Showing posts with label Best Foreign Language Winner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Best Foreign Language Winner. Show all posts

Monday, September 4, 2023

Review: "THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS" is a Masterpiece

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 125 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Les Invasion Barbares (2003)
The Barbarian Invasions (2003) – U.S. title
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  Canada/France; Language:  French/English
Running time:  99 minutes (1 hour, 33 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, sexual dialogue, and content
PRODUCERS: Daniel Louis and Denise Robert
EDITOR: Isabelle Dedieu
COMPOSER: Pierre Aviat
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Rémy Girard, Stéphane Rousseau, Dorothée Berryman, Louise Portal, Dominique Michel, Yves Jacques, Pierre Curzi, Marie-Josée Croze, Marina Hands, Toni Cecchinato, and Mitsou Gélinas

Les Invasions barbares is a 2003 comedy and drama written and directed by Denys Arcand.  A Canadian and French co-production, the film was released in the U.S. under the title, The Barbarian Invasions, the title I will used for this review.  The Barbarian Invasions focuses on a dying man, who during his final days, is reunited with old friends, former lovers, his ex-wife, and his estranged son.

Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasion won the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 76th Academy Awards in 2004.  A sequel to Arcand's 1986 film, The Decline of the American Empire, The Barbarian Invasions received only one other Oscar nomination, which was for best original screenplay (written by Arcand), and that was and still is ridiculous.  Considering the performances and Arcand’s direction, the film should have received at least a few more.

The Barbarian Invasions is the story of 50-ish Rémy (Rémy Girard) and his family.  He is dying of cancer and is laid up in a Montreal hospital.  His ex-wife, Louise (Dorothée Berryman), summons home their son, Sébastien (Stéphane Rousseau), who is estranged from his father and is living in London.  Sébastien, a rich oil trader for a huge British firm, is, in a sense, a disappointment to his father.  The son is a wealthy capitalist and the father was an arm chair, leftist, radical type.

Soon after he arrives, Sébastien uses his money and connections to fight the entrenched Canadian nationalized health system, and he gets Rémy a private room and other amenities.  But the most difficult part of the prodigal son’s return home is the reconciliation between father and son.

The most amazing thing about this thoroughly beautiful film is that Arcand is able to tell the story of a father trying to redeem himself, of a son trying to put aside his anger at this father, and of a man trying to find meaning in a life he believes that he lazily kept so modest and have still more sub-plots, philosophies, and ideas.  The film also deals with mother/daughter relationships, the drug war, drug addiction, personal and professional failure, the Canadian health system, socialism, infidelity, friendship, politics, religion, genocide, and barbarian invasions of civilization.  Arcand does all of this without losing the central, human focus of his lovely movie.  Filled with rich performances, subtle humor, and endearing characters, The Barbarian Invasions is the best film of the year.

10 of 10

Re-edited:  Saturday, September 2, 2023

2004 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Canada); 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Denys Arcand)

2004 BAFTA Awards:  2 nominations: “Best Screenplay-Original” (Denys Arcand) and “Best Film not in the English Language” (Denise Robert, Daniel Louis, and Denys Arcand)

2004 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Canada)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Review: "DRIVE MY CAR" is an Extraordinary Drama and is One of 2021's Best Films

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 47 of 2022 (No. 1859) by Leroy Douresseaux

Drive My Car (2021)
Original title: Doraibu Mai Kā (Japan)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  Japan; Languages: Japanese, Korean Sign Language, English, and others
Running time:  179 minutes (2 hours, 59 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
WRITERS:  Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe (based on the short story by Haruki Murakami)
PRODUCERS:  Teruhisa Yamamoto
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Hidetoshi Shinomiya
EDITOR:  Azusa Yamazaki
COMPOSER:  Eiko Ishibashi
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Reika Kirishima, Masaki Okada, Park Yu-rim, Jin Dae-yeon, Sonia Yuan, Ahn Hwitae, Peri Dizon, and Satoko Abe

Doraibu Mai Kā is a 2021 Japanese drama film directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi.  The film is also known by its English title, Drive My Car (the title which I will use for this review).  The film is based on author Haruki Murakami's short story, "Drive My Car," which is included in Murakami's 2014 short story collection, Men Without Women.  Drive My Car the movie focuses on a recent widower who is directing a play and dealing with the fact that he must accept someone else driving his beloved car.

