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Frame of Mind: Foreign Film

by Kathryn Schroeder

'Index Zero'Italian Director/Screenwriter Lorenzo Sportiello has a very unique vision of the future, as seen in his debut feature film Index Zero. It is the year 2035, and gone are the European Countries we know so well; in their place is the United States of Europe. How this came to be we shall never know. It is accepted, as is the fact that the powers that be are not open and inviting to others. Nor is freedom an option any longer, or the ability to live your life as you wish. The new world order is bleak.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Tim Roth as Hank Harris in '600 Millas'Simplicity. There a few films made today that act upon the word. They instead feel the need to fill space with the unnecessary, oftentimes to mask the problems that lie within the story being told. Mexican Director Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Millas (600 Miles) takes the simplistic route to produce a film worthy of the art form. 600 Miles makes simplicity look like the best choice for a filmmaker, and viewers are sure to agree.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Oliver Hirschbiegel's '13 Minutes'A mere 13 minutes would have changed the world forever, and one of the greatest atrocities in history could have been avoided. In German director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s (Downfall, Das Experiment) newest film, the WWII-centered thriller 13 Minutes (Elser), he tells the true story of how one man, working alone, tried to change the world in 1939 by assassinating Adolf Hitler. The film is by far one of the best tellings of real life heroics enacted during the time period, and it is done so as an homage to a man who went unrecognized for his valiant actions for decades.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Caterpillar, Koji WakamatsuOne of the most satisfying things about film festivals can be the sidebar of retrospectives or, in the case of the LA Film Festival, the intermittent "Films That Got Away". There was only one such this year, but it was a good one – Wakamatsu Kōji's follow-up to United Red Army (2007), and his penultimate completed feature before his accidental passing in 2012. Caterpillar played at Berlin and various other festivals – to generally favourable notices – and this did indeed disappear (from these shores at least) almost without trace, so it was a treat to have a chance to see it on the big screen.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Jimi: All Is By My SideJimi: All Is By My Side is a film with multiple problems serious enough that the couple of very good things it has going for it stand little chance of compensating. As written and directed by 12 Years A Slave scribe John Ridley, the narrative sets off down familiar musical biopic lane: musician discovered; gains success; deals with distractions and behaves badly; and that's it.. Perhaps because the production was denied the use of Hendrix's music by his estate (holding out for full control of the production), the story ends in mid-1967, with Jimi and his Experience trooping off to Monterey and international fame.

by Tom von Logue Newth

LA Film Festival: 'Frank' (d. Lenny Abrahamson)A provincial young man dreams of writing songs. He is not very good at it. A chance encounter with a touring American band with an unpronounceable name leads to his stepping in for their sectioned keyboard player, travelling to Ireland to spend a year of musical experiments and recording and, through slightly underhand methods, getting the band booked at a big-time US festival. But at what cost? Is he a weasely manipulator, or just blindly self-serving? Is art compatible with commerce? Is genius born from mental distress? Is it in fact essentially unfathomable? And why does the band's leader/singer/guru Frank never take off that large cartoon head?

by Tom von Logue Newth

LA Film Festival: 'The Great Museum' ('Das groβe Museum') (d. Johannes Holzhausen)Behind the scenes of the great Künsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, as a close pan up Breughal's Tower of Babel at the end of Das groβe Museum suggests, there are a lot of people doing a lot of work. This is in fact the only moment akin to commentary in this hands-off documentary – without talking heads, voiceover, or music – unless one counts also the gentle puncturing of the traditional sanctity of such grand repositories of fine art scattered through the opening sections: an employee gliding through the narrow passageways of the office/library on a scooter to pick up a photocopy; a workman violating the parquet floor and echoing silence of an empty gallery with a pickaxe; the dusting of the groin of some giant marble Greek dude (it's Theseus).

