The Icarus Films September 4, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 French political drama "This Is Our Land" is a perfect way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this company that literally prides itself on distributing movies from "independent producers worldwide." This fictional account of a visiting nurse/single mere of two being recruited to run for mayor of her native town in Northern France is an ideal blend of the "provocative" documentaries that are the focus of earlier years in the life of Icarus and the non-fiction fare that that company increasingly distributes.
"Land" follow the (reviewed ) July 2018 Icarus release of the French film "The Great Game." That one has a political veteran ensnaring an unwitting former radical into a coup attempt,
The election of Emmanuel Macron in a campaign centered around the flood of immigrants into France provides the general context for "Land." The "liner notes" on the back cover of the DVD state that this film about the local conservative party recruiting football (my people call it soccer) mom Pauline Duhez to run for mayor is the follow-up of filmmaker Lucas Belvaux to his political thriller "Rapt" about the kidnapping of a French politician.
"Land" exceeds the standard for a good foreign film. It not only can be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the U.S. and still make sense, this one is particularly relevant to our state of affairs. We have the same political divide that involves equivalently strong views about immigrants.
We meet Pauline conducting her visits to her elderly clients; an unexpected situation at one home greatly throws off her schedule. Many American single moms can relate to the largely absent ex-husband of Pauline refusing to help with their offspring.
The day continues with Pauline dealing with difficult patients and equally challenging spouses. This typical day ends with this angel of mercy going to the home of her father to pick up her children Tom and Lili. The tension there relates to the father of Pauline refusing to eat the healthy foods that his medical problems require.
The aforementioned aspects of the life of Pauline put her on the political radar of former fascist/long-term family friend/professional mentor Dr. Philipe Berthier (prolific French actor Andre Dussollier). A side note regarding this relationship is that the father of Pauline being a communist seems to have little impact on the relationship between his family and Berthier.
The pitch of Berthier to Pauline includes good humor related (pun intended) to the importance of not letting the politics of the "fathers" being "sins" that tarnish the "sons." He assures her both that her lack of political experience makes her a strong candidate and that her moderate views are in line with the folks who are promoting her campaign.
Other good humor comes via the pros quickly trying to physically and otherwise mold Pauline into their image; this extends well beyond the extreme makeover.
The other piece of the puzzle is Pauline renewing her relationship with former high school boyfriend/current soccer coach of Tom Stephane "Stanko" Stankowiak. The violent past/string political views/current militia activity making this beau an increasingly strong political liability ultimately prompt Berthier to step up his political game regarding getting this man out of the picture. This aspect of the film reinforces the concept that no politic animals have clean paws.
Things fully come to a head when all the worlds collide while Pauline is campaigning, The proportional fallout causes her to push back in a manner that jeopardizes everything. The large theme this time goes back centuries; an "innocent" is thrust from his or her world (a.k.a. comfort zone) into a brave new world that initially seems better than the one that is left behind. This ultimately leads to circumstances that typically require either fully getting with the program to returning to the old life. The associated concept that you cannot fight city hall is particularly ironic in this case,
The conclusion is the icing on the cake; we think that it is a case of little Pauline happy at last when Belvaux throws one last curve that is not so far-fetched in concept and is very believable in execution.
Along the lines of a final twist, Americans truly will see their own political system in this film. One need only watch a scene in which an offhand remark at a neighborhood barbecue leads to tears and recriminations to see that modern politics make ex bedfellows.
One general takeaway from the Icarus Films August 14, 2018 DVD of the 2014 docudrama "Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart" is that it shows that lesser filmmakers should be careful when telling reviewers to go ahead and try if they think that they can do better. In this case, former Cahhiers du Cinema critic Cedric Anger shows that those of us who watch and analyze more than 300 movies every year know of which we write. A side note is that Anger is a very apt surname for a film critic.
Anger management by the writer/director of "Heart" begins with the ripped-from-the-history-books story of actual gendarme/serial killer Alain Lamere, whose killing spree keeps him busy during the winter of 1978-79. The name has been changed to Frank Neuhart in absolutely no effort to protect the not-so-innocent.
