Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Another Year (2010)*****

Mike Leigh is back, and squarely in his comfort zone with Another Year. The modestly simple story of a middle-aged couple (Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen), Another Year brims with the type of low key, observational realism that Leigh does better than just about anybody. He manages to find the exhilarant and the heartbreaking hidden within the most banal ingredients, and this film features many head shaking moments of deep resonance. Lesley Manville is terrific as a family friend who just can’t quite get it together, while David Bradley nearly steals the film as Broadbent’s laconic brother. While its narrative contains a mix of amusing and chilling insights, Another Year is primarily a film about the awareness of mortality, and the slow, inexorable ticking of life’s clock. 

Copacabana (2010)***1/2

Copacabana is yet another of those mediocre scripts that Isabelle Huppert manages to make watchable - even entertaining - apparently through sheer force of will. She plays a free-spirited woman who decides to stop being an embarrassment to her uptight, bourgeois daughter (Lolita Chammah) and ply her street smarts in the unlikely profession of timeshare sales. Huppert discovers she has a gift for moving vacation condos on Belgium’s freezing coast, and her hustle impresses the boss (Aure Atika) while earning her the resentment of her whining coworkers. It gets a bit silly and chick-flicky toward the close, but there’s no denying Huppert’s charisma and workmanlike conviction to material that doesn’t deserve her. Sometimes, art is more perspiration than inspiration, but Isabelle always gives her fans their money’s worth.

Investigation (2006)****

Investigation is a police drama from Bulgaria that succeeds on the strength of its dense atmospherics and pervasive sense of gloom. Written and directed by Iglika Triffnova, you will feel the slick, icy streets of Sofia and the damp chill of its crumbling stone buildings. Svetla Yancheva is remarkable as Alexandra, a newly promoted detective who tries to control freak her career while her personal life slowly falls to shambles. More a procedural than a mystery, the case revolves around trying to cajole a confession out of the miscreant (Kassimir Dokov), a task that eluded Alexandra’s predecessor. The ending is slightly disappointing and feels a little contrived, but Investigation manages to evoke rewarding grittiness along the way, and is well worth the viewing. Think Prime Suspect crossed with Police, Adjective.

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