Reviews written by registered user
Guy33134

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49 reviews in total 
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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Good take by "Von Trotta" on two different feminine worlds, 24 March 2006
9/10

Director Margarethe Von Trotta is one of the most feminine issue-oriented film makers Europe has produced in the last 30 years. She has explored many facets of the German and Italian female universe in particular. In this film, she shows the catharsis experienced by two different women from two distinct worlds as a result of their unlikely friendship.

This 1982 film, which I recently saw at a Von Trotta Retrospective, now has a crispy clear image which makes it look fresher than recent films. Since the subject matter is not date sensitive, one would think the film is brand new. However, if you know the two main actresses (two of Germany's greatest in the 70s and 80s), you'll know it's not as recent as it looks.

The two actresses in the two main roles are Hanna Schygulla (also a Fassbinder muse) and Angela Winkler, who was Von Trotta's "Katharina Blum" some seven years before this performance. Winkler gives the stronger performance as Ruth, a mentally challenged artist with potential reactions like her "Katharina Blum" character.

Schygulla is the apparently more centered Olga. She will help Ruth, and have a hand in Ruth's transformation, but she will also be affected by Ruth. Strong performances from both actresses, well directed by Von Trotta, make this film unusual in the realm of cinematic claustrophobic character studies. Another must-see for Von Trotta fans.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Von Trotta's take on the suffering the Mafia has long afflicted on women, 24 March 2006
8/10

The German director Margarethe Von Trotta dedicates most of her work to the female universe, and explores women's emotional sides with intensity, but delicately. In this 1993 film, she deals with an Italian woman, Carla, who stands up to the Italian Mafia, more particularly the fear and corruption the Mafia unleashes at the Italian judicial system. Her husband is a high judge, and the couple live in constant fear for their lives.

After realizing that she cannot rely on the system she always believed in, she starts to investigate on her own, and defies the rules of a partial and corrupt system. With her example, she influences other women, victims like herself, to break the long silence (the film's title, in English) which covers up crimes, vendettas, and assassinations.

Carla Gravina's performance in the main role is just right. Von Strotta's direction is solid, and the film features an appropriate sound track by Ennio Morricone. A must-see for Von Trotta fans.

15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Outstanding and entertaining history lesson, 24 March 2006
10/10

This four part miniseries is as outstanding as cinema, as it is and entertaining and important history lesson. It is very timely too, as the situation is the Balkans still remains one of the world's hot-spots for another war.

The French series (though it includes Greek and Spanish actors, among others) is dubbed into French. At least as it is playing worldwide during the month of March 2006, most recently, on the world French Language Network, TV5. The series is an adaptation of a novel, very cleverly set in a lake region, in the former European part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The region is, by the middle of the Episode 2, divided into 3 parts, as it still is today, though these parts have gone back and forth between countries in the last 100 years.

So by choosing this Balkan location, the recent history of Albania, Macedonia/Yugoslavia, Greece (the 3 Balkan countries of this series) plus Turkey, and to some degree Bulgaria, can be told in the classic soap "opera-ish" epic. The characters are for the most part fictitious, but all represent the peoples inhabiting the Balkans: the Muslim Turks, the Christian Macedonians/Yugoslavs, the Yugoslav Muslims, the Greek Jews, the pro-Russian Bulgarians, and Albanians of all types.

It is easy to see in these characters that there is NO clear-cut ethnicity, as there was no real border for hundreds of years. What defined people somewhat were their social class, and their languages, but language is not addressed in the series, spoken and dubbed in French, but assuming the region is bi-lingual: Slavic Macedonian (similar to Serbian) and Greek, with Turkish influences on both languages.

It is also interesting to note in the series, that none of the different characters were religious. A Muslim would marry a Jew, a Jew a Christian, a Christian a Muslim, and so on, without any fuss. The series shows that the real determining factors of an "ethnic group" was neither language nor religion, but rather each character's political orientation. That attached them to the 3 countries formed from this lake region with multiple borders within miles of each other.

Thus, hard line communists ended up fighting for Albania, Tito-following partisans for Yugoslavia (Macedonia and Serbia), capitalists (including some communists defeated in their civil war) for Greece, and Turks moved to the new Turkey in the 1920s.

All these countries went on to live in relative peace with each other by the end of this miniseries (1949/50). And that peace continued for another 40 something years, until the death of Tito and the fall of Communism brought back "Balkanization" and tribal warfare.

A valuable and excellent history lesson in an a most entertaining format. Highly Recommendable!

"Darkness" (1986)
13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Outstanding! Stories that bring humanity to the "Partition" of India, 13 March 2006
10/10

This 1986 miniseries is now being shown as a very long (a few minutes shy of five hours) feature on 35mm film at Indian Film Festivals. It is now making the rounds in South America, and may be viewed with English or Spanish subtitles.

The nonstop five hour marathon is well worth the discomfort and inconvenience of sitting so long. The stories of the suffering refugees as a result of the 1947 Partition humanize this great human tragedy. The film is adapted from a book by a Punjabi who opted for India, and was displaced from West Punjab (now in Pakistan) to the east (today's India). It is therefore told from an "Indian" perspective, in spite of all the concessions made to the "Muslim" (Pakistani) side in the first half of the film.