Drive My Car is set in Japan and introduces actor and well-known theater director, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima).  He was married to Oto (Reika Kirishima), an attractive screenwriter who suddenly died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Two years later, Yusuke accepts a residency in Hiroshima, where he will direct a multilingual adaptation of Uncle Vanya, the 1898 play by the renowned Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov.  Yusuke also discovers that the theater company financing Uncle Vanya, the Hiroshima Arts and Culture Center, requires that Yusuke not drive his car, but instead be chauffeured in his own car.  He objects at first, but a reserved young female chauffeur, Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), reveals herself to be a skilled driver.  So Yusuke accepts someone else driving his car.

Yusuke begins casting the play and discovers that one of the auditioning actors is Koshi Takatsuki, a former colleague of his late wife, Oto.  As he works through the play with the cast, Yusuke deals with his grief, but discovers that the young actor, Koshi, and his young driver, Misaki, are also dealing with grief, regret, and inner turmoil.

Apparently, the complicated feelings and trauma of the characters in Drive My Car echo the emotional turmoil of the characters in Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya.  I have never read Uncle Vanya, nor have I ever seen a production of it.

That does not stop me from seeing Drive My Car as probably the best film of 2021.  The film is meditative and contemplative and has a smooth, calm pace which heightens the film's sense of intimacy.  This tranquility allows director Ryusuke Hamaguchi to direct a film in which it really looks like the actors are engaging in self-examination.  The film's themes of regret, of accepting others as they are, and of self-acceptance feel genuine.

One might think that Drive My Car is dull or even complicated, but it is not.  The film is rather straightforward, and the confrontations between characters can be intense but feel constructive.  Drive My Car may be too slow for most American audiences, but I think that serious film lovers will find themselves engrossed by this hauntingly beautiful and most painfully human film.  They may even find it helpful.  Watching the film, I felt as if I were experiencing something I needed to see and hear a long time ago.

This film received many honors, including winning the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film.”  Still, I would have liked to have seen some of its cast, especially lead actor, Hidetoshi Nishijima (Yusuke), and supporting actress, Toko Miura (as the drive Misaki), earn Oscar acting notices.  Yusuke and Misaki's scenes at the latter's old home during the last half hour of the film are some of the best in years and some of the best performed.  Other cast members:  Reika Kirishima, Masaki Okada, and Park Yu-rim, are also worthy of award notice.

Drive My Car's cinematographer, Hidetoshi Shinomiya, made the film one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, of the year.  From majestic exterior vistas to shadowy and cozy interiors shots, Drive My Car looks both intimate and epic.  Eiko Ishibashi's film score, with its futuristic flourishes and electronica sensibilities, accentuates Shinomiya's cinematography,

That is the thing about Drive My Car.  Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has great collaborators, including his co-writer, Takamasa Oe, and he could not have made Drive My Car the achievement in cinema that it is without them.  He could not have made a film in which some of its best scenes occur inside a moving car such an sublime film experience.  Drive My Car.

10 of 10

Friday, August 12, 2022

2022 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best International Feature Film” (Japan); 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Teruhisa Yamamoto), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi), and “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 win “Best Film Not in the English Language” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Teruhisa Yamamoto); 2 nominations: “Best Director” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi) and “Best Screenplay-Adapted” )Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win : “Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language” (Japan)

2021 Cannes Film Festival:  3 wins: “Best Screenplay” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe), “FIPRESCI Prize” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi), and “Prize of the Ecumenical Jury” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)
; 1 nomination: “Palme d'Or” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Review: Mads Mikkelsen is the Best Reason for "ANOTHER ROUND"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 of 2021 (No. 1773) by Leroy Douresseaux

Another Round (2020)
Original title: Druk (Denmark)
Running time:  117 minutes(1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPAA - not rated
DIRECTOR:  Thomas Vinterberg
WRITERS: Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm
PRODUCERS:  Kasper Dissing and Sisse Graum Jørgensen
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
EDITORS:  Janus Billeskov Jansen and Anne Østerud
Academy Award winner

DRAMA with elements of comedy

Starring:  Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe, Maria Bonnevie, Magnus Sjørup, Silas Cornelius Van, and Susse Wold

Druk is a 2020 Danish drama film from director Thomas Vinterberg.  Druk is also known by its English title, Another Round, the title to which it will be referred in this review.  Although the film is an international co-production between Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden, Another Round won the “Best International Feature Film” Oscar at the recent 2021 / 93rd Academy Awards as a representative of Denmark.  Another Round focuses on four high school teachers who binge drink alcoholic beverages to see how it affects their lives and work.