The following YouTube clip of the "Heart" trailer perfectly conveys the drama of the film and the stone-cold nature of the killer.
The opening scenes of "Heart" establish the modus operendi of our excitable boy. Two teen girls are headed out on their Vespas for a night on the town not knowing that Neuhart is stalking them. He runs one off the road before shockingly and brutally attacking the other and then goes back for a second bite of the apple. The title of the film relates to his choice of her body part to shoot,
The next big shock occurs when Neuhart returns home, strips down, follows a bizarre rite, and then dons his gendarme uniform. Thus begins the most creepy aspect of the film in the form of watching Neuhart being a major player in the investigation of those killings and the subsequent murders.
A personal experience with a psychotically scary creepy respondent to a roommate ad being the same guy as someone presenting himself as very normal and once even denying being the other dude shows that Lamere/Neuhart has cousins out there. But for the brains of Nelson, the psycho would have had his address and done God knows what. But for the compassion of Nelson, this guy would have ended up with a roommate who would have put him on the receiving ends of the acts in which he desired to engage with your not-so-humble reviewer. The rest of the story is that local gendarmes scared this nutcase far away from Nelson.
An element of "Heart" that would be amusing in lesser hands but is chilling under Anger is the Superman aspect of the investigation, Neither victim, nor witnesses, nor fellow officers recognize Neuhart as the killer even when he is holding a very accurate police-artist sketch of the killer. One spoiler is that Neuhart does not bother putting on glasses in an attempt to conceal his identity.
Old-fashioned thinking even by '70s standards is almost as disturbing, Neuhart making a rookie mistake that prompts his "superiors" to suspect that one of their own is the killer illogically prompts focusing the investigation on the gay community.
The investigation taking that left turn is a meta reflection of an issue that early gay-rights organizations raise. These activists protest that films only depict homosexual men as limp-wristed sissies and/or vicious murderers. An interesting aspect of this is that Anger indicates that Neuhart is closer to the middle range of the Kinsey Scale than that not-so-macho man realizes.,
Other forms of l;aw-enforcement negligence include not seeing literally what is under their noses as Neuhart increasingly should be a prime suspect. This includes virtually catching him in the act and revealing his subterfuge.
A more fascinating aspect is that manner in which Neuhart suppresses his dark passenger while he goes through the motions of doing his job. It shows the extent to which people with severe mental issues literally can get away with murder.
The big picture this time is that "Heart" proves both that truth often is stranger than fiction and that a good story and talented actors can draw an audience into a film without giving them copious nudity and/or bloodshed. As mentioned above, the background of Anger teaches him that less can be more.
The Icarus Films July 24, 2018 DVD release of the 2015 political thriller "The Great Game" (a.k.a. "Le Grand Jeu"") indicates that corrupt power-brokers from every country utilize the same playbook. A similar universal truth exists regarding the bedfellows with whom our elected officials and their staff find themselves.
The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-HEAVY trailer for "Game" achieves its goal of accurately conveying the tone and the themes of the film.
"Game" fully gets afoot when one-book-wonder novelist Pierre Blum and self-proclaimed problem-solver Joseph Paskin meet at a casino. Pierre is attending the same wedding as his ex-wife with whom he has a much more successful divorce than marriage; Paskin is there to gamble.
The entertaining odd tone of the film begins with Paskin asking Blum whether he is an alcoholic and numerous equally personal questions within seconds of the start of their less-than-beautiful friendship. This conversation including Blum being the author of a well-received book several years earlier but not writing anything since leads to the proverbial seemingly innocent offer that turns out to be a Satanic bargain.
The deal is that Paskin pays Blum to ghost write a subversive book that advocates civil (and less-than-civil) disobedience in exchange for a large sum of money and total anonymity. The rest of the disclosed story is that the manifesto is part of a larger plan of Paskin to turn the hearts and minds of the French people against the current Minster of the Interior for the fun and profit of Paskin.
