Category Archives: Film

CLASSICS COMING FROM FILM MOVEMENT

full

FILM MOVEMENT LAUNCHES CLASSICS LABEL WITH
ERIC ROHMER RE-RELEASE AT FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER

March 19, 2015 (New York, NY) – Film Movement (www.filmmovement.com), the New York-based film distribution company, announces today the launch of Film Movement Classics, a new label the company will use to restore and re-release out of print but highly sought-after films from the recent and distant past alike. The first two films to see theatrical re-releases in vibrant HD restorations are Eric Rohmer’s acclaimed FULL MOON IN PARIS, screening at Film Society of Lincoln Center, and THE MARQUISE OF O, which will see a theatrical release in select cities alongside Jessica Hausner’s AMOUR FOU.
The new label, launching with four titles scheduled for release in 2015, is the latest evolution for Film Movement since Michael E. Rosenberg joined the company in 2014. “There are so many wonderful, important films that are not available in the US,” Rosenberg said. “Launching our Classics label allows us to expand how we can serve our audience. Our core business will remain with highly-acclaimed new independent films, but now we can also bring back favorite titles from decades ago, newly restored.”
FULL MOON IN PARIS is the 1984 relationship drama about a young woman balancing several romantic interests; called “the very best of Eric Rohmer” by the New York Times on its original release, the film opens April 17 at Film Society of Lincoln Center, part of the complete Comedies and Proverbs series – six films Rohmer made between 1980 and 1987, each based on a proverb of Rohmer’s own creation. Pascale Ogier, who would die tragically young just months after the film’s U.S. release, won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival that year. Film Movement also premieres a brand new U.S. poster and trailer for the film Time Out London calls “elegant and incisive.” See both here.
With the March 18 theatrical release in New York (March 20 in Los Angeles) of Cannes Film Festival darling AMOUR FOU, Jessica Hausner’s meticulously executed observation of the love and death of writer Heinrich von Kleist, Film Movement also announces the release of Rohmer’s 1976 adaptation of von Kleist’s THE MARQUISE OF O, winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival that year. This classic period piece starring Bruno Ganz, called “witty, joyous and so beautiful to look at” by Vincent Canby of the New York Times, will screen in select arthouse theaters across the country alongside AMOUR FOU’s modern retelling of the end of von Kleist’s life. It will also stream on Fandor before releasing to wider On Demand platforms.
Other Film Movement Classics titles will include THE TALL BLOND MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE, Yves Robert’s 1972 blockbuster French comedy about a bumbling violinist mistaken for a secret agent, and Peter Greenaway’s THE PILLOW BOOK, the 1996 erotically-charged homage to calligraphy starring Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor. Film Movement will release each restored title on DVD an Bluray, as well as include exclusive bonus content on each; THE PILLOW BOOK includes a newly-recorded director’s commentary from Greenaway. Home video release dates and additional special features for each titles will be announced as each release approaches.
“We are proud of the first several films we are able to restore and make available again, and we look forward to many more to come,” said Rosenberg.

About Film Movement:
Launched in 2002, Film Movement is a full-service North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films, based in New York City. Film Movement has released more than 250 feature films and shorts from 50 countries on six continents, including top prize winners from Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Tribeca and other prestigious festivals. Film Movement releases its films through numerous distribution channels, including thousands of art-house cinemas, universities and libraries; home video; television outlets; Cable Video on Demand (including its very own branded cable VOD platform—Film Festival on Demand—available in over 40 million US homes); In-flight Entertainment, and broadband outlets. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com.

“THE KING OF MASKS”— Like a Fable


the king of masks

“The King of Masks”

Like a Fable

Amos Lassen

 Wang Bianlian (Zhu Xu), an aging street performer is known as the King of Masks. This is his story. His wife left him with and infant son over 30 years ago. When his son died at just 10 years old. Wang was terribly depressed and hoped for a son who would learn art. When a famous master performer of the Sichuan Opera offered to bring him into his act, Wang jumped at the chance fame and a possible fortune, but he decided to stay a simple street performer. One night, he buys a young boy from a slave trader posing as the boy’s parent. He thus found joy in life as he makes plans to teach “Doggie” (an affectionate nickname often used for young children in China) his art. But then he discovered that Doggie (Zhou Ren-ying) is really a girl.

