The Icarus Films DVD of the 2017 Chinese drama "The Widowed Witch" helps bring one of the most stylized and bizarre (not to mention honestly cynical) films in the past few years to North American audiences. Whether "Witch" casts its spell on you partially depends on whether you believe in magic (i.e., whether you believe that you believe that you do.) A related note is that if your mission is magic,your love will shine through.
The accolades for this bizarre comically tragic mash-up of the '60scoms "Bewitched" and "The Andy Griffith Show" include director/writer Cai Chengjie winning the coveted Tiger Award at the 2018 Rotterdam International Film Festival. Star Tian Tian equally deserves the Best New Actress trophy that she brings home from the 2018 Chinese Young Generation Film Forum.
The visually artistic elements of "Witch" extend beyond the very sharp cinematography to the shifts between color and black-and-white with some scenes having elements of both. The symbolical use of this technique expands on the use of it in the 1998 Tobey Maguire film "Pleasantville," which also has a strong connection with "TV Land" series.
The real action begins after a prologue. The camera is from the POV of the titular sorceress Er Hao, who newly is a three-time loser regarding husbands. She is paralyzed and initially silently witnesses the conclusion of the ritual that is credited with saving her life.
Er Hao soon learns of Husband Number Three dying in an explosion at his fireworks factory that also is the home of the couple. The ensuing violation is almost as sickening to the viewer as it is to Er Hao.
The rest of the story is that young Er Hao having buried three husbands is a major factor regarding the superstitious rubes in her rural village both believing that she is a witch and shunning her based on that conclusion.
A homeless Er Hao soon discovers that her only options for shelter involve requiring that she allow men who hold the keys to have their way with her, This is the first of many instances in "Witch" in which someone with something to gain does not mind consorting with a bride of Satan if that association involves a benefit.
These desperate times drive (pun intended) Er Hao and her deaf 10 year-old brother-in-law to take up residence in a panel van. It soon becomes clear that that downfall does not satisfy some angry villagers. An early confrontation indicates that Cai Chenjie is a fan of "Back to the Future III."
The interpretation of the results of a hilarious oversight by Er Hao in this portion of the film further establishes her cred, as a magical being; other humor relates to the aforementioned shifting sentiments regarding whether our lead is a good witch or a bad witch.
Er Hao fully plays the survival game when charged with ridding a home of a spirit; the rubes readily accept her statement that that ghost busting requires an extended stay in the house,
The best flip-flopping is saved for last; we really see that an irate mob has no shame when the locals come looking for help after inflicting a humiliating punishment on Er Hao related to the same manner in which they essentially asking that she twitch her nose and put right what once went wrong at the hands of the supplicants.
The nature of this film that is made far from California makes it just as likely that it lacks a Hollywood ending as it is that Er Hao marries a loving advertising executive and raises a family with him in the suburbs.
As indicated early in this post and as shown throughout, the primary appeal of "Witch" beyond the exceptional surface elements is the mirror that reflects every society. "Respectable" people are very quick to spit on outcasts until they almost inevitable require assistance from that undesirable.
The Icarus Films DVD release of the 2015 documentary within a documentary "A Quest for Meaning" aptly is off a nature that makes writing about it a challenge for unenlightened souls. Fully appreciating the film that is the latest in a strong Icarus collaboration with Bullfrog Films requires abandoning a cynical view of the world that results from the "stinking thinking" that largely is responsible for most of us not being at peace with the real real world.
The following YouTube clip of the Icarus trailer for "Meaning" creates a strong hunger for more of the abundant food for thought in the film.
The aforementioned cynicism quickly enters the picture on learning about the tellers of the tale; the intent of 20-something narrator Nathanael Coste in sharing that he and his partner-in-filmmaking Marc de la Menardiere are wealthy Manhattan party monsters who are seeking deeper knowledge likely resonates with other Millennials. Gen Xers likely will be as turned off regarding this self-indulgent exercise in the same manner that this demographic responds to the college kid who works at Starbucks providing a greeting of Namaste.
Cynicism remaining regarding the messengers soon takes a backseat to the copious insightful messages that the film contains. The inconvenient truth is that many of us will not take those messages to heart.
These hardy boys begin our journey in India before going off to pick the best brains in France and other countries and then literally and figuratively bringing things home. A highly satisfying aspect of this is that the aforementioned more highly evolved individuals shame the "namaste" poseurs for not practicing what they preach.
A personal highlight is a talking head calling out people who meditate or practice yoga every day only to be nasty to his or her fellow man or woman the rest of the day. We also hear from someone who states that shelling out big bucks for yoga and meditation classes is a huge waste of money.
The valid but incredibly challenging concepts that seek to put right what once went wrong center around a few guiding principles. Achieving the ideal of only using what we need (rather than acquiring wants as well) is very tough in this highly consumer-oriented society.
A truth bomb regarding what we consider happiness and other emotions is especially eye-opening. This makes the strongest case for striving to live a life of peace, love, and understanding. At the same time, some people should avoid peeling back layers of the onion.
We additionally learn that true enlightenment requires a strong connection with both the earth and everything else in our macro and micro universe. Hearing a theory about the actual origin of man brings this home. Another aspect of this is taking recycling to the nth degree.
One of the most thought-provoking aspects of "Meaning" relates to an urban farmer who has incredibly cute and friendly goats. This man notes that his farm is now the envy of the neighborhood. There also are many stories of urbanites (ala attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas) growing vegetables in pots. All of these folks put those of us who do not plant gardens in our large yards to shame.
The big picture shows how we got to our present place. Most Americans grew up in households in which we wanted to show up the Joneses and in which we were not even encouraged to literally or figuratively get our hands dirty. It is hard to persuade us to strain our muscles growing our food when we can go online and get it delivered either for free or for a relatively low price.
