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Broker (2022)
8/10
One of the two best Kore-eda films--the original screenplay is outstanding
14 August 2022
The Third Murder and Broker are two of Kore-eda's films that make you admire his complex original screenplays. For the first time, the thin line between the good guys (here, the Korean cops, caring parents) and the bad guys (the brokers of all hues, the murderers, the bad son born into a good family getting close to thugs, bad wives, etc,) blur and almost disappear.
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Sertânia (2018)
8/10
Sarno treads the path of Brazilain directors Ruy Guerra and Nelson Pereira dos Santos
5 August 2022
My first film of Brazilian filmmaker Geraldo Sarno--his fourth and final feature film made at age 79. He died at age of 83, some 4 years later.

Sarno's film is refreshingly different. Shot in black-and-white with handheld cameras, which capture the humans and the flora of north-eastern Brazil, the economic disparity, the strong religious fervor of the people, and the civil insurrection. Thus far, the film could resemble the works of Brazilian directors Ruy Guerra (The Guns) and Nelson Pereira dos Santos (Vedas Secas a.k.a. Barren Lives) made decades earlier. It also reminds you of some early Cuban films.

Then how is it "refreshingly different"? Sarno's film uses near death scenarios to traverse into the future religious "purgatory" where the main character Antao Gaviao meets his dead mother, tries no meet his dead father and does meet other important people in his life, now dead. Here, it resembles Konchalovsky's award-winning film "Paradise."

Sarno's film breaks into the fifth dimension for the viewership midway in the film showing a film crew shooting the main actors in the film (as they appear in the very film the viewer is watching) complete with tripods, cameras and reflectors. Renowned directors Kiarostami and Almodovar have done this as a postscript in their films; Sarno chose to do it mid-script!

Finally, the film belongs equally to the original writer/director Sarno, cinematographers Tuna Mayer and Miguel Vassy and the talented music composer Lindenbergue Cardoso.
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The Exam (2011)
8/10
The Chicago Film festival citation captures the strength of the film
3 August 2022
The Chicago Film festival Gold Hugo award citation says it all: "A film which combines the intricate plotting of a Cold War secret agent thriller with the serious undercurrent concerning deeper issues of personal loyalty versus the police state; it exudes a quiet confidence, remarkable in a new filmmaker."
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Svengali (1931)
8/10
A gem with a wonderful performance, production design, and cinematography
8 July 2022
A gem. This film is arguably the crowning glory of John Barrymore in his prime; one wonders if Sergei Eisenstein copied the make up and mannerisms of Barrymore in this film for his "Ivan the Terrible: Parts I and II." made more than a decade later. Equally commendable is the production design (art direction, as it was known then) and the cinematography that takes inspiration from the German Expressionist films of the silent era. The second film of director Archie Mayo that has captured my heart; the first being "The Petrified Forest."
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Happening (2021)
7/10
Outstanding music
16 June 2022
Another film that give value to the Roe vs Wade viewpoint that abortions should be legalized. The film is just above average. The most outstanding aspect of the film was the music composed by the talented duo Evgueni and Sacha Galperine (they contributed the music of Zvyagintsev's "Loveless"). Congratulations to Audrey Diwan for choosing their appropriate music. It is probably the original novel that gave the appropriate name of actress Sandrine Bonnaire's character as "Gabrielle" (which recalls Angel Gabriel.)

The film is more sophisticated than the Romanian film "4 months, 2 months and 3 days" (2007) and the US film "Never, rarely, sometimes, always" (2020) because the poor girl has a legitimate and a very honorable goal in life.
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Benediction (2021)
6/10
One can appreciate Sassoon's poetry and the loaded trivia that TE Lawrence was his friend
15 June 2022
"Many live for the moment, you live for the eternity" British poet Siegfried Sassoon's son to his father in his final days--as the poet continues to bemoan the dead soldiers of of WWI who died for a cause that had changed from what it was when they enlisted. Thanks to Terrence Davies' film I have come to appreciate Sassoon's poetry. As a film, I prefer the comparable film "Under Milkwood" on the life and poetry of Dylan Thomas. A trivial highlight of the film: T E Lawrence (a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia) attending the very private wedding of Sassoon! Though mentioned briefly as an admirer of the poet Sassoon, Noel Coward never gets shown in the film. Some aspects of the screenplay are very impressive, while some are not (switching back and forth in time, needlessly, those relating to one of Sassoon's many gay paramours).
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7/10
Losey's and Foreman's post-self exile gift to the British cinema
12 June 2022
Joseph Losey's film made in UK soon after he left USA after being backlisted by the Joseph McCarthy commission. In order to make the film, the director's name is listed as Victor Hanbury, a real life producer who lent his name at the request of Losey. The film marks the beginning of a long collaboration of Losey with actor DIrk Bogarde (in The Servant; King and Country; Modesty Blaise; Accident). Losey tended to go back to cast actors that he trusted to deliver--Alexander Knox, who is the main supporting actor in Sleeping Tiger was chosen for Modesty Blaise and Accident as well. Another famous blacklisted and talented personality screenplay writer Carl Foreman, who like Losey moved to the UK, contributed to the screenplay of The Sleeping Tiger.

