Category Archives: Foreign
ACCORDING to the dictionary the word chivalry is defined as, “an honorable and polite way of behaving especially toward women.” Believe it or not I remember a time when men would open a door for a woman or give up their seat on a bus or train for them. I can see where maybe some people would be slightly offended if they perceived the action as being dominant or chauvinistic. Personally I do not care if it is a man or woman; I think if the person is elderly it would just be a common courtesy. However, things changed the past few decades; I rarely see anyone giving up a seat on the bus, even if the person is holding heavy packages or a woman is pregnant. I am used to it now but I initially was surprised when I opened a door for a woman and was given a suspicious look. It was not the type of reaction I would have expected, figuring a quick thank you would have been the response. After several times getting similar reactions, it dawned on me that these women may have not experienced a stranger doing a kind gesture for them. What does that say about our society I thought? THOUGH I have seen the same type of scene in the movies, I remember being out at a club with friends and a man mistakenly thought a woman at the bar was single. He walked up to her and started talking; I could not hear him over the music blaring over the loudspeakers. At one point I did see the woman shake her head side to side which I took as her way of saying, “No.” I do not know what the man said but walking up behind him another man tapped him on the shoulder. It turned out the 2nd man was the woman’s boyfriend. Before you could stir the ice in your drink, the two men got into a shoving match and both had to be kicked out by one of the club’s bouncers. I thought the whole scene was intense until I watched this dramatic thriller. UNAWARE the former tenant of the apartment they were now living in used to entertain gentlemen callers; married actors Rana and Emad Etesami’s lives, played by Taraneh Alidoosti (About Elly, Beautiful City) and Shahab Hosseini (About Elly, A Separation), were drastically changed when one of the gentleman callers showed up at their apartment one night. This Oscar winning film from writer and director Asghar Farad (A Separation, The Past) was consistent with his other movies. A well thought out story about human emotions, told in a simple way. I enjoyed the story within story idea with the use of Arthur Miller’s play, “Death of a Salesman.” The acting was excellent and I will tell you why. These actors were in films I had previously seen by the same director and it did not register with me because the performances were so different in this foreign film. Another reason why I enjoyed this movie was because of my curiosity of other cultures; seeing how the average person exists in their own environment fascinates me. If I had seen this film before the Oscars telecast I too would have picked it for best foreign movie. Persian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars
TWO mothers who do not know each other yet both dress consistently in an inappropriate way. One rarely showed up for school events for her child like concerts, bake sales or PTA meetings. These were things she was not interested in doing. However when she was out and about doing her errands or meeting friends for lunch, often she would walk or drive by the school. Her blouses were never buttoned all the way up and many times the material of them would be sheer. During the warmer months her standard form of dress would be a pair of shorts that barely extended down her thighs. It was not surprising to see the students in the playground stopping their games to gawk at this adult who dressed in such a young way, at least through their eyes. Her child was constantly being embarrassed by all of it. THE other mother was the opposite when it came to her child’s school functions. She volunteered for every activity whether it was chaperoning a field trip to a museum or helping in a food drive for charity. Her clothing never fit properly across her large girth. Go-go boots with high heels and hot pants was one of her standard outfits. Where the first mother had very little interaction with any students, including her child’s friends; this mother treated everyone in the student body as her best friend. The other parents would react with a mixture of envy, jealousy and disgust. On the one hand there were parents who wished their own kids would react to them like they did to her. She was considered a fun parent; animated