Archive for the ‘foreign film’ Category

  • Friday One Sheet: We Are The Best


    While two films do not make a trend, the Scandinavian duo of ‘kids-punk’ Sons of Norway, and Sweden’s We Are The Best make for good times at the movies. The latter gets a classic graffiti poster with slight emphasis on the pink, after all this is an all girls affair.

    Directed by Lukas Moodysson who returns to his late 1990s coming of age story period (which produced the classic Fucking Amal). We’ve also got a trailer to go with that poster.

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Gangs of Wasseypur (parts 1 & 2)




    Director: Anurag Kashyap
    Writers: Akhilesh Jaiswal, Anurag Kashyap, Sachin K. Ladia, Zeishan Quadri
    Producers: Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Sunil Bohra
    Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tigmanshu Dhulia,
    MPAA Rating: R
    Running time: 320 min.
    Country of Origin: India


    Pulling back, deliberately and slowly, from a soap-opera on the TV which is all song and dance and character introductions, the 315 minute long Gangs of Wasseypur kicks off with a single shot Johnnie To style unbroken assault on the stronghold of Faizal Khan with automatic weapons, grenades and narrow alleyways. It’s the bright herald of a major film career just leaping onto the international stage. Let us get this out of the way first: Anurag Kashyap’s generation spanning story set in the coal capital of India and spanning almost 70 years comfortably, nay confidently, belongs alongside the great crime sagas of the cinema: The Godfather Trilogy, City of God, Bertolucci’s 1900, Heimat and Election. The perfect nexus of history, craft, thematic heft, and balls-to-the-wall entertainment, it why cinema was invented in the first place. It is HBOs “Deadwood” rogues gallery of character actors as much as it is the legacy scheming driven plot mechanics as “I, Claudius.” Rare is the opportunity of novel-style story telling and mighty cinematic craft to come together in such a marvellous package. It’s a gift to film lovers. Shown into two parts, each one well past the 2.5 hour mark, but conceived as a single film it, in the director’s words, shows “frogs in a well,” 200,000 people spread across three streets. The rough and impoverished criminals are unwilling to leave or even look beyond the small neighbourhood and spray as much blood as possible for ownership of its organized crime opportunities which are equally transient.

    Wasseypur may change hands geographically (India to Bengal), ethnically, even religious borders are mobile, but the Khans and the Singh’s have been at each others throats since the dawn of the coal era where two patriarch’s fought over the rights to hijack coal trains. When Ramadhir Singh kills Shiva Khan in this conflict, the Kahn’s young child Sadar shaves his head and vows to destroy Singh, not by murder, but my unravelling his empire piece by piece. As Singh enters politics to cement his empire, Sadar collects a growing number of wives, fathers several sons and kills a lot of folks with a machete. The law stays out of Wasseypur for fear of escalating slaughter, and a fair bit of carrot-stick mechanics from Singh. Part one of the diptych has an almost documentary feel, it even weaves a hefty of documentary footage to establish the context of the era spanning the 1940s up until the 1980s. Popular music from the cinema and TV act as a greek chorus to the proceedings, but begin to establish a theme that will pay off in the second part. Namely that the second generation of gangsters are so influenced by what is thrown up on screen, it leads an elder Singh to offer, “Everyone has his own movie playing inside his head, it it were not for the damn movie’s there would be no fools in this country.” This as the film slowly moves out of history lesson mode and into Scorsese mode. One advisor Nasir (think Robert Duvall or Derek Jacobi) narrates the film Goodfellas style as the crime moves from the coal industry to owning the fisheries, to unabashed extortion, to eventually the burgeoning Iron business. If it is hard to keep track of the characters in the first 90 minutes of the film, they’ve all been immortalized after that point with impeccable attention in narrative craft establishing relationships and motivations and territory.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Review: 7 Boxes