The Sleeping Tiger is an above average work of Losey and Foreman keeping the viewer rivetted to the screen. The main actors Bogarde, Knox and Ms Alexis Smith are commendable. The cameo roles of Hugh Griffith and Billie Whitelaw are notable.
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7/10
Beautiful images and lighting; and an interesting end sequence
1 June 2022
Beautiful images and lighting (with no electricity) of Teheran in the Twenties but the final crane shots reveal a modern day Teheran skyline with multistoried buildings and air-conditioning vents (a nod perhaps to Geza von Redvanyi's 1965 film "Uncle Tom's Cabin"). Two realities separated by time. The simplistic tale of greed for pelf and power is interspersed with chorus elements of Greek plays (here washerwomen discussing the lives of rich inhabitants of the mansion in the background.)
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7/10
Chabrol's use of Tchaikovsky at a key juncture of the film is a remarkable choice for the tale
31 May 2022
What's good? The obese Depardieu in a likeable toned-down role. Marie Bunel, a little known movie actress, proving elderly women are still attractive to men. Chabrol's use of Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" for a key sequence underscoring the entire tale. And the W H Auden's end-quote "There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye." A good cop with a kind heart for the bad guys.
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Safe Conduct (2002)
7/10
A good feature film involving true French characters making films during the Nazi occupation
29 May 2022
A tale based on true filmmaking conditions in France during Nazi occupation. Real-life characters. Filmmaker Jean-Devaivre (a friend of Tavernier) disliked the product, which gave more importance to the real-life scriptwriter Jean Aurenche than him. Devaivre's family even sued Tavernier demanding part of the profits, when initially Devaivre did not want any money. Won two Silver Bears at Berlin but the film is not one of the better works of Tavernier.

The most amusing part of the film is Aurenche accessing an important Nazi file and being flown to Britain, where the British intelligence is only interested in how he acquired it rather than reading the file. And that part is not fiction.
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Ahed's Knee (2021)
7/10
Good to see an Israeli film allowing self-criticism in a film seemingly approved by the authorities
26 May 2022
Most countries, including mine, would not allow a film that is critical of life and freedom in that country. The film comes alive in the last quarter, the first three quarters being seemingly absurd. Good performance by the lead actor Avshalom Pollak. However, the director's earlier work "Synoymes" was superior.