The DVD extras include "Ego Not Bad," which is an extension of "Meaning." The narrowed focus this time is enhancing self-awareness.
The bottom line regarding all this is "Meaning" shows that fully embracing the concept of namaste when you say it and the other person being receptive to that message are good first steps toward being truly shiny happy people,
The Icarus Films recent DVD release of the 2017 truly labor of love documentary "The Other Side of Everything" put a very personal face on the decades of turmoil that have plagued Belgrade, Filmmaker Mila Turajlic interviews her mother, who is political activist and retired professor Srbijanka Turajlic.
The accolades for this kinder and gentler version of classic shut-in documentary "Grey Gardens" include a Best Documentary award at the 2017 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival and a Best Director win at the RiverRun International Film Festival.
The strong historical drama vibe of "Side" begins with opening scenes of Srbijanka trying to open a recently rediscovered interior door in her dated and shadowy (but very clean) Belgrade apartment. This lead to Srbijanka discussing being a child living in that space in the building that her parents owned when the Communists took over.
This woman who has seen Belgrade repeatedly experience massive changes during several decades tells of a party official knocking on the door during the adolescence of Srbijanka to announce that the family now must live in very tight quarters. We also hear the tale of an effort to get the bureaucracy to allow the family to retain a slightly larger portion of their own property,
An especially creepy aspect of this is hearing Srbijanka reminisce about hearing but not seeing the other families that are uninvited residents of her family home.
We also get a sense of the aforementioned activism of Srbijanka, which includes her reaction to Sloboban Milosevic. A heart-rending aspect of the national politics is the story of some voters being denied the option of declaring their nationality.
The climax of the film is the highly symbolic opening of the door to the past; we get a literal view of how the other half lives. For her part, Srbijanka is reminded of long forgotten aspects of her life before everything changes.
The bigger picture is that "Side" shows that life does go on and that it often does not matter who is in charge.
The Icarus Films September 3, 2019 DVD release of the 2001 documentary "Ghosts of Attica" does the Icarus history of releasing thought-provoking documentaries proud. Every DVD in this portion of the Icarus catalog achieves the genre ideal of being equally entertaining and educational.
In this case, narrator Susan Sarandon has the guards and the prisoners who were there tell the story of the September 1971 Attica uprising. We also learn of the decades-long effort of the prisoners to receive compensation for the harm that they sustained during that event.
Much of the film revolves around self-described Frank "Big Black" Smith, who is drafted into being a leader of the prisoners when (still highly relevant) demands for things such as religious freedom and being paid minimum wage escalates into the inmates temporarily taking over the asylum. The vintage photos and film footage of the prisoners when order is being restored perfectly illustrates why they are pursuing monetary damages.
We also meet Smith employer Liz Frank, who is the lead attorney for the prisoners. This stems from intense empathy for those guests of the state dating to the aftermath of the aforementioned events.
On the surface, a $12 million award to the prisoners seems to be a major victory. One-third of that going to the attorneys is an accurately cynical example of the United States legal system. On top of that, this award understandably prompts resentment among the guards who endured "troubles" during the uprising. A talking head properly notes that asserting that the workers' compensation system provides the guards an adequate remedy is absurd.
This is not to mention the inevitable appeal by New York.
The rest of the story that makes this incident documentary-worthy is that the then-Governor Rockefeller ordering the retaking of the prison with extreme prejudice comes back to bite him as to his bid for the vice-presidency. Suffice it to say that a cover-up is at least attempted.
These inter-related elements are intriguing in that they start with one of many cases in which the disenfranchised aggressively act to become enfranchised, the powers-that-be come down hard, both sides try to win the hearts and minds of the American public, and all feel that they have a right to compensation.
The underlying theme is the highly adversarial tone of interactions between the "haves" and the "have nots" that is becoming deafening during what may be an even more divisive era that the Civil War and the highly contentious late '60s. Clearly, we cannot all just get along and cannot rely on the folks who control the message to tell it like it is.
The DVD bonus features are and audio recording of Frank and more archival images from the uprising.
The Icarus Films August 6, 2019 DVD release of the 2017 mystery thriller "The Girl in the Fog" adds to the mountain of proof that Euro cinema greatly outshines Hollywood fare. This tale of a 16 year-old gone girl is based on the novel of the same name by Donato Carrisi, who writes the screenplay and directs the film.
The formal accolades for "Girl" include a 2018 Italian Golden Globe for Carrisi for his screenplay and an even more deserved Best Actor Golden Globe for Toni Servillo for his perfect portrayal of police Detective Vogel.
Carrisi achieves an ideal balance of action, exposition, and tone by having the opening scene portray the title of the film. We see a shadowy village teen walk out of her Avechot home in the Italian ALps and disappear into the night. This little wander is outwardly good-girl Anna Lou Kastner, who never makes it to her stated destination of her fundamentalist church.
The quality of this film with frequent narrative time shifts is reinforced by following a variation of the modern movie staple of immediately moving us to the beginning of the end of the story without insulting our intelligence by including an intertitle that explains that jump,
This leap begins with a literal rude awakening for town shrink Dr. Augusto Flores (Jean Reno). He is called into his hospital office in the middle of the night due to an emergency related to a car accident.
On arriving, Flores is dually (and duly) surprised to see that his patient is unscathed physically (and seemingly mentally intact) and is Vogel, who is a local celebrity due to both the Kastner case and an earlier (and even more bizarre) crime spree known as "The Mutilator Case." The latter involves a mad bomber hiding explosives in containers for everyday items and putting them on grocery-store shelves.
