Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vibrator (2003)

Reviewed by Shu Zin

Wow! What an exhilarating little gem, Ryuichi Hiroki’s VIBRATOR is! I loved this sensitive, perfectly paced film - which has absolutely nothing to do with a vibrator - just a heads up! The story is about a troubled, but oddly spontaneous, young free-lance writer, who decides to hook up with a truck driver who catches her eye at a convenience store, just as he heads out on a long haul. This is a road story that held me entranced and responsive from the first scene through the last notes of the credits. Astonishingly realistic and subtle, with no apologies, the story develops as these two intelligent, eccentric characters get to know and trust each other.

It is breathtakingly observant, sensual as can be, kindly in its sensibility, and funny, too. All this said, you might be surprised to hear that it moved me to real tears more than once. The production is wonderful, with great, well-observed scenes along the road, a leisurely camera and beautiful composition, and the acting and direction are absolutely first-rate. Shinobu Terajima as the adventuresome writer is astounding and compelling, even though she is no raving beauty; her acting and persona are hypnotic.

The chemistry between her character and that of Nao Omori (the truck driver) is wonderful beyond words; as soon as I buy this DVD, I’m going to check out other films made by Terajima, and by Ryuichi Hiroki, the director. This is the best film I’ve seen in ages. Highly recommended. Postscript: Ryuichi Hiroki also directed TOKYO TRASH BABY, which was quirky, engrossing and richly original, and I AM AN S&M WRITER, also engaging, and very funny. I’d recommend them both and, if you are like me, you might want to see all three of these at the same time, so you can wrap your mind around his style and vision through total immersion. He spent his early years making “pinku” films, by the way, and I think he is one of the most interesting Japanese directors today.

Reviewed by Shu Zin

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Never Let Me Go (2010) ****

Never Let Me Go is an intriguing dose of speculative fiction, set largely in the 1980s, and tracks the relationship of 3 friends - Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightly) – from childhood to their late 20s. The story contains some familiar thematic elements from popular sci-fi, but places those elements in unexpected pastoral settings, creating a film that’s ultimately an odd mixture of Blade Runner and How Green Was My Valley. The plot hinges on hidden nuggets of information – quite shocking information - that are slowly doled out in baffling hints and whispers in the first act. By the time a sympathetic boarding school teacher (Sally Hawkins, back to being normal again after Happy-Go-Lucky) spills the entire can of Heinz beans, the film has tricked us into caring about these bright-eyed waifs. The explanation makes perfect sense and ties up all the dangling strings, but it’s cold comfort because confusion has been replaced by creeping dread.

Carey Mulligan has a unique ability to play a victim without ever seeming weak or wobbly. It’s a trait she exploited in The Education to great effect and director Mark Romanek leans heavily on it here. The friends eventually graduate from their special school, and take residence on a sort of foster-farm, where they spend their days dodging cow pies while going for long walks through the dales. Mulligan maintains a stiff upper lip through it all, for not only is she fully aware of her fate, she must also contend with the burgeoning romance of foul tempered Ruth and innocent Tommy, for whom Mulligan has carried a torch for years.

As the principles approach their date with destiny, Romanek confounds our expectations by injecting  stately temperance in place of desperation. The film is based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro, author of The Remains of the Day, and Never Let Me Go has the same repressed loathing of awkward embarrassment; the same admiration for those who allow resolute duty to trump fiery hysterics. When Kathy and Tommy have their last hope for happiness cruelly dashed at a meeting with their retired former headmistress (Charlotte Rampling), it is Kathy who delivers the final blow in an effort to spare all involved  a moment of social unpleasantness.

Through imagining a world devoid of medical ethics, Never Let Me Go is a film that raises questions about what it means to be truly human. Like the subservient household staff in The Remains of the Day, thoughts of individualism or rebellion never seem to enter the minds of Never Let Me Go’s young protagonists. Perhaps such notions have been bred out of the species – the film never really addresses that issue directly – but Romanek and Ishiguro have created a chillingly placid world resigned to sacrifice and subjugation. As the film intently marches to its prescribed conclusion, its fulfillment hits the soul like a sledgehammer. We are accustomed to a cinema of hope, a cinema of catharsis, and Never Let Me Go intentionally swims against that popular tide. Like Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, we are left with poignant memories as our only proof of earthly existence .

