Currently browsing the "Eastern European" category.

Review: The Painted Bird

Based on Jerzy Kosiński’s novel, The Painted Bird is a brutal tale of a young nameless boy’s fight to survive on his own during World War II in the wilds of Eastern Europe. He’s beaten and abused wherever he turns, and all he wants to do is find home, though he doesn’t really know where that is. And as he makes his way towards that imagined home, he grows more and more hardened and more like the people he meets, scared and mistrustful of the world at large. Though it takes place during the war, the conflict is distant even if the effects are all around The Boy. While it’s beautifully shot in black and white, it’s also 169 minutes long and essentially a litany of horrors. It’s not a film for the masses.

Review: The Whistlers (La Gomera)

A beautiful woman. 30 million euros. A detective who’s tired of his job. All the elements of a classic thriller are present in this Romanian film noir. Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is a cop in Bucharest. Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) is the femme fatale whose boyfriend Zsolt (Sabin Tambrea) is behind bars and knows where the money is hidden.  To that end she enlists the not so honest cop in a scheme that involves traveling to the Canary Islands to learn a whistling language called El Silbo Gomero that was invented by the locals and is used by the mobsters to communicate without the cops being able to understand. The plan is to use it to get the boyfriend out and make off with the dough. But of course, Cristi falls for the dame, and things don’t go exactly as planned.

Review: Corpus Christi (Boze Cialo)

Based on a true story, Corpus Christi is the tale of 20-year-old Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) who, just sprung from a violent juvenile detention center and heading for a new job, decides to visit the local church and stumbles into becoming the new priest for the small Polish town. It’s the story of his redemption, but also that of his new flock, a community healing from a tragedy that has divided them against themselves. Once he’s committed to the ruse as the impostor Father Tomasz, Daniel slips into the cassock and wings it well enough to fool the whole town. It’s not a con, so much as a calling. And you’re just wondering how long he can get away with it.

Review: Cold War

In this passionate love story set in Soviet-era Poland, Zula, a young singer with a past, enters a state-run performing academy where she meets the love of her life, Wictor, the pianist-musical director of the program. The film follows their on-again and off-again relationship across decades as they escape the Iron Curtain and ultimately return. Music is a key element of the story. There is one folk song that is sung first as an audition piece, then as a chorus in concert, then as a Polish jazz song, then translated into French. And Joanna Kulig’s performance as Zula is particularly powerful. Not only does she sing beautifully, but her face lights up the screen.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2018

Another year at a fabulous festival! I wonder how long this little Virginia horse country festival can keep it up. It’s sure to burst its seams soon. This year’s slate was amazing, as usual. I was only able to fit in 10 of the 29 films offered in my three days of the festival and missed quite a few I really wanted to see. But what I saw was impressive. The big winner for me (it won the audience award, too) was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, which will certainly be vying for the Oscar. But there really were quite a few standout films. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Demon

Demon is a strange little Polish horror flick that mostly takes place during what I’d call a blow-out wedding. Handsome young couple Peter (Itay Tiran) and Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska) have been given a house in the country that they’re planning to rehab. Prior to the wedding Peter begins some of the work, digging up the yard where they will be building a summer house and/or a swimming pool. But when he hits something and discovers bones, everything changes.

The Innocents

The Innocents is a brutally beautiful film based on the true story of a young woman doctor sent to Poland with the French Red Cross to aid survivors of the concentration camps after WWII. She reluctantly agrees to help a local nun only to discover a convent filled with pregnant sisters, shamed victims of the victorious Soviet soldiers’ horrifying gang rapes. Co-written and directed by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Channel) the film is a multi-layered exploration of faith tested to its limits. But fear not! It is not a downer flick. It is thoughtful and ultimately uplifting.

Ida

Ida is one of those extremely beautiful but ultimately depressing films. It is the story of an 18-year-old Polish orphan who was brought up by nuns and is about to take her vows, but first she has to visit an Aunt she knew nothing about, because her Mother Superior insists they meet before deciding on her future. The film is mostly her road trip with this aunt named Wanda to discover who she is and what happened to her family during World War II. It is also her first taste of the outside world, with the sad, alcoholic aunt as her tour guide.

Beyond the Hills (Dupa dealuri)

Director Cristian Mungiu’s film Beyond the Hills takes place in a remote monastery in Romania, where two young women who grew up together in an orphanage are reunited with tragic results. The screenplay is adapted from the non-fiction novels of Tatiana Niculescu Bran, which were based on actual events. It’s one of those films where you can feel right away that something is wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. The two lead actresses Cosmina Stratan (Voichita) and Cristina Flutur (Alina) shared the best actress award at Cannes and are outstanding as they bring this quietly riveting story to life.