    It’s a hot day in the capital city of Paraguay and the exchange rate for US Dollars is running as high as the mercury in Asunción’s bustling marketplace. Narrow rows of stalls glutted with people, consumer goods, and hanging animal meat, all of which is for sale, barter, hustle, or theft. Enter Victor, a young kid who wheel-barrow’s purchases, stock, whatever around the market for a price, when he is not day-dreaming about being an action hero on TV. Pestered by his best friend Liz (a remarkably natural girl-power performance from young Lali González) to buy a used cell phone with video capability, and desiring to be the star of his own movie Victor takes a job carting around the eponymous crates from the brother of a pregnant friend of his sisters. If that three-degrees of separation relationship seems convoluted, it is a mere warm-up as the number of characters and their tangled web of interrelations and tangled webs of lies, frantic sales pitches and waves of delegation hit the ground running – often literally through the maze of the marketplace. Pile in a gang of other wheel barrow operators who get wind of the value of those boxes, a smitten police officer, a Korean restaurant delivery boy, a lady-boy prostitute and a host of ‘owners’ of the boxes mysterious (but never a Macguffin!) contents and well, genre-film bliss.

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  • Review: Big Bad Wolves


    Aharon Keshales’ and Navot Papushado’s horror film Rabies was a solid success on the festival circuit, and considered the first of that genre made in their native Isreal, but the thrumming buzz coming off of their follow-up effort, the violent cops and child-killer fable, Big Bad Wolves has secured plaudits from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and now a theatrical roll-out across Canada. The film is already being shown on a single screen in Toronto before expanding to Vancouver this weekend with more cities to follow.

    The story of Big Bad Wolves is actually very run of the mill. A series of brutal murders have left a number of young girls dead but with his newest victim, Dror, the suspect, may have made a grave error. The missing girl’s father Gidi is not one to sit idly by and when it looks like the police are going to let the main suspect go, he takes matters into his own hands and kidnaps Dror for questioning. Miki, a disgraced cop on his own trail of redemption, tracks down the suspect to Gidi’s newly acquired country home where he is thrown together with the blood thirsty father as the pair try to find the missing girl.

    As with Rabies, Keshales and Papushado’s movie is a well oiled, great looking thriller. The pair are hugely talented behind the camera, delivering a movie that looks sharp and well polished and far more accomplished than I could have expected from a second feature. Borrowing heavily from a number of different genres, Big Bad Wolves feels like it owes a lot to Sam Raimi’s early work, a mix of comedy and horror with an undercurrent of violence.

    Much of Big Bad Wolves unfolds in Gidi’s basement with round upon round of torture that would make Eli Roth squeal with glee. The scenes of torture are perfectly balanced, Keshales and Papushado know exactly how much their audience can take before they lose interest or become too disgusted to continue with the story, and the movie walks this fine line throughout, perfectly balancing the various elements to deliver a movie that is not quite a horror movie, not quite a thriller and not really a comedy but a mix of the three.

    In truth, Big Bad Wolves is not new but rarely do we get to see a movie that, on the surface, looks and feels like a mainstream thriller but which, at nearly every turn, goes against the grain. Some of the laughs are inappropriate, some of the violence is really over the top and there are moments that really should not work, but do. What’s more is that buried under all of the genre contraptions, there is also a heartfelt story of a father desperate to find his daughter and a rogue cop who plays outside the reach of the law but who has not lost sight of the fact that the detained man might be innocent.

    Morality play aside – though it is unmistakably present – Big Bad Wolves is hugely entertaining; a thriller that occasionally steps into horror territory and which is not afraid to throw in a few laughs for good measure. See it if you can!

