Best Foreign Film? Who Wore it Better?

I’ve now seen all but two of the Best Foreign Films (remaining “Shudder” which I won’t ever see since I hate horror and Collective, which is still on my watch list), but “Two of Us” was one I am glad I strapped myself to the recliner for.
Mind you, I did start cutting the seat belt off, as the beginning was NOT good. Not sure why the beginning camera work was so out of focus….didn’t make sense to me.
However, after the first 5 minutes or so, the film leveled out and became a gorgeous tale of love and commitment. Writer/Director Filippo Meneghetti is an excellent storyteller and does well making you ‘wait for it’. The acting by Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier was tremendous. Martine’s ‘children’ played by Lea Drucker and Jerome Varanfrain were also topnotch, though their choices were whacked toward the end. If my choice is my Mom’s happiness based on a life choice that doesn’t affect me but I am not a fan of, I’m still for what makes my Mom happy. In fact, kind of sounds like real life.

So, until I see Collective, here’s my ranking (and I think it’s unfair to say Minari (it’s American!) is FF so sorry sucker, you’re out):
The Life Ahead
Another Round
Two of Us

Sometimes ya gotta go back to a French classic…Purple Noon, not a typo for Rain, but there could have been a raspberry beret

I’ll take a movie recommendation from anyone who says one of his favorites is Before the Devil Knows Your Dead…SOLD. so I took in a couple of lazy stay out of the melanoma hours of sun to watch Purple Noon, directed by Rene Clement. Yes, it was in French with subtitles, but good for the soul.
In French, but filmed gorgeously in Italy, Purple Noon stands the test of time 40 years later. The cinematography was off the charts and almost off the boat…I can’t believe there weren’t serious injuries filming the rough sea and mano a mano action. This movie required the stars to have tremendous agility and physicality.
As one of the original Mr. Ripley’s, Alain Delon is a combo Rob Lowe and Charlie Sheen (young healthy Charlie) with a crafted tanned six pack, who is/was a serious actor. Even nominated way back three years after this film for a Promising Newcomer Golden Globe in The Leopard. the other male in this greed triangle was Maurice Ronet who came to an early end at 55 of cancer, but fortunately made the most of his years by acting and marrying Charlie Chaplin’s daughter. The female part of the triad was played by Marie Laforet who reminded me so much of one of my former students it was eerie. She has a sad, ruminative face, and no doubt after you read about her traumatic upbringing.
Purple Noon held my attention to the bitter end and was worth the 3.99 amazon rental. I’ll never get to Italy, but felt like I ‘got the picture’ from the gorgeous fish market scene and wonderful historic buildings.

Three Summers, Like a Tres Leches Cake, Tres Veroes

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Pardon my bad Spanish analogy, but since I love Tres Leches cake, I thought I’d compare Tres Veroes, a fine movie written and directed by Sandra Kogut.
First the perfect three part structure: Decembers of 2015, 2016, and 2017.
2015 begins with Mada, played brilliantly by Regina Case, as housekeeper/family caretaker to a wealthy Brazilian family. Add in holy Cell phone interruptus which reeks of shady, an ailing patriarch and lavish parties.
Mada through it all is a brash, hopeful woman who truly wants to start her own ‘kiosk’, think roadside food stand and appears to be getting a loan from her boss to make this dream come true.
2016 begins with the wealthy family apparently unable to make it back from ‘vacation’ and Mada calling folks to tell them that Secret Santa and their annual celebration are cancelled. Characters, including the ailing patriarch seem to have new life blood, in light of new developments and the ‘help’ is also able to pivot to other pursuits to make ends meet.
2017 begins with further business excursions; the filming of a commercial within the home from what I gather is selling either mixers, or other small appliances and using the house as an airbnb. I won’t spoil the ending.
Well written and well acted, I liked the frenetic pace and the outspoken passion of the characters. Americans certainly look like stiffs in comparison. I found the end catharthis to be a bit stunted, but the structure, cinematography and joy of the main character made up for that tiny glitch. Worth the 10$ rental fee from Sarasota Film Society’s virtual cinema.

Easy Girl, Complex Plot, Halcyon Memories

When I was just a lass, there use to be Saturday matinees at 2 pm on channel ten (showing my age when there were 4 channels: ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS) that were mostly foreign films. And in the tiny town of Perry, New York, Rochester was foreign enough, let alone artsy films from the likes of Italy or Paris, which might as well have been Venus or Mars. But often, I would get sucked in by the otherness of it all, the classical music, the gorgeous scenery, the oddly dubbed in English.

Tonight on Netflix, I took in Easy Girl, after seeing it won the SACD Award at Cannes.

