- Cinemablend RSS Feed
- ScreenRant - Feed
- Little White Lies
- Cinemablend RSS Feed
- All Content
- Collider - Feed
- Den of Geek
- Heroic Hollywood
- Watch Movies Online
- Hollywood in Toto
- The Movie Blog
- Skewed 'n Reviewed
- UK Film Review
- Montelent – General Movies, Fzmovies Downloads 2021 and Where to Watch Best Movies
- The Last Movie Outpost
- Inside Pulse
- Review Blog - Every Movie Has a Lesson
- Observations on film art
- Jason's Movie Blog
- Movies that make you think
- Weekly Wilson – Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson
- The Film Sufi
- The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis
Hulu’s upcoming limited series about Mike Tyson, Iron Mike, has […]
The post Harvey Keitel, Laura Harrier, & More Join Cast of Hulu’s Mike Tyson Series appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
After previously confirming his role as Morpheus through an Instagram […]
The post The Matrix Resurrections: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Says His Morpheus Is a Different Iteration appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
In a recent interview with Variety, award-winning actor Oscar Isaac […]
The post Moon Knight: Oscar Isaac on the ‘Most Challenging Role’ of His Career appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
The first-look teaser for the upcoming competition series Harry Potter: […]
The post Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses Gets First-Look Teaser appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
It’s October! Obviously, that means we need to make a […]
The post Spooky Who: 11 Modern Doctor Who Episodes to Watch for Halloween appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
With just five episodes remaining until the 1,000th episode of […]
The post One Piece Releases New Visual to Celebrate Upcoming 1000th Episode appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
Ahead of tomorrow’s DC FanDome 2021, Warner Bros. Pictures continues […]
The post The Batman Posters Unveil New Look at Caped Crusader & The Riddler appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
The HBO television adaptation of The Last of Us is […]
The post The Last of Us BTS Videos Show Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey Dancing on Set appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
Netflix has released the official trailer for the upcoming fifth […]
The post Netflix’s Big Mouth Season 5 Trailer Teases November Return appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney+ have announced the upcoming […]
The post Olaf Presents Trailer: Fan-Favorite Snowman to Recap Disney Classics in New Disney+ Shorts appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
A Quiet Place star Millicent Simmonds and two-time Golden Globe […]
The post Millicent Simmonds & Rachel Brosnahan to Star in Helen Keller Biopic appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
Paramount+ has dropped a brand new Mayor of Kingstown trailer […]
The post Mayor of Kingstown Trailer: Jeremy Renner Leads Crime Thriller Drama appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
As production continues on the Love & Death miniseries in […]
The post Love & Death Photos: Elizabeth Olsen is Axe-Killer Candy Montgomery appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
During a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Oscar nominees […]
The post Eternals Clip Teases First Showdown Against The Deviants appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
The Injustice animated film is out October 19 on digital, 4K, […]
The post Injustice Interview: Anson Mount on Putting His Own Spin on Batman appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
The animated film is currently playing in theaters and on demand.
The post Exclusive: Two Tracks from Mychael and Jeff Danna’s The Addams Family 2 Score appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
The first official trailer for Apex, a futuristic action-thriller starring […]
The post Futuristic Thriller Apex Starring Bruce Willis Gets First Trailer appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
Disney’s mobile game Disney: Twisted-Wonderland is getting an official anime […]
The post Disney: Twisted-Wonderland Anime Adaptation in Development appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S are quickly approaching […]
The post Report: Dragon Age 4 Only Planned for Current-Gen Consoles & PC appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
Call of Duty: Vanguard will feature a franchise-first crossover when […]
The post Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies Trailer Highlights Next Chapter in Dark Aether Story appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
The British star of ear for eye on why the conversation around race needs to extend beyond the Black community.
The post Lashana Lynch: ‘A lot of nations need to own up to their history’ appeared first on Little White Lies.
Peter Jackson's film unlocks a treasure trove of never-before-seen footage of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
The post The Beatles make one last record in the Get Back documentary trailer appeared first on Little White Lies.
In the first installment of the franchise sans Wes Craven, the masked killer returns to prey on another round of teens.
The post Ghostface has a new game for a new generation in the Scream trailer appeared first on Little White Lies.
Marco Ferreri’s controversial The Ape Woman is a deeply cynical portrayal of masculinity bestialised and femininity reified.
The post Discover the monstrous spectacle of this meta exploitation movie appeared first on Little White Lies.
Note: There will be a special horror-themed edition of the guide next week that focuses on the many recent genre Blu-ray releases, including "Escape Room: Tournament of Champions," "Old," "The Forever Purge," and 4K editions of "Halloween," "Misery," and "The Silence of the Lambs."
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
10 NEW TO HBO MAX
11 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
Jonathan Mostow's 1997 thriller is the latest addition to the Paramount Presents line of Blu-rays, an increasingly fascinating catalog of unexpected special editions, complete with new special features and remastered video. I liked this movie when it was released, and it's even better than I remembered, a great reminder of how perfectly everyman that Kurt Russell can be in the right material. This is basically a Hitchcock riff in that Russell plays the ordinary guy thrown into an extraordinary situation when his wife disappears on a road trip. He sells every intense moment in a film that's refreshingly lean, keeping its foot on the pedal from beginning to end.
Special FeaturesNEW 4K REMASTER APPROVED BY DIRECTOR JONATHAN MOSTOWNEW Audio Commentary By Director Jonathan Mostow and Kurt RussellNEW Filmmaker Focus: Director Jonathan Mostow on BreakdownNEW Victory Is Hers - Kathleen Quinlan on BreakdownNEW A Brilliant Partnership - Martha De Laurentiis on BreakdownNEW Alternate OpeningNEW Alternate Opening With Commentary By Director Jonathan MostowNEW Isolated ScoreTheatrical TrailersCollectible packaging featuring a foldout image of the film's theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie momentsOptional English SDH subtitles for the main feature
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
Given how much I loathe most of the recent live-action versions of Disney classics, I was kind of dreading Craig Gillespie's "Cruella." It may be a matter of low expectations, but this movie worked for me, even if it's best asset is its remarkable design. The costume work here by Jenny Beavan is stunning, keeping the film popping visually over its admittedly too long runtime. (She's been Oscar nominated ten times already and should expect an 11th here.) The art direction and costume design provide a gorgeous stage and Emma Thompson and Emma Stone come to life in this meticulously crafted world, one that looks particularly fantastic in its 4K edition. Yes, it's on Disney+, but the physical edition includes featurettes, interviews, and deleted scenes that you can't get with streaming alone.
Special FeaturesDeleted ScenesBloopersBehind-the-Scenes FeaturettesCast InterviewsFun FactsAND MORE...
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
"F9: The Fast Saga"
How can we make this saga even MORE about family? Justin Lin returns to one of the biggest franchises in the world and he brings Dom Toretto's brother along with him, played by John Cena. Swapping Dwayne Johnson for Cena isn't exactly an even trade and there's a sense that the "the same but bigger" model of this franchise is, sorry, running out of gas. However, this is still a fun blockbuster in its big set pieces, and we've been so bereft of action blockbusters in the last couple years that it may be all you need. And they actually go to space!
Special FeaturesDOLBY ATMOS AUDIO TRACKGAG REELF9: ALL IN: The Fast family invites you to be part of the crew as they give you an intimate look at how F9 propels this epic franchise to even greater heights. This bonus feature, with more than 46 minutes of content, includes returning characters, new cast members, huge stunts, big surprises, and so much more.PRACTICALLY FAST: When it comes to stunts, it seems each film in The Fast Saga outdoes the last. In this piece, we examine how Justin Lin and his team go to great lengths to shoot as many stunts as they can in-camera and practically, giving the film an authenticity that cannot be achieved solely through visual effects or CGI.SHIFTING PRIORITIES: We first met many of these characters when The Fast and the Furious was released in 2001. In the 20+ years since, not only have the characters themselves grown and evolved, but so have the actors that portray them. Art often imitates life, and we look at how that's particularly true in F9.JUSTICE FOR HAN: Han is back! Sung Kang and Justin Lin discuss the genesis for the return of this beloved character, while the cast reveals how much it means to them to have Kang back along for the ride.A DAY ON SET WITH JUSTIN LIN: The job of a director on any movie production is huge. The job of a director on a production the scale of F9 is immeasurable. Spend a day with Justin Lin and see just how demanding it is to navigate a production day when you're the one with all the answers.JOHN CENA: SUPERCAR SUPERFAN: John Cena is a real-life car expert, and no franchise does cars like Fast. Watch John jump from exotic car to exotic car like a kid in a candy store, giving you a true fan's look at some of the rarest and most expensive automobiles in the world.FEATURE COMMENTARY (THEATRICAL AND DIRECTOR'S CUT) WITH PRODUCER/CO-WRITER/DIRECTOR JUSTIN LINOptional English, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish subtitles for the main feature
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
Shawn Levy directed this surprisingly strong hit for Fox/Disney earlier this year, proof that Ryan Reynolds is one of the more reliable stars out there. He delivers in what is basically a blend between "The LEGO Movie" and "Ready Player One" about an NPC in a video game world who breaks from his pattern. Jodie Comer steals the movie as one of the creators of this world, which has been stolen from her by profit-crazed mogul (Taika Waititi). For most of the film's target audience of pre-teens, the non-stop references and cameos from stars of the YouTube Era keep the film entertaining, although their parents might fight it all a bit overwhelming.
Special FeaturesDeleted and Extended ScenesGuy and Buddy Hit the BeachHot Nuts Gets BlownNPC Rally (Extended)Gag ReelDude vs. Guy – Join Ryan Reynolds, director Shawn Levy and the creative and stunt teams as they reveal the innovative process of creating "Free Guy"'s ultimate showdown between Guy and the wildly amped-up, spray-tanned, frosted-tipped version of himself known as Dude.Creating Molotovgirl – Jodie Comer transforms from a brilliant programmer to her fierce avatar in "Free Guy." Watch as the award-winning action star and filmmakers deconstruct the conceptualization, evolution and execution of bringing Molotovgirl to life.It's Taika's World – "Free Guy"'s outrageous action may exist in a virtual world, but Taika Waititi makes the real world just as crazy with the over-the-top Antwan. See him at work in this entertaining showcase of a genuinely talented and hilarious performer.Welcome to Free City – Delve into the reality-skewing universe that is Free City, as revealed by director Shawn Levy, the cast, and its inventive creative teams. Find out how they transformed a real metropolis into a virtual playground where anything is possible.Optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles for the main feature
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
David Lowery's long-delayed adaptation of the 14th-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was finally released in July to universal acclaim, including a four-star review by yours truly. While interested viewers had to wait forever from its initial release date to finally getting to see it, the wait from theaters to Blu-ray has been much smaller, as it's already out physical and digital media. A gorgeous rumination on masculinity and courage, Lowery's dreamlike vision casts Dev Patel as Gawain, a nephew to King Arthur, who sets out on a journey to face his destiny. Captivating in ways that modern American filmmakers are rarely allowed to be these days, this stands among the best films of the year.
Special FeaturesBoldest of Blood and Wildest of Heart: Making The Green Knight - FeaturettePractitioners of Magic: Visual EffectsIlluminating Technique: Title DesignTheatrical TrailerOptional English SDH and Spanish subtitles for the main feature
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
"High Sierra" (Criterion)
Movies wouldn't be the same without Raoul Walsh's 1941 noir flick about an ex-con on a job gone wrong in the Sierra Nevada. Released early that year, it made Humphrey Bogart a viable star, and we all know what would happen next there. It also proved the skill set of writer John Huston, who would team up with his new star later that same year and make a little movie called "The Maltese Falcon." All of the ingredients for their future fame and influence are here, including Bogey's unique blend of irascible charm and Huston's gift with plotting. There's more fat on the bone than in their best works, but the Criterion release is a beauty for classic movies fans, and even includes Walsh's 1949 Western remake of his own material, "Colorado Territory," in its entirety.
Special FeaturesNew, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-rayColorado Territory, director Raoul Walsh’s 1949 western remake of High SierraNew conversation on Walsh between film programmer Dave Kehr and critic Farran Smith NehmeThe True Adventures of Raoul Walsh, a 2019 documentary by Marilyn Ann MossCurtains for Roy Earle, a 2003 featurette on the making of High SierraBogart: Here’s Looking at You, Kid, a 1997 documentary aired on The South Bank ShowNew interview with film and media historian Miriam J. Petty about actor Willie BestNew video essay featuring excerpts from a 1976 American Film Institute interview with novelist and screenwriter W. R. BurnettRadio adaptation of High Sierra from 1944TrailersEnglish subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearingPLUS: An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
"Inglourious Basterds" (4K)
The last Quentin Tarantino movie that people seem able to agree on has only recently been released on 4K Blu-ray, perhaps allowing for a reconsideration or just a chance for collectors to finally add to their shelf. The richness of Robert Richardson's cinematography here has always felt like one of its most underrated aspects, and it looks better than ever on 4K. It's almost hard to believe that it's already been 12 years since the world was introduced to Hans Landa, and you really should revisit this modern classic if you haven't done so in the last decade.
Special FeaturesExtended & Alternate ScenesRoundtable Discussion with Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt and Elvis MitchellThe New York Times TalkNation's Pride – Original ShortThe Making of Nation's PrideThe Original Inglourious BasterdsA Conversation with Rod Taylor
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
Who would have guessed that one of the best special edition releases of 2021 would be for Ridley Scott's largely derided "Legend"? When it came out, heavily mangled from its director's original intent, critics hated it. Gene Siskel went as far as to call it one of the worst films of the year. I always disagreed with that sentiment, considering Scott's craft in creating his own fantasy universe to make for, at the very least, a noble misfire. However, the director's cut here, which runs over 20 minutes longer, takes even that kind of assessment away and places this film closer to the top tier of Scott's work. The differences between the three cuts in existence (detailed in a great special feature here) are fascinating, largely because they seem so misguided. Beyond that, the transfers here are GORGEOUS, some of the best of the year, adding detail and depth without over-polishing the film. It's the kind of great Arrow box set that you can spend an entire day with.
Special FeaturesDISC ONE: US THEATRICAL CUTNew 2K restoration of the US Theatrical Cut from original materials including a 4K scan of the original negativeNew commentary by Paul M. Sammon author of Ridley Scott: The Making of His Movies2002 Reconstructed isolated score by Tangerine DreamIsolated music and effects trackA Fairytale in Pinewood, new featurette interviewing grip David Cadwalladr, costume designer Charles Knode, co-star Annabelle Lanyon, camera operator Peter MacDonald, set decorator Ann Mollo and draftsman John RalphIncarnations of a Legend, comparison featurette written and narrated by critic Travis CrawfordThe Directors: Ridley Scott, 2003 documentary where the director discusses his career, including Legend"Is Your Love Strong Enough?" music video by Bryan FerryDISC TWO: DIRECTOR'S CUTCommentary by Ridley ScottCreating A Myth: Memories of Legend, a 2002 documentary with interviews with Ridley Scott, William Hjortsberg, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, Rob Bottin and othersOriginal promotional featuretteAlternate 'Four Goblins' opening and 'The Fairie Dance' deleted sceneStoryboard galleries for three deleted scenesTwo drafts of William Hjortsberg's screenplayAlternate footage from the overseas release plus textless footageTrailers and TV spotsStill galleries
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
Lynne Ramsay should make more movies. The director hasn't released a new one since the stunning "You Were Never Really Here," and has only made four movies in her 20+ years of work. Her debut came in this 1999 drama that announced a major new talent, even winning Ramsay the Silver Hugo for Best Director at the Chicago International Film Festival. A bleak and yet truthful study of poverty in Glasgow, it's a tough watch but a rewarding reminder of the strength of filmmakers as committed as Ramsay. She never compromises or apologizes as her cinematic visions feel completely her own and no one else's. I just wish there were more of them. Note: This is one of those awesome Criterion releases that includes early short films by its auteur, three of them presented here.
Special FeaturesOn the Blu-ray: New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director Lynne Ramsay and cinematographer Alwin Küchler, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrackOn the DVD: Digital transfer, enhanced for 16x9 televisionsNew interview with Ramsay from 2021 (Blu-ray only)Audio interview from 2020 with Küchler (Blu-ray only)Three award-winning short films by Ramsay: Small Deaths (1995), Kill the Day (1996), and Gasman (1997)Interview with Ramsay from 2002Stills gallery (DVD only)Trailer (Blu-ray only)English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearingPLUS: Essays by film critic Girish Shambu and filmmaker Barry Jenkins (Blu-ray only)
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
The increasing market for 4K Blu-rays keeps leading to more and more catalog releases of films that have been available on physical media for years. In some cases, with companies like Arrow, this means new transfers or restorations. In most cases, it just means a technical upgrade, like going from cassette tape to CD. I was a little surprised that M. Night Shyamalan's beloved third film hadn't been on 4K until this recently as it feels to me like the film that has grown the most in esteem over the years. Sure, the releases of "Split" and "Glass" that now make this the first film in a franchise have added to that legacy, but the story of a man who can't be hurt going up against one who is extremely fragile has had a passionate fan base for decades. It's one of Shyamalan's smartest films in terms of plotting and visual language. And it's a great addition to the 4K universe. Buy it here
Special FeaturesBehind the ScenesComic Books and SuperheroesNight's First Fight SequenceDeleted ScenesThe Train Station Sequence: Storyboards and Final Scene
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
The first (and probably last) film based on a Twitter thread took Sundance by storm in January 2020, becoming one of the most buzzed movies to come out of that year's fest. Sadly, the buzz felt like it died down a bit as A24 held it for a year-and-a-half due to the pandemic. This is the kind of project that will find an audience at home either on Blu-ray or streaming services (it would just explode on Netflix, guaranteed). Taylour Paige plays Zola, a stripper who travels to Florida with a new friend, played with ferocious fearlessness by Riley Keough. Smart, quick, and hysterical, it's a cult movie waiting to happen.
Now streaming on:Powered by JustWatch
Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and celebrity chef Charlie Trotter have three things in common. For one, they all hail from the great state of Illinois. For another, all three would go on to become genuine trailblazers in their respective fields of expertise. Finally, each one is the subject of a documentary playing at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival. They each tell fascinating stories of individuals whose significance transcends ordinary borders.
Of the three, the name that might not register immediately to much of the general public is Micheaux’s but as Francesco Zippel’s “Oscar Micheaux—The Superhero of Black Filmmaking” clearly demonstrates, he was a man with a life and career so astonishing that not only is it eminently worthy of documentary treatment but if someone tried to pitch it as a screenplay, there's a very good chance it might get rejected on the basis that his story was simply too good to be believable. Born in the town of Metropolis in 1884, Micheaux grew up on a farm and eventually made his way to Chicago, where he secured a job on the railroads as a Pullman porter, a position that offered him a decent salary and the chance to travel and interact with people he might not have encountered otherwise. He then used his savings to purchase some land in South Dakota that he worked as a homesteader. He took his experiences as a homesteader and turned them into a series of novels that he published and sold himself to great success. His third novel, The Homesteader (1918), would attract the attention of a film producer, but when he was unable to secure the amount of control over his material that he wanted, Micheaux turned it down and elected to make the film himself, using connections that he made as a porter and sales of shares from the production company he founded to finance it. This would kick off a filmmaking career that would consist of more than 40 films (including “Within Our Gates” , a blistering riposte to “The Birth of a Nation,” and “Body and Soul” , which marked the screen debut of Paul Robeson and which would be named to the National Film Registry in 2019) stretching until a couple of years before his passing in 1951 and make him, in the words of film scholar Jacqueline Stewart, “the most important black filmmaker who ever lived.”
