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42 reviews in total 
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34 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
People lie, 4 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Beneath the opening credits, a photocopier copies IDs, one after another.

We open to a courtroom. A beautiful married couple, Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) have obtained coveted visas to leave Iran for the United States, where Simin hopes to offer a better future to their 11-year-old daughter, Termeh (the director's daughter, Sarina Farhadi). Simin has red hair and determined eyes; Nader has an honest face. They address the camera as if we are the judge.

"You don't have good reasons for a divorce." Their hard-won visa expires in a month or two; Nader will not leave, Simin must, with Termeh. The problem, Nader is devoted to his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who has Alzheimer disease and is totally dependent on his son and his family. And so the couple embark on a trial separation.

An upper middle-class household, a stable home, parents who value education and security for their daughter perhaps above all.

Simi has found a caretaker, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a pregnant, deeply religious woman with a young daughter who takes the job unbeknownst to her husband (Shahab Hosseini), an out-of-work cobbler. A devout woman with a young daughter (Kimia Hosseini), to mind his father while he is at work.

Negotiations - she lives far away, the pay is not good, her husband does not know. The first day, grandpa pees his pants. Modesty. Razieh asks him to clean himself up; he can only ask for Simin. She makes a call to her imam for religious advice. She can clean the old man. Her daughter watches through frosted glass, ever curious.

In the meantime, Nader teaches his daughter to be assertive, first with the gas station attendant.

The caretaker quits. It's heavy work for a pregnant woman and a little girl. We know she's pregnant, but does Nader? It's a big problem. Who else? Razieh comes back. My husband. He cannot know you hired me. But maybe he can come.

Here begins the disaster. Class war. Breakdown of families and society.

The two daughters are at the heart of the story.

Truth, guilt, the bitter disappointment of a child in her parents.

Tense and narratively complex, formally dense and morally challenging, flawlessly crafted, brilliantly performed and intimately photographed, A Separation premiered at Berlinale, where it won the Golden Bear for Best Film as well as the top prizes for Best Actor and Actress for its male and female ensembles.

"The idea for the film came to when I was sitting in the kitchen of my friend's flat in Berlin nearly one year ago. I was here preparing another film, but I decided to do this one instead. I was smoking a cigarette in the kitchen, listening to some Iranian music and then I decided to make it. The film is influenced by my personal experiences and the situation in Iran and also some abstract pictures I had in my mind. It was like a puzzle. The story was in my mind for some time but when I decided to make it it happened quickly." - Farhadi

It began with picture of a man with Alzheimer's.

"I found the button and made a suit."

Do not miss this movie.

The Blade (1995)
Tonight's screening of a near-pristine 35-mm print was the experience of a lifetime, 11 July 2011

Let us hope the rumors are wrong, that the rights holder of Dao (Warner Bros?) is not pulling this film from theatrical release forever, and that the lucky sold-out audience at Walter Reade Theater tonight will not be the last people on planet Earth to see this towering achievement of cinema on the big screen.

That said, tonight's screening of a near-pristine 35-mm print was the experience of a lifetime. Tsui Hark's re-imagining of Chang Cheh's 1967 Dubei dao (The One-Armed Swordsman), is (in the words of Subway Cinema curators) "a psycho-tronic phantasmagoria full of scars and tattoos, mutilation, amputation, sexual frustration, and sharp, heavy chunks of steel splitting muscle and breaking bones" - but most of all a story of love and kindness in a world that may be damaged beyond redemption.

Original Music by Ying-Wah Wong (as Raymond Wong) and Wai Lap Wu is fantastic. The soundtrack album to be sought out. Any help in finding will be appreciated.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Is there nothing Takashi Miike can't do?, 9 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I saw Ninja Kids!!! at a sold-out screening at NYC's Japan Society, I was surrounded by a cluster of viewers that was about 25% 10 years old or younger (including a couple as young as 5), about 50% 20 years old to 30 years old, and about 25% 40 and older (including a couple approaching 60 years old).

I can tell you every one of us was completely enthralled from beginning to end. Children and adults alike were howling at the abundant scatological humor, gasping with amazement at the feats of dexterity, and cheering the heroes on to victory.

Pure cinema, with something for everybody and excluding no one.

Is there nothing Takashi Miike can't do?

The Recipe (2010)
8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
True Love, Honest Craft, and the Aura of the Unique, 5 July 2011

A lyrical mystery, following Yoo-jin Choi (Seung-Ryong Ryu), a hard-bitten television producer, as he pursues a lead from an applicant for an internship: A death-row fugitive is captured as he eats a bowl of so delicious, so fragrant, both he and the arresting detectives are held in thrall until he finishes and they can capture him without a struggle.

