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Pier Paolo Pasolini (1995)
Maybe it loses something in translation
Pier Paolo Pasolini (1995) was co-written and directed by Ivo Barnabò Micheli. It runs for just 58 minutes, but they are 58 long minutes.
Director Micheli tries to give us on overview of Pasolini, based on his own words and some clips of film footage. The problem is that Pasolini's words, in subtitles, didn't make much sense to me. I could understand each word, but I couldn't understand what his meaning was.
Yes, he was gay, but everyone knew that at the time. Yes, he had some weird thing going with mother/son relationships, but if you watch Mama Roma, you can see that. Yes, he made three pornographic films at the end of his career, and then "repudiated" them. (How do you repudiate a film--it's there, and always will be.)
We saw this movie as an extra on the Criterion version of Mama Rosa. I don't think it's worth watching. However, if you decide to watch it, don't see it before Pasolini's "La Ricotta." The key scene from "La Ricotta" is shown in this movie. Watching this film will ruin that scene for you.
Les horizons morts (1951)
A man with a broken heart
Les horizons morts (1951) is an eight-minute film directed by and starring Jacques Demy.
This was Demy's first film, done when he was only 20. Although Demy would later become renowned for his use of bright, primary colors, this film is shot in cold black and white.
There's no dialog, but the theme is simple enough to be understood by anyone watching the movie.
Normally, I wouldn't see this movie, but it's part of the Criterion package for the feature movie Lola. My thought was, "It's only eight minutes long. How bad could it be?" Actually, pretty bad. It has an IMDb rating of 6.1 with which I agree. I gave it a 6.
I watched "La Ricotta" as a stand-alone film
The short movie "La Ricotta" (the curd cheese) is one of four films by four Italian directors in a move called "Ro.Go.Pa.G (1963). Pier Paolo Pasolini directed this segment.
This is a movie about making a movie. Pasolini's film-within-a-film is about the death of Jesus. Orson Welles portrays the director of this movie. I read that we're supposed to understand that his career has declined to the point where he can only make low-budget movies in Italy. (That's reasonable enough, although I don't understand how we would know that.)
In Welles' movie, we learn that, with the exception of a few stars, who play Mary and Mary Magdalene, the rest of the cast are supposed to be local people from the surrounding poor community. (Some of them may actually be those local people, but one of the angels is played by Ettore Garofolo, who co-starred with Anna Magnani in "Mama Rosa.")
Mario Cipriani stars as Stracci, the character who portrays the Good Thief. There is a running joke throughout the movie about Stracci somehow missing out on every meal. He ultimately steals a dog and sells it to make money. Then he buys an immense amount of cheese. (That's where the title of "La Ricotta" comes from.)
The movie switches back and forth between color for the movie-within-a-movie, and black and white for the movie itself.
The whole movie has a rough, slapped together quality about it. It's not a great film, although reviewers who have seen all four segments say it's the best one.
We saw this film on the smal screen, because it was a bonus DVD packaged with the Pasolini movie "Mama Rosa." Mama Rosa is worth seeing. If you buy it as part of the Criterion Collection, you will have "La Ricotta." Because it's short, and it's there, I would watch it. I don't think it's worth seeking out otherwise.
Raining Stones (1993)
Workers with no work. Loach knows this territory.
Raining Stones (1993) is an English film directed by Ken Loach. In this movie, director Loach hammers home his frequent message--workers who can't find work are driven to more and more desperate actions.
Bruce Jones plays Bob, a loving husband and father. Julie Brown portrays his wife, Anne. Bob and Julie are just barely managing to get along, but, as the title suggests, they gradually get pushed to the point when they just don't have enough money for a key purchase.
This purchase is an expensive communion outfit for their daughter. Their parish priest suggests a gown donated to the church, but they are too proud to accept this. They may have problems, but they will have a new dress for the young girl's first communion.
As the plot continues things get worse. The ending of the film was a surprise to me. I didn't see it going that way, and it didn't seem typical for Loach. However, I believe it works.
We saw this film on the small screen, which was OK. Raining Stones has a strong IMDb rating of 7.4. I think it's even better than that.
