Thursday, April 24, 2014
THE GIRL AND DEATH, Dutch director and co-writer Jos Stelling's attempt to give us a period tale involving first love between a young medical student and a tubercular courtesan, the former on his way between Russia and Paris to study, the latter under the thumb of the elderly count who pays for her quarters in the slightly decaying hotel in Germany where the young man arrives to stay the night on his journey.
Bert Rijkelijkhuizen), and the two of them clearly perceive this as a tale of a first love that, sadly, cannot be. As filmmaker, Stelling has lavished his movie with some gauzy, graceful cinematography (by Goert Giltay) that lingers over everything from the hero and heroine's beautiful faces to the accoutrements of the hotel and the Count's ugly countenance. As writers, the pair clearly decided to tell their story more visually than with dialog. Scene by scene, this is a film remarkably dialog-free (or with very limited use of conversation). This can have its charms, but here, I think, you'd really rather have the lovers talk a bit more and consequently make better decisions. Ah, but that's not the way first love works, right?
Sergey Makovetskiy, above) who finally arrives at a cemetery (shown at bottom) near the now-deserted hotel and then... remembers his youth. We meet him again at the end of the film to wrap things up. In between, this lengthy 127-minute movie devotes itself to his story, which is simplicity incarnate: Boy meets girl, boy can't have her, much tsuris ensues -- "I can't." "You must!" "No!" "Yes!" and so on, until around the halfway mark, when it's a few years later, and our young man, returned to the hotel again, has grown a "somewhat" mustache and goatee (in order to age him a bit, no doubt).
Sylvia Hoeks (below) and Russian actor Leonid Bichevin (above). Both are as good as they're allowed to be. The supporting cast is fine, too, with much of the acting falling pleasantly enough between realism and silent film style -- which, in a movie that offers as sparse dialog as this one does, seems perfectly understandable.
Cinema Village. It will open in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 on May 23, and I expect it will appear on DVD and/or streaming/VOD eventually.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Patagonia is often known for its desolate areas. It's a place people go to be alone. (Bruce Chatwin was a fan.) In her new film, THE GERMAN DOCTOR (Wakolda is the original Argentine title), writer/director Lucía Puenzo takes us there, but to a very different area: a gorgeous resort nestled in a mountain village next to a beautiful lake. The filmmaker also travels back in time to 1960s, a period far enough after World War II that people were beginning to move on from the Nazi atrocities to find other subjects to explore. In Argentina, however -- a country that managed to make itself into a haven for both Jews and their persecutors -- and particularly in out-of-the-way places like Patagonia, a hive of what we might call early neo-Nazis could (and evidently did) thrive.
Josef Mengele, (played by that excellent Spanish actor, Àlex Brendemühl, below), an escaped Nazi who enjoyed experimenting on concentration camp inmates and evidently took this passion with him to South America. Back in 2007 Puenzo gave us a film, XXY, that remains one of the best ever to deal with the condition and problems faced by a gender "other" and her family. In her new film, the 12-year-old girl, Eva (played by Florencia Bado), who provides the heart of this movie, is also a kind of "other," as she has inherited a gene that makes her unusually short. Do you think the good doctor might be interested in her? Were the Nazis naughty?
Natalie Oreiro, above), pregnant with twins (yet another inducement/temptation/opportunity for our Nazi doctor), wants Eva to continue growing physically. Her father (Diego Peretti, below, right), who does not trust the doctor, will have none of it, even after the medicine man makes him a solid offer to fund mass production of the doll in porcelain.
TrustMovies is pleased with the way Puenzo handles it all, though he admits the movie does not quite rise to the level of XXY, perhaps because, in that earlier film, the subject was both original and shown in a bracing, dramatic, unsentimental manner. While this film is equally unsentimental (this seems a hallmark of the filmmaker), folk my age by now have seen an awful lot of Hitler/Eichmann/Mengele movies, and so some of the bloom of the bizarre has withered from those thorny roses.
Samuel Goldwyn Films and running just 93 minutes, The German Doctor opens this Friday in New York City at the IFC Center and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, and in Los Angeles at The Landmark, in Berkeley at Landmark's Shattuck Cinemas, and in San Francisco at Landmark's Embarcadero Center Cinema. Starting the following week and continuing over the next month or so, the film will hit theaters in cities across the country. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Marine Vacth, who plays and quite well, the lead in François Ozon's new movie YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL (Jeune & jolie). M. Ozon handed me my favorite film of 2013, In the House, so I suppose one cannot expect a filmmaker as prolific as he to come up with something that good every time. (He's made 17 full-length films in as many years, plus myriad short movies.) Though it will not be my favorite film for 2014, still, this one is plenty good enough: thoughtful, stylish, intelligent, well-acted by all concerned and with a theme -- teenage prostitution -- that should certainly corral a portion of the arthouse crowd.