Wu Tianming directs this film about an old man who opens his heart to an orphan. As much as he tries, Wang can’t stop loving the kid, even with all the trouble she stirs up. The story is reminiscent of Charles Dickens in the treatment of the father and child. Despite the humiliations Doggie has to endure, she is resilient girl and stays on as Wang’s cook and apprentice acrobat.We see what Doggie is willing to go to demonstrate her love and loyalty to the man she cherishes. In one of the film’s most poignant moments, she picks up a goddess statue on his boat and points out that he worships her.

When Doggie is kidnapped by a band of street thugs, presumably intent on selling the child into slavery, Wang is inconsolable, though when she returns with a real male heir in tow, he finds his fortunes looking up. But things get bad again. Wang needs love and affection and this story is told to us with beautiful direction and excellent performances. This becomes a story of redemption that shows us the alleyways and snaking trails of turn-of-the-century China, where child slavery was commonplace as starving families. Families often regarded daughters not so much as family members but as family members but as meal tickets.

“The King of Masks” pulls us into its simplicity, beauty and surprising emotional power. It benefits by the survival of ancient ways into modern times. Today a street performer might be scorned, but in the 1930s, he was seen as a member of an elite fraternity. Wang has a certain fame in the cities where he appears and gains respect from his colleagues–even the female impersonator who is a great opera star, doted on by army generals.. The story is something of a fable (the changeling, ancient secrets), but gains weight because we know that to Wang it makes a great difference whether Doggie is a boy or a girl.

“ALICE’S RESTAURANT” (Blu Ray)— “You Can Get Anything You Want…”

alice's restaurant

“Alice’s Restaurant” (Blu Ray)

“You Can Get Anything You Want…”

Amos Lassen

It was 1969 when Arlo Guthrie introduced us to “Alice’s Restaurant” and just about then Arthur Penn (who had made quite an impression on Hollywood with “Bonnie and Clyde”) and Venable Herndon wrote a script about American hippies based on Guthrie’s song about Alice. He said there were no hippies but rather vagabond souls and dropouts from the rat race of American life who wanted to find alternatives to the way things were being done.

alice1

It is a film that relates the mood of the moment to an older, grander tradition of American resistance. Restraint and integrity are used to say what it has to tell the world. Arlo Guthrie plays himself and visits with his counterculture friends, Ray and Alice Brook in Stockbridge, Massachusetts sometime in 1966 or 1967. The draft for Vietnam was getting serious and union activist and Arlo’s father, Woody, was about to die.

The show travels with its leading player Arlo Guthrie (Arlo himself) as he visits with his counterculture friends Ray and Alice Brock (James Broderick & Pat Quinn) in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. If the timeline is meant to be literal, the years are 1966 and ’67, just as the Vietnam draft is kicking in and just before the death of Arlo’s famous father, folk singer and union activist Woody Guthrie. Arlo tries to go to college but gives up after being harassed about his long hair, and the music faculty’s insistence on teaching him what he should play.

alice2

Arlo splits his time between playing in New York clubs and working with Ray and Alice who bought a deconsecrated church to establish a sort of roosting place for their various vagabond friends and artists. Alice does most of the work. She opens a lunch counter— “Alice’s Restaurant” while Ray competes in motorcycle races and plays the big-hearted greeter to one and all. Arlo writes a radio jingle for the restaurant, but had to leave often to be with his father who was dying of Huntington’s Disease. Woody can smoke and enjoy music, but he is unable to talk.

alice3

Then there was that famous Thanksgiving episode and there were Arlo’s experiences with the draft board that we see here. Unfortunately Bob and Alice’s relationship was falling apart and everyone is worried because they cannot help Shelley (Michael McClanathan), a heroin addict. Ray tries tough love and Alice offers affection, but Shelley just can’t put himself back together. While we all expected an uplifting film about the restaurant, we got a downer of a film in which the only convincing character is Arlo. He really acts or looks like a hippie. He drives his sweet  red microbus, wears very long hair and Whole Earth muslin and linen shirts in attractive styles and colors. He is exactly the kind of guy jerks would get picked on because he looks like a girl. The movie does take pains to show that Arlo likes women. A humorous bit in a crash house shows him declining an offer to sleep with Reenie (Shelley Plimpton), a groupie collecting musical lays. She thinks Arlo ‘may be an album.’

alice4

I expected a lot of humor but there are few jokes aside from the episodes about the draft board and about littering. Ray has enthusiasm and a sense of decency, but not the discipline to establish a real alternative living philosophy. He does get the excitement going but it is usually for drink. It is Alice who has to do the work that makes everything happen. The kind of people that we see here and a motley crew of 1960s artists, draft dodgers, panhandling musicians and suicidal junkies do not a family make. They’re the children of a previous generation of brave pioneers in the social wilderness that have been wiped out, marginalized or blacklisted out of existence.