Another Round opens in Denmark and introduces Martin (Mads Mikkelson), a middle-age high school teacher.  He is married to Anika (Maria Bonnevie), and they have two teenage sons, Jonas (Magnus Sjørup) and Kasper (Silas Cornelius Van).  Martin is a close friend of three of his colleagues:  Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), Peter (Lars Ranthe), and Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) at a gymnasium school in Copenhagen.  All four men struggle with unmotivated students, and each feels that his life has become boring and stale, especially Martin, who is the instructor for senior history.  In fact, his students and their parents are so concerned that he is not preparing them for their graduation exams that they meet with him.  Martin is also depressed because of troubles to his marriage to Anika.

At a dinner celebrating Nikolaj's 40th birthday, the four men begin to discuss Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud (a real-life person).  The “Skårderud hypothesis” says that man is born with a deficit of 0.05% blood alcohol content (BAC).  A 0.05 BAC makes a person more creative and relaxed.  Thus, Nikolaj suggests that the four of them engage in an experiment to test the Skårderud hypothesis.  The experiment will involve the four of them consuming alcohol on a daily basis in order to make sure that their BAC should never be below 0.05.  The initial results are good, especially for Martin, but will flirting with alcoholism always yield good results?

If Danish actor Mads Mikkelson is not an international movie star, he should be.  He career includes appearances in several Danish Oscar-nominated foreign language films, besides Another Round, and those are After the Wedding (2006), A Royal Affair (2012), and The Hunt (2013).  He has also made appearances in some Hollywood big-budget event movies, including the James Bond movie, Casino Royale (2006); the remake, Clash of the Titans (2010); and Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange (2016), to name a few.

Mikkelson's Martin defines the themes of Another Round that deal with the midlife crisis, marital strife, family discord, and professional dissatisfaction.  His costars give good performances, but Mikkelson is the star here.  His nuanced and layered performance as a man in full midlife depression is radiant, and the story seems to lack quite a bit of energy whenever he is not on screen.

As films about midlife crises go, Another Round is enjoyable, and it is quaint compared to the lurid American Beauty (1999), a “Best Picture” Oscar winner that is as pretentious as it is salacious.  Truthfully, neither film really excites me, as I could give a crap about middle crises.  I can't see myself recommending Another Round except to Americans who enjoy “international films.”  Still, Another Round has Mikkelsen, and if it must be remembered, it should be remembered as an entry in his exceptional filmography.

7 of 10

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

2021 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best International Feature Film” (Denmark) and 1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Directing” (Thomas Vinterberg)

2021 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination:  1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language”

2021 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Best Film Not in the English Language” (Thomas Vinterberg, Sisse Graum Jørgensen, and Kasper Dissing); 3 nominations: “Best Leading Actor” (Mads Mikkelsen); “Best Screenplay-Original” (Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg), and “Best Director” (Thomas Vinterberg)

The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: "The Great Beauty" is" La grande bellezza"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 38 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

[A version of this review was first posted on Patreon.]

The Great Beauty (2013)
La grande bellezza – original title
Country: Italy/France
Running time:  141 minutes (2 hours, 21 minutes)
Not rated by the MPAA
DIRECTOR:  Paolo Sorrentino
WRITERS:  Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello; from a story by Paolo Sorrentino
PRODUCERS:  Francesca Cima and Nicola Giuliano
EDITOR:  Cristiano Travagl
COMPOSER:  Lele Marchitelli
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso, Pamela Villoresi, Galatea Ranzi, Franco Graziosi, Giorgio Pasotti, Sonia Gessner, Luca Marinelli, Serena Grandi, Vernon Dobtcheff, Giovanna Vignola, Isabella Ferrari, and Giusi Merli

La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty) is a 2013 drama from director Paolo Sorrentino.  The Great Beauty is an Italian and French co-production, and as a representative of Italy, it won the Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” for the year 2013.  The film was released to U.S. theaters in 2014.  The Great Beauty follows a writer through timeless and beautiful Rome as he takes stock of his life after he receives a shock from the past.