by Tom von Logue Newth

Soko as Augustine in AUGUSTINE. Courtesy of Music Box FilmsAugustine is one of the harder sorts of films to write about, being handsomely mounted, with appealing leads and an interesting story, a minimum of pandering or condescension towards the audience, and fully aware of the ramifications of its subject matter. The problem is, it’s just not very interesting.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Jim Sturgess as “Adam” and Kirsten Dunst as “Eden” in UPSIDE DOWN. Photo Courtesy of Millennium Entertainment.There is a great deal that can be inferred by writer-director Juan Solaris' Upside Down, depending on the context in which you view the film.  At the simplest level it is a love story about two people from different stations in life who desperately want to be together even though it is forbidden--a tale as old as time.  Another possibility is to see Upside Down as commentary on social politics, the have's and the have-nots constantly at odds with one another and the sole individual willing to risk it all to bring about equality.  There is one more route you can take, that of a historical recalling and a fantastical glimpse into post-war worlds--as the two worlds created in the movie resemble greatly historical photos of post-WWII Germany or Poland versus the untarnished industrialized and thriving West.  With so many possibilities Upside Down can easily please a variety of viewers, what it cannot do is uplift the viewer as it fails to delve deeply enough into any one theme, one idea, or one clear vision to warrant greatness, just mild amusement and a deep want for greater meaning that never comes.

by Tom von Logue Newth

BlancanievesAfter ten years of working on Blancanieves, writer-director Pablo Berger must have had mixed feelings about the appearance of The Artist last year. That film’s runaway success was undeniably a useful ice-breaker, however, for they are similar beasts, modern silent films made (largely) according to the conventions and constraints of the 1920s. Berger even gives Uggie a run for his money, with a perky rooster named Pepe.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Kim Kold as Dennis in Teddy BearAnother year has gone by at FilmFracture and it has been full of great movies, mediocre trips to the cinema, and some downright awful wastes of time.  With that said, here are the best and worst movies of 2012, based solely on their Production ratings (how they faired in other categories may have been better, or the same, click out on the titles to see for yourself).  I must warn you, our choices for the best movies may come as quite a shock--who would have thought a Troma picture would make a best of list? 

by Kathryn Schroeder

TOM HOLLAND stars in THE IMPOSSIBLE  Photo: Jose Haro  © 2012 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.Natural disasters are easy prey for filmmakers wherein the melodrama is grown organically out of the true story the film portrays.  This is usually their downfall, as the events and performances are so over-the-top and seeping with mushiness that they get thrown onto a Cable Network and forgotten--all for the best.  Then there is one that goes against the odds stacked up against it, a melodrama based on true events that takes place during a harrowing experience that is the entire film-worthy package, meant to be seen on a big screen.  The Impossible, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona of The Orphanage (2007), is that movie.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Post Tenebras LuxCarlos Reygadas burst on the scene as an unapologetically pretentious arthouse director with Japón [2002], and gained instant renown/notoriety in the circles that care. This was cemented with Battle In Heaven [2005], but the calmed down Silent Light [2007] won over many of the off-put. For Post Tenebras Lux, however, he returns to his first inclinations with a vengeance.

by Tom von Logue Newth

BarbaraBarbara’s elliptical beginning delivers the eponymous heroine, a doctor, to a provincial hospital in a seaside town. She is just released from some unspecified incarceration, and still under surveillance from the implacable secret police. Only gradually do we realize that this is East Germany in the early 80s, and only gradually do we warm to Barbara’s sour trout face and hard, defiant, watchful eyes.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Laurence AnywaysXavier Dolan stretches out with his third feature, not just in budget and length, but in matching his emotionally high-pitched material with an equally bravura style, and in tackling a subject less frequently seen on screen even than the tortured mother-son relationship of his début éclatant, I Killed My Mother [2009], or the MMF love triangle of Heartbeats [2010]. He remains for the first time behind the camera, ceding the demanding lead role to veteran French actor Melvil Poupard – he started aged 9 with Raúl Ruiz – who gives a subtly restrained and highly appealing performance in Laurence Anyways.

by Tom von Logue Newth

TabuThe rather lovely tone of Miguel Gomes’ Tabu is set from the beginning, in a poetic voiceover prologue about a widowed huntsman in Africa, accompanied by a beautiful, simple piano piece, and dripping in that peculiarly Portuguese saudade.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Caesar Must DieCaesar Must Die is apparently a small, simple film, with one straightforward aim: to remind the viewer that lifers in a maximum security prison in Rome, no matter their crimes, remain emotionally valid and susceptible human beings. Yet to achieve this, the veteran Taviani brothers take on one of the most nebulous issues of them all, the power of art, via that most enduring of artists, in the prison production of Julius Caesar.

