Category Archives: Film

“REWIND”— Documenting a Life

“REWIND”

Documenting a Life

Amos Lassen

Director Sasha Joseph Neulinger tells his own story of sexual abuse by using his film “Rewind” as a form of therapy in the hope that it will also benefit others. When he was a child, his father bought a video camera and obsessively filmed his family. Much of that footage is included here. We watch Neulinger changes as he grows. Birthdays, holidays and other activities are recorded, and we see a young boy developing a problem with anger but  what the camera could not catch is that he was being sexually abused by someone who threatened him with harm if he told anyone.

We see and hear the details about how child sexual abuse became part of his family and Neulinger’s story became very public, as it connected to a prominent family member that the “system” covered up after formal allegations were made. We see that predators often hide in plain sight, assuming the form of trusted, moral individuals.

Neulinger interviews his mother, father, and sister in the documentary. He  asks for information he did not previously have including their thoughts at the time and what they observed about his behavior. We can see that just as he’s working to heal, so are they. We meet key figures in his life— the psychologist who treated his trauma and the District Attorney who tried the case. Neulinger seeks to retrieve memories he’d forgotten or to hear the perspective of others associated with the legal proceedings. His own reminiscences and the revealing home video footage, make this a compelling examination of the totality of child sexual abuse. The film looks at the subject from all angles and we see how the director’s personal story played out giving us an unforgettable portrait of how terrible abuse really is. 

Neulinger’s father missed his son’s birth because he was out buying a video camera. That video camera is the key to “Rewind,”—- the family dynamic it captured are absolutely crucial to the story that it tells. The movie is a study of what happened to Neulinger when he was a boy and that is the brutal sexual abuse he was subjected to by multiple members of his father’s family. The old footage shows that this was able to happen under the nose of his mother, Jacqui. But the historical footage is only part of it. The most dramatic parts are the conversations Mr. Neulinger has with his parents, in which he refers to himself in the third person, and the family secrets those conversations reveal.

Once the abuse became known, the family protected. Neulinger and his sister and tried to achieve justice. About half of the film is devoted to exploring how the justice system worked, or didn’t work not work for the different perpetrators. Neulinger’s former psychiatrist, public prosecutors, and the police officers who handled his case share their files so that we can see drawings and letters written by him as a child and explain how they helped prepare Mr. Neulinger for court. Neulinger’s major court appearance reduces his doctor to tears. The boy’s courage is amazing.

While the movie elides his teenage years (this implies the problems ended with the court case, which cannot possibly be true), we learn only the barest outline of his life as an adult. The film is a testament to the director’s personal bravery and it is upsetting and important.

To transcend the shame, Sasha felt he needed to revisit his painful past fully, from beginning to end, and to document it along the way. He does so intelligently and gives us a dramatic look at his life. In the beginning, it all seems like a mystery— what caused little Sasha to go from a happy-go-lucky kid to a troubled, wild and unpredictable one? Sasha’s father says videos. “Now when I look at them [the video], I see it in the background. Stuff was going on,” he says. The changes in Sasha are evident in the tapes, and we want an answer. Next, we’re taken aback when we learn about the people involved and the manner in which the offense takes place.

“The film is a lesson on the common aspects of molestation, such as its twisted, contagious nature and the psychological poison that permeates the victim’s unconscious. These insights into the matter allows Neulinger to contest the actions of the abusers from a non-judgmental lens.”

At the end of the documentary, Neulinger revisits his quest for justice: a segment that carries the spirit of a courtroom drama. We get a inside look at the legal system, thanks to interviews with the prosecutor and the judge in the case. Then finally after years of compiling footage and both interviewing and speaking with family members and the professionals involved, the film ends.

“ABOUT A TEACHER”— A Personal Journey

“ABOUT A TEACHER”

A Personal Journey

Amos Lassen

Hanan Harchol’s “About a Teacher” is an intimate and inspiring drama that takes us on the personal journey of a new inner-city public high school film teacher who comes into teaching  oblivious to the actual demands of the inner-city, and unaware of his own shortcomings and biases.

Yet during his first month of teaching, he recognizes that knowing his subject matter is one of the smaller components of the job. He is so overwhelmed that he plans to quit at the end of the first school year. But as he begins to get to know his students,  he finds himself investing in their stories and futures, he discovers that he must set aside preconceived notions of who his students are and what they “need,” and instead respond to the unique individuals in front of him. 