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reflections in a Golden Eye (1969)*****

This terrific movie truly has stood the test of time, as fresh and startling a masterpiece today as it was 40 yrs ago. And the DVD, with the director John Huston's intended "golden haze" restored, is sublime. The film ran for only a week in its original production before Warner Brothers recalled it and restored it to Technicolor. In the version Huston made, the production bathes every frame in a golden haze, lending to the atmosphere a sense of humid morbidity. REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE is a film about desperation, unendurable repression, careless, selfish dalliance set against dissipating military dignity, dark sexual urges and incipient rage. These elements emerge in a brooding, suspenseful story adapted from a Carson McCullers novel, which begins, “There is a fort in the south where a few years ago a murder was committed…”

REFLECTIONS is set in an anachronistic army base somewhere in the south. The writing of this psychological melodrama, a study of human hell, is subtle and compelling; every scene is rich with symbolism accessible to the thoughtful viewer without being cloying, simplistic or pat. The late Elizabeth Taylor plays Leonora, the spoiled and randy wife of tortured Army Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando). Leonora is a fascinating character who alternates between coy and charmingly manipulative to incisive and sadistic. Taylor never steps over the line in her performance, she never “hogs the stage”, so to speak. Major Penderton lives a life of self-controlled, quiet desperation as he struggles to keep his aging body from going to seed, while his mind is assaulted by unwanted sexual awareness. We see him becoming ineffectual with the men he lectures and commands. He begins to preen in front of the mirror. Weldon later assesses his predicament with this observation: “Any fulfillment obtained at the expense of normality is wrong…and should not be allowed to bring happiness. In short, it’s better, because it’s morally honorable, for the square peg to keep scraping about in a round hole, rather than to discover and use the unorthodox one that would fit it.” What Weldon goes through shortly before the murder is psychologically terrifying, and a scene wherein Williams enters the house as Weldon smooths his hair in anticipation upstairs is shattering. This is a movie that starts with a low grrrr, and ends with an agonized roar.

Marlon Brando’s performance is powerful, maybe his best ever, but the whole cast is superb. Also worthy of note is Zorro David, who plays the hilarious, intelligent and engaging Anacleto, the Filipino house boy/confident to neurotic Alison, affectingly played by Julie Harris. Alison is married to a not-too-bright Colonel Morris Langdon, played perfectly low-key and slightly dense by Brian Keith. He takes horseback rides with Leonora, occasionally indulging in a little pleasurable diversion with the wife of his subordinate. This film simmers with sexual tension - even the horses were loaded with it - and Robert Forster, who plays the enigmatic catalyst, Williams, had no lines of consequence at all during the whole movie, although he is central to all the action and remains a mysterious, brooding character to the end, subtly insinuating and disrespectful even to his desultory salutes. The movie is full of wonderful little details, like a fine stallion eating raspberries, as his mistress frolics in the shrubbery, or when Leonora takes off all her clothes in the living room, to challenge her prissy husband. She then delivers to her horrified husband perhaps the most unexpected line in the whole movie: Son, have you ever been collared…and dragged out into the street and thrashed by a naked woman?

A notable aspect of this work is that each of the very diverse characters is given equal weight and attention by the director. None prevailed as the "star", even though Elizabeth Taylor is given top billing, and each character is treated with keen, non-judgmental interest. Unusual to see Liz so content just to be the ditzy, self-absorbed character she plays...that, and nothing more. 

Special Features on this DVD offers a “making of” with “vintage behind the scenes footage” well worth a look. We can see John Huston at work, and how intensely concentrated the actors are, especially, perhaps, Elizabeth Taylor, in wanting to please him. Movie and Special Features: highly recommended.

           Reviewed by Shu Zin

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Illégal (2010) ***1/2

Illégal (2010)

Illégal attempts to do for Belgian immigration authorities what Alan Parker’s classic Midnight Express did for Turkish prisons, and the films share a number of thematic and narrative similarities. Both have a basis in fact: Express was a harrowing first hand account of a justice system inclined toward brutality, while Illégal uses a scandalous true event to rationalize its searing, if unlikely, climactic fictions. And both films create dark fascinations that thoroughly engross. Like bearing witness to a tragic accident, the instinctive reaction is to look away. But Illégal taps such a deep vein of human empathy only the heartless will be insulated from its high emotional voltage.