Arlo seems like an awfully gentle guy to follow in the footsteps of his father, yet he’s a hero with talent who endures by living his beliefs. Unfortunately, “Alice’s Restaurant” is a party movie about a party that has grown old.

“LOST RIVERS”— Hidden Waterways

lost rivers

“Lost Rivers”

Hidden Waterways

Amos Lassen

History tells us that every major city was built at a site where there was a convergence of many rivers. As cities grew with the Industrial Revolution, these rivers became conduits for disease and pollution. The 19th century found a solution—- bury them underground and merge them with the sewer systems. They still run through today’s metropolises, but do so out of sight.

“Lost Rivers” looks at hidden waterways in cities around the world and introduces us to people dedicated to exploring and exposing them. This is an entertaining, surprising and optimistic film. The rivers once flowed freely and they provided the infrastructure upon which modern metropolises were built. However, they were covered to make way for progress and have long since been forgotten. Caroline Bâcle’s “Lost Rivers” uncovers some of the vast underground network of urban rivers showing us what is beneath where we stand. In London, rivers were first hidden in order to help in reducing waterborne disease caused by human pollution. Soon after, this very concept was adopted the world over. Today these rivers now merge with sewer networks and are used to transfer waste to treatment facilities while still using the original brickwork and tunnel systems that were designed more than a century ago.

Caroline Bâcle looks at the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul, the Saw Mill River in Yonkers, the Bova-Celato River in Italy and the Garrison Creek in Toronto, and retraces the history of the lost urban rivers while giving the viewer a firsthand look at these hidden “museums” with a covert group of urban explorers.

The film tells us how activists, artists and urban planners are devising strategies to unearth the rivers to attempt “to utilize natural water flow to ease the strained watershed infrastructure and reduce overflow waste from being dumped into lakes while, at the same time, creating natural park spaces for urbanites to reconnect with nature. Such projects have already taken place in Yonkers, Seoul and London with great success, yet the film seems to linger on the fact that the City of Toronto has rejected the same strategies and are doomed to continue causing excess pollution in Lake Ontario.”

 The film is a fascinating examination of a hidden world previously unknown by most. We get a spectacular look at an underground world with astutely observed editing and vibrant visuals. We see that sewer enthusiasts find beauty and redemption in “Lost Rivers”.

We meet Andrew and Danielle, a couple of outlaw “drainers” in Montreal who are sneaking into that city’s sewer/buried-river system by way of a golf course’s daylighted stream. Like others who share a similar passion for belowground waterways in cities worldwide this pair is exploring, mapping, and experiencing the routes of tributaries that used to flow into the St. Lawrence before Montreal’s urban enormity pushed its rivers away and out of sight.

Canadian director Bacle documents efforts in other cities to bring old rivers that though roofed over are still in their original courses, more or less to bring them aboveground once again. The photography is beautiful and the interviews are fascinating. Some of the results we see are wonderful and remarkable at the same time.

Impressive–at times almost poetic–photography and interviews with some dedicated drainers, visionary urban planners, and long-time activists and volunteers give viewers a sense of why some of these sewer enthusiasts got started with their cause in the first place. The results with some of the reclaimed watercourses are remarkable, to say the least.

“CURLING”— Father and Daughter

curling poster

“Curling”

Father and Daughter

Amos Lassen

“Curling” is the story of a father and a daughter who live in a remote part of the French-Canadian countryside. These are two individuals who are, in the words of director Denis Cote, “one foot outside of society”. He is a Québécois solitary man and his preteen daughter is cloistered.