The inviability of one soul Indian state with a Hindu majority is persuasively defended. However, the migration of Sikhs and other non-Muslim characters make it clear that India alone was to become a true plural society. The film, like the book, only addresses the division of the Punjab. But the Punjabi partition was, along with the Bengali partition, the most tumultuous.

This film features an early major performance by Om Puri, one of the sub continent's greatest actors of the last 30 years. His character and his wife make up the Punjabi Hindu family most featured in the film. The other major family highlighted is an elderly Sikh couple.

There are bad, but mostly good Pakistani Muslim characters who interact with the Hindus and Sikhs. The film (and book) go to great lengths to balance the suffering, guilt, and barbarity amongst all the religious groups. But, it has a definite pro-Indian slant.

This is probably not a bad thing, but rather a reality. Sixty years of history now have proved India to be, and to continue striving to be, the plural society it envisioned. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been unstable since its inception, having lost East Pakistan (now pro-India Bangladesh). No end is in sight for its eternal problems: political instability, religious intolerance and fanaticism, corruption, and under development.

This epic film is a must for anyone wanting to further understand and explore the sub-continent, and the complicated history and diverse peoples who inhabit it. It is in my opinion THE modern Indian epic, the DEFINITIVE "PARTITION" film. It is not to be missed.

Valentín (2002/II)
11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Pan-sexual Valentine, 1 January 2005
6/10

It is no coincidence that this film and its main character are "Valentine." The film's about love - between Valentine and a girl, a girl and a girl, a girl and a boy, a boy and a boy, and a boy (Valentine again) who makes another male, the Director of this theater troupe, fall in love with a man "for the first time." This Valentine is so seemingly irresistible, yet he comes off as anything but on screen.

If this sounds like a typical Spanish sex comedy of the past 15 years or so, you're right. It is indeed, though not one of the better ones, not even average unfortunately. And if the subject matter is not repetitive to you, just wait. In the role of the male Theater Director "turned" gay (by Valentine of course), you'll find a familiar face: Lluís Homar, in a somewhat similar role as his last, and best known one.

I mean, if you're drawn to this film, chances are good that you recently saw Almodovar's BAD EDUCATION, and may recognize the pedophile priest turned married family man turned gay older man. Well, here, Mr. Homar is merely an older ("straight") man turned gay by a youngster - Valentine in this case. Apparently, he's not concerned about being typecast. Or is that Mr. Homar's intention? A coincidence in a year and a half? At his age, and level of recognition attained, that might be a great career move. Roles of this type are certainly in ever greater demand.

I particularly mention this and insist on the matter because I, myself usually attracted by this type of film, found it difficult to concentrate on his character (arguably the second lead after the coveted Valentine himself), and thus on the film itself. Especially on the heels of his similar (though darker and perverse) turn in BAD EDUCATION. I also found it hard to find something original in this comedy, a plot with so many elements of recent sex comedies and dramas - so abundant in Latin HBO, and Latin-American Cinemax, in addition to distribution in theaters.

This film seems like a parody of recent Spanish comedies, but not an enjoyable one. So, even if you like this sort of movie, you may have a tough time getting through this one. It's all been done so much better and so many times before. And so recently, and still coming.

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Ultra light comedy of lost and found, 17 December 2004
7/10

This Argentine comedy is suitable for very light TV viewing, as I just watched it on Latin HBO (or was it Cinemax)... cable in any case, and now playing. The story revolves around superficial caricature characters pursuing the usual fame and consumer dreams of the globalist world.

What kept me viewing this story about Anybodies, set in Anywhere, Planet Earth was its location in Argentina. That said, it could have been California or France, by the look of the locations and the people. But, Spanish speakers who appreciate the nuances between Argentinian Spanish, and other versions of the language may find this aspect of the film interesting, as is the more European nature of the people and culture.

Those features aside, the film is just an entertaining and formulaic romantic comedy with not a trace of unhappiness. It's unbeatable as light entertainment. Not one moment of negativity. It's all just pure escapism in the sanitized, world of globalization, which does not really exist, but is the "ideal" to many of us.

Garden (2003)
24 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Definitely not the garden of Israeli-Palestinian tension you'd expect, 3 April 2004
10/10

The "Garden" is a very seedy area of Tel Aviv. In the world most of us know, luxury cars would not circulate freely in such a desolate place (this is NOT Hollywood or Sunset Boulevard, or a busy pick up street). Much less probable is the relaxed attitude of upper middle class types opening their doors and letting anyone inside the car and drive off before any negotiation, seemingly unafraid of violence. And that these Israeli "drivers" are picking up drug crazed young Palestinian males in criminal activities with such confidence is eye opening, at the very least.

But I guess that's one more contradiction of Tel Aviv life this documentary tells. Drug addicted, young gay prostitutes and transvestites (Israelis and Palestinians) share the same working space in uncommon harmony; in fact as friend. To bring these points home, and make a few more, the film makers follow two young men who "live and work" in the Garden. Namely, Nino, a 17-year-old Palestinian living illegally in Israel, in and out of jail and reformatories - and Dudu, an Arab-Israeli.