Illégal examines the case of Tania (Anne Coesens), a Russian immigrant residing in the bustling Belgian city of Liège. Tania has overstayed her visa by 8 years, and during that time has become the foreman of a custodial crew at a large office building, while attentively raising her son Ivan (Alexandre Gontcherov), a 13 year-old who no longer remembers their former life in Russia. Director Olivier Masset-Depass, helming his sophomore feature, uses a brisk version of cinema verite to quickly establish Tania and Ivan’s backstory and their banal, work-a-day world of the present. These opening scenes have the look and feel of Dardenne Brothers products of the early 2000s, as Masset-Depass’s handheld cameras capture the cold, biting grime of industrious Liège with clanging immediacy.

While on their way to a surprise party she has arranged for Ivan, Tania and her son are stopped by immigration agents for a routine check. The hysterical Tania is subdued and cuffed by the agents but Ivan manages to escape, and their quiet, simple life is forever altered. Tania is hauled to an immigration detention center - a sort of bleak college dormitory encircled with razor wire - where she labors at hiding her identity while worrying herself into a frenzy over Ivan’s wellbeing.

Once inside the center, Masset-Depass adjusts his technique to accent the stoppage of time and Tania’s powerlessness. The camera becomes more stable and scenes are filmed with conventional coverage. This change in editorial tempo forces the audience to contemplate the full measure of Tania’s predicament. Despite heavy pressure by immigration officers, remaining anonymous is her only hope of avoiding a date with deportation.

The routine of life in detention gives the actors room to shine, as the characters find their own ways to adapt to a strange system that attempts to balance the martial with the humane. An African immigrant named Aïssa (Essa Lawson), a long term, iron-willed detainee with a rebellious streak, becomes a source of badly needed inspiration to Tania, and their unlikely friendship sparks surprising moments of warmth and humor. Lawson and Coesens build an intriguing chemistry, and their scenes add a balancing dimension of hope to the story’s increasingly bleak progression.

But it’s Coesens who shoulders the dramatic load here and over the course of the film we get deeply inside her frightened soul, yet she retains a mysterious, secretive reserve. Along the way there are panicked phones calls, escape attempts, meetings with hapless lawyers and, eventually, the ultimate act of rebellion. Coesens crafts Tania with such stark believability each scene is rendered as a fully formed entity, with just enough air of desperation to ensure the film never loses its precarious contours.

Like Midnight ExpressIllégal ends with more of a whimper than a bang, but it’s a welcome change of pace. Despite some dangling threads, the film’s coda shifts the focus away from the quicksand of legality and onto the firmer ground of true justice. There are millions of undocumented Tanias in the world, all of them facing deadly risks and exhausting struggles in their quest to build new lives in new, often unwelcoming places. Illégal offers few answers as to how they do it, but gives compelling and poignant insights as to why.


Shot on 16mm with a 1.85 crop, the disc looks quite rich, full and surprisingly sharp, with the slight grain inherent in the format only enhancing the film’s dour patina. Masset-Depass limited the palette to mainly blues and grays and, as a result, the skin tones are fittingly cool and haggard. Dust specks, the bane of 16mm production, have been virtually eliminated and it’s obvious great care was taken with the telecine.

A stereo and a 5.1 track are offered. Illégal is not an aurally complex film, and our toggling between the two revealed little difference. In both cases, the mix is clear and clean, with a forbidding silence often the dominant element.

As customary with Film Movement releases, a short film is included. 2009’s Rita is a cleverly surreal immersion into the cloistered fantasies of a 10 year old blind girl (Marta Palermo). A sudden intrusion of grim reality challenges Rita’s perceptions, and her trusting spirit will be severely tested. Clocking in at 18 minutes, directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonia Piazza have created a haunting parable that engages from start to finish, and is one of the true gems in Film Movement’s collection of shorts. Several previews of upcoming Film Movement releases complete the disc.


Unless one has faced Tania’s precise circumstances, it’s difficult to issue a judgment on the film’s accuracy. Characters and situations are introduced in the final reel that seem a bit cartoony and convenient, but they allow the narrative to plow forward without lose of momentum. Taken on its own merit, this is a skillfully directed and well acted film that will appeal to fans of edgy Euro-docudramas. Those who eagerly await the next emission from the Dardennes will find the raw, somber textures of Illégal a worthy substitute.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor 1932 – 2011

Washington Post Obit Here

I saw Elizabeth Taylor walking down a quiet street one day in Richmond, back when she was married to John Warner. That was about the time this picture was taken. She was all alone, wearing a fancy blue gown, seemingly just out for a little stroll.

