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khatcher-2

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354 reviews in total 
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Maroa (2005)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
.......and when those dark eyes peer at you from the screen........, 25 May 2008
6/10

Obeying orders from two of my young Venezuelan students to have dinner with them and the boy-friend of one, I dutifully shuffled out one Thursday night, with a bottle of Ramón Bilbao tinto "Gran Reserva" 1985 under my arm, and enjoyed splendid company, a tasty roast chicken, and "arepas" (they told me "sin 'H'") which is a Colombian-Venezuelan speciality and extremely filling. And after dinner, slaking down excellent Colombian coffee, one of the girls put "Maroa" on her lap-top, while outside the rain fell silently and steadily, no doubt to add a little atmosphere to the proceedings.

We have here an almost "Billy Elliot" kind of film but in a very Hispano-Venezuelan tone set in the tough world of the "ranchos" around Caracas spread out on the "cerros". In other words, in the slums or shanty-towns on the hills around the Venezuelan capital. And a tough life it is indeed - poverty and violence living hand in hand amid corruption and police brutality.

Solveig Hoogestein, Belgian-born but "adopted" by Venezuela, does not shy from this authentic background of one of the most violent cities in the world; I could have well done without some of the beatings the little actress suffered at the hands of police and others; however that would have gone against the grain of the truthfulness of the story-line.

Yorlis Domínguez was an uncanny eleven-year-old when this film was made; even then she had - and I suppose and hope she still has - that physical capacity in her face and eyes with which to portray and transmit so many different feelings throughout this film - she is barely off screen - such that from the earlier sequences you are at once held open-eyed in wonderment and disbelief, which later in the film simply becomes admiration.

Tristan Ulloa (Lucía y el Sexo 2001 - qv) carries out his part well enough, I suppose, somewhat eclipsed by the presence of Yorlis, which does not surprise anybody. Very worthy of mention is Elba Escobar as Brígida, Maroa's not-so-elderly but very ailing grandmother, eking out a living from whatever in her spartan dwelling up on the "cerros" - her part is very secondary, but when on screen, her performance is compelling and convincing.

Carmen Frías once again excellent with the scissors after her extraordinary work in Truebas "Calle 54" (qv), as once again she has to edit film with music, in this case bits of Haendel and Mozart, mostly, and a very old friend turns up as producer - Gerardo Herrero - erstwhile director of such fare as "Territorio Comanche" (1997)(qv) "Malena es un nombre de tango" (1996)(qv), as well as being one of the producers for Polanski's great film "The Pianist" (1998) and the very recommendable "Martín (Hache)" (qv) directed by the Argentinian Adolfo Aristarain, among other not so memorable excursions, or forays - as you will.

The end result in "Maroa" is touching, but in the sense of plucking a few chords of sympathy mixed with regret and even a little guilt, tugging at one's conscience; but in no way is this film a mere "tear-jerker". Far from it. This film should have become known outside of Venezuela, apart from a couple of French film festivals. But I see it is about to debut in Berlin........

Ah: the Spanish - apart from Tristan Ulloa - is extremely dialectical, pure Venezuelan, and thus will not be easy to understand even by advanced students of this language.

Day of Disaster (2007) (TV)
4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Tragic true-life as TV-fodder, 25 January 2008
2/10

I missed the first 10-15 minutes of this film, such that it was a while before I cottoned on to what the film was about; when I did catch on I was utterly disheartened.

The film is loosely based on real facts: one dreadfully fateful day, just thirty years ago, a large tanker truck laden with highly combustible fuel went out of control, charged off the road and ploughed into the middle of a packed camping-site called "Los Alfaques" near Tarragona, Spain. The result was a couple of hundred killed and a couple of hundred others injured, mostly from burns, from the ensuing frightful explosion.

That such a horrendous subject matter should become the attention of some TV-film company near 30 years later is evidently open to very heavy criticism, to say the least. It is an appalling affront to anyone's sensibilities who can clearly remember that inferno on our TV screens at news-time, especially as it happened not very long after that terrible aviation accident at "Los Rodeos" Airport, Tenerife, Canary Islands, when two planes collided on the ground - and remains to this day the worst aviation disaster in history. Anybody want to make a film about that, too? Or do we need films about the attacks on the World Trade Center, New York, or on the public transit systems in Madrid and London?

I sincerely hope not: dramatised little stories trashed up and served for sensationalist tremendist appetites is more than somewhat unsavoury. This TV film is fairly well made in certain aspects, and rather weak in others. Acting and interpretation is too stereotyped into classical TV formulas, despite it being a German production (very many of the victims were indeed German people).

However, the scene-setting was more or less right, with just a few big faults. Firstly, there are only dead and injured bodies lying around in specific scenes, but not any can be seen in the more general shots of the camp-site burning hell. Secondly, the well-chosen vehicles of 30 years ago were using number plates which could only have appeared years later than this terrible tragedy.

It should be obvious that I do not like anything or anybody capitalising on true-story human tragedies.

Certainly, a film which adds up to more than its parts - and its parts are good, 20 April 2007
7/10

To call this film, as is on IMDb, an Adventure/Comedy/Drama, does not quite rub off. This film is NOT adventure in the commercial sense, and far less a comedy.

