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A respectful look at the Holocaust through the eyes of children of victims and perpetrators
12 October 2018
A sort of road movie through Slovakia with a Jewish survivor and the son of an SS officer involved in the death of the survivor's parents. Not fun, not fast but not boring and totally worthwhile, illustrating in a broader sense how the world continues to painfully cope with this event, a task that should take a few more generations. Solid, believable acting.
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Loved this film
23 August 2018
Saw this again after some years and still love it. Based on my limited experience with women (as a man), the monologues, however fictional, have a clear ring of authenticity. A good view of sex and contemporary women and, more generally, the human condition as it relates to the interaction of sexes.
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Essential - not fully enjoyable
11 May 2018
The movie covers a period in Jean Luc Godard's life, the one he spent with his second wife, the late Anne Wiazemsky. Nobody who is at all interested in cinema should miss it. It feels and sounds quite authentic. However, based as it appears to be on Ms. Wiazemsky's memoirs (they had not spoken to each other for over 40 years), not unsurprisingly it paints JLG in a less than flattering shade. Given that the famous director is the leit motif of the film to begin with, that may give you a funny feeling. It certainly gave JLG that kind of feeling since he called the film "stupid". It isn't: gives lots of insights into the period, the Paris May movement, the film industry at the time, as well as the relationship itself, whichever side you would be inclined to take. It's a good movie.
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Happy End (2017)
What a great movie!
10 April 2018
Forget all other reviews. Agree that Haneke is not for everybody. Not absolutely sure it is his best. As with most movies these days, one has trouble finding one's bearings during the first half hour or so. So may need to be watched more than once and it definitely should be watched twice at least.

The movie is very Haneke, very contemporary, A fresco of today's human condition by looking at the exquisitely delineated characters within an upper class French family. Hupert and Trintignant brilliant as usual, the teenager protagonist a total revelation. Technology, immigration, race and inequality traumas thrown in along with the usual dose of existential angst.

Likely to become a cult movie. Don't miss it.
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Good cinematography but bad ideology
13 January 2018
This is a good movie on the fate of veterans of current wars. Good cinematography, but let's remember the Nazis had good cinematography in some of their sinister progaganda films.

This is one more film with pseudo patriotic messages and hypocritical wailing over the fate of the "people who go to war". It's not the "people". Career officers are not affected by PTSD. Those affected are lower class enlisted men and women who, with or without patriotism, find going to war the best available option. Ill prepared (many with pre existing mental problems), ill trained and exposed to the most vulnerable situations, they find that "option" sometimes is just one more step in a downward spiral.

The answer is dealing in a rational and humane manner with all aspects: assessing the real cost of engaging in war, careful selection of recruits for different kind of duties and adequate aid to veterans. These are the real issues that these films carefully sidestep.
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Barracuda (2017)
A slow thriller. Good. Interesting. Not everybody may like
10 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Definitely well done drama on sisterhood, family jealousy, subdued violence. Worth watching and plenty of cinematographic values. Have one question which is not really a spoiler because it has to do with the first few seconds: What is with appears to be a possibly lifeless woman's naked body lying face down on a bed which the protagonist is packing? Certainly appreciate any answer that anybody can provide.
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Quite viewable semi-black comedy about social media
2 November 2017
I wonder at some of the savage reviews this film got on IMDb. It is no candidate for an Oscar but it is a pretty adequate description of the social media scene, has a reasonably ingenious script and is well acted. I describe it as a semi-black comedy because, very appropriately in an environment where nothing es what it appears to be, it is funny but not totally funny, a little tragic but not as much as it could be. Worth spending a while looking at it.
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The Exception (2016)
Enjoyable with some discomfort
14 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A romantic story in the midst of WW II - a carefully crafted mix of "The Sound of Music" and "Black Book". Interesting to note Christofer Plummer is involved in the first of those (from 50 years ago) and in The Exception as old Emperor Wilhelm II. Along with Black Book, this film seems to help create a new type of ultra-erotic Dutch Jewish female spy.

The historical features underlying the film are reasonably adequate and it is not a bad idea to call attention on some little known aspects. On the other hand, there is some trivialization of tragedy, for instance, in the too unrealistic story of a good German soldier getting into a fight with SS murderers on the front, yet later feeling it to be his duty to his country to live out the war at a desk.

Good cinematography and acting.
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High quality cinematography and food for thought
6 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
(Mild spoilers). Just one dinner party with three married couples and a single man. Genre oscillates between comedy and drama. In the process, it offers a fresco of contemporary Italian upper middle class, with the current smart-phone epidemic as central theme. They dare each other to openly share messages and conversations on all phones.

