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The Tree- DVD Review 02/15/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Bratislava International Film Festival, César Awards, Chicago International Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Fantasy, Julie Bertuccelli, Movies.
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THE TREE (Australian/French/English) 2010

Directed by Julie Bertuccelli
Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Morgana Davies, and Marton Csokas

Among several other nominations:
WINNER, Best Actress (Gainsbourg), Bratislava International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Gold Hugo, Best New Director (Bertucelli), Chicago International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Gainsbourg); Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Music for a Film, César Awards, France

When her husband dies suddenly, Dawn (Gainsbourg) and her four children try to cope with their loss by defending/transforming the enormous fig tree that is threatening to overtake their house and their lives. Eight-year-old daughter Simone (Davies) convinces her mother that her father speaks to her through the tree.

Part fantasy and part emotional family drama, for me this story was surprisingly moving. Charlotte Gainsbourg sometimes shows up in unusual roles that allow a true acting talent to shine through. I thought this was one of them. And that is one impressive tree. Filmed in Queensland, Australia, with beautiful cinematography of the surrounding area.

100 min. Not rated. Not suitable for children.
For more info:
The Tree

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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

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

La France-DVD 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.

For more info:
La France