Director Jorge Sanjines is one of the few directors in the world that has concentrated on what you might call "Indigenist Cinema", that is cinema that deals with the lives of the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas (though Sanjines is not visibly Amerindian himself). This low budget film from 1969, spoken in Quechua and Spanish, is perhaps his better known film in a long career with not that many movies (he probably had many political and financial difficulties in raising funds for his movies throughout the years).
The movie extensively uses flashbacks, moving frequently from past to future and back. Though the movie's plot is not difficult at all to follow, apparently when Sanjinés showed the movie to Indian audiences they criticize this sort of non lineal narrative. Sanjines took their criticism into account and in his following movies used a simpler narrative structure.
At times amateurish, but nonetheless compelling, this is a good example of charged political filmmaking. Remarkably, this movie is one of the few films ever to have a real political impact: just a few years after its release, the Peace Corps were expelled from Bolivia.
To retell the plot of this movie doesn't make much sense, since the situations are deliberately absurd. Monteiro plays the same character of his previous films, the lecherous Joao de Deus, and we see him getting a suitcase full of cash from a heavenly messenger, rescuing a drowning young lady and putting her into a nearby convent, and meeting a dubious couple that claims to be members of the nobility. The central gimmick of the movie is a very long, extended sex scene, in which old Monteiro himself (showing his nude, emaciated, cadaveric body) makes love to a luscious young nymphet. I found the whole scene unpleasing, and thought the movie would be better without it, but there is not denying its shock value.
Even if you find Monteiro's vision repugnant, there is no question that his absurdist scenes can be very funny. His preference for slow moving action and a static camera though is more of an acquired taste.
I don't know much about ethnic politics in Thailand, I do know the south of Thailand has an important Muslim population, and that there are ethnic tension between them and the country's Buddhist majority. Here the Muslims are seen as strange and ominous, and that is a bit unsettling (but it is implied that Laila herself is Muslim, though she has Western clothes and outlook).
Nothing much happens in the movie, except at the end, when the friends reach their destination. Not much is explained. Still the movie is watchable, it did hold my interest, even if it was not clear what was going on. The beautiful photography and the locales help.
This supposedly shocking Romanian film starts with a long, extended verbal fight during a family reunion, at which point I thought I was really going to hate this movie. The film, though, gets a bit better as it goes along. Victor is a widower with six grown children, three men and three women in their twenties and thirties. His offspring includes a set of twins, Romeo a boy and Sasha a girl. The fight gets started when, at the reunion, Sasha learns indignantly that her father, who is an obstetrician, during the Ceasescu regime, a period in which abortion was banned, denounced to the authorities women who were seeking to end their pregnancies. Victor replies to his daughter that his opposition to abortion allowed her to live, since her mother wanted an abortion at the time. Anyway, the fight ends, and as we learn more about the different characters, we get the central gimmick of the film: the two twins are lovers, and eventually she gets pregnant by his brother. This situation is seen as only slightly out of the normal. During the film, we see several scenes where one of the family members gets indignant on learning that the twins are lovers, but five minutes later, seems ready to accept them.
Despite all the talk we listen to, the film doesn't have a lot of interesting things to say about either abortion on incest. Still, the movie holds some interest even if the scenario strains credibility. A great performance by Alina Grigore is Sasha, the twin who gets pregnant, is a plus for this so so movie.
I find the milieu believable and the story sometimes interesting, despite its unpleasantness, but I find hard to believe the central conceit of the story in which three unrelated people keep living together pretending to be a family long after this seems necessary to get into France. And I find the film at times ponderous and pretentious. The ending, full of gratuitous violence, is a major letdown. All these flaws are no fault of the mostly amateur actors, who do well considering the circumstances (I like the woman playing the false wife, Kalieaswari Srinivasan). A surprising winner of the 2015 Cannes film festival.
Arab films don't get much exposure in the rest of the world, even in the festival circuit, but this movie, along with the previous Wadjda, suggests a new wave of Arab art cinema, that is intelligent, professionally made and accessible. Nicely shot in the beautiful Jordanian desert. Most of the cast are Bedouins themselves who have never acted. One of the few exceptions is British actor Jack Fox who plays the English officer.
So the rest of the movie is basically Costi and Adrian pursuing this treasure, with the help at times of an old, slightly corrupt metal detector operator (played by a real professional in that job). This being a Romanian movie, the film is slow, deadpan, and deals quite a lot in bureaucratic detail (Romanian law states that any treasure holding historical value should go to the state, and the discoverers should only get a 30% of it, and Costi and Adrian try during the movie several times to see how to get around that law). Considering Romanian movies have some reputation for dourness, I thought this was going to end in tears, but it happily has (without obviously revealing too much about it) a very satisfying ending.
This is not a perfect film, it starts well, but it loses momentum in the second part. The Russians and their collaborators in Estonia (like the school director) are caricatures. And in parts of the movie, the story seems undeveloped, as when Endel starts a relationship with a woman teacher in the school.
There is a cameo as a politically persecuted grandfather of one of the boys in the school of Lembit Ufsak, who starred in the more interesting Oscar nominated Estonian film Tangerines.