P.S. On the case of the DVD, Roger Ebert is quoted as saying. "The funniest of Ken Loach's films about working-class life in modern Britain." I don't know what film Ebert saw, but it couldn't have been the one I saw. Raining Stones is an excellent movie, but it's not funny.
Mamma Roma (1962)
Magnani is unmatched, but the film is not a happy one
Mamma Roma (1962) was shown in the U.S. with the title Mama Roma. The film was written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Anna Magnani plays Mama Roma, a former streetwalker who wants to leave that part of her life behind. Ettore Garofolo portrays her son, Ettore, who comes to join Mama Rosa in her new apartment in the city.
Mama Roma lives for her son, but he doesn't live for her. Despite good opportunities--provided by his mother--Ettore has the habit of going down the wrong road when he comes to a choice point.
Garofolo is a a good enough actor, but Anna Magnani is unique in her abilities. In every one of her movies that I've seen, she embodies the role she plays. She is a force of nature.
The movie is shot in the Italian Realism style, even though it was filmed somewhat later than the dates usually applied to that era. It's not a happy film, although there are happy moments in it. This is a film worth seeing, because it gives us a panoramic view of Anna Magnani's talent. It's worth viewing for that alone.
We saw the movie on the small screen, where it worked well. Mama Roma has an excellent IMDb rating of 7.8. I think it's even better than that.
Looks and Smiles (1981)
What happens to workers when there's no work to do?
Looks and Smiles (1981) is an English film directed by Ken Loach. The film is set in the industrial midlands during the Margaret Thatcher years.
Graham Green (note that he's not the First Nations actor or the author) portrays Michael 'Mick' Walsh, a young man with mechanical talent who is ready to work. Unfortunately, work is hard to come by. Young men, without formal training, simply couldn't find a job.
Their options are limited: they can go on the dole, they can get into trouble, or they can join the army. One of Mick's friends does join the army, and gets sent to fight the IRA in Northern Ireland. He doesn't appear in many scenes, but, when he does, we can tell that he's become tougher and is losing his basic decency.
Carolyn Nicholson portrays Karen, a wonderful young woman who falls in love with Mick. She has a job, in a shoe store, but faces challenges at home. If Mick had a job, they could make it work. But . . .
Loach is a skilled director and he makes us care about Mick and Karen. Unfortunately, the government doesn't care about them, and that's the sad, basic problem.
We saw this film on the small screen, where it worked very well. It carries a weak IMDb rating of 6.9. I'm not sure why the rating is that low. I think it's much better than that.
The great Bollywood epic (12 songs by Lata)
Mughal-E-Azam (1960) was co-written and directed by K. Asif. It is considered the great Bollywood epic movie. It's the Magnum Opus of Indian Cinema.
The film stars Prithviraj Kapoor as the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and Dilip Kumar as his son, Prince Saleem. The role of the dancing girl Anarkali is portrayed by Madhubala, "The Queen of Indian Cinema." "Known for her beauty, personality, and sensitive portrayals of tragic women."
The movie is very long by our standards--over three hours. True--but the length fits the epic nature of the plot. And, as expected, there are many, many episodes of singing and dancing. (Also, battle scenes with--literally--a cast of thousands.)
The film was originally show in black and white, but it has been meticulously colorized. (Usually, I'm not fond of colorization. However, in this case it works.)
The basic plot is simple. Prince Saleem falls in love with the beautiful dancing girl, Anarkali. His father opposes the marriage of his son to a lowly servant girl. Everything else follows.
Not only is the movie a treat for the eye, it's also a treat for the ear. Lata Mangeshkar is the playback singer for 12 songs. She is the most famous playback singer in the world--"The Voice of India."
This film cries out to be seen on the large screen. In fact, it was shown at Rochester's Dryden Theatre. However, we couldn't see it then, so we settled for the DVD. (There are two different DVD's of this film. The one we saw was from Shemaroo Entertainment.)
Mughal-E-Azam carries a fantastically high IMDb rating of 8.3. Believe it or not, I thought it was even better than that. I rated it 10.
The Rising of the Moon (1957)
Ireland, 100 years ago
The Rising of the Moon (1957), directed by John Ford, is actually three short films about Ireland.
