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Entries in foreign films (310)

Wednesday
Dec162015

Interview: The Actress & Director of "The Second Mother," Brazil's Oscar Hopeful

As 2015 winds down, let's turn a spotlight on one of the year's best foreign films, Brazil's Oscar submission The Second Mother. After a successful limited US release in late summer, it's now available to watch on VOD. And watch it you should. The film centers on a housekeeper named Val (a terrific Regina Casé) who is reunited with her estranged teenage daughter after many years apart. The daughter's sudden presence wreaks havoc on the the dynamics of Val's relationship to the family that employs her. It's a rich film with humor, sadness and insight.

This interview with writer/director Anna Muylaert and the film's star Regina Casé is edited for clarity because some of it was conducted through a translator. I hope you'll be intrigued enough to check out the film.

NATHANIEL: Anna, since you wrote and directed, let's start with you. What prompted you to do this? Was it personal interests in these topics like parenting, and socioeconomic divisions

ANNA MUYLAERT: It started with me when I had a son. I was interested in talking about the importance of the work of motherhood, and at the same time how it was not valued in our society. And then character of the nanny came about, and then of course, the socioeconomic issues came.

NATHANIEL: Was it hard to find Val? Did you have Regina in mind when you were creating her?

more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec142015

Interview: Director Maxime Giroux on the Adult Romance of Canadian Oscar Submission 'Félix and Meira' 

Jose here. In the sensitive romance, Félix and Meira, Hadas Yaron and Martin Dubreuil, play the title characters, two lovers who bond through their loneliness, but must struggle with their very different backgrounds, and the fact that she’s married to someone else. An insightful look at Montreal’s Hasidic community, the film is peculiar for its restraint and might be one of the most memorable romantic films in recent years. Director Maxime Giroux paints a unique portrait of people seeking connections that go beyond typical “movie love”. I spoke to him about the film’s origins, casting his leading lady, and being in the race for Oscar.

JOSE: At the beginning of the year I spoke to Luzer Twersky who told me the film originally was supposed to be a comedy. How did you end up with such a subdued romantic drama instead?

MAXIME GIROUX:It’s funny, when we started to imagine the movie, I’d just made a dark movie and I wanted to make a comedy. The more we talked about this community and understood it, the more obvious it became it would be difficult to make a comedy, because people like Luzer for instance, who leave the community, have a hard time making that decision. A comedy about that would not have been easy to make.

JOSE: He said instead what you ended up with was making the movie that best captured the Hasidic experience.

MAXIME GIROUX: He would know that better than me, I never lived in that community (laughs).

More after the jump...

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Friday
Dec112015

Interview: Valerio Mastandrea on Completing Italy's Oscar Submission After the Untimely Death of Its Director

Jose here. One could argue that most films go through an interesting trajectory, since it’s never easy to turn the initial pages on a script into moving images projected on a screen. However, few films in recent years have gone through the journey of Claudio Caligari’s Don’t Be Bad, which not only was the director’s third film in thirty years (take that Terrence Malick), but sadly turned out to be his last. Caligari, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, shot the film and had completed most of its editing, when he died at the age of 67 never seeing the final product. What followed was a true labor of love, as Caligari’s colleagues, led by actor Valerio Mastandrea who had starred in his second film, The Scent of the Night, completed the project and made sure it became available to audiences.

Don’t Be Bad made its debut at the 2015 Venice Film Festival and was subsequently selected as Italy’s submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. With a plot that seems inspired by Pasolini and Steinbeck, Don’t Be Bad, is a heartbreaking reminder that we won’t see any more films by Caligari, but it’s also a testament to his unique brand of sociopolitical filmmaking. I had the chance to attend a screening of the film in New York and listening to Mastandrea’s sincere admiration and love for Caligari and the film were awe-inspiring.

Read the interview after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec082015

Interview: Ivan Ostrochovsky on Directing the Slovak Oscar Submission 'Koza'

Jose here. As Creed gains popularity in the awards season, it would be fascinating to juxtapose it with Ivan Ostrochovsky's Koza, the Slovak Foreign Language submission which also happens to be about a boxer. The main difference with both films is that in the very American Creed, boxing is a noble enterprise used by the hero to reclaim his position among the "gods" (it's no accident that in such an Oedipal drama, the leading character's name is Adonis). In Ostrochovsky's film, boxing is the means by which the leading character (played by real life boxer, and former Olympian, Peter Balaz) who goes by the nickname Koza (which means "goat") is trying to raise money to prevent his wife from having an abortion. 

Formally exquisite, and with a running time of a little over an hour, showing how great editing proves that less is indeed more, Koza is an exemplary work of art that combines documentary filmmaking and drama. Its un-romantic look at sports might prove revelatory to some (it certainly did to me) and Ostrochovsky's deep humanism should place him as a director to keep an eye on. He was also kind enough to answer a few questions I had about the film, including how he directed Balaz, and what an Oscar nomination might mean for his career.

Read the interview after the jump...

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Tuesday
Dec082015

Interview: Director Gabriel Ripstein on Mexican Oscar Submission '600 Miles', and Working with Tim Roth

Jose here. I spoke to 600 Miles director Gabriel Ripstein minutes after an earthquake hit Mexico City on November 23rd and unexpectedly became the bearer of bad news when I asked him if his family was alright. Mr. Ripstein wasn’t aware there’d been an earthquake, but calmly added “no news is good news”. His serene demeanor reminded me of the tone of his film, a weapon-trafficking tale which could’ve easily become a sensationalist drama, but instead goes for an understated, thoughtful approach. The film stars Tim Roth as an American ATF agent who is kidnapped by a Mexican weapons smuggler played by Kristyan Ferrer (who audiences will know from Sin Nombre).