Here is a good piece of dramatic "road-movie" as you call it over there on the other side of the big puddle.

Both Felicity Huffman and Kevin Zegers are up to the mark, though perhaps Huffman is occasionally a little over the top, but both are well carried forward by the technical team, as well as the secondary actors.

As the story unfolds I get more and more deeply involved in the main characters' role or place in life. Whether they are clashing front on, abiding time - or just occasionally getting along well - as well as other interesting "clashes" or simply "encounters", I found myself wanting to feel and know the outcome of the story. And in this I was not let down.

This is not a simple "road-movie" - it has a message, which is clear: whether by genetic or metabolic accident one is heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian or transvestite, is not important: we are ALL people herded together on this planet with feelings and sentiments, something which politicians and law-makers - and any religion - is incapable of understanding..

For this reason Duncan Tucker must be thanked and congratulated: a well-directed film: yes, as in real life, in this film the sum of the parts add up to more than the whole. But the whole of all its parts is well worth your time.

The high side of 7/10 - which is high on my scale for this kind of film.

"Mujeres" (2006)
1 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
If there's nothing else to go on.........., 6 November 2006
2/10

Here in Spain, after the main night-time news bulletin on the first State Channel, I generally switch over to the Second State Channel, called "La Dos". This is because if there is anything worth seeing above the mediocrity of all the other channels being fed by optic-fibre into my little kingdom called "home", or by any other means, including TDT, I may, with luck find it here on "La Dos".

There are programmes like "Enfoque", "En Portada", "Off Cinema" and other programmes worth watching on this second channel.

Hower, I do not include "Mujeres". It has about the same intellectual level as "Ana y Los Siete", and so should therefore be on the first channel - or not on any channel at all, preferably.

The "show" is pathetic at best, and tries to put women back into being the beautiful little piece at home and with the intelligence of a porcelain doll, or worse. The interpretations are as false as a €33 bank-note and are not at all indicative of any woman of today - however great-grandma they might be.

But it sells publicity spots, such is the prostitution of any TV-station anywhere in the world. The worst countries are the USA, Indonesia and Spain, in that order.

Unless you love superficial trivialities with no raison d'être except existing in itself alone and for no other purpose and you do not know how to read an interesting book, do not bother with this silly fandangle, but either change to another channel, or better still, switch the idiot-box OFF.

5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
I stand by my first comment on this film, 7 October 2006
1/10

Adapted Version Resubmitted 7th October, 2006

It would seem there are censureships at work on IMDb, and thus "free speech" or "open debate" or "free forum" is arbitrarily ruled out.

If a user expresses an idea and another user does not like what has been said, the magic hand of the censure can snip out the original comment.

Hum................. methinks ........ and am still thinking.........

Instead of spending 100 million dollars making this ridiculous film, Emmerich and his sponsors could have done a lot better helping REAL people in places like Darfur, Sudan, Bangladesh....... Need I continue? Even the most patriotic American must see that this film is trash. But it would seem that saying such obvieties hurts somebody's feelings somewhere and is why my original comment on this film has been deleted, as also happened with my original critique of La Pasión turca (1994) "From poetic novel to sordid sex" 20 February 2003.

10 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
The biographical book is not up to much and the film is up to even less, 6 February 2006
3/10

I have before me a 1965 vinyl LP record with a beautiful portrait of the then twenty-year-old Jacqueline du Pré and her cello. On it she plays the Elgar and Delius Cello Concertos, classics in her repertoire which have never been bettered. Indeed, years later, the "gran maestro" Mstislav Rostropovich on being asked why was it that he had never made a recording of the Elgar Concerto, said that a young English woman had already made the definitive version to which he had nothing to add. I also have various remastered CD recordings - with or without her then husband, Daniel Barenboim as accompanying pianist or orchestra conductor, ranging from Paradis and Saint-Saëns to Fauré, Franck and Dvorák, as well as Sir Edward Elgar's beautiful "Enigma Variations".

Jacqueline du Pré was born just a few months before me and we thus celebrate 60 years on this iniquitous planet. Which is the best that can be said about the film "Hilary and Jackie" - iniquitous, "gross", vulgar............ When I learned she had got multiple sclerosis and had stopped playing her cello, I cried for a week; and when she finally died, another week. She shall be remembered for her exquisite music, not for the trashy version of a film like this one.

I am sorry, but I just could not bear seeing the film to the end. It had nothing to do with the Jacqueline du Pré whom I loved as a sensitive, intelligent, brilliant musician. Everything which this film lacks.

As the Spanish actor Paco Rabal once said: No god could be so cruel.

This film is cruel.

Even today, I show the LP recording with the beautiful portrait to my teenage students in an endeavour (mostly wasted) to persuade them to stop picking their noses.