The first is "The Majesty of the Law," from a story by Frank O'Connor. O'Connor was an outstanding author, and the story itslef is worth reading. Ford keeps O'Connor's concept, but adds many embellishments. I wasn't impressed by these additions, but I was impressed by Ford's direction, which was outstanding in all three segments.
The second story, "A Minute's Wait," is by a less-known Irish writer, Michael J. McHugh. It's a fairly repetitious piece about a train that, for many reasons, never quite leaves the small station where it has stopped. It's the comic relief film. An English colonel and his wife are on the train, and they are presented as perfect stereotypes. At one point a sports team arrives, with great fanfare. The colonel tells his wife that it's probably the local cricket team. Of course, it's actually a victorious team that competes in the Irish sport of hurling. One reason not to fast-forward is to listen to the most bizarrely worded marriage proposal that you'll ever hear.
The third segment is adapted from Lady Augusta Gregory's play, "The Rising of the Moon." Lady Gregory was an English aristocrat who lived in Ireland, and adopted the Irish revolutionary cause as her own. She was the founder of he famous Abbey Theatre, which still exists today.
This segment has two serious plots. One is obvious--an Irish revolutionary is about to be executed. The other is less obvious but, in my opinion, it's the more important plot. It involves an Irish Constabulary sergeant and his wife. We see them first at the very beginning of the story, and again at the very end.
We saw this movie on the small screen, where it worked well. It's uneven, and not a masterpiece, but it's worth seeing. It has an anemic IMDb rating of 6.8. I think it's much better than that.
And Then We Danced (2019)
Georgian dance has no room for innovation
And Then We Danced (2019) is a film from the Republic of Georgia. It was written and directed by Levan Akin.
The movie stars Levan Gelbakhiani as Merab, a skilled dancer at the Georgian dance academy. Ana Javakishvili portrays Mary, his long-time partner. Everyone at the academy is striving to be called up to the National Georgian Dance Ensemble.
A new dancer enters the academy--Irakli, played by Bachi Valishvili. Irakli is also a skilled dancer. Naturally, the two men see themselves as rivals. The question is whether rivals can be friends as well.
Of the two, Merab is the more creative dancer. However, creativity isn't valued in Georgian dance. As portrayed in the film, Georgian dance is traditional, with no room for change. The dancers at the National Georgian are expected to follow strict Georgian dance tradition. The best dancer is the dancer who can best display that tradition.
Mary loves Merab, but it's not clear whether her love is returned. Certainly, there's opportunity for intimate relationships, but Merab is reluctant to use these opportunities. The plot moves forward from there.
Additional information: the film is technically a Swedish-Georgian production. Director Akin is Swedish, but he's of Georgian descent. Sweden submitted this film for the Oscars, but it wasn't nominated. It was so controversial in conservative Georgia that riot police had to protect movie goers.
The singing and dancing in the film are both outstanding. The film has many virtues, but even without reference to the plot, it's worth seeing just to watch and listen.
We saw the movie on the large screen, thanks to ImageOut, Rochester's LGBT film festival. It will work almost as well on a small screen.
And Then We Danced has an extraordinarily high IMDb rating of 8.1. I think it's even better than that.
El rey del Once (2016)
Why doesn't Usher appear?
The Argentinian film El Rey del Once (2016) was shown in the U.S. with the title The Tenth Man. (The U.S. title makes sense in the context of the movie, but the Spanish title is The King of Eleven.) The movie was written and directed by Daniel Burman.
The film stars Alan Sabbagh as Ariel, who was born in Buenos Aires, but is now a successful businessman in New York City.
Ariel is estranged from he father, Usher, because Usher is an orthodox Jew, and Ariel is not. Ariel travels to Buenos Aires to try to come to a rapprochement with Usher.
However, Usher never appears. He runs a charity organization--I think mostly for Jews--and he's always somewhere else when Ariel visits the charity.
The charity organization is more or less a success, but it is horribly disorganized. Usher apparently holds this chaotic situation together, but barely.
Instead of Usher, Ariel meets the beautiful, enigmatic Eva (Julieta Zylberberg). She's an orthodox Jew, so she's not allowed to touch him. However, she's also silent. She can speak, but she chooses not to.
The plot progresses with the growing relationship between Ariel and and Eva, and the growing absence of Usher. There are funny and tender moments, as Ariel meets old friends, and starts to make sense out of what's happening at the charity.