by Tom von Logue Newth

PietaThis is really quite a silly film, Piéta, albeit played totally deadpan, from the portentous and only-just-relevant title on down, as a punky young loan enforcer goes around crippling the poor machinist clients who cannot pay their exorbitant interest. The appearance of a silent, nicely-dressed middle-aged lady amidst the fantastic detritus of the industrial tenement setting forces him out of his lonely, cold-blooded routine, and awakens suppressed mother issues that will leave him unable to do his job, and wide open for revenge.

by Tom von Logue Newth

LeviathanLeviathan is a fantastic audio-visual experiment, presented as by the Sensory Ethnography Lab. The emphasis is on the sensory, so to get the other out of the way, it is filmed entirely on and around a commercial fishing vessel and yes, it’s a hard life for these fishermen, with much of their work machinelike in its mindless repetition, and mostly at night (happily the fish-gutting is filmed with some discretion; the removal of ray wings less so).

by Tom von Logue Newth

WrongEven if one’s not seen Quentin Dupieux’s loopy telekinetic tire movie Rubber [2010] it’s quite clear from the start of Wrong – the wrong “A Film By” credit, followed by a nice if obvious gag on the hackneyed alarm clock shot – that this is going to be another surreal oddity.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Berberian Sound StudioThis is unashamedly unconventional, but in a fan rather than snooty way. Using (mostly) just diegetic sound from the post-production of a fictional mid-70s Italian horror movie, Peter Strickland has followed his superb debut, Katalin Varga [2009], with a largely non-narrative nightmare hymn both to the electronic soundtrack experiments of that time, and to the gorgeous analogue gear that made such arcane chantries of the era’s recording studios, with Berberian Sound Studio.

by Tom von Logue Newth

The Angel's ShareThere are pockets of whimsy in the Ken Loach filmography, but following 2009’s Looking for Eric, he seems more fully than ever to be embracing an Ealing-inflected lightheartedness. The Angel's Share starts off in reasonably familiar territory, as a succession of poor, unemployed Scots have their petty crimes recounted in court, and the community service sentences passed down. All crew cuts, tracksuits, and impenetrable Glasgow accents, the stage is set for some grubby grim-up-northness, but Loach’s film turns out to be anything but.

by Kathryn Schroeder

A Highjacking (Kapringen)Director Tobias Lindholm's first feature film R was a gritty prison drama that upheaved the generic genre conventions that came before.  His second feature takes a drastic look at a very topical subject, and one very much ignored in detail in the media--except for the sensationalizing of pirates sailing the open sea.  A Highjacking is the story of a group of crew members aboard a Danish ship headed to Mumbai, sailing in waters that are not common territory for water-bound highjacking.  Never say never is the shocking truth that A Highjacking brings to life, with as much intensity and claustrophobia possible.  

by Tom von Logue Newth

AntiviralIf nothing else, Brandon Cronenberg has been quite unafraid to make a film that could pass for an earlier one of his father’s. Antiviral boasts a fertile premise that ties biological interference to celebrity obsession, is very handsomely mounted, and features a fine, committed performance from Caleb Landry Jones in the lead. But the title rings hollow as an antidote to the modern woes depicted on screen, or as representative of any of the characters’ actions or motivations – like the film itself, catchy, but little more than superficially thought-provoking.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Something In The AirIt should be noted that the original title of Olivier Assayas’ well-received Something In The Air is Après Mai. For a film set in France in 1970, that inevitably means “after [the extensive riots of ] May 1968”. Let it be clear, however, that this is neither a political film, nor a film about politics. The Assayas surrogate takes part in high school revolutionary activity, and the context is being heavily used to sell the film of course, along with the implications of autobiography. But that title also means “after school got out in May”, because it’s basically Assayas’ “What I did in my summer vacation 1970” and it goes something like this:

by Tom von Logue Newth

Like Someone I LoveAbbas Kiarostami has gone to Japan, and why not? Like Someone In Love is less obviously tricksy than his last, and his first outside of Iran, Certified Copy [2010]; and it reveals a little more of what was obvious all along – that Kiarostami’s interests lie in people, identity, and communication (between characters, and with the audience), rather than in cultural specificity. This is no more a film about Japan than the last was a film about Tuscany, or the others – really – are about Iran.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Nairobi Half LifeIf you go to the AFI FEST website, and select Film Guide from the navigation menu, you will find all of the festival's sections laid out before you, with an image from one film highlighting each.  It should come as no surprise that Nairobi Half Life has been selected to represent the 'Breakthrough' section of the guide.  Not to discount the greatness of the other five films in the section but after viewing Nairobi Half Life it is hard to imagine any other film being as remarkable--although I am sure they all have their respective merits, and I will discover those when the festival runs November 1-8, much to my excitement.  For now I will share with you the fascinating and brilliant accomplishment in filmmaking that is Nairobi Half Life.

by James Jay Edwards

Patrick PosterAs a horror movie device, the power of telekinesis has always been popular.  Brian De Palma made two films about it, Carrie and The Fury, before he even grew out of his Hitchcock phase.  As overused as it is, the ability to move things with one’s mind is still an understated and misunderstood skill, and that combination opens doors to frightening situations.  In 1978 (The same year that De Palma released The Fury), Australian director Richard Franklin (Psycho II) put an interesting spin on the subject by having his psychokinetic antagonist be a comatose young man named Patrick.

by Tom von Logue Newth

BestiaireDenis Côté, DP Vincent Biron, and producer Sylvain Corbeil have created a singular (beast of a) movie with Bestiaire. Offered the chance to shoot at a rather tired safari park in rural Quebec, Côté decided to make an experiment, to find new ways of making images of animals.

 

by Tom von Logue Newth

Neighboring SoundsThe sounds are heard around a burgeoning middle-class street in Brazil’s Recife, half of which used to be owned by silver-bearded patriarch Francisco, but which is now mostly tower blocks. First-time feature director Kleber Mendonça Filho reworks some of his shorts material to lay out a mosaic of life on this particular, present-day street, both aurally and visually, centered largely on the extended family who have always lived there. The camera wanders through a playground of kids, or spies on a kissing couple near a rooftop below. Other extras and kids pop up from time to time – the kissing girl even gets to answer to her called-out name later on – but the film concentrates on a relatively small handful of characters, following them through the inconsequential mundanities of everyday life.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Kim Kold as Dennis in Teddy BearAt every film festival there always seems to be one movie that strikes you as a viewer more so than any other.  For the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival the honor goes to Director Mads Matthiesen's Teddy Bear.  The promotional image for Teddy Bear displays a hulking figure of a man, bodybuilder Dennis (real-life super-heavyweight bodybuilder Kim Kold), curling his biceps in front of a mirror with a barbell weighted far more than most people could carry with both hands.  Dennis is covered in tattoos, rippling with muscles, and looks nothing like the gentile man you come to know in Teddy Bear--a juxtaposition of a title if there ever was one to the striking figure of the man it refers.  But Dennis is all heart, a sweet-natured man who yearns for love but is painfully shy.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Veronika VossWhat a pleasure it has been to wallow in the 16-film Fassbinder retrospective this past two weeks. For various reasons it’s not been easy to see his films in the theater, but now that distributers Janus hold this selection of (very nice) subtitled prints, one can hope that they’ll resurface more frequently.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Wallander: The RevengeIt has taken over two years for Charlotte Brandstrom's Wallander: The Revenge to gain theatrical distribution in the U.S., and it has been worth the wait.  The film is a continuation of the highly successful novels written by Henning Mankell that feature the main character Kurt Wallander, a Swedish police detective.  Instead of merely adapting one of the published novels, a fete that has been done to nearly all of them, Mankell created thirteen new stories featuring Wallander, starting with The Revenge being released theatrically and the following twelve episodes will be released on VOD and DVD, all with a running time of 90 minutes. 

