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

Posted by dmbinder 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.

For more info:
Time For Drunken Horses

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Sound of Noise-DVD Review 06/18/2013

Posted by dmbinder in Cannes Film Festival, Chlotrudis Awards, Comedy, Crime, Molodist International Film Festival, Movies, Musical, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Swedish language film, Warsaw International Film Festival.
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SOUND OF NOISE (Swedish) 2010

Directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson
Starring Bengt Nilsson, Magnus Börjeson, Marcus Boij, Johannes Björk,
Fredrik Myhr, Anders Vestergard, and Sanna Persson

WINNER, Young Critics Award-Best Feature, Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Buried Treasure, Chlotrudis Awards
WINNER, Audience Award-Full-length Films, Molodist International Film Festival
WINNER, New Voices/New Visions Special Jury Mention; NOMINATED, New Voices/New Visions Grand Jury Prize, (both Simonsson and Nilsson), Palm Springs International Film Festival
WINNER, Audience Award-Feature Film; Free Spirit Award, Warsaw International Film Festival

A truly unusual story about six percussionists who wreak havoc around the city by performing musical numbers that use a variety of things–from the human body to vehicles–as instruments. It falls to tone-deaf policeman Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson) to pursue them. Warnebring, who was raised in a highly musical environment (his brother, a celebrated conductor, was a child prodigy), hates the sound of music.

Funny and entertaining. And definitely different. Loved the music! Listen to some here. Hope the link’s not too choppy.)

102 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Sound of Noise

Elena-DVD 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.

For more info:
Elena

Wild Grass-DVD 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.

For more info:
Wild Grass

The Princess of Montpensier-DVD 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.

For more info:
Princess of Montpensier

Biutiful-DVD 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.

For more info:
Biutiful

Le Havre-DVD 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.

For more info:
Le Havre

Tokyo Sonata-DVD 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.

For more info:
Tokyo Sonata

Il Divo-DVD Review 12/16/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Based on true events, British Independent Film Awards, Cannes Film Festival, David di Donatello Awards, European Film Awards, Golden Globes, Italian language film, Italy, Movies, Paolo Sorrentino.
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Il Divo (Italian) 2008
Il Divo: La spettacolare vita di Giulio Andreotti
Based on true events

Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Starring Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, and Giulio Bosetti

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Achievement in Makeup, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Film, British Independent Film Awards
WINNER, Jury Prize (Sorrentino), NOMINATED, Palme D’Or (Sorrentino), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, David Award, Best Actor (Servillo); Best Cinematography; and five other awards; NOMINATED, Best Director; Best Film; Best Screenplay; and five others, David di Donatello Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (Servillo); NOMINATED, Best Cinematographer; Best Director; Best Film; Best Screenwriter, European Film Awards
WINNER, Best Screenplay; NOMINATED, Best Director, Golden Globes, Italy

Please note that this is not a music DVD!

Among other government posts, Giulio Andreotti (Servillo) served as Prime Minister of Italy for several terms during the 1970s and early 90s. Il Divo (the star) was one of the many nicknames associated with him.

Via a compelling performance by actor Toni Servillo, director Sorrentino delivers a sense of the personality behind the man, keeping the controversies that surrounded him as a series of montages in the background.

In 2003, Andreotti was in the news when he was cleared of a murder charge.

110 min. Not rated. Violence.

For more info:
Il Divo

Michael-DVD 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)

Check it out on Netflix
or
Amazon: Michael