The Great Beauty focuses on Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a journalist and socialite living in Rome.  He has lived a lavish life in Rome since he moved to the city as a 26-year-old.  Once upon a time, Jep wrote an acclaimed and well-received novel, The Human Apparatus.  While people awaited a second novel, Jep lived a comfortable life of writing about about celebrities and of throwing parties for celebrities and socialites in his fancy luxury apartment.

After his 65th birthday, Jep receives some shocking news about an old girlfriend.  He walks through the side of Rome that is a timeless landscape of absurd beauty and exquisite antiquity.  He reflects on his life and the sense that he is unfulfilled, as he encounters various characters.

The Great Beauty is indeed a great beauty.  The audience follows Jep Gambardella through parts of Rome that are tourist destinations or are either museums or sections of palatial estates.  I could recommend The Great Beauty for the absurd beauty of the film's settings and locales, alone.

As for the film's narrative:  it would be too easy to say that the specter of death hangs over the film.  The theme of growing old permeates the film, and also most of the characters seem to be yearning for more of something in their lives, even if more of what they want is bad for them.  Their lives are emotionally and spiritually empty.  I think the idea is that Jep has drifted through the last four decades of his life without realizing that he needs to establish roots.

I think that The Great Beauty encourages people to realize that beauty comes in fits and flashes between long stretches of what is ugly and banal in life; don't chase the superficial prettiness could be a tag line for the movie.  Still, the parties depicted in this film look pretty good, and the apartments and houses are just lovely.  I enjoyed Jep Gambardella's journey, although it meanders at times, but once again, the beauty in The Great Beauty is just so... beautiful.  This visual splendor alone makes this a truly exceptional film.

9 of 10

Friday, July 31, 2015

The text is copyright © 2015 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

2014 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” (Italy)

2014 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Italy)

2014 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Best Film not in the English Language” (Paolo Sorrentino, Nicola Giuliano, and Francesca Cima)

2013 Cannes Film Festival:  1 nomination: “Palme d'Or: (Paolo Sorrentino)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review: "The Tin Drum" is a Masterpiece (Remembering Maurice Jarre)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 118 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Die Blechtrommel (1979)
The Tin Drum (1980) – U.S. release
Running time:  142 minutes (2 hours, 22 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Volker Schlöndorff
WRITERS:  Jean-Claude Carrière, Franz Seitz, and Volker Schlöndorff, with Günter Grass providing additional dialogue (based upon the novel by Günter Grass)
PRODUCER:  Franz Seitz
EDITOR:  Suzanne Baron
COMPOSER:  Maurice Jarre
Academy Award winner


Starring:  David Bennent, Mario Adorf, Angela Winkler, Katharina Thalbach, Daniel Olbrychski, Tina Engel, Berta Drews, Roland Teubner, Tadeusz Kunikowki, and Heinz Bennent

The subject of this movie review is The Tin Drum (original title: Die Blechtrommel), a 1979 West German drama and black comedy from director Volker Schlöndorff.  The film is an adaptation of the 1959 novel, The Tin Drum, written by author, Günter Grass, which is the first book in Grass’ Danzig Trilogy.  The Tin Drum the movie follows a most unusual boy who, on his third birthday, decides not to grow up.

The 1979 West German film Die Blechtrommel won the 1980 Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film.”  It is the story of Oskar Matzerath (David Bennent), a young boy in 1930’s Danzig, Germany who decides to stop growing at the age of three.  Oskar carries a small tin drum around his neck that he beats often, much to the chagrin of the adults, and Oskar has the unique physical gift of being able to scream at such a high pitch that he can break glass.

Although Oskar’s body stops growing, mentally and psychologically he keeps aging, and as he grows he witnesses the rise of Nazism and the beginning and the end of World War II.  With everything going on around him, however, Oskar’s world revolves around pleasing himself.  Despite Oskar’s self-centeredness, the film also examines the chaotic and tumultuous lives of the adults around him, especially his mother, Agnes (Angela Winkler), and his mothers two lovers, a German shopkeeper named Alfred (Mario Adorf) and Jan Bronski (Daniel Olbrychski), a handsome Polish man who works at a Polish post office in Danzig, either of whom could be Oskar’s biological father.