Emmanuel Bilodeau is the film’s retiring and secretive motel and bowling-alley handyman, Jean-François. His own 12-year-old daughter, a non-actor, is Julyvonne, Jean-François’s daughter. They both need to experience an encounter with death in order to go toward life”. The father is a loner among loners. The film follows the lives of the two. When not at work, Jean-Francois makes every attempt to shield Julyvonne from the outside world. We’re offered little explanation as to why Julyvonne doesn’t attend school or play with friends, only that her mother’s incarceration may have triggered this outcome.

curling1

While her father works, Julyvonne explores the forest near their home. The film is puzzling and this is by intent. The film appeals to the emotions of the viewers and visually it is a feast. It is almost impossible to summarize so I will not even try—get a copy and see for yourself.


”WHERE IS ELLE KARI AND WHAT HAPPENED TO NORIKO-SAN”?— Looking for Heroes

 elle kari


”WHERE IS ELLE KARI AND WHAT HAPPENED TO NORIKO-SAN”?

Looking for Heroes

Amos Lassen

In the 1950’s there was a series of books called “Children of the World” and they became very popular. The books, which are still printed in Israel, were created by the Jewish-Swedish photographer, Anna Riwkin-Brick (1908-1970).  Nine of the books were written by Astrid Lindgren (who also wrote “Pippi Longstocking”). 

elle kari2

“Where is Elle-Kari and What Happened to Noriko-san?” is a documentary that looks for some of the heroes of the series: Elle-Kari from Lapland, Noriko-San from Japan, Dirk from Holland as well as some of the Israeli heroes. Were they real children? Where are they now? 

elle kari3

The film reminds us of vanishing childhood – the childhood of the children from the books, of the creator of the movie and of the children of pre-television Israel when trips to foreign places were such a distant dream.

“A Tale of Winter”— Torn Between Two, or Is It Three Men?

a tale of winter

“A Tale of Winter” (“Conte d’hiver” )

Torn Between Two Men or Is It Three?

Amos Lassen

 Félicie (Charlotte Véry), a hairdresser, is torn between two men: her boss Maxence (Michel Voletti) and an intellectual bookseller Loic (Hervé Furic). However she cannot commit to either man because her true love is Charles, the man who fathered her child. She and Charles had a summer fling five years earlier but she has lost touch with him but openly yearns for him. Felice believes Charles to be her basert (her soul mate). Because of a mix-up on their addresses, Charles and Felicie fell out of touch. Moving five years forward, we see Felicie and her daughter living with her mother in Paris. She is certain that her life will fall into line romantically. She believes in coincidence even though she does not think that her fling with Charles was a coincidence.

a tale a tale1

The film opens with Felicie finding Charles on the beach where she quickly falls in love with him and she knows that this is the real thing.

Felicie  is absorbed by her own case. She knows she will never love anyone the way she loves the absent Charles. Director Eric Rohmer tells her story in the way it might unfold in real life. Felicie’s mother is sensible and full of tact and they discuss Maxence and Loic. Her mother hesitantly observes that Loic is smarter, she explains that he’s too smart for her, and not physical enough. She compares the men unfavorably to one another.

a tale

Maxence takes Felicie to Nevers and there she has a revelatory moment about Charles and leaves Maxence. She also leaves Loic and concedes that she will never see Charles again. Loic takes her to a performance of Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale,” and she cries as King Leontes beholds the statue of his wife and is told that to bring her to life, ”It is required that you do awake your faith.”

Rohmer is known for his romantic comedies about those who think that they are rational but who are also capable of self-delusion. Felicie has a mysterious gift of intuition. She is an agnostic yet she tells Loic that she had an epiphany and she realized that she could never spend her life with Max. Felicie is not smart and she says so, yet she surprises Loic with thoughts that are reminiscent of Pascal and with thoughts about reincarnation that sound like Plato. She is not a reader yet there seems to be something quite intelligent there.

When they went to see a production of Shakespeare’s “Winter’s Tale,” the magical reconciliation scene proves to be an omen. We also have a reconciliation scene that we do not expect and it is funny and ambiguous at the same time. So now you are wondering what happened. You will have to see the film to find out.

