Sunday, March 30, 2014


Donald Sutherland, Jane Fonda    d/ Alan Pakula

This was a big hit forty years ago...saw it then and liked it. Liked it this time too, Odd uncomfortable tone throughout, hanging sense of menace.

Mixed feelings about Jane this time. Something about the way she delivered lines made her sound fake. The 'love' story was so subdued it almost wasn't there. DS was stone-faced and unaffected...he didn't give her anything to push back against.

Still, there were many nice touches with sound, music, camera and lighting. Overall a quality film but has lost some freshness.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wondrous Oblivion

England   Delroy Lindo

Nicely done 'family' film which deals with prejudice, racism, anti-semitism...and cricket.

A physically inept Jewish kid in London loves cricket, collects all the cards, etc. A Jamaican family moves in next door and his life changes. Oh...they're really into cricket too.

The film would work very well for children up to...say 14.


Friday, March 28, 2014


Spain   d/ Tony Gatlif

Very loosely structured as a drama, this film was actually made as a celebration of Andalusian life. It began with an unexplained 8 minute musical gathering in a neat hilltop ruin where hand-clapping flamenco was played. Every ten minutes or so we got another extended musical interlude. This allowed Gatlif to portray a sense of his beloved culture...but it felt after a while like being subjected to someone else's musical passion - the more he shoved it at me the less I liked it.

There was a family/revenge story floating around in the background but by the time it came to the fore I had lost interest.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Fifth Estate

England  Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl

Surprisingly good treatment of the Julian Assange/Wikileaks phenomenon. Done as a thriller which works quite well.

We see the story through the eyes of an assistant and shows the extent of the commitment required to take on the existing world power structure. For a time (unfortunately brief) the PTB had no idea how to deal with the universality of the web. Banning publication was meaningless...material could and was spread to multiple sites. And if they can't operate in secrecy they look as terrible as they actually are.

But they eventually figured it out. Assange is now a prisoner in a London embassy...a modern-day Cardinal Mindszenty. How perfect. International predatory capitalism is now as openly heinous as the totalitarian regime that tortured that forgotten cold war hero.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What Dreams May Come

Vincent Ward    Robin Williams Annabella Sciora

Unfortunately this was what everybody said about this film...beautiful but hopelessly maudlin. Ward has been capable of some fine work - Vigil, Navigator - but not this time.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

World War Z

Brad Pitt

I've avoided this one because I figured it would be worthless trash (yet another zombie movie? What in the world is driving this phenomenon?).

I was was. But even though it was one massive cliche (escapes on the beat, etc) the pacing and effective use of CGI won me over. Never for a second did I doubt the hero would save the day - which took away any suspense -  but it didn't matter. The simple idea of having the zs running like rabid-infected critters made the difference.

Like most spectacle blockbusters this glorified violence, was misogynistic and, frankly pretty dumb...but I watched it to the end.  There's no hope.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jean de Florette

France   Yves Montand, Gerard Depardieu

Perhaps the finest adaptation of a novel by Marcel Pagnol. This wasn't taken from a personal reminiscence with its golden glow of was a fictional treatment of the tightly closed and suspicious rural society of Provence which, coupled with base greed led to the suffering of a newcomer family and the eventual death of its patriarch.

First rate production in every respect. The story continued with the following year's Manon of the Spring.


Friday, March 21, 2014

My Mother's Castle


Wonderful follow-up to My Father's Glory. Together they make up a deeply satisfying pair.

This continues the adventures of the teacher's family and their love affair with the hills of Provence. The conflict this time comes from their taking a short cut through the estates of some richies. It's treated pretty light-heartedly until the last quarter when the film moves toward disappointment, some triumphs and finally, sadness, longing, regret. Truly the stuff of life.

First rate storytelling from the pen of a French master, beautifully brought to the screen. Kudos.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Man Who Cried

Christina Ricci, Kate Blanchette    w/d  Sally Potter

Nice-looking and extremely well-acted film about a young girl who fled the pogroms in Russia and eventually made her way, after many tribulations, to the US to re-unite with her father.

CR plays her role straight...the other players - especially KB and John Turturro - emote all over the place. Johnny Depp shows up in a nice supporting role as a gypsy.

Production values were high...maybe too high. There was an air of artificiality to the film that prevented a total immersion for me. It was a heart-felt and well-meaning effort but as the resolution unfolded I found I didn't really care.

Good try.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014



Cautionary piece on the choices mankind faces at this moment in time. We seem to be heading toward wholesale destruction based on the value system predominant and the over-emphasis placed on competition in the last several hundred years.

There are other modes of thought...this film argues that those in the middle, worldwide, could begin to shift their thinking until a tipping point in numbers is reached.

Lots of psych brought out here...also examples from nature. It will take a lot to change things but there is a deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction/unease burbling beneath the surface. Many (most?) sense that things are out of whack, that the lives we live don't satisfy, that stuff and its accumulation doesn't work.

Pie in the sky? Perhaps...but this is the best presentation of these ideas I've seen so far.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Father's Glory


Stellar adaptation of the 1957 novel by Marcel Pagnol. A young lad travels with his family, including uncle and aunt, to Provence where he learns about the land and what it takes to be a man.