Stewart is one of a number of contemporary voices on hand attesting to the importance of Micheaux and his work, ranging from academics to the late filmmakers John Singleton, Haskell Wexler and Melvin van Peebles, alongside archival materials and clips from a number of his surviving films. Granted, some of these clips may come across as a little stilted and awkward (especially the ones made after the shift from silent to talkies made it harder to overlook questionable acting), but when you consider that he was making these far outside the Hollywood system on budgets that could charitably be called shoestring, they do evoke a certain fascination. Film critic J. Hoberman once wrote a piece comparing Micheaux to Ed Wood and while I would disagree with that assessment, they did both demonstrate a burning desire to create cinema that could be detected despite the threadbare trappings of their respective works. More importantly, Micheaux’s work also demonstrated a strong social conscience that could not be denied—even a seemingly innocuous courtroom drama like “Murder in Harlem” (1935) was inspired by the infamous 1913 trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan, and a film like “Body and Soul” evokes a considerable amount of power to this day. Although never quite as groundbreaking as the works of Micheaux himself, Zippel’s film is nevertheless a fascinating reminder of a largely unsung part of American cinema history and should leave most viewers yearning to explore his work for themselves.
The name of Harold Washington, on the other hand, continues to have resonance with many people. And as is revealed in Joe Winston’s “Punch 9 for Harold Washington,” there was a point when it seemed as if the eyes of the world were on Chicago in the early months of 1983 when the one-time congressman shocked the political establishment by becoming the city’s first African-American mayor, a notion that even at that comparatively late date was seemingly unthinkable to many people. As the film shows, he managed to accomplish this task by taking advantage of the upheaval left by the death of long-running Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1976, the inability of successor Michael Bilandic to successfully handle the 1979 Chicago Blizzard and the disappointment over his successor, Jane Byrne. The election turned into a bitter contest when the Republicans, not to mention a number of high-ranking Democrats, fearing their possible loss of power to the Washington coalition, backed Bernard Epton, who ran a campaign so ugly and racially charged that in one of the film’s present interviews, his son practically weeps at the memory of the sheer ugliness on display.
Rather than serve as a full documentary on Washington’s life, "Punch 9 for Harold Washington" devotes most of its first half to a recounting of that 1983 election and the remainder to his tumultuous term in office, which ended prematurely when he died of a massive heart attack a few months after his 1987 reelection and which saw him in constant conflict with the same establishment politicians from his own party that tried to prevent him from getting elected in the first place. As a kid with a keen interest in politics, I remember watching the drama surrounding that 1983 campaign with great fascination and watching “Punch 9” brought back those memories in a rush to such an extent that I could even remember seeing some of the events and news reports captured in the archival materials, such as the primary debate between Washington, Byrne and not-quite-heir-apparent Richard M. Daley that is often regarded as the turning point for his campaign, as they were first occurring. The film also takes pains to point out the parallels between the difficulties Washington faced in both his campaigns and term in office with those encountered by Barack Obama in the course of becoming the first African-American President (and indeed, there is even a photo shown featuring Washington working yet another room with Obama standing in the background and observing it all). Outside of the unfortunate absence of excerpts from “Council Wars,” the hilarious series of sketches written and performed by local comedian/radio host Aaron Freeman that brilliantly filtered the ongoing City Council skirmishes through the template of the “Star Wars” films, “Punch 9 for Harold Washington” is about as complete of a recounting of this significant chapter of Chicago history as one could hope to see, and one that you don’t have to be a political junkie to appreciate.
Washington’s legacy, even without the documentary, is pretty secure but with her film, “Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter,” director Rebecca Halpern finds herself in the position of making a case for someone who had clearly fallen from their position of prestige due to a combination of changing times and a legacy that would grow increasingly complicated in his later years, leading up to his untimely death in 2013. Using a treasure trove of archival photos, home movies and videos along with interviews with friends, colleagues and loved ones, the film follows Trotter from his earliest days working at places like the Ground Round and then moving on to slightly more prestigious positions in kitchens in California and Florida before returning home to Chicago in 1987 to open his own take on a gourmet restaurant. As he had never run his own kitchen prior to this, such a move raised the eyebrows of the culinary establishment, as did the then-novel concept of giving diners a 10-course “tasting menu” that changed regularly instead of focusing on one thing. However, from the moment Charlie Trotter’s opened, it was a huge success that had people coming in from all over the world to dine and would make Trotter so famous that he would even play himself in a cameo role in the hit Julia Roberts film “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”
As the film reveals, however, the over-the-top version of himself that he played in that film (“I’m gonna kill your whole family if you don’t get this right!”) was only somewhat of an exaggeration—his workaholic nature and fiery temper would wreak havoc on friendships and a couple of marriages and when a number of his workers won a 2003 class-action suit settlement over unpaid back wages, he proved to be vindictive towards anyone who took the money. In the wake of the closing of his restaurant in 2012, he found his reputation tarnished through such strange and widely reported incidents as selling a counterfeit bottle of $45,000 wine and disrupting an after-school program being held at the former restaurant site. He also suffered from significant health issues—when he did pass away, the two things jumbled in the minds of many who felt that there was more to his death than was reported at the time.
“Love, Charlie” has two things working against it. For one, it is the latest in a long string of culinary-themed documentaries that have come down the pike in the last couple of years—so many that a number of the famous fellow chefs on display offering observations of Trotter’s work and influence have been the subjects of their own films—and viewers who do not already watch the Food Network on a 24-hour loop may find themselves growing a bit weary with that particular sub-genre at this point. For another, this may not be quite the right time to offer up anything remotely resembling a apologia for bad behavior from a rich and powerful man against his employees, especially when it involves them getting fairly paid for their efforts. Beyond that, however, the film does do a good job of showing how Trotter and his innovations helped to bridge the gap between the likes of Julia Child, who was a key influence in bringing gourmet cooking to the masses by taking the mystery out of it (which Trotter would famously build upon by offering a table for customers in the middle of his bustling kitchen, which became arguably the hottest table in Chicago since Booth One at the Pump Room) and the denizens currently inhabiting the Food Network. It also offers some much-needed illumination regarding that odd behavior in his later years and the seriousness of the medical problems that he tried to keep under wraps. For these reasons, “Love, Charlie” is worth a look—just make sure to leave time afterwards to get something to eat because you will almost certainly be a little peckish.
All three films will be showing via in-person and virtual screenings. For more information on these and other films screening at the 57th Chicago International Film Festival, including showtimes, locations, ticket availability and Virtual Cinema access, go to the festival’s website at www.chicagofilmfestival.com or call them at (312)332-3456.
Toxic, powerful families have been the stuff great dramas are made of since before Aristotle wrote Poetics. Never in human history has there been a shortage of stories to choose from exploring the lives of the outrageously wealthy and miserable, and in recent memory, the paradigm of excellence for this rich and storied lineage is without a doubt “Succession,” HBO’s accoladed drama series created by British scribe Jesse Armstrong (“Peep Show,” “The Thick of It”). Exploring the power struggles between octogenarian business magnate Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his children against the backdrop of company Waystar Royco, the multi-billion-dollar media and entertainment conglomerate he founded, the central conflict of "Succession" is deliciously unsolvable: the Roy kids all want Logan’s love and respect, but at most can have one of the two (and more often than not have neither). So long as they follow his orders like sheep, he will never truly respect them; if they take charge and go against him, he will respond with fire and brimstone.
That still hasn’t stopped the younger Roys—the now openly mutinous Kendall (Jeremy Strong), aggressively crass but shrewder-than-he-seems Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv (Sarah Snook), now fully setting aside her career as a political fixer in favor of throwing her hat in the Waystar Royco ring—from trying. Meanwhile, elder half-brother Connor (Alan Ruck), the only child from Logan’s first marriage and full-time cloudcuckoolander, continues to dance around the narrative periphery, nursing a presidential fantasy that feels tragically a lot more possible than it really should.
“Succession” has been off the air for two long years, but by five minutes into the season three premiere you feel like you never left—partly because the new season picks up moments after where the previous ended, but mostly because it’s just as good as you remember it, if not better. It’s the sort of show that’s so impeccably character-driven in its writing that it ages like a fine wine, the more time these writers and impeccably cast performers have to spend diving into these characters, the more mesmerizing it becomes. It’s amazing how many scenes from the series—and the new season in particular—boil down to different subsets of a rather small core group of characters discussing the same handful of topics, with Nicholas Britell’s insanely catchy score woven in here and there for added flourish.
The end of season two promised war, and season three delivers. Last we met the Roys, Kendall, once the heir apparent, was instead selected by Logan to play sacrificial lamb and feed himself to the wolves in a bid to mitigate the damage to Waystar Royco following a massive scandal involving Waystar’s cruise lines, a workplace with the distinction of scoring a full house on the human rights violation bingo card. Only Kendall got in front of the cameras and pointed the finger at Logan and not himself, accusing the Roy patriarch of being fully complicit in the crimes that took place.
The new season premiere, none-so-subtly titled “Secession,” sees Kendall, well, seceding; he declares all-out war on Logan, and the two men vie for the support of the remaining members of the Roy clan and their wider social network. The clash of the titans has begun.
It’s as simple as that but also far more complicated—“Succession” is a master class in duality, an object lesson on paradoxes, a narrative high-wire act on the level of Philippe Petit. Both sweepingly grandiose and deliciously petty—often at the same time—the Roys are built up big enough to earn the lofty allusions to bygone dynasties scattered generously throughout the dialogue, but “Succession” also doesn’t hesitate to make the Roys look like absolute dunces. It’s clash of the titans in one breath and attack of the clowns in the next.
The first few episodes of the new season feel like follow-through on the promises made last season, allowing the Roys to openly brawl amongst themselves, but the gloves soon come off and the real fun begins. Like most great stories, “Succession” plays with expectations, and does so with a particularly devilish glee—a literal Trojan Horse statue, for example, becomes a red herring in a situation where the actual Trojan Horse proves to be a box of donuts with a threatening aura.
Then there’s the tone of “Succession,” always subject to debate. (Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Let’s just tick all the boxes and call it a day.) The caustic sensibilities of the series are precisely what neutralize just how absolutely awful these characters are. As the Waystar cruises scandal continues to dominate headlines, talks of values and virtue signaling grow more prevalent this season than ever before, but the extent to which these platitudes are utterly empty is also clearer than ever. Notions of guilt and culpability are wielded as weapons, claims of moral high ground or outright innocence crammed into arguments as leverage—remorse or anything like it is never even raised as a possibility, because that’s simply not on the table for the Roys.
“Succession” is a den of monstrously selfish villains, and that’s precisely what makes it such a pleasure to watch—you are invested but not attached. It’s like the joy of scrolling through the highlights of the “Everyone Sucks Here” verdict on the Am I The Asshole subreddit, only with the peerless production values of an HBO flagship series. While all the characters are tasked with picking a side in the Roy family civil war, being a viewer requires no such decision-making: just sit back and enjoy as the Olympic-level volley of insults unfolds. And yes, the dialogue is just as delightfully sharp as ever. One new personal favorite, provided with no context: “That is an imaginary cat, now could you please f*ck off?”
While Kendall is arguably still the closest thing “Succession” has to a protagonist—or perhaps, more accurately, a main character—the new season feels more of an ensemble piece than ever. Season two saw Kendall starting at a low point, pulled early out of a brief stint in rehab, in a way that made his subsequent journey the season’s natural center of gravity (the pull was also powerful enough to compel an Emmy straight into Jeremy Strong’s outstretched hand). This time around, Kendall starts on a high, nearly giddy on the rush of publicly denouncing Logan. Every character on the show is a walking bag of contradictions and Freudian complexes, but Kendall wears his on his sleeve the most obviously. A self-saboteur with a constant yearning for approval, season three sees Kendall looking for validation from the internet—particularly, Twitter—perhaps the only place less likely to scratch that itch than his father. He’s a classically tragic figure you can laugh at but also occasionally feel for, brilliantly rendered by Strong as usual.
But Kendall’s conscious uncoupling from Logan’s orbit also de-centers him in the show’s overall narrative, creating a bit more room for other key players. The character work in “Succession” is brilliant all around, but Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), Waystar executive and husband to Shiv, has a particularly intriguing arc this season, quickly becoming one of the most fascinating players in the Roy family power games.
Tom’s lackey and de facto work husband, fan favorite cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), also finds himself at an interesting crossroads. He’s still playing up the affably naïve poor relation persona that has defined him for the past two seasons, but it’s a performance with a time limit, and time is running out—he’s been too deep in shady Waystar dealings for too long at this point to convincingly play the fool much longer, begging the fascinating question of what happens next for the endearingly awkward giraffe of the extended Roy family, and what new sides to his character are in store to be revealed.
There’s no shortage of starry new players in this season, but in terms of screen time even the most significant newcomers feel more or less like elevated cameos, from hotshot lawyer Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan) to reclusive Waystar 4% shareholder Josh Aaronson (Adrien Brody). They have a little more screen time than, say, Gong Yoo in “Squid Game,” but not much; the spotlight remains firmly on the core cast, with fresh faces only really getting involved as much as is needed for them to serve their narrative purpose and not one line more.
“Succession” never had much fat to trim, but where season two felt like the show hitting its stride, leaning more into its delightfully Shakespearian flair for wordplay and elaborate insults, and fully embracing its taste for the darkly absurd, season three swaggers with a new level of confidence. As the series itself so thoroughly explores, staying on top is no easy feat, but this new season manages to do just that. Two years was a long wait, but the payoff is glorious.
Seven episodes screened for review. “Succession” season 3 premieres on HBO on October 17, 2021 at 9 p.m. ET.
There is a graceful ease to Mia Hansen-Løve’s cinematic prose, one that can feel misleadingly simple at times. But once you allow her placid beats wash over you, the intricacy of her ideas rises to the surface with little effort, revealing the deep thinker and feeler Hansen-Løve always has been. Just think of “Eden” and the serenity in which Hansen-Løve telegraphs her nostalgia about the fading cultural prominence of the French touch generation, or the calm sensuality of her pronouncedly feminist “Things to Come” as she tiptoes around the new chapter in the life of a recently divorced female professor. These films and others in her sophisticated oeuvre will give you enough clues about the filmmaker’s interest in the complexity of creative minds with all their emotional, moral and existential dilemmas as well as the casual comfort through which she transposes her preoccupations onto the screen.
“Bergman Island” is the writer/director’s latest excursion full of surprising rewards. It finds Hansen-Løve in a characteristically reflective place, through the story of two filmmakers—one prominent, one less experienced but perceptibly promising—spending a lavish amount of time on the Fårö Island of the Baltic Sea, where Ingmar Bergman once lived, loved and made movies. Even though the good-humored proprietor giving the guest couple a walkthrough of their vacation home is quick to remind them that they are where Bergman once conceived “Scenes from a Marriage” and caused the divorce of millions of people, the place is certainly a retreat for Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps), the latter being the less famous filmmaker of the two. After all, they are there to work, to soak in all the inspiration they can get and perhaps tour the island on an official “Bergman Safari.” (No, that’s not a joke. It’s a real thing that happens on this island.)
Soon enough, the couple settles into a routine with Bergman’s shadow and filmography following them everywhere. And as they make their own way through the island—Tony takes the safari, Chris prefers the company of a young student and less touristy outings—subtle marital difficulties percolate with a healthy dose of sharp humor. Chris wonders whether the society would ever allow her (or women filmmakers in general) to have nine children from six different romantic partners like Bergman did in his time. Tony, meanwhile, circulates talks and screenings with the slightest hint of haughtiness, mingling amongst fans eager to rub shoulders with him. In a suggestive and fiendishly funny incident, the duo settles in for what they assume would be a light-hearted viewing, only to be shown a print of Bergman’s cutting psychodrama, “Cries and Whispers.”
But before you can ask the question, “which Vicky Krieps character will age faster: the one on the age-accelerating beach in M. Night Shyamalan’s 'Old' or the one stuck in Fårö with her famous director husband,” Chris pitches a new story to Tony, asking for his help in finding an ending. This is where “Bergman Island” connects itself to another land via a hidden passage, one Hansen-Løve bravely walks on, revealing a second film within that just might be immensely personal to the filmmaker (as in, both Hansen-Løve and Krieps’s Chris), or a complete work of fiction. It follows the young American filmmaker Amy (Mia Wasikowska), who arrives on an island (“a place like this, Chris remarks) to attend the wedding of a friend and perhaps rekindle a fleeting romance with her first love Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie), the old flame that got away. Set over the course of three celebratory days, Chris’ incomplete tale unfolds around minor and major conflicts, like the inappropriately chosen and bridal-looking white dress Amy brought along to attend the wedding—"it’s more cream or off-white,” she insists—and of course, the brief affair she embarks on with Joseph despite the fact that they’re now both involved with other people.
To validate the latter, “I love two people,” Amy matter-of-factly suggests in a refreshing statement that removes self-vilification from the act of infidelity with a startling sense of just and confidence. And it’s with a similar type of confidence that Hansen-Løve interlocks the two tales, equally dear to her heart. Pensively shot by Hansen-Løve’s repeat collaborator Denis Lenoir and hypnotically edited by Marion Monnier—another Hansen-Løve regular—in a luxurious rhythm that blurs the lines between the two intimately interlaced films, “Bergman Island” slowly becomes a heady experience from there. And its resonance only grows with the realization that Hansen-Løve—an actor, filmmaker and a former Cahiers du Cinéma film critic—was once both the creative collaborator and life partner of the prolific Olivier Assayas. In that regard, Hansen-Løve’s private imprint on the material is undeniable as “Bergman Island” toggles between the tales of Chris and Amy, eventually melting their respective realities into the same cauldron, interchanging objects and even pieces of costumes between the two films.
Two beady-eyed performers that strangely look more alike over the course of “Bergman Island,” Krieps and Wasikowska register as collectively haunting in the respective skin of their characters, delivering performances that both contrast and complement each other, like two chameleons in a harmonious duel. Their synchronization becomes so pronounced over time that this critic found herself wondering how the duo would look recreating one of Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann’s famous “Persona” stills.
The finish line in “Bergman Island” is of the opaque kind. But anything else would have done Hansen-Løve’s wistful sleepwalk through memory, time and cinema injustice. Her film is less a direct, clear-cut homage to Bergman, and more a searching exploration of reality and art in the way they mirror, propel and feed on one another, washing ashore remembrances both dreamy and lifelike.
This review was filed on September 16th from the premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and is being re-run for the film's limited theatrical release today, October 15th.
What happens to a counterculture and its devotees when alternative becomes mainstream? This is the question at the heart of “Freeland,” a psychological drama that unfolds economically yet patiently, venturing into thriller-adjacent soils as it traces the life of a self-sufficient entrepreneur whose independence becomes at odds with changing systems. She’s Devi (Krisha Fairchild), an autonomous 60-something woman who’s thus far made a good living for herself, breeding and selling top-shelf marijuana for nearly three decades. But she is now facing the threat of legalization, a process that comes with hefty fines if she fails to comply with all the government-mandated steps, an inevitability to convert her homespun land and abode into a state-of-the-art facility at great expense, and eventually, a significantly reduced value for her stains that she pours her blood, sweat, and tears into every season.
All this might sound counterintuitive at first—how could legalization be bad for such a business that has always existed illegally and on the margins at great risk? Isn’t being out in the open and accessible to all better for one’s bottom line? Making their narrative feature debut, the film’s co-directors Mario Furloni and Kate McLean were apparently confronted with the same questions when they first discovered Northern California’s Humboldt County nearly ten or so years ago as documentarians and got to spend some time amongst its isolated community of low-key outlaws. Devi is based on the filmmakers’ own reflections. As someone who’s lived in seclusion in a place that thrived at the height of the drug wars amid go-getting residents building their own town their way and establishing their own rules, she is now challenged by the greatest enemy of them all: capitalism. How can she possibly maintain her legacy against a fierce competition with deep pockets and navigate all the new regulations?
Making use of their documentarian eye and perceptiveness as intimate observers, Furloni and McLean intricately build Devi’s no-bells-and-whistles world, taking us inside a communal operation that evolves around well-tended fields and cheerful tables where joints are passed around and products are packaged. Making an unforgettable impression in Trey Edward Shults’ “Krisha” back in 2015, Fairchild once again brings a captivating, organic sensibility to her character, crafting Devi’s wild and varied mood swings with a relatable sense of precision. We see her at the tail end of her better days in the film’s early moments, surrounded by a trio of young, hourly employees, all dealing with their own slice of uncertainty in life. There is Mara (Lily Gladstone), a practical and sensible young woman trying to gauge her prospects. There is Casey (Cameron James Matthews), the clan’s laid-back resident not really rushing to make any firm decisions. There is also the overtly ambitious Josh (Frank Mosley), who seems to be perennially at the ready with unsolicited opinions on the future and progress of Devi’s business.