This discussion between these two weary veterans of their professions provides exposition for the rest of the film, which mostly shifts among the events following the disappearance and the "whodunit" scene at the end of "Girl." These men further talk about the theme of connectivity that is a major element of the film.
All of this relates to Vogel being more interested in media relations and providing a resolution that satisfies the masses, rather than bringing the actual killer to justice. Ambiguity exists regarding the extent to which Vogel will go to achieve his objective. This is not to mention a television reporter showing that she can play the game as well as the boys.
New high-school teacher Prof. Loris Martini is at the center of much of the primary action. One lesson here is that just because you find yourself in a Kafkaesque nightmare does not necessarily mean that your are innocent; the second-part of this moral is that the guilty and the innocent alike face intense media persecution.
An "incident" has prompted Loris to move his (now unemployed) attorney wife and his (now sullen) teen daughter to the village. A media-whore girl does not help matters when she first persuades Loris to give her acting lessons and then distorts the nature of their extra-curricular relationship when he becomes the prime suspect in the Kastner case.
Circumstantial evidence of varying degrees of credibility creates a strong possibility that Loris will spend the rest of his life as a guest of the state regardless of his guilt. The important thing for some with a horse in the race is that Loris is an attractive suspect.
This initially culminates in revealing the full story behind the"accident" of Vogel and then what becomes of Anna Lou, who is a pet with her own secret life.
All of this amounts to "Girl" proving that quality intelligent thrillers still are out there and just require a little investigating to find,
An "Eureka" moment perfectly reflects the movie-going public service that Olive Films, which fully embraces its 'Cinema Lives Here' motto, provides. Frequent distress regarding the lack of any desirable options at the multiplex led to thoughts that well-produced thrillers were a dead art form.
Lamenting the loss of quality mysteries coincided with the arrival of the Olive Blu-ray of the 1987 John Schlesinger (MUST-SEE "Marathon Man") thriller "The Believers," which is being released on June 25.
Olive pairing this release with a (reviewed) Blu-ray of the cult-classic '60s beach movie "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" led to recognizing the Olive commitment to keeping discarded subgeenres alive. Those of us familiar with these perfect blends of art and commerce are infinitely grateful to Olive. "Virgins" literally do not know what they are missing,
The exceptional Blu-ray masters of every Olive release are a special treat to "sluts" who have only seen these films in more grainy versions both on the not-so-silver screen and on even HDTVs. You definitely will get immersed like you never have before.
Olive reminds us that the behind-the-scenes cred. of this tale of wonderfully creepy tale of Santeria in the Big Apple extends beyond Schlesinger. Screenwriter Mark Frost is a co-creator of "Twin Peaks." Aptly, a damn-fine cup of coffee is a major plot point in "Believers."
In front of the camera, Martin Sheen delivers a perfect performance as newly widowed and relocated psychologist Cal Jamison.
EVERYTHING about "Believers" screams Hitchcock. This begins with setting the eerie scares in everyday settings and centering the film around an everyman initially thrown into an somewhat unusual circumstance that develops into a terrifying new normal.
Our story begins with a typical morning for Minneapolis residents Cal, his wife, and their young son Chris. A common (and typically minor) household accident leads to a horrific death for the wife that Cal and Chris witness.
The need for change prompts Cal to relocate Chris to New York. The common Hollywood magic as to this is that Cal finds a large, bright, and immaculate two-story apartment on a clean and quiet street. On top of this, pretty and nice landlord Jessica lives across the street. It is difficult to imagine such a place existing and any one that does not costing far more even a psychologist can afford, This is aside from having a landlord so close who also perfectly maintains the place,
The opening scenes also include a very primitive Santeria ritual and a practitioner of that religion playing the Jedi mind-trick on a JFK customs agent.
The worlds first collide when Chris runs off during a Central Park outing. He scurries behind some rocks and stumbles upon the remains of a ritual sacrifice. The subtext of this scene is amusing to viewers who are woke regarding the ritual in which some young men engage in that area of the park.
Cal fully joins the party on police Lieutenant McTaggert consulting him as to the detective investigating a series of murders of boys. That investigator is convinced that the cult committing the crimes has a supernatural hold on him and is out to get him. Stating that the theory that just because you are paranoid does not mean that no one is out to get you applies is not much of a spoiler.
Meanwhile, Cal entering a (perhaps bewitching) relationship with Jessica greatly upsets Chris, who also may be under a spell of his own. Ambiguity regarding both the incident that brings Cal back to New York and as to the reaction of Chris to his father becoming closer to Jessica is part of what makes "Believers" so awesome.
The final piece of the puzzle comes courtesy of the elderly academics who taught the dead wife of Cal; back in the day. ANYONE who has watched the MUST-SEE "Rosemary's Baby" or other similar films knows that any (particularly motherly) New Yorker who seems too good to be true probably is not so nice.
In true Hitchcock style, a perceived threat turns out to be a thwarted savior. We also get the common Hitchcockian element of the all-American boy in the film finding himself in peril and Dad rushing to the rescue. In this case. Chris becomes the chosen one in an unpredictable fashion.
The thrilling extended climax is pure Schlesinger. The unexpected twists galore are a treat in this era in which the conclusion of most movies is obvious in the first 15 minutes. Team Schlesinger goes above and beyond in upsetting the apple cart one more time in the final minutes.
The most important takeaway from "Believers" is that it is scary because it mostly could be true.
The Icarus Films May 14, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 period-piece comedy "Return of the Hero" fills the void left by Hollywood no longer producing amusing and clever (or at least adequately creative) summer movies. Subtitles aside, "Hero" is so good that you will not even want to look at your phone or other devices while watching it.