by Tom von Logue Newth

Rainer Werner Fassbinder We’re halfway through the American Cinematheque’s wonderful Fassbinder retrospective, and if it’s demonstrated one thing, it’s that a Fassbinder double bill is a hell of a lot of cinema. His work rate was so prolific that one would assume a film here and there to have been merely tossed off. Some of them were, but his remarkable sense of how drama plays, and what can be done with the camera to enhance that drama, repeatedly finding variations on obsessive themes – the self-perpetuating hierarchy of power and control, in socio-economic or love-relationship terms, and the impossibility of freedom – is so sure that every single one is an immersive viewing experience, rich in text and subtext. It is as though Fassbinder had an innate, instinctive film-making ability, which works even when it shouldn’t: asked by Peter Chatel, his envoy to present Despair (1977) at Cannes, why there’s lots of Nazis at the start but almost none later on, Fassbinder confessed he’d forgotten to film them. Chatel protested that he couldn’t tell that to people; of course not, replied Fassbinder, just tell them that in 1933 the Nazis were a new thing, but that later on people had become insidiously inured to them. It works.

by Tom von Logue Newth

DomainIt all sounds pretty French: teenage boy falls in love with his older aunt, attractive, smart, and been around the block a few times, as incarnated to perfection by Béatrice Dalle. The expected dynamic is subverted, however, even obliquely in the opening scene, and the well-worn elements of such a relationship are treated as though anew, with little interest in misplaced teenage priapism.

by Tom von Logue Newth

After well-received stops at Cannes, Toronto and New York, the fourth feature from I’m Gonna Explode director Gerardo Naranjo is set to represent Mexico in fine style at AFI Fest presented by Audi, starting November 3, 2011.

Torn from the headlines, Miss Bala pitches beauty queen aspirant Laura into the murky world of the Tijuana drug cartels – it’s the title of Miss Baja California she’s going for, but bala means “bullet”, plenty of which are expended before the end of the film. The real-life Miss Sinaloa (also named Laura) was indeed arrested for her association with the Mexican drug gangs, but this is no docudrama. Laura here is an innocent, drawn into the underworld through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and buffeted from dangerous situation to dangerous situation by the twin expediencies of self-preservation and having no other choice.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Emerging from the recent trend of independent horror in British cinema, Ben Wheatley’s small-scale gangster massacre Down Terrace made a bit of a splash last year. His latest, Kill List, ups the horror ante and finds a natural home in the AFI FEST’s Midnight Movies strand this week (festival runs November 3-10).

by Tom von Logue Newth

It is a little alarming to hear people describe Takeshi Kitano’s latest, Outrage (Autoreiji), as a return to form, since it comes off the back of his masterpiece, Achilles and the Tortoise. What they means is that it’s a return to the straight Yakuza genre with which Kitano started his career, and into which he has injected some interesting elements at various subsequent points. Not so much here, which from anyone else would be fine, but from him is a disappointment. Nonetheless, it is a perfectly efficient gangster film, told at the usual slow-steady pace, laced with black humour, and boasting some particularly unpleasant moments of violence.

by Tom von Logue Newth

A rather appealing if throwaway cat and mouse thriller, Headhunters introduces us immediately to the forcefully charming persona and slick art-thievery methods of its protagonist, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie). His criminal activities subsidize a career as über-successful corporate headhunter, but he makes no bones about having overextended himself for the sake of his Nordic model-beautiful wife, ostentatiously luxurious lifestyle, and 1m 68 height (5’6”).

by Tom von Logue Newth

An exquisite salmagundi of moral grey shades, A Separation explicitly hands off judgment to the audience in the opening scene, as Simin and Nader sit before a judge and address directly to camera their cases for and against divorce. She wants to emigrate, to raise their daughter, Temeh, away from the difficulties and repressions of Iran, whilst he does not want to leave his Alzheimer’s suffering father, but must provide consent for the daughter to travel. They agree to a temporary separation whilst this is worked out.

by Tom von Logue Newth

It’d be best to be prepared before going into this, for a long slow evening. Amongst the various aims of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s new film is the conjuring of the strange all-night atmosphere experienced by a group of officials in search for a dead body, based on the experiences of his co-screenwriter, Ercan Kesel, a doctor who partook in a similar investigation when serving in the same remote village region as depicted in the film. Another of Ceylan’s aims is an explicitly Chekhovian tapestry of apparent banalities, everyday concerns, and the passing of time, that will bring various of the characters unhurriedly to life, and add up incrementally to a portrait of something like life itself.