Having been a teacher in an urban inner-city school, I related immediately to his film but I also was a bit upset to see that in the fifty years since my own experiences and today, not much has changed. The film is inspired by ​the filmmaker’s real-life experiences as an inner-city film teacher, and  it features many of his former students in the cast and crew. The film gives us a realistic portrait of the teaching profession that  sheds light on the challenges and pitfalls that lead nearly half of teachers to leave the profession within the first five years. Inner-city public schools having nearly twice the attrition of more affluent schools), while they simultaneously celebrate the deep rewards that this meaningful and noble profession can provide.

While examining familiar territory (challenging social issues, the fact that both teachers and students regularly drop out of the system), “the film’s story elevates through his personal struggles as a teacher, the teens’ struggles simply to navigate life, and how the symbiosis between mentor and student can have lasting, positive impact.”

“PREY”— The Desire to Survive

“PREY”

The Desire to Survive

Amos Lassen

Director José Luis Montesinos’ “Prey” is an “absorbing raw opera” and look at the world of horror. An accident has left Elena (Paula del Rio) a quadriplegic. She is filled with self-pity and has to rely on pills to cope with the pain. Her father has adapted the family country house so that Elena can live comfortably and she has bought Athos, a dog that will help Elena in most complicated tasks like opening doors but an accident will unleash an all-out war between Elena and Athos.

Elena’s attitude and the way she treats everyone around her, including her dog show us an unsympathetic person. Elena faces a countdown while using everything in her power to survive. The Elena we meet at the beginning of the film is not the same character we get to know as the movie progresses as does a sensation of anguish and increasing tension.

With grieving over the recent death of her sister, Elena, sees that Athos, a Belgian shepherd specially trained to help her has contracted a strange disease  and has become his worst enemy.

Montesinos mixes different genres with a lot of ingenuity and with characters that create an atmosphere of tension and anguish. He gives us a dramatic situation with touches of suspense and elements of horror cinema. The film begins with a Miguel (Angel Jenner), standing in a bend in a road next to some flowers placed on the guardrail. The film that does not tell us much about what happened in Miguel’s past or that of his daughter, Elena.

 and the protagonist, his daughter Elena except that we see that they have moved to a house renovated by Miguel to adapt to his daughter’s disability. The young woman who has to overcome her new life. Then the script introduces some flashbacks to tell us what happened in the recent past and in the most distant past, and we begin to build the lives of these characters as a puzzle.

We find some classic elements of a suspense film, such as the tension that the director tries to maintain during most of the film. There are sounds and the importance of noise, tools that not only serve to create drama, but to keep the viewer alert. Animals play a vital role. We are in a lonely house where one of the characters has taken care in advance that nothing disturbs that loneliness. There is a mysterious dog in this story of a father and daughter who return to the family home after losing their daughter and sister. The human and family story give another meaning to the film.

Miguel’s guilt and desire for solitude are filled with fear and anger as expressed through Elena’s face. He tries to make life easier for his daughter and to spend more time with her. His role is to teach his angry daughter.

The house is also a character and the drama experienced by the family and the tragedy that Elena, endures. The premature loss of the mother, the guilt of the father, the accident of Elena’s sister and the need for forgiveness are what Elena has to deal with, even if she does not want to.

Miguel wants to separate his daughter from victimhood and transmit strength. Both he and Elena have to struggle with their misfortunes, but they cannot allow themselves to be overcome by them. Suspense is subordinated to family tragedy, although there are situations of tension because the dog and the limitation of Elena’s movements. “Prey” actually is  an account of the desire to survive and to fight to do so.

“ZOMBI CHILD”— Mysticism, Social Commentary and Horror

“ZOMBI CHILD”

Mysticism, Social Commentary and Horror

Amos Lassen

Director Bertand Bonello brings together mysticism, social commentary and horror in his stirring and atmospheric film, “Zombi Child”, a genre mash-up. We go back and forth between 1960s Haiti and present-day France in this film that is political in the abstract sense. While there are moments where a history of exploitation informs the relationship between the French,  and white Fanny (Louise Labeque) and Haitian refugee Mélissa (Wislanda Louimat) who are classmates at an all-girls school established by Napoleon Bonaparte—Bonello’s interests are much deeper than race relations. The decision to switch back and forth between Mélissa and Fanny’s perspectives opens the story up to a more complex examination of how the girls view and relate to their own heritage and culture.