Many consider The Tin Drum to be one of the great films to come out of West Germany in the last quarter century.  The film, however, isn’t one of those beautiful and genteel foreign films or one of those French films shot to mimic the immediacy of realism.  The Tin Drum is an unflinching and dense psychological examination of people caught in complicated relationships who also have to navigate the narrow straights of their own interior lives.  It’s also a sweeping cinematic observation of Nazi Germany that unfurls its ideas simultaneously through symbolism and blunt literalism.  Like some glossy, Hollywood eye candy flick, The Tin Drum doesn’t allow the audience to look away; it’s like watching a miraculous apparition unfurl before one’s eyes or like watching a mesmerizing accident.

The focus of the story is, of course, Oskar, who is mostly not likeable.  In fact, there’s something menacing or even evil about him.  He seeks to shut himself off from the world or at least totally funnel existence through his wants, but what’s most fascinating is watching Oskar’s life grow (his personality doesn’t change) with the rise of Nazism.

This is powerful stuff, the kind of thing that stands out amidst all the pedestrian films.  The Tin Drum has had a somewhat controversial existence in the United States because there is both full and partial nudity of children, which some people saw as kiddie porn.  The film is not pornography or pornographic; this film is art.  The nudity and frank sex (including a sex scene between children) is actually handled quite carefully and with imagination by director Volker Schlöndorff, as he handles everything in his masterpiece.

9 of 10

Updated:  Saturday, March 29, 2014

1980 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film” (West Germany)

1979 Cannes Film Festival:  1 win: “Palme d’Or” (Volker Schlöndorff – tied with Apocalypse Now1979)

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Review: "Tsotsi" a Familiar Tale from Another Place

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 168 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tsotsi (2005)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  South Africa and the U.K.; Languages:  Zulu, Afrikaans, and others
Running time:  95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some violent content
DIRECTOR:  Gavin Hood
WRITER:  Gavin Hood (based upon the novel by Athol Fugard)
PRODUCER:  Peter Fudakowski
EDITOR:  Megan Gill
COMPOSERS:  Paul Hepker and Mark Kilian
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Presley Chweneyagae, Terry Pheto, Kenneth Nkosi, Mothusi Magano, Zenzo Ngqobe, Zola, Rapulana Seiphemo, Nambitha Mpumlwana, Jerry Mofokeng, Ian Roberts, Percy Matsemela, and Thembi Nyandeni

The subject of this movie review is Tsotsi, a 2005 South African drama adapted for the screen and directed by Gavin Hood.  The film is based on the 1980 novel, Tsotsi, from author Athol Fugard.  “Tsotsi” is apparently a slang word in Johannesburg, South Africa that can be translated to mean “thug.”  Tsotsi the film follows six days in the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader.

Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) is a ruthless hood living in an impoverished township in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he leads the trio of miscreants that make up his gang.  One night he shoots a woman (Nambitha Mpumlwana) in a well-to-do suburban neighborhood and drives off in her car, but he discovers that he isn’t alone.  The woman’s infant son is in the backseat, so he grudgingly takes the infant to his humble abode.  Through his efforts to care for the baby, Tsotsi (his nickname is urban slang that loosely translates to “thug”) rediscovers compassion, self-respect, and the capacity to love, but he still struggles with his old ways.

Tsotsi won the 2006 Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” as a representative of South Africa. The film is sturdy and earnest, and maybe a little too melodramatic in its too obvious determination to spend a yarn of moral redemption.  Still, the film is powerful and the emotions run deep and are raw, primarily because of the lead character’s hardened criminal life.  It’s kind of hard to be sympathetic towards Tsotsi because his decisions lead to the murder of an innocent man and the wounding of several others.

What makes Tsotsi rise above preachy, well-meaning social drama is that this is basically a familiar tale, but set in an unfamiliar place with strange and exotic characters.  In that way, Tsotsi engages the viewer to discover a new way of looking at a familiar premise.  The performances are good, though not great.  Presley Chweneyagae, however, is a solid actor and carries the film like a veteran movie star.