I give this film a three out of ten - ONLY because there are fragments of her own music in it; as for the rest of the film - ZERO.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The Forgotten Ones, 5 February 2006
8/10

Around 50 million Kurds are divided up into five or six different countries - the biggest "nation" in the world without their own homeland. Isolated, abused even tortured, they survive as best they can in the middle of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Armenia y Azherbaijan. "Turtles can Fly" is testimony as to the real victims - women and children; in this film, specifically children. Women - except Margaret Thatcher - don't make wars. Children don't make wars. But here we see armless or legless children trying to "fight" each day of their dead-end lives. They have to avoid as best they can, or even pull out and deactivate, countless thousands of land-mines in the whole of "their" territory.

But the presidents or other political leaders of the aforementioned countries do not think in humanitarian terms, but in dominating and keeping control of the Kurdish minorities; and as for "world leaders" in the White House or in Downing Street, the Kurds do not enter into their reckoning or calculations. Bombs fly, bombs fall, and people are killed or maimed, whether Kurds or Sunnis or Shiites....... it does not matter, as long as oil keeps pumping along the pipelines.

But this film does not lay blame or accuse any political leaders. It limits itself to portraying the plight of maimed "survivors" - children - of what should be "Kurdistan".

The Kurdish-Iranian Bahman Ghobadi did not flinch in showing us the shuddering reality of these people - the forgotten ones.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
delicious, wonderful, 24 December 2005
7/10

A "road-movie" you might say, but so different, so poignant, delicate, intriguing, absorbing......... purely delicious.

Three parallel stories take place in the "cono sur" of Argentina, more or less known as "Patagonia" (people with big feet). This is indeed a wonderful combinations of stories, almost amateurish in its making, and thus so endearing, so heartening, the film holds you to the last minute. This is not a "made in USA" road-movie. Forget that. This has real human-beings, real story-line, so passionate, so balanced, so finely tuned and exquisite.

From such minimal ideas, such maximum images and stories emerge. I wonder if Hollywood will ever learn to make films?

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A poetic visual jewel: a harmonious suite, 24 December 2005
9/10

"Suite" is a piece of music; well, that may be so until you see this visual jewel: music is converted into images. No great or famous actors or actresses - just simple ordinary people living out their daily lives in La Habana, Cuba, that so-poorly treated country.

But forget any and every political implication: this film has nothing to do with such pretensions.

"Suite Habana" is a splendid portrait of Cubans, from kids to the most elderly, so splendidly photographed, hopping from scene to scene, among the different persons making up this visual poem. There are no words to describe this; indeed, there is a saying which says "an image is worth a thousand words". And in this film of a little more than 84 minutes you have millions of words which get nowhere near the story-less story unfolding before your eyes: because these are real people living real lives - not actors trying to interpret some such rôle. Here you have the beauty of Cuban citizens en La Habana, white, black, mestizo or whatever, which just sums up into one glorious film.

It does not even matter that the portrayal is La Habana: it might just as well have been Manila, Kolkota, Mumbai, Kabul, Manaus.................. but Fernando Pérez and Raúl Pérez Ureta have masterfully carried out one of those little jewels that the great mass of the public will not appreciate, let alone comprehend, and ably helped by the suitable music of Alejandro and Cisneros (occasionally a little reminiscent of the music by Vangelis "1492: Conquest of Paradise")(qv).

I thoroughly recommend "Calle 54" (qv) and "Buena Vista Social Club", and "Suite Habana" will make more sense to you. But in no way should you see any of these films thinking of political stances: no such implications are present. Menos mal.........

Ah, no need for subtitles: there is very little dialogue, and what little there is, is obvious to any intelligent viewer with the scenes unfolding such that "translations" are totally unnecessary.

This is just one beautiful "suite" - a concerto, a symphony, a whole choral interlude. My vote is a little more than the 8,0 for 141 voters at present registered on IMDb

1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
From poetic novel to sordid sex, 4 December 2005
3/10

If on the one hand Antonio Gala can be considered one of the best writers of real literature in Spain today, and is also one of the leading connoisseurs of Islamic history and culture, and on the other José Luis Alcaine is one of our best directors of photography and José Nieto one of the best composers for TV and films, and we add to all this that Ana Belén is not at all a bad actress as well as being a very accomplished singer, either alone or with her husband Víctor Manuel, one could say that this film was destined to be memorable.

However, Vicente Aranda, who may be considered one of our most representative film directors today, just does not hit it off with this film. I think mostly because somewhere along the line in transition from being a literary novel of subtle poeticness to being a somewhat crudely and hurriedly concocted passionate love affair in seething sithering Istanbul, especially laid on for Spanish tourists judging by the San Miguel beer spread out on the street-side café, quite a lot of deliberate delicacy got lost.

The result being a rather top-heavy show of macho bravura unbefitting intelligent women in today's modern Spain – or anywhere else in Europe. The overbearing macho tendencies attributable to Islamics just does not fit in: the film becomes 'trasnochada' even before it starts.

I have seen this film about three times, unfortunately: and each time I like it less. Maybe it is because I suffer from acute manias with everything associated with Islamic mentality. Perhaps. I will not argue that: and of course accept that all manias are rather silly, especially including my own. But the fact remains that I was not brought up believing that women were like cattle and thus to be treated similarly. And that is what purportedly this film is bent on showing. Definitely one of Ana Belén's more important roles, but I am afraid that in this film things go dreadfully awry.


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