by Tom von Logue Newth

This is really a one idea movie, but it’s a very good idea (taken from a short story by Tom Bissell). Nica and Alex are young travelers in Georgia, engaged to be married, who depart on a trek with mountain guide Dato. And then Something Happens. To explain the Something would be to spoil the impact of the film, but one of its major problems is that to create that impact, for the first half of the film virtually nothing happens at all. The second problem is that virtually nothing happens afterwards either.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Sokurov concludes his Moloch trilogy, on evil and power, with a loose adaptation of Faust. So loose, in fact that one would be hard-pressed to recognize anything of the original save the name of the protagonist. He’s still a doctor, but poor, neurotic, and, after a while, fixated with a very young girl named Margarete. It is for a night with her, rather than for unlimited knowledge, that he finally signs the Mephistophelean pact late on in the film, and rather than the smooth persuader who will inevitably triumph, this Mephistopheles is a vile, goatish moneylender named Mauricius who ends up buried beneath boulders in a place suggestively described as “far away and very high up”.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Giorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth caused quite a splash last year, so many were eager to see what queasy weirdness his latest would offer. Alps is barely less weird, somewhat less queasy, and just as opaque. Even more than his last film, it also teeters on the verge of being merely affected.

by Tom von Logue Newth

A real Hollywood oddity, this is a cracking carnival noir charting the rise and fall of hubristic mentalist Stanton Carlisle – Stanton the Great – from cheap clairvoyant-act barker to quasi-religious swarmi, to.. well, that’d be spoiling it, but by the look on Tyrone Power’s face, he knew it had to be.

by Tom von Logue Newth

This is most definitely a film, a wonderful, essential conjuring of something from nothing, a necessity for the film-maker, and the selfless defiance of a repressive regime. The Iranian government has banned director Jafar Panahi from film-making or from leaving the country for twenty years, and at the time of this film’s making, he was appealing a six-year prison sentence; it was smuggled to Cannes on a flashdrive hidden in a cake. For what can a film-maker do if not make a film?

by Tom von Logue Newth

In an alternate universe, a Turin Horse will become the name for a movie that turns out to have nothing to do with its title. Slow-cinema maestro Béla Tarr’s latest (last?) opens with a blank-screen voiceover relating the semi-apocryphal story of Nietzsche’s madness-inducing encounter with a mistreated carthorse, and declares that “of the horse, we know nothing”. Cut to a carthorse, trudging through a hellish swirl of mist. But this is not necessarily the same horse, we are clearly not in Italy, and the film soon lets the animal retreat to the background, in order to focus exclusively on the slow, hard, regular days of the old carter and his daughter. He has an apostle’s beard and a mop of grey curls, frequently backlight-haloed, and the use of only his left arm; she has a hard, handsome face, tight-mouthed and dead-eyed, beneath long wind-whipped hair; and they live a life of emptiness and hardship in a stone croft on a barren plain.

by Kathryn Schroeder

As a feature film directing debut, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti's Carré Blanc is sure to make a strong impression on the filmmaking community, and the impressionable audience member who wanders into this dystopian view of the world's future.  Shown as part of the World Cinema section at the 2011 AFI FEST, Carré Blanc is a relatively short film by festival standards, at only 80 minutes, but the impact of the film, both stylistically and theoretically, will have you thinking about it for much longer.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining's With Every Heartbeat was presented at AFI FEST 2011 as part of the Breakthrough section.  Keeping in line with the excellence of Swedish films of the past, and present, Keining presents an intimate portrayal of love being found in the unlikeliest of places and at a time neither person expects--the two people in question just happen to be women, one openly gay and the other engaged to a man.  A true triumph for the LGBT cause, the film portrays love as love is in it's natural form, disregarding much of what could have been a proclamation for equal rights on gender issues that only makes its a stronger piece of filmmaking in the process.

by Tom von Logue Newth

The main draw of Hanaan is its ethnic exoticism: a Korean cop in the urban/industrial wasteland of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which is certainly not something you see every day (Stalin forcibly relocated thousands of Koreans to populate the USSR’s Asian republics). The story feels well-worn, however – like something from an American movie, as one character observes of a stakeout – with the ups and downs of drug addiction providing automatic pathos but few surprises.

by Tom von Logue Newth

What with the whole skin transplant element of Almodóvar’s latest, it was no great surprise that in his capacity as Guest Artistic Director of this year’s AFI Festival, he should pick as one of his personal screening choices, the wonderful medical horror film Eyes Without A Face.