The filmmakers capture the clan’s evolving dynamics sensitively, underscoring Devi’s growing discomfort and paranoia in well-paced fragments when she goes from a savvy business owner to someone struggling to pay her workers on schedule. Amplifying the tension is a series of anonymous, almost ghostly text messages Devi receives one day from a supposedly interested buyer intending to move her product—her best ever—to potential customers out East. Desperate for an opportunity and having freshly returned empty-handed from a soul-killing cannabis expo, Devi engages with the messages, only to realize she might be the victim of a scam. Could one of her nearest be victimizing her? Or is she needlessly distrustful in an alienating world?
While the finale of “Freeland” feels unearned and a touch up-in-the-air, the film’s visual qualities elsewhere make up for this relative weakness. In that regard, the greatest achievement of “Freeland,” other than Fairchild’s performance, proves to be its lived-in feel, an attribute seen everywhere—from the loveably hippy-dippy clutter of Lauren Donlon and Alexander Zane Irwin’s production design to Furloni’s atmospheric cinematography of hauntingly foggy skies and magnetically tall redwoods. It’s a contemplative film that manages to whisk the audience away to an unfamiliar land whose off-the-grid survival you can’t help but root for.
Now playing in select theaters.
Selma Blair needs no introduction. She’s been a singular presence as a standout supporting actress for decades, with indelible performances in “Cruel Intentions,” “Legally Blonde” and the “Hellboy” franchise among her many film roles. There’s a certain pleasing spikiness about her persona—she’s at once playful and tart, with an alluring androgyny to her sharp, striking features.
And yet we get to meet Blair anew—and she comes to know and eventually embrace a different version of herself—over the course of the documentary “Introducing, Selma Blair.” Working with director Rachel Fleit, Blair gives us an intimate, unflinching look at her life as she struggles through the debilitating symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a diagnosis she received in 2018. We also follow her as she strives to continue parenting her young son, Arthur, and travels to Chicago for the stem-cell transplant she hopes will provide relief.
It’s a lot, especially as Blair makes herself increasingly vulnerable and provides a window to her pain and fear through both the raw video diaries she shoots herself and the unvarnished moments she allows Fleit to capture. (The filmmaker has alopecia, an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss; both her sensitivity and sense of humor shine through in her documentary feature debut.) “Introducing, Selma Blair” is frequently a tough viewing experience, and it should be. What is the documentary form if not a mechanism to show us the truth of how others live? The honesty on display here is crucial, both for people who have no idea what multiple sclerosis is and for those who may be suffering themselves from the disease, in which the immune system attacks the protective covering of the nerves.
But whenever the film seems be on the verge of turning maudlin, Blair shifts the tone through some biting, self-deprecating quip that instantly lightens the mood. Her self-awareness, and her frequent willingness to laugh at herself in the saddest situations, cut the tension. When we first see her, she’s donning a turban and applying severe makeup to dress like Norma Desmond for an interview at her Studio City, California, home. She uses this flair for the dramatic to disarm us throughout. But what’s truly compelling—devastating, actually—is the transformation she allows us to witness as she sits in a cocoon-like red chair and describes her condition. A sweet, white terrier mix snoozes contentedly in her lap. At first, she cracks snappy jokes about the importance of walking with a stylish cane and speaks eloquently about how she hopes her illness will inspire her to become a better person in her late 40s. But the second her comfort dog hops off and scampers away, we can practically see the mask fall. It’s as someone flipped a switch. Suddenly her speech is halting and slurry. She’s twitchy and self-conscious. “Now the fatigue happens,” she strains to articulate. It’s painful for her and for us as viewers, but she wants us to see this, because this is her reality. Eventually, a whimper: “I don’t have anything more,” she concludes.
Just as illuminating are the moments she shares with her son, for whom she gives every bit of energy in her body to have an impromptu dance party or a game of dodgeball. When he tells her around age seven that he’s frightened of what she’ll look like without hair—because she must undergo agonizing chemotherapy in preparation for the stem-cell treatment—she makes the most inspired and terrifying mom move I’ve ever seen by handing him scissors and clippers and letting him trim it off himself. (My kid’s almost 12 and I wouldn’t let him anywhere near my head with a pair of scissors.) These moments may seem superficially uplifting, but they carry an undercurrent of melancholy—as is true so often throughout the film—because they so clearly reflect Blair’s intention to be a totally different kind of mom than the one she had. She’s candid about the darkness and rage she believes she inherited from her hypercritical mother, and to learn that she’s doubted herself all these years is heartbreaking.
But because Fleit has captured so many powerful and enlightening moments, it makes you wish she hadn’t relied so heavily on music to punctuate them. When Blair is goofing around with a cane in the hospital corridors, for example, a jaunty tune accompanies her strut. Conversely, an inspiring melody swells as Blair comes to a conclusion about what matters in life, or her newfound drive to make others suffering like her feel less alone. The emotions conveyed in these scenes have to compete with the score, with creates a distraction and drains them of their impact.
Still, it’s impossible to watch “Introducing, Selma Blair” and not feel deeply moved. Whatever happens from here—whether she returns to work as an actress, and hopefully she will—she’s already accomplished her goal of using her platform to shine a light on what it’s like to live with a disability, and she’s done it with her signature style and grace.
Now playing in theaters and available on Discovery+ on October 21.
"Luzzu" is about the slow whittling away of ancient rituals and traditions, of bureaucracy imposing itself on something that has existed for centuries. "Luzzu," named for the traditional boats of Maltese fishermen, rests in the uneasy space between tradition and modernity, where the "old ways" are not only de-valued but criminalized, wiping out the past, leaving people facing an uncertain future. "Luzzu" doesn't so much ask questions as present the problem, and it does so in quasi-documentary style, erasing the distance between the subject matter and the audience. "Luzzu" is not homework or a lecture. "Luzzu" is embedded in a quickly-vanishing world, and director Alex Camilleri approaches it with sensitivity, knowing that authenticity is crucial to how the film operates. Camilleri is clearly influenced by Italian neo-realism and contemporaries of that tradition like the Dardennes and Ramin Bahrani (one of the producers of "Luzzu"). "Luzzu" is a moving portrait of a world in flux, and one man attempting to survive the changes thrust upon him by a baffling outside world.
Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna) goes out every day on his brightly-colored luzzu, inherited from his father, who, in turn, inherited it from his father. Jesmark fishes all day and into the night, working to bring home a full haul to sell at the local fish auction. EU regulations have placed limitations on this old tradition. Catching certain fish during "closed season" is illegal, and boats are checked at random by officious authorities, an outrage to these men who have been fishing since time immemorial. Jesmark and his wife Denise (Michela Farrugia) just had a baby, and the baby requires special care. They don't have the money. A pall of worry settles over the marriage, pushing the couple apart. Out of desperation, Jesmark is drawn into the criminal underworld of the corrupt fish industry. His luzzu sprung a leak and requires a full overhaul, which also costs money. He splits his time between working on the luzzu and his sketchy new side gig.
The luzzus float in and out of the harbor, flashing with colors and personal touches, painted yellow, green, blue, with bulging wooden eyes attached to the prows, eyes peering out at a world that doesn't make sense anymore. Across the harbor looms a gigantic container port, the modern world forcing the fish out of the harbor. Jesmark looks around at the only life he's ever known and sees it slipping away. On the interior of the boat is a yellow-painted baby's footprint, his own. What can he pass on to his own son? The government offers buyouts to the fishermen. But what would Jesmark do instead? Fishing is all he knows.
Camilleri, a first-time director, embeds himself in this world. Working closely with cinematographer Léo Lefèvre, "Luzzu" captures the rituals, the everyday tasks in this line of work: catching fish, packing them in ice for the ride back, cleaning fish, mending nets, hauling a forbidden swordfish on board before throwing it back. Nothing is explained. You understand what is happening by watching. The sun, the sound of the waves, the traffic on the roads in the background, all come across with palpable reality. Camilleri is American, but his family immigrated from Malta when he was a child. He grew up in snowy Minnesota, a long way away from that salty breeze. He looks at Malta with the eyes of an exile, and exiles' perception of their homeland is often sharp, pointed. Most of all, Camilleri approached Malta with curiosity. Frustrated with the lack of an independent Maltese film culture, and frustrated that Malta is often used as a stand-in for other places in bigger films, Camilleri decided to travel to Malta and investigate what story he might tell. He became fascinated by the fishermen.
The cast is made up of non-actors. He cast real fishermen as the fishermen, including Jesmark Scicluna. Everyone in the film actually lives in this world. David Scicluna plays Jesmark's friend, trying to abide by the rules, trying to help Jesmark. (In real life, the two men are cousins.) Camilleri worked with them both, having them improvise scenes, allowing them to just do what they would do in those specific circumstances. They are both riveting. When they fight there's real pain behind it. The chaotic fish auction is the Real Thing, and there's nothing like the real thing. Chloé Zhao used a similar approach in both "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" and "The Rider," and—to a lesser degree—"Nomadland." Brady Jandreau, the central figure in "The Rider," was so unselfconsciously himself in front of the camera it put some professional actors to shame. The same is true with Scicluna, a handsome man, but burdened, his shoulders tense with worry, filled with tender love for his son (watch how he looks at the baby), but frightened for him, for himself. Jesmark's slip-side into criminality is that much more painful, because his love for the luzzu, his family, and the harbor is so apparent.
Authenticity can't be faked. This seems like an oversimplified or too-obvious statement, perhaps, but a film like "Luzzu" shows the truth of it.
Now playing in select theaters.
Alexis Gambis' “Son of Monarchs” won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, a unique distinction that goes to one film that “focuses on science or technology as a theme, or depicts a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character.” (“Searching” was a previous winner). There’s a special power in this storytelling ambition, in exploring science with emotion, but it also can be tricky. “Son of Monarchs,” which is driven by mood as much as it is a metaphor that it can’t get enough of, embodies the equal ambition and shortcomings of a writer/director trying feel their way through science, while having as minimal a narrative as possible.
Tenoch Huerta proves his strong on-screen silence as Mendel, a contemplative, hard-working scientist who studies the color of butterfly wings. His job is central to what the movie is doing—thinking about butterflies, wondering what it would be like if human beings could also fly, using butterflies to help make sense of its emotions. Everything is a metaphor here, connected to butterflies. The ideas can be powerful, but at some point it's almost like the film is trying to prove how much mileage it can get out of an idea that other movies would use as a meaningful character trait.
If you squint you can see a more typical narrative foundation in this story, of a man who returns to his original home of Michoacán in Mexico (to mourn his grandmother, recently deceased). Mendel faces the different pieces and people from his past life, and then reflects on it when he’s at home. These dynamics are expressed quietly, but they set up enough of a sense of his family—a wedding for his niece that he should, but many not attend—and friends, like Vicente (Gabino Rodríguez), who leads his own type of primal grieving ceremony, in which everyone wears animals masks and howl at the moon. The most strained relationship involves his older brother Símon (Noé Hernandez); they have great deal of emotional distance between them, especially after Mendel left Michoacán and essentially their shared trauma related to the loss of their parents.
"Son of Monarchs" uses the science of butterflies for numerous significances, including that of migration, ancestry, and that of camouflage. With a cut to black and loud whoosh of subway cars, Gambis' film takes us away from Mexico and back to a life in a concrete jungle that makes Mendel feel all the more lonely, which we understand most of all Huerta's performance. Mendel peers through a microscope, modifying the color using controversial new CRISPR technology, which itself creates more opportunity for the movie to feature monologues about science while dampening the emotions. He begins a relationship with an immigration lawyer and amateur trapeze artist (Alexia Rasmussen), watches his friend Pablo (Juan Ugarte) advance in the field, and returns day after day to the lab. Gambis cuts in between to memories—either as a child learning about the wonder of butterflies from his grandmother, or learning about death and science from his brother Simon—like lyric passages that have been cut from a book and strewn about.
There's an imbalance here of atmosphere and story that holds the film back from casting as large a spell as it desires. Some narrative pieces are too understated—even for its overall delicate swirl of emotions—as when Mendel disappears from the people in his life, an emotional passage that does not have the proper lead-up or impact. At the same time there’s one too many dream sequences, moods and metaphors, that the story clutters the direct connection it’s making from human to animal. It’s almost like the movie is better when its narrative and scientific ideas exist apart from each other, instead of being used to explain the other’s presence. There are numerous involving story components here, about Mendel coming home, and facing relationships with those he is closest to, that do not demand a poet’s scientific eye.
Mendel’s relationship with his older brother Símon makes for a handful of weighty, effective scenes, whether it’s when they are kids (Símon’s morbidity at a young age) or as adults. Huerta and Noé Hernández, have excellent tension that reaches a boiling point, naturally and painfully. The scene is extremely well done, with editing that allows us to see how each of them processes the heartbreaking statement they've just heard from the other. This is the type of scene that gives "Son of Monarchs" a pulse, and shows off its promising artistry. It does not seem like a coincidence that this scene also has nothing to do with butterflies.
Now playing on HBO Max.
“Needle in a Timestack” is based on a short story by esteemed science-fiction author Robert Silverberg that first appeared in the pages of the June 1983 edition of Playboy. Oddly enough, almost two decades earlier, he published a short story collection by the same name but which had no other connection to it. To some people, especially those driven by John Ridley’s screen adaptation to look up the source material, this may seem a bit perplexing, though it does make a strange bit of sense when one considers the story's nature. As it turns out, this literary curiosity proves to be far more interesting than the finished film, which takes an undeniably interesting premise and then fails to make good use of it.
The premise, I assure you, is a doozy and it involves our old friend, time travel. In the not-too-distant future, it's not just a possibility but it has been commodified to serve as a new perk for the wealthy, who plunk down huge amounts of money to “time-jaunt” to a point in their past and relive their most important memories. Of course, there's a hitch to all of this in the form of our other old friend, the butterfly effect—any changes, no matter how minute, that are made while visiting in the past can have unintended ripple effects on the present day, not just for the jaunters themselves but those in their lives, causing them to change in ways from the minor to the profound, after undergoing a “phasing.” There are all sorts of rules and laws forbidding jaunters from doing such things, but it happens frequently enough that a cottage industry has developed letting people lock away precious memories in a time capsule (for a hefty fee) in the hopes of reconstructing them after an unwitting phasing.
But what would happen if someone decided to say “nuts” to the Terms & Conditions form they signed and decided to use time-jaunts for more diabolical purposes? This is what architect Nick Mikkelsen (Leslie Odom Jr.) suspects is happening to himself and his wife, photographer Janine (Cynthia Erivo). Using the dim memories they are able to recall in the gap between their previous timeline and their new one, they have determined that they have undergone an unfortunate turn of the phase three times over the course of the last year. And while the results haven't been catastrophic (unless you're a dog lover like Nick), there's always the threat that another one could come and wipe out not only their current life but all the memories they have of each other.
What kind of monster would do such a thing? Nick has a pretty good idea that the guy behind it all is Tommy Hambleton (Orlando Bloom), a now-estranged friend from college who has become successful enough to afford to jaunt whenever he cares to go. More significantly, he is also Janine’s ex-husband and Nick is convinced that he is jaunting back into their combined past in order to shift things around so that Janine stays with him. Inexplicably, even though Janine agrees that it probably is her ex, she insists that Nick not report him to the police because even though he has presumably messed with their lives on three separate occasions that they know of, she is somehow convinced that he won’t push things any further. Inevitably, Nick and Janine are hit by another phase and when it is all over, the new timeline has Janine indeed married to Tommy while Nick is now married to his old college flame, Alex (Frieda Pinto). Despite a seemingly blissful relationship with Alex, Nick nevertheless has a nagging feeling that something is not quite right and he finds himself increasingly obsessed with the notion that there is someone out there who is truly meant for him, even if he has no real memory of who it might be, and tries to come up with a plan to set things right.
The problem with a lot of narratives involving time travel is that they seem fascinating on the surface but have a tendency to crumble once you start thinking about all the various paradoxes and conundrums at play. Anyone attempting such a story needs to tell it in as clean and efficient of a manner to avoid inspiring those mood-destroying questions, at least until after it's over. Now, the Silverberg story may not make a lot of sense in the recounting—it's never explained how a process that can send the lives of so many unsuspecting people higgledy-piggledy could have become so widely accepted—but it's told in such a concise manner that readers could conveniently ignore the hiccups until afterwards while perusing the interview with Stephen King. In an ideal world, the story might have served as an ideal episode for something like “The Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror,” compact shows that deal with the kind of fantastical concepts utilized here.
Although Ridley’s adaptation hits all the major beats of the original story, it has been stretched out in order to fill out a feature-length running time, and this is where the film stumbles. What was once a potent tale of technology gone amok has been transformed into a weird hybrid of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Made in Heaven” (that 1987 curiosity from Alan Rudolph in which two souls meet and fall in love in Heaven and then have 30 years to find each other on Earth without any tangible memories of each other), though it lacks in the emotional power and visual verve of the former as well as the latter’s loopy romanticism. The problem is that none of the characters here are especially interesting, despite the undeniably engaging actors involved (Erivo and Pinto are especially wasted), and since we don’t care about them, it's hard to generate much interest in what happens to them. The mind then wanders to those pesky questions about the whole jaunting concept and the whole house of cards ends up collapsing.
This is especially frustrating as it's easy to imagine a more compelling version that fully explores ideas that have been left here on the back burner. Instead, "Needle in a Timestack" is more like the kind of low-grade and low-stakes romantic fantasy that too often feels like a misfired attempt to cross-breed a project. Who knows, maybe jaunting and phasing will one day become real things and someone out there can fiddle with the timelines long enough to transform “Needle in a Timestack” into a better movie.
Now playing in theaters and available on digital platforms; available on DVD on October 19.
In the charming and wryly bittersweet Israeli film "Golden Voices," Vladimir Friedman and Maria Belkin play Victor and Raya Frenkel, "golden voiced" actors in their 60s who made a living dubbing movies in the Soviet Union. Audiences would see Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, or Dustin Hoffman on the screen but the Russian-speaking voice they heard was Victor's. He says, "Each movie is an entire world we help people enter." A fellow emigre tells him that when he saw "Spartacus" in Israel he realized that what he loved about the movie was Victor's voice. "You make Kirk Douglas great!"
The Frenkels, like the actors who play them and co-writer/director Evgeny Ruman, are among the over 900,000 Jews who emigrated to Israel as the Soviet Union crumbled in the 1980s. They get very little by way of support. A nephew once named Boris is now called Baruch. He drops them at an apartment he found for them and leaves them there. Victor suspects that a small utility box on the wall is some sort of spyware, reminding us that he has always had to be conscious of being observed. But the film touches very lightly on the cultural differences. This is not a "Perfect Strangers"-style sitcom filled with laugh-track-able cutesy misunderstandings and malapropisms. Standing in line to pick up gas masks to be used if Saddam Hussein drops a chemical bomb on Israel seems as ordinary a part of their new life as taking Hebrew lessons.
What is more unsettling is not being able to find "golden voices" jobs that meet their standards of professionalism and artistic value. The only Russian-language voice jobs they can find are an unpaid public service announcement about what to do in case of a toxic chemical attack for Victor and being a phone sex operator for lonely Russian newcomers for Raya. She is so embarrassed by it that she tells him she is a telemarketer. And yet, in one of the film's best scenes, when it comes time for her to be not real-life 62-year-old Raya but fantasy-figure 22-year-old virgin Margarita on the phone, Belkin shows us how the actress in Raya rises to the occasion and even enjoys being a performer again. Raya/Margarita seamlessly shifts into a different character for one caller. She can tell he will appreciate an older, dissatisfied wife mode. As she talks to this caller, some of her true self begins to come through, more than she has allowed herself to be for many years.