Another awesome aspect of "Hero" is that it shows that writer/director Laurent Tirard is more than a un trick cheval regarding the even more delightful (reviewed) "Nicholas on Holiday" (nee "Petit Nicholas") about the family summer vacation of the titular French school boy. Other "Hero" cred. relates to Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin delivering another award-worthy performance as the titular soldier who is not at Waterloo when Napoleon did surrender.
This presumably shot-on-location beautiful film begins in 1809 Burgundy. Captaine Charles-Gregoire Neuville seemingly employs his entire personal staff in preparation for froggy goin' a courtin'. The object of his affection is sweet and innocent girl next door Pauline. She lives on a lavish estate with her adoring parents and her less sweet and innocent older sister Elisabeth (Melanie Laurent).
Neuville seals a chaste deal with Pauline just ahead of being called on to defend emperor and country. Like many soldiers before and since, Neuville makes an empty promise to faithfully correspond with Pauline.
A combination of motives prompt Elisabeth to forge letters from Neuville to Pauline; the responses to that correspondence shows Elisabeth that her little sister is all grown up.
In true farce/classic sitcom style, the scheme of Elisabeth gets out of hand. Circumstances and her creativity result in increasing elaborate and contrived fictional adventures of Neuville that enrapture both Pauline and the rest of the local elite.
All goes well until the inevitable titular appearance of a filthy and disgraced Neuville in 1812; Elisabeth being the only one to initially know that that boy is back in town helps move the story forward; this plot thickens on Neuville returning after a brief absence and presenting himself as the man in the aforementioned letters. His objectives include wooing a now-married with children Pauline.
Dujardin and Laurent wonderfully play off each other as she must watch him make fools out of those nearest and dearest to her. Neuville further shows that he is no gentleman in using the vulnerability of Elisabeth for his own fun and profit,
One of many notable moments involves Elisabeth seeming to get the upper-hand on her frienemy. The manner in which Neuville turns that tactic around to his advantage proves that you cannot con a con man.
The aptly surprising climax that begins with a desperate act leads to a final scene that is very true to the spirit of the film and that is one of the best endings in any film ever. This lesson this time is that we all remain true to our nature.
The Icarus Films March 27, 2018 DVD release of the charming 2014 French family comedy "Nicholas on Holiday" provides equally strong (and entertaining) reminders that spring is on the way and that the blessings and the curses of family summer vacations are universal. The bigger picture is that "Nicholas" joins the ranks of films such as "Dirty Dancing" that provide a look at resorts that cater to long-term stays by families. One difference is that nobody tries to put Nicky in a corner.
"Nicholas" opens with the titular pre-adolescent narrator about to be sprung from his Parisian elementary school for the summer. He learns early in this vacation that his family is going to break with their tradition of going to the mountains and are headed to the sea for a few weeks. Part of the cuteness relates to this trip requiring a separation from the figurative girl-next-door.
Copious amounts of the kid-friendly humor relates to "Granny" being an Endora-level thorn in the side of her son-in-law. One of the best scenes regarding this comes early in the film. "Mere" makes the argument regarding taking her mother on the trip that making an elderly person spend the summer in Paris is cruel; "Pere" responds that he is glad to take an old person with them, just not Granny. Mere winning by having Granny come along is predictable to anyone familiar with the relevant dynamics in the reel and real worlds.
More hilarity ensues when great frustration regarding a traffic jam en route to the resort prompts Pere to take an ultimately ill-advised shortcut. Incurring the wrath of the masses regarding his detour is only part of his problem.
On arriving, Nicholas joins a group of stock character young boys. These include the annoying know-it-all, the almost albino nerd, the kid who will eat anything, and the younger kid who is a cry baby.
The primary complication comes in the form of weird girl Isabelle. The threat of a pre-teen romance prompts Nicholas and his posse to implement several plans to deter her. The most amusing of these include a comically botched effort to present a bad boy image and a separate act of sabotage that is designed to send the girl and her clan packing.
For her part, Mere gets a taste of stardom that causes Pere great distress. This also requires balancing pursuing literal fame and fortune with being a housewife.
For his part, Pere hysterically obsesses about his relationship with his boss. This leads to sitcom staple of writing a letter in haste and repenting at leisure. The manner in which Pere resolves this is another highlight of "Nicholas."
One common element of all this is that Nicholas is an everykid whose efforts to influence anything that effects him epically fail. This, in turn, leads to a textbook example of something being tragic when it happens to us and hilarious when it befalls someone else.
In the end, our family returns to their everyday life. Like all real and reel tales such as theirs, the titular vacation influences some aspects of this but mostly is a fond memory.
The Icarus Films February 5, 2019 DVD release of the 2017 Iranian drama "No Date, No Signature" adds more proof to the pile of evidence that world cinema eclipses even indie productions in the United States.
This release comes a few weeks after the announcement of the eight "Best Picture" nominees for the 2019 Oscars. Of this octet. having only seen "Black Panther" and solely doing so to keep up with the "Avengers" franchise reinforces that something is rotten in the state of California (and Wakanda).
On a lighter note, fans of the many (oft-reviewed) Icarus films will recognize the theme of a car striking a pedestrian that is an element of several movies in that catalog. It seems that a filmmaker who wants to increase the odds of Icarus releasing his or her production should have a character take one for the team.
Many of the 13 wins and additional 15 nominations being for rookie writer/director Vahid Jalilvand reinforces that that artist has excellent instincts. The fests that bestow that accolade range from the 2017 Chicago International Film Festival to the Fajr Film Festival the same year.
The following YouTube clip of the official U.S. trailer for "Date" further illustrate the merits of the film. It is a quality production of a compelling story. There is no reliance on the star power of the lead, and the story (mostly) avoids melodrama.
The opening scenes reflect Jalilvand striking a good balance between exposition and getting down to business. We see forensic pathologist Dr. Kaveh Nariman going about his business before getting in his car for the drive that changes everything.
