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A Hidden Life (2019)
8/10
Wish the film was in German with English subtitles
21 January 2020
I am a fan of Malick. He is one of best filmmakers in the US. Yer he can make good and not-so-good films. A HIDDEN LIFE is not his best work. His best works are "The Thin Red Line" and "The Tree of Life." The biggest problem of A HIDDEN LIFE is that he chose to make the film in English when minor characters speak/mumble in German or in English with a heavy German accent.

One cannot fault the subject of the film. it is remarkable and relevant even today in many parts of the world suffering under bad rulers/governments.

The cinematography and choice of musical pieces are top notch. His love for Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 continues--he used it earlier in The Tree of Life , To the Wonder and Knight of Cups. His love for the music of Arvo Part continues -- "Sarah was 90 years old" and "Tabula Rasa."

It is sad the film was not chosen for any Oscar nomination--it deserved one for at least for its cinematography and/or for its music.
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1917 (2019)
7/10
War heroics that will please a viewer seeking entertainment
10 January 2020
Even though the film reminds you of the death and futility of the First World War as Kubrick did in his laudable film "Paths of Glory," this Mendes film is reduced to mere war heroics that will please a viewer seeking entertainment without much reflection. The saving grace of this film is that the heroes are the foot soldiers and not the top brass of the military. The music was awful. The script is hilarious (it includes a pail of drinkable milk, with no milkers in sight or likely to be nearby and a single cow (without a calf) grazing--just to prop up the weak plot that allows a soldier to eventually feed milk to a starving infant!
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The Lighthouse (I) (2019)
7/10
Deserves plaudits for top notch art direction/production design
30 December 2019
Deserves plaudits for top notch art direction/production design. Director Eggers was a production designer and that streak of talent comes through. Edgar Allen Poe meets Herman Melville. Interesting performances and art direction, with touches of Kubrick's "The Shining." Wasted time for me.
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The Two Popes (2019)
7/10
For the hearts, not for the minds.
29 December 2019
For the hearts, not for the minds. Lovely acting and some wonderful cinematography. A film that contradicts the good feelings of this film is Francois Ozon's "By the Grace of God" (2018), especially with the powerful ending of the French film.
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Little Joe (2019)
7/10
Good subject that could possibly happen
22 December 2019
The Cannes Best Actress award for Emily Beecham was well deserved. The film discusses a genuine possibility as sci-fi in agriculture. A comparable film is Semih Kaplanoglu's "Grain." The soundtrack is awful, though. Good to see Ben Whishaw almost reprising his performance in "Perfume."
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8/10
Outstanding screenplay with a superb end sequence and close-up
11 December 2019
Winner of the Best Screenplay award at Cannes as well as the European film awards, the Best film (Golden Hugo) award at the Chicago Film fest, and the Rare Pearl award at the Denver film fest. The film's end sequence is incredibly sophisticated, set to the music of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Original screenplay-writer and director Celine Sciamma has made an outstanding film revolving around the subject of painting portraits. Definitely one of the most rewarding films of 2019 for me! As a film on a lesbian theme, far superior to "Blue is the Warmest Colour," another French film that caught Cannes eye some years ago.
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8/10
A feminist tale reflecting the contemporary mood on religious rituals worldwide
8 December 2019
Reflects the mood of the present day, across the world, encompassing all religions. Men are expected to participate in major religious rituals, while women are kept out by archaic man-made rules. Petrunya is a not-so-pretty but well-educated middle-aged woman hoping for a lucky break in her life. She gets it, when she jumps into a river to get a blessed cross thrown by priests traditionally to be found in the river by a male member who will get luck for the year. A lovely entertaining and humanist film, deserving of the Honors at Berlin and other film festivals
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8/10
One of the remarkable films of 2019
8 December 2019
Superb use of sound and camera, fascinating performances. My first Pedro Costa film--what a joy to view it. Reminded of Sokurov's "Mother and Son"--had he made it, it would be probably titled "Wife and Husband." This Pedro Costa film is definitely one of my best 2019 films. Winner of Golden Leopard and the Best Actress awards at Locarno film festival. Well deserved!
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7/10
Impressive debut film, built on an amazing screenplay with very credible performances
6 December 2019
A remarkable debut film by Serhat Kara-aslan that opened the International Film Festival of Kerala. The synopsis did not impress me, but the film did. The screenplay raised the film above mediocrity, almost reminding one of Francois Ozon films where the screenplay and creative writing (within the film) are interlinked. The performances of the main characters are credible -- but director Semih Kaplanoglu's discovery, the actress Saadet Aksoy, whom he used in two of his Yusuf trilogy films, "Milk" and "Egg" is stunning in "Passed by Censor" in the rather short screen time. It is to the credit of the screenplay writers that the altercation in the prison conjugal room is left for the viewer to figure out or "conjecture"--a term used and discussed within the film. Morally, is the censor a pervert or is he a Hercule Poirot, writing his first novel, using a real scenario (the Ozon parallel)? What the film unfortunately underscores is the all pervasive male-dominated Turkish society, even when the women are obviously educated..
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Oleg (2019)
7/10
A good debut film worthy of its major awards at 5 minor film festivals
6 December 2019
A good tale on a good Latvian man as an allegorical sacrificial lamb, where he survives a no-win situation. This tale is juxtaposed on the contemporary Brexit/EU concerns and the lack of jobs throughout Europe. A film that pats Interpol on its back. A debut film worthy of its major wins at Brussels, Latvian, CinEast, Palic and Valletta film festivals.
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The Irishman (2019)
7/10
Scorsese's attraction towards anti-heroes is perplexing--revealing more about the director
29 November 2019
Why is Scorsese attracted to tales of anti-heroes? Why make a film on a gangster who "paints walls with blood" and talks about the importance of family and even prays and confesses to a priest for absolution before dying?

