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Entries in foreign films (310)

Friday
Nov202015

Mustang Interview: "There’s not just one way of being a director or looking at the world." 

France's Oscar submission Mustang (previously reviewed) focuses on five orphaned sisters going through adolescence in a Turkish village where hormones are considered to be the ultimate evil. Worried about their reputation, their grandmother decides the best way to care for them is by marrying them off as soon as possible, but the sisters have very little to say in the decisions made for them. They don’t understand why hanging out with boys is wrong, or why they should be married to strangers. Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, in her feature length debut, tells a revelatory tale of oppression, but for all the hardships on display in the film, she keeps the style playful and fresh, reminding one of what it feels like to be a teenager oblivious or careless of the darkness in the world.

Most impressive of all, is the director’s work with the five actresses playing the sisters - Lale (Günes Sensoy), Sonay (Ilayda Akdogan),Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu), Ece (Elit Iscan) and Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu) - who through subtle touches make us believe these young women have always lived together, and have formed an indestructible bond. In a bold, wonderful move Mustang was selected as France’s Foreign Language Film submission for the Oscars, and with the warm response it’s received in festivals all over the world, it might make it all the way to the final five. I spoke to Deniz Gamze Ergüven and was not surprised to realize she’s as smart, refreshing and sincere as her film.

Our interview is after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Nov142015

Links: Adele, Oscar, Regina, Rooney, JLaw and WTF Missy

Film Comment Nick Davis interviews Todd Haynes on movies that inspired something in his movies
Interview Mag talks to Regina King about her big year, an Emmy win and The Leftovers
Kenneth in the (212) looks back on the revolutionary TV movie An Early Frost (starring Aidan Quinn & Gena Rowlands) for its 30th anniversary
The Film Stage a prologue comic for The Hateful Eight written by Quentin Tarantino himself


The Envelope Jacob Tremblay on how Room should have ended 
filmmixtape suggests 10 films that should have made WGA's "Funniest" List
Pajiba mourns the passing of Hayley Atwell... from social media. She was a master at it. *sniffle*
This is Not Porn Marlon Brando on the set of Julius Caesar
Gurus of Gold new charts and which films and performance need a bigger campaign push to be a nomination threat
Screen Daily Adele in talks to join the cast of the next Xavier Dolan movie. Guess she liked her experience on 
"Hello"
/Film Rooney Mara still up for a Dragon Tattoo sequel
Variety the first image from the new season of Penny Dreadful - Patti Lupone returns 
Vogue gets a huge juicy house tour and talk with Jennifer Lawrence who is her typical bawdy self. On her current love life...

Cheers to my hymen growing back!” 

Music Video of the Year?
Missy Elliott hasn't released an album in 10 years. 10 YEARS. She proves she's still got it in spades with this track WTF (Where They From).It's got everything:  Hot dancing, inspired hair and makeup, best supporting visual fx, Charlie Kaufman like puppets, and boxes of people wrapped in plastic. I've watched this video a scary amount of times this week. Join me in obsessiveness. 

Oscar Movements
The Oscar charts were updated before yours truly headed to Los Angeles for the AFI, the last festival stop that can significantly change things (the next festivals like Santa Barbara for example are just glorified campaigning & warm up acceptance speeches for actors who are already real contenders). But, in a minor twist, AFI didn't change things - no Selma or American Sniper bows to be seen. There were a few players getting little boosts: Will Smith has an outside shot at Best Actor if they a) don't like their current options and b) Concussion is a big hit at Christmas; The Big Short could be a Globe Comedy contender (given that meager field); and quite a few Foreign Oscar Submissions attracted more devout fans since AFI is the single best festival at which to see them. Why you may ask? Well, it plays a lot of the titles each year and it's also the only big festival that takes place between when the official submission list is announced and when the Academy members start voting towards the finalist list of nine, so it's ideally positioned to make a difference. Mustang (France's submission) won the Audience Award but several other notable contenders, Denmark's A War among them, also had filmmakers and/or actors in town for promotional (hint: Oscar courting) purposes.

And in news that you know warmed Nathaniel's heart, The HFPA has vetoed Category Fraud attempts by Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander in supporting. They'll have to compete in Lead Actress, Drama where they both 100% belong.  This doesn't necessarily mean anything to the Oscar race where they've been pushed supporting thus far -- Oscar voters have never been required to vote in a specific way for a performance they like (unlike SAG & The Globes where the specific categories are decided for the voters before they nominate) and we've seen in the past that the media and (most shamefully) critics groups generally support / encourage Oscar to accept the fraudulent placement by the studios. But hopefully this is a bellwether for the future. Category Fraud has reached critical mass in the past dozen years and it's time to break it down.