Paskin apparently making a great effort (and demonstrating tremendous skill) in tracking down Blum after their purportedly chance encounter is the first development that triggers the spidey sense of Blum. Learning the rest of the story provides more reason to run, not walk, away,
Like all good thrillers, the suspense escalates as the audience learns more about the horse that Paskin has in the race to pull off a coup. This coincides with being a ghost writer coming back to haunt Blum to the extent that he must hide at a farm to avoid buying one.,
Blum coming under attack from the left and the right understandably raises the stakes for him; loves past and present creating additional drama further leaves the audience guessing regarding the outcome.,
Writer-director Nicolas Pariser shows additional good basic instincts regarding an apt epilogue to this film that presents itself as a fiction or non-fiction book on its subject. A scene seconds before the end credits begin rolling provides an awesome final aha moment.
The bigger picture thus time is the verification of the depths to which government officials sink to manipulate those whom thee individuals are elected to serve. The lesson here is that turning 30 does not preclude trusting you but getting your paycheck from a political entity does.
The Icarus Films July 10, 2018 DVD release of the 2015 French romdram "In Harmony" once again shows how the viewing public benefits from that company filling its catalog with "films from independent producers worldwide." This tale of unmarried recently paraplegic horse trainer/equestrian Marc and married insurance company rep. Florence charged with having Marc accept a low-ball settlement shows that films about relationships in which loathe turns to love can be much more than an unwatchable chick flick.
A related big takeaway for straight dudes is that "Harmony" can score you twofer points in terms of it being a romdram and a French film. The best part is that you will like this movie that lacks any overblown angst and melodramatic declarations of love.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Harmony" achieves its purpose of accurately conveying the tones of the film.
Florence literally and figuratively comes on the scene in the wake of her colleague failing to get Marc to accept what he considers an inadequate amount for the harm from falling off his symbolically named horse Othello while doing a stunt for a film. Writer-director Denis Dercourt uses clever exposition by having Florence view a DVD with relevant footage of the circumstances of the accident.
Marc giving Florence the same "and the horse you rode in on" message that he gave her colleague sends her back empty-handed to her not-so-pleased employer, The gist of the matter is that the company is facing heavy liability regarding the accident,
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Marc is contending with the dual challenges of his personally designed rehab. and the insurance company essentially trying to starve him out.
The impact of the events on Florence include Mark doing what he loves best and being determined to return to it reminding her of abandoning her dreams in favor of a a steady paycheck. She further is reminded of the ruthless nature of the insurance industry.
This leads to the initial betrayal of the insurance company by Florence that is typical in this type of film. This leads to the also standard true test of loyalty regarding her having to make a strong stand on one side or the other.
All this occurs in the background of our couple developing a more stable relationship and Florence helping Marc get back in the saddle. The nice thing this time is that both people are nice and lack the extreme personalities that characterize the lesser fare of this type that Hollywood produces.
Decourt also handles the inevitable meeting between Marc and the husband of Florence well. One spoiler is that no punches are thrown. This good track record continues to the end with Dercourt providing a somewhat unexpected but happy ending for all that makes the audience want to see the Chapter Three of the leads.
'In Her Name' DVD: Compelling Ripped From Headlines Docudrama on Case of Rape-Murder of 14 Year-Old Girl
Icarus Films awesomely blurs the line between its history distributing "innovative and provocative" documentaries and its current mission of releasing DVDs (including documentaries) of "films from independent producers worldwide" with the January 16, 2018 release of the 2016 docudrama "In Her Name" (nee "Kalinka").
The "docu" part comes from basing the film on the real-life 30-year campaign of accountant Andre Bamberski (Daniel Auteuil) to have the French legal system hold Dr. Dieter Krombach responsible for the rape and murder of the then 14-year old daughter of Bamberski.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Name" looks like a promo. for a major Hollywood thriller because the real events are straight out of that genre. They also show that there is not always a difference between fact and fiction.
The trifecta of globally related elements make this one very relevant to every viewer. The sexual violation and related killing of a young teen girl sadly is relatively common. The associated elements of the rapist-killer being both a stepfather and someone with whom Andre spouse Dany had an affair also is not unheard of. The final aspect of this is Andre never giving up his cause despite all that it costs him. In other words, most of these actual events are not unique either to this case or to the countries in which they occur.
