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7/10
Chaucer adapted with a twinkle in the eye
22 February 2019
The film won the Golden Bear at Berlin film festival. Chaucer adapted by Pasolini with a twinkle in his eye. Chaucer is played by the director. The best performances: Hugh Griffith and Alan Webb. Unlike the earlier, Pasolini work in the trilogy "The Decameron" which used lesser known actors, "The Canterbury Tales" used more well known names as actors. In both films Pasolini acts in significant roles.
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Annihilation (2018)
7/10
Suicide or self-destruction?
6 February 2019
Is it suicide or self-destruction? The novel and the screenplay are not as convincing as the original screenplay of the director Alex Garland in his earlier work "Ex Machina." The strength of the film is limited to its visuals.

"Ex Machina" was superior to this film in many respects, including the choice of the cast. A small feather in the cap was the choice of the song 'Helplessly Hoping' by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
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My Man (1996)
7/10
Two good decisions by Blier: good casting and the use of Gorecki's music
2 February 2019
Director Blier got two things right in this film: casting of two actresses Anouk Grinberg (who won the Silver Bear for this role) and Valeria Bruni Tadeschi (who was awesome in Olmi's segment of "Tickets") and the choice of Henryk Gorecki's (Terrence Malick has used his works, so has Sorrentino) religious music in his Symphony no.3. An above average work of the director.
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7/10
"Oh God, will you receive me as your son?"
2 February 2019
"Oh God, will you receive me as your son?" The most remarkable facet of the film is Jean-Claude Carriere's co-written script that includes van Gogh's (Willem Dafoe) interaction with the priest (Mads Mikkelsen) at the asylum. For that sequence alone introducing van Gogh's closeness to religion, the film is worth your time.

Otherwise a film where van Gogh talks in English to Gauguin, to French villagers in French and his own brother Theo in English, challenges your ability to believe what you are watching. Director Schnabel's decision to opt for this odd switch of languages seems to be oriented at pleasing American audiences. Give me Paul Cox's "Vincent" (1987), Minnelli's "Lust for Life" (1956) or Altman's "Vincent and Theo" (1990).
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Villa Rides (1968)
7/10
Great screenplay-writers, actors, composer and cinematographer bring history to the screen
25 January 2019
A film with co-scriptwriters Sam Peckinpah and Robert Towne is worth a look any day. Add the cast of Yul Brynner (with hair on his head), Robert Mitchum, Charles Bronson, a sinister Herbert Lom, Fernando Rey, John Ireland's cameo in a barbershop, and the film is more than a screenplay. One can add Jack Hildyard's camerawork (so reminiscent of his Oscar-winning work in "Bridge on the River Kwai") and the music of Maurice Jarre to make this film on the real life hero Pancho Villa, a worthy film.
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8/10
Is a zebra a white animal with black stripes, or is it a black animal with white stripes?
23 January 2019
ZOO. An absurdist, dadaist film for viewers who can reflect on the spoken words (the script is dense with odd factoids), the minimalist music, the visuals (electrical lighting, red hats, black and white fauna, twins and Vermeer paintings) and the effect of time-lapse photography on both growth and decay. Greenaway's collaboration with cinematographer Sacha Vierny and composer Michael Nyman is a gift for film viewers. The film brings to the fore some of the absurdist common strands between two filmmakers: Peter Greenaway and Raoul Ruiz.
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Border (2018)
6/10
A very unscientific premise.
13 January 2019
A film for the gullible, who believe in myths on thunder and lightning. A very unscientific premise. Great makeup. I am confounded how the jury of the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes gave it the top honor. Many viewers would start believing in the film's irrational tale.
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5/10
Faulkner set in Iran
14 December 2018
Adaptation of William Faulkner's novel to an Iranian setting. with lots of gaps in-between (one brother exits the story after being slapped by another, the dead man's body is not the body of the father, according to an undertaker! The dead man was being given pills to stay awake by a son). The book had 15 characters with different motivations to bury the dead man--the film has just three. If there is any merit in the film, it is due to Faulkner. The director gives the film another name "Graveless." to put some of the viewers off the track, in case they have not read the celebrated author.

Unless I missed it, the filmmakers do not acknowledge Faulkner in the film's credits (even on IMDb!) That's not being honest about the adaptation.
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Oiktos (2018)
6/10
Pity this lovely film ended as it did, reducing drastically its total potential impact
6 December 2018
First three fourths of the film is very good, the last one fourth is awful. That last quarter spoils the value of the entire film.

