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Flash Movie Review: Shall We Kiss?

THERE are some hugs that linger just a little too long that are loaded with hidden meaning. In one of the more uncomfortable positions I have experienced in my fitness career, there was a member who tried to cross the line with me from casual to personal. She was an enthusiastic participate in my classes, since she started seeing the changes her body was making both muscularly and aerobically. After class she would hang behind to talk to me as I was gathering my gear together. Honestly, there were no red flags I could detect since her behavior was no different than many of the other members. The fitness center was offering a 10 week class on massages which I mentioned in my beginning announcements. Someone asked in class if I was planning to attend and I said yes. At the first class this member was there and worked her way to be next to me so she could be my training partner. Long story short, after a few classes where we started working on each other she followed me out afterwards one time and wrapped her arms around me. She said she was glad we were training partners and with her arms still around me she looked up and I could tell she was coming in for a kiss. I put a stop to it.     EVER since that time I have always been keenly aware of any shift in members’ actions that come close to crossing that professional line. Away from the fitness center I have been an observer to a variety of situations that have involved my friends and family. You have heard the phrase, “I’ve got your back” haven’t you? In my circle of friends we each feel comfortable having another set of eyes on us to see things from a different angle. There have been times where a friend cannot tell if a person they have only recently started dating is really interested or not. Or maybe one of us points out the person they think is a friend really wants something more. There have been incidents where something innocent looking really has a different meaning or I will say intention. If you have time for a story then this romantic comedy will show you what I mean.     THINKING a goodnight kiss was an appropriate ending for their time together Gabriel, played by Michael Cohen (It Begins with the End, Them), was willing to listen to Emile’s, played by Julie Gayet (My Best Friend, Chaos and Desire), story about what happens when a kiss is given. With Virginia Ledoyen (The Beach; Farewell, My Queen) as Judith, Emmanuel Mouret (The Art of Love, Change of Address) as Nicolas and Stefano Accorsi (Saturn in Opposition, The Son’s Room) as Claudio; the script had a story within a story. It was easy to follow and I enjoyed how both stories had this give and take feeling as if they were in synch. The thing that attracted me the most was the concepts and thoughts the script evoked in me. One could easily have a discussion afterwards on their feelings about what they saw in this DVD. I will say there were a couple of scenes that seemed forced, ringing false for me. In addition I was able to figure out the ending which is something I do not do that often. This was a simple, easy movie to view that had some depth to it. French was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 ½ stars — DVD

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: The Innocents

My faith was shaken from the sentences I had read. How was it possible that a textbook could get the story so wrong? I was reading about a famous historic event but the facts were different from what I was taught in school. The book I was reading from had been published in a different country; that was my first clue. Maybe I had grown up naïve but it was not until college that I discovered published words do not always equal absolute truth. The college course I was taking was taught by a history professor who came from a different country. The textbook he was showing us was the one he had used in his studies. From our discussion groups I learned that a country’s citizens could learn a different version of history. The question that came up was how do you tell which version is accurate. Because I was interested in history I had to process this new information; the only thing I kept thinking about was this idea that there were people walking around in the world who formed opinions about countries based on what they learned in school. Just think about it, a person grows up loving or hating a country based on someone else’s interpretation (or purposeful omission) of events. Since that revelation back in my college years, whenever I am reading or watching something that claims to be a true story, I quietly question the validity of it if I did not actually have the opportunity to witness it. When it comes to movies based on true events I take them with a grain of salt, but do not let my doubting mind affect my enjoyment of the unfolding story. As for today’s film based on a true story, it is the first time I have ever heard of such an event .   WORKING in occupied Poland for the French Red Cross Mathilde Beaulieu, played by Lou de Laage (Breathe, The Wait), agreed to return with the desperate nun back to her convent. The patient waiting for Mathilde was a pregnant nun. This film festival winning drama had a simple but striking visual look to it. I thought the camera shots complimented the cast which also included Agata Buzek (Redemption, Valerie) as Maria and Agata Kulesza (Ida, Rose) as Mere Abesse. The actors did a wonderful job portraying their parts as the director’s pacing offered enough time for each cast member to shine in the scene. As for the story it is startling, at least for me since I never read about it in my history books. I felt the script did a wonderful job of layering the various components taking place during 1945 Poland and presented all of it as a powerful piece. The subtitles were not a distraction to read, at least for me. Because of the history involved in this story, this foreign film lingered long after I viewed it. I believe there are no accidents, that there is a reason for everything; but I have to say, this story could shake up a person’s faith. Polish, French and Russian was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Felix and Meira