Victor toasts to "a fresh start" on their first night in Israel. But starts don't happen at all once and do not always feel as fresh as we hope. The Frenkels and their relationship are tested as they have to re-invent themselves. Their golden voices have been deployed on behalf of others for decades and their real selves, in this new environment, are emerging uncomfortably. Raya says she wants to feel like the lead actress in her own life but "I'm not even a supporting character." Victor is increasingly glum and distant. For the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, they will have to find a way to speak with their own voices.
Belkin, who was nominated as Best Actress by the Israeli Film Academy for this role, is a radiant delight, showing us how Raya uses her voice to explore her deeper feelings as her husband must abandon his sense of himself as a professional to do quick dubs of pirated films. This is very evidently a personal story for the people who made it, a heartfelt note of thanks for the fresh start they found in their new home, and for all fresh starts and the people with the courage to find them.
Now playing in select theaters.
This article contains spoilers for You season 3. The latest installment of You follows creepy creepster Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) as he begrudgingly moves to the tony California suburb of Madre Linda with his wife, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti). He attempts to atone for his sins and try his hand at being a good husband […]
Todd Haynes is more of a conductor than the director of The Velvet Underground. He tells the story of the band in chronological time, but fills in the blanks by presenting a performance piece of historical art. This is Haynes’ first documentary. It is the first time he hasn’t put a fictional spin on the […]
The post Todd Haynes Slowly Peels the Cover Off The Velvet Underground appeared first on Den of Geek.
Do you believe in the boogeyman? If you’ve ever watched one of the good Halloween movies, the answer is an unqualified yes. The boogeyman is real and he has a name and a Shape: Michael Myers. And for the last 43 years, he’s been cutting a bloody path of carnage across multiplexes everywhere. It began […]
Considering that there are certainly names left off this list so as not to spoil any surprises, and that Doctor Who: Flux will tell its serialised story over just six episodes, a good few guest stars are on their way to save/destroy/marvel at the TARDIS (delete as appropriate). Some of them can be glimpsed in […]
The post Doctor Who Series 13 Cast: Meet the Guest Stars in the First Full Flux Trailer appeared first on Den of Geek.
Spider-Man: No Way Home will serve as the sixth appearance of Tom Holland’s Wall-Crawler role, which, in a sobering fact, he’s been fielding for over five years now. Consequently, the star is saying that the new film, his third solo feature, is being treated like the closing chapter of a tonally-linked trilogy. Indeed, recent comments […]
The post Why Spider-Man: No Way Home is the End of an Era for Tom Holland appeared first on Den of Geek.
When Joel meets Ellie in the opening act of The Last of Us, it’s a turning point for the character. After years of blaming himself for the death of his daughter during an outbreak that turned most of world’s population into flesh-eating monsters, Joel has a chance at redemption when he’s hired to smuggle Ellie […]
The post The Last of Us HBO Series Set Footage Reveals Best Look at Ellie, Joel, and Tess in Boston QZ appeared first on Den of Geek.
Marvel’s Secret Invasion Disney+ series has gone into production per Samuel L. Jackson’s Instagram account. “Star Samuel L. Jackson has revealed on Instagram that Marvel’s Secret Invasion TV show has officially begun production. Via social media, Jackson published a photo of himself wearing a shirt featuring Nick Fury turning into dust. This event took place […]
The post Link Tank: Marvel’s Secret Invasion Disney+ Series Has Begun Filming appeared first on Den of Geek.
This article contains Halloween Kills spoilers. Read our spoiler-free review here. Halloween Kills is a peculiar film that ends on a peculiar note. By the end of director David Gordon Green’s movie, a mob of Haddonfield townspeople, exhausted and fed up after 40 years of trauma brought on by Michael Myers, have decided to take […]
The post Halloween Kills: Where Does the Story Go From Here? appeared first on Den of Geek.
For many of us, October is the most wonderful time of the year. With the smell of autumnal leaves turning red and golden hued, the sound of children’s laughter as ghosts and goblins walk down the street, and finally the sight of pumpkins everywhere you look—there’s no better month-long celebration than the wind up to […]
In The Velvet Underground, director Todd Haynes expertly captures the outsider quality of the titular band. While much of the youth of the Aquarius age wanted to let the sunshine in, the band preferred to close the door, so they’d never have to see the day again. This disconnect is glaringly featured in a segment […]
The post The Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa Was the Original East Coast/West Coast Musical Feud appeared first on Den of Geek.
Last week, the International Association of Theater and Stage Employees (IATSE) voted to authorize a strike if their leadership couldn't reach a deal on more humane work hours and living wage increases with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Well, it looks like they just might be heading to the picket lines, and Hollywood is starting to brace for that eventuality.
We covered the IATSE demands and why these changes are needed for the everyday on-set employees that make up that union before the vote went into effect. The short version is that the unending crunch...
The post The AMPTP Has Until October 18 to Make IATSE an Offer They Deserve -- or Else They Strike appeared first on /Film.
The first official clip from Marvel's "Eternals" has arrived, and it features sea monsters and sign language. When a winged murder dragon comes crawling out of the ocean, who's going to be there to save the prehistoric boy it wants to eat? Why, Earth's original superheroes, of course.
At 26 films and counting, you might think the Marvel Cinematic Universe has nothing new left to offer, but "Eternals" marks a number of firsts. It's the first MCU film helmed by an Oscar winner for Best Director — Chloé Zhao. It's also the first MCU film to receive a PG-13 rating for "brief sexuality," and it will introduce the first deaf...
The post Eternals Clip: Marvel's Newest, Oldest Heroes Save Some Helpless Humans appeared first on /Film.
"A Quiet Place" was a refreshing original sci-fi horror movie that became a sensation when it debuted in 2018. It couldn't have come sooner. While great horror films were being produced by indie distributors like A24 and Neon, studio horror films of the time tended to be cheap found footage projects and lazy teen slasher flicks. A change of pace was very welcome.
Director John Krasinski developed the original premise with co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, crafting a post-apocalyptic world where a fearsome alien race stalks the few remaining humans. The enigmatic creatures are highly attuned to noise, so survivors have to...
The post 13 Movies Like A Quiet Place That Are Definitely Worth Watching appeared first on /Film.
Today, the BBC gave Whovians all over the gift of the trailer for the final full series featuring Jodie Whittaker's run as the thirteenth Doctor, the six-chapter event, "Doctor Who: Flux." It looks like the members of Team TARDIS, the Doctor (Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and Dan (John Bishop) are setting off for a final series of epic proportions, facing off with their greatest threat yet, the Flux, the big bad boss of the series. But not before bringing some of the greatest threats and arch enemies of the Doctor back into the fold to battle along the way.
This series looks...
The post Doctor Who: Flux Trailer: Jodie Whittaker's Time Lord Run Reaches Its End appeared first on /Film.
(Welcome to ...And More, our no-frills, zero B.S. guide to when and where you can watch upcoming movies and shows, and everything else you could possibly stand to know.)
Did you know that "Saved by the Bell," the popular '90s television show, has a 2020 reboot? Did you also know that this reboot was greenlit for a second season back in January of this year?
You probably did, if you're reading this article. Read on to learn everything we know about season 2 of "Saved by the Bell," including when you can watch it.
Season 2 of the "Saved by the Bell" reboot will premiere on Peacock...
The post Saved by the Bell Season 2: Release Date, Cast, and More appeared first on /Film.
When Pakistani-American actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani appears as Kingo Sunen in director Chloé Zhao's "Eternals," not only will it offer an interesting inversion on the traditional superhero formula, since Kingo is a global celebrity in his civilian identity who seeks to keep his superheroic deeds hidden from the world, but it will also present an intriguing blend of comics-faithful traits and cinematic riffs on the character.
In both the comics and the film, Kingo is a big-screen star who hails from Asia, but while Nanjiani's Kingo performs in Bollywood musicals, the Kingo introduced by "Captain America" co-creator Jack Kirby appeared in martial...
The post The Eternals: Things only comic book fans will know about Kingo appeared first on /Film.
(Welcome to Now Stream This, a weekly column dedicated to the best movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and every other streaming service out there.)
It was a rough week (isn't it always?), but the weekend is finally here. I don't know about you, reader, but when the weekend comes along, I get excited to kick back and watch some movies. If you're like me, and on the lookout for some recommendations as to what to watch, I've swooped in here to help you. With this streaming column, I comb through the tangled forest of streaming titles and bring back entries...
The post The Best Movies Streaming Right Now: After Hours, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Terminal, Avengement, Timecop appeared first on /Film.
Puberty is the worst, but having weird, animated, anthropomorphic metaphor monsters somehow makes it easier to deal with. Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg's coming-of-age animated series for Netflix, "Big Mouth," is known for its creatures like the hormone monsters, depression kitties, f*ck gremlins, anxiety mosquitoes, and shame wizards. Now, the trailer for "Big Mouth" season 5 previews that there's even more emotional creepies to worry about. Enter: love bugs and hate worms.
Our favorite animated youngsters are getting older, and with that comes big, big feelings. They've already learned to navigate the system overriding hormones can do to common sense, but now our characters...
The post Big Mouth Season 5 Trailer: The Horrors Of Puberty Return appeared first on /Film.
In an age where streaming services absolutely dominate the market, it would be understandable for people to ask questions like, "How is Redbox still a thing?" The company whose primary business model is renting DVDs from kiosks outside stores across the United States is still kicking, and planning on expanding its existing free, ad-supported streaming platform thanks to a deal with Lionsgate.
Thanks to a multiyear distribution agreement, Lionsgate has signed on to handle the home entertainment distribution of Redbox Entertainment titles, as well as lead the licensing efforts for subscription-based streaming services. The plan for Redbox is to release around...
The post Redbox Won't Go Down Without a Fight, Teams With Lionsgate for Original Content appeared first on /Film.
(Superhero Bits is a collection of stories, updates, and videos about anything and everything inspired by the comics of Marvel, DC, and more. For comic book movies, TV shows, merchandise, events, and whatever catches our eye, this is the place to find anything that falls through the cracks.)
In this edition of Superhero Bits:
"The Batman" gets new promo art.
Joe Russo comments on a rumored return to Marvel.
Batman is crossing over with "Fortnite" again.
DC FanDome is tomorrow.
All that and more!
If last year's DC FanDome is any indication, tomorrow, Saturday, October 16, will be a big...
The post Superhero Bits: DC FanDome is Tomorrow, Avengers: Endgame Director Addresses Marvel Return & More appeared first on /Film.
Will we see Lex?
The post New ‘Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League’ Image Sees The DC Villains In LexCorp appeared first on Heroic Hollywood.
Another glimpse at the upcoming trailer has been released!
The post Matt Reeves Drops New Look At Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle In ‘The Batman’ appeared first on Heroic Hollywood.
Eternals releases next month!
The post ‘Eternals’: First Official Clip Promises Breathtaking Marvel Action appeared first on Heroic Hollywood.
DC FanDome kicks off this weekend.
The post New Posters Tease Robert Pattinson’s The Batman & Paul Dano’s Riddler Ahead Of DC FanDome appeared first on Heroic Hollywood.
Misha Green is directing the sequel.
The post ‘Tomb Raider’ Star Alicia Vikander Provides Update On Sequel appeared first on Heroic Hollywood.
Who is the "real" Batman?
The post ‘Batgirl’ Directors Say The ‘Real’ Batman Will Appear In HBO Max Film appeared first on Heroic Hollywood.
A familiar character returns.
The post ‘The Flash’: Rick Cosnett Set To Return For Season 8 appeared first on Heroic Hollywood.
More questions than answers...
The post ‘The Matrix Resurrections’: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Teases Playing A New Morpheus appeared first on Heroic Hollywood.
The king returns!
The post ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’: Dolph Lundgren Confirms Return As King Nereus appeared first on Heroic Hollywood.
GBWhatsapp messaging app has been developed to allow you to open another account to send instant messages as well as make calls to your family and friends. If you do not know how to use GBWhatsapp on a single device then you should go through this write-up as it tells you everything for GBWhatsapp usage. Latest Version Information: License …
The post GBWhatsapp APK – Download Latest Version (Updated) appeared first on Watch Movies Online.
Click Here To DOWNLOAD APK APP NAME FEATURE File Size 32.3 MB Version v3.0 Requirement Android 4.0 & Above Languages English, Hindi, Telugu Last Updated 7/29/2021 License Free DISCLAIMER We don’t support piracy. We just wanted to tell you about the safety of using pirated content. So we recommend you don’t use these movie …
Click Here To DOWNLOAD APK APP NAME FEATURE File Size 13.2 MB Version v3.0 Requirement Android 4.0 & Above Languages English, Hindi, Telugu Last Updated 7/24/2021 License Free DISCLAIMER We don’t support piracy. We just wanted to tell you about the safety of using pirated content. So we recommend you don’t use these movie …
Click Here To DOWNLOAD APK APP NAME FEATURE File Size 2.6 MB Version v3.0 Requirement Android 4.0 & Above Languages English, Hindi, Telugu Last Updated 7/17/2021 License Free DISCLAIMER We don’t support piracy. We just wanted to tell you about the safety of using pirated content. So we recommend you don’t use these movie …
Click Here To Download APK APP NAME DvdPlay FEATURE File Size 13.1 MB Version v3.0 Requirement Android 4.0 & Above Languages English, Hindi, Telugu Last Updated 07/08/2021 License Free Disclaimer: We don’t support piracy. This content is about torrenting safety. Though people use pirated content knowing it’s illegal but the users should be alerted. …
Click Here To Download APK APP NAME AZ Movies FEATURE File Size 8.3 MB Version v3.0 Requirement Android 4.0 & Above Languages English, Hindi, Telugu Last Updated 07/12/2021 License Free Disclaimer AZ Movies is one of the best movie downloading sites in India. Though the AZ Movies website uploads pirated content people love their …
Click Here To Download APK App Name Filmygod Feature File Size 11.1 MB Version v3.0 Requirement Android 4.0 & Above Languages English, Hindi, Telugu Last Updated 07/12/2021 License Free Disclaimer Filmygod is one of the best movie downloading sites in India. Though the Filmygod website uploads pirated content people love their content very much. …
DOWNLOAD SeeHD APK APP NAME SeeHD FEATURE File Size 13.1 MB Version v3.0 Requirement Android 4.0 & Above Languages English, Hindi, Telugu Last Updated 07/08/2021 License Free Disclaimer: We don’t support piracy. This content is about torrenting safety. Though people use pirated content knowing it’s illegal but the users should be alerted. If …
. DOWNLOAD Worldfree4u APK APP NAME FEATURE File Size 2.6 MB Version v3.0 Requirement Android 4.0 & Above Languages English, Hindi, Telugu Last Updated 25 October License Free DISCLAIMER We don’t support piracy. We just wanted to tell you about the safety of using pirated content. So we recommend you to don’t use these …
DOWNLOAD Tamilmv APK APP NAME FEATURE File Size 13.2 MB Version v3.0 Requirement Android 4.0 & Above Languages English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam Last Updated 25 January License Free Disclaimer: We don’t support piracy. This content is about torrenting safety. Though people use pirated content knowing it’s illegal but the users should be …
The Rolling Stones just canceled one of its most beloved songs, “Brown Sugar,” after a brief flurry of so-called outrage. Veteran troubadour Neal Fox is busy doing the opposite. Fox’s new album, “Unhinged,” takes direct aim at government overreach, speech restrictions and a news media drowning in Fake News. The events of the past year-plus …
The post Why Neal Fox Won’t Stay Silent on Marxism Gone Wild appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
Movie franchises matter more than movie stars, even when they’re anchored by soulless killers. The 2018 “Halloween” refresh honored that reality. Sure, the third act disappointed, but director David Gordon Green’s film efficiently restored Michael Myers to the active duty list. That made Green’s “Halloween Kills,” the second movie in a proposed trilogy, more than …
Two college students, AJ and Keith, (Robert Rusler and Chris Makepeace), partake in a late-night mission in “Vamp” — find a stripper in order to be indoctrinated into a bizarre fraternity. The duo convinces Duncan, a wealthy but friendless nerd (Gedde Watanabe) to loan them his wheels (and his unwelcome company) to drive into Los …
The post ‘Vamp’ Gave Grace Jones a Perfectly Unexpected Close Up appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
“Halloween Kills” isn’t the first film to get its release date changed due to the pandemic. It may not be the last. The sequel’s shift, from a 2020 release to this weekend, does complicate one factor emerging from the movie’s publicity push. Call it the Blame Trump agenda. Actors and directors alike credited President Donald …
The post ‘Halloween Kills’ Stars Politicize Horror Franchise, Cite Jan. 6 Riot appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
Horror anthologies offer something for everyone, in theory. Not a fan of story A.? Just wait. The next chapter might be a better fit. The best anthologies offer something extra, a shared creative DNA that heightens the ick factor. “Creepshow” often felt like you were thumbing through a dog-eared E comic book. That’s beyond characters like …
The post ‘Grave Intentions’ Serves Up Sloppy Anthology Scares appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
Cancel Culture isn’t done with country superstar Morgan Wallen, this site declared just days ago. It turns out its next target may be country music itself. Wallen infamously uttered the “n-word,” just like Hunter Biden repeatedly texted without fallout, and watched his career collapse overnight. He temporarily lost his label, his ability to be heard on …
Cancel Culture might not exist without Twitter and company. Take one angry Tweet or Facebook post. Add hundreds, or thousands, of shares over a short span of time. Voila! A single complaint can leave the target scrambling to apologize or look for a new line of work. Often, it’s both. There’s another component of Cancel Culture, …
George A. Romero’s shadow still looms large over the zombie genre. Romero deftly blended gore, shocks and satire throughout his “Dead” series, never more effectively than with “Dawn of the Dead” (1978). Consumerism never saw that coming. Now, Canadian shocker “Brain Freeze” carries on that ghoulish tradition. Yes, the zom-com slaps around the usual suspects …
The post ‘Brain Freeze’ Satirizes the Usual Targets … with a Twist appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
Robert Rodriguez’s “From Dusk Til Dawn” opens with the criminal Gecko brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) destroying a convenience store and slaughtering those unlucky enough to run into them. As the store burns to the ground and a man screams in agony, the Gecko brothers never waver in their hip, profane banter. They seem …
The post Tarantino’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ Isn’t Worthy of Its Cult Following appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
Jon Stewart isn’t as funny as he used to be, but there’s a good explanation for it. The comedian’s new Apple TV series, “The Problem with Jon Stewart,” takes a more serious approach to the issues of the day. Sure, that Stewart snark is never too far away, but the early episodes let him explore …
The post Sorry, Jon Stewart … Cancel Culture Is Definitely not a Myth appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
Mike Flanagan’s “Midnight Mass” on Netflix Is a missed opportunity, unless Flanagan seriously reckons with the ideas he’s stirred so far for a second season. Flanagan demonstrates he is in great command of the syntax and grammar of his supernatural content, but he shies away from its deeper meaning. This bodes ill for a series …
The post Why ‘Midnight Mass’ Didn’t Reach Its Full, Ripe Potential (Yet) appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
For die hard movie fans, the list of bad movies that fished us in with great trailers is tall and varied. Near the top of that list for me is Jeffrey Hornaday’s “Shout” (1991). A slick trailer, set to Jeff Lynne’s catchy “Lift Me Up,” had me fooled. In fact, that rousing song plays for …
The post Why the Atrocious ‘Shout’ Couldn’t Derail Travolta’s Career appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
The big news for James Bond fans? “No Time to Die,” the 25th film in the saga, didn’t go woke as many expected and/or feared. The bad news? The creative team behind the movie suggested it did just that. Over and again. The results? “No Time to Die” netted $56 million on its opening weekend. That’s far …
Wes Craven’s “Deadly Friend” (1986) was the filmmaker’s major studio attempt to recapture lightening in a bottle. The movie came after Warner Bros. gave the master of horror a substantial budget after the success of “A Nightmare on Elm St.” (1984). It was not Craven’s first attempt to find another Freddy Krueger-sized zeitgeist-loving hit and, …
The post Why ‘Deadly Friend’ Missed Classic Status, Settled for Camp appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
An irresistible “Plot” pushed Cory Tucek to jump the gun on his new streaming platform. Movies Plus wasn’t officially ready last summer – Tucek planned to unveil it several months later. Then the entrepreneur learned about a new documentary that faced long odds to reach the public. “The Plot Against the President,” director Amanda Milius’ powerful …
The post Movies Plus Brings ‘Banned’ Movies to Your Streaming Devices appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
Consumers know “Saturday Night Live” is the premiere spot for political comedy. Or, to be more accurate, was the premiere spot up until a few years ago. Now? “SNL” pulls its satirical punches whenever a Democrat stumbles. And, in the Age of Biden, that happens more or less daily. So it’s not a shock that …
There’s an excellent chance Americans have had their fill of Dr. Anthony Fauci. The elderly bureaucrat and infectious disease guru is more visible than any public figure save the president. On any given day you can watch Dr. Fauci weigh in on COVID-19 across the media landscape. Except “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show,” …
In Steve Miner’s “House” (1986), William Katt stars as Roger Cobb, a successful horror novelist whose marriage has ended after the disappearance of his son. Devastated by the loss of his child and marriage dissolving, Cobb decides to move into his late aunt’s home to write an autobiographical work about his tour of duty in …
The post Why ‘House’ Took More Risks than Most ’80s Horror Films appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
Comedian Dave Chappelle stomped across a woke minefield in his 2019 Netflix special “Sticks & Stones.” Joke after joke hit targets presumably off-limits in our Cancel Culture age. For Chappelle’s newest Netflix special, “The Closer,” he did it again. And the reaction from liberal critics is virtually unchanged. Bigoted! Transphobic! Yet Chappelle won’t be canceled, …
The post Critics Call Dave Chappelle’s Netflix Special ‘Closer’ Bigoted, Transphobic appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
The “God’s Not Dead” franchise caught up to the zeitgeist, and then some. The 2014 original did more than snag $60 million at the box office. It gave Christians who feel western culture has it in for them a voice. True? False? Somewhere in between? What’s impossible to deny is how “God’s Not Dead: We …
The post ‘God’s Not Dead: We the People’ Is the Movie We Need, Flaws and All appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.