“24 DAYS”— Held Captive: Another Look at Antisemitism

24 days

“24 DAYS”

Held Captive: Another Look at Antisemitism

Amos Lassen

“24 Days” is a film that is based on a memoir written by Ilan Halimi’s mother and it is a chronicle of the 24 days when, Halimi, a young Jewish cell-phone salesman, was held captive in Paris by a group of African and North African immigrants who were later known as the “Gang of Barbarians”. While Halimi was held, his family was subjected to blackmail. Halimi’s kidnapping and murder sent shock waves through France and showed the world the dangerous wave of anti-Semitism that was and still is sweeping through France, a country that is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community.

24-1

It all began on Friday January 20, 2006 when Ilan Halimi, then 23-years-old was targeted just because he was Jewish, was kidnapped and taken to an apartment in the Bagneux neighborhood of Paris. He was held captive and tortured for three weeks before being dumped in a woodlot by his captors. He was later found motionless and naked near the railroad tracks at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois. In the film, Ruth Halimi, Ilan’s mother, looks back at those 24 in which she and her ex-husband Didier received almost 700 calls and ransom demands that constantly changed as well as insults, threats and photos of their tortured son. The family lived through 24 days of anguish  as they waited silently and filled with fear all the while praying that the police would help them and save their son.

The problem, however, was that the police didn’t know who was responsible for his kidnapping. Another further problem was that no one realized or recognized in enough time just how hateful and anti-Semitic the abductors were or that Ilan would die as a result.

24-2

 This is not a documentary but a re-enactment that begins with Ruth Halimi (Zabou Breitman) speaking to the viewers and informing us not only that the events we are about to see actually happened, but also that we will see it all from her perspective. The film, is based upon a particular and partial source yet director Alexandre Arcady makes clear what aspects of the story come from Ruth Halimi and what aspects are observations.

Ilan was lured by a beautiful woman into a kidnapping trap and this is just one of multiple incidents orchestrated by the network of criminals. Their plan was to hold the Ilan for ransom, assuming that his family, because it was Jewish, not only has money but will be willing to pay for the life of their loved one. We see the thrilling events of Halimi’s capture as well as the struggles that unfolded as a result. The film considers the political context, as the actions would eventually be declared as acts of anti-Semitism. Director Arcady directs the film as an understatement even during the violence we see here.

 Arcady directs with admirable understatement, despite moments of violence and despair. He avoids every cliché, refusing to glamorize the unglamorous and never resorting to camera tricks for cheap thrills. The book that was the basis for the movie as well as the film emphasizes that this was an act of prejudice. Though dismissed at first, the notion that this was a political act becomes legally manifest, and that Ilan Halimi becomes known as a victim of anti-Semitism. “24 Days” makes it rather unclear whether the events were truly an act of anti-Semitism. Django, who was the mastermind behind the kidnapping, hates Jews yet it seems more plausible that the network targeted Jews for more pragmatic purposes, such as the fact that they often have money or that they are easier to control.

24-3

The abductors play a psychological game with the family. The female negotiator tells Ilan’s father how to respond to the criminals and she is very good at that especially when Django suffers meltdowns. However, she also splits the family. The family,therefore,  faces turmoil,  and is confused about how they should act, and whether they should trust the cops.  When Django decides to end it all, we question whether things would have ended differently had the cops or the family acted differently. At the end of the film, Ruth once again addresses the viewers and says that the gang of barbarians tortured him because he was a Jew and she states that she “wants his death to sound an alarm”. The ending of the film is actually a call to action. “24 Days” makes us all the more aware of the terrible things that happen everyday because of religion. While the crime was the main focus of the film, we also see what happened to the family and the police as the story unfolded.

The film opens nationally on April 24.

 

 

 

STRAND RELEASING 2015 LINE UP AS OF MARCH 11, 2015


Strand_B_W_logoe4756c

STRAND RELEASING 2015 LINE UP AS OF MARCH 11, 2015

CUPCAKES (Comedy/Musical) Directed by Eytan Fox (The Bubble, Yossi & Jagger, Yossi). Set in contemporary Tel Aviv, six diverse best friends gather to watch the wildly popular UniverSong competition. Appalled by the Israeli entry, they decide to create their own and record it on a mobile phone. Unbeknownst to them, their performance is seen by the UniverSong judges and selected as Israel’s entry for next year’s competition. With a soundtrack provided by Babydaddy from Scissor Sisters, this hilarious comedy is a refreshing ode to music and friendship. Official Selection: Inside Out Toronto, Miami LGBT Film Festival, Outfest. Opens in New York on Friday, March 27, 2015 at the Quad Cinema. Opens in Los Angeles on Friday, April 3, 2015 at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3. 