It is a most unusual film, in story, tone and the inclusion of a remarkably unsettling face transplant – in part for the slow, tense, medical precision with which it is presented and conducted – which must have been goodness-knows how shocking in 1960 when the film was released.

by Tom von Logue Newth

AFI Festival-goers who caught Nacho Vigalonda’s Time Crimes a couple of years ago knew that it was a good bet to mark their diaries for this year’s screening of his second feature, Extraterrestrial. They were not disappointed.

The irrepressible Vigalonda explained in his introduction to the screening that he was stuck in a long pre-production process and wanted to make a quick little film. That’s just what he did, with even greater economy than Time Crimes, but with just as sure a control over the narrative logic of escalating complications. A man wakes up in the bed of a beautiful young woman, unable to remember a thing about the night before. The playing-out of a stock situation is handled with perfectly judged restraint and deadpan performance (they discover, amusingly, that they are named Julio and Julia, but she’s ditzy enough to forget his name more than once). The awkward morning after is derailed, however, when they notice that there’s no-one outside and that a 4-mile wide flying saucer is hovering over Madrid.

by Tom von Logue Newth

It boded so well. The credits play over a serene beam of moonlight on the water, while an excerpt of Tristan and Isolde tinkles gently; then we’re thrown into a noisy neon Malayan karaoke club/shack, where an unexpected, very public murder is followed by an even more unexpected, somnambulant Ave Maria. But Chantal Akerman, taking Joseph Conrad’s first novel, goes nowhere near such stylish flamboyance again and delivers much that is expected, and much that is unexpectedly unsuccessful.

by Tom von Logue Newth

A new film from the Dardennes brother is always cause for celebration, particularly in Cannes where they just keep being given prizes. This year it was the Grand Jury award for their latest, Le gamin au vélo, and it’s been a popular title at numerous festivals since, finally rolling into Hollywood for the AFI FEST this week (November 3-10).

by Kathryn Schroeder

The year is 1982 in Peru.  Cayetana (Fatima Buntinx) lives in a spacious home outside the city with caretakers.  Her mother, and stepfather, are returning home after a long while away and Cayetana is not interested in seeing either of them.  Buntinx makes the most disinterested, annoyed, and ultimately bothered facial expressions--this is an actress who does not need dialogue to convey emotion, it is written all over her face.  Now Cayetana is a bit of an odd-ball; some may call her sinister.  In reality, she is a child going through a great deal of emotional turmoil and unfortunately the good intentions she should have veer towards the bad. 

by Tom von Logue Newth

That Raúl Ruíz describes his new film as his most theoretical might seem a bit daunting. He’s made over 100 movies in 30 years and they’re all pretty theoretical, from The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1979), to Time Regained (1999). Plus, the new one’s a four and half-hour nineteenth-century drama.

by Kathryn Schroeder

From Korea comes Director Kim Min-suk's Haunters.  A film centered around two men specifically who both harbor exceptional abilities.  Kyu-nam (Koo So) believes himself to be ordinary.  Having just lost his job at a junk yard he is seeking employment.  He finds work at a pawn shop, and believes this is the moment his life will take off and become great.  When an unknown man (Gang Dong-Won) walks into the shop one day and freezes everyone present, being Kyu-nam's two friends, and the owner, things begin to get weird.  Weird in that the only person who does not freeze is Kyu-nam.  He is not ordinary after all, but is the only person this unknown man has ever come into contact with who is not susceptible to his powers.  This of course causes great panic in our unknown antagonist, who has lived his entire life with the ability to freeze people, as well as control their actions with his eyes.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Sgt. Gerry Boyle is an Irish Guard, aka policeman, in a small town in the West of Ireland.  As the man in charge he takes little, if anything, seriously.  When his newest recruit and he discover a dead body of a man they do not recognize it is with dark humor, and a general sense of not giving a --ck that Boyle cheekily investigates the crime.  This death is not so easily forgotten as the United States sends their own investigator, FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to team up with Boyle on the case.  For this is a case that is much bigger than Boyle thought, it involves drug trafficking, murder, and cover-ups.  For a lawman of a small town in Ireland this could be the case of a lifetime, for Gerry Boyle it is more of an inconvenience.

