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Defiant Requiem-Movie Review *** 08/13/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, Big Apple Film Festival, Documentary, PBS, World War II.
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Defiant Requiem (American) 2012 ***

PBS Documentary
Written and directed by Doug Shultz

WINNER, Best Documentary, Big Apple Film Festival

The true story of Raphael Schächter, a Czech conductor who was sent to the Terezin concentration camp by the Nazis. When Schächter finds an unused piano, he secretly trains a chorus of his fellow prisoners. Eventually they are found out and are forced to perform for their captors. Schächter chooses the beautiful and difficult Verdi’s “Requiem.”

This amazing story haunted conductor Murry Sidlin, who decades later brought a choir and orchestra to Terezin to perform “Requiem” in the very place that Schäcter and his chorus did. The rendition is so beautiful, even a non-religious person would be touched, especially when contemplating the message Schäcter and his chorus delivered through the lyrics.

The film includes interviews with people who were at the camp, some of whom participated in the chorus.

Highly recommended.

85 min. Not rated. Content could be disturbing for children.

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

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.


La France-Movie Review 04/23/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Chicago International Film Festival, Emotional Drama, France, French language film, Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival, Musical, Prix Jean Vigo Award, Romance, World War II.
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La France (French) 2007

Directed by Serge Bozon
Starring Pascal Greggory and Sylvie Testud

WINNER, Feature Film-Serge Bozon, Prix Jean Vigo Award,France
WINNER, Festival Award, Best Director-Fiction (Bozon), Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival
NOMINATED, Gold Hugo-Best Feature (Bozon), Chicago International Film Festival

This is a very unusual “artsy” film about a band of deserting soldiers led by Le Lieutenant (Greggory). Roaming the French countryside during World War I as they try to reach freedom, they are soon joined by Camille (Testud), a young woman who has disguised herself as a seventeen year old boy so she can search for her missing husband. He is off at war and has sent her a mysterious letter ending their relationship.

What is most unusual is that every once in a while the soldiers take out instruments and break into song, songs that in themselves are unusual because they are more pop tunes than tunes from the World War I era.

Yes, that’s what they do.

At first, I wasn’t taken with this film but it grew on me and I liked it. The performances of both Pascal Greggory and Sylvie Testud as their relationship changes are what kept my interest.

But, caveat spector!

102 min. Unrated. Some nudity and violence.


Korkoro-Movie Review *** 04/08/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, César Awards, French language film, Montréal World Film Festival, World War II.
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Korkoro (French) 2009 ***

Based on true events
Directed by Tony Gatlif
Starring Marc Lavoine, Marie Josée-Croze, James Thiérrée, Mathias Laliberté

WINNER, Grand Prix des Amériques (Gatlif); Prize of the Ecumenical Jury-Special Mention (Gatlif); Public Award (Gatlif), Montréal World Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Music for Film, César Awards

As a family of Gypsies travels through the countryside of France during World War, they are followed by Claude (Laliberté), a little boy orphaned during the war. Claude is eventually welcomed into the closeknit family, who, with the help of sympathetic locals, must constantly avoid capture by the Nazis.

James Thiérrée, who plays Félix Lavil dit Taloche in the film, is variously described as an acrobat, clown, poet, and magician. Thiérrée did most of his own stunts and improvised many scenes. He captures the free and joyous spirit of the Romani people, and, despite the serious subject matter, this film has much humor and light moments. Also watch (at least) one of Thiérrée’s other spellbinding performances on YouTube.

With Korkoro, director Gatlif has taken on a seldom-addressed group that was slated for the extermination camps; some say it is the first such film treatment. Inspired by true events, Gatlif intended the work to be a documentary but lacked sufficient supporting evidence and decided to release it as a feature film instead.

Highly recommended.

111 min. Not rated. Suitable for older children.


Das Boot-Movie Review *** 08/04/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Based on a novel, Drama, German language film, Movies, World War II.
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Das Boot (German) 1997/1981

The Director’s Cut released in 1997
Originally released in 1981
Based on the novel by Lothar-Günther Buchheim

NOMINATED, Best Cinematography (Jost Vocano); Best Director (Wolfgang Petersen); Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Mike Le Mare); Best Film Editing; Best Sound; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Wolfgang Petersen), Academy Awards
WINNER, Film Award in Gold Outstanding Individual Achievement: Sound/Sound Mixing (Milan Bor); Film Award in Silver, Outstanding Feature Film, German Film Awards

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann, Hubertus Bengsch, and Martin Semmelrogge

The physical hardships and emotional toll faced by the young men of a German U-boat crew, who went to battle facing almost certain death.

This remastered version of the film, which was first shot as a German TV miniseries, gives an incredibly realistic portrayal of the close quarters in a submarine, and of the terrifying sounds in a submarine under attack.

Over three hours long, the film maintains the suspense throughout.

209 min. Rated R. Adult themes and violence.


The Last Stage-Movie Review *** 03/21/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true story, Drama, Movies, Polish language film, World War II.

The Last Stage (Polish) 1948/2010
Ostatni Etap

Winner, Crystal Globe (Writers Jakubowska and Schneider), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Nominated, Best Film, BAFTA Awards

Directed by Wanda Jakubowska
Written by Wanda Jakubowska and Gerda Schneider
Starring Edward Dziewonski, Tatjana Grojecka, Antonina Gordon Gorecka, Barbara Drapinska, Aleksandra Slaska

A black and white film about Auschwitz, based on true events and filmed soon after the happenings that are recorded. The film was recently rediscovered and released on DVD.

A group of women imprisoned in the Nazi camp band together to survive. One of the women, Marta Weiss (Drapinska), has been selected to act as interpreter.

The film is based on events in the life of director Wanda Jakubowska, who was imprisoned in a concentration camp. Considering how closely this film was to the actual events, the story is even more powerful and moving.

105 min. Unrated. Adult themes.


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.


Letters from Iwo Jima-Movie Review 07/27/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Japanese language film, Movies, World War II.
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Letters from Iwo Jima (Japanese) 2006

Among other awards and nominations:
Winner, Best Foreign Language Picture; Nominated, Best Director, Golden Globes
Winner, Best Sound Editing; Nominated, Best Picture; Best Director; Best Original Screenplay, Academy Awards

Directed by Clint Eastwood; Companion film to Flags of Our Fathers
Starring Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya

In 1944, as Japanese soldiers prepare to defend the rocky island of Iwo Jima from an American assault, General Kuribayashi (Watanabe) arrives to take command. Officers are soon informed that the island is isolated and there will be no help coming. Still, the men prepare to defend it, knowing they will be called upon to sacrifice their lives. Death with honor is paramount, and for some that means choosing suicide. Even under these circumstances, fights and differences of opinions take hold.

One of the soldiers observing all this is the young Saigo (Ninomiya ); with a wife and new baby waiting for him back home, he provides a touching emotional connection. The Japanese soldiers are fighting for their country, the same way our American soldiers fight for ours. Letters meant for home continue to be written by the men, even when they know they will never be delivered.

140 minutes. Rated R. Bloody violence.

About Kazurnari Ninomiya (Saigo), who is also a Japanese pop star :