Currently browsing the "Foreign" category.

Review: Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle

A couple of weeks before I saw this film, I read filmmaker Werner Herzog’s first novel “The Twilight World,” which draws on his meeting 25 years ago with Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who, not realizing that WWII was over, kept fighting his guerrilla war on a small Philippine Island for another 29 years. His story has been endlessly caricatured over the years, but the man himself and what he endured, and why and how he kept fighting have not been explored. It is a fascinating book. And now there is a film about him and his life in the jungle. 

Review: Decision to Leave

This Korean romantic thriller from Park Chan-wook (Handmaiden, Snowpiercer) begins with the classic set-up. Weary detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il ) arrives at a crime scene. A man is dead. But was it an accident or could it be murder? The police want to close the case and call it an accident, but it begins to look like his young, beautiful widow Seo-rae (Wei Tang, Lust, Caution) could be a murder suspect after she comes to the station. She has an alibi and Hae-joon wants to believe her. Still something is off. And as the attraction grows between them while he continues his investigation, the question of whether she is a femme fatale seducing him to get away with murder or her feelings for him are real plagues him. It’s a slow twisty story. And though it is probably a bit longer that it needs to be, it’s a satisfying and engrossing murder mystery.

Review: The Good Boss

Javier Bardem is one of my favorite actors. I would pay to watch him read a phone book. (Do they still make those?) He is definitely one of the most versatile actors around. From his complex villains in No Country for Old Men and Skyfall to his achingly sensitive performances in Biutiful and Before Night Falls, he’s always a joy to watch. In his latest, The Good Boss, a Spanish workplace satire, he plays the seemingly benevolent boss Julio Blanco, owner of an industrial scale factory who is trying to make everything look perfect in order to win a prestigious prize that could help his business. But a series of misfortunes befall him, and he scrambles to get everything back into balance before the committee makes their visit to decide his fate, revealing his true nature along the way.

Review: Happening

Talk about a film arriving at just the right moment! This gripping French drama about a young woman in the early 1960s who gets pregnant and has to go through hell for an abortion will hit you right in the gut. If I’d seen it a month ago, I’d have described it as a cautionary tale. Now it feels more like a glimpse into our dystopian future.

Review: Hit the Road

This wonderful road trip drama traverses the Iranian landscape with a family and their dog. Along for the ride are a mother (Pantea Panahiha) and father (Hasan Majuni) and their two sons, one grown (Amin Simiar) and the other a bouncing off the walls 6-year-old (Rayan Sarlak). The story comes together in small hints as the family deals with their circumstances, attempting to shield the younger son (and the audience) from what is actually happening. It is by turns tense and warm and funny.

Review: Wood and Water

Not a lot “happens” in this character study film, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. It’s the story of Anke (played by Anke Bak, the director’s mother), a German woman of a certain age who has just retired and is looking forward to a trip to the beach with all her children. But her son doesn’t make it home for the gathering. He lives in Hong Kong and the pro-democracy protests there interfere with his flight. (Or so he says.) So she decides to go there to see him. Only he’s away, and so she spends her time alone wandering the city and coming to terms with her life.

Review: Huda’s Salon

This riveting “based on true events” thriller from two-time Academy Award nominee Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) is set in the West Bank. Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi) is a young Palestinian mother married to a very jealous man. One day she visits her hairdresser, Huda (Manal Awad), and tells her all about her struggles with him as her little daughter sleeps just beside her chair. The two women clearly enjoy their gossiping and kvetching. After the new do, Huda offers Reem a coffee, only it’s no friendly act, but a life altering event.

Review: Fabian

In this adaptation of “Fabian: Going to the Dogs”, a German novel first published in 1931 but later banned and burned by the National Socialist Party, Jakob Fabian (Tom Schilling) is a young man in Berlin in the years between the two wars, trying to become a writer but struggling to keep his head above water. By day he works as a copywriter for a cigarette company, and by night he fills books with his observations as he accompanies his wealthy friend Labude (Albrecht Schuch) through the hedonistic world of brothels and bars while Germany slides slowly towards fascism. But Fabian’s detachment is shaken one night when he meets the beautiful Cornelia (Saskia Rosendahl), a film law trainee who dreams of being an actress, and their love story forms the spine of this thoroughly engaging film. Be warned, it clocks in at just minutes under three hours running time, but fortunately it never feels long thanks to great direction (Dominik Graf), a superb cast, and a thoughtful, beautifully crafted script.

Review: Drive My Car

Adapted from a short story by Haruki Murikami, one of my favorite authors, Drive My Car is a haunting drama about love and grief and reckoning. It centers on two main characters. Actor turned theater director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is two years removed from his wife’s sudden death and still grappling with the meaning of their relationship when he comes to Hiroshima to direct Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” for a theater festival. The organizers insist for legal reasons that he use their driver for the duration of his stay. She’s a taciturn young woman named Misaki (Toko Miura) who ended up in Hiroshima after her own personal tragedy. And as she shuttles him back and forth to the theater in his beautiful red Saab 900, they slowly bond over the unresolved sadness in their lives. And I say slowly because the movie clocks in at just about three hours, though it doesn’t feel long at all.

Review: The Hand of God

This coming of age drama from Academy Award-winning writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) tells the story of Fabietto (Filippo Scotti). Set in Naples in the 1980s, it’s clearly a nostalgic look back for the director to a time that was filled with adolescent awakening, family joys and tragedies, and the beginnings of his love affair with cinema. It’s bursting with big characters seen through a many-years-removed lens. Told in a series of vignettes,  it’s by turns hilarious and warm and sad and violent, and serves as a love letter to the Naples of a certain time.