7 of 10

2006 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” (South Africa)

2006 BAFTA Awards:  2 nominations:  “Best Film not in the English Language” (Gavin Hood and Peter Fudakowski) and the “Carl Foreman Award for Most Promising Newcomer” (Peter Fudakowski-producer)

2006 Golden Globes:  1 nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” (South Africa)

2007 Image Awards:  1 nomination: “Outstanding Independent or Foreign Film”

Monday, August 07, 2006

Updated:  Thursday, March 06, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

"A Separation" is a Unique Family Drama

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 70 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

A Separation (2011)
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin – Iranian title
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Iran; Language: Persian
Running time: 123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for mature thematic material
EDITOR: Hayedeh Safiyari
COMPOSER: Sattar Oraki
Academy Award winner


Starring: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sarina Farhadi, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Kimia Hosseini, Ali-Asghar Shahbazi, Shirin Yazdanbakhsh, and Babak Karimi

The subject of this movie review is A Separation, a 2011 Iranian drama from filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi. The film, originally titled Jodaeiye Nader az Simin, won the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film” in 2012. A Separation focuses on an Iranian middleclass couple who separate and the resulting troubles from that separation.

As the film opens, Nader Lavasani (Peyman Moadi) and his wife, Simin (Leila Hatami), are seeking a divorce after 14 years of marriage. Simin wants to leave Iran in order to improve the life of their 11-year-old daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). Nader does not want to leave because he wants to care for his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who has Alzheimer's disease and whose situation is deteriorating. Now, Termeh must choose the parent with which she will live. When Nader hires a lower class woman to care for his father, it sets off a series of events that makes things worse.

A Separation is a potent family drama, and writer-director Asghar Farhadi manages to unveil a train wreck without resorting to the kind of hysterics some American films about divorce use. A Separation is so atypical of divorce films that it is less about feuding spouses and more about the dynamics of family life. Farhadi’s depiction of inter-family relationships is so blunt and honest that it sometimes seems alien and contrived. I frequently found myself saying that certain incidences in the film could not happen, but I think this was simply because I have devoured so many contrived Hollywood family dramas that anything that is different seems to be phony. Farhadi is simply honest about the lengths to which people will go to lie to members of their immediate family and other close relatives out of pride or because they are being stubborn.

Good performances abound, though I wish the film gave more focus to Leila Hatami as Nader’s wife, Simin. The story treats Simin as a supporting character, but she is just as important to A Separation as Nader, although her screen time suggests otherwise. Ms. Hatami, however, makes the most of her time and forces Simin to the forefront. A Separation is one of the year’s best modern (non-genre) dramas and people looking for something good, but different will find a gem in this.

8 of 10

2012 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” (Iran) and 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Asghar Farhadi)

2012 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Film Not in the English Language” Asghar Farhadi)

2012 Golden Globes, USA: 1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Iran)

2012 Image Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstanding Foreign Motion Picture”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: "Rashomon" Defies Time (Happy B'day, Akira Kurosawa)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 60 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Rashômon (1950) – Black and white
Running time: 88 minutes (1 hour, 28 minutes)
Not rated by the MPAA
WRITERS: Shinobu Hashimota and Akira Kurosawa (based upon stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa)
PRODUCER: Minoru Jingo
EDITOR: Fumio Hayasaka
Academy Award winner

DRAMA/MYSTERY/CRIME with elements of a thriller

Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Kichijiro Ueda, Fumiko Honma, Daisuke Katô

Rashômon is a 1950 Japanese crime drama from director Akira Kurosawa. In 1952, the film won an Honorary Academy Award as the best foreign language film released in the United States in 1951. The film is based on two stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa and is the story of a murder told from differing points of view.

The fact that Akira Kurosawa’s Rashômon is considered by critics to be one of the best films ever made and that it is also one of the most influential films every made should be enough of a recommendation. However, I’m well aware of how put off many people are by “serious film” or movies that critics hail as masterpieces. Rashômon is simply a good movie, and virtually anyone who likes crime dramas or mysteries will love this philosophical and psychological thriller.

An incident involving the murder of a husband and the rape of the wife in the forest is reported to local authorities, but what really happened? The horrible incident is told from the point of view of four witnesses: the alleged murderer/rapist, the wife, the murdered husband (the husband’s spirit speaks through his wife as a medium, nonetheless), and someone who watched part of what happened from a hidden vantage point. Who is telling the truth, and, in this case, just what is truth?