“Zombi Child” explores the factors that have allowed the social practice of voodoo to become a constant of history. Mélissa’s aunt, Katy (Katiana Milfort), is a “mambo,” or voodoo priestess, and she’s the only surviving member of Mélissa’s family in the wake of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. Mélissa is drawn to Fanny because the two share an affinity for Stephen King and horror fiction, and as they get closer, Fanny eases Mélissa’s initiation into her tight-knit “literary sorority.” But after this act of bonding, the young women begin to move in opposite directions: Mélissa makes an effort to fit into the sorority, singing along to French rap when she’d rather be listening to music sung in her native Créole language, while Fanny who is dealing with her sudden breakup with her long distance lover, Pablo (Sayyid El Alami), digs into Mélissa’s past and decides to use voodoo as a way to relieve her broken heart.

The other half of the film’s narrative is about Fanny’s grandfather, Clairvius  Narcisse (Mackenson Bijou), who, in 1962, becomes the victim of a voodoo curse that puts him in an early grave and results in the reanimation of his corpse and having to perform manual plantation labor in a perpetually “zombified” state. Here Bonello fractures the spatial and temporal coherence of scenes, stringing together elemental, horror movie visuals and first-person perspective shots of dense sugarcane fields. A clear contrast is established early on between the dark Haitian landscape and the white-walled interiors of the classrooms in which Fanny and Mélissa are lectured by professors teaching one-sided lessons on world history. Then just as its racial politics start to seem too explicit, the film suddenly and radically reframes itself.

Clairvius’s death turns out to have been the consequence of familial jealousy and his exploitation as a slave comes at the hands of black plantation farmers, not white men—at least not that we’re made aware of. Bonello obviously drew inspiration from accounts of Haitian slaves being put in medically induced states of “zombification” during the early 20th century. This has the effect of recasting a supernatural fiction narrative as reconstructed history.

Bonello also never leads us the racially charged confrontation that Mélissa and Fanny’s relationship seems to be building toward… he’s interested in their racial backgrounds only as they shape their modes of self-identification. Fanny’s refusal to accept her life in the present sets her on a collision course with the forces of Mélissa’s ancestry; this leads to a cataclysm of psychological horror that sees one of these forces to take possession over the other—an undead history claim a living one. Mélissa, though, draws her identity from her past and her present, and in the same moment that Fanny has her communion with the spiritual forces of voodoo, Mélissa delivers an history on the subject—a kind of counter-lecture to those of the white, blowhard professors that teach them.

The mix of horror, historiography, and youth give director Bonello plenty of opportunity to indulge. He spends a lot of time on scenes set at the academy on the sociality of the young women and their engagement with pop culture In fact, Bonello is so fascinated with the dynamics of these relationships that it seems to drive his interest in the horror genre.

The film’s most intriguing aspect is the way Bonello plays with temporality. The dialectical relationship between past and present is a central organizing principle of Bonello’s artistry. We see this in his anachronistic music choices and his unmooring of characters from their period settings through decidedly modern behaviors or situations. He suggests two temporalities that exist parallel to each other. And the anxiety this creates—through discursive editing and match cuts—leads to a feverish payoff, one that uses genre and supernatural elements to further Bonello’s idea of there being one historical continuity.

The film reaches its final act and tries to pull together its plot to say something significant about how the past slavery still traumatizes Haiti, but the film suffers by making it appear like two separate films. Yet its powerful and makes us think again about how France has not lived up to the revolutionary ideals the country was founded on and because of that still suffers from racism because of the pain it caused those outsiders under its rule who were made to feel like modern-day zombies (Mélissa is weird and might be a zombi) and not looked upon as real French citizens as much as outsiders. 

BONUS PROGRAMMING

  • Audio commentary by director Bertrand Bonello
  • Bonus Short Film– Child of the Sky (Directed by Phillip Montgomery | United Kingdom | 16 minutes) – A young woman waked up in the desert, lost and cold. She is summoned by a powerful force to a strange woman who takes her in – but there is a price. 

About Film Movement

 Founded in 2002, Film Movement is a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide including the Oscar-nominated films Theeb (2016) and Corpus Christi (2020). Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci, Ettore Scola and Luchino Visconti. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement. 