She was staring off into the distance, as if she was thinking about something from the past, and she had a little smile on her face. She looked perfectly happy.

Her eyes were purple and glowed like lazers.

I was so stunned, I had to go home and sit down for a while.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Stranger (1946)***1/2 Blu-ray

Among the actors, the only weak link is Welles. His turn as Rankin starts with impressive subtlety, evoking the whispered edges of veiled secrets. But, much like the film itself, his performance eventually teeters over the edge and onto a chilled platter of diced ham.

Read the Full Review at

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bunchie's Scrapbook: Bad TV Edition Part 2

Hank was kind of a Dobie Gillis rip-off that aired in the mid-60s. The only reason I remember the show was I watched it with my Grandma one night and she turned to me and asked "Is this supposed to be funny?" I was a little kid and it was the first time anyone had asked my opinion on anything. Maybe that's what made me want to be a critic....

This show was an interesting, and rare, TV flop from James Garner. He played a sheriff in a dusty Arizona town in the early 20th century. I remember he rode a clunky, homemade motorcycle instead of a horse. Margot Kidder played a sweaty and slightly slutty bartender. The show was very laid back and comedic, sort of a hippie version of Gunsmoke.

Captain Nice was a superhero comedy, and an attempt to ride the capetails of the very popular Batman TV series. I don't remember much about it, except it helped launch the very long and successful career of William Daniels. How many actors can claim to having roles in The Graduate and Blades of Glory?

Speaking of captains, Captain Scarlet was one of those Gerry and Sylvia Anderson sci-fi puppet deals. It was revived in the 2000s as a Pixar style animated series, but I preferred the old marionette version. The series featured an all-female fighter pilot squadron and they were really hot...err, I mean for puppets they were hot...not like real girl hot...oh let's change the subject...

Room 222 was all about a high school in sunny Los Angeles, where the kids had a lot more fun than we did in rural Virginia. Of course they had bigger problems too. Every week some kid OD'ed, or got arrested for car theft or discovered his dad was an escaped convict or something. That sort of stuff didn't happen too much in VA. Only the occasional incident with livestock...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Escape Clause (1996)****

Reviewed by Guest Blogger Shu-Zin

Who’d have thought that opening ESCAPE CLAUSE with a rousing speech about risk assumption to a bunch of insurance pros at a convention would have me on the edge of my seat, with my mouth hanging open? Well. It did, and mine was, and I knew right away I was going to love this movie. See, that opening scene did not talk down to the audience, nor was it dumbed down or overwrought. It was simply smart and intriguing, and that’s the mark of good writing in a film. I shouldn’t be surprised if the Ramsey Curve really exists in modern, real-life risk assessment.

This smart, gripping quality did not quit til the end of this stylish, well-paced thriller about insurance, infidelity and murder. After some early morning matrimonial bliss, the story, about an insurance exec (Andrew McCarthy, in a nicely understated and compelling performance) whose wife seems to have contracted for his murder, begins in earnest. This is a thriller, and I felt chills visit my spine more than once as the story proceeded to a sneaky surprise ending.

 Director Brian Trenchard-Smith makes everything flow; one senses he is demanding and hands on, and in cahoots with the production designer and the cinematographer. The production is perfect, lovely to look at; good, rich colors, great light and shadow shots, good pacing. While there are familiar elements (Double Indemnity, for example, addresses some of the themes here), this is a fresh, original take, and you’ll experience a jolt or two of paranoia with your suspense, which brings me to the score; it will make your hair roots tingle.

Good casting all around, with excellently annoying in-laws and the great Paul Sorvino as sad, observant, big bear cop with a trick or two up his sleeve. Heads up: things are quite steamy in the marital bliss department, and “labial folds” are mentioned, sotto voce, by the police. There are two scenes with men lying in a sea of broken crockery, but not much else noteworthy in the violence department. Recommended good fun.

Reviewed by Guest Blogger Shu-Zin

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beaches of Agnes (2008)****1/2

In this delightful memoir, the great Agnes Varda recounts the many adventures that have marked her extraordinary time on Earth. Always a better documentarian than a dramatic filmmaker, Varda utilizes a variety of clever visual tools to intimately acquaint us with her 80-year love affair with life. Name any important creative innovation in art, music or culture since WWII, and there you’ll find Agnes, smack dab in the middle of it. Amusing, heartbreaking, never short of amazing, The Beaches of Agnes is a must see for anyone interested in the mysterious forces that compel the serially creative.

