The German prisoners of war (POWs) – Lieutenant Ebbe Jensen (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard), Sebastian Schumann (Louis Hofmann), Helmut Morbach (Joel Basman), and others are forced to remove the landmines on the beach following the World War Two. Meanwhile, the Danish Sergeant Carl Rasmussen (Roland Moller) gradually appreciates the soldiers’ predicament – risking the lives, shattered limbs, and deceased friends.
Martin Zandvliet’s “Land of Mine” provides the unsung heroic war tale – emotionally distant and difficult to resonate with the characters. If an American filmmaker produced “Land of Mine”, the results would’ve remained the same. The nonexistent poignancy may leave you cold and requesting something more. On the one hand, “Land of Mine” may be incisive to some and on the other hand, underwhelming to others, such as myself. C+
The young boy Courgette (voiced by Gaspard Schlatter) is dispatched to the orphanage iCare via the police officer Raymond (Michel Vuillermoz). Courgette establishes the relationships with Camille (Sixtine Murat), Simon (Paulin Jaccoud), and the fellow abandoned children. Meanwhile, Courgette learns to love and trust.
I was adopted during the young age (specifically, two years old) and hence, I do not recognize the biological parents. “My Life as a Zucchini” is the bittersweet tale – discovering family and friends, reliability, and compassion. Claude Barra’s film is suddenly extraordinary and yes, I’ve been randomly pondering Courgette and Company for the past few days.
Yet, it does not matter whether you attend the subtitled or the dubbed versions (this film critic attended the subtitled version). “My Life as a Zucchini” is the exquisite delight – but not for kids – discusses adult subject matter. B
Just leave it to the Japanese anime genius – Studio Ghibli to provide the universal stories. Michael Dudok de Wit’s “The Red Turtle” chronicles the man encountering the Red Turtle (eventually becoming the woman) on the deserted island – simple yet complex relationship is established.
“The Red Turtle” utters A LOT without the dialogue. The beautiful, painful, and poetic facial expressions and actions provide several metaphors, especially during the final two minutes that manifests the true meaning of life. Triumphant in terms of the anime and nuance and falls short in terms of the meandering pace. Red symbolizes love and ultimately, “The Red Turtle” is a poignant narrative relating to love and its consequences. B
Asghar Farhadi’s “The Salesman” received the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards. Nonetheless, Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” actually deserved the award.
Rana and Emad Etesami (the restrained yet nuanced Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini) depict Linda and Willy Loman, respectively in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” via the stage. The duo is involved with the antecdent tenant’s business following Ms. Etesami's encounter with the aforementioned resident.
The story within the story is the devil during this instance. The complex yet understated character study depends on foreshadowing and apprehension – sometimes thrives due to the incredible performances and otherwise, miserably fails due to Farhadi's isolated direction. Whereas Ms. Etesami is vulnerable and easy to resonate with, Mr. Etesami is the jerk – extremely protective and demands revenge.
“The Salesman” is easy to admire, difficult to love and ultimately, just tolerable – nothing less and nothing more. B
Prior to the review, please allow me to reiterate the following fact: Get over the subtitle phobia! Get over the subtitle phobia! Get over the subtitle phobia! You are certainly missing out on some brilliant foreign language films here.
The runtime may or may not frighten you. Three hours of reading subtitles! I reassure you – some English is spoken yet the component distracted me. Anyway, onward…
The father-daughter dynamic is rarely examined in the motion pictures. Just leave it to the genius Maren Ade to perfectly combine drama and comedy. Three hours…two hours and forty two minutes to be exact. Ignore the runtime and relish the fact there is no American remake of the film, starring Kristen Wiig and Jack Nicholson yet. Thank god!
The interfering father Winfried Conradi (the phenomenally hilarious Peter Simonischek) disguises himself as the life coach Toni Erdmann (hence the title) to reconnect with the workaholic daughter Ines Conradi (the utterly exquisite Sandra Huller) in Bucharest, Romania during the business trip.
Whereas the mother-daughter dynamic is usually depicted stereotypically, the father-daughter relationships are complicated and sometimes, problematic. Mothers worry and so do fathers – but they tend to hide their feelings. Ade flawlessly nails the chemistry, the banter, and the interconnection among the characters (including the colleagues).
“Toni Erdmann” allows Simonischek to play with his character and hence, you may simultaneously feel many emotions – the facial expressions, alone, desired me to hug him if I could. Ines insists to remain alone; however, Winfried allows various layers to reveal themselves – slowly, but surely. Ines and Winfried are completely fleshed out and thus, the nearly three hour runtime. You may resonate with one or the other, depending on your taste.
The profound rumination is beneath the innovative jokes, especially during the nude birthday celebration sequence (the best scene during the film). Nonetheless, “Toni Erdmann” is extremely relevant in terms of attempting to find balance between work and family. I am able to attest that it is difficult to juggle everything at once. The balance is there, but accommodating the sweet spot is demanding. You witness Ines and Winfried discovering the sweet spot from start to finish. Ade does not hold back with the endearing and tricky moments – raw and beautiful as it is.
Huller and Simonischek complete “Toni Erdmann”. I imagine Wiig and Nicholson producing the mess out of the remake and – eliminating the nude party scene. Please leave “Toni Erdmann” as it is because the American audiences must see the German tour-de-force first and foremost. A
I am still recovering following the “Elle” screening – a traumatizing experience, to say the least. “Elle” provides the sudden side effects (e.g. paranoia) that you may not anticipate – a blessing and a curse – one of the reasons why I love the foreign language film (of course, you’ll read the English subtitles).
Based on the novel “Oh…” by Philippe Djian, the successful video game CEO Michele LeBlanc (Isabelle Huppert) pursues the unknown man and eventually discovers the neighbor Patrick (Laurent Lafitte) raped her during several occasions.
Huppert robustly conducts the film with prowess and hence, easily provides the best performance during the 2016, surpassing Natalie Portman (“Jackie”), regarding the most immersive and plentiful performance during the 2016. “Elle” is Huppert’s showcase movie. The audience will experience difficulty averting their attention.
The woman should consent sexual activity. The unnecessary rapes should not occur; however, the unlawful actions arise, regardless of the circumstances. Many films reveal the man rescuing the woman during the risky situations; although, “Elle” demonstrates a woman advocating and protecting herself. Sure, women are fragile – but we are strong, too. It is devastating that the moviegoers must resort to the independent films, let alone the foreign language movies to receive female empowerment. Nonetheless, Hollywood is exhibiting gradual improvement (better than nothing, right?)
“Elle” is flawless in spite of the misery. Ms. Huppert consistently alleviates the agony. I reassure you. A
For Your Consideration: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Isabelle Huppert)
The Swedish Film Institute selected “A Man Called Ove” (En man som heter Ove) to vie for the foreign language Academy Award nomination.
Based on the novel of the same name by Fredrik Backman, the lonesome and moody Ove (Rolf Lassgard) implements the neighborhood association rules, visits the wife Sonja’s grave, and rejects the life. Ove develops the friendship with the neighbors Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) and Patrik (Tobias Almborg).
Lassgard, Pars, and Almborg are lovely to a fault. “A Man Called Ove” provides the delightful Debbie downer turned optimistic individual narrative. You may compare this film to “The Lady in the Van” (2015). The contagious positivity is necessary to the world. The negative notions delay the comprehensive life.
You will experience another facet of cinema here. Trust me, the subtitles are not awful. You may not help but to admire “A Man Called Ove” during the conclusion. B
Review Structure Key
Regular reviews ~ Word count varies.
Mini reviews ~ Positives and negatives (+/-) analysis.
Brief reviews ~ One hundred words, more or less.