There is a final twist, reminiscent of "Dangerous Corner" the old play by J.B. Priestly: the dilemma between a pleasant exterior held up by lies and hypocrisy and the painful truth underneath.

I had a problem during part of the movie confusing husbands and wives and who was doing what to whom, but that may be just me (difficulty in identifying characters). So will watch it again more carefully.

Absolutely recommendable.
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Enjoyable and valuable
4 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A simple story about an average nice and decent guy who is victimized by everybody around him (the meek not so blessed). Excellent acting by the whole cast and good rhythm, with a comedic tone which borders on but does not turn into outright farce.

But against this entertaining backdrop there are some serious themes, such as cruelty to animals, vegetarianism and the recruitment of youngsters for extremist causes. Also, more generally, the changing values, aspirations and fears over three generations. The older generation represented by imaginary dialogue between the protagonist and his dead parents. Imaginary but somehow realistic. How many of us have imagined such dialogue? (I have).

I liked less the unnecessarily cruel scene where he throws the little dog into the river. Perhaps a tragic comment that at his breaking point he takes it out on the most innocent and defenseless of his "aggressors". There is also a Hollywood-esque climax complete with a narrowly missed explosion. But overall it ends on a (moderately) hopeful note.
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War Machine (2017)
Not an excellent movie but a MUST SEE
29 May 2017
A parody of American intervention in Afghanistan, ominously close to reality. Brad Pitt is not at his best but does the job. Ben Kingsley is excellent in a minuscule role, doing one more exotic character which he doesn't even have to rehearse for. Tilda Swinton is excellent in an even more minuscule role.

The film is (painfully) funny, at times (uncomfortably) sidesplitting, very enjoyable. It is a must see because it makes a major contribution helping the general public navigate through years of lies and delusions on Afghanistan and foreign policy generally.

Having said that, an ideological ALERT is called for: Anybody concluding from the movie that all you need to do is get out (of Afghanistan in this case) is in my view missing the intricacies of conflicts within Islam and the complex interaction between Islam and the Western World. That is for leaders with courage and imagination to sort out. This is just a movie review.
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Genius (I) (2017– )
Not great but worth watching
22 May 2017
Having read some of the demolishing ("don't waste your time" type) reviews, I would like to offer my perspective as a retiree (who has time to waste) who understands German and has read, some time ago, the Isaacson book on which the series was based.

I found the Isaacson book well documented and credible. Is the series helping to make Einstein and the other characters truly believable? I am afraid not quite due to some of the reasons mentioned in previous reviews. Having said that, I had forgotten most of the details in the book and that sustains my interest and suspense in developments in the series. And I am sure I will remember them longer than was the case after the book.

Yes, the German-accented English (so often used in the past) is a tad ridiculous, but let's face it. Over 90% of the audience to which this series is addressed do not understand German, so direct perception of the dialogue will suffer anyway, whether it is in straight English or in German with subtitles. On the other hand, yes, there are some subtle ways to communicate period and alien culture (as possibly reflected in "The Reader" and Schindler's List).

Regarding complaints about the emphasis on sex and other personal stuff, over "science", once again about 90% of the audience (including myself) is more interested in the former. Anybody wanting to learn more about relativity and other physics issues should rather find some documentary films about these. I would concede that the sex scene right at the start is a little "blatant".

The series does ultimately filter through the theme of public greatness and private shortcomings which so many giants show. At least, it is fair to say that Einstein was honest with himself and the world even if not quite so with the women in his life from day to day.

There is, of course, some "scientific" drama in the case of Einstein. He made a giant theoretical leap as a very young man and spent the rest of his life in frustrating and failed search of another such leap, falling behind others in the race to the mythical "ultimate" answer to "everything". Perhaps the rest of the series will still reflect that.

Finally I totally disagree with negative reactions to having the story shift back and forth in time. The past is not necessarily remembered chronologically and such shifting, if not confusing or frustrating is a completely valid dramatic device. What's more, it is my belief that history generally should be taught that way also. It does not make sense for students to have to plod for months or years through antiquity and the Middle Ages to get exposure to modern times. Rather, the subject should be tackled by focusing on themes, such as slavery, democracy, the role of religion, etc. moving through different periods, starting from present day implications.

I will continue to watch Genius.
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The Gift (VI) (2015)
Quite good but strange nobody linked it to a French movie
9 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The movie is quite good.

Strange though that nobody thought of linking it to Hidden, a 2005 French movie with Daniel Auteil, even when somebody on the board asked about other movies with video tape scenes.

In fact, the French movie covers the same "Stalker as avenger" theme, in a somewhat different context, but suggesting, to use the language of "The Gift" that, in fact, bad things happen to bad people.