“HOME”— Looking at Adolescence

“HOME”

Looking at Adolescence

Amos Lassen

In “Home”, director Fien Troch, takes a close look at adolescence. Lina (Lena Suijkerbuijk), a young girl with childlike features but an obstinate face faces up to the headmaster of her school, who blames her for spreading rumors about one of the school’s teachers. Lina defends herself blaming the teacher so well that even his colleagues start spreading the same rumors. John (Mistral Guidotti), the teacher, ignores the admonitions of the school supervisor, who orders him not to hang around in the corridors during lessons. He doesn’t care. Sammy (Loic Bellemans)   who smokes under the extractor fan in the kitchen at home, ignoring his mother, who asks him to smoke in the garden but Sammy thinks that it is usually too cold to do so. Kevin, at first, seems less adverse to the authority of adults, but he has also just left rehab and his parents no longer want him living under their roof, claiming they can no longer cope. So Kevin goes to live with his aunt and uncle, Sammy’s mother and father, who welcome him just as they would a trainee in their bathroom business. Kevin’s maturity impresses the little group, just as much as his delinquent air. As they all become friends, the teenagers are bound to one another forever by their tragic fate.

The film is based on a true story, and it’s the very reality of the everyday lives of these modern teenagers that Fien Troch tries to capture. She honing in on the emotions running through her characters, filming their faces up close with a handheld camera and she focuses on the exchanges. There are also sequences filmed by the teens with their smartphones. Here is youth in all its craziness – narcissistic, hyper-sexualized, alcoholic, druggy, and above all, stricken by boredom.

The film touches on dark, complex, and even repulsive topics. The parents, and above all the mothers (there’s a marked absence of fathers in the film) are completely incapable of understanding their children. Troch shows the falling out of love with their children of mothers who are housewives, and mothers who out of their depth, dysfunctional and incapable of judging the right distance from which to show love. 

The actors who portray the teenagers are newcomers yet perfect for their parts and give natural performances. We see how they struggle with the generation gap between them and their parents and teachers, but also how they feel emotionally and have to deal with daily obstacles.

The film introduced me to Troch’s filmography and it has made me eager to watch more of her work. Here, she utilized a realistic approach to filmmaking, that was very similar to how they film a documentary. She made the camera move fluently between the characters rather than cut from one to another. This made the conversations feel as if they were taking place in real-time, rather than make it look like it was done in multiple takes. The film has a nice flow and realistic atmosphere.

The dialogue is well written and realistic, which made for some incredibly well developed and realistic characters. Each character had to deal with their own issues; they all had the same central theme of isolation. They all feel isolated in their own way and did not have the ability to escape that isolation. Some fail to express how they feel, some can’t be understood about how they feel, some are frustrated because people don’t want to understand them. Each character has multiple layers and motivations for the things they did. Troch shocks her audience yet the shocking moments weren’t there solely to shock the viewer. We find that we care for flawed humans who’ve done some terrible things but we see from where they are coming  and we empathize with them.

The movie consists out of a string of events the modern day teenager goes through and how these events impact their personalities, their relationships, and grades. It’s a \grim depiction of reality that shows us how teenagers perceive reality. “Home succeeds in shifting the balance of our sympathies and allowing us to develop a deep sense of the characters.

 “A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND”— A Crime Thriller

 “A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND”

A Crime Thriller

Amos Lassen

Writer Ronan Blaney and director Abner Pastoll seem to have a different perspective on womanhood in “A Good Woman is Hard to Find”. Even though this film was written and directed by men, it has a feminist idea at the heart in exposing the systematic oppression of vulnerable people.

Sarah (Sarah Bolger) is recently widowed is having a hard time keeping her family afloat both as a family and financially. Her husband was stabbed to death in front of her son Ben (Rudy Doherty), and he is now mute. Sarah believes her husband was an innocent man but the newspaper has named him a drug dealer and the police ignore her pleas for vengeance. They consider the murder just criminals killing criminals. Her daughter Lucy (Macie McCauley) has a bad habit of repeating what people say.  

We immediately see that their situation is rather dire. As the film opens, we see Sarah walking through a grocery store with her kids, with an enumerated shopping list priced out to the last cent she has. When Ben takes a piece of candy, a grocery assistant  sees him doing so and forces her to pay for it. She has to give up food items to pay for it. Things get worse when, on the way home from her mother’s house, Tito (Andrew Simpson), a criminal,  breaks into her house and demands she hide his recently stolen drugs.