The guys give what we must assume, and seems to be "honest testimony", while their dealings with Israeli authorities, "clients" and even court hearings are shown. Their views on the Palestinian conflict are so superficial and unimportant that it only concerns them as an impediment to stay in Israel proper, where society is more permissive. This allows them to indulge in their "vices and interests," out of the question in the Arab world.

These activities, however, are obviously not sustainable, even while facilitated by many Israelis - some well intentioned, others with greedier intentions. Life in the "Garden" is a one way ticket to death via diverse living hells, and this documentary does a good job of proving that point.

45 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
The best version of "The Last Days of Hitler", 29 July 2002
9/10

This film is a colossal Soviet-East German production, entitled in the feature length video I saw as THE LAST DAYS OF HITLER (or "Os Ultimos Dias de Hitler").

The original film or TV series lasts a very Soviet-like 7.5 hours. But the video available in the West is less than two hours long. In fact, no mention is made on the video cover that the original film runs so long. I just found that out on this site. In fact, the film was hard to find on the site. Only listed in its Russian title, I found the film researching the actor who plays Hitler.

The production is reportedly "the most expensive film endeavor in the history of the Soviet Union," with "fortunes spent on reconstructing the Fall of Berlin, featuring the most impressive war scenes on film." Whether this assertion is true or not, the blend of rare archival footage and original shots are unique and unforgettable.

The Soviets did indeed take Berlin, and occupied it all on their own for many weeks. So they do have the best archival footage, and the most authentic props. Their East German partners had the actual bombed out buildings to offer, and both countries offered virtually unlimited resources to recreate the "triumph of communism over fascism" - budgets never seen in the West.

Plus the Soviets and East Germans had the right ethnic types. No British accents, or fake Nazi and pan Slavic accents. Definitely NOT like the many other "Last days of Hitler" indeed!

The film is, of course, not without its faults; namely the excessive almost religious exaltation of the perfectly correct Soviet soldiers and commanders. But more glaringly, there are no "bad" Germans, other than those in Hitler's bunker. The overwhelming (if not all) Germans left in Berlin are depicted as good communist partisans (even Christian clerics), victimized by a few Nazi demons, as the Russians hade been enslaved the Czars.

Anyway, the heavy-handed (what an understatement!) propaganda is to be expected. At least in the short two hour version I saw, all that is not a bad price to pay for the fantastic pluses: military authenticity, and the realistic documentary feeling you'll get from seeing this film.

It really is like seeing the Fall of Berlin with your own eyes (or through Soviet eyes), without the over dramatism of Western big name actors playing German and Russian characters, in very fake locations.

This is one hell of an overlooked war film. I guess World War II has been so over filmed that there isn't even enough room left to bring back this masterpiece. It's a shame. As propagandistic as it may be, this movie is no more so than the post war Western Allied films. And infinitely more realistic! If you find the video, don't miss the opportunity to view it.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
The first Spanish "Dogma" Movie, 24 May 2001
9/10

This unusual drama documents the tenth anniversary college graduation reunion of a group of Spanish yuppies. To be more precise, the characters are actually Galicians (from this autonomous region of northern Spain). It is unique in two ways. First, it is the first ever movie from Spain, adhering to the "Dogma" movement rules. Secondly, it is in the Galician language, closer to Portuguese linguistically than Spanish. I saw the version dubbed in Spanish at the recent Hispanic Film Festival here, and found it quite impressive, even in this dubbed (and English-subtitled) version.

But, regardless of the innovations, this film is good AND entertaining on the surface, regardless of its unique features. I only learned of these, as the film opens with a copy of the "Dogma Manifesto" and consequently the opening credits highlight the support from "Galician TV" and from the government of "the autonomous region of Galicia."

It's a fascinating look at the life of Spanish yuppies in the lush mountain area of Northern Spain. The characters are quite diverse, and well developed through the film, which takes place over the course of one summer weekend. Definitely, a worthwhile film.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining film featuring usually unmentionable Cuban popular beliefs, 29 November 2000
9/10

This film is unusual in that it is Cuban, and deals totally with religious beliefs, in this case, "espiritismo," a blend of fortune-telling mixed with Catholic and Afro-Cuban religions. The film features a stellar performance by veteran actress Daisy Granados (MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT, PORTRAIT OF TERESA, CECILIA) as the older adult AMANDA. She recently won the 2000 Best Actress Prize at Latin America's prestigious Gramado Film Festival in Brazil for her performance in this film. The director presents AMANDA'S PROPHECIES in a series of vignettes, which lets us in on Amanda's powers and her grueling life from early childhood to her late adult years. It is a fascinating view at important, ubiquitous customs in Cuban culture, which had previously been avoided by the government-funded and supervised ICAIC, the producer of this and all Cuban films since 1961. Since this movie, like all recent Cuban features, are co-productions with European and other entities, it will probably be playing near you soon. It's a worthwhile experience.


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