Subject-wise and quality-wise Leone's" Once upon a time in America" and Mann's "Heat" are way superior to this film. DeVito's "Hoffa" was more interesting in discussing the character of Hoffa.

Music-wise the opening song sequence gives you the impression someone is playing a record or singing live in the old age home when that is not the case. Only some three hours later into the film you find out the importance of that song you heard. If one calls that great direction,.....!!

In fairness, De Niro, Pacino, Pesci and Paquin were a treat to watch. But is this a great film? No. My best Scorsese is "Hugo."
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Noah Land (2019)
7/10
Erturk's well made debut film unfortunately recreates the style and content of a typical Ceylan film
18 November 2019
Cenk Erturk's debut film is very interesting--only if you are not familiar with the works of Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

Erturk recaptures every element of a Ceylan and his wife Ebru Ceylan written script for their recent films. Erturk's "Noah Land" reeks of the structure of Ceylan's "The Wild Pear Tree" (2018) a film like "Noah Land" on how a grown-up man get's to finally reconcile with his father's quirky ideas and actions. Erturk in "Noah Land" even goes to the extent of lassoing the Ceylan thespian of "Winter'Sleep" (2014)--the amazing Haluk Bilginer to play the father figure once again as Ceylan did in his film. Even the Noah tree concept and the small time politics of Turkey hark back to Ceylan's "Once upon a time in Anatolia" (2011).