She doesn’t want anything to do with him or the cut of money he offers her. But she doesn’t have much of a choice since he threatens her and her children lives. The drugs were stolen from Leo Miller (Edward Hogg), a local kingpin who peppers his speech with philosophical quotes and who becomes angry when people don’t know the difference between a simile and a metaphor.

Tito keeps coming back, day after day, making himself more and more at home and Sarah realizes she’s on her own and has to take matters into her own hands. This is a grim and desperate world. Sarah has to deal with a system that seems to exist to keep her down, doing everything in its power to destroy her. Cops and social services ignore her. We see the systematic oppression of vulnerable members of society.

Everywhere Sarah turns, she’s told she’s not good enough. The police tell her to let sleeping dogs lie when she tries to get answers on the murder. Social services look at her recently broken into home and the beer cans left by Tito, seeing them as a sign she’s an unfit mother.

Even Tito tells her she needs to get it together. He’s just another bum, telling her she’s not good enough. He compares her to the sluts he meets at bars. Sarah is continually running into walls as the system that’s supposed to be there to protect her and help her fails her again and again.

In the beginning Sarah is meek and unsure. Her hair is unkempt and she looks like she’s full of rage. She desperately tries to keep everything together while the world conspires to mess her up. Slowly she starts to gain her confidence back. She is desperate to find out who killed her husband and she also is desperate to find her way.

“A Good Woman Is Hard to Find” is a fine crime thriller with a wonderful performance by Sarah Bolger. When Tito’s reason for going to Sarah’s each night is disrupted, he turns violent and Sarah acts to protect herself. Some sequences use blood-soaked, semi-horror themes. This is a crime thriller with a huge heart.

All Sarah wants is a normal life and a decent chance for her kids, but that’s hard to find – even before Tito breaks into her flat and decides to use it as a stash house for the drugs he’s stolen from a local gang boss. While Tito is a threat but he’s also an opportunity. Sarah figures that she might be able to get information from him that will help her find out what really happened to her husband and find his killer. However, Tito is unstable and dangerous and Sarah is alone in the world. She can’t even go to the supermarket without people trying to prey on her. Behind a plot focused on gang violence is a landscape of day to day horror, of what it does to women and those men who are unable to defend themselves physically and forces them to live in poverty in housing projects that the larger society has given up on. Sarah has learned to keep her head down to try and survive. She has been taught to be a victim.

The courage that is necessary to fight back in this situation make Sarah an awe-inspiring character and one who many viewers who have lived in poverty will relate to. The terror she expresses as she tries  to shield her children feels completely real. Her natural instinct is to avoid conflict and all forms of unpleasantness, and when she does what she has to protect those she loves.

Director Abner Pastoll builds up the tension masterfully, with most of the action focused around Sarah’s small flat that is impossible to defend. The complicated relationship between Sarah and her mother is beautifully drawn and even Tito has moments of humanity, when his naivete becomes so obvious that it’s impossible not to pity the person he might have been had he grown up in better circumstances. Social misogyny has clearly damaged him as well as the women in the film, and is part of a patchwork of learned behaviors that seem to hurt everybody’s chances. Everybody seems to have come through life by making ugly compromises, and it’s when Sarah finds that she no longer has room for compromise that the film goes in a different direction.

“GRAVES WITHOUT A NAME”— Searching for a Path to Peace

 

“GRAVES WITHOUT A NAME”

Searching for a Path to Peace

Amos Lassen

 

Director Rithy Panh continues his personal and spiritual exploration of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge era. His earlier films, “S21” and “Duch”, analyzed the mechanisms of the crime. In “Graves Without a Name”, Panh searches for a path to peace.

The film shows what happens when a thirteen-year-old child, who lost the greater part of his family under the Khmer Rouge, searches for their graves. He does not really know what he is looking for.

Pahn brings together historical research and personal tragedy with place and piety to focus on the crimes of the Khmer Rouge and the result is a body of work about a genocide that has not only been ignored but often hidden by more notorious cases of mass murder.

Panh goes deeper into the aftermath and gives us hi ideas on the genocide as the quest of a wandering soul. He was 13-years-oks when he escaped the Killing Fields. He shows survivors in a spiritual quest to reach the soul of the deceased as well as their own. The film is both a testimony to the victims and the survivors, but also, through the use of  interviews to some of the tormentors, who (in a sense) were also victims. Nature is also covering the bleeding Earth making it more difficult to find the graves as time passes. The task of the regime was precisely to erase memory and to break the soul. Rithy Panh prevents memory from fading.