Friday
Nov132015

Interview: The Filmmakers of Dominican Republic's Oscar Entry 'Sand Dollars'

Jose  here. In the sensitively told Sand Dollars, we see love become a transaction, as aging tourist Anne (Geraldine Chaplin) buys the affection of local girl Noeli (Yanet Mojica) who indulges the wealthy woman by providing her company and sexual favors. However soon we learn things aren’t as clear as we thought, and we realize there is much more than meets the eye in the relationship between these women. Directed by Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, in their third screen collaboration, Sand Dollars explores sexual tourism in an unexpectedly touching way. Rather than being a “social drama” or a morality tale, it’s an acutely observed portrait of people optimizing their best way of survival. For the rich white lady, this comes in the illusion of regained youth, for the young woman it comes through economic benefit, but also in the sense of emotional safety provided by Anne.

Both characters are portrayed beautifully by the lead actresses, Mojica is a force of nature, and Chaplin has truly never been better. Sand Dollars has been selected as the Dominican Republic’s official Oscar submission, and with the film currently being shown in New York cinemas, the filmmakers were kind enough to answer a few questions I sent them via email.  

JOSE: Was it difficult to get funding for a film about an interracial lesbian romance ...?

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov122015

AFI Awards: Mustang, James White, and More...

Deniz & AliceThe Los Angeles AFI Festival, presented by Audi, ends tonight with the premiere of Paramount's The Big Short with it's all star (male) cast. But two women we're instant new fans of were the winners. First time feature director Deniz Gamze Ergüven and second time feature director Alice Winocour both had films in the fest (Mustang, which they cowrote and Ergüven directed, and Disorder, which was titled Maryland when it first debuted at Cannes, which Winocour wrote and directed.) Mustang opens in NY & LA a week from tomorrow. Disorder is due in March next year. They're both very much worth seeing so keep an eye on these two very talented women. I know we will. 

NEW AUTEURS AWARDS

Jury:  Inkoo Kang (TheWrap), Sheri Linden (The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times) and Nigel M. Smith (The Guardian).

New Auteurs Grand Jury Award: Land and Shade (César Augusto Acevedo)
The jury cited it's  "visual eloquence, formal rigor and emotional power" in painting a portrait of a rural family in Colombia and its observations about the explotation of the poor and environmental degradation

more prizes follow...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov122015

Foreign Quickies: Mustang, El Club, Ixcanul

Three quick takes on foreign film competitors from the long list of eligible titles, all screened at AFI.

Mustang (France) Opens November 20th in select cities. Cohen Media Group.
Given that 2015's loudest topic may well be the need for fresh cinematic female voices, the French/Turkish production Mustang deserves $100 million blockbuster status instead of art house ghettoization with a $300,000 gross which is what they're infinitely more likely to get. Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven and screenwriter Alice Winocour, two very talented women, team up to tell the riveting story of five spirited sisters living with their hands-off grandma who keep colliding with the confines, literal and metaphoric, of the patriarchy. An innocent 'schools out for the summer' beach romp prompts the end of their adolescent abandon as their horrified conservative uncle steps in to shape them up, train them to be subservient wives, and marry them off to respectable families. Though the premise is reminiscent of Sofia Coppola's elegiac and dreamy Virgin Suicides, the execution is not. Ergüven and Winocour are more physically grounded and rambunctous in their presentation and there is no distancing conceit of viewing the sisters through the eyes of boys. Mustang has successfully rowdy comedic moments, an earthy non-exploitive sensuality, often clever visual framing, and even a hard-won scrappy optimism to balance out its tough reality checks. In short: it's excellent. Let's hope the Foreign Film Oscar Committee agrees. A- 
(See also: Amir's TIFF Review)

 

Ixcanul (Guatemala) -Kino Lorber will distribute in the US. Dates TBA
At the well attended premiere of this memorable Guatemalan Oscar submission (their first!), the director brought out, not one of the actresses, but an older woman dressed in South American finery who was some kind of public official/icon (the applause was so loud I missed her title/name). The takeaway of the intro was that Guatemala has a tiny but newly excited film industry and they're extremely proud of this little movie. As well they should be. Ixcanul (or Volcano) looks at a poverty-stricken Kaqchikel family, living next to an active volcano and working on a coffee plantation. The volcano, in addition to being a beautiful and alien visual backdrop for a movie is also a monolithic wall, blocking their view of the rest of the world; Mexico and the United States, to the North, are more myth than reality. The family hopes to marry their sexually curious daughter off to their comparatively rich boss and thereby lift all their futures. Needless to say, things don't go as planned. While the actions of nearly all the characters are often enraging, Ixcanul is never mean spirited, condemning the exploitation of their ignorance rather than the ignorance itself. (One heartbreaking emergy trip to a nearby city shows the family utterly at the mercy of an untrustworthy translator since they don't even speak Spanish in the mountains.) Bustamante's well crafted film is authentically steeped in a nearly alien culture but its humanity is entirely familiar. B