My favorite sequence: The lead character, Y, a film director, swimming alone in a lovely waterbody in Gaza finding a carcass of a dead animal at the bottom. Encapsulates the entire film.
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8/10
One of the best anti-war films ever made
24 May 2022
One of the best anti-war films ever made, next only to Malick's "The Thin Red Line." Losey loved to film plays and did it well: and this is one of them. Losey loved to underscore social disparity among his films' characters--this film makes that more than obvious, The film begins with the camera slowly examining details of a public statue about soldiers dead in the war, dying for their country with the inscription "A Royal Fellowship of Death." That opening sequence is spellbinding (a great idea of Losey, his cinematographer Denys N Coop, and the screenplay writer Evan Jones. It prepares the viewer for what is to follow as the stone images merge with images of dead solders with their bones under their helmets and uniforms. Another major contributor to the film is the production design by Richard Macdonald--which should serve as an example for students of production design. Finally, the film belongs to actor Tom Courtenay, who was recognized at the Venice Film Festival for this role winning the Best Actor Award but not so at the BAFTAs, and to Dirk Bogarde giving one of his best performances while also contributing to the script (uncredited contribution.) A major part of the play and screenplay was the young soldiers doing mock court-martial of a rat procured from the carcass of a dead horse--what a bizarre but powerful idea mocking the actual human court-martial. One of the best films of Losey.
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7/10
Remarkable performances, direction, screenplay, and cinematography; but Visconti made even better films than this one
17 May 2022
Three remarkable performances: Anne Girardot, Alain Delon, and Renato Salvatori; a realistic script by Visconti inspired by Thomas Mann's "Joseph and His Brothers" (Visconti apparently loved his work as his crowning work was the adaptation of Mann's "Death in Venice") and based on an episode of a novel by Giovanni Testori, well thought-out cinematography by Giuseppe Rotund), and music of Nino Rota. Much of the film is a tragic tale of an urban dream of a well-knit rural family coming apart due to varied interactions of family members with a prostitute but the film metamorphoses to a forward-looking, positive perspective of a sphinx rising from the ashes. For me, Visconti has made much better works, even though the film has many plus points--including a minor role of Claudia Cardinale. The film won the Golden Lion at Venice--it would touch the hearts of viewers with an Italian connection more than the rest because it is a real portrait of Italy in the time frame of the film's tale. While many would rave about the actors he film essentially belongs to Visconti (as director and co-scriptwriter), Visconti's frequent co-scriptwriter Suso Cecchi d'Amico (Bellissima, Senso, The Leopard, Conversation Piece, and Ludwig), and co-scriptwriter Pasquale Festa Campanile (The Leopard), who eventually became a filmmaker of consequence.
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8/10
This notable Jarmusch film could have inspired Jafar Panahi's "Teheran Taxi"
15 May 2022
This could have been the inspiration for Jafar Panahi's "Taxi Teheran" made some 15 years later. Jim Jarmusch's film has 5 segments set in 5 cities in the developed world driven by 5 different taxi drivers; Panahi's film takes the same concept with one driver (Panahi himself) in one city. The Panahi film comparatively could have been titled "Day in Teheran,Iran." Both films paint character differences, some sad, some optimistic, some with set opinions, some who change their mindset after conversations in the taxi. My favorites are the opening sequence with the beautiful Gena Rowlands (Mrs John Cassavetes) and Winona Ryder playing fascinating roles in the segment set set in Los Angeles. Another good performance is of Armin Mueller-Stahl in the segment set in New York. Great songs with lovely lyrics add value. Jarmusch thanks another great director for inspiration for parts of the film: Ms Claire Denis of France. Of course, one of the actors in "Night on Earth," Isaach de Bankole, has been picked by both Mr Jarmusch and Ms Denis in various important films they have made. Last but not least, recent works of Jarmusch have benefitted from the impressive cinematography of Frederick Elmes. Elmes and Jarmusch make a great team. All in all, a very notable work of Jarmusch.
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Paisan (1946)
8/10
Six beads of a rosary that string aspects of humanism within diversity of age, color, religion and courage
14 May 2022
An important film that belongs to the neorealism genre with Roberto Rossellini directing and coscripting with Frederico Fellini playing a significant role among the band of scriptwriters. Almost all the actors were non-professional--yet they look professional. The six standalone segments are like beads of a rosary that string aspects of humanism within diversity of age, color, religion and courage. My favorite segment was Segment 5 "Foreigners" in which three Allied military chaplains (a Roman Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew) ask for a nights stay in an ancient Franciscan monastery.
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6/10
A decent Hollywood Biblical that unfortunately introduces a Prophet, never mentioned in the Bible
15 April 2022
An interesting Biblical for the wrong reasons. I viewed this film after a gap of 50 years or more. The script introduced a Prophet Jehoam (played by actor Eduard Franz), twice appearing in the film at crucial points. This character is never mentioned in the Bible or in the Book of Ruth. How is it that no one has questioned this fictional addition, which will be accepted by many, who are unfamiliar with the Bible, as a true Biblical figure? I read 32 user reviews on this site and the goofs section for this film on IMDb before writing this mini review.

That apart, Viveca Lindfors, as the Moab temple priestess, caught my eye. So did Peggy Wood, who plays the venerable Naomi.
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The Castle (1994)
8/10
Interesting adaptation of Kafka's unfinished novel
26 March 2022
Interesting adaptation of Kafka's unfinished novel on a human being struggling to keep his real identity. Director Alexei German Sr. Plays the minor role of Mr Klamm. There are are phones but no electricity. Music is played with cylinders. Pigs running without warning in crowded rooms, attractive women who have no real power, etc., are part of Balabanov's interpretation of Kafka's novel. The first two assistants to the Land Surveyor reminds one of a hilarious version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from the play "Hamlet." Kafka's "Castle" was permitted to be read in Russia only in 1988. The film was made 6 years later.

