Here’s a quick sampling of my week’s watches. You can find more of my reviews at Always Good Movies.
Fireworks Wednesday (2016)
Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Originally dated from 2006, “Fireworks Wednesday”, is a not-so-known major accomplishment from the celebrated filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi, one of the most acclaimed voices of the Iranian cinema. The Film Forum in New York recently retrieved his third feature, which was already revealing the filmmaker’s keen propensity for realism, as well as his capacity to devise potent family dramas that never feel vulgar and instantly occupy your eyes and mind with its deeply eloquent and susceptible environments.
The film, set in the contemporary Tehran on the Persian New Year, is an honest examination of marriage and infidelity in the very particular society where it takes place.
The central character is Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti), a young woman who works for a cleaning agency and is about to get married to a man who’s crazy for her.
One day she’s assigned to clean the apartment of a married couple that is living an intractable marital crisis. The constant arguments between Mojdeh (Hediyeh Tehrani) and Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad) are reflected in their apartment whose windows were broken the night before and where everything is placed upside down. The couple’s son, Amir Ali (Matin Heydarnia), is pretty compelling in showing the affliction derived from the distress of witnessing the state of disaffection that his parents fell into. Gradually, Rouhi starts to understand the anguish of Mojdeh who has reasons to believe that her husband is having an affair with the woman next door, Simin (Pantea Bahram), an independent mother who turned her apartment into a clandestine hair salon.
Confused, Rouhi is caught in the middle of the gossips and, by turns, is used by both wife and husband in their desperate schemes.
I don’t have enough laudable words to describe the magnificent performances, authentic dramatic acting lessons for the ones interested in learning the plainness of the art.
The camerawork is another glorious achievement by Mr. Farhadi who cohesively weaves the little fragments that seamlessly express the whole without wasting one single minute of our time. Every scene is meaningful and is there for a reason, allowing us to apprehend the story effortlessly.
Thoroughly absorbing, “Fireworks Wednesday” is anchored in the truthfulness of many men-women relationships. It’s a powerful storytelling put up with brilliancy.
Directed by: Atom Egoyan
I went to watch “Remember” with some reservations. All because the Canadian filmmaker of Armenian descent, Atom Egoyan, hasn’t been so inspired in the last few years, presenting trifles such as “Chloe”, “Devil’s Knot”, and “The Captive”. However, his career started incredibly encouraging, and films like “Family Viewing”, “Speaking Parts”, “The Adjuster”, “Calendar”, “Exotica”, and “The Sweet Hereafter”, are no less than fundamental, forming the solid foundations of his individual filmmaking style.
In “Remember”, Mr. Egoyan redeems himself from the recent frivolous creations and, together with the veteran actor, Christopher Plummer (“The Sound of Music”, “Waterloo”), brings into the world an arresting, fairly balanced, and constantly tense drama, which is a subtly relentless revenge tale.
Mr. Plummer is terrific as Zev Gutman, a 90-year-old Auschwitz survivor who lives in a retirement home and struggles with a galloping dementia. Whenever he awakes from his superficial yet recurrent sleep, so characteristic of the old age, the only thing he remembers is his wife Ruth, who had passed away a week before. Invariably, a solace comes from his closest friend, Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau), another former captive who managed to escape with life from Auschwitz. Max persuades Zev to make a risky, solitary trip to find and kill the former Nazi guard, Rudy Kurlander, the man responsible for the death of his family. Considering that the man’s memory is deteriorating, this is a problematic task that gets even harder when he realizes that there are several Germans called Rudy Kurlander living in the US. Only the right one must die and Zev thinks of himself as the right executioner, as he had promised to his friend.
Now you are probably asking how the hell he manages to remember about the details of an almost unfeasible mission? The answer is: through a handwritten letter, provided by Max, which contains all the important details he needs to know about himself and thorough instructions to successfully accomplish the task.
The hazardous trip comprehends distinct encounters with different Kurlanders. The first one confesses he always agreed with Hitler and is still proud to be a Nazi, but only served his country in the North of Africa; the second encounter was unexpectedly emotional; the third was a terrifying experience; and the ultimate encounter brings a decisive twist to a story, written by the newcomer Benjamin August, that empowers the overall appreciation of the film.
Without reinventing the wheel, Mr. Egoyan shows a commendable confidence that reverberates in the performances, bestowing the decorous benefits to make the film interesting. Even dealing with a few narrative gaps, he sets up the adequate nail-biting tones to spare us from boredom.
Directed by: Michael Thelin
“Emelie” is a wobbly thriller written by Rich Herbeck and directed by Michael Thelin. Both screenwriter and director work together on the source material, product of their own minds, in order to take it to the screen.
The film, unsettling at first, put you in a position of wondering what can possibly happen when you entrust your kids to someone you don’t really know.
The opening scene, intentionally shot at a considerable distance, makes us immediately alert by portraying an abduction of a babysitter who’s hauled into a car. Right after the opening credits, we follow Dan Thompson (Chris Beetem) driving, on his way to pick up the babysitter who will be taking care of his three children – Jacob, Sally, and Christopher – while he and his wife, Joyce (Susan Pourfar), go out to celebrate their anniversary.
The babysitter in question, Anna (Sarah Bolger), is not the regular one. She’s actually a stranger to the family. However, the Thompsons are pretty much certain that everything’s going to be fine because Maggie (Elizabeth Jayne), the daily sitter of the house for many years now, was the one who recommended Anna.
The couple leaves the house, not before giving all the instructions and recommendations. Nevertheless, Anna simply neglects everything she was told, allowing an unsafe little chaos at home. Besides the permissive and often uncaring attitude toward the children, Anna, whose true name is Emelie and obviously has no experience with children, acts like a disturbed person, exhibiting an insolent pose of superiority and a reproachable perversity that intrigues. What is the decent creature that seated on the toilet asks an appalled 11-year-old kid to open up a tampon because she just had her period? Or starts watching a very private videotape with the embarrassed children by her side? Or make a poor little girl desperate when she gives her beloved fluffy hamster to be devoured by a snake? Or let the kids play with a real gun?
At this point, I was guessing that this frightening situation might be a revenge for something bad that one of the parents could have done in the past. This assumption gains some ground when we realize that another presence keeps watching the relaxed couple through the window of the restaurant.
One thing was clear, though. These children were under threat.
A sense of great responsibility falls on the courageous Jacob (Joshua Rush), who has to find a way to stop Emelie’s evil intentions, especially after noticing she had developed a strange obsession with the youngest of the siblings.
Mr. Thelin, who showed a flair for creating suspense, had done everything right until the beginning of the climax. In the film’s final section, a couple of misrepresented scenes were sufficient to make the whole story collapse. The direction failed exactly where it should have been sturdier to better play with our emotions. Instead, the key moments were set up in a rushed and oversimplified manner, pushing the film into precarious places rather than entertaining.
I dare to say this wasn’t lack of ambition from the director but the inexperience talking when it comes to handling influential material that will determine if your film has some validation or not. Regardless the admirable performances, “Emelie” would have overcome expectations if less schemed and more qualified in its execution.
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