Our Opinion on Poulter casting is Adam Warlock, Tom Holland claiming this Spider-Man film feels FINAL, Tom Hardy’s acting and status, Chloe Zhao wanting to direct Star Wars, the upcoming trailer for The Batman and more. Shortcuts: 00:00 Will Poulter’s casting as Adam Warlock 02:18 Our opinion on Tom Hardy ... [Read More]
The post appeared first on The Movie Blog.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 is a sequel to the film The Christmas Chronicles. Co-produced, co-written and directed by Chris Columbus, The Christmas Chronicles 2 features Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Jahzir Bruno and Julian Dennison in the lead roles. The film was released on Netflix on November 25, 2020. ... [Read More]
The post The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020): A Comical Christmas Fantasy appeared first on The Movie Blog.
The Beatles: Get Back is a three-part docuseries centred around the rock band, The Beatles. It focuses on the time during the recording of their last album, Let It Be. The documentary’s theme will be bright and lighthearted. Instead of focusing on the band’s disagreements and feuds, it will highlight ... [Read More]
The post Disney Releases Official Trailer for New Docuseries, ‘The Beatles: Get Back’ appeared first on The Movie Blog.
The Velvet Underground Todd Haynes, USA, 110 min. ” Austin Film Society will present a Doc Days Opening Night (Oct. 14) presentation of Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground: a look at the cultural, social, musical, artistic and cinematic forces that created one of the world’s most enduring bands. Far ... [Read More]
The post “The Velvet Underground” Documentary (Todd Haynes) Begins Streaming October 15, 2021 appeared first on The Movie Blog.
“Whitetail” tells the chilling story of a troubled family, two men and a boy, on a weekend hunting trip at a remote Texas ranch. They find a mysterious man, shot in the stomach, and clutching onto a backpack full of money. Whose the shooter? Where did the cash come from? ... [Read More]
The post Win a Free DVD of the Crime Thriller “Whitetail” (2021)! appeared first on The Movie Blog.
Bollywood’s producer and director Sudhir Mishra adapts the award-winning novel of author Manu Joseph titled “Serious Men” and brings an engaging satirical comedy by the same name to the big screens. “Serious Men” stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui as an assistant astronomer Ayyan Mani and Nassar as his astronomer boss Dr. Arvind ... [Read More]
The post Serious Men (2020): Nawazuddin Siddiqui Stars In An Incredible Tale Of A Man’s Pursuit For Fame appeared first on The Movie Blog.
The cryptocurrency industry began to reflect that of the Apple App Store in 2008 in 2021. It was groundbreaking back in those days. The concept of having several apps on your phone was very novel. Cryptocurrency is exponentially increasing, but it has not yet burst into the consciousness of everyone. ... [Read More]
In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous ... [Read More]
The post No Time To Die Review: The Classy Fan Service And Closure We Need appeared first on The Movie Blog.
Day 1 of New York Comic Con 2021 is in the books! And what a day it was! It was great to return to the Jacob Javits center and commune with other fans of geek culture. The New York Comic Con this year was very lively and fun if not ... [Read More]
Cable bills are rising with each passing day leading to a shift to streaming services. The hype of streaming services has been quite high in recent years due to programming and low cost. Without incurring extra equipment charges, hike in prices, and hidden costs, streaming services offer you enough entertainment ... [Read More]
The post Best Streaming Platforms 2021: Alternative for Hefty Cable Bills appeared first on The Movie Blog.
Did you want to see MAYA AND THE THREE starring Zoe Saldana, Hailey Hermida, and Carolina Ravassa? Would you like to see it early and free? Enter for the chance to attend the virtual premiere screening of MAYA AND THE THREE on Saturday, October 16 at 12:00pm CST. Winners will ... [Read More]
A Complete User Guide With more incidents of cybercrimes and government monitoring, VPNs have gained prominence. Several internet dangers lurk just waiting to pounce. Many people use VPNs to safeguard themselves against a variety of threats to their personal information. As a result of this, many individuals have chosen trustworthy ... [Read More]
The post What Factors to look for before buying VPN Service appeared first on The Movie Blog.
Bai Yutang and Mystery of Maneater Wolf (2021) Full Movie Download – Bai Yutang, nicknamed “Sleek Rat”, is a Song dynasty knight-errant from the 19th-century [...]
Shadowless Sword (Muyeong geom) (2005) Full Movie Download – In ancient Korea, the Prince of Beahae has been assassinated and the kingdom is in turmoil. [...]
Injustice (2021) Full Movie Download – On an alternate Earth, the Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane, which causes a rampage in the hero. [...]
The Tunnel (Tunnelen) (2019) Full Movie Download – Families n people on their way home for Christmas are trapped inside a tunnel when a truck [...]
Upcoming (2021) Full Movie Download – Chen Chen, a high school student, finds the love affair of her mother just before the college entrance exam [...]
Dave Chappelle: The Closer (2021) Full Movie Download – As he closes out his slate of comedy specials, Dave takes the stage to try and [...]
Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury III (2021) Full Movie Download – Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder III, billed as Once and For All, is a [...]
Last Man Down (2021) Full Movie Download – After civilization succumbs to a deadly pandemic and his wife is murdered, John Wood – a special [...]
IP Man: The Awakening Master (2021) Full Movie Download – When Ip Man was studying in Hong Kong during his youth years, he accidentally gets [...]
Greta (2018) Full Movie Download – Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), a sweet, naïve young woman trying to make it on her own in New York [...]
31 Days Of Horror continues at Last Movie Outpost as we count down to Halloween. Today we tackle George A. Romero’s all-time great Dawn Of The Dead. Dawn Of The Dead is the greatest zombie horror film ever made. It is also Romero’s best film. Let’s just get that out of the way. Yes, there […]
It won’t be on our screens until the latter half of 2022, but Jodie Whittaker has confirmed that she has shot her final scenes as Doctor Who. The thirteenth incarnation of The Doctor in the long-running sci-fi series will regenerate next year, in time for a new showrunner to take over. A six-episode thirteenth season […]
Director Catherine Hardwicke has a new comedy planned called Mafia Mamma. Monica Bellucci and Toni Collette are both set to star in it. The story is about a suburban housewife who inherits her grandfather’s mafia empire. She defies everyone’s expectations as she takes on the family business. Catherine Hardwicke, best known for directing the first […]
Marvel’s Disney+ bandwagon rolls ever onward. After WandaVision, Falcon And The Winter Soldier, and now What If..? the next cab off the rank is Hawkeye. Last month they presented a trailer that surprised a few people, showing a welcome humorous tone and some great interplay between the two leads. Now Marvel Studios has released a […]
Jack Ryan is coming back for a fourth season. The TV show that is based upon Tom Clancy’s famous literary character will be back on our screens soon as Amazon completed production a while ago. They are yet to set a date. Even though season three is yet to air, they have ordered the fourth […]
It may be a global smash with the kind of watercooler buzz we haven’t seen since Game Of Thrones, but that doesn’t mean everyone is in love with Squid Games. The noisy neighbors to the North aren’t impressed. Maybe the buzz is keeping them awake or something? Both Reuters and The Wall Street Journal are running a […]
Mixed messages coming out of Marvel, Sony, and the MCU in general right now with Secret Invasion and Spider-Man: No Way Home both on the way. One sooner than the other. First up, MCU lynchpin, stalwart, and most appearing player Samuel L. Jackson is back. His thirteenth time in the role, fourteen if you include […]
31 Days Of Horror continues at Last Movie Outpost as we go back, way back to the 1950’s and take a look at Them! Giant Atomic Monsters! You’ve got to love the science fiction and horror movies post World War 2. Back then the only thing we had to worry about besides Communist domination of […]
Disney has released a full-length official trailer for Peter Jackson’s new Beatles documentary called The Beatles: Get Back. It was originally supposed to open as one long film playing in theaters exclusively last year, but with delays, they’re skipping theaters entirely to launch digitally exclusively. And it is being split into 3 episodes as a […]
Star Trek gives as much as it takes away these days. For every Wrath Of Khan, there is a Final Frontier. For every Deep Space Nine, there is a Star Trek: Picard (and Discovery, and Lower Decks and damn you Kurtzman!). Here at the Last Movie Outpost, we do love us some Star Trek. Classic […]
“I wanted to make a film with this title for a long time. The title is from a dialogue at the end of Mel Brooks' film Blazing Saddles; one character asks the other, "Where are you going to go?" and the other replies,"Nowhere special", and the first person replies, "I always wanted to go there." The idea behind this choice is that there is no perfection, that you just have to live, find a place where it is good to live, simply.”---Director Uberto Pasolini, speaking on how he chose the title of this film for his own fictional script, written after he read a newspaper story on a similar adoption, with the adoption agency refusing to divulge details of that case to him, due to confidentiality clauses (a rough translation of his interview given to Malik Berkati at the Zurich film festival, quoted in J:Ma. Lifestyle and Citizenship)
Film director Uberto Pasolini makes small budget films with great care and thought that demand respect of mature filmgoers worldwide. His last two films Still Life (2013) and his latest work Nowhere Special (2020) focus on realistic characters who belong to the middle class but are sensitive to the world around them, lending a helping hand to people who require help in a low-key and admirable manner. Both his works stand out among so many others because he writes original stories/screenplays alone—a very creditable distinction separating him from the bulk of other filmmakers, relying on someone else’s tale to direct.
Nowhere Special is a tale of a single father, John, who has brought up his 3 year-old-son, Michael, with earnings from his work as an independent window cleaner in Northern Ireland. John dotes on his single offspring and takes care of him as a mother would. As the film progresses, we learn that John is in advanced stages of a life-threatening illness and Michael can’t be in his care for long. He approaches an adoption agency and they arrange for John and Michael to meet prospective foster parents for Michael in order for John to decide on Michael’s future family.The single father John (James Norton) goes shopping with his son Michael (Daniel Lamont)
Pasolini’s amazing ability is in presenting the relationship of father and son in the absence of a mother. John provides all he can, within his financial limitations, which include providing toys and trips to fairs for his intelligent, responsive son. The conversations are minimal and the performances of the first-time child actor Daniel Lamont under the tutelage of Pasolini reminds you of Charles Chaplin directing Jackie Coogan in The Kid(1921) and perhaps even of Vittorio de Sica directing a relatively older Enzo Staiola in Bicycle Thieves (1948). Pasolini’s direction of James Norton as the father John, repressing anger, and alternating frustration with patience in Nowhere Special results in an amazingly controlled outcome. Pasolini had achieved a similar feat with Eddie Marsan in his earlier remarkable film, Still Life.
Are there similar patterns between Nowhere Special and Still Life? Both films study men’s actions in this life and the events after death. Death is the fulcrum of both films, philosophically. In Nowhere Special, John introduces the concept of death to his 3-year-old son by getting him to read about death of dinosaurs. The audience sees some manifestation of his son’s understanding that his father is tired/sick when the boy covers his sleeping father with the blanket that has partially fallen, possibly mimicking what his father would have done for him. Both films of Pasolini are a treat to study for colorful details that the director infuses into the narrative, one example being of John looking at the side mirror of his car to observe an older schoolboy with his bag walking back home, to imagine what Michael would be like when he grows up.The single father's treasure notices the tattoo, which he tries to copy on his own hand
In bits and pieces of conversation in the film, we learn that John was an orphan and therefore is all the more interested that Michael has a good family to take care of him. In Still Life, the colorless bureaucrat, Mr. May, goes the extra mile to contact dead persons' relatives and friends and informs them of the death of their forgotten kith and kin. In Nowhere Special, it is a dying father worried about the future of his son if he hands him over to the wrong foster parents. “This is the most important decision of my life. How will I know if I got it right?” John bursts out his frustration at the quiet adoption agency staffer, who reminds him that the clock is ticking for him to make a decision about Michael. There is no obvious manifestation of his deteriorating health except for a bout of vomiting (thankfully less repulsive realism than John Cassavetes’ 1970 film Husbands) and a sudden decision to stop working after having climbed a tall ladder to clean a window. I admire Pasolini’s ability to add small details in both his films that say a lot without spoken words. One example is saving John’s wife’s/spouse’s mitten left in the dashboard of his car (which he is now selling to evidently augment his purse as he has decided to stop working) to be included in a box of memorabilia for Michael, when he grows up, along with John’s photographs with Michael.Breaking the concept of time to his toddler with 34 candles on John's birthday cakeIt is important to compare and contrast Nowhere Special with Naomi Kawase’s Japanese film True Mothers—both films about adoption made the same year in different parts of the world. True Mothers is a film made by a lady director about real mothers and foster mothers of orphans in the contemporary world. In both films, the single parent is giving up their biological child for foster care out of extreme necessity. Both are remarkably well-made films. While religion is absent in the Japanese film, for Pasolini this is important in Nowhere Special as it was in Still Life. John teaches Michael to pray before he goes to sleep and John has a silent thought of his impending future as he stops his car at a red signal, and he views a closed church with a cemetery, ending the short car halt with a smile, possibly indicating that he is now well prepared for the inevitable. Compared to Still Life, Nowhere Special has a muted dose of religion. John looking at the closed church and cemeteryJohn drives on with a telling smileThe final incredibly mature goodbye of a 3-year oldUnfortunately, compared to Still Life, Nowhere Special lacks the musical contribution of Pasolini’s wife, composer Rachel Portman, which had enriched the earlier work. Even without Ms Portman’s musical flourishes, Nowhere Special is a very rewarding viewing experience for viewers who are not mesmerized by escapist and unreal tales. Mr Pasolini, the late film maestro Luchino Visconti will be proud of you as his nephew putting so much care and thought into the films you make to entertain discerning viewers!
P.S. Nowhere Special has won the Best Film award at the Pula (Croatia) film festival, and the Audience awards at the Warsaw (Poland) and the Valladolid (Spain) international film festivals. The director’s earlier film Still Life (2013), winner of the Best Film award in the Venice film festival’s Horizons section, and 18 other awards worldwide, has been reviewed earlier on this blog. The other Japanese film by director Naomi Kawase’s True Mothers discussed in the above review also has been reviewed earlier on this blog. (Click on the colored names of the films in the post-script to access the reviews.) Both Nowhere Special (2020) and True Mothers (2020) are included in the author’s list of best films of 2020.Feedjit Live Website Statistics
Director and co-scriptwriter Naomi Kawase, co-scriptwriter Izumi Takahashi and novelist Mizuki Tsujimura present a diversity of candidates in the film True Mothers who could fit the title of the film.Confrontation between the biological mother (left) and the foster parents (right)
First, there is a biological mother, Hikari, a young teen in school, who accidentally becomes 24-weeks pregnant following a tryst with a teenager.
Second, Hikari’s own mother is another type of elderly mother, who is embarrassed by her teenage school-going daughter’s motherhood and wants to hide those facts from friends, neighbors and Hikari’s school. She obviously wants to protect her daughter’s and her family’s image in society for the future.Asami (Miyoki Asada) (center) runs the Baby Baton, showering happiness to so many
Third, there is Shizue Asami, who runs an adoption organization called “Baby Baton,” located in a secluded resort helping young mothers-to-be prepare for the birth of their children and arranging for their adoption by couples yearning to be parents. The elderly and kind Asami (Miyoki Asada who played the role of the shopkeeper’s wife in Kawase’s An/Sweet Bean) is another kind of “mother”-figure for the young mothers-in-distress awaiting the birth of their unwanted offspring and process the eventual adoption of the newborns. It is interesting to note that Hikari, much after the birth of her son, seeks help from (and refuge with) the elderly Asami rather than her own biological mother.
Fourth, much later, in the film young Hikari herself, exhibits motherly love for another girl, close to her own age, she had met at Baby Baton extending limited financial, moral and emotional support in her time of need.The foster-mother Satoko and her husband take the child Asato to school
Fifth and a strong candidate for the “true mother” title in the foster-mother (Satoko) who adopts the child Asato (through Baby Baton) with her husband showering love and care, because they are unable to have a biological child of their own due to sterility issues, long after their marriage.
Finally, there is another kind of mother, whose son suffers a fall in the school and holds Satoko’s son Asato responsible for the mishap and aggressively demands financial compensation from Satoko, who is relatively affluent and can afford to pay the medical expenses.
If King Solomon of the Bible were to sit in judgement over who among the above six exhibits values of a “true” mother in this Japanese film, it doubtful if he would have found a clear and satisfactory clue to make a non-controversial judgement. In the Biblical tale, after hearing the pleas of two ladies each claiming to be the mother of the child, Solomon said he would cut the child in half and give an equal part to each claimant. The true mother in the tale gives up her claim so that the child would live and Solomon realized she indeed was the true mother among the two claimants. That is the rhetorical question Ms Kawase is posing at the viewer of the film to figure out like King Solomon: who among the six “mothers” has the best attributes to be called a true mother.
There is a reason for Naomi Kawase to be interested in making the film on mothers and their offspring. Ms Kawase was brought up by her grandmother, not her mother. Her father, too, was absent as she grew up under the care of her grandmother.The decision to adopt a child can be painful before enjoying the rewardsThe film is indeed sentimental. Childless couples do dream of a child of their own. In Japan, however, same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt. In Japan, as in most countries, a pregnant school girl would inevitably face social trauma and boycott, not support. The film’s fictional Baby Baton enterprise serves an important social function but, in the film, it ultimately closes shop, for reasons never stated. Water and trees in a concrete jungle, provide natural succor for the troubled mindA Kawase film offers sophistication beyond the presentation of interesting human characters; True Mothers is no exception. Trees are silent characters as in The Mourning Forest and Still the Water. The sea and waterfronts provide solace to the troubled characters. The birds do bring messages of the stork. Kawase, like Terence Malick, brings to the fore connections between humans and nature in each of their works and it is for the perceptive viewer to pick up those threads. Kawase’s films try to connect normal human beings with those living on the margins of society and try to construct bridges of connection between generations. In The Mourning Forest there is reversal of the roles of the nurse and the nursed, both grieving for personal losses, one of a dead wife, another of a dead child with a forest supporting the two characters, “sometimes gently, sometimes strictly” in Kawase’s own words. In Sweet Bean, a trio of social misfits without a family meld into a virtual family. In Hanezu, Kawase presents the unfulfilled love triangle of grandparents of lovers, mirrored in the present day love triangle, with spiders and arachnids as nature’s metaphors to the tale. In Still the Water, the mother of the lead character dies and her boyfriend’s father is physically absent. Yet the connections between generations are made visually with banyan trees and the waters of the sea. A Kawase film always offers more than the obvious and True Mothers is no exception, with contemplative sequences, without spoken words, accentuated by birds, trees and waterfronts.
