Archive for the ‘Foreign’ Category

CreepyOften, the greatest threat to the success of a thriller is an insistence on providing answers in the second half of the movie to the questions that have been skillfully raised in the first half. Not knowing is invariably more suspenseful than having your suspicions confirmed. Such is the case with the new Japanese film Creepy that had its world premiere in Berlin in February. For the first hour, the movie successfully navigates between two distinct storylines, but when the plots begin to converge, the entire effort unravels. The last half hour of this too long film (130 minutes) is a chore to get through. Director Kyoshi Kurosawa, best known for J horror standards including Pulse, Loft, and The Cure, takes too long to get where we know he’s going and then doesn’t seem to have a very good idea of what to do once he gets there. (more…)

TrivisaThere is a notable lack of overt sentiment in the Hong Kong action thriller, Trivisa, but just below the surface of this intriguing film, there is an ache. Trivisa is a bittersweet valentine to the heyday of the hardboiled Hong Kong crime flicks of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Strikingly, the movie does not attribute the decline of the genre to the growing regional influence of Hollywood films that assimilated the themes and talent of Hong Kong action cinema, but squarely targets the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997 as the end of an era. (more…)

office2The new Korean thriller Office has one of the most dramatic demonstrations of the power of image in recent memory. A single shot, some five minutes into the movie, showing a hand gripping a hammer in the foreground and a domestic scene within an apartment in the background elicits gasps from audiences anticipating and fearing what will happen next before it is even shown. That director Hong Won-Chan can capture such a moment in his first feature film merits kudos, and, even if that represents the dramatic zenith of this uneven effort, his talent is unmistakable.

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MV5BMTM1MDI5NDIzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTE2Nzk1OA@@._V1__SX1202_SY828_Is there such a thing as rational nostalgia?

Can a romantic longing for missing elements of the past be justified analytically?

In the rush to a streamlined, sensible, efficient 6G, fully digital world, have we left behind essential naugahyde elements of the old, analog neighborhoods?

Damn it, wouldn’t life be better if we still had drive-in movie theaters? (more…)

Last SummerImagine that Shakespeare wrote one more play in the vein of Titus Andronicus, a story replete with palace intrigue, villainy and violence, and a bit of rough sex. Now, envisage a film based on that play with the screenwriter transposing the action from an incestuous royal court to a contemporary family-owned corporation. Dress the heir apparent in a sheer blouse, black bra, seamed stockings, and peep toe shoes rather than purple robes and a tiara. Substitute conniving bankers for devious cardinals. Keep the castle and the attendant nun, but swap out the throne for a real seat of power – the position of CEO. The end result of such a scenario might look strikingly similar to Der letze Sommer der Reichen (The Last Summer of the Rich), an over-the-top tale of under-the-sheet and behind-the-back maneuverings within the modern monarchy of a Vienna-based corporation. (more…)

FúsiIronic as it might be, “slight” is the adjective that best describes Virgin Mountain, an Icelandic drama comedy that features an enormous manchild’s first tentative steps into adulthood at the tender age of 43. The 94-minute film, the fourth feature from Dagur Kári, is largely (no pun intended) an exercise (too little of that for the main character), in walking a narrow path between cliche and implausibility. While the sheer likeability of the two leads will have audiences rooting for their, and the film’s success, ultimately director Kári, working from his own screenplay, cannot overcome the limits he imposes on himself in attempting a retelling of a too-familiar tale. (more…)

rl_galerie_005Too often it seems as if the programmers for the Berlinale Film Festival use the H.L. Mencken definition of puritanism as their maxim for selecting films. They display a haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy after seeing one of the movies they choose to showcase at the annual event. Working your way through the Competition or Panorama category can be an eat-your-vegetables exercise. Where then can the intrepid filmgoer go for a nice slice of genre pie after days and nights of sampling overdone highbrow fare? The task is not an easy one. Berlinale has yet to follow the lead offered by the world’s other premier film festivals like Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto, and London and added a Midnight section for horror, science fiction, fantasy, off-beat comedy, and other films that don’t so much push the envelope as rip it a new one. (more…)

ChambermaidIf there had been an award for Most Unnecessary Film in the Competition program at the 2015 Berlinale, Diary of a Chambermaid would undoubtedly have won by acclamation. The third time is most certainly not the charm for film adaptations of the 1900 naughty French novel Journal d’une femme de chamber by Octave Mirbeau, which saw prior incarnations in 1946 and in 1964, the former directed by Jean Renoir, the latter by Luis Buñuel. That pedigree is perhaps the only reasonable explanation for why director Benoît Jacquot dusted off a 100-year old novel that long ago lost its power to scandalize. Remaking the past movies of legends does not confer the same status onto those who purvey in the present, however. Jacquot’s effort pales in comparison to both previous efforts and looks even worse when measured by the standards of contemporary cinema. (more…)

victoria-2015-Sebastian-Schipper-06Once upon a time there was a German film called Run, Lola, Run that become something of a global sensation for its frenetic pace, its inventive storytelling, and its sheer novelty. Seventeen years later, we have another German film, Victoria, that also deals with a ne’er-do-well in a difficult situation who looks to a woman as the solution to his troubles. What’s more, Victoria boasts its own cinematic gimmicks, as the movie was purportedly filmed in one take and meant to play out in real time. And the writer and director of Victoria, Sebastian Schipper, even appeared in the cast of Run, Lola, Run. (more…)

Panahi TaxiThe inevitable question that arose immediately after the announcement of Jafar Panahi’s film Taxi as the winner of the Golden Bear for Best Picture at the 65th Berlinale was whether the movie deserved the honor or was the prize intended as a message of support from the international community for the persecuted Iranian director.

The answer was yes.

Taxi was at the top of a weak field in this year’s Competition program. On paper, the entries in the premium category looked formidable with heavyweight directors like Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog, and Peter Greenaway (more…)