I enjoyed this movie, and I recommend it. It has a horrible IMDb rating of 5.7. It's much better than that. The low rating for this good movie reminds me that sometimes you need to listen to a friend who recommends a film. The IMDb rating is important, but it's not essential when choosing a movie.
Little Women (2019)
A minority view--I didn't like it much
Little Women (2019) was written and directed by Greta Gerwig. It's based on the 19th Century novel by Louisa May Alcott.
I had high hopes for this film, but they weren't fulfilled. I don't think I should say "based on" the novel. I should say "somewhat related to" the novel.
Director Gerwig has spread out the story so that it's not only about Jo. That's OK. However, because the book is written in Jo's voice, she is the key player. In 1933, Jo was portrayed by Katherine Hepburn. In 1949, by June Alyson, and in 1994, by Winona Ryder. They were all great. Saoirse Ronan plays Jo in this version, and she's excellent.
The problem for me came in the casting of the French actor Louis Garrel as Professor Bhaer. He's described in the novel as a middle-aged, "philosophically inclined," and penniless German immigrant in New York City, who was a noted professor in Berlin. Louis Garrel is a handsome man, age 33, but looking more like age 25. What young woman with Jo's temperament wouldn't want to marry him? However, that wasn't what Alcott wanted us to see. She took the hard path; Gerwig took the easy one.
The movie has an all-star cast, but the actor that carried the film for me was Laura Dern as Marmee. The camera has always loved Dern, and it still does. Director Gerwig got that one right.
We saw the movie at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. I think it will work well on the small screen. Note that I entitled my review, "A Minority View." The movie has a very high 8.3 IMDb rating. My daughter--who knows movies--thought it was great. However, I think you'd do better with Katherine, June, or Winona.
Wolf Hall (2015)
Mark Rylance is a great actor
Wolf Hall is a 2015 TV Mini-Series directed by Peter Kosminsky for BBC Two.
The film stars Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell. Damian Lewis portrays Henry VIII, and Claire Foy plays Anne Boleyn.
As we expect from the BBC, production values are high, and the cinematography is excellent. Claire Foy does a very good job as Anne. I don't think Damian Lewis brought too much to the role of Henry VIII. To me he came off as just another scheming courtier, rather than a royal monarch.
Mark Rylance was outstanding as Thomas Cromwell. He took over the role and made it his own. After being the right hand man to Cardinal Wolsey, he became the right hand man to Henry VIII. He had to be bold, tough, brilliant, and, when necessary, immoral. He had a conscience, but he didn't always follow it.
Drawbacks to the series include the fact that it is discouraging and depressing. There's no one that anyone else can really trust--your friend today is your enemy tomorrow.
Also, there are many supporting roles, and sometimes I found it hard to remember who was who. "Is that the Duke of Norfolk or the Duke of Sussex?"
Wolf Hall is the perfect film for English history buffs, and for people who like to see intrigue compounded by more intrigue. If you're neither, then watch it just to see a great actor inhabit a great role.
Because this mini-series was made for TV, it works well on the small screen. It carries a high IMDb rating of 8.1. That's just how I rated it.
A good movie about a great woman
Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins (2019) was directed by Janice Engel.
Molly Ivins was one of a kind. She was a brilliant reporter, a wonderful satirist, and a fascinating person.
The excellent movie captures Ivins' personality and professional accomplishments very well. The biography is a mix of clips from her many lectures and guest appearances with interviews from the journalists who knew her and worked with her.
The only drawback to the film is the time spent on the Texas legislature. Ivins wrote scathingly funny articles about how inept they were. However, if you're not from Texas, you may not see the importance of all of her efforts to to prove to readers that they're truly losers.
We saw this movie on the small screen, where it worked very well. It has an excellent IMDb rating of 7.7. I think it's even better than that.
As You Like It (1978)
Dame Helen Mirren as a young man!
Shakespeare's As You Like It (1978 TV Movie) was directed by Basil Coleman. Helen Mirren stars as Rosalind, the biggest female role in any Shakespeare play.
This movie is part of the Ambrose Shakespeare series, which filmed every one of Shakespeare's plays. Typically, movies in this series had minimal production values. (This is the way Shakespeare's plays were seen when they were originally produced. However, now the lack of scenery looks skimpy.)