Many of us can relate to the circumstances that lead to to Kaveh striking the motorcycle that Moosa is driving, These events also establish the theme of shared (and arguably ambiguous) culpability that runs throughout "Date."
Kaveh immediately does the right thing by offering medical care and monetary compensation; he also repeatedly urges Moosa to bring his injured young son to a nearby medical clinic. Moosa refuses the offered care and cash but indicates an intent to take his son to the clinic.
Anyone (i.e., all of us) who has experienced thinking that an unpleasant incident is resolved only to have it resurface can relate to Kaveh learning soon after the accident that the injured boy is DOA on arriving at the hospital where that medical professional works. The autopsy form listing the cause of death as unknown does not help matters.
The mystery for the co-workers of our Iranian version of Quincy is why he is so upset regarding the treatment of a boy that he merely identifies as the son of an acquaintance. The first part of the puzzle for Kaveh is whether the injuries from the hit without a run or the diagnosed botulism is the cause of the death of the deceased. A related issue is whether the boy would have fatally succumbed to the disease in a few days regardless of whether the accident occurred.
The survivor's guilt of Moosa manifests itself in his probable role in his child getting botulism. This prompts the distraught parent to confront a man with a role in those events. Suffice it to say that that exchange takes a heavy toll on both men.
All of this leads to resolutions that provide one-and-all realistic but not happy endings. The lessons are that many people can contribute to bad outcomes and that karma is the mother of all bitches.
One can imagine that (deceased) director Chris Marker would enjoy the discussion that the recent Icarus Films DVD release of his 1989 documentary "The Owl's Legacy" will prompt. Folks who prefer streaming over physical media can watch the series on Amazon Video,
The concept of this series is that great thinkers use a Greek word as the starting point for discussing the modern influence of Greek culture.. The following is based on watching the first four of the thirteen episodes.
"Legacy" will make you think. You also will enjoy the insights of most of the participants and find a few laughably haughty. I'm talkin' to you American-hating Frenchie. Your not-so-humble reviewer is not one to wave the flag or to assert that the average American even reads books these days but does not see the need to refer to us as if we are something stepped in at the dog park.
The most amusing statement in "Legacy" is the first utterance in the series premiere. which is on the word "symposium." The narrator declares that the series provides information that intelligent people already know and that morons cannot understand. This likely reflects the French sense of humor but expresses that "Legacy" lacks an audience.
Writing from the perspective of a pretty bright guy, the presented material seems digestible by the average person; you also likely will learn new things.
The other three watched episodes are on "Olympics," "Democracy," and "Nostalgia." Like "Symposium," the origin of the word is the starting point.
An interesting aspect of "Olympics" is discussing the connections between some of the modern games and the lives of notables, such as "Legacy" participant filmmaker Elia Kazan. We also learn of the important role of the first Olympics in European history.
"Democracy" is the most entertaining and educational of the watched episodes; the highlights include seeing how the earliest form of this system resembles the manner in which a condo. association operates. A primary difference is that the last owner to arrive at the clubhouse does not literally get branded.
This episode further discusses the conflict between Athens and Sparta. The description of this dispute is dumbed down to a level that even the aforementioned drooling idiots can understand it.
"Nostalgia" discusses the reasons that we prefer the past to the present; the general idea is selective memory. An aspect of this is the phenomenon of our childhood homes seeming to be smaller then remembered when we revisit them as adults. Similarly, best friends from high school often lose their luster in their 30s. Take that Gregory William.
The remaining nine topics include Mythology, Misogyn , and Tragedy.
The accompanying comprehensive booklet is a wonderful CliffNotes companion to the series. A couple of essays provide good perspectives regarding the production and Marker. We also get detailed episode synopses and blurbs about the numerous "best brains" who host the 13 smarty parties.
A happy coincidence regarding writing this review of the Icarus Films February 5, 2019 DVD release of the 2017 Bullfrog Films documentary "Free Lunch Society" the day after Martin Luther King Day is finding a quote from King on the DVD back cover, This statement is that "the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."
Filmmaker Christian Tod clearly is on Team MLK; Tod entertains and educates as he shows how a few communities have taken the concept of money for nothing (but not chicks for free) to heart to varying degrees.
The blanket tax refunds during the George W. Bush years provide the proverbial bigger picture here. it is difficult to imagine someone not liking getting a check in the mail, and having a little money either to help with the bills or simply to "treat yo self" always is a good thing. On the other hand, these handouts are a factor regarding the current huge federal deficit.
Going back further in time, advocating teaching someone to fish rather than giving him or her a trout has merit, Aptly going deeper, this works best when all have equal access to the fishing hole.
The first general caveat that must be considered before learning more about this social experiment is that even propaganda that supports your view still is propaganda. A related truism is that there is your side, my side, and the truth.
Much of the focus of the film is on the efforts in Germany to literally share the wealth. A very high-profile advocate of this is drugstore king Gotz Werner. We also meet Michael Bohmeyer, who uses a combination of crowdfunding and Oprah to distribute 1,000 Euros each month for a year to folks who literally get it for being at exactly the right place at the right time.
Moving closer to home, Tod discusses the Alaska state government distributing pipeline profits to the people, The rationale here extends beyond spreading the wealth to compensating the victims of the collateral damage from the project.
The scope of the "Society" also encompasses the history of consideration of widespread handouts by the U.S. federal government.
The numerous talking heads provide copious data regarding the extent to which these programs trigger sloth by recipients of the oft-mentioned bounty. A look at how hitting a jackpot affects lottery workers provides a good indication of the impact of streets paved with bronze.