Choi discovers that the stew was made by a mysterious young woman, Jang Hye-jin (Yu-won Lee), and begins a transformative quest to learn the recipe. No spoilers here, just a recommendation to seek out this movie about true love, honest craft, and the aura of the unique.

Utopians (2011)
A perfect cast is led by Jim Fletcher (recently starring as Gatsby in the Elevator Repair Service's marathon performance of Gatz), Courtney Webster, and Lauren Hind, 24 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Utopians Director: Zbigniew Bzymek

USA 2011

Cast includes Jim Fletcher (Roger), Courtney Webster (Zoe), Lauren Hind (Maya), Arthur French (Morris), Jessica Jelliffe (Deborah), and Sacha Yanow (Agnes)

Roger is arguably the worst yoga teacher in the world, and your home-renovation contractor from hell. But he's a good egg. A single dad after the death of his wife, Roger's life suddenly gets complicated when his daughter Zoe returns home from military service, on a mission to rescue her certified schizophrenic girlfriend Maya from institutionalization.

Roger's increasingly frustrated students start to abandon him as he comes to class later and later, retreats into his own head for rambling, free-associative patter that takes the place of actual yoga instruction, and starts bringing a stray pit bull to class.

Tension grows as Maya is released from institutional care and comes to live/camp with Roger and Zoe. Roger's friend Morris offers a live-in renovation job in his well-furnished house, and the newly formed family move in and promptly begin to decompensate, as the psychiatrists say, or perhaps just begin to find their way.

A perfect cast is led by Jim Fletcher (recently starring as Gatsby in the Elevator Repair Service's marathon performance of Gatz), Courtney Webster, and Lauren Hind, with strong support by Arthur French, Jessica Jelliffe, and Sacha Yanow. Courtney Webster and Lauren Hind pulled double duty as producers.

Shot on location in Brooklyn in HDCam, with credits to Woodhull Hospital as well as to key artwork, including one fantastic painting of the fall of Nelson at Trafalgar.

The score is by Harvey Valdes, capturing the cold sounds of madness in one of the "longest-lasting guitar improvisations since Dead Man."

A feature debut for director Zbigniew Bzymek, who is an associate artist at The Wooster Group, where he makes short doc videos and develops video design for productions, including the space vampire opera La Didone.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
"When your family is murdered, aren't you entitled to happiness?", 24 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Heaven's Story Director: Zeze Takahisa Japan 2010 Cast: Tsuruoka Moeki (Sato), Hasegawa Tomoharu (Tomoki), Oshinari Shugo (Mitsuo), Murakami Jun (Kajima), Yamasaki Hako (Kyoko)

Nine episodes, a running time of four and a half hours, a dozen main characters, a plot spanning nine years.

A survival story, of those who have lost everybody. The agony of bereavement by murder. "The man I wanted killed died before I had the chance."

Lives connected by murder and loss. "There are events in life that are quickly forgotten by those who aren't involved, but for those involved they never come to an end."

"Eight-year-old Sato, whose family was wiped out by a psychopath who then went on to kill himself, learns by chance of a man who has sworn to take revenge on the man who murdered his wife and daughter. For eight long years she waits in vain for him to keep his promise, then takes the initiative herself, setting in motion a chain of tragic events that gradually plunges everyone involved into misery."

A policeman who becomes a contract killer to support the family of a man whom he killed in self-defense; a partially deaf girl in a rock band; a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's who adopts a murderer who ends up loving her past death.

"I want to be remembered by the unborn." The loss of memory, of one's self.

"When your family is murdered, aren't you entitled to happiness?"

Tears and pee. The dead keep watch.

Dom (2011/I)
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Surprise – no one is as they seem., 24 May 2011

Dom | The House Director: Zuzana Liová Slovak Republic, Czech Republic 2011

Cast: Judit Bárdos (Eva), Miroslav Krobot (Imrich), Marián Mitaš (Jakub), Taťjana Medvecká (Viera), Lucia Jašková (Jana), Marek Geišberg (Milan), Ester Geislerová (Hana)

Eva is the jewel of the village. Church organist, smartest student in the high school. Altogether, too beautiful, too smart for this place.

Money is a problem. When Eva takes a bath, her father Imrich asks "Who's going to pay for all that water?"

But it isn't just money. "Why not just take a leash and tie her to the house?" her mother Viera asks him, in frustration.

Imrich is building Eva a house, stealing bricks from the house he started building for Eva's older sister Jana, who he has broken with, after she got herself involved with a man in the village with whom she now has three children. (Long-held family grudges.)