All types of "mothers" in True Mothers are very credibly presented and all the actors are a treat to watch. True Mothers is a rare Kawase film that is not based on an original script written by the director. Kawase and her co-scriptwriter Izumi Takahashi adapted the Japanese “mystery” novel by Mizuki Tsujimura. However, there is an additional personal touch here, Kawase herself was brought up by her grandparents in the Nara region of Japan, which is where the biological mother in True Mothers is originally from. In Kawase’s films, the little details add more value than the obvious tale.
P.S. True Mothers won the 2021 Best Director award for Ms Kawase at the Mainichi Film Concours, Tokyo, Japan. Ms Kawase’s earlier feature films Shara (2003), The Mourning Forest(2007), Hanezu (2011), Still the Water (2014), Sweet Bean (2015), and Vision (2018) have been reviewed earlier on this blog. True Mothers is one of the author's best films of 2020. Ms Kawase is one of the author's favorite 15 active film directors from all over the world.Feedjit Live Website Statistics
My goal is to observe life and not to mystify it. What I film is simply matter that exists in the world. A person or object may have a particular meaning within the context of the film but I don’t see them as having an inherent conceptual identity. If I say the word ‘tree’, you don’t necessarily need to see the tree because you have learned since you were a child how to conceptualize the tree. In most narrative films, things—whether it’s a bird, a human body, a cloud, a car or a sound—exist as devices that only serve to tell a story. This is true for the actors as well. These types of films do not allow the viewer to see the actors as people existing in the world. Instead, the viewer sees a mask moving around in a costume and wearing lots of make-up. My goal is to bring out the individuality of each person or object and to capture something of their essence. I’m not interested in filming the mask. This is why you see the particular bodies in the films. If they are not ‘conventional’ —if they are considered old, ugly or fat—I couldn’t care less; they are all people and they are all equally beautiful. Filming people as they are is my way of showing them respect.—Carlos Reygadas, interviewed by Paul Dallas, in Extra Extra Magazine (https://extraextramagazine.com/talk/carlos-reygadas-on-existence-the-flow-of-perception-and-the-feeling-of-being-embraced/)
As the above quote reveals, Carlos Reygadas’ film Japón is different from the films of his contemporary Mexican directors such as Guillermo del Toro (who made The Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth), Alfonso Cuaron (who made Romaand Gravity), and Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu (who made Birdmanand The Revenant), who have won Oscars and wide public acceptance globally. They are as different as chalk and cheese. Not just Japón but all the feature films of Reygadas, have ultra-real characters, some with physical characteristics or appearances that one would not normally associate with the typical actors and actresses in commercial films. Reygadas’ choice of actors resembles the casting choices of the famous Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini (who made The Gospel According to Saint Mathew with non-actors, in contrast to the Hollywood Biblicals). Again unlike his Mexican counterparts, Reygadas’ films are minimalistic in terms of dialogues, accentuating instead on sounds and visuals to communicate with the viewer, fusing the internal thoughts of characters with external visuals of nature, animals and the innocence of children. The entire film used first time actors and it is unlikely that a viewer will easily forget their faces. It was shot on 16 mm anamorphic film stock using 2.88:1 screen aspect ratio and blown up. The outcome is amazing for such a modest technical investment.The lame painter takes in the rural Mexico's beauty: cacti, trees, hills and river
Japón is different from all the films mentioned above for other reasons as well. One, the name of the principal character of Japón is never revealed. The viewers of the film only get to know visually that he is lame and needs a walking stick at all times. They get to learn gradually that he is a painter, that his backpack contains painting material, that he intends to commit suicide with a gun that he carries with him and that he loves music of Shostakovich (particularly the composer’s 15th symphony) because you can hear it and that he is not religious, at least in the conventional sense, because he states as much. He has evidently travelled from an urban part of Mexico (first sequence of the film) to a carefully chosen distant rural spot of the country, where he is a stranger and has no relations. How and why he chose that village is never revealed in the film. The viewer soon realizes that the painter is a man of few words, observing more than speaking, even when spoken to. Reygadas’ use of Shostakovich’s 15th symphony, which the painter in his film shares with his benefactor widow, using earplugs, suggesting to her that he could explain the music to her but eventually does not, made this critic to delve into what was left unexplained.
The history of this piece of music is a story by itself. The composer Shostakovich (film director Grigory Kozintsev’s close friend and his collaborator on his King Lear and Hamlet) wrote the music—his last symphony--keeping in mind the Russian intellectual and film director Yevgeny Yuvtuschenko’s poem on the suicide of another Russian intellectual Marina Tsvetaeva. Suicide and tragedy serve as the background of this Shostakovich composition, the painter listens to in Japón. The painter himself is contemplating suicide while listening to this music.
Shostakovich's music is not the only music that adorns this beautiful film that finds beauty in what most people would consider ugly (wrinkled faces), mundane (the poor and the dirty, smelly, unhygienic persons travelling in a vehicle together in Japón), or even profane (the extreme lack of comprehension and respect for anything another person considers worth worshipping), Reygadas uses two other composers and specific works of theirs to drive home his point of view. One is Johann Sebastian Bach's Passion of St. Mathew and the other is the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's two works Miserere and Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. (The second composition of Pärt is used for the final sequences with the camera of cinematographer Vignatti circling the rail tracks capturing urban Mexico in the far distance and the flowing river to one side, with dead bodies and stones from the barn strewn around blending in a bizarre and sad way into the landscape.) Reygadas thanks Pärt in the end credits. Pärt's music is often incorporated in the films of Andrei Zvyagintsev, Terrence Malick, Michael Mann, Paolo Sorrentino, Pablo Larrain, and Leos Carax, among others.The painter, skeptical of religion.....and Ascen the intensely religious widow,who believes in caring for others and loving all
Finally, why title the film as “Japan,” most viewers would ask when there is no apparent connection to that country. Would it be hara-kiri? Or is it that the landscape of this far away non-descript Mexican village offers a transcendental beauty with all its stones, trees and cacti connects with Japan in some obscure manner for one to commit suicide? When the painter does attempt suicide, it is on a cliff where a horse lies dead. Is the painter a famous one? Is the book of paintings that he carries in his backpack related to him? There is no clue offered in the film except that he is excited that his benefactor widow found one painting in the book to be very nice and he wanted her to reveal that particular painting to him.Assimilating the stones and the trees,the inanimate and the animateThe painter and a child--children are importantin Reygadas' films
The suicide attempt triggers off a latent sexual urge and a possible desire to continue living. His benefactor, Ascen, is a much older widow than the painter and she offers him food and shelter in her stone barn where her dead husband used to sleep. Ascen is a devout Catholic and explains to the painter that her name is related to the ascension of St Mary as distinct from ascension of Jesus Christ and even offers to pray for the painter, when he indicates that he is not religious. But a bond grows and a particular scene shows her physical trust in the painter as she extends her hand to him and offers to wash his clothes. That gesture of relationship gradually grows into a physical one with the painter.Post suicide attempt, the painter lies next to a dead horseThe dead Ascen wearing the painter's jacket,a "suicide" with a cosmic, religious tinge
A subplot of a devious nephew of Ascen to deprive her ownership of the stone barn so that he could sell the stones, leads to the painter pointing out that that the barn legally belongs to her. Ascen does not resist the nephew’s wiles. Her visit to the village church service/mass and her body language would appear as distant parallels to Jesus’ final days on earth.
Japón starts as a man wanting to end his life. Japón ends with amazing actions of love and a heavenly design of ascension of the pure in heart. Ascen, in the film, is developed as an individual with characteristics close to the Martha of the Gospels, for viewers familiar with the scriptures, providing food with love to workers who are demolishing her barn and food for a stranger staying under her roof, without being asked. Reygadas might not be religious, overtly. Yet his films show a depth of religious comprehension (biblical names of his films' characters and the term "post tenebras lux" used as a film's title are examples) that few other film directors exude.
Reygadas can and will unsettle the purist, with his unorthodox content. Reygadas does it for a reason. When crockery falls off a table suddenly, a viewer will recall Tarkovsky's Stalker where a glass of water falls off a table--but here Reygadas relates it to the demolition of the barn, drawing the viewer's attention to the evil designs of those who only think of themselves while amassing lucre. Reygadas infuses philosophy, politics, racial harmony and uplifting innocence of children in his films, recalling the works of Tarkovsky, Paradjanov, Kozintsev, Kiesolwski, Olmi, Ruiz, Malick, and Kawase.
P.S. Japón onlywon a Cannes film festival special mention but won significant awards elsewhere: Grand Prize at the Bratislava international film festival, the Best Director awards at the Thessaloniki and the Edinburgh international film festivals, and the Best First Work award at the Havana international film festival and the Audience award at the Stockholm film festival. Reygadas’ later feature films Silent Light and Post Tenebras Lux have been reviewed earlier on my blog. The film Japón replaces Reygadas' Post Tenebras Lux on the author’s top 100 films list. Reygadas, for this author, is one of the 15 best living-and-active film directors today.
Feedjit Live Website Statistics
“If they hurt others, it’s because they hurt, too.”-- Benedicta, mother of Amador, responding to Amador’s comment on the root formation of the Eucalyptus tree, a tree that can cause explosive burning during forest fires, a metaphor of trees used in the film to describe human behavior
“They told you about me?” Amador to Elena
“Yes, but..well, you know how people are.” Elena’s response
In a 2021 interview for American Cinematheque, Russian film director Andrei Konchalovsky stated “Sometimes silence is better than action.” That is a comment applicable to Oliver Laxe’s film Fire Will Come. The lead character Amador rarely speaks but his body language and the soundtrack do the talking, not words. Laxe’s film urges the viewer to explore the soundtrack that is expressive and offers much food for thought for an attentive viewer.
The film opens with a night sequence of a bulldozer with headlights switched on relentlessly mowing down eucalyptus trees until it comes up against a massive oak tree in its path. The bulldozer stops as if the majestic tree had commanded it to stop. The viewer never sees the driver of the bulldozer. The reason for the bulldozer mowing down the eucalyptus trees in a straight line is not spoonfed to the viewer. One has to figure out the puzzle from the clues that the script leaves for the attentive viewer to pick up.Amador (son), Benedicta (mother) and dog--discussing trees of the forest
The film has three major characters: Amador (actor Amador Arias), Amador’s mother Benedicta (actress Benedicta Sanchez) and the veterinarian doctor Elena (actress Elena Mar Fernandez). Amador, early in the film is introduced being released from prison after serving a sentence for apparently causing a forest-fire. As he is a man of few words, the viewer has to depend on the villager’s point of view that he is actually an arsonist. Amador does not have a wife; he lives with his old mother, who is possibly a widow. They have a few milch-cows and a dog. An accident to one cow leads to Dr Elena visiting their home to treat their cow’s injured leg. Elena indicates her interest in Amador, but the taciturn man is guarded in his response to her overture of playing Leonard Cohen’s song Suzanne while driving in Elena’s vehicle.Benedicta enjoying the tranquility ofliving on the edge of the forest
More details about Amador are progressively revealed in the film. He is aware of various scientific details of the eucalyptus tree in his somewhat cryptic conversation with his mother. He is well aware that the eucalyptus tree is Australian in origin, and was accidentally introduced into the forest near his Spanish village, possibly by travelling earthmoving equipment. He is even aware of the structure of roots of the eucalyptus, in his brief comments to his mother. One can only surmise that he would also know that species only increases the threat to a forest prone to forest fires. Was mowing down of eucalyptus trees, at the beginning of the film, a pro-active action to protect the forest from fire? The viewer has to complete the jigsaw puzzle in the Laxe film.Firefighters trying to control fire with fire
It is indeed unusual when the film’s script has actors making their film debut playing roles that have their own names—an unusual decision taken by the director and his co-scriptwriter. Amazingly and deservedly, both Amador and Benedicta have received acting awards for their debut performances in this film. But it is not Amador and Benedicta alone that make the film interesting.
Laxe’s film is a wonderful example to study the importance of the soundtrack in a film, an aspect that is often overlooked. Most viewers would easily pick up the importance of the Leonard Cohen song, essentially a song recalling a lover called Suzanne, spiked with Christian theology. Some viewers attuned to Western classical music would identify Vivaldi’s “Cum Dederit” from the larger composition Nisi Dominus play on the film’s soundtrack. Fewer would know that both Handel and Vivaldi composed their versions of Nisi Dominusin the context of Psalms 127 in the Bible. Now Psalms 127 relate to God’s plan. The Psalms 127 discuss the anxiety in persons affected by reliance on their work experience and contrasts it with God’s gift of sleep to his loved ones who leave it all to Him to configure. The possible evidence of Laxe’s choice of this specific piece of Vivaldi is mirrored in the film when the mother Benedicta goes looking for her son Amador one morning because he had looked worried the previous night, and finds him in deep slumber in the driver’s seat of his van instead of sleeping in the house.Amador driving his vehicle and reflecting on the forest reflected on the windshieldAmador gets set to meet the vet Elena,only to realize that the villagers have influenced her with their opinions that he is a pyromaniac
However, it is not Leonard Cohen’s lyrics and the choice of Vivaldi’s composition alone that makes the soundtrack of Fire Will Come rewarding. The control of the forest fire sequences play out Georg Friedrich Haas’ avant garde composition Konzert fur Posuane und Orchestra with top-notch sound mixing by composer and sound mixer Xavi Font. For those readers who are interested, the Haas composition in a concert hall is appended to this review to contrast it with Xavi Font’s contribution of the same piece in the film.The mother Benedicta takes cover from the rain under the shade of an oak tree, possibly the oneshown at the start of the film
Apart from the soundtrack, it is the long reflective silences in the film that add to the effect. Was Amador driving the bulldozer in the night? Was the oak tree that stopped the bulldozer the same tree that gives Benedicta cover from the pouring rain? Could Amador who helps clear a blocked canal for the entire village selflessly be attacked a few days later by the same villagers for the final forest fire for which he was clearly (at least for the viewers of the film) not responsible? Perhaps the eucalyptus tree does hurt other trees for a reason, as Benedicta figured. The award-winning screenplay, the film’s direction and cinematography, sound mixing and the debut performances of the lead actors make the film outstanding for any serious cinephile. Laxe, Fillol and Font make a coherent and complete team. One can only wish for more exciting films from this talented team.
P.S. Fire Will Come won the Cannes film festival’s Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, the well-deserved Chicago international film festival’s Silver Hugo for Best Sound Design, the Best Film and the Best Actor awards at the Thessaloniki international film festival and the Best Film and the Best Screenplay awards at the Mar Del Plata international film festival.Feedjit Live Website Statistics
Roe v. Wade is a 2021 feature film that provides considerable insight from a pro-life point of view into a very important US Supreme Court judgement given in 1973 that the Constitution of the United States “protects a pregnant lady’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction” (Wikipedia). Nearly five decades after that landmark ruling, the decision continues to be fervently debated within USA, between the two main political parties of the country, between church groups and women’s rights groups, and between the National Abortion Rights Action League and the National Right to Life Committee, to mention just a few.US Supreme Court Justices listening to arguments...and discussing the case among themselves outside the courtroom (actors Forsythe, Portnow and Davi) US Supreme Court Chief Justice (Jon Voight)in his chambers reflecting on the case
Cathy Allyn’s and Nick Loeb’s film takes the right to life argument armed with lots of details from the genesis of the case when Jane Roe (real name revealed much later as Norma McCorvey) became pregnant in 1969 with her third child in Texas, where abortion was illegal, unless it was to save the mother’s life. “Wade” refers to Henry Wade, the Texas district attorney, who opposed the initial lawsuit of Roe. Roe’s child was born because the legal machinery took its time to come to a decision. The Texas laws were challenged in the US Federal Supreme Court, argued in December 1971, reargued in October 1972, and decided in January 1973. The key players in the controversial case appear in Roe v. Wade, the film, portrayed by actors Jon Voight (Runaway Train; Deliverance) and Robert Davi (Die Hard) as key Supreme Court Justices who contributed to the final 7-2 verdict in favor of abortion. Nick Loeb, the co-director of the film, acts in the role of the real Dr Bernard Nathanson, who made considerable money from conducting some 6000 abortions and was an abortion rights activist initially but eventually converts to a pro-life activist, authoring a book The Silent Scream.
Dr Nathanson (Nick Loeb) conducting legal abortions in New York
The film Roe v. Wade is useful viewing for those who are not aware of the background of the famous Supreme Court judgement. Where the film treads on disputable territory are the conversations between the Justices amongst themselves and within their families, which are conjectured by the scriptwriters (on the basis of various writings, they claim) but are not real, leading up to their final judgement. For viewers, their ability to sift facts from fiction, will be key to their assessment of the film for themselves.
While viewing the film, a perceptive viewer will note Dr Nathanson walking up to the altar of an empty church orally and rhetorically questioning God followed by a scene of his eventual adult baptism, which are scenes that underscore the Church support for this pro-life film. It is also a film that will recall for the viewer the importance of the recent controversy of political appointments to the US Supreme Court.Dr Nathanson getting baptized following a U-turn in his beliefs on abortion
To evaluate the true merits of the film Roe v. Wade one could compare and contrast the implicit arguments in a recent US film Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) directed by Eliza Hittman—a film that won the Berlin International Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, the Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize, and two honors from the US National Board of Review. Ms Hittman’s independent film is not just artistically superior to Roe v. Wade but puts forward the travails of a young pregnant woman, who wishes to abort her foetus in the US State of Pennsylvania, without parental consent, but cannot do so and subsequently travels to New York for the abortion with limited financial resources. The problems of a young mother who wishes to abort her foetus in a geographical territory that considers it totally illegal is probably best conveyed in the 2007 Romanian film 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days depicting abortions conducted under covert conditions increasing the danger to the mother’s life—a film that won the Golden Palm at the Cannes International Film Festival and 41 other awards worldwide, including one from the US National Board of Review.
If one cares to look closely at Allyn’s and Loeb’s cleverly crafted film, the pro-abortionist advocates (Dr Nathanson in his early phase, Larry Lader, Betty Friedan) are developed as prospectors for money and personal acclaim, with Dr Nathanson taking a U-turn on his perspective on abortions towards the end. In spite of the salted script, the actress Lucy Davenport playing the feisty Ms Betty Friedan stood out among the rest. The changes in Dr Nathanson’s views are subtly accompanied by physical changes for the better as the film progresses as though the film was nudging the viewer to like the person as he evolves within the film. (Of course, the version this critic viewed was a rough cut and may differ from the final released version.)
All in all, the filmmakers behind Roe v. Wade, the film, have displayed some talent and have done a good deed in trying to inform a wider public of how the Supreme Court arguments are made and the process of its Justices arriving at a decision. Whether the filmmakers who made Roe v. Wade can make films in future that transcend their personal agenda and avoid making incredible statements such as major US newspapers and magazines can be manipulated to rely on unverified sources of information, or include images suggesting Margaret Sanger, a birth control activist, as a Ku Klux Klan supporter (which innocent viewers might believe to be a fact) only the future can tell.