Still Walking (2008)****

Fans of the classic films of Yasujiro Ozu will enjoy this contemplative drama of family life in Japan. Director Hirokazu Koreeda uses leisurely strolls over hilly terrain as a metaphor for the passage of time and generational change. Quiet, hypnotic and strangely poignant, Still Walking explores a family’s deepest secrets and resentments through reverent scenes that somehow manage to simultaneously evade and confront.

Reno 911 Season 4 (2006)*****

Since most of you think I’m a squat-to-pee film snob, you’ll be shocked to know I LOVE this raunchy, insane, just plain goofy comedy about Reno’s far-from-Finest. Pick any season – they’re all hysterical - but Season 4 ranks as my favorite. Along with the usual gang of talented nitwits (Cedric Yarbrough, Niecy Nash, Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Carlos Alazraqui, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kerri Kenney and Mary Birdsong) there’s great guest stars including Paul Rudd, Paul Rubens and the always hilarious Kim Whitley. Her turn as a prostitute more interested in running errands than collaring an abusive pimp is one of the funniest sketches in the show’s history…and that includes a lot of funny sketches. Hey, there’s more to life than that new penetrating Bulgarian art film. Live a little!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ozon's Hideaway (2009) ✭✭✭1/2

Hideaway is a simple drama told with uncharacteristic restraint by Francois Ozon. The film is all about wounded souls who escape the pressures of city life and attempt to repair themselves in an ivy-covered cottage on the French coast. Ozon takes a break as well, forsaking his typical flights of strange and, on occasion, shocking fancy to channel his pastoral inner-Rohmer. While the film is bookended with dark and dangerous textures, its sprawling middle is leisurely sedate, and replete with life’s unhurried pleasures.

Isabelle Carre, who excels at evoking repressed turmoil, stars as a privileged young woman named Mousse. She and her ersatz bohemian boyfriend Louis – played by Melvil Poupard, star of A Summer’s Tale and perhaps another Ozonian nod to Rohmer – spend their days shacked up in a Parisian rental property owned by Louis’s mother (the icy Claire Vernet). Heroin has become the center of their lives and Ozon effectively depicts the crushing depression junkies endure while awaiting their next fix.

Mousse awakens in the hospital to learn that Louis has fatally overdosed, and only last minute intervention by paramedics saved her from a similar fate. In the process, it’s discovered that she’s pregnant with Louis’s child, and now faces a wrenching decision. At Louis’s funeral, she meets his sympathetic brother Paul (Louis-Ronan Choisy), but the rest of the family makes it very clear they want no part of Mousse or her unborn child.

Ozon shifts the story ahead about 6 months and Paris’s damp grays give way to the bright, dappled splendor of Aquitaine in summer. Mousse has taken residence in a remote stone gite, far from the madding crowd, where the gentle sea breezes comfort her – and her now bulbous belly – in this hour of grief. But Mousse’s hermetic life is interrupted by a visitor, as Paul stops by on his way to a vacation in Spain. And what begins as a brief family visit begins to morph into a roadmap for either Mousse’s salvation, or her final retreat from the outside world.

While much of the film is played as peaceful reverie, there are darker elements of a spiritual battle, tempering Hideaway’s lighter moments with a bittersweet edge. Mousse’s baby bump becomes a sort of totem highly prized by everyone except the mother, including Rohmer regular Marie Rivere who has a brief cameo. Paul’s presence is an effort to establish clarity and a moral compass in Mousse’s torpid world of methadone and self pity. But Ozon presents with a reductive lens; moral questions and Biblical allusions subtly flavor but never dominate.

The film’s ending is surprising, but logical, and we realize that Paul may have been a little too effective as Mousse’s redeemer. While Eric Rohmer’s innocent airheads embarked on seaside idylls to escape the pitfalls of romance, Francois Ozon prescribes a similar therapy for the bigger perils of our age. And with Hideaway, gives audiences a pleasant dose of palliative waters.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mélo (1986)**

You just never know what Alain Resnais is going to come up with next. Over his long career – in excess of 60 years – he’s created everything from the powerful holocaust documentary Night and Fog, to the one of the most pretentious, impenetrable - and downright prissy - films ever made, Last Year at Marienbad. His most recent emission, 2009’s Wild Grass, came very close to be being a fascinating and seductive romance, only to shatter its own spell with some very strange casting and a truly WTF ending. But these misfires are not really mistakes; I have a feeling his films turn out exactly the way he plans. That wacky Al; he’s such a card.