I was stunned by the screen-presence of actress Evi Saoulidou, who plays the wife recovering from coma. Though her screen time was teeny weeny, she is a Melina Mercouri award winner for stage acting in Greece. I do hope some top international directors pick her up for bigger significant roles in their forthcoming projects.
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Cold War (2018)
7/10
Wonderful Editing
3 December 2018
If there was one aspect that stood out in the film it was its editing. I am surprised that the film was recognized for its direction at Cannes and not for its editing or even its very taut screenplay. Perhaps the jury wanted to honour the film and the Best Director was the nearest to the deserving editing and screenplay writing honours that Cannes does not bestow.
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7/10
A film that clears the name of the title character, confused by many for Mary of Bethany
2 December 2018
A film that clears the Biblical character of being confused with Mary of Bethany, who was indeed a prostitute. A Catholic Pope in AD 591 had confused the two Marys and only many centuries later the Catholic Church cleared Mary Magdalene's name. The film however reaffirms the Da Vinci Code theory that Mary Magdalene was a participant of the Last Supper. The film is important for those who read the Bible and are familiar with the contents.

The music and sound management in the film are very good. But the landscape does not resemble the Holy Land, the Sea of Galilee looks more like an ocean, and the flora does not belong to the Middle East.
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8/10
A superb debut film on the visual and aural fronts
16 November 2018
A very impressive debut from the director. Well deserving of the Golden Hugo. Though the end was ethically very disturbing for me, the film was consistent in its visual and aural appeal throughout, especially the end sequence. A director to watch. A very good choice of actresses.

Vietnam is presented as a heavenly tropical country in the 19th century, without insects or reptiles (a lizard is the only exception) even in bamboo groves, with washed linen hung out white as snow. One would wish more realism to match the time frame of the story.

Why was this film not Vietnam's Oscar submission for 2019 in the Foreign Language Film category? I guess there were technical reasons.
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7/10
Nietzsche would have smiled at this film.
2 November 2018
There are several reasons why you will not forget this film if you have had the patience to sit through the 4 hours of its slow running time. One of them will be to wonder if the long film was worth your while.

The director Bo Hu only made this feature film in his entire life before he committed suicide at age 29. The film is based on his book that he wrote under a pen-name. With a book and a feature film to his credit, Bo Hu evidently still felt trapped.

All the characters are innocent but nihilistic to the core caught within China's social "no-win" trap if you are not rich or have political connections. Nietzsche would have smiled at this film. There is no way out. Yet they hope optimistically for a better life. It is a curious film that ends up with stupid violent scenes as some recent award-winning films from China have. Nothing positive to take away here after 4 hours. The concept of the elephant sitting still is possibly positive, which is why four adults want to metaphorically see it. One positive takeaway in the indirect commentary on China today, rarely discussed in the media.
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8/10
A substantive film from Hollywood, ignored by many
25 October 2018
A very impressive screenplay from Eric Roth plus really good performances from the ensemble cast. Well deserved the Berlin Silver Bear award.

Best lines: There is no "The" before God or CIA: Friends can be enemies and enemies, friends; "And, yet, a certain word, a glance, a guise, will mirror, never show, reflecting not my gaze, but my uncertain question caught inside a shadow of our shifting eyes."

Problem sequences for me: the easy suicide of the tortured man, the dead finger in a coffee can (referencing "Godfather" of Coppola).
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The Collector (1965)
7/10
Removing a character from the book in a film, should improve it, but this didn't work
24 October 2018
I do not consider this book of John Fowles to be impressive, and film does not improve on the book by cutting out a character in the book. And Fowles, has written more impressive novels.

The film is important as it is belongs to the last phase of William Wyler's career. The only impressive bits of the film are the lead performances of Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar, both of whom won the acting honors at Cannes for this film.
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7/10
Belongs to Kore'eda's favorite theme but this one is not one of his original tales
21 October 2018
The film is tender to the core. It is written by Kore'eda, but it is based on an existing manga novel by Akimi Yashida. One of the few non-original story departures of the director.

Is the film different from the rest of his work? Most of his work relates to absent parents and their children. This film conforms to that pattern. Here there are four female characters longing for their dead/missing father and a missing mother. Like Euripides' "The Trojan Women" perhaps where the women longed for their husbands?

The film belongs to the strong character Sachi and the beautiful actress Aruka Hayase's performance as Sachi, the other actresses Suzu Hirose as Suzu and the wonderful elderly late Kirin Kiki.

Also commendable for a Kore'eda film is the music composed for the film by Yoko Kanno.

A very delicate film, very Asian. Or modern Asian, would be more precise a description, since each of the unmarried women have their own private affairs/lovers known to the other sisters.
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8/10
A different point of view of Kore'eda's earlier script/film "I Wish"
13 October 2018
Another lovely original film and script from Kore'eda with a wonderful cast.

Original? Yes. But linked to his own earlier 2011 script for "Kiseki" (I Wish). In "I wish" an almost or fully broken marriage of two young parents were was being tried to be patched up by a son who was directly affected by the break-up. Here in "After the Storm" a son is similarly affected by the almost final breakup of his parents marriage, but the torn marriage is being tried to be fixed for the sake of the child by the father. thus one film is the positive action from the point of view of a son, the other later film from that of a father for the sake of the son and his wife.

So many films of Kore'eda deal with broken marriages and kids with missing parents in their lives. The most heart-rending one was "Nobody Knows," the most complex one was "The Third Murder."