Silence is something I yearn for in a movie theater, not in a relationship. I have always felt silence aka non-communication was a hurtful act. If someone needs to gather their thoughts or calm down before speaking, I totally understand it. However, if a person does not want to talk about an issue, what do you do and where do you go with that? I remember working with an employee a long time ago who by herself was bubbly with an outgoing personality. When she was accompanied by her husband to any of the company events, her eyes looked dead and she was always low key; it was like being with a completely different person. It turned out her husband was always going out with his friends, leaving her home alone. He also was heavily involved with some hobby that kept him out in their garage for hours. It was apparent to me that if the two of them continued the way they were going something was bound to happen to end their marriage. I have seen and been in enough relationships to know people sometimes evolve out of them or worse, go into a relationship thinking they can change the other person. It is tough once a person starts thinking they do not belong or feel they are missing something. I have stated in past reviews that love is a powerful force and even with this film I still stand by my statement.    MEIRA, played by Hadas Yaron (Fill the Void, Out of Sight), was a Hasidic Jewish wife and mother who felt lost within their tight knit community. Her husband Shulem, played by Luzer Twersky (Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish, Where is Joel Baum?), did not understand what could possibly be wrong. After bumping into the stranger Felix, played by Martin Dubrevil (7 Days, L’Affaire Dumont), at the bakery one day; Meira started thinking more about her life. This film festival winning dramatic movie was one made up of subtleties. With a quiet slow pace the story took its time to let the scenes soak in. I thought the acting was excellent as the characters evolved with the aid of gentle nuances and gestures. Some viewers may find this romantic film slow going and I have to say it came close to feeling like that for me. However, what kept me involved in the characters was the interesting way their emotions would come out; I think the appropriate term here would be: the way the characters wore their hearts on their sleeves. An interesting thing to note here; I do not suffer from claustrophobia but throughout this movie I felt a heaviness closing in on me at times. I think that says something about the film. There was French, Yiddish, Hebrew and Italian spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Father of My Children

Each person has their own way of handling the pressures and stress of daily living. For some people their stress builds up like overstuffed pieces of luggage that they try to balance as they trudge through the day. Other individuals get lost into books or spend their day seeking out rich, decadent foods to use in stuffing their feelings deeper inside of themselves. Depending on the level of stress I am experiencing, I will either focus on exercising or short circuit my brain by watching television shows and movies. For some reason visual stimuli is the fastest way to get my brain to take a deep breath and release the taut strangle hold it has over my body. This dramatic story showed two points of view on the pressures affecting the Canvel family. Louis de Lencquesaing (Elles, In a Rush) played Moon Films studio owner Gregoire Canvel. The mounting financial obligations on the company were taking a toll on Gregoire and his family. Chiara Caselli (Beyond the Clouds, Sleepless) played his wife Sylvia who expected her husband to be present and available for her and their children. The sensitive story in this Cannes Film Festival winner showed how stress affected each family member. I was particularly moved by the oldest daughter Clemence, played by Alice de Lencquesaing (Water Lilies, Summer Hours). As a movie buff I found the behind the scenes aspect of movie making interesting. The scenes depicting the family’s casual events I found touching and realistic, enjoying their interactions. By the end of the film I questioned my feelings about having seen it. I thought the emotional aspects were all valid, but I felt as if I was still missing something. Maybe from my own experiences I wanted to see stronger reactions from the characters; the ending seemed too abrupt for me. Everyone handles stress differently; it is not something to judge. One can only remain supportive of each other as they find their way through life. French with English subtitles.