This is not to rate "Noah Land" as a poor film--it is indeed as good and laudable as a Ceylan film in style and content but unfortunately not unique in any respect if you are familiar with Ceylan's works.
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The Nightingale (I) (2018)
7/10
Franciosi and Ganambarr are wonderful, so is Kent's script
7 November 2019
Despite the large dose of violence and sex, the film belongs to the actress Aisling Franciosi and the lovable aborigine actor Baykali Ganambarr. Ms Franciosi's range of emotions was deserving of her Venice Festival award. Director Jennifer Kent must be applauded for choosing to write an original script and direct a film showing facts from the aboriginals' point of view. The film recalls Peter Weir's "The Last Wave." My guess is Kent ran out of ideas to close the film's script and therefore opted for the sunrise.
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The Keeper (2018)
6/10
A manipulative biopic with some plus points
6 November 2019
A script tailormade to manipulate audiences, even though it is a biopic with some historical facts. The plus points: Ken Loach's star John Henshaw ("Angel's Share","Looking for Eric") is believable. Very effective is the rendering of "Abide with me" by the lead actress Freya Mavor.
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6/10
Interesting editing and acting
4 November 2019
Interesting editing and use of Leonard Cohen's song "Memories." The reference to Schumann's wife and Brahms is appropriate and interesting.
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Brink of Life (1958)
7/10
Deserved the Cannes award for acting but the award for direction is odd, considering the competing films
5 October 2019
This Bergman film could easily have been a filmed play. Three pregnant ladies in a hospital room in various stages of childbirth. It deserved the Cannes best actress award for the lady ensemble--as it captures the moods of a mom doesn't want to bring the child to this world, another who is eager to do so and a third who is insecure to do so. Bergman won the Best Director award at Cannes that year beating Martin Ritt for his "The long, hot summer,' Satyajit Ray for his "Paras Pathar (The Philosopher's Stone)" and Michael Cacoyannis for his "A Matter of Dignity." I am an admirer of Bergman's body of work but this decision I feel was out of place. The film was ably directed but not worthy of the Best Director honor considering the three competing films.
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Peterloo (2018)
7/10
Superb cinematography and production design/art direction with a commendable script by the director
3 October 2019
Superb cinematography (Dick Pope) and production design/art direction (Suzie Davies, Jane Brodie, Dan Taylor). However, the flags and banners were too sophisticated and rich for the time and place of the film. The script is interesting because of Joseph the bugler (David Moorst, who unfortunately overacts), present at the massacres of Waterloo and Peterloo. Mike Leigh's script is commendable for the importance of the minor characters such as the egg-selling lady or the printer so immersed in his job. Leigh's details of class differences in the film are unforgettable. But as a total film it flounders. Mike Leigh may or may not realize that he was re-enacting the Jallianwala massacre by Gen. Dyer of the British Army decades later. The end lines of the films are the Lord's Prayer at the burial--fitting and yet ironic, as the rich were keen to get the poor to be in line with their warped notions of Christian lifestyles. The irony of the ineffectiveness of non-violence in a weak and blind royalty comes through Leigh's film. Well worth a look, at least for Pope's contribution, both outdoors and indoors.
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The Souvenir (2019)
6/10
Average cinema; the narcissism of the director is audacious
2 October 2019
Did it deserve the Sundance World Cinema jury prize, unless of course its competitors were abysmal? The only two honorable mentions are the screen presence of actress Honor Swinton Byrne (Tilda Swinton's daughter) and the final closing music. Joanna Hogg is average but not great.
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5/10
Good stunt riding at the start of the film
28 September 2019
Below average with a dumb sequence of dance in a living room with no one playing the music. The music was only playing on the soundtrack! Eleanor Parker and Jo Ann Fleet were interesting, not exceptional. Some stunt riding at the start of the film, that had little to do with the story line, was noteworthy.
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7/10
An interesting Canadian thriller with a very impressive Native Indian actress
20 September 2019
Tanaya Beatty in the lead role as a Cree Native Indian is very impressive. Though the film, based on a novel, is a thriller, the film is impressive because it empathizes with the Native Indian community and their real life woes. Ms Beatty is an eye candy with a strong voice to boot. Also impressive are Native Indian actors Brandon Oakes and Graham Greene. All in all--an above average film. My first Don McKellar film and I shall look out for his other directed films.
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Sandra (1965)
8/10
Clues strewn by Visconti allow the viewer to enjoy a multi-layered film
19 September 2019
Deserved the Golden Lion at Venice. Powerful at all times except for its below average beginning. Then it changes gears.

The film is typical Visconti--a well-to-do upper class family returning to the childhood manor, picking up the memorable pieces of a rich and comfortable past before the World War II (literally in the film, the sale of valued paintings, property, and in this film, a garden that needs costly upkeep forcing the family now to gift it to the townsfolk as public property). Touches of Visconti's and Lampedusa's "The Leopard" made just before this film.

The original head of the family, Sandra's father was a Jew, and executed by the Nazis. He was exposed as a Jew by his wife, a famous pianist who fell in love with a lawyer. Sandra suspects the lawyer and her mother for her father's demise. Visconti never reveals why the Nazis spared the family members. Now Sandra's mother is demented and her father's statue in the garden is always covered in a white sheet giving the suggestion of a ghost. But the film is not about ghosts.

The film is more about Sandra (Cardinale) and her brother Gianni (Sorel) who reveal an past that might never have been consummated. Now that Sandra is married to Andrew (Craig), Gianni removes the wedding ring from Sandra's finger and wears it, Sandra's protests unheeded.