Although Tod does not address this point in-depth, a classic sitcom once again provides particularly apt insight. A scene in an episode of the '60s fantasycom "I Dream of Jeannie" has master Tony Nelson finishing what he thinks is the latest in an eternal string of free lunches. This astronaut crashes back to earth on learning that the titular genie does not conjure up all of his delicacies out of thin air; she buys some of the gourmet goodies from the local grocery store, and the bill has just come due.
Fans of companion show "Bewitched" likely recall many occasions on which Madman Darrin Stephens must take money from the household budget to remedy harm from witch wife Samantha irresponsibly twitching her nose, Having to buy an electric garage door is only the tip of that iceberg.
A much latter episode of "Jeannie" makes another relevant point. The newly wed sprite is very proud to present her husband with a roomful of items purchased on credit, The lesson here is that you do not pay for such luxuries today but do pay tomorrow.
The DVD bonuses include "Free Lunch Society" hosted by Christian Tod and promo. videos.
Icarus Films shows good timing regarding releasing the 2014 mockudramedy "Hippocratres Diary of a French Doctor" on January 15, 2019. This roughly coinciding with medical students returning to their studies provides a good chance to ease back into the rigors of these programs by watching this generally mockumentary-style story of newbie medical intern/legacy 23 year-old Benjamin Barois. Much of the sense of authenticity relates to director Thomas Lilti having trained to be a doctor.
The following YouTube clip of the "Diary" trailer provides a good sense of the drama and the humor about this look a life in a busy Parisian hospital.
Lilti sets the perfect tone for "Diary" right from the opening scenes. We see a solitary Benjamin dodging large laundry carts as he wanders the halls in the basement of the public hospital on his first day of work. His projecting an image of a lost sheep on his way to be slaughtered extends beyond the unruly mop of black hair that seems required of every male French medical intern.
Limited success in obtaining a lab coat introduces Benjamin to hospital bureaucracy and his status at that institution; this is despite his father being a senior doctor there.
The next rapid succession of wake-up calls begins with Benjamin learning about the number of patients in the ward to which he is assigned; his "its complicated" relationship with more experienced intern Abdel begins with that older man arguably being unduly assertive in how he steps in when Benjamin has difficulty with a medical procedure.
The first real doctor's life lesson comes on Benjamin losing a patient. The circumstances of that death lead to that kid throwing Abdel under le bus and giving viewers a few more reasons to avoid hospitals.
Benjamin survives to fight another day until facing his next major challenge, which also involves Abdel. The general consensus that an elderly cancer patient should be allowed to continue circling the drain becomes a bone of contention when the ICU team is called in to perform arguably heroic measures; Benjamin and Abdel stepping in to pull the plug on those efforts leads to a disciplinary proceeding with negative consequences for both men. Part of this involves Benjamin showing that he does not feel like working and playing well with others. This leads to a confrontation with even more dire consequences.
We additionally get several looks at the daily lives of the interns; this includes enthusiastic meting out of punishment for talking shop during meal times, watching reel doctors, arguing about who should work on holidays, and a New Year's dance party at which hospital staffers rock out with their docs out. A message here is that guilty feet have got no rhythm.
As mentioned above, the camera being an unobtrusive fly on the wall as all the action transpires greatly contributes to the realistic sense of "Diary." This makes this film one from which both medical students and producers of reality TV shows can learn.
Icarus Films marks Oscar season by releasing the aptly hybrid film "Good Manners" on DVD on November 13, 2018. "Manners" is weirdly wonderful with top-notch twists.
"Manners" DESERVEDLY winning 24 awards and having an additional 18 nominations speaks to the quality of the film. These accolades include a "Fantastic Features" honor at the 2017 Austin Fantastic Fest and "Best Picture" at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Latin America Cinema and the 2017 Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Manners" provides a glimpse of the successfully eclectic style of this future cult classic.
"Manners" begins on a tone that reflects one aspect of the titular phrase. Clara is at the home of disgraced party-girl Ana to apply to be the nanny of the baby of this heiress when she delivers that illegitimate bundle of joy.
This portion of the film is laden with social commentary; Ana shamelessly exploiting Clara, who must grin and bear it, and Clara becoming the caregiver of flighty Anna reflects the system in most of the "civilized" world. We also get a strong sense of the feeling of entitlement on the part of Ana.
The first twist comes via Ana and Clara crossing way over employer/employee (and racial) lines. This is not to mention another relatively unusual aspect of their relationship. Ana sleepwalking and having odd dreams is the icing on the cake in this portion of "Manners."
Ana telling Clara the story of her not-so-immaculate conception is a highlight for two reasons; this tale is told via very stylized animation and sets the stage for the rest of the film.
All this leads to Ana giving birth to Joel, who clearly is not like other boys; a complication leads to Clara taking custody of the new-born and moving him to her apartment. The cover story that she subsequently tells him is straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales.
A montage covers the early years of Joel up to his seventh birthday. With the exception of literally and figuratively having a vegetarian diet, this cute and charming lad mostly is like his peers with the exception of several days a month. The days during this period are just fine, but he must spend the nights shackled in "the little bedroom" for the mutual safety of himself and the general populace. Part of the challenge for Clara is making her son understand why there are times that he cannot play reindeer games with the other kids.
Things come to a head when our excitable boy and his buddy run off to a mall for an overnight mission. This causes Clara even more angst than is typical in such situations; subsequent events show that she has good reason for concern,
This leads to a scene that is well known to horror fans; the resulting confrontation creates terrific ambiguity that ends this perfect movie on an ideal note.
As this posts and many other reviews discuss, the magic of "Manners" relates to the perfect blending of numerous themes and tones. We get the aforementioned social commentary, the drama of a single mother contending with a special-needs child, a fairy tale, and the overall theme of society being hostile toward people who are different. As "Frankenstein" address, the monster is not always the "freak."