Neighbors used to help in this work, but now they want money. Money is changing the society, challenging the absolute rule of patriarchy. So Imrich relies on Eva to help him build her house, a prison.

Surprise – no one is as they seem.

The cast is superb. Judit Bárdos makes an indelible, luminous film debut.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A tour of different places related to the nuclear industry in Germany and Austria, 24 May 2011

Unter Kontrolle / Under Control Germany, 2011, 98 min Director: Volker Sattel

"A tour of different places related to the nuclear industry in Germany and Austria: active and disused nuclear power stations, training facilities, the International Atomic Energy Agency, an institute for risk research, the Annual Meeting on Nuclear Technology, a permanent repository for radioactive waste, as well as research centers. Images that are a cross between science fiction and an industrial film. Carefully composed and framed in Cinemascope."

What are we seeing? Neurons, radioactive tracings. A uranium fuel rod. The control room.

What are we hearing? The hum of electricity.

Admitted to workplaces and meetings, we see men committed to ensuring that nothing happens. These places are overwhelmingly male. Cheesy girly calendars are everywhere.

An industry abandoned. What to do with unused plants. An amusement park in an abandoned plant. A scary twirling ride inside a cooling tower.

"In the water basin of a research reactor, our gaze falls on a magic light that veils a fuel rod downright mystically. The bluish glow penetrates even solid matter. Physicists call this phenomenon the 'Cherenkov effect.' Unleashed by the splitting atoms, hidden with this uncanny illumination is extremely intense radioactivity."

Folge Mir (2010)
A beautiful woman, smoking a cigarette, looks at a peeling building. The camera stays with her, she is smiling., 24 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Folge mir (Follow Me)

Director: Johannes Hammel Austria 2010

Cast: Daniela Holtz (Frau Blumenthal), Roland Jaeger (Herr Blumenthal), Charlotte Ullrich (die andere Frau Blumenthal), Simon Jung (Pius), Karl Fischer (Religionslehrer Denoth), Oskar Fischer (Roman). Forum

A beautiful woman, smoking a cigarette, looks at a peeling building. The camera stays with her, she is smiling.

A film about the way a leaking broken ceiling and cheap light fixture can break your heart. A family lives in a crummy flat overlooking an ugly waterfront. Everything from evening meals to weekend trips is agony. Everything is strange, a little off.

Crystal-clear black-and-white Cinemascope images of an unhappy family are composed in a post-narrative structure, juxtaposed with cheerful low-res Super 8 home movies of a better life.

"You can't believe how suddenly things can subtly change."

In one world, a kind waitress serves Frau Blumenthal a latte machiatto; in another, a sour waiter throws her out onto the street, a madwoman.

In one world, she's riding her bike in her summer dress in the sun, with the sound of surf and seagulls. In another, she's trying to learn to ride on a dismal street, constantly looking to see who is watching her.

And religion is a sad affair, through which children are indoctrinated to a life of disappointment and failure by a sadistic teacher. Folge mir is the textbook.

As Frau Blumenthal, Daniela Holtz and Charlotte Ullrich are radiant and unforgettable.

Folge mir is Johannes Hammel's debut as director of a feature film. He works in Vienna as a freelance filmmaker, cameraman, and producer.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"From the country of resistance.", 24 May 2011

Traumfabrik Kabul | Kabul Dream Factory Director: Sebastian Heidinger

Germany, Afghanistan 2011 Dari

Films are not discrete objects, but cultural expressions.

Saba Sahar has been a policewoman for 18 years in Kabul. She is also an actress, director and producer. The fearless, incorruptible police officer from Qanoon. She regards her film work as education.

"The goal of my films has always been to show women that we are strong and in a position to do something. We merely have to take it to heart that we want something, in order to achieve it. To be able, you always also must first want. That's the message. I love cinema, because it's a school all people understand. Educated and uneducated people understand cinema, equally. That's why I began working in film."

Traumfabrik Kabul follows Saba Sahar on her quest for financing for a mobile cinema road show in the provinces, "To help show what a woman is."

She started work in the golden era of Afghan theatre & cinema in mid-late 80s, pre-Taliban, and like many others had great hopes for peace with the coming of the Taliban. Instead intellectuals and artists were forced to flee the country.

In one remarkable sequence, we follow her into a spectacular mountain valley. Buying yogurt from village girls. "I like you. You are brave girls." Jamming with village musicians. Playing tabla with one hand, holding her 10-month old daughter in the other.

"From the country of resistance."

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