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: In the House

No matter what profession a person has studied in, they could have graduated at the top or bottom of their class. Even with my high regard for the teaching profession, the same holds true. I have had an assortment of teachers that ran the spectrum from inspirational to looney. There was one teacher I had who was an alcoholic. When he walked into the classroom with a beet red face, all the students knew he had been out drinking somewhere. A scandal was caused when my social studies teacher started an affair with one of the gym teachers. Out of all my teachers, my 7th grade teacher was the most bizarre. She avoided talking to students by keeping a pack of flash cards with her at all times. I do not know if she had the cards specifically made for her, because they each had different messages such as “Bring that to me” or “Please sit down and stop talking.” All I can say is, there are some teachers who are mentors and there are some who should have never chosen teaching as a career. In this dark mysterious comedy from France, the instructor took his mentoring to an extreme. Fabrice Luchini (The Women on the 6th Floor, Paris) played Germain, a frustrated writing teacher. When student Claude Garcia, played by Ernst Umhauer (The Monk), showed talent in his writing, Germain encouraged the young man to explore and push the topic further. However the subject happened to be Claude’s classmate Rapha, played by newcomer Bastien Ughetto, and his parents Esther and Rapha Sr., played by Emmanuelle Seigner (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Ninth Gate) and Denis Menochet (Robin Hood, Inglourious Basterd)s. When boundaries get pushed to create good story, consequences cannot be too far behind. I found parts of the story witty and amusing, enjoying Fabrice’s performance and that of Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Gosford Park) as his wife Jeanne. There were some sections of the story that seemed too crazy to even be possible. I would be the first one to praise the teaching profession; I just would not use the teacher in this movie as an example. French with English subtitles.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Amour

” …until death do you part” is a powerful commitment. I have seen couples last together to the end of their lives, as well as couples where one of them chose not to be around to see their partner’s last breath. From the time my parents were married, every night at bedtime they would lie in bed holding hands. Even as my mother went deeper into the fog of Alzheimer’s disease, they still held hands. The older generation of my mother’s family were made of couples who had been married for 60 to 70 years. Throughout that span of time each of them faced times of joyfulness as well as sadness. In this moving story the couple in their 80’s had been married for many years. Georges and Anne, played by Jean-Louis Trintigant (The Conformist, Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train) and Emmanuelle Riva (Mon fils a moi, Three Colors: Blue) were retired music teachers, enjoying life as well as each other’s company. Their daughter Alexandre, played by Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher, 8 Women), lived abroad. One day as Anne and Georges were having a meal together, Anne became momentarily unresponsive. From that moment on, the couple’s emerging new reality would constantly test the bond of their relationship. Writer and director Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, The Piano Teacher) created an unapologetic view of an elderly couple’s life that millions today face on a daily basis. Having just been nominated for an Oscar in the best actress category, Emmanuelle Riva was incredible. I had to keep reminding myself that she was an actress playing Anne because her performance was so starkly real. Playing off of her in a more muted but just as powerful performance was Jean-Louis. My only criticism was the slow pacing in parts. By the time we were into the last quarter of the film I had seen enough. But then maybe that is exactly what the director wanted the audience to experience, to feel time from an elderly perspective. A moving story that reminded me of my uncle’s saying: Growing old is not for the weak. French with English subtitles.

3 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Other Son

The dirty words like the “F” and “S” word were okay to say in my family; they were used mostly as adjectives. My parents taught me and my brothers that slang words used to describe a person’s race, religion or nationality were bad words. Growing up I was always confused when I heard someone use these derogatory words. I wondered how that person became prejudiced, since none of us were born to be bigots. Knowing this about me, you will understand why I was so moved by this outstanding film. The story was thought-provoking, inspirational and fascinating to me. Can you tell I loved this movie? Imagine the shock two families faced when they each discovered the child they were raising was not their own. The two babies were accidentally switched at birth. If that was not horrific enough for each family, imagine what was going through the parents’ minds when they found out they were not the same–one family was Israeli and the other was Palestinian. Each family member not only would have to face their fears and beliefs, but would have their love tested like it had never been before. There was not one moment where my mind wandered away from this brilliant story. The actors did a beautiful job of conveying deep emotions with minimal effort. Emmanuelle Devos (Read My Lips, Coco Before Chanel) as Israeli mother Orith Silberg and Areen Omari (Private, Laila’s Birthday) as Palestinian mother Leila Al Bezaaz were incredible in their roles. Portraying a real mixture of innocence and fearfulness, the two switched boys were played by Mehdi Dehbi (Looking For Simon, He is my Girl) as Palestinian Yacine Al Bezaaz and Jules Sitruk (I, Cesar; Monsieur Batignole) as Israeli Joseph Silberg. This film did an exquisite job of being a reflection to people’s beliefs, fears and soul. French, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles. One brief scene of violence with blood.