Done with a light touch with a recurrent narration, filmed in yellowy sunlight in a sere, compelling terrain with likable characters and pacing just quick enough for my taste.

Many excellent films have been made of Pagnol's autobiographical books. This was one of them.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014



A truly idiotic film. Made in England but set in 18th century France, it tells the story of a man, born in incredible squalor (shown in loving detail) who is apparently a mute moron but has an acute sense of smell.

Unfortunately his total reliance on his sense of smell in all human interactions leads him to kill people...not on purpose, mind...which, for some reason, leads the townspeople to turn on him.

Lavishly produced, stupid junk. Weren't there any adults available on this production? Someone who could have know, this really doesn't work...?


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Like Father, Like Son

Japan   w/d  Hirokazu Kore-eda

An affluent couple with a 6 yo son learn that their child had been switched at the birth hospital with another. And that their actual son had been raised by a couple several classes lower in the social order. The film is the slow process of how this fraught dilemma gets resolved.

Sensitive, subtle, intelligent, perceptive...all describe this film and his others. This director is a modern-day Ozu...but perhaps even better. Ozu was seen as the perfect reflection of the Japanese character, or soul - his films were seen as embodying the essence of what it meant to be Japanese and thus were seen at the time (incorrectly) as limited to that country's audience.

Kore-eda's films have a universality, a depth of understanding of the workings, the vagaries of human nature that open them to a world audience. His films are emotionally and intellectually satisfying, penetrating and insightful. I see him as a great artist, a treasure, a gift to the world of cinema.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Goodbye Lenin

Germany   Daniel Bruhl

Comedy set during and after the transition from the GDR to unified Germany.

Political humor which was topical when made but hasn't aged well. The scenario is based on an elaborate deception which created a sense of strain and artificiality and kept me from going along with it. I kept wanting to like it more than I actually did and finally gave up. Had I seen this 20 years ago I would have enjoyed it more.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Paranoid Park

Gus van Sant

Not bad. This guy's strayed off into the aether at times (Gerry, Elephant) and this one had that tendency...with its long, pointless tracking/steadicam shots...but here he had a strong story with a vacant 16 yo protagonist who commits an awful crime inadvertently and suffers the emotional consequences.

Deliberately innovative sound design was interesting. Editing style created more interest than was was really there. Performances were amateur but that was OK in this context. The morality of the resolution was decidedly ambiguous...which I find troubling upon reflection...

Still, this one held me all the way, wasn't an insult or absurd naval-gazing. It was a strong story imaginatively presented.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

My Uncle Antoine

Canada   Claude Jutra

This film from 1971 is widely considered the finest film ever made in Canada. I have to agree.

It starts as an amusing, episodic portrait of life in a Quebec asbestos mining town in the 1940's. We follow the misadventures of a family who own and operate the town's general store. Much of this is played for laughs but there are undercurrents brewing below the surface comedy. Two of the children are strays, taken in as workers and foster children. Their past problems are only hinted at.

About an hour in the story takes a subtle but major turn and from there to the end the film builds more and more emotional impact. The resolution is stunning.

A great film with an outstanding performance by young Jacques Gagnon. How is it possible that this film is so little known?


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Goodbye First Love


Nice little film. A couple meet as teens, she's totally in love...him not so much, although he says the words as kids do. They separate, life goes on, they re-connect years later. What will happen?

Intelligent treatment of the vagaries of young love relationships. Both leads were very attractive but the girl (Lola Creton) was oddly part because her character was grieving most of the film...but also when things had settled out and she was ostensibly happy again. Still, I bought the scenario and was engaged till the end.


Sunday, March 2, 2014



We follow the exploits of a fifty-something woman out there looking for love. She meets a 'divorced' man who takes her on a roller coaster ride from the peaks of his love to the depths of his fear.

Superbly played by Paulina Garcia. Her performance was sometimes large, sometimes subtle...cluing us in with a shift of her eyes, her eyebrow. She looked and acted like everywoman...trying her best, getting knocked down, getting up again...never giving up.

Nice use of music throughout. The setting could have been any modern metropolis. Reminiscent of Fellini's Nights of Cabiria...and it worked equally well. Good stuff...


Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Act of Killing

Indonesia   documentary   Joshua Oppenheimer

A mind-bending film...deeply troubling and very important.

Unrepentant murderers who have thrived in Indonesia since killing all the 'communists' in the 60's with US help and approval, stage their crimes for the camera...and us. They operate in what's openly called a gangster world...there is footage here of these pigs shaking down cringing business owners. The people they killed were intellectuals and humanists...people who were striving for a better life for all citizens.

Most of these guys have no qualms about what they did. They acknowledge that murder is wrong but hey - that was then, this is now. Perhaps to give the audience some sense of hope the director focuses on one of the gangsters who is plagued with apparent guilt. They have established a 3 million strong nazi youth organization to ensure the gangster system continues.

A deeply disturbing film...unique in film history...should be seen and discussed everywhere by all ages.