Movie News | Trailers | Events | Goodies: Foreign Film

by Tom von Logue Newth

It's hard to believe that Los Angeles has had its own film festival for only two decades, but this year is indeed the 20th edition of the LAFF, running from Wednesday, June 11, to Thursday 19. As ever, the program boasts a mixture of local and regional independent films, a couple of big-ticket studio films (Eastwood’s Jersey Boys is the closer, 22 Jump Street is a “pre-festival” special screening ), a couple of big-ticket independents (Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer is the official opener), a respectable International Showcase, and countless documentaries, shorts and music videos.

by James Jay Edwards

Wither PosterIn case a remake of The Evil Dead is not enough, audiences can look forward to Wither, a Swedish film from Artsplotation Films that is being touted as a full-fledged homage to Sam Raimi’s seminal 1981 splatterfest.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Sam Kadi's The CitizenA film's synopsis can peak interest or destroy it altogether.  Director Sam Kadi's The Citizen does the former.  The story of an Arab immigrant named Ibrahim (Egyptian actor Khlaed Nabawy from Fair Game) who wins the American green card lottery only to arrive in New York City on September 10, 2001 definitely intrigues a cinephile.  The Citizen looks to delve into the American dream, as it is tarnished with the harsh reality of violence against everything it stands for in the form of terrorism, fear, and cultural misunderstanding.  The Citizen has me intrigued, as it will many others.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Should've Kissed - Film Stills - Courtesy of KAFFLANew York City has had the pleasure of hosting the Korean American Film Festival and now it is Los Angeles' turn.  The inaugural Korean American Film Festival Los Angeles (KAFFLA) kicks off on August 9th, 2012 and runs until the 11th at the Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles (5505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036).  The festival will feature 4 feature-length narrative and documentary films and 13 short films in non-competitive programs.

by Tom von Logue Newth

The Marriage of Maria BraunThat is a fantastic headline to be able to write. For one reason or another, since LACMA’s series ten years or so ago, fans of German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder have had few chances to see much of his work on the big screen. Now, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of his death (June 10), the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles is celebrating this most individual of film-makers in suitably expansive style, with a series of 16 first-rate titles, between May 31 and June 14, 2012.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Frieda Pinto in TrishnaThere have been adaptations of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" on stage, film, television, and even an opera arranged.  The first film adaptation took place in 1913, directed by Adolph Zukor and starring Minnie Maddern Fiske; all copies of the silent picture have been lost.  In 2007 a musical version of the novel premiered in New York, "Tess: The New Musical", featuring a rock opera of lyrics, music, and Annie Pasqua.  Even acclaimed Director Roman Polanski took a turn at adapting "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" with his 1979 film Tess, starring Nastassja Kinski, Leigh Lawson, and Peter Firth.  The time has come again for a new film adaptation of Hardy's phenomenal novel to grace the screen; this time set in 21st Century India.  Trishna is directed by Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, Wonderland, 24 Hour Party People) and stars Freida Pinto (Immortals, Slumdog Millionaire) and Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Centurion). Trishna is a new take on the modern classic, but maintains the tensions between "ancient privilege and modern equality."  It is wonderful to see a modern Director taking on a beloved classic, and when Trishna is released in theatres on July 13, 2012 everyone will get to experience the adaptation for themselves. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

The Raid: RedemptionDirector Gareth Huw Evans reteams with Iko Uwais, the star and fight choreographer of the cult sensation Merantu with The Raid: Redemption.  Featuring the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat, The Raid: Redeption played to great applause at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival and will now be released in theatres on March 23, 2012 with a score by alternative rocker/composers Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and Joseph Trapanese, collaborator with Daft Punk and M83.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Photo Credit – Dean Semler. Courtesy of FilmDistrict and GK Films.

FilmDistrict is proud to present Angelina Jolie in a Live online Q&A on Thursday Jan 12th at 8pm EST / 5pm PST to discuss her writing & directorial debut, In The Land of Blood and Honey. This exciting and interactive event gives fans the chance to ask Ms. Jolie questions about the film LIVE!