul to look for work after the factory he worked in closes down. He stays with his distant relative, semi-successful photographer Mahmut (Özdemir), who is still recovering from his divorce from Nazan (Gencer). The visitor was not expected, and he does nothing to make himself more welcome.

A moody, poetical film portraying the separateness and loneliness of the lives of the two men. There are a few light moments, mostly having to do with Mahmut’s friends and Yusuf’s awkward attempts to meet a woman. I found the movie a little low key and slow-moving, although the cinematography was outstanding. I liked director Ceylan’s 2006 Climates (Iklimler) more. Distant was highly acclaimed (see above).

105 min. Not rated. Adult themes.

 

Declaration of War-Movie Review *** 05/06/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, César Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, French language film, Gijón International Film Festival, Movies, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Romance.
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Declaration of War (French) 2011 ***
La guerre est déclarée
Based on true events

Directed by Valérie Donzelli
Written by Valérie Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm
Starring Valérie Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Actress and Best Director (Donzelli); Best Film; Best Original Screenplay; Best Editing; Best Sound, César Awards, France
WINNER, Best Actor (Elkaïm); Best Actress (Donzelli); Grand Prix Asturias-Best Film, Gijón International Film Festival
WINNER, Directors to Watch (Donzelli), Palm Springs International Film Festival

Roméo (Elkaïm) and Juliette (Donzelli) are a young couple who meet, fall in love, and move in together. Soon they are having a baby, and all is well with their world, although the baby does cry a lot. When the baby begins to show other signs of distress, they take him to the doctor and receive the kind of diagnosis no parent ever wants to hear.

Based on true events. Although the brief description might make this seem like a sad movie, it surprisingly is not. The young parents, who are determined to “declare war” on their son’s disease, do not do so in the somber way one might expect.

Highly recommended.

100 min. Not rated. Suitable for older teens and adults, due to subject matter.

 

Elena-Movie Review 04/20/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Cannes Film Festival, Drama, European Film Awards, Ghent International Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival, Movies, Psychological Suspense, Russian language film, Suspense, Thriller.
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ELENA (Russian) 2011

Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov, and Elena Lyadova

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Un Certain Regard-Special Jury Prize; NOMINATED, Un Certain Regard Award (both Zvyagintsev), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Markina), European Film Awards
WINNER, Grand Prix-Best Film, Ghent International Film Festival
WINNER, Russian Film Clubs Federation Award (Zvyagintsev), Moscow International Film Festival

Elena (Markina), a middle-aged woman, marries for a second time, and her husband Vladimir (Smirnov) turns out to be a domineering man who is wealthy but tight-fisted. Even after Vladimir has a heart attack and comes close to death, he refuses to help Elena’s son financially.

The director makes good use of striking images and outstandingly suspenseful music (Philip Glass). The film is labelled a thriller on the DVD case, but I’d consider it more of a psychological suspense.

109 min. Not rated. Adult themes.

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.

 

Café de flore-Movie Review *** 03/19/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Atlantic Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, French (Canadian) language film, Genie Awards, Highly recommended, Jean-Marc Vallée, Jutra Awards, Movies, Romance, Satellite Awards, Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, Vancouver Film Critics Circle.
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Café de flore (Canadian/French) 2011 ***

Written and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring Vanessa Paradis, Evelyne Brochu, Hélène Florent, Kevin Parent, and Marin Gerrier

Among other wins and nominations:
WINNER, Best Canadian Feature, Atlantic Film Festival
WINNER, Best Leading Actress (Paradis); NOMINATED, Best Director (Vallée); Best Motion Picture; Best Supporting Actor (Gerrier); Best Supporting Actress (Florent); Best Screenplay (Vallée), Genie Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Paradis); Best Cinematography; NOMINATED, Best Director (Vallée), Jutra Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Florent), Satellite Awards
NOMINATED, Best Canadian Film (Vallée), Toronto Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Best Canadian Film (Vallée); Best Supporting Actress (Florent); NOMINATED, Best Actress (Paradis); Best Director, Vancouver Film Critics Circle

Café de flore is a somewhat complicated story, the result of two intertwined, and seemingly unrelated, tales about love from different time periods. In one, in late 1970s Paris, a young woman struggles to raise her Down Syndrome son; in the other, a modern Montreal family copes with the parents’ split and the father’s new marriage.

I admit that for a time I mostly stuck with the film because of the great soundtrack, and the way the director beautifully juxtaposed scenes from the two time periods. Eventually the story did make enough sense to make the watching more than worthwhile.