With Mélo, Resnais seemed to be throwing it all back in his critics' faces. “You want me to stop being creative and just make movies like everyone else? OK, try this on for size!” cried the beleagured director. Mélo is a pot boiling melodrama, pure and simple. Adapted from a play written in 1929, it’s overblown, overwrought, overworked and, by about 20 minutes, overlong. Its narrative structure closely resembles an opera libretto, with a slowly simmering exposition that finally gives way to betrayal, attempted murder, suicide and wrenching remorse. The only thing missing is a hefty Viking woman in full regalia.

Mélo deals with an exceptionally tortured love triangle, consisting of Marcel (Andre Dussollier), a world famous violinist pining for a lost love, Pierre (Pierre Arditti), a childhood friend of Marcel who had to settle for a career as a music teacher, and Pierre’s wife Romaine (Sabine Azema) whose attractive free-spiritedness hides a questionable grip on reality. Backed by intentionally stagy sets, the trio talk themselves blue in the face in the first act – it’s sort of a Rohmer film without the charm – and lay the dramatic groundwork for the gooey maelstrom that follows.

Dussollier gets high marks his efforts here – apparently he missed the meeting where everyone else was informed the film was a parody – and somehow he keeps a straight face and a genuine conviction. His innate elegance and charm pegs him as a sort of latter day Ray Milland, and he pursues his task with admirable fortitude. Azema has neurosis down pat - she plays a similar character in Wild Grass - and here she becomes the embodiment of every amateur theatre director’s idea of a dangerously hot leading lady.

Resnais took a film that showed some early potential and, by injecting the tritest elements imaginable, made it a wobbly weeper. Like many directors, he’s either a talentless hack or a cinematic genius. And at the age of 89, he’s earned the right to be whatever he feels like being. I lean towards the genius side of the spectrum, although at times he’s made it awfully hard to defend that position. As an achievement of a director’s objectives, Mélo should get 5 stars. As a film to actually sit and watch, a rating of 2 is charitable. And I’m sure that’s exactly as Resnais planned.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rain Man (1988)***blu-ray

Rain Man doesn’t even rank among Barry Levinson’s three best pictures – Diner, Avalon and The Natural earn that distinction, in that order – and at times the movie almost suffocates under the weight of its own cuteness. Like leading man Tom Cruise, the film has not worn well, and within its Reagan-era shallowness it’s easy to see why there is so little nostalgia for the 1980s.

Full review posted at

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Sicillian Girl (2009)***

Posted by Guest Blogger Shu Zin

THE SICILIAN GIRL is a passably interesting mob story, filmed in Italian, in Sicily and Rome. A young girl (Veronica D’Agostino) whose father and brother have been murdered by a competing mafia family decides that, no matter how long it takes, she will avenge their deaths. There is nothing to set this story about the entrapment and trial of a bunch of mafiosi apart from many others, except that it is an Italian take on the rather familiar subject.

The acting is fine, the cinematography nothing special, and it is not the most intelligently conceived and written plot, but it is taken from real life and, as such, I suppose, Director Marco Amenta has exercised restraint and avails himself of limited poetic license. Gerard Jugnot is cast as the prosecutor, Giudice Borsellino, and he delivers a solid, credible performance. I haven’t seen Jugnot since he was the wonderfully sympathetic French chorus master in THE CHORUS.

Come to think of it, there was a whiff of something French about him in this film, but I didn’t detect even a hint of a French accent in this Italian effort. This is a mildly entertaining 130 minutes, with the occasional operatic moment (Tosca?) and a hint of Romeo and Juliet in the tragic love affair. Your Call.

Posted by Guest Blogger Shu Zin

Monday, March 7, 2011

When I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (2010)***1/2

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle is yet another of those gritty, hyper-real dramas coming out of Romania these days, but it’s a style that seems custom made for this tough and bitter narrative. Set in a penitentiary – an exceedingly relaxed one by North American standards – this Berlinale winner explores a particularly tortured mother/son relationship and by the time all is said and done, audiences will be keenly aware of the dire consequences of careless parenting.

Full review posted at