In this case, an apparently fine young man is stalked by a former classmate, which unleashes revelations that ultimately unravel the "fine young man"'s life.

Good acting and good dramatic tempo. Only precisely the video scene toward the end could have been made clearer - it is hard to follow.
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Watch it
29 June 2014
I have been to India. I am moderately familiar with Indian history. I had never heard of the book. I found the film very entertaining, emotionally gripping, and altogether a very interesting perspective of what the lives of children born at the stroke of independence could have been like. Of particular interest, almost a shock is a scathing assessment of Indira Gandhi, at least of a portion of her period holding power. Never mind the book, I think the film is abundant food for thought or perhaps "rethought" on how freedom and post-colonialism works and human destiny in a broader sense. One thing the story definitely confirms: Most revolutions, whatever their justification and ultimate vindication, have meant mostly disaster and misery for the first generation.
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Not for everyone but for some highly recommended
8 December 2012
This movie has gotten overall bad reviews. It is in fact uneven, as you might expect from 7 directors handling 7 segments to some extent intermingled.

If you don't understand enough Spanish to follow the Cuban dialog, I am sure a lot gets lost in translation. Others complain the film tells them nothing new.

From my perspective, with some familiarity with Cuban culture, down to the iconic Hotel Nacional featured in the film (where I stayed for 3 mights in 2011), I can only say that I may have learned little that is new but through most of the film, the vibrancy, the music, the sensuality, the sheer joy and pain of the Cuban experience shone through and it touched my soul.
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Hope Springs (2003)
An unpretentious romcom just to pass the time
19 November 2012
I'd like to add my vote to the non-haters of this movie. Also I am on a one-man campaign to persuade reviewers and posters to stay away from extreme best-worst knee jerk judgments.

The movie is reasonably entertaining, based on usual clichés of small-time America, British-American culture chasm, etc.. The women are nice to look at. Colin Firth does an average job, which suffers from comparison with some of his major movies. Also both he and Hugh Grant have clearly been over-stretching their franchise on the bumbling Brit cliché.

All together, if you stumble into this while zapping channels, you won't be sorry.
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Bel Ami (2012)
16 November 2012
I haven't read this particular Maupassant novel, but it definitely retains a Maupassant flavor, it looks like a well done adaptation, a very good historical reconstruction, not only of the period but of Maupassant's take on his contemporaries. The tale evolves well. The female characters are a pleasure to watch, with no loss of authenticity even though they were primarily Anglo or Anglo-French. I am no fan of the actor playing the main male character but he does a pretty good job portraying a creep. That does not detract from believability at all. In my experience, beautiful and smart women keep falling for incredible creeps all the time!
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Highly recommended for historical background
8 April 2012
(Minor spoilers) As part of the historical discussion that hovers over most reviews, I think my experience as an elderly (71) non-American (but who has spent time in the U.S.) is interesting. Belonging to an older generation, the Civil War, Lincoln assassination, etc. are much more vivid events than for younger people who may have trouble finding Vietnam on a world map.

Having said that, I was quite unaware of the simultaneous attempts to assassinate the Vice President and Secretary of State. I was aware of the "Sic semper tyrannis" quote - I remember my father mentioning it to me not less than 50 years ago, but I was not aware that it had been adopted by Virginia as part of its state symbol.

I had read and saw films about conspirators, including notably one about incarceration and trial of a physician who allegedly set John Wilkes Booth's fractured leg. I remembered reading - probably in a history magazine - a story about one conspirator who was hunted by U.S. agents all the way to the Papal States and brought back in chains but ultimately acquitted. After watching the movie, I wondered whether that could be John Surratt, so I googled it and lo and behold, it was. Perhaps they could have added a few words regarding this extraordinary story in the final footnotes.

So for me the film was extremely interesting from an historic perspective. From the point of view of cinematographic entertainment it was just OK, not overwhelming, possibly too "serious" to stand out as fun.
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Tell No One (2006)
Suffer through it - then enjoy on second viewing - a thriller dilemma - only minor spoiler
8 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this with my wife and she gave up after the first half hour, she was so confused. I was too but I sat it out, later researched all the reviews, discussions and movie spoiler, then saw it again. It is really excellent, enjoyable - after you are aware of all the wrinkles. Maybe this is only me but I have found this problem with many films including the Argentine "The Secret in your Eyes" which earned the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Movie. I wonder whether cinematographers could find it in their hearts to make concessions to some of us who are not so diligent and attentive and clarify some things for us early enough to better follow the action. Give an example: the Kristin Scott Thomas character, which I confess I missed in the blurry initial scene, when she later appeared looked like some possible romantic interest of the main character - little could I identify her as his sister's lesbian partner!
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