The Icarus Films DVD release of the 2015 French drama "In the Shadow of Women" proves that this home-video distributor with a strong history of releasing compelling documentaries looks for "innovative and provocative" titles regarding its fictional titles as well. The strong documentary elements of "Woman" make it a particularly apt addition to the Icarus catalog.
The festival love for this future art-house classic include the Best Film honor at the 2015 Athens Panorama of European Cinema and the Best Actress win at the 2015 Seville European Film Festival.
The most overt documentary element in "Women" is central character Pierre being a documentarian whose spouse Manon fills several roles that include researcher and film editor. Additionally, filmmaker Philippe Garrel regularly provides exposition via voice-over narration. Having the camera largely follow the characters around and simply record their conversations and reactions to events further contributes to the cinema verite vibe of the film.
The film being in black-and-white enhances the French New Wave aspects of "Women."
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Women" nicely highlights the artistry and overall Frenchness of the film.
The early scenes establish that Mannon working with Pierre is a holdover sacrifice from his days of struggling to establish his career. One reason that the couple still works together is that Mannon sees this as an opportunity to spend time with her husband.
The proverbial fateful encounter that jeopardizes many reel (and real) couples occurs when Pierre stops to help intern/grad. student Elisabeth carry several film canisters. This leads to an affair that soon leads to indifference and boredom by Pierre, who believes that being a man entitles him to have an affair.
The response of Manon to the changes in Pierre include her starting an affair. The response of Pierre to learning about that extra-marital activity is resentment and rage despite knowing that Manon knows of his relationship with Elisabeth.
The "B Story" in the film revolves around Pierre and Manon interviewing a man about his experiences with the WWII French resistance for a film that Pierre is making on that topic. The drama related to that extends well beyond the subject being particularly personal to Pierre.
All of this leads to a somewhat surprise ending that shows the need for reflection and the related value of deciding what you will sacrifice for something that you think will more than offset that consideration,
The Icarus Films October 23, 2018 DVD release of the 2016 French drama "A Kid" reminds us both that toxic family relationships are not limited to the United States and that the benefits of family being Hell include engrossing movies such as this one. Throwing in the titular 30 year-old man being an illegitimate child whose personality does not reflect the label attached to such individuals further enhances this film with an awesome third-act twist.
The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN trailer for "Kid" outlines the premise of the film; this promo. including a reference to "hunting a corpse I do not know with two psychos" reflects the wonderful comic edge that reminds us that this is a French film.
33 year-old Parisian pet-food sales rep. Matthieu gets the shock of his life when a call at wok informs him of the identity of his father; the rest of the story is that he has a gift from his previously unidentified father Jean, who is residing in the fresh water equivalent of Davy Jones' locker. This prompts Matthieu to travel to Montreal to attend the funeral and to meet his two brothers and the other woman whom those siblings call Mom. Those three individuals having no idea of the bundle du joie that is a dividend of a business trip to France.
Long-time Jean friend Pierre is the one who tracked down the not-so-prodigal son. He also provides Uber service from the airport and lodging during the stay. Matthieu defying a request to not upset the descendants during the weekend before the funeral transforms Pierre into his shadow.
Pierre next accompanies a determined Matthiieu on his mission to accompany his unsuspecting brother Ben the motorcycle shop owner and Sam the successful corporate attorney on a trip to the aforementioned body of water. It soon becomes known that the reasons for wanting to find the drowned body extend beyond a desire for a proper burial.
The impact of this section of "Kid" extends beyond Sam and Ben being unaware that their guest is their baby brother. Their relative (no pun intended) status in life reflects that the oldest sibling typically gets the most attention growing up and consequently just as frequently achieves the most career success among his siblings. The "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"caliber drinking, sniping, and dredging up past resentments and sins validate the theory that death brings out the worst in families.
Things become particularly incestuous on Pierre and Matthieu returning to Montreal after an overnight corpse hunt. The latter increasingly bonds with Pierre's daughter Bettina to the extent of representing the other gender of fowl at her hen party at a rowdy bar with friends, A run-in with Sam prompts speculation regarding his past with Bettina and a prediction regarding future conflict between the newly connected brothers.
An innocent off-hand comment provides the aforementioned twist that results in the rest of the film changing course. Anyone who has ever attended a family gathering knows that these remarks inevitably occur and just as definitely ruin the already tense mood.
This leads to the unpacking of copious emotional baggage before the family brings Matthieu to the airport for his flight home. This resolution equally satisfies the characters and the viewers. The rest of the story is that what some people do not know does not hurt them.
'Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc' Blu-Ray: Before She Was A Star Musical About The Maid of Orleans
Icarus Films provides young girls everywhere cause to rejoice regarding the October 2, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 2017 French musical "Jeannette." One note for parents is that the moppet in your life likely will want to repeatedly watch this song-and-dance filled feature.
The aforementioned appeal reflects the practice of producers of action-adventure fare who include brave adventurous boys in their stories. Just as many tween boys of the late '80s fantasize about being 13 year-old Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," girls from 5-to-10ish may see themselves in pre-Joan of Arc shepherd Jeannette before she gets the flock out of the pasture and literally fights for God and country. Modern-day Jeannettes will further delight in the simplistic songs and the dancing that largely consists of the same twirling and swaying in which they engage at home and recitals.
Our story begins (and mostly occurs) in the pasture where Jeannette spends most of her time, She laments in song and to her friend Hauviette about the invading British forces. The primary dilemma is how to quell the invasion and restore peace without almost literally fighting fire with fire (no pun intended). Attempted intervention by local nun Madame Gervaise, and the appearance of three saints seals the deal. Anyone who has tried to get a young girl to put on her shoes so that you can go do something that she dislikes can relate.