The film is split into three different sequences. The first depicts Cambodian burying rituals, from a number of people (including the director himself) who do not even know where their relatives and loved ones  who died are now located or even if they were buried.

The second sequence consists of testimonies from a number of people who have experienced the Khmer Rouge regime first-hand. Their narration paints one of the darkest pictures in the history of humanity. We see “scenes” of death from hunger, rape, militia overhauling people’s houses and informing the authorities of anything that could be against the official guidelines. There are forced transfers of to areas filled with mud in order to work and to be reeducated, forced marriages, and in general, the treatment of a whole nation in a way that saw them as animals. We see the mentality  of the survivors’ about the events, with one of the interviewees suggesting that the collective trauma of the Cambodian nation resulted in them considering everything that happens to them as given with the result being a state of apathy that continues to dominate the way they behave.  In combination with their notions about an after-life, it is no wonder that one of the people speaking on the film believes their punishment will come from the universe, through karma.

The third sequence functions both as a tour guide to the areas where the atrocities were committed, and of Panh’s own mentality, which is depicted both through scenes where statues, masks, photographs and random “memorabilia” appear and  then vanish in the landscape, and through the narration in French by Randal Douc.

The cinematography is incredible, with the different setting and images communicating the aesthetics and the “ulterior motives” of the movie through utter beauty. Panh’s editing glues the different aspects together nicely..

The purpose of “Graves Without A Name” is directed towards the “healing” of the survivors rather than the depiction of the horrid events of the Khmer Rouge era, and in this, it totally  succeeds. I would have liked a more detailed presentation of a history that has been under-documented on cinema.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKfg1fOC2bI

“SÉRIE NOIR”– The Darkness of the Soul

“SÉRIE NOIR”

The Darkness of the Soul

Amos Lassen

Franck Poupart (Patrick Dewaere) plays the air saxophone and sways uninhibitedly as he does. He sings in the car. He messes with rockers and looks nervously when they turn to him. He lies, cheats and steals. He either has excuses or he remains silent. He scolds and complains and always feels that others are attacking him. He howls and strikes, loses control, screams and but the next moment he is embarrassed about his rants but would never admit it. He falls in love with a young, traumatized girl who never says anything. (Or he thinks he fell in love: Actually, he falls in love with the idea of ​​falling in love, because that would be proof that he is not crazy but a human being like everyone else). He plans a murder for money,  strikes an old woman with his bare hands, drags her lifeless body up the stairs to throw it down again. He befriends a man and later kills him. He strangles his wife because she asks questions. He runs his head against his car because he hates himself. Franck Poupart is a pitiful coward, a man without principles, but who firmly believes that life is unfair to him.

Franck has a boyish pale face with the elegant mustache, thinning hair, a blank look, awkward movements and a foul temperament. Dewaere makes Poupart a laughable figure, interprets him as a failure without any backbone, as a fool in which brazen peasant cleverness is combined with moral flexibility and  dangerous ambition. Sometimes Dewaere portrays him as a ridiculous figure that you want to feel sorry for but he also shows him as self-righteous. Every decision he makes and every word he says is wrong. He either does not understand the basics of human coexistence or else he freely rejected them because they do not help him.“Serie Noire” is director Alain Corneau’s film adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel “A Hell of a Woman” is both a classic film and a homage to classic noir motifs  without their tragic-existentialist undertones.

This is also one of the most impressive, disturbing and pulling portraits of human misery that we will ever see in a film. The desolation of the film is almost unbearable and it helps that Dewaere interprets his Poupart with full physical commitment and makes this a comedy a few times. It is difficult to imagine a life outside of the sadness shown. The sky is gray, the weather is consistently bad, the houses  are ragged and cheap, wasteland and/or concrete blocks stretch between them, blocking the view. Few people populate this place and those that do are lost. and all are lost. Nobody does anything good, everyone lives only at the expense of others. Perhaps the most human emotion of all is shown by the rocker provoked by Poupart who knows how to shake this ruined world to its foundations. Poupart’s look says it all. He doesn’t know how to react..