The land surveyor is recognized as such finally by one character, the young Hans--representing future hope for very closed societies. Interesting to see the camaraderie between directors Balabanov and German, Sr.
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Billy Budd (1962)
8/10
Ustinov, the director, at his best
25 March 2022
A remarkable film. Ustinov, the director. At his best The idea of each actor's voice being used to identify their character's name in the film as their real names appear in the credits is a fascinating change. Terence Stamp is well cast as Billy Budd--personifying the precise characteristics Melville describes in the incomplete novella. Melville never completed the novella. Ustinov suggests one ending. It is for the viewer to accept or reject it.
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France (2021)
7/10
Good script, an excellent performance from Lea Seydoux and lovely music of Christophe
10 March 2022
Warning: Spoilers
Bruno Dumont writes his own original scripts and directs the film. His best best work among those that I have watched so far was "L'humanite" (Humanity) (1999) that swept three top Cannes awards: Best Actor, Best Actress, and The Grand prize of the Jury. Mr Dumont has made an equally good film in "France," a top-notch tale on the downfall of a major TV news personality whose name is France. It is far superior to the Hollywood film, Sidney Lumet's "Network," also on another major TV news anchor. As the poster suggests, the main character looks back at her fascinating career and the incidents and people that led to her gradual erosion of faith in humanity as fate and people contribute to the downward spiral of her life. The last 15 minutes of the film nudges us to recall Dumont's earlier film "Humanity" with similar shots of the agricultural landscape as in that film.

The film is significant for a few extraordinary elements; 1. The well constructed script. 2. The superlative performance of Lea Seydoux ending with her looking at the camera and closing her eyes as a tear drop flows out from the closed eyelid. 3. The lovely music of of the composer Christophe, used by Tarantino in "Kill Bill vol. II." 4. The remarkable performance of Benjamin Biolay, as the husband, Fred.
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8/10
Robert Shaw proves that he equally good as an adapted screenplay-writer in an important Losey film
28 February 2022
An unusual, quaint film, based on a novel, which is equally unusually interesting. The film is based in a novel by Peter England that was nominated for the inaugural Booker Prize and won the Author's club First Novel Award. Director Losey must have been attracted to the book because of his interest in plays nd one of his best known plays is "Conduct Unbecoming." The novel is about two escaped Prisoners of War trying to cross the border of an unknown country. Losey allowed and encouraged the film's main actor to write the screenplay as Robert Shaw was a novelist as well. Shaw's script does not easily identify the principal characters as POWs but as mere escapees pursued by a helicopter. The "senseless" killings make sense if you realize the two were POWs and not jail escapees of some sort. An unforgettable part of the film was the cameo by Pamela Brown, as the widow in a trance. For Losey, the escape of the POWs must have been parallels to his own "escape" from the Communist witch-hunt in the US by the McCarthy commission. Wonderful performances, by the two actors. The helicopter shots reminds one of the helicopter pursuits in Konchalovsky's "Runaway Train." Another film it reminds you of is John Boorman's "Hell in the Pacific."
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7/10
Good performances and a good script (possibly based on a equally interesting novel)
22 February 2022
Very unusual film that keeps your interest to the end. At Cannes, this film shared honors of the second best film in competition with Farhadi's Iranian film "A Hero." I found this work to be far superior to the Iranian film. "Compartment no. 6" is based on a Finnish novel by a reputed lady novelist from that country. As I have not read the novel, how well the Finnish director adapted it is unclear. The performances of all the actors are convincing--especially that of the Russian miner (Yuriy Borisov) from start to finish. Definitely, one of my best films of 2021. Actor Yuriy Borisov had a small role in Zvyagintsev's "Elena," (the actor's debut in feature films)--and it is impressive for him to evolve into a major character actor in this film. He was evidently Zvyagintsev's discovery.
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7/10
The high happiness quotient of the Bhutanese percolates on the viewer
16 February 2022
A lovely film that put Bhutan on the world cinema map. The Bhutanese people are truly wonderful and uncorrupted with high happiness quotient. Made with Taiwanese support, it is wonderful and can be compared with Konchalovsky's debut Russian film "The First Teacher" (1965) Error trivia for the Bhutanese: Yaks not only produce dung but urinate indoors-the filmmakers don't seem to be bothered with reality beyond a point.
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8/10
"Why is man happy when he kills another? What is there to be happy about?"
26 January 2022
Deceptive innocent entertainment from Konchalovsky (director and original scriptwriter). On the obvious take--a film on good humans with mental problems incarcerated in a mental asylum, run by an efficient doctor who is dedicated and intelligent. On the not-so-obvious side--it is based on true incidents in Chechnya (Russia) during the Second Chechen War of 1999-2000. For those unfamiliar with Chechnya, it is a constituent republic of Russia with a predominant Muslim population. Russians predominantly follow the Russian Orthodox Church. Konchalovsky has proven his Russian orthodox credentials in all his cinematic works.