GERONTOPHILIA (Comedy/Romance) Directed by Bruce La Bruce. In this wry “reverse Lolita” tale, 18-year-old Lake discovers he has an unusual attraction for the elderly. Fate lands him a job at an assisted-living facility where he develops an intimate relationship with Mr. Peabody. Upon discovering that the clients are being over-medicated to make them more manageable, Lake weans Mr. Peabody off his medication and helps him escape, resulting in a road trip that deepens their bond. The always-provocative Bruce LaBruce returns with a delicately perverse romantic comedy that is both darkly humorous and emotionally heartfelt. Official Selection: Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival. Winner, Best Canadian Feature, Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Opens in New York on Friday, May 1, 2015 at the Village East Cinema. Opens in Los Angeles TBD. National 

SET FIRE TO THE STARS (Drama) Directed by Andy Goddard. Based on true events, Elijah Wood stars as John Malcolm Brinnin, the New York academic who brought Dylan Thomas to America. Actor/co-writer Celyn Jones plays the volatile celebrity poet – tormented by anonymity, alcohol and the abyss – who scandalized the Manhattan literati of the Fifties and challenged Brinnin’s hero worship of his work. In the face of the Welsh poet’s wilder excesses in the Big Apple – angel, beast and madman – John has no choice but to hijack Dylan to a private retreat to get him ready for America. The days and nights that follow will change his life forever. Part literary biopic and – shot in cut-glass black-and-white – part love-letter to the American B-movies of the Forties and Fifties, Andy Goddard’s debut feature is both a character driven chamber piece and a cautionary tale about the fly trap of meeting your heroes. Official Selection: Edinburgh International Film Festival. Opening May/June 2015. 

LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT (Comedy/Romance) Directed by Thomas Cailley. Arnaud (Kevin Azaïs), facing an uncertain future and a dearth of choices in a small French coastal town, meets and falls for the apocalyptic-minded Madeleine (Adèle Haenel), who joins an army boot camp to learn military and survival skills to prepare for the upcoming environmental collapse. Intrigued and excited by Madeleine’s wild ideas, Arnaud signs up for the boot camp himself. They soon realize that the boot camp is harder than they’d imagined, but the experience nonetheless cements them together as the couple continue to explore their young love. Official Selection: Cannes Film Festival, Philadelphia Film Festival, Miami International Film Festival, Colcoa Film Festival, Rendez-vous with French Cinema. Opens in New York on Friday, May 22, 2015 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Opens in Los Angeles on Friday, May 29, 2015 at Laemmle Theaters. NY/National Publicity contact: Emma Griffiths, Emma Griffiths PR (917) 806-0599, emma@eg-pr.com.

A BORROWED IDENTITY (Drama) Directed by Eran Riklis. Eyad, who grew up in an Arab town in Israel, is given the chance to go to a prestigious Jewish boarding school in Jerusalem. The first and only Arab to be accepted there, he desperately tries to fit in with his Jewish schoolmates and Israeli society. Soon, Eyad develops a friendship with Jonathan, a boy suffering from muscular dystrophy, and gradually becomes part of his family. Being an outsider, Eyad wants to belong, even if he doesn’t exactly know to whom or to what. After falling in love with Naomi, a Jewish girl, he has to leave school when their relationship is uncovered and he discovers that he will have to sacrifice his identity in order to be accepted. Faced with a choice, Eyad will have to make a decision that will change his life forever. Official Selection: Locarno Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival. Opening Summer 2015. 

THE CUT (Drama/History) Directed by Fatih Akin. Mardin, 1915: one night, the Turkish police round up all the Armenian men in the city, including the young blacksmith, Nazaret Manoogian, who is separated from his family. Years later, after managing to survive the horrors of the genocide, he hears that his two daughters are also still alive. He becomes fixated on the idea of finding them and sets off to track them down. His search takes him from the Mesopotamian deserts and Havana to the barren and desolate prairies of North Dakota. On this odyssey, he encounters a range of very different people: angelic and kind-hearted characters, but also the devil incarnate. Official Selection: Venice Film Festival. Opening Summer 2015. 