“Serie Noire” does not end with the murderer’s punishment: he is neither arrested nor victimized by his amateur behavior. Instead, he is presented with the parody of a happy ending: anyone who could do something for him was paid out dearly; a state power that ensured law and order did not appear throughout the film.

The film stands apart because of its atonal sense of humor. It begins with a deceptively comic scene of Franck dancing by himself in a barren lot. This desolate tract of land is a place that Franck will return to a couple of times over the course of the film, but this time it’s the site where we’re introduced to him. We don’t have enough information to judge him beyond this act of self-absorbed clowning around; he strikes action poses with a portable radio and flounces around for his own entertainment in the middle of nowhere underneath an overcast sky.

That title sequence is the perfect introduction to Franck’s mindset: As a debt collector and door-to-door salesman, he bounces off the wall for nobody’s sake but his own and naïvely tries to lie and charm his way into the good graces of everyone around him. Unfortunately for him, he’s also unable to keep a pleasant façade on for very long, especially when it comes to his wife Jeanne (Myriam Boyer). Nevertheless, it’s Franck’s misguided attempt at chivalry that initially makes him attractive to Mona (Marie Trintignant), a teen nymphomaniac who is kept locked up by her abusive aunt (Jeanne Herviale), who pimps her out for money. Franck doesn’t take advantage of Mona the first time he meets her, even after she drops her clothes and jumps on him (at one point, Franck mocks how hot to trot she is by calling her “The Towering Inferno”).

For whatever reason, Franck thinks he’s a good guy, even while spreading himself wafer-thin to carry out Mona’s scheme to kill her aunt, steal the money that she made by prostituting Mona and running away with her. Franck does this by enlisting the help of Andreas Tikides (Andreas Katsulas), a migrant worker and a debtor that Franck doesn’t particularly like but nevertheless pitied enough to give money to once. That gesture of good will is especially bizarre considering that Franck is the one responsible for getting Andreas fired. Franck plans on using Andreas as the fall guy and tries to get him drunk enough that he’d be willing to come with him so that they can both confront the aunt, who owes Andreas money, and screw Mona.

The film’s greatest achievement is how it embraces Thompson’s playful sense of spite and encouraging the viewer to laugh with Franck as he jokes about the stupidity of everyone around him and the insanity of the untenable situation that he keeps willfully throwing himself more deeply into. Corneau’s film is so rich and satisfying that it makes what might have otherwise been an indeterminate but relatively happy ending seem hopeless., Franck could have run away and live with Mona but none of it would matter because even with her, he’s just as ugly and insane as ever.

Dewaere gives an amazing, no-holds-barred performance, playing the entirely-amoral Thompson protagonist to the hilt driving the film towards derangement.  Nominated for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, “Serie Noire” was named one of Time Out‘s 100 best French films of all time, and also received six César Award nominations, including Best Actor (Dewaere), Best Supporting Actor (Honorary Cesar winner Bernard Blier) and Best Supporting Actress (Boyer). Film Movement is releasing the classic noir in a gorgeous 2K digital restoration for optimal viewing. 

BONUS FEATURES 

  • Série Noire, The Darkness of the Soul featurette
  • Interview with Alain Corneau and Marie Trintignant
  • New essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton

About Film Movement

 Founded in 2002 as one of the first-ever subscription film services with its DVD-of-the-Month club, Film Movement is now a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement.

“FROM ICELAND TO EDEN”— A New Life

“FROM ICELAND TO EDEN”

A New Life

Amos Lassen

 Olivia (Telma Huld Johannesdottir) and Oliver (Hansen Eagle) are a young couple who become drug dealers in Reyjavik, but want nothing more than to get away and start a new life. When they decide to make a go for it with stolen narcotics from an infamous drug lord, their hopes and dreams begin to crumble.

As the opening credits roll, we see Oliver running through the streets and around buildings at night, as squad cars with sirens and lights blazing try to corner him. Oli simply hopes to evade the police, his soon-to-be acquaintance and lover, Olivia, tries to shake off a troubled past. The two meet under very stressful circumstances.

Both of them are unexpectedly homeless, Oli and Loa have to depend on the kindness of friends and go to the apartment of two gay men, Ronni (Gunnar Marís) and Gunni (Einar Viðar G. Thoroddsen) who become two reluctant participants in Oli and Loa’s adventure. Ronni berates Gunni for letting the couple into their house, mostly because Loa owes him money but the idea of financial reward wins the day. The two men hope to retire in Cuba, where a modest nest egg will allow them to live cheap and comfortably, provided they find a way to acquire sufficient funds. The motivations of avarice drive Oli and Loa forward onto their next exploit.

