Carlos’ Review Round-Up

Each week our friend Carlos Filipe Freitas from Always Watch Good Movies is graciously turning over a week’s worth of reviews we may haven’t gotten a chance to cover here in the third row.

 

Lore (2012)

Directed by: Cate Shortland
Country: Australia / Germany / UK

Eight years after the heartfelt Somersault, Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland makes her second move on feature film, to depict a German Nazi family at the end of WWII. Lore was abandoned to her luck after her parents, two devotees of the Fuhrer, have left their refuge to escape from the Allied forces. Continuously struggling to feed her five younger siblings, Lore departs with them for a long and risky journey, trying to reach her grandmother’s house in Hamburg. What she didn’t expect was to receive help from someone she learned to abominate all her life: a Jewish young man. Don’t be discouraged by the familiar theme; this film has more than the usual stuff. Newcomer actress Saskia Rosendahl was simply brilliant, showing the rigidness of the Nazi pride in opposition to the discomfort resultant from unexpected feelings or desires. The disappointment felt by the zealous supporters from Hitler’s regime was depicted with genuine bitterness, along with the images of a chaotic and devastated Germany. Lore is subtle but incisive, proving that no fuss is needed to make a competent film. Its meaningful story, acute images, and immense heart, were enough to make it special.

 


 

Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012)

Directed by: Billy Bob Thornton
Country: USA/Russia

It’s clear that Billy Bob Thornton is more successful in front of the camera than behind it. 1996’s Sling Blade is an exception to this fact, where he was brilliant on both sides. After 11 years without directing, he is back with Jayne Mansfield’s Car, a film with respected intentions despite of a somewhat messy plot. A woman’s funeral will join two families together in Alabama, one American and one English. Curiously, both of them have common problems that drag on for some time. Billy Bob creates its own vision on father-son relationships in addition to war traumas, but I believe this could have been done without a forced plot and using a less restrained execution. Most of the scenes didn’t take advantage from the underlying tension created. It was a shame that the movie hadn’t totally assumed the weirdness suggested in some moments, opting instead for a more formulaic approach. Positive aspects: the performances, and Robert Duvall’s magnificent trip on LSD. Recommended with reservations..

 


 

Blancanieves (2012)

Directed by: Pablo Berger
Country: Spain

After the French The Artist has invoked recently the black and white silent films from the past, here is another one coming from Spain that took the idea in a serious way, bringing to mind the topnotch dramatic movies from those times. Inspired in “Snow White”, Blancanieves adapts the classic with creativity, making an original parallel with the typical Spanish culture, where the flamenco and bullfights have a prominent place. Set in the 20’s Andalusia, the film marks the return of Pablo Berger to filmmaking, nine years after the respected Torremolinos 73. Macarena Garcia put charm in the role of Spanish Snow White, but was Maribel Verdú who stood out as profligate and cruel stepmother. Regardless of the fact I loathe bullfights, Blancanieves should be seen for its confident direction, expressive performances, appealing visuals and well-crafted ideas. Even employing a primitive approach, it managed to bestow some freshness to an old and recurring tale.


 


 

No (2012)

Directed by: Pablo Larraín
Country: Chile / France / USA

Pablo Larraín deserves a place of merit among contemporary filmmakers. Tony Manero and Post Mortem confirm that. No represents a turning point on his career, since the movies mentioned above had obsession as theme, while this one is purely political. It covers the 1988’s advertising campaigns in Chile, in a time that the country was preparing to decide about the continuity of dictator Pinochet as president. Gael Garcia Bernal is the protagonist, playing a visionary advertiser that led the campaign of No against fear, not without some of it due to the threats received. Its start was not so strong, but the film evolved resolutely towards the overpowering final moments. No was able to depict the atmosphere lived in Chile at that time: the machinations, the intimidations, the suspicions, the thoughts, and the relentless anxiety or fear. A strange, dazzling light was used within a simple direction, in a respectable film where the ideas reign in detriment of technical details.

 


 

It’s A Disaster (2012)

Directed by: Todd Berger
Country: USA

It’s a Disaster is a comedy that ridicules loving relationships, the end of the world and society in general. Todd Berger wrote, directed and also acted in a scene, for a couple of minutes. The story tells the adventures of four couples that join for a Sunday’s brunch when a radioactivity alert is emitted by the authorities. Stuck inside the house, they will use their remaining time to show more about their personalities, unveil some secrets and prepare for the end. Despite of the TV-series style adopted, the plot has its good surprises and shows some keen humor. Actually, there’s an awkward stupidity that works fine here. All characters show distinct behaviors that maintained me curious till the end. The characters’ moods ranged from: frightened, in shock, paranoid, sad, frustrated, open-minded, indifferent, neurotic, frivolous or plainly crazy. It’s A Disaster didn’t spark a lot of laughs but let out some amusing energy with its screwball tone and laudable finale.

 


 

Naked Harbour (2012)

Directed by: Aku Louhimies
Country: Finland

Naked Harbour gathers a bunch of characters to depict several different stories set in Vuosaari, a neighborhood in the city of Helsinki. Aku Louhimies put grown-ups and kids to interact in distinct problematic situations. All depicted with gloominess, we have: a couple of junkies with debts and no food, a divorced mother struggling with cancer, a married man who can’t put his sexual life in order and finds a lover, a bullied boy and his mother, a father who is obsessed with losing weight and torments his son, a 16-year old girl who lives with her dad and doesn’t want to be ordinary, and finally an American guy who goes to Finland to give some lectures. The stories are about love and pursuit for recognition, but all of them include a prolonged heaviness and cruelty, just to bring some indulgence and self-pity in the end at the sound of Robbie Williams’ “Feel”. Joyful moments aren’t abundant in a depressed film that carries ‘I can cope with my life’ as purpose.

 


 

Children Of Sarajevo (2012)

Directed by: Aida Begic
Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina / others

Aida Begic’s new feature film has clear intentions to denounce what is going on in today’s post-war Bosnia. Using a shaky hand camera, Bejic centers on the life of siblings Rahima and Nedim. Rahima works hard in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant, not only to pay her bills and rent but also to keep the custody of his younger brother Nedim, taken out recently from an orphanage. Nedim is diabetic, reckless and often behaves like a delinquent, but Rahima won’t give up on him. Even though nothing has been said about Rahima’s past, it’s clear that the war is still present in her memory, while religious faith works as an attempt to redeem herself from the past. Everything is surrounded by misery due to the Balkan conflict and actual economic crisis, but Rahima’s love for her brother will give her strength and hope to fight for a decent and honest life. Even if she has to face social class differences, religious prejudices or slanders. Children of Sarajevo received a special distinction in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section.

 

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