Visconti's script reveals that Sandra had a lover, Antonio (who still adores her, played by Ricci), but they could not marry because of the class divide and opposition from her mother to the relationship. Years later Antonio becomes a doctor who treats Sandra's demented mother.

While the film is not about ghosts, it is about a dark past, bitter memories, class and religious conflicts, that struggle to keep pace with the world outside the Italian town with a rich history. An electra complex emerges like a ghost--Visconti's images of Cardinale's body (especially her eyes that wonder who is outside her bedroom door) are absolutely top notch. There is no overt sex, no on screen and even the spoken words deny more than underscore it. you wonder about Sandra's mother if she is truly demented when she accuses her daughter Sandra of slithering in like a serpent.

Every bit of the film makes you wonder as you clutch at the straws the director throws as clues for the viewer to solve a big puzzle. The poem which provides the original Italian title of the film is one, There are more Solve them and you will love the film. Deserving of the Venice honor. Thank you, Cardinale and Sorel, for your unforgettable screen time in this film. A film that anticipates Visconti's "The Damned" and "Conversation Piece."
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Shadow (2018)
6/10
Some worthy technical aspects but not the best work of the talented director
7 September 2019
Actress Li Sun is enigmatic. The art direction is top notch. The colors of the film are very interestingly used. So are the visual effects, emphasizing the concepts of the yang and the ying. Otherwise the film is just average. I prefer the master director Yang Zhimou of "Not one less" any day than the Yang Zhimou of "Shadow."
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The Stranger (1967)
7/10
Capturing the novel's mood well with commendable performances by all the actors
4 September 2019
Very truthful to the novel of Albert Camus, capturing the book's atheistic and existential mood. All the actors (specially Mastroianni) are very close to what the novel suggests. Yet the film is not a major work of Visconti--it merely adapts an important literary work. One of the best visual sequences in the film is of Mr Mersault sitting on a chair viewing his mother's closed coffin at a distance with another lady sitting closer to the coffin with her nose covered. Throughout the film Visconti underscores the heat and the oppressive humid weather that led to the death of the Arab. A second important sequence involves a kind act of an Arab prisoner who offers Mersault a makeshift pillow and a cigarette in a crowded prison cell. The "bad" Arab can be a "good' one!

The book is better than the film despite all the efforts of Visconti and his talented team, which included three other co-scriptwriters.
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The Killers (1964)
6/10
Quite different from the 1946 version in content and treatment.
3 September 2019
Richard Siodmak's 1946 version of the same Ernest Hemingway short story is quite different from this version directed by Don Siegel.

First, in the 1946 film, the killed anti-hero (Burt Lancaster) is a boxer who got mixed up with a beautiful woman (Ava Gardner) and a gang of robbers. In the 1964 version, the killed anti-hero (John Cassavetes) is car mechanic-cum-car-racing driver who got mixed up with a beautiful woman (Angie Dickinson) and a gang of robbers led by actor Ronald Reagan who went on to be the US President in real life.

The second most interesting difference is final shot in the 1964 Siegel version. It is of a bag supposed to contain looted cash opening up to reveal there is nothing inside it. Unlike the 1946 version, Don Siegel's version adds an existential element to the tale--the lust for money that turns out to be meaningless eventually.

The saving grace of the film are the tolerable performances of Lee Marvin, Dickinson and Cassavetes. The highlight of the film would be the opening sequence where the two killers wearing dark goggles visit a facility for the blind where almost all the blind folks are wearing dark glasses, to do their dirty job.
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Murder! (1930)
6/10
A film about stage actors and support staff that ends as a stage play!
2 September 2019
This Hitchcock film is based on a play called "Enter Sir John" written by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson. It is a tale involving stage actors and stage employees and the film fittingly ends as though the end of the film is a part of a stage play!

The film uses Hitchcock's childhood terror of prisons either intentionally or unintentionally--here using menacing shadows of prison bars and interiors of prisons. Similarly, Hitchcock's love to include food/meals without much reason is added in this film when an impromptu lunch with proper tableware, cutlery and crockery is presented in an office room at short notice!

There is another unnecessary sequence involving a bevy of kids and a cat crawling on top of an adult male still lying under bed covers having his bed-tea. But the children are so natural in the sequence that you forgive the director.

The film is all about building suspense and a murder that is never shown on screen. An interesting work of Hitchcock though not a major one.
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