Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski’s mysteriously elegant film The Double Life of Veronique explores the supernatural tale of two women, played by the same actress, who never formally meet one another and yet who look exactly the same and who both feel the presence of the other. Set in both France and Kieslowski’s native Poland, the beautiful Irene Jacob stars as both Veronique and Weronika, two women living parallel lives who both sense that they are both ‘here’ and ‘somewhere’ else at the same time. Following Weronika’s death while singing on stage in Poland, Veronique seeks answers to her strange feelings while beginning to stitch together an explanation for the odd events that have begun to culminate, increasing both her unease and her curiosity.
Double life of veronique
After years of plowing through the great films, scratching one masterpiece after another off of my cinema bucket list, I finally sat down and watched the one film that is almost unanimously regarded as the ‘best ever’—that being Orson Welles’ signature debut, Citizen Kane, released in 1941. Did it live up to the hype? Well, yes and no. No film is perfectly conceived or executed and while Welles’ masterpiece ushered in a new, modern looking and sounding film that cemented his talent, Citizen Kane left me feeling a wee bit let down, mostly because much of the intrigue of the story was already spoiled for me. I suppose my expectations were unfairly high to begin with and that I was likely responding to it with judgments based upon the 70 years of filmmaking history that it had inspired.
The tale is a Shakespearean rags-to-riches-to-fall from grace formula but one that creatively unfolds byway of a frenetic, flashback narrative structure that helped to usher in a new era of innovative methods of cinematic storytelling. The acting performances are strong and the shadow-based cinematography predates the film noir style that would become popular throughout the 1940’s. The story of the making of the film is almost as interesting as Welles’ thinly disguised portrait of newspaper magnet William Randolph Hearst. So even having been exposed to hundreds of parodies and references of this strikingly contemporary film, Citizen Kane was still worth the wait and definitely should be viewed by any serious fan of film.
The Story of the Weeping Camel is an enchanting documentary that follows a family of herders in Mongolia's Gobi region. It is birthing season for the family’s herd of camels and the last birth of a rare white colt is particularly difficult. The mother camel quickly rejects and refuses to nurse the newborn animal. The family becomes increasingly concerned for the colt’s survival and decides to try a nomadic singing ritual to coax the mother into nurturing her young. They send the two eldest sons to the nearest village to find a musician for the "hoos” ritual. The mother camel eventually accepts the colt.
This is a story of hope and healing. It unfolds slowly and beautifully depicts desert life while honoring its real life actors.
The Story of the Weeping Camel
Oslo, August 31st is a beautiful and affecting film that will leave viewers amazed by its humane and sensitive treatment of the subject of drug addiction and depression. The film unfolds over a single day and as the film suggests, is set in the hip and fashionable parts of Oslo. We follow Anders around Norway’s capital city as he leaves his upscale, suburban drug treatment center for a job interview. His anxiety about the future is clear from the opening scenes. The trajectory of plot is presented in a straightforward and well-paced way, periodically weaving the poetic musings and memories of unseen voices (one assumes they are Anders, his family and friends into the narrative mix). Anders visits old friends for affirmation but he can’t seem to relate because of their seemingly comfortable lives. But are they comfortable? Are they happy? Will Anders utilize his intelligence, talent and strong upbringing to transform his life of addiction, fear and shame or will he sink deeper into a pit of psychic despair? I picked this movie up without knowing anything about it and I’m glad I did. This is one of the most sincere, honest and compassionate portraits of a troubled soul I’ve seen in some time.
Oslo, August 31st
Lucky for me, who just found out how good The Good Wife is, KPL has the first 3 seasons. I’m really into it now but I am a little confused by a few things. Such as, why would they make such a likable and disgustingly fine looking guy like Lemond Bishop (played by Mike Colter) a drug dealer? Why does Alicia Florrick seem to make so much sense and why is she so likable as the good wife? Isn’t she supposed to be the loser? What’s going on with Kalinda? Are they going to end up killing her off? This curious mind wants to know….but, like everybody else this Chicagoan transplant will have to wait.
