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Terribly Happy-Movie Review 11/19/2016

Posted by Films to consider in Action/Thriller, Bodil Awards, Chicago International Film Festival, Danish language film, Dark Comedy, Movies, Psychological Suspense, Robert Festival.
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TERRIBLY HAPPY (Danish) 2008

Directed by Henrik Ruben Genz

Starring Jacob Cedergren, Lene Maria Christensen, and Kim Bodnia

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Film; Best Actor (Cedergren); Best Actress (Christensen); Best Supporting Actor (Bodnia); Best Cinematography; Special Award; NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actor (Lars Brygmann), Bodil Awards
WINNER, Silver Hugo-Direction, Chicago International Film Festival
WINNER, BEST in 10 categories, including Film, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay; NOMINATED in 4 other categories, Robert Festival

After he has a nervous breakdown, Robert (Cedergren), a police officer in Copenhagen, is sent to a small, tight-knit town located near an infamous bog, where things and people sometimes just disappear. Robert doesn’t try to fit in at first, but he is gradually sucked in (sorry for pun-didn’t try) by the weirdness of the townspeople.

If you like offbeat tales from the northern climes, you will likely enjoy this one.

99 min. Unrated; not suitable for younger audiences, IMO.

Autumn Sonata-Movie Review *** 02/04/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, César Awards, David di Donatello Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Highly recommended, Ingmar Bergman, Movies, National Society of Film Critics Awards, Psychological Suspense, Swedish language film.
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AUTUMN SONATA (Swedish) 1978 ***
Criterion Collection

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Starring Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullmann, and Halvar Bjork

Among several other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Ingrid Bergman); Best Screenplay (Ingmar Bergman), Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Foreign Film; NOMINATED, Best Actress-Drama (Ingrid Bergman), Golden Globes
WINNER, Best European Film (Ingmar Bergman), César Awards
WINNER, Best Foreign Actress (both Ingrid Bergman and Ullmann), David di Donatello Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Ingrid Bergman), National Society of Film Critics Awards

Charlotte (Bergman), a famous concert pianist, visits the isolated home of her daughter Eva (Ullmann), who lives quietly with her minister husband Viktor (Bjork). The two haven’t seen each other for years, and the visit starts out on an optimistic note. But soon the family secrets work their way to the surface.

Autumn Sonata provides an opportunity to see two outstanding actresses face each other under the direction of a master of portraying emotions. During his lifetime, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman was nominated for a total of nine Oscars and won many other awards. Director Ingmar and actress Ingrid, who are not related, reportedly had some differences of opinion during the making of Autumn Sonata, and much has been made of the parallel situations in this film and Ingrid Bergman’s own much-publicized personal life, something she too acknowledged. This was her next-to-last film; she died in 1982. Actress Liv Ullmann is still making films; her latest is Two Lives (2012), a thriller set in Norway.

Highly recommended.

93 min. Rated PG (harsh and highly emotional situations)


La Moustache-Movie Review 10/02/2013

Posted by dbinder in Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Chlotrudis Awards, Dark Drama, Emotional Drama, French language film, Psychological Suspense.
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LA MOUSTACHE (French) 2005

Directed by Emmanuel Carrère
Starring Vincent Lindon and Emmanuelle Devos

WINNER, Label Europa Cinemas (Carrère), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize (Carrère), Chicago International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Actor (Lindon); Best Adapted Screenplay (Carrère), Chlotrudis Awards
WINNER, Citizen Kane Award for Best Directorial Revelation (Carrère), NOMINATED, Best Film,
Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival

When Marc (Lindon) decides to change his image by shaving the mustache he has had for years, no one–including his wife Agnès (Devos) or his friends and coworkers–notices. Soon, he begins to doubt whether he actually had the mustache; eventually, he is forced to question his own sanity.

A psychological suspense story that keeps you guessing about what is real and what might be a brush with madness.

Vincent Lindon has a great face for showing the internal confusion his character experiences. Both he and Emmanuelle Devos are popular French actors.

87 mins. Not rated.

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.

Fear Me Not-Movie Review 10/20/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Bodil Awards, Danish language film, Dark Drama, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Movies, Psychological Suspense, Suspense, Thriller.
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Fear Me Not (Danish) 2008
Den du frytger

Directed by Kristian Letring
Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Paprika Steen, and Emma Sehested

Among other wins and nominations:
WINNER, Best Actor (Thomsen); Best Screenplay; NOMINATED, Best Film (Letring), Mar del Plata Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Thomsen); Best Supporting Actress (Sehested); Best Supporting Actress (Steen), Bodil Awards

A pretty good psychological suspense thriller in which Mikael (Thomsen), unknown to his family, takes part in a trial of antidepressants that completely alter his outlook on life. When the trials are discontinued, Mikael continues to take the pills anyway. Soon his personality undergoes radical changes; he feels free to be himself as he has never done before, leading to unforeseen consequences that affect his family (to put it mildly).

Star Ulrich Thomsen may look familiar; he has appeared in many films worldwide. On films reviewed on this site, he stars in Adam’s Apples and The Inheritance.

95 min. Unrated. (Violence; not suitable for children.)


Michael-Movie Review 08/25/2012

Posted by Films to consider in British Film Institute Awards, Cannes Film Festival, Drama, Dublin International Film Festival, European Film Awards, German language film, Markus Schleinzer, Movies, Psychological Suspense.
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Michael (Austrian/German) 2011

Directed by Markus Schleinzer
Starring Michael Fuith and David Rauchenberger

WINNER, Best Actor (Fuith), Dublin Film Critics Award, Dublin International Film Festival
WINNER, Vienna Film Award-Best Feature (Schleinzer), Viennale
NOMINATED, Sutherland Trophy (Schleinzer), British Film Institute Awards
NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Schleinzer), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, European Discovery of the Year (Schleinzer), European Film Awards

Don’t mistake this for the 1996 movie starring John Travolta as the archangel Michael!