Acclaimed actress Vanessa Paradis (who plays the mother in the earlier time period) is a popular French singer/actress who lived with Johnny Depp for a number of years (they have two children). I recently saw her in the just-okay French comedy Heart Breaker.

Café de flore is the only film credited to the remarkable, award-winning young Marin Gerrier, who portrays her son.

Highly recommended.

120 min. Rated R.

 

Biutiful-Movie Review 01/27/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Action/Thriller, Cannes Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Goya Awards, Image Awards, Movies, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Spanish language film, Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards.
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Biutiful (Spanish) 2010

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, and Guillermo Estrella

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Leading Actor (Bardem), Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (Bardem); NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Iñárritu), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes
WINNER, Best Actor (Bardem); NOMINATED, Best Cinematography; Best Score; Best Production Design; Best Original Screenplay; Best Supporting Actor (Eduard Fernández); Best Supporting Actress (Ana Wagener), Goya Awards
WINNER, Outstanding Foreign Motion Picture, Image Awards
WINNER, International Star Award (Bardem), Palm Springs International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Foreign Language Film, Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards

In Barcelona, Uxbal (Bardem) is steeped in the world of corrupt cops, drug dealing, and illegal immigrant labor. Since his ex-wife Marambra (Alvarez) suffers from bipolar disorder, he raises their two children, Ana (Bouchaib) and Mateo (Estrella) as best he can. When he learns that he has terminal cancer, Uxbal lovingly tries to do his best to provide for their future, in increasingly negative circumstances.

Not an uplifting subject, and sometimes tough to watch, but it is well worth it for the very admirable performance from Javier Bardem (one of my favorite actors).

148 min. Not rated. Adult themes and language.

 

Ondine-Movie Review 01/12/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Drama, Folk Tale, Irish film, Irish Film and Television Awards, Neil Jordan, Romance, San Diego Film Critics Society Awards.
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Ondine (Irish) 2009

Written and directed by Neil Jordan
Starring Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Dervla Kirwan, and Alison Barry

WINNER, Best Lead Actor (Farrell); Best Supporting Actress (Kirwan); Best Production Design; Best Sound, Irish Film and Television Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (Farrell); NOMINATED, Best Original Screenplay (Jordan), San Diego Film Critics Society Awards

An updated version of the Irish folktale of the Selkies, seals who transform into humans for a time.

Syracuse (Farrell) is a fisherman and a recovering alcoholic with a solitary lifestyle. His young daughter Annie (Barry), who lives with his ex-wife Maura (Kirwan), has kidney disease and must use a wheelchair. Syracuse does his best to help care for her.

One day, Syracuse pulls up one of his fishing nets and finds a young woman named Ondine (Bachleda). At first she seems to be drowned but comes back to life. Annie begins to believe that she is a Selkie, and she soon has her father and much of the town believing it, too.

Although not a big award winner, I thought this film was refreshing and not overly sentimental. Farrell shows an emotional side that makes his relationships with Annie and Ondine touching, and the ending, which is a bit of a stretch, easier to accept. Alison Barry, who plays Annie, hasn’t acted before this role.

Also check out The Secret of the Roan Inish, for another retelling of the tale.

103 min. Rated PG-13.

 

Tokyo Sonata-Movie Review 01/01/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Asian Film Awards, Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Japanese language film, Kinema Junpo Awards, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Movies.
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Tokyo Sonata (Japanese) 2008

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring Teruyuki Kagawa, Kyoko Koizumi, Yu Koyanagi, and Kai Inowaki

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Film; Best Screenwriter, Asian Film Awards
WINNER, Un Certain Regard Jury Prize (Kurosawa), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Silver Hugo, Grand Jury Prize (Kurosawa), Chicago International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Actress (Koizumi); Best New Actor (Inowaki), Kinema Junpo Awards

Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is usually known for horror films (which I don’t usually watch), but here he provides his version of modern life in Tokyo. The four members of the Sasaki family deal with problems separately. The father Ryuhei (Kagawa) loses his job but chooses to conceal his loss of honor from his wife and sons when he can’t find suitable employment. Megumi (Koizumi), the wife and mother, appears to be happy performing her domestic duties but feels close to suicide. Older son Takashi (Koyanagi) wants to escape his troubled past by joining the American army. Younger son Kenji (Inowaki) secretly uses his lunch money to take piano lessons against the wishes of his parents.

As we watch the family structure slowly begin to disintegrate, all is not totally bleak, however, and moments of humor do appear. And Kai Inowaki is perfectly suited for the role of the younger son: his piano playing is superb.

120 min. Rated PG-13.