The next portion of the film moves ahead several years and has a teen Jeannette enlisting the aide of the brother of her father to be her ally regarding Pere at least not preventing her from joining a group of soldiers. Folks with even a moderate knowledge of history knows how this works out.
As mentioned above, "Jeannette" makes a historic figure very accessible and will encourage many young viewers to read more about Joan of Arc. It provides the rest of us a broader perspective regarding this righteous warrior. It further is beautifully shot and demonstrates that the mindset of 8 year-old girls has not dramatically changed since 1425.
The Blu-ray bonuses include deleted scenes and a feature on filmmaker Bruno Dumont.
The Icarus Films October 2, 2018 DVD release of the 2014 French dark comedy "Number One Fan" PERFECTLY combines the spirit of the current Icarus focus on releasing movies by "independent producers worldwide" with the earlier Icarus raison d'etre of bringing "innovative and provocative documentaries" to North American audiences.
The only misery associated with this tale of manipulative singer Vincent Lacroix getting unsuspecting admirer beautician Muriel Bayen to do his dirty work is that it does not seem that any Hollywood producer plans an American version that ONLY would require geographical adjustments. A related note is that this story is far more apt for the title "The Beautician and the Beast" than the unwatchable 1997 comedy of that name starring Fran Drescher and Timothy Dalton.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Fan" nicely introduces the two main characters and accurately conveys the tone of this MUST-SEE film.
Much of the magic of "Fan" relates to the skill of actress Sandrine Kiberlain bringing the pathetic (and not-so-bright) Bayen to life. This middle-aged woman is not a total loser but definitely has her quirks. As indicated above, she has a long-term obsession with Lacroix. She also is a compulsive liar prone to absurd tall tales. This first comes out in a fascinating scene in which she tells her teen children an increasingly bizarre story about a conversation with a man on the Metro. The unexpected turns makes on wonder if Kiberlain or Bayen have improv. training.
The events that lead to when Vincent met Muriel begin with the former telephoning bitter half psychotic live-in girlfriend Julie. He calls her while she is in the middle of what seem to be frequent hysterics. He then goes home to poker night only to have Julie first disrupt the festivities and then storm upstairs for the next stage of her rampage.
The game then breaks up early, and Lacroix goes upstairs in time to witness one of the most hilarious accidental cinematic deaths ever. This leads to a not-so-fatal flaw in "Fan." One does not understand why he simply does not call the police to report the incident. The "CSI" series alone indicate that the forensics support the truth.
Fortunately for viewers,, Lacroix devises the not-so-devious plan around which "Fan" revolves. He fully reflects the nature of celebrity by paying Muriel a non-booty call and further thrilling her with a request for a no-questions-asked favor. His fatal flaw is not realizing that she is an emotionally unstable dimwit. A relatable aspect of this is most people in any personal or professional relationship not showing his or her crazy until after the "sane" one puts that person in position of trust.
Writer-director Jeanne Henry adds the final element of fun in the form of nymphomaniac police detective Coline and her reluctant male partner-in-crime-solving. Their equally quirky colleagues are additional sources of amusement.
in true Coen brothers style, the investigation commences fairly well with a not-so-distraught Lacroix coming in to report the disappearance of Julie, The subsequent discovery of the corpse alters the tone of the investigation and alerts Lacroiix to the fact both that things did not go according to plan and that he should not have sent a moron to do the job of his personal assistant/nephew.
Insightful and amusing flashbacks show how the plan goes south as Bayen travels east. Watching how this ties into her amending her story as the police identify her as a person of increasing interest further shows that Henry has exceptional talent.
Meanwhile, Lacroix resorts to relatively desperate measures to avoid becoming a soloist in the prison choir; this includes throwing Bayen under the bus after taking her for a ride,
Much of genius of this is keeping the audience intrigued and entertained while maintaining an awesome balance between comedy and drama. We barely see Lacroix sweat, and Bayen puts her fertile imagination to good use in her efforts to keep herself and the French idol out of the modern version of the Bastille.
The conclusion of "Fan" shows both the extent to which someone can get away with covering up an accidental death and the truth of the well-known Chinese proverb regarding being careful when wishing upon a star.
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
Distributor of "innovative and provocative" international documentaries Icarus Films literally and figuratively brings things home for the holidays with the December 8, 2015 DVD release of the 2103 U.S. documentary "Xmas Without China" from environmentally-conscious media company Bullfrog Films.
"Xmas" documents a stereotypical middle-class family (aptly named Jones) spending the month of December completely deprived of products from China while Chinese-American documentarian Tom Xia and his parents pursue the American dream of creating a Christmas yard display that can be seen from space. The charm of Xia comes through very early in the film in a scene in which he explains that he gave himself his Americanized first name directly from his love of "Tom and Jerry" cartoons.
The depth of the documented experiment extends well beyond illustrating the dependency of Americans on cheap goods from the titular nation and the validity of perceptions regarding those products; we also see the assimilation process of the Chinese-born parents of Tom as well as his cultural identity crisis. The Joneses having pet ducks who would end up on the Xia dinner table if that family raised them is a memorable example of the culture clash.
The Joneses soon discovering that the scope of items from the forbidden nation extends the playthings of their children to the family toaster and hair dryer. This clan further soon learns that China seemingly has a monopoly regarding manufacturing some types of products and that some products from other countries are prohibitively expensive. Examples include am absurdly expensive string of Christmas lights and a $100 stuffed animal.
Equally appropriately for the holidays, the audience does not learn much that it does not already know. At the same time, the aforementioned appeal of Tom and the cruel laughter as the Jones clan futilely attempts to lead normal lives without using any products from China provide awesome entertainment.