However, this movie was filmed in Glamis Castle (as in Macbeth). The location allows us to see a real castle, with ramparts, as well as a great wooded area, which becomes Arden Forest.
We all know that Mirren can act, but I think she got better as she grew older. One problem is that she's very feminine--as Viola is--but she spends most of the play dressed as a man.
This As You Like it is probably as good as you're going to get on the small screen. I don't think it matters whether you see it as DVD or in a movie theater. My advice is to try to see it live onstage.
Family Life (1971)
A powerful, but discouraging, movie about mental health.
Family Life (1971) was directed by Ken Loach.
The film stars Sandy Ratcliff as Janice Baildon. Janice is a young woman who has some emotional problems. She's standing at the brink of a long slide downwards. Briefly, a caring physician intervenes, but after that she's on her own.
There are no real villains in this movie, in the sense of people who know what they're doing is wrong, and do it anyway. Everyone--her parents, her psychiatrists--are convinced that what they are doing is right.
That is the paradox of this film--well-meaning people are hurting Janice without recognizing what they are doing.
Sadly, almost 50 years later, psychiatry hasn't made that much progress. True, there are many new medications, and there are many new non-medication approaches, but there hasn't been a real breakthrough. People like Janice might find themselves in the same situation, with the same bad consequences.
We saw this film on the small screen, where it worked well. The movie has a very strong IMDb rating of7.7. I think it's even better than that.
The Book Thief (2013)
An amazing film, narrated by Death
The Book Thief (2013) was directed by Brian Percival. It's an unusual movie in which Death is the narrator. In Death Takes a Holiday (1934) The Seventh Seal (1957), and Black Orpheus (1959) death is an on-screen character. However, in this case, we see the film from Death's point of view.
Sophie Nélisse portrays Liesel Meminger, whose mother is taken by the Nazis because she's a Communist. Liesel isn't Jewish, so she's not sent to a concentration camp. Instead, she is placed in the home of Hans and Rosa Hubermann. (Portrayed by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.) They aren't the happiest of couples, but they protect and care for Liesel.
Telling much more about the plot wouldn't be right for this movie. Needless to say, the world turns upside down for all of the lead characters. It's hard to act in a way that even resembles normal in this horrible, abnormal period.
The direction is excellent, and Sophie Nélisse was already a superb actor at the age of 13, when the movie was produced. (She has gone on to star in many movies since 2013.)
We watched this film on the small screen, where it worked well. The Book Thief has an excellent 7.6 rating. I think it's even better than that.
Ba wang bie ji (1993)
An epic film about China during the mid-20th century
The Chinese (Hong Kong) movie Ba wang bie ji (1993) was shown in the U.S. with the title, Farewell My Concubine. The film was directed by Kaige Chen.
The movie stars Leslie Cheung as Cheng Dieyi, Fengyi Zhang as Duan Xiaolou and Li Gong as Juxian.
This is a difficult film to review, because it's an epic about life in China between 1927 and 1977, it's a look at the Peking Opera, and it's a love triangle with tragic consequences.
Dieyi and Xiaolou are friends from childhood because they are both enrolled in the harsh school of the Peking Opera. Juxian is a concubine at a high-end brothel. Dieyi plays the female roles, because only men perform in the opera.
Xiaolou is in love with Juxian, and we assume that Dieyi is in love with Xiaolou. All of the relationships are under stress because, during this historical period the government changed from Manchu, to Japanese, to Chinese Nationalist, to Chinese Communist during the time of the Cultural Revolution.
It would have been an easier movie to review if it had been about the three central characters, about Peking Opera, or about Chinese history. The fact that it's about all three of these subjects makes it a one-of-a-kind movie.
The acting and directing are wonderful, and the cinematography is superb. (It will work better in a theater, but it was still excellent on the small screen.)
This movie is long and--sometimes--confusing. However, it's a masterpiece and well worth seeking out.
Dark Waters (2019)
A dark film about corporate power
Dark Waters (2019) was directed by Todd Haynes. It stars Mark Ruffalo as Robert Bilott, a corporate lawyer, and Anne Hathaway as his wife, Sarah Bilott
The movie, "based on a true story," is powerful, but somewhat formulaic. Lawyer's job is defending corporations, he learns of serious corporate evil, and he takes on the job of defending the little people harmed by the corporation.