The film starting near the end of the story with the modern-day arrest of Andre for taking the law into his own hands is an example of a pet peeve of film critic Leonard Maltin; Maltin is critical of what he thinks is virtually every film made during the past few years starting with a dramatic scene and quickly cutting to another scene with an inter-title along the lines of "two weeks ago."
In the case of "Name," the action shifts from 2012 to 1974. Writer-director Vincent Garenq legitimately does so to strike the proper balance between exposition and quickly grabbing the audience. This relates to providing folks who do not know this story information about how the relationship between Dieter and Dany leads to the rape-murder.
The flashback brings us to 1974 Morocco where the young daughter of Dieter and her classmate Kalinka Bamberski are friends. Dieter soon seduces Dany into including benefits in their friendship, and she subsequently confesses that affair. That adultery prompts the Bamberskis to move back to France. A creepy scene as they are preparing to leave Morocco provides the first sense that the evil side of Dieter extends beyond seducing a married woman.
The affair (and the deception) continuing leads to the Bamberskis divorcing. The circumstances of the events that trigger the 30-year quest of Andre are shocking and sadly relatable. He knows that Kalinka and her brother are in Germany with their mother and now step-father Dieter. He does not expect to get a telephone call telling him that Kalinka is dead.
This is akin to a relative either suddenly getting sick or going into the hospital and then dying either during the proceeding or in the period following that stay. The story almost always either is that the doctors do not know what occurred or that they do know but they are not negligent.
Andre learns on arriving in Germany that the cause of death is unknown; he is told that Kalinka is discovered the morning after an uneventful night and that Dieter is asserting to have given her injections and taken other measures to save her.
Andre pushing hard to get the autopsy report both provides more information regarding the condition of Kalinka at the time of her death and indications that that exam is incomplete. The strong implication is that the medical examiner is protecting one of his own.
This leads to 30 years of Andre seeking to hold Dieter responsible only to always have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory; this includes obtaining a favorable judgment from a French court only to have it not be enforced and a German court proceeding regarding a teenage girl accusing Dieter of a similar form of rape as Kalinka only resulting in jail time through the relentless efforts of Andre.
These efforts and Andre constantly petitioning the court system and government officials for relief deplete both his financial resources and his personal relationships. This puts him in good company with countless real, reel, real-reel crusaders who continue pursuing a just and righteous cause long after 99 percent of us would have abandoned it to preserve our assets, our connections with the important people in our lives, and our sanity.
Andre hiring thugs to grab Dieter and essentially drop him at the door of the police station leads to the events from the opening minutes of "Name." We then see Andre as a guest of the state and facing several years of incarceration for doing what seems to be the job of the legal system.
Both modern filmmaking and the common flaws of legal systems around the world make it equally likely to those who do not know the actual events that inspire the movie that Andre will be a martyr, that Dieter will be jailed for his crimes, or that there will be some combination of the two. You need to watch to find out but are sure to feel emotion regardless of the conclusion,
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Name" is strongly encouraged either toemail me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Icarus Films chooses wisely regarding selecting the 2012 Chinese film "Three Sisters" for the return to its roots of distributing "innovative and provocative" documentaries after releasing several equally stimulating fictional foreign films, such as the Unreal TV reviewed pitch black "Heathers" style "Alena." "Sisters" hits real and virtual store shelves on June 13, 2017. One of many terrific things about this movie is that it achieves the documentary ideal of equally entertaining and educating the audience.
The nine major film festival awards, including several "Best Film" wins, reflect the compelling nature of director Wang Bing turning his camera on the titular siblings and allowing the audience to watch them surprisingly happily go about their impoverished daily lives sans narration and talking heads. Additional praise comes in the form of "Sisters" being a New York Times Critics' Pick.