with the use of her hands to talk besides exaggerated facial expressions, her makeup was always heavy and thick which only accentuated the different looks she could make with her face. Many times her child would sit there in embarrassment. From extreme to extreme this film festival winning movie takes you into the world of another type of mother. WHEN she found out her mentally challenged son Yoon Do-joon, played by Bin Won (The Man from Nowhere, Guns & Talk), was arrested for murder; this mother, played by Hye-ja Kim (How to Steal a Dog, Mayonnaise), was determined to find out the truth for herself, not what the police had decided. This crime mystery also starring Ku Jin (The Admiral, A Dirty Carnival) as Jin-tae and Je-mun Yun (The Good The Bad The Weird, The Host) as Je-moon was written and directed by Joon-ho Bong (Snowpiercer, The Host). I found the dramatic story alluring as it drew me into it. The actress who portrayed the mother did an excellent job of acting; I could feel her pain and emotions. The idea for the story was excellent since it immediately introduced this sympathetic character who was charged with a heinous crime. There were however a couple of characters who came off cartoonish which rang false for me, but I did wonder if this was due to a cultural difference in perceptions. I was taken aback by the twists in this DVD; what an interesting series of events. They say never mess around with a protective Mama Bear (mother) and this film proves that right. The Korean language was spoken with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
THERE are some people who grow into their identity while there are others who seek out one and take it on. I have become more aware of people’s choices on how they describe themselves and/or how others do it for them. Let me ask you, how often do you hear these days individuals being described as kind, compassionate or sweet? The adjectives I have heard recently are mostly of a negative nature such as racist, workaholic or sexist. Then there are others I have heard that are associated with the person’s career. A banker, a flight attendant; they all seem to come with preconceived notions. AS a matter of fact I know a guy who is a lawyer who used to be a pleasant person. Something about the job changed him however. He turned into all the negative, stereotypical features assumed for a lawyer. He became brusque, cutting off anyone who was not giving him a fast enough answer to his query. Oh and heaven forbid if an item advertised on sale did not ring up the lower price on the cash register; he would cut down the checker who probably had no idea the item was even on sale. It was ugly to watch as he would not let up even when a floor manager would come to override the price. Maybe my small, little world is not representative of society as a whole, but there seems to be a heightened intensity or harshness to people’s personas from what I can tell. I cannot tell if these traits were inherently buried inside the person or outside influences such as career had this effect on them. SUCCESSFUL businesswoman Michele Leblanc, played by Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher, Amour) found her life taking on aspects of her company’s work after she was attacked in her home. This film festival winning dramatic thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) was all Isabelle’s stage. She was unbelievable in the role as she dominated over other cast members Laurent Lafitte (Little White Lies, The Crimson Rivers) as Patrick, Anne Consigny (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, A Christmas Tale) as Anna and Charles Bexling (Summer Hours, Ridicule) as Richard Leblanc. Don’t get me wrong they were all good, but Isabelle was amazing as Michele. As for the story all I can say is it was a twisted tale. I found each story line interesting and surprised myself when I came to the realization that 2 of them were in a way mirroring each other. The script was well done, putting in a bit of humor here and there to balance out the levels of intensity. Now I will say there were a few scenes that seemed odd that left me feeling puzzled. It was after the film was over when I thought I figured a couple of them out, but nothing concrete. The subtitles were not a distraction, nor did they interfere with the ability to view the action in the scenes. There were a few scenes of violence that were uncomfortable to watch. This picture did make me wonder if life was imitating art. French was spoken throughout with English subtitles.