Ripstein allows his actors to revel in the humanity of these characters and delivers a film that goes beyond “odd couple” clichés, to comment on an issue that doesn’t get as much coverage as the war on drugs or terrorism. Because of its confident pacing and bold mise-en-scene, one wouldn’t guess from watching the film, that it also happens to be Ripstein’s directorial debut (it won the award for Best First Feature at the Berlinale), and yet, the first time filmmaker impressed members of the Mexican Film Academy so much that they submitted his film as their Oscar entry. I spoke to Ripstein about working with Roth, the incredible cinematic legacy of his family, and what an Oscar nomination might mean for his career. 

Read the interview after the jump...

 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov292015

Fenix & Golden Horse Prizes

Two sets of international film awards were recently handed out and in the holiday flurry we haven't yet shared them, but since three Oscar submissions dominated, better late than never!

Alfred Castro in "El Club"

Fenix Awards
The Fenix awards are a Mexican based initiative to honor films and industry professionals of Latin America, Spain and Portugal.m They're only in their second year so it's too new to know if they'll make an impact but this year they gave Pablo Larraín's  El Club (Chile's tramautizing Oscar submission) Picture, Director, Screenplay and Actor prizes. Alfredo Castro was the acting recipient of the latter (it's a large cast of mostly men and fans of Larraín will know him well since he previously starred in Larraín's other Oscar submissions Tony Manero and No). Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia's mesmerizing Oscar submission for which we're heartily rooting) took Sound, Cinematography, and Music along with Best Director (in a tie)

Golden Horse Awards
The Assassin, which has been marginally successful without quite catching on with audiences, is on a roll with prizes and honors. This past week it dominated the Golden Horse Awards winning six prizes with Picture, Cinematography, Makeup and Costume Design (which are grouped for some reason), Sound Effects and a special filmmaking prize for Hsiao-hsien Hou even though they also gave him Best Director! So that didn't leave much for its chief rivals Mountains May Depart, Port of Call, Tharlo, and Drunk Thanatos but they each were honored in one way or another. Hou's semi-abstract take on the wuxia genre also topped the Sight & Sound Best of 2015 poll.

Which is a long way of saying that this one, which is pretty but alienating, might prove hard for the Academy's Executive Committee to ignore when it comes to their "three saves" for the 9 wide finalist list from which the 5 Best Foreign Language Film nominees will be chosen.

Related: Foreign Film Oscar Charts

Thursday
Nov262015

Jose Gives Thanks

Jose here. As a non-American, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite US holiday because it's the time of the year when it's socially acceptable for people to put marshmallows and cranberries on everything. A practice which I refuse to stop during the other 364 days of the year, but which for 24 hours helps me bond with the people I love, as I argue about why movies with subtitles are as nourishing as turkey and gravy.

Other than complex carbs, I'm also thankful for

...J.Law away from Dior's gold and diamond shackles. She has rarely looked better than in the black Ralph Lauren she wore to one of the Mockingjay: Part 2 premieres.

...Charlotte Rampling's skinny jeans in 45 Years.

...3D movies that challenge everything I thought about the medium (thank you Gaspar Noe and Wim Wenders)

...for world cinema, and for the opportunity I've had to talk to so many international filmmakers this year. It was my personal mission to interview as many directors with Foreign Language Oscar submissions as possible, and I'm appreciative of the warm response you've all given to the interviews (there are more to come...)

...Finally learning how to pronounce Saoirse Ronan's name (sear + sha ♥) so I can tell everyone how much I adored her work in Brooklyn. (Also, kudos to that movie for getting what it's like to leave your home behind to start anew abroad. It's one of the best films about immigration since Elia Kazan's America America.)

... Michael B. Jordan running around in grey sweatpants in Creed.

...The fuzzy feeling, and donut craving, every time I watch Tangerine

...theatre people popping up in movies (Lillias White in Nasty Baby! Brian d'Arcy James in Spotlight! Audra McDonald in Ricki and the Flash! Nikki M. James in Lucky Stiff! Patina Miller in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 2) not to mention the beauty that was The Last Five Years.

...Rooney Mara and Kristen Stewart proving they are brilliant actresses and winning awards for their work in France.

...Marion Cotillard's "spot" monologue from Macbeth. 

...Nina Hoss in Phoenix. Greta Gerwig in Mistress America. Rose Byrne in Spy. Laia Costa in Victoria and the girls from The Wonders and Fort Tilden.

...the movie gods granting me an audience with Winona Ryder.

Finally, I'm thankful for  "Oscar Winner Julianne Moore" (and don't you forget it!)

You can read more about our contributors at the about page and click here for all of Jose's work

Jose & Murtada at the Fox Searchlight Holiday PartyJose Solís (Fashion / News / Interviews)
Jose Solís wanted to write about film since he was a child which is why he followed the yellow brick road and moved to Oz (ahem NYC) to make his dream come true. He has been writing about film since 2003 and regularly contributes to The Film Experience and PopMatters. He is also having a torrid affair with Broadway and theatAH and writes about those at StageBuddy.com. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society. 
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