The Good Wife
Another movie about Snow White, this one is darker and has some big stars, Snow White and the Huntsman. The girl from the Twilight movies is Snow White, her step mother is played by Charlize Theron. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is the huntsman. And what is really wild, Ian McShane is one of the seven dwarves. I watched the movie with my mother-in-law and she kept saying that Snow White isn’t so pretty, she snarls instead of smiling and her two front teeth look like chicklets. The premise of the movie is the same as all the Snow White movies, Snow’s mom dies and her dad remarries. In this movie the Step mom (now queen) sticks a knife in the king instead of doing the honeymoon and snow white is locked away in a tower like Rapunzel. The step mom has a magic mirror and the mirror tells her if she cuts out Snow Whites heart she will remain beautiful and immortal. This is where I was thinking, hey Chris Hemsworth is an immortal, they should hook up. But in this movie Chris is a huntsman and the Queen orders him to find Snow White (who has escaped to the forbidden forest) and cut out her heart. One of the coolest parts was the seven dwarves. I kept looking at them and thinking they look familiar. And indeed they were familiar but not as dwarves. They did some sort of thing like they did in Lord of the Rings and made them appear to be dwarves. They did a real good job of movie magic.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Shoot the Piano Player is French New Wave director Francois Truffaut’s homage to the American noir and crime genre. Filmed in 1960, the story centers on a classically trained pianist named Edouard Saroyan, whose life has hit the skids after the tragic death of his wife, leaving him emotionally broken and looking to escape. Taking on a new identity to erase his past, Saroyan becomes Charlie Kholer, a sad and introverted piano player working in a Parisian dive bar trying to forget his life as a successful concert hall musician. Unfortunately for Charlie, his criminally minded brothers get him involved with a robbery gone badly. From there, his life spins out of control even as his romantic life begins to look up. Sad, funny and poignant, this is one of Truffaut’s best films.
Shoot the piano player
I’ve been impressed with Sally Hawkins, ever since I saw her in Happy-Go-Lucky. She plays a much different role as Rita O’Grady in Made in Dagenham, but her performance is equally impressive. In Dagenham, England, O’Grady is a seamstress at the local Ford plant in the 60’s. She and the other women in her bargaining unit vote to strike for equal pay.
The movie illustrates how wearing a strike can be. The strikers persevere for weeks, through exhaustion, wavering determination, personal life crises. Wages are frozen, bills pile up, and the workers must keep showing up to stand up for their cause. Add to it, the women employees face huge pushback from the union bigwigs, Ford management, the male employees, and their own husbands. O’Grady leads the fight, ultimately heading a small group of sister union members to meet with the Employment Secretary of England, to garner support for their struggle.
Made in Dagenham is a fictionalized account of a true event. I loved the soundtrack.
Made in Dagenham
This is a 2003 horror thriller. Take a group of kids in their twenties and have them drive into the back woods of West Virginia where a family who after years of inbreeding have produced mutant looking children and you have yourself a classic hunt the fresh meat and kill most of them but the last one (or two usually a couple) turn the tables and kill the mutants and survive the ordeal. This would make a good addition to your horror viewing for Halloween. In this Wrong Turn movie you have stars like Eliza Dushu (known for her role as a Slayer in the Buffy series) and Jeremy Sisto (who looks majorly different than he does now on the TV series Suburgatory but his voice is still the same, very distinctive). We start the movie following Chris as he drives a very nice mustang along the highway. There is an accident which ties up traffic and Chris tries to find an alternate route. Driving through back roads trying to hurry and make up time when WHAM he smacks into the back end of a SUV that is in the road. Turns out the SUV had driven over barb wire that was placed across the road to snare its victims. Of course cell phones do not work so a group of them head off in search of a phone and one couple stay behind with the car. And it begins. The couple who stayed behind are killed in a grotesque manner. We see the girl looking for her boyfriend and she finds his shoe and then BAM a string of barb wire is wrapped around her head through her mouth and practically cuts her in half. It would be just as deadly around her throat but through her mouth gives you the willies and is therefore a better way to kill in a horror movie designed to give you those thrills. Then the hunt is on for the other victims. We see the mutants and their deformed heads and their disheveled appearance. We find their house and see a stew with body parts. These mutant may be deformed, look hideous and probably have not bathed in years but boy are they fast, and strong. You can be running away from them, lose sight of them and then suddenly find them ahead of you blocking your way. You can knock them out of a tree from so far up you can barely see the ground and yet they get up and dust themselves off, laugh manically and scamper away. I saw this movie back in 2003 and when it came through the library as a new acquisition I watched it again and it kept my attention. Check it out, if you are into mutants hunting down teenagers and mutilating them.
Fans of cinema will want to look over Sight & Sound’s most recent poll of 250 of the Greatest Films ever made. Compiled once a decade since 1962, this list is a great primer for anyone interested in watching the most talked and written about works, including silent films, movies from Hollywood’s golden era, contemporary art house flicks and foreign language masterpieces from the 1950’s and 60’s. Comedies, Drama, Westerns, Noir, Romance—it’s all there. Here are the top ten:
- Citizen Kane
- Tokyo Story
- La regle du jeu
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Searchers
- Man with a Movie Camera
- Passion of Joan of Arc
- 8 1/2
Passion of Joan of Arc