However, even though you can predict what will happen, you will still be frightened by the terrifying power of a giant corporation.
Naturally, Ruffalo and Hathaway are great. It's wonderful to watch them act, and even better to watch them act opposite each other.
We saw this film at Rochester's great Little Theatre. It will work almost as well on the small screen.
Sorry We Missed You (2019)
Powerful film, but discouraging.
Sorry We Missed You (2019) is an English film directed by the great Ken Loach.
Kris Hitchen plays Ricky Turner, who is a decent man who loves his family and is ready to work hard.
He signs on as a "independent contractor" for a company that resembles UPS.
It turns out that he's only an independent contractor when something goes wrong. His work is monitored continuously, fines by the company are a daily occurrence, and he can't allow his daughter to accompany him when he's driving his own van. He is working too hard and too long, and has little to show for it.
Ken Loach is a brilliant director, and this movie shows us the horrible truth of a worker systematically being crushed by a corporation. It's certainly a tragic film, but it allows us to see how the system works. Well, it works for the corporation, but not for the drivers.
We saw this film at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre as part of the Labor Film Series. It will work on the small screen. It's hard to watch, but it's a brilliant movie.
English Vinglish (2012)
Lighthearted movie with a serious message
English Vinglish (2012) was written and directed by Gauri Shinde. It's an Indian film, but it's location is primarily suburban NYC.
The movie stars the late Sridevi, who was the first great Indian female superstar. She portrays Shashi Godbole, who is under-appreciated at home as the great wife and mother that she is. Her husband looks down upon her, and that prompts her children to give be disrespectful.
Shasi travels to NYC for a wedding, and that's where she begins to study conversational English. (She has pretty good English already, but her level of language expertise isn't sufficient for other cultured Indians, including her husband.)
This isn't an iconic movie, but it gives the viewer a chance to learn about India, to see NYC in a different light, and to watch a fantastically gifted actor fit perfectly into a role.
We saw this film at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre, at the George Eastman Museum. It was part of FILMI WORLDS--A Festival of Indian Cinema. It won't work as well on the small screen, but it's good enough for me to say that you should find it and see it in any format.
In & Out (1997)
A progressive movie about coming out of the closet (or not)
In & Out (1997) was directed by Frank Oz . The movie stars Kevin Kline as Howard Brackett, teacher, coach, and all-around good guy. He's engaged to be married to Emily Montgomery (Joan Cusack). Everything is going well until local-boy-makes-good Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) wins an Oscar. In his speech, he thanks Howard, and outs him as gay.
Suddenly, Howard becomes a celebrity, and the media descend. They get their story, and then they leave. Only journalist Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck) stays around to see what happens next.
The cast is studded with well-known actors--Debbie Reynolds and Wilfred Brimley as Howard's parents, and Bob Newhart as Principal Halliwell.
Watch for supermodel Shalom Harlow as supermodel Sonya. (Cameron Drake says she resembles a swizzle stick.)
The basic premise of the movie is interesting, but it wasn't as funny or meaningful as I had hoped. The Barbara Streisand jokes never stop. Emily's problems are treated as, well, problems, rather than as reasons for sympathy. The payoff scene doesn't really work.
On the other hand, the acting is great, and the message about gay vs. straight does come through.
We saw this movie on DVD, where it worked well. The film has a pathetic IMDb rating of 6.4. It's not a great movie, but it's better than that.
Canadian Bacon (1995)
A funny narrative film from Michael Moore
Canadian Bacon (1995) is a narrative movie written and directed by Michael Moore. The film stars Alan Alda as the President of the United States. His popularity rating is going down until his slimy aide, Kevin Pollak, suggests that what his administration needs is a war. Pollak assumes--probably correctly--that Americans always rally around a war President.
Actually, Pollak suggests that they don't want a real war--just a threatening of hostilities with some nation that won't actually attack us. Initiating hostilities with Canada should do the trick.
Enter John Candy as local Sheriff Bud Boomer, who isn't in on the deception. He decides to invade Canada with a few of his patriotic friends.