I do not know what triggers the response that usually goes to one extreme or the other. From my experiences I have noticed a child tends to grow up emulating a parent or working to be the exact opposite. There is this individual I know who has had articles written about them in business publications. Their main motivation has always been getting rich. Any conversation you have with them will eventually involve money. So I found it particularly interesting when I met their child after many years and discovered they were essentially a mini clone of their parent. Within a matter of minutes our conversation turned towards finance. NOW at the opposite end a child could grow up seeing how their parent has been treated by various people and decide they do not want to be anything like their Mom or Dad. Seeing a parent being abused by their spouse can trigger a strong internal reaction in the child. Another example could be working at the same place your parent is employed and observing how the employees treat your mother or father. If you feel your parent is being stepped all over by their fellow employees, you might force yourself to grow up in such a way where no one would be allowed to walk all over you. This may mean you put on a tough exterior or you prefer not to socialize as much as your parent. I find all these types of scenarios such a complicated situation; because there are times the child will grow up thinking they really are the persona they created from their reactions, when actually they may be nothing like the façade they built around themselves. One of my surprises in life was finding out I had a larger capacity for kindness then I thought I did. As I watched this film festival winning drama I was curious about the real motivations behind the young son’s actions. FINDING a wristwatch at the crash site Michiel, played by Martijn Lakemeier (Lover or Loser, It’s All so Quiet), did not realize at first the importance in finding its owner. Set in Nazi occupied Holland during the 1940s, this movie was beautifully filmed. I have seen a variety of war and historical films but the script to this story had a fresh perspective to me. Part of the picture played like a thriller while keeping its dramatic sense. With Yorick van Wageningen (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The New World) as Oom Ben, Jamie Campbell Bower (The Twilight Saga franchise, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) as Jack and Melody Klaver (Dusk, Diep) as Erica; the acting was fine to me. In my opinion I would have enjoyed seeing more scenes regarding the dynamics of the family unit. Part of me felt the subtle way the feelings came out could have used a stronger presence; though I thought the character development of Michiel was fascinating. This DVD offered a different avenue away from a typical World War II story and gave a clear example of how a person grows up based on what they see. Dutch and German languages were spoken with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
I was a witness to it though I did not know I was watching something significant taking place. Visiting a friend at her house, we were sitting and talking while her kids were playing on the floor. I was not aware something was brewing but her daughter got upset over her sibling grabbing a toy from out of her hands. The little girl slapped her brother and he began to cry. My friend verbally disciplined them, saying something I thought most parents would say to an unruly child; I did not pay much mind to it. But right after my friend said it she stopped cold, turned to me and said, “Oh no, I just turned into my mother!” My puzzled look was her cue to tell me what she just told her kids was the same line her mother used to say to her when she was young. Now I understood; she reached that point in time, whether she wanted to believe it or not, when she discovered she was turning into her mother. Haven’t many of us gone through the same thing? It does not have to be a verbal thing; it could be some particular action that you find yourself doing that one of your parents used to do. WHAT I find just as impactful if not more is the time when you first objectively see yourself in someone else. For me it happened at a birthday party for a friend. There was a guy there who must have been angry about something. We were sitting around playing a game and this person would get upset if someone on his team did not succeed in the task. His competiveness was not relatable to me but his expressed anger is what connected to me. I have to tell you it startled me when I realized I probably make the people in my life just as uncomfortable with the anger I carried inside of me. This happened years ago but wouldn’t you know it, there was something about the main character in this comedic drama that struck a chord in me. THOUGH no longer president of the association Ove, played by Rolf Lassgard (Under the Sun, The Hunters), made his daily rounds to make sure everything was in order. Trouble was all he saw when his new neighbor Parvaneh, played by Bahar Pars (When Darkness Falls, Dreams), and her family drove into his mailbox. This film festival winner is Sweden’s entry into the Best Foreign Film category at the 2017 Academy Awards. It totally deserves to be there because I thought the story and the acting were excellent. With Filip Berg (Eternal Summer, Deano and Nige’s Best Last Day Ever) as Ove som ung and Sofie Gallerspang (Monica Z, Innocent Mara-TV Movie) as Brud; I felt the writers did a beautiful job of intertwining the 2 story lines of past and present. The directing was a little heavy where one would almost feel they were being manipulated but Rolf was outstanding enough to make everything real in this picture. This was a well done picture now please excuse me as I go take a good look at myself in the mirror. Swedish and Persian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars
THERE was a time where the boundaries between reality and fantasy had more distance between each other. Most of my life I wanted to stay in the realm of fantasy but understood it would only be a short visit for some respite. Things have changed now where the barrier has taken on a porous consistency between true and false, fantasy and reality. The biggest culprit I feel that started all of this is reality television shows. Sure when the few first ones aired they were a novelty; but come on now, how authentic are they really? We live in a world where people are getting famous for doing absolutely nothing. No seriously, some of these reality celebrities have huge followings and what I find upsetting is the effect they have on young people. GIRLS and boys watch these self-centered, snobby; better than you attitude individuals who are gaining wealth, notoriety or fame and these kids want to be just like them. What kind of values will the next generation have when they grow up? I do not want this “soapbox speech” dishing all reality shows because there are a few I find enjoyable. The difference for me is these shows in my opinion involve talent, hard work or help make a better life for individuals who could use the help. Outside of that I have no desire to see couples being split up to get farmed out to a different family or to watch people looking for true love on an island where they are paired up on dates sans clothing. Stuff like this is so bizarre to me; I just do not get it. Let me show you an example of what I am talking about in this dramatic comedy. FISH stand owner Luciano, played by Aniello Arena (Fiore), believed his life would change for the better; he just needed to get on the reality show, “Big Brother.” This film festival winning movie had a cast of actors, such as Loredana Simioli (Perez, Gorbaciof) as Maria, Raffaele Ferrante (Ventitre) as Enzo and Nando Paone (Welcome to the South, Bulldozer) as Michele; who seemed like real people to me. I found the story had a strong undercurrent of dark satire that wore a coat of humor and sadness. Being a fan of Italy I thought the sets and the outdoor scenes were wonderful; there was something about the building where Luciano lived that I found to be an extension of him and his family. There were parts of the script that muddled the story. On one hand there were scenes shown where I thought this was too far-fetched; but after the movie was over I gave more thought to it and came to the conclusion anything was possible. Let me add one need not have seen the television show Big Brother to understand what was taking place in this movie. Also, the subtitles did not interfere with me being able to watch and enjoy this wild picture. I do not know what kind of statement is being made when I can watch a picture like this and think sure, this could have happened in the real world. Italian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
If the animal kingdom has several species like tiger sharks and hamsters that eat or discard their young, then does it not make sense there would be some humans who do the same thing? Maybe I should clarify what I mean since I am not saying there are parents who literally eat their children; I am referring more to the discarding or the total emotional and mental consumption aspect of the parent/child relationship. From stories I have heard to ones I have seen reported on the news I still react with a sense of shock to some of the stories. For example when the news reporter is interviewing the parents of a child accused of a killing spree or bombing a place I have to wonder if the parents really had no idea their child was capable of such an act. The parents tearfully express their sadness, telling the reporter their son or daughter was always a good child. I am curious about this; is it possible or are the parents so removed from their child’s life they have no clue what their children are capable of doing? I do not have an answer. Perhaps I mentioned this in an earlier review about my friend who was on a jury involved in a case about a mother who hung her 2 year old son off the fire escape of their apartment building. What would possess a parent to do such a thing? But then I think about the classes I attended in school where we had a discussion about the culture where parents would drown their new born babies if they were born female. Now I have such a hard time wrapping stuff like this around my brain because I feel children do not ask to come into this world; however, if a person is going to bring a child into this world then they need to do what is in the best interests for that child. I would be curious to hear what you think about what happened in this dramatic film. FIFTEEN years had passed before Gianni, played by Kim Rossi Stuart (Angel of Evil, Those Happy Years), decided to see his handicapped son Paolo, played by newcomer Andrea Rossi, for the first time. Gianni did not know what to expect. This film festival winning movie was fortunate to have Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, The Duchess) play the character Nicole because she was wonderful in the role. Along with Pierfrancesco Favino (World War Z, Angels & Demons) as Alberto the script tended to push the sentimental aspects of the story but to tell you the truth it did not bother me. I was grabbed early on into this picture, impressed by the acting and the story. If this had been done by a Hollywood studio I think this film would have been over done; instead, the direction and script provided a straight forward and honest portrayal of the events. There was a line that Charlotte’s character says that will prove my point. Do not be surprised if this foreign film gives you a new appreciation of what it means to be a parent. Italian and German were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