Ten year-old YingYing is the surrogate mother to 6 year-old Zhenzhen, and the baby in every sense 4 year-old Fenfen. The actual mother is completely out of the picture, and Dad is in the city trying to earn money. A nearby aunt provides some support.
Watching these girls living alone on an isolated farm in 19th century conditions as if doing so if normal is more fascinating than anything from Hollywood in the past several years. One scene in which uncomplaining children collect dung in baskets with their bare hands makes you want to rip the video game console out of the hands of every spoiled brat in the Western world who refuses to clean his or her room and drag that ungrateful cur out to live in the garden shed for a weekend.
The roughly 2:30 run time and the 2.5 years of filming in "Sisters" provide a great deal of ground to cover. It starts well with an opening scene that perfectly introduces the concept of the documentary in a relatable manner. YingYing is getting everyone ready in the morning; Zhenzhen is picking on Fenfen. That meanness prompts Fenfen to cry, which requires that YingYing scold one sister and comfort the other.
Another relatable segment has YingYing have a schoolyard conflict and attend a typical Chinese-style class a short while later.
One of the more amusing moments relates to a baby goat misbehaving. Other memorable ones include Dad and his father discuss the former hiring a matchmaker to find him a new wife. Dad stating that he wants any potential mate to fully know what she is getting into contributes a fun "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" element.
A scene in which Dad and the younger children board a bus provides a good sense of the bureaucracy of China; suffice it to say that this event fully illustrates the regimented style of life in that country.
Politics only directly comes into play once. The agenda of a meeting that Dad attends includes discussing the expansion of electric service. The gist is that the government is pursuing what seems to be a standard policy of benefiting the haves at the literal and figurative expenses of the have-nots.
The special feature includes a comprehensive 16-page booklet on both "Sisters" and Bing. The insights in an essay provides a strong "You Are There" sense.
The May 9. 2017 DVD release of the 2015 Swedish drama "Alena" is the latest example of the glory that is the Icarus Films expansion beyond distributing "innovative and provocative documentary films." This live-action tale, which is based on a graphic novel by Kim W. Anderson, of the new girl in school having major adjustment issues is an awesome combination of the 1988 mother of all "Mean Girls" films "Heathers" and the '80s sitcom "The Facts of Life." A vicious croquet game is the most direct homage to "Heathers" and "Alena" blonde queen bee Filippa starting a spiteful rumor that a classmate is a lesbian is straight (no pun intended) out of "Facts."
The following YouTube clip of an "Alena" trailer achieves its goal of conveying the style and the intensity of this well-made film.
"Alena" commences with the titular version of Bronx scholarship girl Jo of "Facts" enrolling in the Eastland Schoolesque prestigious girls' academy in the wake of an unspecified event that prevents her from remaining at her public school. This transition comes courtesy of a highly sympathetic school counselor whom Alena considers a savior but is a "pregnant cow" in the eyes of Filippa.
The mere presence of Alena at the school is enough to trigger the ire of Filippa; expressing interest in joining the lacrosse team that "Blair" rules with an iron fist earns the new girl a lacrosse ball in the back. This leads to more intense torment with a perverse sexual element.
"Heathers" style eye-for-an-eye retribution comes via public school bestie Josefin, whose tactics also VERY APTLY earn her the title of being the worst enemy of Alena. More positive support comes in the form of an increasingly close friendship with new classmate Fabienne.
Filippa becoming the Wile E. Coyote of our high school drama only drives her closer to the edge of insanity to the degree that her sense that times are desperate provoke desperate measures. This only further enrages Josefin and has a proportional impact on Alena.
Concurrent related drama comes in the form of reveals regarding both the reason for Alena leaving her high school and the role of Josefin regarding that development. This adds the element of all good films that there is my story, your story, and the truth.
All of this comes to a head on the night of big party in a manner that throws an element of "Carrie" in the mix. Suffice it to say that Filippa might as well have dumped a bucket of pig blood on the head of Alena.
"Alena" gets As regarding the test for foreign films; it has relatable universal themes and could have been shot word-for-word and scene-for-scene in the United States. It additionally realizes that not every movie must have a Hollywood ending
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