The energy in nearly every scene keeps the film interesting. Hatching a plan to start a new life for themselves, they decide that pilfering fortunes from the local narcotics kingpin is their best chance for success but the plan doesn’t turn out as hoped.

Lóa  is frequently too drugged up to understand what’s happening and Óliver apparently doesn’t have the ability to think ahead. They are quite annoying characters but their behavior seems so natural that it’s easy to relax and simply be carried along. Director Snævar Sölvason doesn’t allow time for much thought. This is immersive filmmaking, intense and absorbing all the way up to its unexpected ending.

The plot meanders but the actors give fine performances. Not everything is equally well worked out and there are points where the film is sentimental to a degree that undermines its wit, however, its energy and poise  make it interesting it should be seen.

“ALASTAIR SIM’S SCHOOL FOR LAUGHTER”— Four Classic Comedies

 

 

“ALASTAIR SIM’S SCHOOL FOR LAUGHTER”

Four Classic Comedies

Amos Lassen

 

Available on Blu-ray for the first Time in North America are four of Alastair Sim comedic classic fims as well as over two hours of bonus content including

two Hours of bonus content including featurettes and interviews, and a 24-page booklet with a new essay by Film Scholar Robert Bergen. Sim is perhaps

 best remembered as Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”, he became a leading star of British cinema after spending five years as a lecturer of elocution at the University of Edinburgh. One of the best-loved and most prolific actors in classic British comedy, Sim, often appeared in multiple roles, starring in more than fifty films beginning in 1935 and was both critically acclaimed and very popular.

 

 THE BELLES OF ST. TRINIAN’S (1954, directed by Frank Launder)

The schoolgirls of St. Trinian’s are more interested in men and mischief than homework and hockey, but even greater trouble beckons with the arrival of two new students. Features Alastair Sim playing dual roles as the headmistress, Miss Millicent Fritton, and her twin brother, Clarence. Based on the cartoons of Ronald Searle. 

SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS (1960, directed by Robert Hamer)

Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) tries hard to impress but always loses out to the rotter Delauney (Terry-Thomas). Then he enrolls in the “College of Lifemanship” run by “Professor” Stephen Potter (Alastair Sim) and learns “how to win without actually cheating!” But has he the courage to put all his lessons into effect? From the director of Kind Hearts and Coronets.

LAUGHTER IN PARADISE (1951, directed by Mario Zampi)

Famed Practical joker Henry Russell (Hugh Griffith) leaves 50,000 pounds to his four surviving relatives, including his cousin, retired army officer Deniston Russell (Alastair Sim). There’s just one stipulation – each of them has to undertake a task completely out of character for one month. As each sets out on their objective they find that quite apart from the promised riches, they are unexpectedly getting a lot out of the challenge. All except caddish Simon Russell, that is. Released in 1951, Laughter In Paradise was Britain’s top-grossing film. Watch carefully and see a young Audrey Hepburn in a bit part as a cigarette girl.

HUE AND CRY (1947, directed by Charles Crichton)

The first of the Ealing Studios “comedies.” After discovering that his favorite comic is being used to send messages between a master criminal and his gang of thieves, teenager Joe Kirby (Harry Fowler) sets out to alert writer Felix Wilkinson (Alastair Sim) and turn the page on the crooks.

 

BONUS FEATURES

 

THE BELLES OF ST. TRINIAN’S 

·       The Girls of St. Trinian’s featurette

·       Interview with film historian Geoff Brown

·       Interview with Dr. Melanie Williams, Sr. Lecturer in Film Studies, UEA

·       Interview with Alastair Sim’s Daughter, Meredith McKendrick

·       Interview with Steve Chibnall, Professor of British Cinema, De Montfort University

SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS

·       Interview with Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw

·       Interview with Graham McCann, Terry-Thomas biographer

·       Interview with Chris Potter, Stephen Potter’s grandson

·       School for Scoundrels restored trailer 

HUE AND CRY 

·       Interview with Steve Chibnall, Prof. of British Cinema, De Montfort U.

·       Locations Featurette 

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About Film Movement

 

Founded in 2002 as one of the first-ever subscription film services with its DVD-of-the-Month club, Film Movement is now a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement.

 

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