 

El Club (Chile) - Music Box Films will distribute in the US. Dates TBA
My first encounter with the acclaimed director Pablo Larrain was the violent Tony Manero, a film about a Chilean sociopath obsessed with winning a Saturday Night Fever lookalike contest. It was altogether unsavory and though the director's command was evident I couldn't wait for it to end. The second was the wondrous No, starring Gael García Bernal as an unlikely hero who helps rid his country of their dictator through an unlikely ad campaign. Though not without its necessarily dark moments -- all the Larrain films I've seen take place during the Pinochet era in Chile -- it was an exuberant, moving, and technically amazing film which I was happy to champion; it went on to be nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. The third encounter is, sadly, more reminiscent of the first in its absolute mandate to rub your face, artfully, in brutal shit.

The film begins deceptively as a mellow observational drama about a strange retirement community in a yellow house by the sea. Shortly, though, the curtain of ambiguity is lifted by an uninvited drunk stranger who stands outside the house spewing a hostel tirade of obscenities. The house, you immediately realize, is a shelter/prison for criminal priests that the Catholic Church is hiding away and the man shouting was one of their victims, repeatedly raped as a young boy. The depressing reveal deepens when you realizes that there are houses like this all over the world. 

Fans of disturbing cinema might admire Larraîn's chutzpah but everyone else should steer clear. Though the film has strong performances, particularly Antonia Zegers as a despicable nun and Marcelo Alonso as a remarkably stone-faced priest sent to assess the inhabitants of the house, it's a tough sit through spiritual rationalization, disturbing psychologies, and actual brutality [SPOILER WARNING] Animals are viciously killed in the film -- albeit just barely off camera -- and I never would have seen it if I had known. [/SPOILER]. Even the resolution, which could be read as spiritually uplifting is ambiguous; it played for me more like a sick pitch-black joke about "penance" and "redemption". (I will be wary of seeing another Larraîn film despite my love for No.) No Rating.

Wednesday
Nov112015

AFI Fest: Disorder

Kieran, here reporting from AFI Fest in Hollywood.

There's a moment of in Alice Winocour's Disorder (French title Maryland) where Jessie (played by Diane Kruger) tentatively and almost wordlessly embraces Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts) from behind. It's a brief, but completely earned emotional beat, perfectly emblematic of the film's power. The film is billed as a "home invasion thriller," a description that betrays Disorder's rich textures and laser-like focus on character. 

Vincent is a former soldier turned security guard working at a villa in France, inhabited by Imad, a wealthy businessman (Percy Kemp), his wife, Jessie and their young son, Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant). Vincent is suffering from PTSD and auditory problems, a result of his time in combat, which leads to bouts of paranoia. After some kind of international business deal goes awry while Imad is out of the country, Jessie and Ali become the target of hitmen, with Vincent left to protect them. This plot description could have very quickly led to something in the vein of Taken really quickly. What we get here is something far more interesting and cinematically daring.

Matthias Schoenaerts is, in many ways, the perfect actor to put at the center of this story. More...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Nov102015

Interview: Germán Tejeira on 'A Moonless Night,' Uruguay's Oscar Submission

Jose here. When I scheduled my interview with director Germán Tejeira who is based in Montevideo, I hadn’t been counting on the internet being unaware that Uruguay had gotten rid of their own Daylight Savings Time, a practice which was deemed “old fashioned” and “inefficient” by the progressive government. We had to reschedule the interview, but Tejeira was kind enough to laugh the confusion off and even sent me an article which explained how this new practice had brought chaos within his own country. It was an anecdote I found peculiarly surreal, something out of a movie perhaps, and one that for that matter reminded me of Tejeira’s own A Moonless Night, a charming account of three men trying to find their, existential, way in the Uruguayan countryside during New Year’s Eve.

Cesar (Marcel Keroglian) is a cab driver spending the holiday with his ex-wife’s new family, Antonio (Roberto Suarez) is a magician en route to a presentation whose car breaks down stranding him and his rabbit Oliver, Molgota (Daniel Melingo) is a singer released from jail a day earlier so he can perform at a New Year’s party. Their routine is altered by a blackout, but to say their stories cross paths in a traditional way would be a disservice to Tejeira’s lovely screenplay, and his perceptive direction. The film has been selected as Uruguay’s Oscar representative and I discussed that with the director, as well as his perception of what films should provoke in spectators, and whether Uruguay has a well defined “cinematic identity”.

Read the interview after the jump...

Click to read more ...

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