P.S. Roe v Wade has won several minor awards including a “Cannes world festival” award for best historical film from IMDB (not to be confused with the prestigious awards of the Cannes International Film Festival of France).Feedjit Live Website Statistics
“I don’t make a lot of films...I can only shoot what is essential to me”
--Director Philippe Lacôte in an interview to CNN titled "Machetes and Microbes: Why Philippe Lacôte's Prison Drama Cuts Close to the Bone" (September 8, 2020)
French-Ivorian filmmaker Philippe Lacôte has made two feature films Run (2014) and Night of the Kings (2020), both officially submitted to the Oscar’s foreign language category by Côte d’Ivoire (former name: Ivory Coast), in respective years. Both films provide a marriage of documentary and narrative fiction styles, and both have international actors of repute playing major roles. Runhas Côte d’Ivoire-born Isaach de Bankole (Jim Jarmusch’s actor in The Limits of Control/Coffee and Cigarettes/Ghost Dog-The Way of the Samurai; Claire Denis’ actor in White Material/ Chocolat) and Night of the Kings has Denis Lavant (Leos Carax’s actor in Holy Motors/The Lovers on the Bridge); Claire Denis’ actor in Beau Travail) working alongside local non-professionals with elan.The Roman viewing the MACA prison's exteriors on arrival
Night of the Kings is a film about the first day and night of a new prisoner, whose real name is never revealed/mentioned in the entire film, in Côte d’Ivoire’s infamous prison called La MACA (Maison d'Arrêt et de Correction d'Abidjan). It is an unusual prison—it functions as an open prison, within a closed well-guarded perimeter walls. The prisoners are governed, not by the armed police stationed outside but by a prison inmate who is given the title of Dangoro by other prisoners. The Dangoro (Steve Tientcheu, who had a meaty role in 2019 film directed by Ladj Ly called Les Miserables, an Oscar nominated and Cannes Jury award-winning film) rules over other inmates in accordance with internal rules, laws, and beliefs that one guesses evolved over time by the prisoners. The official prison warden/officials, armed with guns, merely keep watch through small slits in the wall at a vantage point. As the new prisoner is brought to the prison in an open truck with an armed guard seated next to him, the Dangoro assesses the young man who might be 20-years old or even less and announces the new prisoner is the “Roman.” The viewer gradually learns the import of the strange baptized name Roman. A Roman, in the prison, has to wear an impressive gown and narrate tales the entire night to all the Roman’s prison cohabitants just as Scheherazade did to survive in A Thousand and One Nights. In Roman’s case, he learns he has to keep his listeners transfixed overnight to see the sunrise the next day.The ailing Blackbeard is the Dongoro, facing challenge to his leadership in the MACA
While many viewers will be enraptured by the Roman’s innovative ability to narrate interesting tales woven from his knowledge of Ivorian contemporary street conflicts and his ability to recall Ivorian oral history and tales narrated by his elders as he grew up, the original script of director Lacôte, mirrors more than its face value. What the Roman narrates is a close examination of the violence in Côte d’Ivoire after and between the two civil wars (2002-2007 and 2010-2011), the reasons for that violence, the historical seeds sown over centuries in the minds of Ivorian inhabitants that contribute to the recurring waves of violence, and the internal contemporary politics of the country stated with skill and some camouflage through the Roman’s seemingly innocent storytelling and the parallel events in the prison relating to politics to dethrone the ailing Dongoro and Dongoro’s own plans for his final end-game in line with the internal codes of MACA evolved over time by the prisoners. All this is observed by the warden and his officials and they act as traditional neo-colonial rulers do with knee-jerk reactions, seemingly unable to comprehend the ground complexities.The Roman narrates his stories, wearing the Roman's fine attire as other prisoners listen
To comprehend the full import of the film, an unusual external event preceding the release of the film, publicized by CNN news channel referred above, needs to be kept in perspective. In December 2019, the film’s director Philippe Lacôte was attacked in the night on the streets of Abidjan (capital of Côte d’Ivoire, by a youth gang armed with machetes referred to in the film as the “microbes,” one of which the Roman in Night of the Kings was purported to have been a member) leaving director Lacôte with injuries on head, hand, and leg that requiring three medical operations to recover somewhat and release the film. Mr Lacôte is an admirable filmmaker crafting his own screenplays. His screenplay for Night of the Kings is entrenched with Ivorian truths, history and folklore that could be allegorical as well.Silence (Denis Lavant)comes to Roman's rescueSilence helps Roman with ideas to extend his tales
In order to survive, the Roman begins by narrating somewhat real events of Zama King, a contemporary leader of microbes, who he is supposed to have killed, when his real crime was mere pick-pocketing. In order to lengthen the story telling, the Roman goes back several years describing Zama King and his blind father in rural Côte d’Ivoire, attacked by armed groups. At the behest of a well wisher called Silence (Denis Lavant) walking with a hen on his shoulder in the MACA jail, the Roman adds new characters in Ivorian folklore, Barbe Noire, a queen with magical prowess, accompanied by soldiers set in a time zone several centuries prior to the present day. And while Roman is keeping the prisoners distracted with the stories, there are murders, suicides and power games among the prisoners to replace the ailing Dangoro on a full moon night with a new one. Perhaps the goings-on within MACA reflect the turmoil of Côte d’Ivoire’s socio-political scenario in recent years that forced the African Development Bank to move its headquarters from Abidjan to Tunisia in 2003 until its eventual return to Abidjan in 2014.An Ivorian queen with an unusual head dress, accompanied by her armed soldiers, is one of the riveting tales of the Roman
Director Lacôte has written the script with intimate personal knowledge of the MACA prison. When he was a child, Lacôte’s mother was a political prisoner in MACA and he would travel in public vehicles to meet with her inside the “open prison” depicted in Night of the Kings. According to Lacôte, the ritual of a “Roman” telling stories is real but in reality the “Roman” is never killed. A quarter of the cast of Night of the Kings was made up of former MACA inmates to lend authenticity to the film. Lacôte’s screenplay and the film’s French title further suggests similarities with the Shakespearean play The Twelfth Night, where the servants play the masters in a flow of licensed disorder, just as the Roman holds court while narrating the tales in the MACA. Young Lacôte apparently noticed some of elements of power play within MACA on his visits to meet his imprisoned mother. The screenplay also uses the ancient Greek theatre elements of the chorus as groups of prisoners sing and chant elements of Roman’s tale in an impromptu fashion.The survivor
While director Lacôte’s film harks back to Middle Eastern roots of One Thousand and One Nights, another African film Sleepwalking Land made in 2007 in Mozambique, directed by Teresa Prata, adapted novelist Mia Couto’s novel of the same name adding Ms Prata’s personal nods to Melville’s Moby Dick and a distant alluded equivalent of Captain Ahab. So too did French director Claire Denis while cleverly adapting Melville’s Billy Budd in her remarkable film Beau Travail (1999), set in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa. All the three films, by three different directors, deal with Africa and the colonial influences in that wonderful, diverse continent. Cinema is able to link them all together like beads in a necklace. Recent films from Africa that include This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (2019) from Lesotho and Night of the Kings from Côte d’Ivoire signify that the continent is proudly exhibiting a resurgence in quality films from unexpected countries not often associated as sources of impressive indigenous cinema.
P.S. Night of The Kings has won two Silver Hugo awards at the Chicago international festival, one for its cinematography and one for its sound, the Amplify Voices award at the Toronto international festival, and the Artistic Achievement award at Thessaloniki (Greece) film festival. The films This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (2019) and Sleepwalking Land (2007) have been reviewed on this blog earlier. (Click on the names of the films in the post-script to access the reviews.) This film is one of the author's top 15 films of 2020. The author is one of the contributors of The Directory of World Cinema: Africa (Intellect Books), The author has had the privilege of having visited Côte d’Ivoire in the Nineties, several times on official work to interact with African Development Bank officials.Feedjit Live Website Statistics
“Let the dead bury the dead, you shall leave no trace. Bury your existence, lest they say there lived a sufferer. The soul-less march of time has surrounded you, like an old cloth turned into a dry beetle. The (church) bells speak when people can’t. Little children cheer up. The dead buried their own dead. You will do so in future. You can hear the church bells under the water”
---words of a song sung in the opening sequence, where the time stamp is revealed by the electricity that lights up the room (the rest of the film is lit by candles). The song is sung, aided by a Lesiba, “an unbraced mouth resonated bow,” by the film’s actor Jerry Mofokeng
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese is one of the best directors from the African continent today, if not a wider geographical area, and his 2019 film This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection testifies that fact. How original is the tale of the film depends on whether he had seen a remarkable US film Northfork (2003) directed by Mark Polish with an original script written by the brothers Mark and Michael Polish. The essential similarity between the two are limited to the impending acquisition of land to make way for a man-made lake, the shadow of forcible relocation of the inhabitants of a town/village, a Christian priest (Nick Nolte, in the Polish film; Makhaola Ndebele in Mosese’s film) who provides spiritual succor, and relocation of buried remains of the dead before the waters are released. Both are remarkable films. In both films, we have inhabitants resisting change. In both films, the villagers/townsfolk battle powerful wealthy capitalist groups who promise a better life if the inhabitants agree to move out. Unlike Polish’s film that focused on diverse characters in a town, in Mosese’s film, the focus is on a single inhabitant--an 80-year-old widow named Mantoa (Mary Twala Mlongo, who is stunning in this film) mourning currently her son’s death and his burial. Similar to the work of the Polish brothers, there is a priest in Mosese’s film to comfort her spiritually but Mosese goes a step beyond the American film, he brings in sheep as non-human mourners in a twist of magic realism to comfort a widow whose house was once burnt in a fire that consumed all her possessions and, possibly, her bedridden husband. To capture the movement of the animals from an overhead shot was a masterstroke, reminding one of Terrence Malick’s shot of grazing wild bison surrounding the lead actors in To The Wonder (2012).Mantoa played by Mary Twala Mlongo, who won 5 Best Actress Awards at various internationalfilm festivals for this roleThe opening song sung with a Lesiba(the room has electrical lights)
Death and burial are important elements of spiritual and social discussion in This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection. The film begins with Mantoa mourning the death of her son who had been working in a mine in neighboring South Africa, that landlocks Lesotho. The script of Mosese reveals in fits and starts that Mantoa has lost her bedridden husband, her daughter and her granddaughter. Her cumulative grief is relieved for a while by the consoling words of the Christian priest quoting the Bible passages. Yet this only leads to a crisis of faith in the strong Mantoa, who merely impassively listens to the hymn “Abide with me” sung in the local language by members of another burial procession passing by her hut. Mantoa is preparing for her own death and burial in the background of the imminent “death and burial” of her “weeping” village called Nasarethe (a variant of Nazareth, the town Jesus grew up in the Bible) under the waters of the proposed lake. Mantoa calls all the womenfolk of the village and gives guidelines on her own burial reminding one of Abbas Kiarostami’s quest for a suitable person to bury his fictional character Badil in the 1997 Golden Palm winner at Cannes, The Taste of Cherry. For Mantoa, her death is certain and around the corner and her burial wishes will be complied with; for Badil, his plan is dependent on future intangibles. Mosese presents Mantoa, a woman of strong will and character, a ‘Mother Courage,’ who pays a villager in advance to dig her grave next to her husband’s and son’s graves.Mantoa grieves her losses to a fire sitting on a charred bed while sheep magically surround her as co-mournersAfter the fire, the rebuilt elegant hut of Mantoa (note the art direction/production design)
Mosese’s film presents an unforgettable mix of script, visuals and sounds that are rarely captured so effectively and evocatively in a film. Almost every shot in the film, often wordless, express the affinity of Mantoa to her immediate surroundings that goes beyond the cemetery, the church with its well-described historic bell, and the dead bodies buried in the graves. The colorful attires of Mantoa indoors are regal and yet simple. The exterior shots silently describes the single individual swallowed up by the vast well-endowed land that produce useful flora for the humans and feed for the sheep, not to mention the rainwater that blesses the country.Mantoa in mourning attire(note the candles.)Mantoa, in better times, (note the rich colors.)
(In reality, not stated in the film, the multi-million dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which commenced in 1986 with the help of the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the European Investment Bank, captures stores and transfers water and generated electricity to South Africa, earning Lesotho hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually.)The typical cinematography of the film, accentuating Mantoa's stature against larger forces, of rainwater from the clouds that can bring prosperity and the cemeteries that will go under water
Director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, as the director, screenplay writer and editor has made Lesotho and Africa proud with his second feature film winning plaudits all over the globe. African cinema is on the march while showing indirectly the effect of development in the region.
P.S. This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection has won 20 awards worldwide at film festivals including Athens, Durban, Hong Kong, Kerala, Montreal, Reykjavik, Sundance, and Taipei international festivals. At the Kerala festival (IFFK) it was chosen the Best Film in competition. Five of these awards were for Mary Twala Mlongo as the Best Actress at the respective events. At IFFK, too, the late Mary Twala Mlongo earned a Special Mention. The film participated at the Denver film festival, This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection is one of the author's best films of 2020. Mark Polish’s film Northfork (2003) and Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder (2012), mentioned above, have been reviewed earlier on this blog. (Click on the names of the films in the post-script to access the reviews.)Feedjit Live Website Statistics
There are films that begin to mesmerize a viewer when you watch the initial sequence closely. This is often the case when you view a debut film that is also built on an original script written by its director. The quiet sophisticated strength of the opening sequence of Henry Butash’s debut film The Atlantic City Storywill grab the attention of any mature, attentive viewer and the viewer is likely to be hooked until the film ends. This critic recalls the same feeling while viewing the opening sequence of the British director Sir Ridley Scott’s debut film The Duellists which went on to win the Cannes film festival Best Debut Film award in 1977, Scott’s sole honor at Cannes to date. Similar to The Duellists, Henry Butash’s film, too, has an opening sequence where the spoken conversation is minimal, and even the lead actress Jessica Hecht playing a middle-aged married woman called Jane (an appropriate name for the character) hardly moves from a table where she is sitting and drinking her morning hot beverage, as her husband greets her fleetingly and rushes off to work. Her posture, the lighting and the camera almost mimics a static shot providing some introductory information for what is to follow. A regular Hollywood studio film would never allow for such a minimalist opening sequence as in Butash’s The Atlantic City Story. These are aspects that regular filmgoers used to loud music and fast action sequences would perhaps discount. This is probably why The Duellists is rarely discussed even today among Ridley Scott’s works even though Cannes spotted its value ignoring his blockbuster films that he made in his later career.Taking a break from her cheating husband: Jane (Jessica Hecht) at Atlantic City on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean
Those who have visited Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, in recent decades could anticipate a socio-historic story of the gambling hub on the Atlantic coast especially in winter months when the numbers of visitors dwindle. The wooden boardwalk parallel to the ocean shore would be empty in winter and but crowded in summer. Butash’s film captures the winter scenario with the boardwalks almost empty though the casinos work quite in contrast without a break with sufficient numbers of customers gambling away night and day just as they do in Las Vegas. The only difference: Atlantic City, seems to be on the decline while Las Vegas appears to be unaffected with time.
However, Butash’s film is not about the City as it prefers to focus on the story of two lonely individuals, Jane and Arthur (Mike Faist), who accidently converge on the city for different reasons at almost the same time. Jane is a married woman with sufficient money to spend and wants to spend time anonymously away from her husband, who she suspects is having an affair with another woman. Arthur, the other individual, is a young bachelor, considerably younger than Jane, who has stolen money and an engagement ring from his family members and is possessed by an urge to compulsively gamble. Atlantic City offers the anonymity and escape that Jane briefly desires, and for Arthur the false hopes of becoming rich and hopefully returning the stolen money to the family he so loves. Jane and Arthur, total strangers, meet in that somewhat less-crowded-than-usual Atlantic City.Arthur (Mike Faist) gambling with money stolen from his family
Jane is initially attracted to Arthur by merely watching his hands on the roulette table. Jane notices that Arthur is losing money and is gradually becoming penniless. Jane follows and discovers him alone one night all wet on the seashore and suspects that he has no place to go and as a kind soul brings him to her room. A bond forges between the two as they spend time in the empty exteriors of Atlantic City over the next few days. Director Butash had worked on three recent films of Terrence Malick (as post-production assistant in Knight of Cups and Song to Song and as an additional editor for his Voyage of Time). It is therefore not surprising that certain exterior sequences of Jane and Arthur in Atlantic City remind the viewer of Malick’s style of the ballet-like camera movements capturing the almost silent duo (bereft of Malick’s usual voice overs and religious philosophy) conversing only briefly. Butash invests considerable screen time focusing on their body language and that results in better dividends than films that rely on lengthy spoken dialogues. That’s what makes Butash’s film stand out from most other films.Butash and cinematographer Derry creating images akin to works of Malick and cinematographer Lubezki
If the viewer is familiar with a particular work of the Russian playwright and short story writer Anton Chekov, The Atlantic City Story would recall elements of Chekov’s short story The Lady with a Dog. That short story dealt with an unhappily married woman, on a vacation (alone with a dog and without her husband) walking up and down a walkway on the shores of the Black Sea meeting up with a lonely married banker for the first time, while passing each other. The Chekov story was adapted into a wonderful 1960 Russian film directed by Iosif Kheifits with the same title as the story and had officially participated in the Cannes Film Festival that year. Cineastes who have watched the Kheifits film will note the common strains with Butash’s film. The boardwalk of Atlantic City parallel to the Atlantic Ocean shore is similar to the walkway in Kheifits film next to the Black Sea shore. The main characters of both films include married persons who indulge in a brief extra-marital tryst before departing to their respective homes. But the common elements of the two films end there.
Butash’s script does not adapt Chekov’s story any further but instead looks at the brief tryst of Jane and Arthur as a medicine to heal their personal psychological wounds. The ending of Butash’s tale is considerably different from Chekov’s tale. Jane being elder to Arthur notices Arthur’s dangerous gambling addiction and proactively comes up with a solution to help him on the right path and return to his family. Jane is able to reflect on her own life and marriage and resolve that fracture too in an interesting way.Jane: Escaping a fractured marriage,or repairing it with a short absence?
The admirable aspect of Butash’s original script is in contrasting Atlantic City as a haven for tourists and compulsive gamblers, against those rare well-meaning visitors who could go out of the way to help a compulsive gambler to seek a new productive life and even encourage that person to consider joining Gamblers Anonymous. The script is also admirable because the director/scriptwriter positively focused on saving crumbling marriages and broken family ties set against a bleak backdrop of empty stores and almost empty sandwich outlets that had attracted Arthur’s parents in the past when they visited Atlantic City decades ago enabling Arthur to recall the sumptuous sandwiches of the outlet from memory. The images of Butash's film are starkly in contrast with the well-populated boardwalks of the City during high-tourist periods of the year captured in Louis Malle's film Atlantic City (1980).Arthur's life is changed by a well-intentioned stranger
Pivotal to The Atlantic City Story is actress Jessica Hecht, who has very few lines to speak and yet dominates the screen fleshing out the character that Butash had created. Butash cleverly zeroed in on Ms Hecht possibly to extract a credible low-key but mature performance required of the character. Similarly, cinematographer Justin Derry’s outdoor cinematography is magical at times and quite possibly influenced by the work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki in several of Terrence Malick’s later films.
Henry Butash has made a commendable debut film that offers restrained entertainment and thoughtful and positive outcomes with a difference that independent cinema can offer in USA. One hopes the debut film of Mr Butash will sow the seeds for a similar growth trajectory as the debut film of Sir Ridley Scott did for Sir Ridley.
P.S. The Atlantic City Story is making its debut at the 2020 Denver Film Festival, USA, and is nominated for the Best American Independent Film Award. This critic had visited Atlantic City in November 1996 and experienced first hand the lack of crowds on the famous boardwalk at that time of the year depicted in the film. Ridley Scott’s debut film The Duellists and Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups mentioned above have been reviewed earlier on this blog. (Click on the names of the films in the post-script to access the reviews.) The Atlantic City Story is one of the author's best films of 2020.Feedjit Live Website Statistics
The film is “about people taking responsibility” for their actions and “each story is based on my own experience”
---Director Mohammad Rasoulof, quoted from BBC News on the Wikipedia page on the film There Is No Evil
Most filmgoers around the world might not have heard of Mohammad Rasoulof, an Iranian film director. He is one of most courageous filmmakers in the world today making amazing, well-crafted, award-winning films on morality within Iranian society, governed by rules that wreck the lives of its conscientious citizens. The seven feature films he made have upset the Iranian government authorities who do not appreciate dissenting views while his films gathered plaudits and awards worldwide. Both he and another relatively more famous film director Jafar Panahi are facing jail terms, currently in suspension, for highlighting some of the ills within the country. While the Damocles’ sword of prison time has cowed down Mr Panahi, Mr Rasoulof has come out with his most hard-hitting film yet-- There Is No Evil--which is arguably one of the best films of 2020 worldwide, in terms of content and quality and one of the best films from Iran over the decades. That it won top honors at the Berlin Film Festival is no surprise.Director Rasoulof's daughter Baran plays an interesting role in the fourth segment--"Kiss her" The actor: Mohammad Seddighimehr
What is the film about? The four segments of this portmanteau film deal with four male characters who either hanged prisoners or objected to hanging condemned prisoners, often during their forced conscription for military duty or for economic necessity of bringing “home the bacon” in one case or, in the case of a tertiary character in the film, for covering the medical bills of a family member. None of the four enjoy their activity. In some segments, their close family are well aware of the decisions they make; in some, their dark activity is never fully revealed to their loved ones. And what are the crimes of the prisoners who are executed? Some are murderers, some are drug peddlers, some are political activists or believers in other faiths than those allowed to be practiced in the country by rigid Islamists.