Trying to come up with a word to describe this film, I bow to so many other reviewers and use the word chilling. It’s definitely a case of caveat spector, with subject matter that is not easy to portray or to watch. But sometimes a reminder is needed that monsters such as the title character exist in this world.

Michael (Fuith) is a mild-mannered but decidedly odd insurance agent who is secretly holding a ten-year-old boy prisoner in his house. Michael leaves clues by his weird behavior but no one heeds them.

Director Schleinzer lets the viewer fill in many of the blanks along the way, which leads to a restrained telling of a difficult story and a very effective ending. The film includes what I thought was the scariest version of the song “Sunny” I can imagine.

96 min. Not rated (not suitable for children)


The Idiot-Movie Review 05/14/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Based on a novel, Classic film, Drama, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Japanese language film, Psychological Suspense, Setsuko Hara.
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The Idiot (Japanese) 1951

Adapted from the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Starring Masayuki Mori, Setsuko Hara, Yoshiko Kuga, and Toshirô Mifune

From director Kurosawa’s postwar series, this adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novel features Kamuda (Mori), a man recently released from an asylum and branded an idiot as a result of his war injuries, and his volatile friend Akama (Mifune). Both are loved by Taeko (Hara), but even after the innocent and trusting Kameda makes a life with Ayako (Kuga), Akama cannot let go of his jealousy.

The film, set in a stark and snowy environment, stars many of Kurosawa’s favorite actors, most notably Setsuko Hara in the lead female role. It was originally 265 minutes long, but Kurosawa was forced to cut it to a still-lengthy 166 minutes.

Black and white.
166 min.


Notes On A Scandal-Movie Review 12/28/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Based on a novel, British, Movies, Psychological Suspense.
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Notes on a Scandal (British) 2006

Directed by Richard Eyre
Starring Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Nighy
Based on a novel by Zoe Heller

Among other wins and nominations:
Nominated, Best Score; Best Lead Actress (Dench); Best Supporting Actress (Blanchett); Best Adapted Screenplay, Academy Awards
Nominated, Best Lead Actress (Dench); Best Supporting Actress (Blanchett); Best Screenplay, Golden Globes
Nominated, Best Thriller Film; Best Actress (Dench); Best supporting Actress (Blanchett), Saturn Award, Academy of Scuience Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, USA
Winner, Teddy Audience Award (Eyre), Berlin International Festival

Two of my favorite actresses play off each other very well in this suspenseful psychological thriller. Dame Judi Dench plays Barbara Covett, a spinster teacher nearing the age of retirement. Her main pastime outside the classroom is writing what she thinks about other people in a daily journal. She becomes fascinated with the new art teacher, Sheba Hart (Blanchett), a young woman she thinks might be too vulnerable to survive the tough school setting. Barbara befriends Sheba, then becomes obsessed with her. Eventually she discovers something about Sheba that she can use against her.

Each woman is living in her own dream world, with no thought for the consequences their actions will have on others. An outstandingly creepy performance by Dench and an equally creepy (but for a different reason) performance by Blanchett. And Bill Nighy suits the role of Blanchett’s laidback husband very well.

Favorite line: Barbara, about to make events take a turn, serves tea while saying, “I think the kettle’s boiled.”

92 min. Rated R. Rough language and sexual content.


The City of No Limits-Movie Review 11/19/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Movies, Psychological Suspense, Spanish language film.
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The City of No Limits (Spanish) 2002
En la Ciudad Sin Límites

Winner, Best Supporting Actress (Chaplin); Best Adapted Screenplay, Goya Awards
Nominated, Best Film; Best Director, Goya Awards

Directed by Antonio Hernández
Starring Leonardo Sbaraglia, Fernando Fernán-Gómez, and Geraldine Chaplin.

A suspenseful story, with an underlying plot weaving in and out of a family’s day-to-day interactions. Victor (Sbaraglia), the youngest of three sons, returns to visit his dying father (Fernán-Gómez). He finds the family ready to have his father undergo surgery for a brain tumor they insist is causing him to be paranoid and delusional. The father doesn’t want the surgery and asks Victor for help.

Victor is not convinced that the fear his father is trying to communicate isn’t real. He enters into his father’s paranoia and starts to suspect everyone. This turns out to be the right reaction – for the wrong reasons. When Victor, who has some secrets of his own, enters into an agreement with his father to carry out his last wishes, he finds out the truth.

125 min. Not rated. Some sexual content.


Strayed-Movie Review 11/14/2010

Posted by Films to consider in French language film, Psychological Suspense, World War II.
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Strayed (French) 2003
Les égarés

Directed by André Téchiné
Starring Emmanuelle Béart and Gaspard Ulliel

In 1940, as the Germans begin to occupy France, young widow Odile takes her two children and joins the crowds escaping Paris for the countryside. When the caravan is bombed by the Germans, a tough young man named Yvan helps save her son’s life. The four escape into the forest together and find refuge in a large house whose owners have already fled.

They live a semi-comfortable existence, as if there is no war going on in the distance. Yvan has the survival skills necessary to make their exile bearable; Odile contributes by cooking and cleaning, but she is emotionally devastated. Odile, who is a teacher, learns that Yvan can’t read or write, but the rest of his life remains a mystery to her. Despite her better judgment, she refuses to listen to her inner doubts and becomes physically attracted to him.

As the story unravels, it’s obvious that something’s not right with Yvan. Not until the armistice does Odile learn the real truth.

The performance by Béart, a famous French actress, is well-matched by newcomer Ulliel.

95 min. Not rated. Some sexual content.