It was one of the items I inherited from a broken relationship. Totally functional, it served a purpose. The item was a kitchen garbage can; it was made of some type of silver metal and had a foot pedal that when depressed would open up the lid. I never liked the way the lid opened because instead of width wise it lifted from the length side. Being of a rectangular shape the lid would plop down with a thud when the foot pedal was released. On top of it the lid did not match up seamlessly with the rest of the garbage can. Another irritating feature may have been my fault but I blamed the can. The plastic garbage bag I would fit inside the can never remained fitted around the rim of the can; after a certain amount of garbage was placed inside, the bag would crumble to the bottom of the can. It was not like I produced so much garbage, but I felt one bag should be enough to last me one week until my neighborhood’s garbage pickup day. Unless I was having a dinner party I never had a full bag. So after years living with this slightly annoying garbage can I recently bought a new one when the old one’s foot pedal broke. I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoy this new can better. It is quiet where the lid slowly descends to the bordering rim that locks in the kitchen garbage bag that has not fallen once. And I love the way the lid opens width wide so I can scrape an entire dinner plate clean of its crumbs without any escaping to the kitchen floor. Who knew such a small thing could bring me such pleasure. I am sure others have had a similar experience when swapping out an old product for a new one. But when I hear about people doing it to their long term significant others, I do not have an understanding of it. MARRIED for 30 years Inge, played by Ursula Werner (Stopped on Track, Madchenabend), did not know how to tell her husband she had started an affair with another man. This romantic drama also starred Horst Rehberg (The Policeman’s Wife, Verflixtes Missgeschick!) as Werner, Horst Westphal (Du Bist Dran-TV movie, Und Das Am Heiligabend-TV movie) as Karl and Steffi Kuhnert (The White Ribbon, Stopped on Track) as Petra. I thought the acting was excellent but what really kept me involved with this story was my curiosity about the subject. Personally I have not been exposed to situations like the one in this film festival winning movie, though I have had friends who did with their parents. I would like to know about the motivation that makes a person, after so many years being together, take a drastic change. This story seemed real to me; I enjoyed the mix of subtle humor and heart tugging scenes. To me this picture felt like it was depicting real life. All I can say after watching this film is the heart is such a curious creature to me. German was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
Begin with several words, string them together and let a story take you away. Let me show you what I mean. I will start with the words room, curtains, breath, light, skin and airplane. Here is the first beginning to the story: The curtains’ shadows looked like they were reaching out to me as I entered into the room. The light behind them blazed in a crimson red; I could feel the heat on my skin. This was my first time here and the air smelled rancid. It was stifling to the point where I felt I was entering into the mouth of an ogre with bad breath. Suddenly the room shook with a roar as if an airplane had just skimmed the roof above me. Maybe what I just wrote was the beginning of a horror story. Same words, but in a different order; let me see what I will get: The curtains gently rippled as a warm breeze passed them into my room. I was stretched out on the sofa, careful not to disturb the creases where the love of my life had sat minutes ago before they had to leave. Their breath still felt like it was lingering around the skin at the back of my neck. Our light conversation had gone into deeper waters with positive results. I agreed to make airplane reservations to fly out and meet their family for the first time. Now this story sounds romantic, doesn’t it? That is the beauty about stories; they can take us to an infinite amount of places. I love the way a story can take me away from my reality and place me into a whole different world. Some people read to learn, others read to escape; it does not make a difference because I feel just the act of reading provides the essential nutrients for the mind to grow. AMOS OZ, played by newcomer Amir Tessler, was always ready to hear a new story until he felt he was living in some of them. With Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Black Swan) as Fania Oz, Makram Khoury (Munich, The Physician) as Halawant and Ohad Knoller (The Bubble, Munich) as Israel Zarchi; this film festival nominated dramatic biography was based on the bestseller by Amos Oz. Written and directed by Natalie, the story had a darkness to it as it took place during Israel’s formative years. I could see there was something to the story but I don’t think the screenplay conveyed it. There were some good scenes and I could see Natalie had a good eye for directing, but I did not find this picture entertaining. Despite the acting being good, the story telling interesting and the dynamics between the characters having depth; I was not always into the story. Granted I would not consider the subject upbeat but I think if the script was in different hands the results might have been different. Not that I am knocking Natalie’s 1st directorial effort, but maybe she should have focused only on that instead of the screenplay too. There certainly was a story here; I just did not feel satisfied watching it. Hebrew was spoken with English subtitles.