Kore-eda seems to be getting better as a scriptwriter and director in each film. The subtle references to Christianity surfaces here with references to Mother Teresa, only to be more prominent in "The Third Murder."

This Kore-eda film is considerably helped by his stock artists Hiroshi Abe ("Still Walking", "I Wish"), Yoko Maki ("Like Father, Like Son") and the lovely late Kirin Kaki ("Still Walking," "I Wish").

Was there a problem with the film? Of course, there was. Where was the storm/hurricane? The only scene of inclement weather was the rain in the night, when the parents of the boy stay together. Even the day after the storm, the exteriors of the apartment didn't seem to be affected by a hurricane/typhoon/cyclone. Even indoors, there is no evidence of a vicious storm raging outside during the night.
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Isle of Dogs (2018)
6/10
Good music for an engaging film
7 October 2018
Engaging. Nothing exceptional except for the delightful music by Alexandre Desplat. He should get an Oscar nomination.

But the Best Director award at Berlin Film Fest?!!! I am surprised. I can only make a clearer judgement when I have seen the other films that competed with it.
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Assa (1987)
6/10
A brave but mixed-up film
6 October 2018
"Assa" was a film that I was eagerly waiting to see after all the positive reviews. It is an important film as it represents the changes within Russia on the choice of subjects to film. It is a brave film for its time. One of the major characters in the film is an admirer of the music of Nick Cave, at a time when few would have known who he was.

But the film has a major problem. The director introduces a strange fact that Noah of the Bible uttered the word Assa after the floods receded--and there is no such evidence in the scriptures.
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7/10
A very decent western for a director making his debut
4 October 2018
A decent western from a director making his debut--Richard Wilson. Actor Mitchum carries the film. Actress Jan Sterling has an impressive screen presence but her voice is not as impressive. she is more interesting here than in Billy Wilder's "Ace in the Hole."
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The Last Hunt (1956)
7/10
A revisionist western treating Native Indians with respect and criticizing the killing bravado of gunslingers
2 October 2018
Director/scriptwriter Richard Brooks made me sit up with his 1965 film "Lord Jim," which was a fine adaptation of the Joseph Conrad's novel. Brooks as adapted the story of Milton Lott and written the script of this earlier 1956 film "The Last Hunt" that he directed. This western is unusual on several counts.

It is humanistic. It respects the Native Indian community. It is pro-conservation of the wild buffalo that once roamed USA. It is against the "bang bang" killings that made westerns so popular. It gives importance to tiny tots.

What is commendable is to have the handsome Robert Taylor play the anti-hero after getting the top billing. Taylor as a dumb good looking gunslinger who sleeps with women using ability to kill as a threat.

Director Stanley Kubrick evidently copied a critical end sequence for his own film "The Shining," made decades later.

If the film belongs to anyone, it belongs to Brooks and to the majestic wild buffalo.
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Happy End (2017)
7/10
Perspectives of happiness by social status, by ethnicity, by family bonding
30 September 2018
Many times in the movie, I felt it was a reworking of Haneke's "Cache." Nothing new from Mr Haneke. The more I see of his films, I do not see new approaches to cinema from him. His "Amour" I thought was wonderful, until I realized much of it came from the Icelandic film "Volcano."
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Air Doll (2009)
6/10
"People with cold hands can have warm hearts"
24 September 2018
Mixed reactions.

Awful because the premise of the film expects you to throw rational thinking to the wind. Appreciating it is akin to appreciating Superman.

On the other hand, the film offers awesome script writing in the two/three segments involving an old bearded gentleman.

Weighing both feelings, this Kore-eda film still offers more than what the American films "Her" and "Bi-centennial man" could offer. However, it does come up to the level of Alex Garland's "Ex Machina."
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Great Performances: The Collection (1976)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
7/10
Engaging play by Pinter with engaging performances and one lovely unforgettable camera shot
21 September 2018
Interesting play by Harold Pinter. Engaging performances by all four. And Helen Mirren looks so attractive here and so young. Directed by Michael Apted with a delightful imaginative shot of Malcolm McDowell cowering on the floor taken from behind Alan Bates' legs towering over McDowell. Best shot in the film.
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Maborosi (1995)
8/10
Superb cinematography, editing, direction and a lovely performance by the lead actress
8 September 2018
Superb cinematography by Masao Nakabori, a lovely script, creditable editing by the director, an amazing debut by the director Kore-eda and finally an unforgettable performance by the lead actress, the beautiful Makiko Esumi. For me, there were two remarkable sequences--the spare bulb rolling by itself on the table and the funeral procession taken as a long shot (reminding you of "The Seventh Seal" and "8 1/2", all the more striking because of the bare soundtrack). For me, this work of the director is his second best among the seven I have seen so far--the best work being "The Third Murder " One of the key aspects of the film was the effective static long shots of the dwelling entrances in key sequences.
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