IN THE BASEMENT (Documentary) Directed by Ulrich Seidl. Following his Paradise Trilogy, director Ulrich Seidl returns to the documentary form with IN THE BASEMENT, an exploration of the Austrian basement, a place of privacy, indulgence, hobbies and fantasies but also a place of darkness and fear. Official Selection: Venice Film Festival. Opening TBD. 

XENIA (Drama) Directed by Panos H. Koutras. Strangers in their own birthplace, 16-year-old Danny and 18-year-old Odysseus cross the entire country in search of their Greek father, after their Albanian mother passes away. Determined to force him to acknowledge paternity, little do they know that the road to the much-coveted Greek citizenship is paved with ghosts from the past, adult savagery and a dream that needs to come true, no matter what. Reaching the end of this initiatory journey they eventually come of age even if Greece refuses to follow. Official Selection: Cannes Film Festival. Opening TBD. 

GUIDANCE (Comedy) Directed by Pat Mills. David Gold, 36, a pathologically immature former child actor, has never been able to get over high school. Recently diagnosed with skin cancer, unemployed and with nothing left to lose, he fakes his resume and gets a job as a high school guidance counselor. Quickly winning over the students at Grusin High with his laidback attitude and similar interests, he befriends Jabrielle, a teenaged outcast and soon learns that sometimes you can go too far, especially when it comes to committing a ridiculous crime. Official Selection: Toronto International Film Festival. Opening TBD. 

MAY ALLAH BLESS FRANCE (Drama/Biography) Directed by Abd al Malik. Regis, a young, black teenager whose sole aspiration is to be a successful rap artist, must first overcome the underprivileged, drug-ridden French suburbs of his upbringing in this black and white debut from hip-hop musician Abd Al Malik. Amidst his double life as a petty criminal and an aspiring artist, Regis eventually finds Islam after the death of a close friend. The film, based on Malik’s real-life experiences, follows the young convert as he navigates the music industry, street violence and racism, leading him to newfound fame in the world of rap and slam-poetry. Official Selection: Toronto International Film Festival. Opening TBD. 

“STEAK KNIVES”— Some Birthday!!

steakknives-poster

“Steak Knives”

Some Birthday!

Amos Lassen

How do we know what is the right birthday gift? Here we have a short film about a man whose life is threatened by his wife when he gives her steak knives as a birthday gift. Steak knives seem like a great gift—knives are like underwear—one never has enough.

steak knives1

At Katrine’s (Audrey Noone) party, everything was fine until people left and John (David Afflick) learns that his wife is none too pleased with his gift. They have been married some fourteen years but it seems that Katrine was expecting something other than a set of knives that do not represent much to her. She thinks about a possible different use for her gift—something for which these knives were not intended. Katrine is well aware that John is totally in her power. Up until this point John had been a good husband except for that time two years before when he had a bit of a dalliance with another woman. However, Katrine is not one who forgives easily…

The entire movie runs less than four minutes yet it tells a story with surprises. The cast does a fantastic bit of acting and it is amazing how much they do in such a short time. For that director Chris Esper gets credit. For a film that is shorter than what it takes me to make a cup of coffee is absolutely astonishing. What I really found interesting is thinking about whether this is a drama or a comedy or both. There is something exciting to be held in suspense for just four minutes and when I went back to watch a couple of more times, it took me longer to write down what I saw than to actually see it.

steak knives2

Immediately we enter a world that seems serene but we soon realize that this is not the case at all. From serenity we move to suspense and ultimately to the deed. I was sorry to see the film end—it managed to pull me is so deeply and quickly. Because the story is so farfetched it is believable (if you understand what I mean by that). Sure the murder is an exaggeration of a response of a wife who does not forge the past. I was reminded of a short Hitchcock in which a woman killed her husband with a leg of lamb that she then cooked and invited the police to eat.

Granted the film is exaggerated yet it remains chilling to a degree and this is what I think makes me like it. As we watch it our minds change and any director who is capable of pulling that off in less than four minutes is a director to watch. After all were we not at a party where everyone seemed to be having a good time? We certainly were not anticipating murder.

steak knives3

Suddenly Katrine is frustrated and irate—her eyes open wide, she movies from crying to sarcasm; she grabs a knife…. and everything changes. We are shocked by the unexpected and we remain that way.