  • Two Online Film Festivals Worth Your Time



    Thirteen films which had their world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013 will make their digital debut in 2014 exclusively on Vimeo On-Demand:

    Asphalt Watches directed by Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver
    Cinemanovels directed by Terry Miles
    Empire of Dirt directed by Peter Stebbings
    Faroeste Caboclo (Brazilian Western), directed by René Sampaio
    Gente en Sitios (People in places) directed by Juan Cavestany
    Ladder to Damascus directed by Mohamad Malas
    Little Feet directed by Alexandre Rockwelll
    Palestine Stereo directed by Rashid Masharawi
    Standing Aside Watching directed by Yorgos Servetas
    The Animal Project directed by Ingrid Veninger
    This is Sanlitun directed by Robert I. Douglas
    Une Jeune Fille (A Journey) directed by Catherine Martin
    Wild Duck directed by Yannis Sakaridis

    The films will become available between now and May 2014, starting with Little Feet which is currently available for pre-order on Vimeo.


    From January 17 until February 17, twenty-three new French films, released in France in 2013 will be broadcast for one month, in 13 languages. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg will be free for the first day of the festival, worldwide, in a restored version.

    President Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s (dir. Amélie) 4th edition of the festival can be found at

  • Trailer: The Raid 2


    Graduating from the single-building, video game like structure of the first one, with a bigger budget and more fleshed out plot and cast, The Raid 2: Berandal looks to be the action film of the year, and those at Sundance will be the first to see it. In the meantime, the marketing department for the film has cut a quite sophisticated trailer (it’s the Beethoven) that shows the wider scope, and increased level of destruction, seemingly without losing a bit of the cutting edge action that the first one so handsomely mounted. Close quarters combat? Check. Epic muddy smackdown in a prison yard? Check. Automobile destruction of a train station? Check. In fact it looks like the stunt team destroys much of Jakharta here.

    Immediately following the events of the original, The Raid 2 tracks Officer Rama as he is pressured to join an anticorruption task force to guarantee protection for his wife and child. His mission is to get close to a new mob boss, Bangun, by befriending his incarcerated son, Uco. Rama must hunt for information linking Bangun with corruption in the Jakarta Police Department while pursuing a dangerous and personal vendetta that threatens to consume him and bring his mission–and the organized crime syndicate–down around him.

  • Review: The Past



    A woman looks anxiously out of the frame. She is played by Bérénice Bejo the expressive ingenue from The Artist, but here she is a little, well a lot, more weary. We are in a busy airport in Paris, and a man is walking through the crowd. Their eyes meet. There is emotion from both parties expressed in body language, more layered than simple the happiness of greeting someone who just got off a plane. They converse, in a fashion, between through the thick glass that separates them. Ahmad is her husband returning from Tehran only to sign divorce papers so that his soon to be ex, Marie, can marry her current live in boyfriend. Marie has two kids from a previous marriage, and her new man has a child, although she has no children with Ahmed. Everyone lives under the same roof of a small home, which metaphorically is under a number of half-finished renovations; a new man means new light fixtures. Bringing Ahmed into this chaos (a failure to book a hotel room or intentional sabotage becomes the first verbal fight of film) only amps up tension, tension than nobody in the house can ignore. This is a pot near boiling over when Ahmed arrives. Having both men in the same household, all their respective children, and a lot of wet paint and clogged drains.

    Director Asghar Farhadi is faced with the difficult task of following up his sophisticated, specific and universal drama, A Separation, which also won the Oscar for best foreign language film. Expectations are high for The Past, and he nearly gets there. What his previous film had was precise and propulsive plotting to augment the heightened drama. Ideawise, things are in a similar vein, revolving again around divorce and anxiety driven miscommunication, but the drama is built on surprise reveals rather than cause-effect. Some have already written this hide and reveal off as as overblown melodrama, but I think Farhadi is onto some core truth in how people communicate their secrets. A common occurrence over the course of the films 2 hours has two people in a conversation. The one insists that they know the mind or motivation or actions of someone not in the room. The other waits until certitude is declared, then they drop the information that proves the certainty to be wrong. There isn’t an aim to lay all the cards on the table, there is an aim to prove the other wrong. Words obfuscate instead of elucidate. It is telling that the three or four scenes of honest communication, including the films opening shot, have characters silenced behind behind glass.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Trailer: Big Bad Wolves


    Turning heads on the festival circuit, Big Bad Wolves envisions a gradient of bad and worse men as a metaphor for the sticky politics of justice and retribution in the region or at least a juicy punch of black comedy on the ugly side of human nature. The Israeli modern fairy tale is not perfect, but it is certainly shot with a remarkable eye for visual style and more than a little grim wit towards setting up situational humour. You can see for yourself from the trailer below.

    series of brutal murders puts the lives of three men on a collision course: The father of the latest victim now out for revenge, a vigilante police detective operating outside the boundaries of law, and the main suspect in the killings – a religious studies teacher arrested and released due to a police blunder.