In this film, the inmates of the asylum include patients of both faiths living in harmony. Outside the asylum, there is war (between the Muslim Chechens and the Christian Russians). Konchalovsky's script underscores the camaraderie between the warring factions when they fought side by side in Afghanistan saving each other. During the Chechen war soldiers of both sides recall that they were once friends.

When the asylum is bombed by the Russians, many of the inmates cross themselves out of fear of impending death--indicating the majority of the inmates are Christian. Ahmed, a Muslim Chechen and a pacifist incarcerates himself with this motley group of inmates as he finds safety and friendship among the "crazies" who accept him as one of their own.

The participation of rock singer Bryan Adams as an actor and singer in the film is Konchalovsky's masterstroke along with the words of the songs sung by the singer. Other important trivia, the lead actress Yulia Vysotskaya is the director's wife of over 20 years. Her acting capability is showcased in wide variety of roles she has played in her husband's films--most importantly in "Paradise" and "Dear Comrades."

The film is further strengthened on the aural front beyond Bryan Adams by the music of composer Eduard Artemyev. Artemyev is often bypassed by the fans of Tarkovsky (in Solaris, Stalker, Mirror), Konchalovsky (in Siberiade, The Inner Circle, Homer and Eddie), Mikhalkov (The Barber of Siberia, A few days in the life of I. I. Oblomov) etc.

The crux of the film lies in the quotation of Tolstoy "Why is man happy when he kills another? What is there to be happy about?" recalled by a Russian army officer (played by a famous Russian actor, Evginiy Mironov, in the film towards the end.
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Mary (1931)
7/10
Better than Hitchcock's own film made a year earlier on the same tale with a different cast in a different language
8 January 2022
Is it merely a German version of Hitchcock's "Murder!"? True both films are based on the same source-material. Yet the outcome is different. There is more emphasis on choice of camera and shots and editing in the German film than in the British one. The underlying cross dressing and gay aspects are more obvious in the German film. Yes "Mary'' can be considerably compared to Lumet's "12 Angry Men" made decades later. Here the juror becomes the detective, while in Lumet's film the juror never really leaves the jury room. The relationship between juror and the accused is explored midway--a rare aspect in any jury-oriented tale. It is therefore goes one up on "Murder!" Further, Alfred Abel (a German actor) is superior to Herbert Marshall both playing the same character of the same tale, that of Sir John Menier. So is Olga Tschechowa playing the role of the accused actress, facing death sentence.
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Spencer (2021)
8/10
Thank you, Mr Steven Knight, for an excellent screenplay...
18 December 2021
The film does not belong to the actors. The film belongs to the writer/scriptwriter/former director Steven Knight (of "Locke" fame), followed by director Pablo Larrain ("Jackie;" "The Club"), and the talented editor Sebastian Sepulveda (director of the fascinating film "The Quispe Girls") The story of Diana is well known but Mr Knight's parallels with Anne Boleyn were well-crafted. This film presents to the fore the finer aspects of filmmaking behind the camera, not great performances in front of the camera.

The strength of the film lies in the screenplay. The metaphors of the pheasant (from the opening shot of the dead bird which is not crushed by the tires to the live one that Diana watches closely and doesn't want to be shot down, least of all by her own sons), the connection with eventual execution of the innocent Anne Boleyn, and the taste of KFC chickens all meld well. That's what makes the film tick--not that the film in toto is exceptional. Hats off to the talented Steven Knight, the director Larrain and the editor Sepulveda all very competent in their respective departments. They are the the ones who need kudos not the actors.

Now, how Diana is able to take her sons to the city bypassing personal security is a blind spot in the script.
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