Tokyo Orchestra is disbanded leaving cellist suddenly unemployed.
With his wife in tow, he returns to his deceased mother's
home in Yamagata, northeastern Japan, where he answers
an employment ad that highlights the word "departures,"
and assumes it's a travel agency. The owner hires him
on the spot. But the work turns out to be "encoffination"
-- the ceremonial preparation of a corpse for cremation.
Initially hesitant to accept the position, and then having
to deal with rejection from his social milieu and taunts
from his wife, everyone is gradually drawn into his new
world that deals with the philosophical implications of
life and death. Lightly comedic yet emotionally stirring.
Beautiful classical (diatonic) cello soundtrack slightly
marred by scratchy vinyl (when cellist is playing live).
Francis Ford Coppola
Family saga about an Italian immigrant family living in Venezuela
torn apart by sibling rivalry and a family secret hidden
in a cryptic code written by older brother Tetro, whose
daily routine is threatened when younger sibling Bennie
(beautifully executed by Vincent Gallo and newcomer Alden
Ehrenreich ) pays him a visit, wanting to know more about
his father and mother. The casting of Klaus Maria Brandauer
as the patriarch was a bit of a stretch -- strong Austrian
accent lowered credibility as Italian. Beautiful black
and white cinematography interspersed with colour flashbacks.
-- EVERLASTING MOMENTS,
Biopic about photographer Maria Larssen, a Finn living in
Sweden. Having won a camera in a lottery, she tries to
sell it but is convinced by store owner Sebastian Pederson
(aka "Piff Paff Puff) to keep it. Her developing passion
for photography gives her the strength to overcome poverty
and an alcoholic, abusive, womanizing husband. A touching
portrait of working class life in Sweden in the early
1900s. Account based on interviews with eldest daughter
Maja along with director's wife, then turned into a book.
-- THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE,
Social drama set in October 2008 about an upscale Manhattan
call girl who offers her clients a simulation of a full
romantic relationship -- the "girlfriend experience." Interesting
premise presented in an unengaging, monotone manner.
2.7 -- OBJECTIFIED,
Second feature documentary (following"Helvetica" -- the world's
most ubiquitous typeface) that examines the complex relationship between us and the OBJECTS we choose
to surround ouselves with and what they reveal about who
and what we are. Fascinating interviews with the major designers of these everyday
objects we take for granted. An engrossing film that after
75 minutes, ends too soon.
ISRAELI FILM FESTIVAL
2.5 -- ZRUBAVEL,
Social drama centering on a multi-generational Ethiopian
immigrant family living in Israel. Generations clash over
Israeli culture versus Ethiopian tradtions. Average handling
Historical drama recounting the battle for Jerusalem and
the birth of the state of Israel. Begins just after WWII
and continues until the cease fire on June 11th 1948. It
follows two freinds -- one Jewish and the other Palestinian.
Potentially potent film RUINED by dubbing all primary dialogue
into French (linguistically unrealistic). Original version
would have rated much higher (3.2)
-- OUT OF THE BLUE,
Comedy revolving around a junkdealer in Tel-Aviv who has
a recurring dream about a beautiful red-haired woman who
falls for him. As it turns out, she is real, and is famous
cosmetics provider. Along with his "scruffy and compulsive
liar and thief" partner, they finally meet, but things don't
work out as expected. The result is very funny yet somewhat
-- FOR MY FATHER,
A young Arab man is sent to Tel-Aviv on a suicide mission.
While in the the market square, the bomb fails to go off
and he is forced to spend the week-end in Israel. He is
befriended by the locals. Potentially an emotionly engaging
film somewhat weakened by shoddy script and editing. "Paradise
Now" by Hany Abu-Assad is far superior.
-- NAF: THE STREET KID,
Documentary that follows a young man who, after being thrown
out at 14 by his father (an ultra-orthodox Jew), takes
up life in the streets of Jerusalem where he is exposed
to crime and drugs, politics and rap music. Pales when
compared to "Leaving
the Fold." Film glorifies kids' lifestyle; script
and editing were choppy; issues were unclear.
2.6 -- THE JERUSALEM SYNDROME,
Emmanuel Naccache and
Title refers to the presence of a "religiously themed" idea
that is both obsessive and delusional, triggered by a visit
to Jerusalem. A French diplomat is convinced that he is
Jonah -- the prophet swallowed by the "big fish." He enters
a synagogue and asks for "prophet asylum." In a collective
taxi, he joins a Rabbinical student and five other strangers
all from completely different backgrounds. Hilarious and
Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz
Dysfunctional Jewish family comes together in the home of
a deceased loved one in keeping with the tradition of SHIVA
-- seven days of mourning. As the days and nights unfold,
tension, bitterness, resentment and rivalries between brothers
and sisters begin to surface creating an emotional rollercoaster
that oscillates between the comedic and tragic. Over-dependence
on threatrical props combined with vagueness on the custom
of SHIVA detracted from the film's overall effect.
3.1 -- THREE TIMES DIVORCED,
Ibtisam Salh Mara'ana
Documentary that vividly brings to light the all too frequent
occurrence of conjugal violence, especially when complicated
by religious and political values that effectively deny
the rights and even the existence of the victims.
TURKISH FILM FESTIVAL
CARS OF THE REVOLUTION ( DEVARIM ARABALARI),
Historically accurate account of the developement and building
of the Devarim -- the first car to be manufactured in Turkey
(the year is 1961). Well crafted scenario, exquisite score,
good performances throughout. A compelling rendering of
the productive synthesis of unity and determination.
MOMMY I`M SCARED (KORKUYORUM ANNE),
Day to day look at Turkish society that does not quite
engage despite low key humour. Rambling and unfocused.
2.7 -- ICE CREAM, I SCREAM (DONDURMAN
Social, political and economic comedy about a local ice cream
vendor struggling to succeed against a huge competitor.
Delightfully engaging characters. Amusing plot lines.
-- CLOUDS OF MAY (MAYIS SIKINTISI),
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Human drama about a film maker who returns to his village
to shoot a film, which upsets the apparent happiness
of his parents and relatives. Slow to engage but does
seep in. Beautiful landscapes shots of Turkish countryside.
3.2 -- TAKVA - A MAN'S FEAR OF GOD,
Social drama exposing the potentially destructive power of
religiously induced guilt. Although set in an Islamic
context, this film has a universal application. A stricly
devout and humble man is given a position of responsibility
by a rich and powerfull religious group. This puts him
in conflict with his concepts about his responsibilties
towards God. Convincing performance from the lead.
-- DISTANT (UZAK),
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
A photographer in Istanbul opens his home to his younger
cousin from the country. Continuing with the themes
taken up in the director's previous film, "Clouds
of May," Ceylan's latest allows him to productively
contrast city versus country life, which evolves into
meditation on life. To great effect, he uses the same
two actors, Muzaffer Ozdemir and Mehmit Emin Toprak.
2.8 -- THE INTERNATIONAL (BEYNELMILEL),
Set in Southeast Turkey in the early 1980s during marshal
law, this bittersweet, politically charged comedy
centers on a group of musicians trying to make ends
meet. The commander decides to draft them into serving
their country. Humour is light-hearted but not immune
to the uncertainty of the times. Ample use of Turkish