  • Trailer: The Strange Color of Your Bodies Tears


    Suitably dense, suitably loud and most suitably esoteric, the trailer for Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet’s über-Giallo, The Strange Color of Your Bodies Tears is a cinematic endurance test to be sure. Judging by the sheer number of walk-outs when it played at TIFF this year, many may be best served with just this this bite-sized sampler. Those who are aware of what they are getting into and want the full eye-melting, ear-boiling, brain crushing package will have to wait a while however, as the film only has distribution in Europe at the moment, and much like their excellent debut film Amer , it may never see much more than a VOD/DVD/BLU here in North America.

    I am not going to explain what the film is about or even drop in a plot blurb, because this film is far more interested in visual sensation than prosaic sense. As you will see below.

  • Trailer: Nymphomaniac


    “Would it be all right if I show the children the whoring bed?”

    Here we go with the first trailer for Lars von Trier’s new film that is sure to be talked about steadily until its festival and commercial release. I’ll let the trailer, which is most assuredly *NSFW* speak for itself, there is a lot to unpack in terms of just how many buttons Trier is pushing in terms of voyeurism, sex, violence and the patience of his eventual film censors across the globe. Either way, have at it folks. The trailer is tucked under the seat.

    A wild and poetic story of a woman’s journey from birth to the age of 50 as told by the main character, a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). On a cold winter’s evening the old, charming bachelor, Seligman (Stellen Skarsgård), finds Joe beaten up in an alley. He brings her home to his flat where he cares for her wounds while asking her about her life. He listens intently as Joe over the next 8 chapters recounts the lushy branched-out and multifaceted story of her life, rich in associations and interjecting incidents.

    “Most people don’t scream until I hit them…”

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Trailer: The Wind Rises



    The North American trailer for Hayao Miyazaki’s “Farewell Masterpiece,” The Wind Rises spends a lot of time telling you to see it, rather than truly showing you much. Images with little context, or explanation, any dialogue or spoken words silenced, instead, a pitch that will likely only appeal to folks who already know what the trailer is telling. Le Sigh.

    The film centres around Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of Japan’s World War II Zero Fighter plane. It charts and his life and dreams from education, work, some major contributions to Japanese aviation, and also the courtship and marriage to his wife of fragile health. The film spans nearly half a century and muses on when a creative artist of any stripe should step down and away, thus making the film a perfect living-elegy to the masters long manga and cinema career.

  • Trailer: The Past



    I reviewed Asghar Farhadi’s follow up film to his Oscar Winning A Separation when I caught it back at TIFF. The film is very similar, in that it revolves around attempts to get a divorce for a couple who desire to live in differnt parts of thew world. The Past is set in Paris and feature Bérénice Bejo (who won best actress for this role at Cannes) along with Iranian actors Ali Mosaffa and Tahar Rahim (who many folks know from A Prophet). What struck me as the best feature in The Past is how the visuals of each scene in the movie mirror what is going on with the drama. It is a tad heavy handed at times, but it is so committed to his approach with every shot, that it kind of grows on you. Of course, this is utterly impossible to convey in the trailer, which sells it in a far different light than the film actually plays out, but there you have it.

    An Iranian man (Mosaffa) deserts his French wife (Bejo) and two children to return to his homeland. Meanwhile, his wife starts up a new relationship with another Iranian ex-patriot (Rahim), a reality her husband confronts upon his wife’s request for a divorce.

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