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Entries in Foreign Film (19)

Friday
Jul082016

Our Little Sister

Our Little Sister
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Released on: July 8th, 2016
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Another saccharine story by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (After Life; Like Father, Like Son), Our Little Sister may be meticulously shot, offer competent and attractive actors — the likes of which we rarely see in American cinema — and told in Japanese with English subtitles, but it as emotionally superficial as a Hollywood movie by the likes of Nancy Myers or Cameron Crowe (except Kore-eda uses Asian actors when the story calls for it).

Based on the best selling manga novel by Yoshida Akimi, Umimachi Diary, Out Little Sister starts off obvious enough and then proceeds down its predictable path before its long overdue and comforting conclusion.

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Thursday
Jul072016

The Innocents

The Innocents
Directed by: Anne Fontaine
Released on: July 1st, 2016
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Poland, December 1945. A group of Benedictine nuns sing praises to God. Ritual and simplistic, these notes offer comfort and peace. Suddenly, the harmonious hymns are pierced by a scream of agony. The scream is both literal and metaphorical, for these nuns of the Polish Church are agonized by what man, nature and God have put them through.

In response to the scream, Sister Maria (Agata Buzek) seeks the help of a doctor — "not a Polish or Russian doctor." This brings her to Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laâge), a doctor working for the French Red Cross.

Reluctant at first to help a nun, the leftist doctor is moved by Maria's predicament and agrees to come back to the convent.

The nuns are possessed by a shocking secret.

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Tuesday
Feb022016

A Good Wife

A Good Wife [Dobra zena]
Directed by: Mirjana Karanovic
Released at: Sundance Film Festival 2016
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Commencing and concluding with a disrupting male gaze that focuses on two circles of sorts, Serbian actor Mirjana Karanovic makes an impressive debut as director and co-writer in A Good 
Wife, a film about personal and political cancer in current Serbia. 

Milena (Karanovic) is 50-year-old mother of three taking care of hubby (Boris Isakovic) and household in a small suburb outside of Belgrade. A woman with little identity of her own, Milena fills her days shopping, gossiping with other equally vacuous (yet not so wealthy) housewives and watching home videos. 

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Monday
Nov162015

Love

Love
Directed by: Gaspar Noé
Released on: October 30th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther 

Nothing should be surprising when one goes to see a film by writer-director Gaspar Noé (Irreversible; Enter the Void). In the opening scene of his latest film, Love, a woman named Electra (Aomi Muyock) and a man named Murphy (Karl Glusman) are fingering the genitals of each other. His cock is as hard as rock (a stiffy in cinema!) while she is just squeaky wet. The scene does not end until he ejaculates — money shot and all.

Clearly, the two are in love.

With the cinematic blink of an eye, which Noé used masterfully in Enter the Void, Murphy now occupies his bed with Omi (Klara Kristen). It is New Year's Day and their son, Noe (Jean Couteau), is screaming in the other room. As Murphy goes to retrieve the boy, we learn Murphy is suffering from veisalgia (AKA a hangover) and has been hung out to dry up in a relationship he does not want.

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Friday
Oct162015

The Assassin

The Assassin
Directed by: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Released on: October 16th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Set during the first decade of 9th-century China, the latest film by director/co-writer Hou Hsaio-Hsien (Three Times; Raise the Red Balloon) tells the story of a woman who cannot seem to follow orders and kill her target.

Once destined for a life of privilege, Yinniang Nie (Qi Shu) was kidnapped at the age of 10 by a decorated general and raised by a Princess-nun, Jiaxin (Fang-Yi Sheu). Jiaxin taught the discarded girl martial arts.

Thirteen years later — where the eventually-colored film commences in black and white — Yinniang is now a trained assassin ordered to kill corrupt officials during the final years of the Tang Dynasty (06/618-06/907).

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Tuesday
Sep152015

Coming Home

Coming Home (Gui lai)
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Released on: September 9th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Taking vulgar, ideological populism to its extreme, China's Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s imprisoned thousands of intellectuals who were perceived as "counter-revolutionary" effete bourgeois elements who were trying to bring back capitalism to China.

This Cultural Revolution measure, along with thousands of other counterproductive ones, tore families and lives apart. Based on the ending of Geling Yan's novel, The Criminal Lu Yanshi, the latest film by Yimou Zhang (Ju Dou; To Live; House of the Flying Daggers) cast two of China's finest actors to relay a story about two people who were sacrificed in the name of ideological purity.

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Tuesday
Sep012015

The Second Mother

The Second Mother
Directed by: Anna Muylaert
Released on: August 28th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

In one of the nice neighborhoods of São Paulo, an upper-middle class family lives a life of monotonous order where everyone knows her or his place.

The official matriarch of the family, Bárbara (Karine Teles), seems to be of some importance to the fashion world. It is never exactly disclosed what she does, but we know it keeps her away from home during the week. Her husband, Carlos (Lourenco Mutarelli), was once an artist, but now just hangs around the house all day. He inherited money from his hardworking father so why labor? Their son, Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), is a teenage kid with all the advantages and none of the discipline to carve much of an identity for himself. He likes to swim and smoke pot.

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Monday
Apr272015

Gemma Bovery

Gemma Bovery
Director: Anne Fontaine
Screening: April 2015 at COLCOA Film Festival
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Rather than another adaptation of Madame Bovary, co-writer and director Anne Fontaine's Gemma Bovery is a light lit-crit cinematic reinterpretation of Gustave Flaubert's great novel. 

After years in the publishing business, Martin Joubert (Fabrice Lucchini) has returned to the Northern France town of Normandy (the name of which works better as a play on words in English than in French). Martin may still be a voracious reader, but he now runs his deceased father's bakery. Martin is a natural at baking and seems happiest at work. At home, he has a nice wife, Valérie (Isabelle Candelier), plus a teenage son, Julien (Kacey Mottet Klein) who does not share his father's love of reading.

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Monday
Feb232015

Chorus

Chorus
Director: François Delisle
Released on: January 23rd, 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / March 2015 [Canada]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Shot in black and white and mostly during Canadian winter months, the look of Chorus is as dreary as its tale of woe.

A man named Jean-Pierre (Luc Senay) walks into an interrogation room and sits down across from a police official named Hervé (Didier Lucien). He does not want a lawyer. The overweight, slouching (toward Gomorrah) criminal is there to admit to another crime he committed. It happened ten years ago and it involves an 8-year-old boy who was not very good at sports, had lost his bike key and broke the cardinal rule about getting into a car with strangers.

As Jean-Pierre continues his story, a sense of dread seeps in. This is a story which cannot end well. But, before Jean-Pierre is done telling his story, writer-director-cinematographer-editor Francois Delisle's film cuts away to the film's two protagonists, a couple filled with existential dread. Except the couple are no longer together.

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Tuesday
Sep092014

Locke

Locke
Directed by: Steven Knight
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: August 12th, 2014
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

In this age of bloated CGI spectacles, pointless remakes/reboots/reimaginings and two-hour dick jokes, innovation in cinema is very far and very few between. It seems that Hollywood would rather run out of ideas than make smart and challenging films. It’s quite an embarrassment.

On the other hand, you have films like the British import, Locke. Written and directed by Oscar nominee Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises), this captivating film experiment is the antithesis of everything that is wrong with the current state of Hollywood. Shot over a few weeks on a miniscule budget and set entirely in a car in real time, it tells the story of engineer and family man Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises) going for one of the most important drives of his life.

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