One of the many wonderful things about this film, like all the great stories, is that it spins a good yarn while simultaneously examining the state of man. Why are people selfish? Why do they lie? And are all humans basically selfish creatures who (when it comes down to it) really serve their own individual interests? The film is a fine mystery/crime drama with some amazing twists and turns (the husband’s tortured spirit telling his side of the tale is unforgettable) that will keep the viewer riveted, but that it also makes you think about us, about humanity, pushes it over the top. Except that Rashômon seems a bit too slow from the top, it nears perfection in the art of cinema and in making good use of the medium.

9 of 10

1952 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Honorary Award” (Japan) – Voted by the Board of Governors as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1951.

1953 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White” (Takashi Matsuyama and H. Motsumoto)

1953 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Film from any Source” (Japan)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"The Lives of Others" is the Best Film of 2006

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 123 (of 2007) by Leroy Douressaux

The Lives of Others (2006)
Das Leben der Andersen – original title
Running time: 137 minutes (2 hours, 17 minutes)
MPAA – R for some sexuality/nudity
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
PRODUCERS: Quirin Berg and Max Wiedemann
EDITOR: Patricia Rommel
2007 Academy Award winner


Starring: Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Thomas Thieme, Hans-uwe Bauer, Volkmar Kleinert, Ulrich Tukur, and Matthias Brenner

Das Leben der Andersen or The Lives of Others is a nuanced human drama that portrays life in the GDR – the German Democratic Republic – or as it was better known, East Germany, during the mid-1980’s. The film won the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (as a representative of Germany), and this riveting indictment of life under state-sponsored altruism ultimately shows that humans have the ability to do the right thing even after doing the wrong thing so long.

The film opens five years before Glasnost and the ultimate fall of the Berlin Wall. East Germans live under the watchful eye of the Stasi, the state police (security). Two Stasi officers, Captain Gerd Weisler (Ulrich Mühe) and his superior and longtime friend, Lt. Col. Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur) attend the premiere of the new stage play from the famous playwright, Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch). There, the two men meet the head of the Ministry for State Security, Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme), who promptly informs Weisler and Grubitz that he does not trust Dreyman to be loyal to the SED – East Germany’s ruling Socialist Union Party – and suggests putting Dreyman under surveillance.

Eager to boost his own political career, Grubitz entrusts the surveillance to Weisler, who promises to personally oversee the operation. While Dreyman and his live-in girlfriend, actress Christa-Marie Sieland (Martina Gedeck), are away from their apartment, Weisler has the apartment systematically bugged. After a friend kills himself, Dreyman begins to secretly research and write about the GDR’s high suicide rates, which the government wishes to keep secret. This piques Weisler’s interest as something to watch. However, when he discovers the real reason for Hempf’s interest in Dreyman, Weisler becomes disillusioned with the Stasi’s goal to know everything about “the lives of others,” but what can one man do about it?

That this is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s first feature-length film is difficult to believe. He makes it look easy to recreate a frightening time and place that rings with so much truth and authenticity. With such grace and subtlety, he indicts a system that uses the fear of imprisonment or death at every turn to keep the populace in line. Almost as bad as imprisonment is to have the government deny an individual the ability to practice his profession, as is tragically depicted in the matter of one of Georg Dreyman’s friends. The viewer can feel the soul-draining and spirit-killing oppression, or even worse, feel the desperation with which some are willing to sacrifice what little freedom and choice they have to serve the state. Donnersmarck rightly exposes how “for the good of state” and “for the security, safety, and well-being of everyone” not only robs the individual of his individuality, but also steals the right of all people of their right to freedom of expression. Ultimately, it leads to a spiritual death and perhaps, also a physical death.

The performances are great, in particularly Ulrich Mühe, whose Capt. Weisler is the center point of this narrative. Mühe skillfully sells Weisler’s jealous and blind zeal, and then takes us on Weisler’s journey of redemption in a manner that seems authentic. Martina Gedeck and Sebastian Koch as the high profile couple are fantastic in creating a full-fleshed out, three-dimensional and believable couple that loves and fights and then, makes up and expresses a deep love that goes beyond the physical into the spiritual.

For its triumphant portrayal of life and survival under monstrous oppression and state control, The Lives of Others is one of the five best films of 2007.

10 of 10

2007 Academy Awards: 1 win for “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (Germany)

2007 Golden Globes: 1 nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film”