Lucas Prisor) and losing her virginity with barely so much as a goodbye. She evidently felt nothing pleasurable or otherwise -- as I suspect lots of young girls these days experience with their first time (and maybe always have). With the young, everything is rushed.
Johan Leysen (above); the rest are all just johns.
Charlotte Rampling, in a small but wonderful role that the actress fills to the brim. There is also a lovely, sad chapter around mid-way that explores Isabelle' relationship and love/sex life with a boy her own age (Laurent Delbecque, above). The difference in maturity between the genders, along with the characterization of the girl's inner life against the boy's outer has rarely been shown so clearly and pointedly.
Géraldine Pailhas, above, left) is divorced, but step-dad (the ever-present and always fine Frédéric Pierrot) is a decent guy, while (Fantin Ravat) is everything you'd want and expect in a kid brother -- and twice as adorable. Yes, this family has its problems, but because it is made up of relatively decent people, you can't look to it for anything approaching a full explanation of Isabelle's unusual behavior.
Sundance Selects/IFC Films and running 95 minutes -- opens here in the USA this Friday, April 25, in New York City at the IFC Center. I can't find it playing anywhere in the Los Angeles area -- that's surprising -- but as it will appear on VOD simultaneous with its theatrical release, you should be able to view it in practically all major markets across the USA.
Dirty Pretty Things, Amazing Grace and Eastern Promises are among his many efforts) than as a director (Redemption), but Locke may change all that. So compelling an actor is Mr. Hardy and so specific and alert is Knight's script to the life and problems of his character (whose name is Ivan Locke) that, together, they turn the movie into a tour de force of feeling, emotion, anger, surprise and even a little humor. How? Knight lets his audience slowly learn where Locke is going and why, while simultaneously allowing us understand what this means to the life this man had led up until now. Knight and Hardy manage all this via phone conversations -- which cannot be overly expository or we'd simply not buy them -- that fill in everything from situation to character.
Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson and Tom Holland.)
A24 and running just 85 minutes, opens this Friday, April 25, in New York City at the AMC Lincoln Square 13 and the Angelika Film Center, and then on Friday, May 2, it will open in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Raphael. To see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, click here and then click on THEATERS. (The movie's site could use some updating, however, as the Los Angeles entry seems to have the wrong theater and the wrong date....)
Monday, April 21, 2014
TANZANIA: A JOURNEY WITHIN. I say this because you may be tempted, as was I, to imagine that you've stumbled into watching yet another documentary about a first-world twit hoping to discover her or himself by visiting a third-world country. Though the movie does begin with an indication of something serious -- our heroine looks mighty sick and is headed for the hospital -- it immediately flashes back to a much earlier time, as college students Kristen Kenney and Venance Ndibalema (hereafter to be called Kris and Ven) explain why they will soon be traveling to Ven's home country of Tanzania. And then they are there, and before you can say "Don't do that," Kris is out in the streets of Dar es Salaam -- blond braids flowing, heavy-duty eye make-up in place -- dancing in front of the natives and generally making a spectacle of herself. Gheesh.
Quad Cinema and on May 2 in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Noho 7. To see other playdates for the film, click here.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Philippe Le Guay has had quite an interesting career, working successfully in various genres -- from his most recent hit, the nostalgic and socially-conscious rom-com The Women on the 6th Floor to his earlier and very dark movie about work and family, Nightshift (Trois Huit) and a very interesting and barbed look at how the French bourgeoisie lived back in 2003, The Cost of Living. All told, he's directed eleven films (theatrical and television) and written twenty-two. Now comes one of his best: BICYCLING WITH MOLIÈRE, the charming, classy tale of a classic piece of French literature attempting to be brought to exhilarating life by a pair of France's finest actors (Fabrice Luchini and Lambert Wilson) -- who happen to be portraying a pair of France's finest actors.
Maya Sansa, above), an Italian divorcee who is initially angry at them and the world around her but then quickly (a tad too quickly, perhaps) warms up to our two chums.
Laurie Bordesoules, below) warms to the words.
Claire's Knee onward, you'll know that there is damn little he can't do. His work here is sterling; the man just gets better and better with age. M. Wilson, below, looks fabulously sexy (as he so often does) but here this is cleverly combined with that ever-so-slightly self-satisfied "star" quality that successful actors sometimes radiate.
Bellocchio's Dormant Beauty, makes a lovely foil for our guys. Though it is pretty clear that the whole story was designed to explore actors, acting and Molière, the three leads do yeoman work at turning their "characters" into as close to full-blooded people as possible.
Strand Releasing and running 104 minutes, Bicycling with Molière, gets its U.S. theatrical premiere this Wednesday, April 23, in New York City at Film Forum. In Los Angeles, look for the film at Laemmle's Royal and Playhouse 7 on May 2, and at Laemmle's Town Center on May 9. Elsewhere? Let's hope. Otherwise, watch for it eventually on DVD and maybe Netflix streaming.