The movie is full of stereotypes: all people in Upstate New York are rednecks. All Canadians are kind, hospitable, welcoming, and trusting. They're all polite, except if you criticize their beer.
All of this works in a rough-and-tumble way. The movie is a comedy, and it's funny. However, even 25 years ago, Michael Moore was on to something that wasn't, and isn't, funny about the United States. Moore knew we were in trouble, and his documentaries demonstrate that trouble.
This movie has a truly dismal IMDb rating of 6.0. It's not a masterpiece, but it's better than that. We saw it on DVD, where it worked well. I recommend it.
We Are Not Princesses (2018)
Two impossible choices
We Are Not Princesses (2018) was directed by Bridgette Auger and Itab Azzam.
Four Iraqi women are stranded in a refugee camp in Lebanon. They long to get back to their homes, but that is simply too dangerous. In Lebanon, women are more liberated than they are in Iraq, but Iraqi standards prevail in the refugee community.
The women decide to produce the Greek play Antigone. It's appropriate to their situation because they live in a symbolically similar situation to Antigone. Do they obey the law--in this case the law of their husbands--or do they take a step towards freedom.
We saw this film at Rochester's High Falls Feminist Film Festival. It will work on the small screen. It's not a movie for everyone, but I certainly enjoyed it and would recommend it.
Don't miss this extraordinary film!
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (2019) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title, Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The film was written and directed by Céline Sciamma.
This movie takes place in Brittany, France in 1760. A young woman named Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) lives with her mother and her maid in a large chateau on the shore of the Atlantic. Another woman arrives. She's Marianne, portrayed by Noémie Merlant.
Marianne is brought to the chateau ostensibly to provide companionship for Héloïse. However, we quickly learn that she is there to observe Héloïse, in order to secretly paint her portrait. The portrait is needed because Héloïse is destined to be married to a Milanese nobleman. He wants to see her portrait before he consents.
This is an outstanding movie for many reasons. One is the complex, intriguing plot. The second is the outstanding acting by the two lead actors. The third is the wild scenery on the northern French coast. The fourth is that we actually see a painter painting. Most movies about painting show you the artist working, but you never actually see the painting coming together on canvas.
Worth special mention are Luàna Bajrami as Sophie, the maid, and Valeria Golino as La Comtesse, Héloïse's mother. (Incidentally, in the film and in fact, Bairami is Italian.)
This is the movie I enjoyed most at Rochester's wonderful ImageOut LGBT festival. It was shown in the excellent Dryden Theatre of The George Eastman Museum. The screening took place just one month after the film opened in France!
I consider this film as the best of the 13 movies we saw at the ImageOut Festival. (That's saying something, considering the high quality of films at the festival.)
This is a film that will work better on a large screen. Try to see it if it shows at a festival near you. My guess is that it will achieve theater distribution in the U.S. When that happens, don't miss it.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire has an extremely strong IMDb rating of 8.4. I think it's even better than that.
Yes--it's a lesbian vampire movie. Nothing wrong with that
Carmilla (2019) is a British movie co-written and directed by Emily Harris.
The novel Carmilla was written 25 years before Bram Stoker's Dracula. However, what makes the novel important wasn't when it was written. After all, the vampire legend is centuries old. What makes the novel important is that it was the first English novel to overtly present lesbian love.
The film stars three beautiful women: Hannah Rae plays Lara, a young woman who lives in a gloomy country mansion with her governess, Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine). Ms. Fontaine is a repressed woman, and she sees her job as turning Lara into someone equally repressed. Devrim Lingnau portrays Carmilla, a young woman brought into the home after suffering a concussion when her carriage overturns.
Naturally, the two young women end up in each other's arms. Then Lara gets sick. Is this Carmilla's evil work? You'll have to see the movie to find out.
We saw this film in The Little Theatre as part of the outstanding ImageOut, Rochester's LGBT Festival. ImageOut did it again--this movie had it's New York State premiere in Rochester. If you're going to watch a movie set in a gloomy English country mansion, it will work best in a gloomy movie theater. However, in fact, it will work well on the small screen.
Carmilla has less than fifty ratings. However, as I write this review it has a terrible IMDb rating of 6.2. I can't understand this low rating. Did those 40 people see the same movie I saw? It's a fascinating film, and I recommend it.