And man, what a find! This movie took me back to the halcyon days of my youth, being enthralled by the sights (literally filmed in Cannes), the sounds (gorgeous soundtrack including Naimi as well as beautiful classical numbers), and best of all, Easy Girl communicates many levels of love (and lust).

The French director and screenwriter Rebecca Zlotkowski communicates the love of family-mother daughter (including teenage contention), cousin to cousin, male female friendships, and the mixed up hormonal need to connect, lover to lover, however awkwardly.

The acting is superb: Mina Farid will bring you to tears and make you smile by the movie’s end, Zahia Dehar will have you drooling and dreaming of Sofia Loren and Lakdhar Dridi will remind you of every beautifully sweet outrageous gay teen you’ve ever known.

The two adult men: Benoit Magimel, was THE student in The Piano Teacher, and is tremendous here, and award winning Portuguese actor Nuno Lopes is wonderfully complex…

As is the whole darn beautiful film. Watch with some patience for the dubbed n weirdness and be moved.

You Can’t Handle “The Truth” (2019), especially if you like tight screenplays

I am really confused by “The Truth”. How can the same man (Hirokazu Koreeda) who wrote and directed the BRILLIANT “Shoplifters” move on to a follow up of circuitous drivel like The Truth?

My guess is he has the bank to surround himself with the best actors, so he thought, let’s do this, even if it’s not fantastic.

I mean who doesn’t adore Catherine Deneuve? Or Juliette Binoche? Or Ethan Hawke?

The story has promise addressing a damaged mother and daughter relationship, but never really probes deep enough for impact.

Instead, the drab script just crinkles and falls apart like the dried up autumn leaves shown at the beginning and end of the film.

Rashomon (1950): I Know Nothing, How Invigorating!

I grew up a poor white child…ok, that’s take off on The Jerk, but seriously folks, I’ve got holes in my cinematography education since all my learning has been self-taught. So Covid 19 is a mighty fine time to study some greats of whom I am ignorant.

Kurasawa for Pete’s sake! I started with Rashomon at the direction of a movie guru friend. I feel stupid and relieved at the same time. After all, it is the Buddhist way to admit we really know nothing. This is good advice anytime but it’s especially appropriate as we become bombarded with increasingly venomous and often erroneous, if not entirely false, journalistic renderings.

In fact, I just got off the phone with someone who read the Cliff Notes of Hamlet. Man, was Hamlet a really mentally disturbed human being. Did you know he slept with his mother? This is an analogy of the Live Press Conference last night that someone read ‘highlights’ from. Folks, the truth is only what facts are put through your most objective brain. Do NOT let journalists tell you what is true. Nor politicians. Listen to the doctors who only know what science and data has shown them today. Tomorrow we will know even more. Have hope.

Back to the story/movie which spawned an effect called you guessed it, the Rashomon Effect which basically means that eyewitness testimony is not always objective. Coincidence? In the end, we must believe what we take away from the story. Whose story do I believe?

The bandit? portrayed by the great Toshiro Mifune (so I’ve heard, this is my second Kuroasawa). He obviously has a personal bias to stay out of jail. Hence, he did not rape the girl and felt quite despondent after killing her boyfriend.
The woman? She wants to save her pride and say she wanted to be killed.
The ghost/spirit of the deceased? (Noriko Honma plays the medium through which the deceased speaks in my favorite portion of the film) wishes to move on from purgatory and look noble.
The onlooker? Perhaps he (gorgeously poignant performance by Takashi Shimura) is most reliable having less at stake, yet even he hid facts due to a temptation he could not resist.

The onlooker’s attempt to right his wrong; intervene at the movie’s end instead of just look on, restores his young friend’s hope in humanity. Was this restoration due to: a. his friend’s remorse of stealing a dagger? b. his friend’s attempt to learn from previous mistake, consequently saving someone despite of it possibly backfiring? or c. because his attempts to care for another human when he has so little?

Or does that even matter? Restoration of faith and love for humanity is crucial. Anyone who tries to help and give hope is noble. Anyone who loves and claims to be ignorant of what’s ahead is also heroic. You only know what you see with your own two eyes. Avoid news and love yourself AND your neighbor. Talk positively and realistically. This is all we can hope to do.

Another Adults Home Alone Flick: “Come Undone”, That’s I-talian!

Available for free on Tubi is “Come Undone” written and directed by Silvio Soldini. I happened upon this title after a failed attempt of viewing “The Treat”, a decade plus old film starring my fantasy sister Julia Delphy (the acting was horrific and I lasted less than 10 minutes).