4 stars

Flash Movie Review: War of the Buttons

There was a running joke in my family regarding our inheritance being the jar of buttons our mother got from her mother. I remember that jar; it was stored on a shelf in the back of my mother’s closet. The interesting thing about that jar was the variety of stories attached to each of the buttons residing inside that glass container. There was a small pearl button that was from the sweater of my mother’s older sister, who died in her teens. My great aunt was represented by a black onyx octagon shaped button that I recalled weighed heavy in my palm. For me, buttons represent a family’s history. In this dramatic film, buttons take on a whole different meaning. Set in two small towns during the Nazi occupation of France, there was a rivalry between the kids from each town. Though Lebrac, played by newcomer Jean Texier, was a poor student in the classroom; he was a quick learner in the art of battle, as leader of his gang. With each gang coming up with elaborate ways to ambush the other; the victors started to cut and keep the buttons from one of the losing boy’s clothing. When new girl Violette, played by Ilona Bacheller (Those Happy Days), came to live with her godmother Simone, played by Laetitia Casta (Arbitrage, The Island), her Jewish faith would add a real element into the boys’ plans. Inspired by stories from the resistance, I thought the outline of this movie would make an interesting story. Unfortunately, the movie was too melodramatic for me; with an annoying, syrupy music score. A secondary story line between Simone and the school teacher, played by Guillaume Canet (Tell No One, Love Me if You Dare) was never fully developed, adding only confusion. For a time and place that could have created a well done dramatic story, this film was like a spare button sewed to the inside hem of a shirt. It was only needed when there was a missing button. In other words, there are better films to see in this genre than this movie.  French with English subtitles.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Secret of the Grain

In my family once we sit ourselves down at the kitchen or dining room table, we are there for the night. None of this retiring to the den or let us go to the basement stuff; we just sit and enjoy our food all the way through dessert. I like to say life is uncertain, eat dessert first. When I was little I realized the seat of power was my mother and her sisters sitting around the kitchen table. All decisions were decided by them as my father and uncles were seated around the television set. Because of my upbringing, I enjoyed this simple, bittersweet movie. Watching the extended family with its love for each other and their dysfunctions brought back memories to me. Sixty year old Slimane Beiji, played by newcomer Habib Boufares, was struggling with his dockyard job at the port of Sete. His hours were reduced to the point he was struggling to make ends meet. One form of payment was his ability to bring fresh fish to his children and ex-wife, who would make the best fish couscous. As Slimane’s family crowded around the table sharing stories and food, he retired to his small room, that he rented nearby. When a plate of food was sent to him, Slimane saw an opportunity to make a dream he had come true. He would open a restaurant. With little resources, Slimane would need to depend on his family to make it happen, plus his ex-wife’s couscous. The majority of the cast were non-actors which made family scenes more believable. I loved the way the intimacy was formed with the close up filming. The family dynamics seemed utterly real as events played out. This multi film festival winner was a touching story that made the heart ache. French and Arabic with English subtitles.

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Robin Hood

I do not want to be biased here; but when I hear the words Robin Hood, I think of Errol Flynn. I cannot think of anyone else playing this role besides him. When I received this DVD I assumed the story would have a different spin on it, due to the director being Ridley Scott (Prometheus, Black Hawk Down). More than a spin, the movie was a prequel to the Robin Hood story most of us have seen before. Robin Longstride, played by Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator), was an archer in King Richard’s army. Upon Richard’s death, Robin returned to England, to bring the sword of deceased Sir Robert Loxley, played by Douglas Hodge (Vanity Fair, Mansfield Park), to his father Sir Walter Loxley, played by Max von Sydow (The Exorcist, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). Hearing the news of his son’s death, Sir Walter Loxley convinced Robin to  become his son, which would protect his land holdings. In doing so, Robin had to step in and become the husband to the widow Marion Loxley, played by Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Notes on a Scandal). With the English monarchy being threatened by the French, Robin would have to do battle with Sir Robert Loxley’s killer. Are you confused yet? It took me a while to get a grasp of what was taking place in this odd movie. I found Russell Crowe a poor choice; he brought no emotion to the role. Cate, on the other hand, was her usual stellar self. The story made no sense. An entire town was to believe Robin was Sir Robert Loxley? Also, having a battle scene that looked like it was copied from Private Ryan was weird. Instead of robbing from other movies, why couldn’t they make a decent story for us poor viewers? Violent and bloody scenes.

 

2 1/4 stars — DVD

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