Apparently if a conscripted soldier refuses to hang a condemned prisoner in Iran, you are punished by being given other tough and distasteful tasks, additional time to serve in the military, refusal of a driving license and a required permit to travel abroad. Your life becomes a living hell if you abide by your conscience.To be involved in hanging a condemned man or not is the question
The awesome aspect of Rasoulof’s scriptwriting lies in the contrasting details of thought that gets weaved into it. Those who hang condemned prisoners, even if it is for the sake of their family’s economic survival, and after regularly collecting their salaries and their rationed rice for their apparent remorseless activity, reveal a kind heart while discussing upset school girls from broken families or saving kittens stuck in unlikely places. On the flip side, conscientious objectors to hanging convicted human beings in the film refuse to kill foxes that harm their own livestock and choose instead to feed them with food enabling them to survive. One of Rasoulof’s hangmen who is quiet about the work he does also exhibits silent remorse as he stops his car at a red light and doesn’t move on when the lights turn green, on his way to work. The camera merely captures the unmoving car which does ultimately move after a while. What an imaginative way to capture the mind of a sullen, seemingly unperturbed individual!The car scenes like this one can be found in all the four segments.
There is a strange common denominator in the films of Abbas Kiarostami (Certified Copy; A Taste of Cherry; Ten), Jafar Panahi (Taxi; 3 Faces), Reza Mirkarimi (Castle of Dreams) and Mohammad Rasoulof (There Is No Evil) in their propensity to film actors sitting in front seats of moving cars often, if not always, in non-studio shots. It is possible that these directors look at economics of filmmaking, ability to get reactions in real time of two or more actors in a single shot, or both. Yet this method of filming has only raised the distinct stamp of creativity of these directors in some of their important and celebrated recent works.An evocative shot beautifully composed and balanced by the cinematographer and the director. That shot visually encapsulates an entire segment The actress is Mehtab Servati
If we go by information available on the IMdB website, it is quite possible that many of the male actors in There Is No Evil are either non-professionals making their debut or they have never acted in films sufficiently famous to be included on that website. It is indeed a remarkable achievement for Rasoulof to cast them and get fascinating outcomes.
While Rasoulof’s personal views on death penalty is obvious, the film's strength lies in his astute development of interactions of various major characters, often within their family or a family of a close friend. The infusion of unusual details in the screenplay clearly surpasses his efforts in his past films, such as Good Bye and A Man of Integrity. Here he uses cats, foxes and even honey bees to add value to the conversation of the main characters in the four segments (There is no evil; She said ”You can do it; Birthday; Kiss me) of the film There Is No Evil. If there is an element where the viewers have to suspend their disbelief in what they are watching, it would be portions of the second segment. But to the credit of the director/screenplay writer that weak segment is also the most entertaining amongst the four. But who cares? The somber value of the other segments more than makes up for it. The film is essentially about moral strength of its four characters not one providing popular entertainment.
Rasoulof and his contemporaries among Iranian directors are blessed with a range of beautiful and talented actresses—and this film is a testament to that factor. Rasoulof considerably depends on them. While his male protagonists may appear to have lead roles, their female counterparts in each segment have equally demanding and more commanding roles in his films and in this one in particular.
This film is in many ways close to Christian, Buddhist, Jainist, and humanist tenets though it is made by an Islamic cast and crew. It is essentially a film about respect for human life and that of animals.
The strength of There Is No Evil is based on several unusual elements—the ability of Rasoulof to make yet another film that could upset many in the Iranian government and judiciary while having a suspended jail term to serve out; writing a fascinating original script based on his own experience; wonderful casting of actors that include Rasoulof’s daughter in a major role in the final segment; and the intelligent cinematography by Askhan Askhani (who also worked on Rasoulof’s A Man of Integrity). While it is quite predictable that Iran will never nominate There Is No Evil to the Oscars, one hopes it gets nominated in the categories of direction and screenplay by the Oscar authorities, rules permitting.
P.S. There Is No Evil won the Golden Bear for the best film, the Prize of the Ecumenical film Jury, and the Guild Prize for director Rasoulof at the 2020 Berlin film festival. It has also won the Grand Prize at the Heartland international film festival, Indiana (USA), Best Narrative Feature Film award at Montclair festival, New Jersey (USA), and the Special Jury Prize of the Crested Butte Festival (USA) for “courage in filmmaking.” The film is participating in the 2020 Denver Film Festival, USA. There Is No Evil is one of the author's best films of 2020. Rasoulof's earlier films Good Bye (2011) and A Man of Integrity (2017), Kiarostami's Certified Copy (2010), Panahi's Taxi (2015) and Mirkarimi's Castle of Dreams (2019) have been reviewed on this blog earlier as also Kieslowski's Dekalog 5 (1988), a major cinematic statement on capital punishment from Poland. (Click on the names of the films in this post script to access the reviews)Feedjit Live Website Statistics
“I wanted what the characters don’t say to each other to be more important than what they do say to each other”
---Director Mauro Mancini’s statement to interviewer Davide Abbatescianni, in Cineuropa, after the film competed in the International Critics’ Week at the 2020 Venice film festival
Debut feature films are, in most cases, interesting films because the directors invest a lot of fresh thought as in the prime examples of Welles, Melville, Chabrol, Ridley Scott, Mike Nichols, Spielberg and the Coen brothers. So too, Mauro Mancini’s first feature film Thou Shalt Not Hate makes an unusual impact where spoken words take a back seat and silent actions speak louder.Alessandro Gassmann in the Venice award-winningrole of the reputed Jewish surgeon
The hate in the film refers to the continuing hatred over generations between the Nazis/the neo-Nazis and the survivors of the holocaust (and their progenies), surfacing in contemporary Italy. The strength of the film does not lie in the tale that unfolds but more in the way it is presented. The film stands out as a result of the combined creative abilities of the director/scriptwriter, his co-scriptwriter, and the lead actors that present a simple tale, intelligently told.
The film opens with a scene where a father asks his young son to drown several kittens of a brood but retain one. The film ends with an adult re-visiting the same spot alone. The two key sequences do not seem to have a direct connection with “hatred” depicted in the main tale of the film but it does connect up with ideas/prejudices passed on by one generation to another. While many viewers are likely to spot the obvious tensions and hatred between the neo-Nazis and the Jews in the film, viewers are less likely to note the contrasting relationships between father and son within the two groups, presented in Thou Shalt Not Hate. In one group (the neo-Nazis), the son idolizes the father and his views, in the other (the Jewish Italian) there is almost very little evidence of any close connection between father and son in spite of working in closely connected professions. Interestingly, the mother figures in both groups are almost absent in the film’s script. The tale is either intentionally or unintentionally patriarchal. The viewer is given the choice by the filmmakers to figure out where the hatred lies: whether is it between the Nazis/neo-Nazis and the Jews or between the evolving generational perspectives within each group, or perhaps both.
In terms of religion, the title of the film Thou Shalt Not Hate is not a Jewish/Christian commandment but mirrors the Commandment “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.” The film extends this view not just to human beings but to man-animal relationships as well. In contrast to the drowning of the innocent kittens that open the film, a fierce dog guarding the house of the dead dentist viciously snarls at his dentist’s son who had not met his father for a long while. Later sequences with few spoken words, explain the gradual bonding of the dog for his new owner. Another detail that may not be obvious is the burial of the neo-Nazi in a Christian cemetery without a priest, a prayer, or a Bible reading.When a neo-Nazi dies, his daughter is the onlyfemale mourner
The remarkable abilities of the director Mancini and his co-scriptwriter Lisino are apparent in scenes where no words are spoken and music is not used as a crutch to lift the emotions of the viewer. One such scene is the decision of the doctor to visit the police station to lodge a complaint (not a knee-jerk reaction) on being attacked as he first chose to go home and attend to his wounds and mulled over what to do next. He then turns back after pressing the door bell of the police station and almost opening the door that was remotely unlocked for him to enter. Another is a scene in a supermarket, where he chances to spot his housemaid at work from a distance. He departs discretely without interacting with her. The visuals and the editing speak more eloquently than spoken words. In another scene, the subtle ingrained reaction of the maid while travelling in a crowded bus towards an innocent black immigrant sitting close to her is delicately captured by the filmmakers. So is the subtle visual comparison of the old furniture stacked up in the Jewish father’s house along with clues to identify Nazis responsible for the holocaust meticulously being researched by the dead dentist, while his Jewish son lives in a clean and modern apartment without any clutter. The film studies attitudinal changes in families over a generation with love and forgiveness replacing intense hate. Even consensual sex between two evolved adult individuals from the two groups does not take place because they do not feel it is appropriate, indicating the maturity of the screenplay writers.
While Thou Shalt Not Hate has an early sequence exhibiting the innate hateful action for neo-Nazis from a reserved, otherwise cool-headed Jewish doctor leading to the death of an “accident” victim, the rest of the film relates to the doctor going out of the way to procure public information on the victim and his family and attempt to discretely provide succor to the family of the deceased to compensate his hate-ridden, knee-jerk action on reaching the accident site.The doctor seeks redemption for his hate in an empty synagogue
The film recalls the Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s sophisticated ten part Dekalog (Decalogue) on the ten Jewish/Christian commandments and Kieslowski’s incredible continuous collaboration with co-scriptwriter Krzysztof Piesciewicz that followed. It appears director Mancini is following in Kieslowski’s footsteps by continuing his collaboration with his co-scriptwriter Davide Lisino on his next film project.Sara Serraiocco, plays the housemaid to the Jewish doctor
Apparently Mancini and Lisino developed the story after reading a news item about a surgeon who refused to surgically operate a neo-Nazi years ago and developed the film script keeping actor Alessandro Gassman in mind. Gassman appears as an Italian version of Hugh Laurie playing Dr House (minus the limp, of course) and his laconic performance won him the Venice acting award. (Alessandro is the famous Italian actor Vittorio Gassman’s son.) Mancini very aptly paired Alessandro with the equally talented actress Sara Serraiocco, who has been playing major roles in recent award winners at the Cannes and the Berlin film festivals. The casting choices added value to the film. The future collaborative works of Mancini and Lisino will indeed be worth waiting for.
P.S. Thou Shalt Not Hate won the best actor (Pasinetti) award for Alessandro Gassmann and the award for the best Italian film at the 2020 Venice film festival. The film is participating in the 2020 Denver Film Festival, USA. Thou Shalt Not Hate is one of the author's best films of 2020. Four segments of Kieslowski's Decalogue (Decalogue 1, Decalogue 2, Decalogue 5, and Decalogue 7) mentioned above have been reviewed in detail earlier on this blog. (Click on the names of the films in this post script to access the reviews.)Feedjit Live Website Statistics
To see a World in a Grain of Sand,
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand,
And Eternity in an Hour
---opening lines from William Blake’s poem
“Auguries of Innocence”
Some people don’t like numbers or mathematics but many do. Whether you belong to either category, the 2003 Yomiuri-prize-winning novel by the Japanese lady Yoko Ogawa called The Housekeeper and the Professor (the English translation has been published by Picador) and Takashi Koizumi’s film The Professor and His Beloved Equation based on that novel lead you gently into the mystical world of numbers that have captivated great minds like Pythagoras and Descartes over the centuries. What Ogawa and Koizumi achieve is to make an average person look at numbers with respect and realize that numbers were not created by human beings—they existed in the universe, we humans merely discovered them and are beginning to comprehend a small segment of the universe as we know it today. Both the book and the film motivate all and sundry to learn mathematics without being intimidated by numbers and equations. Ultimately, the film suggests a beautiful equation is like nirvana or the bliss of cosmic understanding described by the lines of the American poet William Blake at the end of the film.Schoolteacher 'Root' resembles the root sign The mystical connection
The book and the film introduce a young male schoolteacher who is commonly known by the name “Root,” the mathematical symbol, ever since an elderly mathematics professor associated Root’s somewhat flat head and a stubborn tuft of hair to one side (when he was a lot younger) with that symbol. That professor’s memory was impaired following a brain damage caused by an accident, and subsequently could think clearly only for a slice of 80 minutes at a time before forgetting what had transpired before that. He, therefore, pins reminders on his jacket to jog his memory after each segment of clear recollection. For all practical purposes, the professor adopts Root as own child and gradually instils his love for numbers, mathematics, and baseball in the young boy. Root, in his turn on growing up, very gently infuses the same love for numbers and the mystical association between them to his school students.The professor (Akira Terao) meets Root's mother
How does the film generate unusual interest in the viewer for numbers and mathematics? An introductory conversation between the Professor and his new housekeeper begins with a question about her shoe size, which she answers happens to be 24 centimeters. He happily informs the perplexed young lady that 24 is a “noble” number and a factorial of 4. He then explains how a factorial is calculated, which is in this case 1x2x3x4. He then asks her phone number and is overjoyed because that happens to be the precise total of “prime” numbers up to one billion. Then, as the film progresses, the viewer learns about "perfect" numbers and “amicable pairs” of numbers such as 220 and 284 and why they are called that. All this is not fiction but scientific facts to entertain and instill curiosity in minds to know more. And who discovered the first pair? It was Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician, who lived in the 6th century BC. Even this factoid is mentioned in the film. Then you learn about “transcendental” numbers and “imaginary” numbers later in the film. All facts, not fiction!Young Root is 'adopted' by the professor
And what is the “favorite equation” forming the title of the film? It is a variant of Euler’s equation now called “Euler’s identity.” It is an amazing fact that even today famous contemporary mathematicians call that particular equation/theorem of the Swiss mathematician (1707-83) to be the most elegant or beautiful theorem ever conceived. That is the connection to Blake’s poem ending the uplifting Japanese film.
While Ms Ogawa has published over 50 books of fiction and non-fiction, in 2006 the year Koizumi released the film, the author brought out a book entitled An Introduction to the World’s Most Elegant Mathematics, in collaboration with mathematician Mashiko Fujihara. But who are the persons responsible for the film The Professor and His Beloved Equation? Director Koizumi was the assistant director to the late Japanese maestro Akira Kurosawa on five of his final major films: Ran, Kagemusha, Dreams, Madadayo, and Rhapsody in August and was an uncredited assistant to the director on a sixth one Dersu Uzala. The Kurosawa connection to the Koizumi film continues. The cinematographer Shoji Ueda too was the cinematographer of five of those films, the actor Akira Terao (who plays the professor) was a lead actor in Ranand Madadayo, so too, actor Hisashi Ogawa (who plays the brief role of the housekeeper agent) is a stock Kurosawa actor. Even though Kurosawa had nothing to do with this film, his trusted collaborators were the principal contributors to The Professor and His Beloved Equation. Kurosawa would have been proud because the film apart from mathematics briefly introduces Japanese culture and the essentially Japanese Noh theatre to any uninitiated viewer as well."...as difficult as proving the beauty of a star"
While the film is essential viewing for those who love numbers (and their mystical attributes), mathematics, physics and metaphysics, it perpetuates a minor fallacy. While the film attributes the discovery of amicable numbers, after Pythagoras had discovered the first set, to the European mathematicians Fermat (1601-65) and Descartes (1596-1650). It now well known that the Iraqi mathematician Thabit ibn Qurra (826-901) had invented a method to discover them (ref: Wikipedia on Amicable Numbers). Several Arab mathematicians used that method between the 10th and 17th centuries to discover more amicable numbers but the popular Western belief attributes the findings to Fermat and Descartes.The philosophy behind a straight line
The Professor and His Beloved Equation may not be widely known as an important film, which it is. When it does get further traction cineastes who don’t read books are likely to recall the film and not the book on which it is based. How many Andrei Tarkovsky fans attribute even a fraction of the brilliance of his films Solaris and Stalker to Stanislaw Lem and the Strugatsky brothers, respectively? Only a few demarcate a film and its source material.
P.S. The Professor and His Beloved Equation won the best director award at Fajr film festival in Iran and an award for its music at the Mainichi Film Concours in Japan.
Feedjit Live Website Statistics
Two new documentaries detail the gradual death of journalism in this country and the rise of digital journalism in India. Both agree that newspapers—whether print or digital—can make a difference and that, without them democracy is at risk. Rintu Thomas ad Sushmit Ghosh shepherded “Writing with Fire” through to completion and this story of women […]
Who was the highest paid actor who played James Bond? (Answers from the unofficial M16 James Bond site ) The pay has gone significantly up after each Bond movie. Sean Connery Dr. No : $17,000 From Russia With Love : $250,000 Goldfinger : $500,000 Thunderball : $750,000 You Only Live Twice : $750,000 + 25% […]
Daniel Craig makes his final outing as Bond memorable. The log-line says: “James Bond has left active service. His peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.” During a pandemic, […]
“The Many Saints of Newark” is a prequel to the well-loved television series “The Sopranos.” We could justifiably expect to learn all about the early years that shaped young Anthony Soprano, played in his youth by Michael Gandolfini, the son of James Gandolfini. The elementary-school-aged Tony is played by William Ludwig, who is also good […]
The post “The Many Saints of Newark” Strolls Down “Sopranos” Memory Lane appeared first on Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson.
Velvet Underground Todd Haynes, USA, 110 min. Thursday, October 14, 7PM Premiere (AFS). Streaming on Apple+ on October 15th. (Also showing at Chicago International Film Festival). “Austin Film Society will present a Doc Days Opening Night presentation of Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground: a look at the cultural, social, musical, artistic and cinematic […]
The post Todd Haynes “Velvet Underground” Documentary Hits Festival Circuit appeared first on Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson.
It’s been a while since I’ve been around to post. I was in Cancun and these pictures will give you a rough idea of what I’ve been doing. Aside from a sun burn I sustained 2 days before we left, the 2 weeks were uneventful. We learned that the Royal Sands is putting in […]
There are three books in the “Hellfire & Damnation” series, all short stories that illustrate the 9 Circle of Hell in Dante’s “Inferno” and give examples of each. As New York Times best-selling author Jon Land said of the books: “Hellfire & Damnation‘ is a remarkable collection of somber, noirish, flat-out scary and altogether satisfying […]
The post Hellfire & Damnation: The Perfect Halloween Collection appeared first on Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson.
“The Night House,” a 2020 break-out success at Sundance that Searchlight Pictures bought for $12 million, is playing now at 2,150 theaters for a 45-day run, which is almost over. So far, it has garnered about $8 million worldwide. The studio showed its faith in the film by not releasing it to streaming first and […]
The trilogy “The Color of Evil” traces the actions of a group of high school students in small-town America (Cedar Falls, Iowa). Jonathan Maberry, “New York Times” best-selling author and multiple Bram Stoker Award winner described it as: “old-school psychological horror, artfully blended with new-school shocks and twists…Bravo!” Tad McGreevy has a power that he […]
The post “The Color of Evil” Trilogy Will Leave You Wanting More appeared first on Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson.
The budget for Hugh Jackman’s new film “Reminiscence” was $68 million. For this, you get a peek at Miami “after the flood” caused by global warming. This is a futuristic world in which a machine designed, originally, to interrogate prisoners via their dreams, is now used in the post-war society as a way to […]