Come Undone, while also a decade old, is far superior and received Italian Golden Globes, so I thought, why not?

The acting is terrific! Alba Rohrwacher is the lead female who cohabitates with the stereotypical nice guy and yet falls for the mysterious bad boy. Not a new plot, but so well acted that you ‘go with it’. Team Nice is portrayed by Giuseppe Battiston and Team Bad by Pierfrancesco Favino (most recently in the Italian gangster flick The Tratiors-no thanks- Godfather and The Soprano are my last mafia meals).

Silvio Soldini is also responsible for “Bread and Tulips” which won a the Cannes CICAE Award which upon my Covid unrestricted research time, is an organization that helps push independent films into the mainstream.

What makes this better than most adultery themed flicks is the cinematography by Ramiro Civita. Pretty blurry night time highway scenes and the sexiest reddish toned dimly lit hotel room I’ve seen in film.

While the title makes it sound like a porno, this was a genuine story with torrid sex in the middle, which I am pretty sure was filmed on a different speed. While disrobing, the frame seems to speed up, possibly to add to the tension/friction. Overall, a realistic and stylistically quality film.

Corpus Christi, Finding a Positive Mission

In need of distraction, I took in Corpus Christi written by Mateusz Pacewicz and directed by Jan Komasa due to its high Rotten Tomato Score. And sure, the film was like a ripe banana, sweet in spots, but with an emerging brown spot.

Not sure if it’s the nascence of a new movie genre, including now One Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite and Uncut Gems, but add Corpus Christi to the pile of Fourth of July ending fireworks films.

And ok, it certainly makes you go out of the theater saying ‘wow’, but sometimes a tidy ending is much appreciated. We don’t need apocalyptic endings every time.

This isn’t me breaking my spoiler code either because you still have no idea what type of fireworks will happen, could be corkscrew, multi-colored or merely all white lights.

Bartosz Bielenia stars in the film and does an absolute fabulous job and I do understand the symbolism of the story line. But at this point, analogous to my not reading any novels about pandemics, I had hoped for a feel good film.

Don’t get me wrong, Corpus Christi is worth seeing, but I have to wonder about the psyche of the screenwriter. May he find salvation.

In fact, let’s all start loving each other. Right now.

Didn’t Karen Carpenter sang about this flick? “I Long To Be Cloistered You” P.O.A.L.O.F.

Ok people, here’s where I go against the grain, AGAIN, and say reviewers, you are so predictable. Pander to feminists and you’ll get the glory.
If you’re stuck in a castle with two other women, you can guess that two will eventually hook up, hence my blog title about being cloistered.

Don’t get me wrong, Portrait of a Lady on Fire isn’t horrible. As a study of an artist, the film does draw you in (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk). I was intrigued by the concept of the painter owning the image of the muse, when the muse just as equally owns the painter’s attention. This balance of power was novel to me.

I also cared about the painter Marianne (acted with panache Noemie Merlant) and I also felt for the other two female leads; the muse Heloise (portrayed with perfection by Adele Haenel) and Sophie, the servant/waif (Luana Bajrami).

I respect Celine Sciamma’s vision to capture the essence of two people falling in love and did feel the passion to some extent. I also appreciated and was moved by how the women took care of one another.

What was missing was more story for the length and pacing of the film. I was bored in the first five minutes in the creaking castle. There were many dead spaces in the recurrent crackling fires and beach walks.

My First Foray into Luis Bunuel: “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”

This offering was presented to me after an astute lady referenced Bunuel in comparison to Bong Joon Ho. I had heard Bunuel’s name certainly, but not his work. Thus I went for his winner of the 1973 Best Foreign Film, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”.

I like social and economic class satire (a recent book by Stephen Wright Processed Cheese was certainly a hoot) and thought Parasite was very thought provoking especially in its statement on space and housing. We know living in Sarasota that we have a disparity between multi-million dollar and multi home/condo owners and the homeless. Mixed in the middle are people living in the lower number streets and we middle classers sandwiched among what I’ll term, old, golden parachuters, along with the well kept widowed and divorced. types. Point being I’m always up for an undercover look.

Bunuel went further into the sociopolitical nature of wealth and mental health or lack thereof. What struck me most about the absurdist plot was the distractions faced by the three couples. The frenzied nature of dinner interruptions, coitus interruptus, and murder turned dream sequences had a prescient notion to our current technology laden distraction.

Besides that familiarity, and the old adage that wealth protects one from legal trouble, I did not feel this film was special or transcendent. Perhaps once I see his other nominated film The Obscure Object of Desire or Tristana, I will feel differently. Until then, adios and au revoir.