The best films of the German Film Festival

Top Picks

Benjamin is a socially inept nobody. Max is handsome and charismatic. What these strangers have in common is computer hacking. After proving his skill, Benjamin is invited to join Max and his friends in a subversive hacker group. Identifying themselves as CLAY the gang carries out a series of spectacular attacks on political parties and even the ‘Federal Intelligence Agency’. For the first time in his life Benjamin feels like he belongs to something. Benjamin now wants recognition and status in the shadowy corner of cyberspace where hackers communicate-“the Net inside the Net.” To achieve this he will need to impress MR X, reigning king of the hacking world. The road to MR X involves an extremely dangerous Russian group known as FRI3NDS. With European cyber police also on his trail, Benjamin and CLAY will need to execute the most brilliant of plans just to stay alive.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:

Every year without fail Hannes, his wife Kiki and their closest friends go on a bike tour. It’s Kiki’s turn to choose the destination and for some strange reason she’s selected Ostend in Belgium. Why Belgium? What does Belgium have to offer besides chocolate and fries? Shortly into the journey Hannes makes an announcement. He is terminally ill, and assisted suicide is legal in Belgium. This will be his final ride. After the shock has subsided the group decides to pedal hard and enjoy a wild time in celebration of Hannes’ life. For his younger brother Finn, womanizing Micha and bickering couple Mareike and Dominik, this will be a ride to remember.
☆☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:

In the last days of Apartheid in South Africa four photographers from The Star newspaper in Johannesburg risked their lives daily to document the country’s frequent and appalling outbreaks of violence. Kevin Carter, Ken Oosterbroek, Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva were collectively known as the “Bang-Bang Club”. Today, only Marinovich and Silva are alive. Their candid testimony reveals how camaraderie, extreme bravery and sense of personal and professional duty results in the capturing of extraordinary and frequently disturbing moments in time. We also discover how violence and its aftermath claimed the lives of Carter and Oosterbroek.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:

A documentary that analyzes the modern educational system and argues that it squelches children’s capacity for imagination, creativity, and independent thought. Our economic and social system is increasingly jeopardized by crises and there is no answer in sight. The politically and economically powerful were largely educated at the best schools and universities. Their cluelessness is tangible and long-term prospects have been replaced by hectic knee-jerk activity. It is becoming terrifyingly clear that the boundaries of our thinking have been too tightly confined from childhood on. Regardless of what school we attended, we follow thought patterns that date back to the early era of industrialization where what counted was forming people into well-functioning cogs in a production-line manufacture-driven society. Since then, learning contents may have greatly changed since then, and the school is no longer a place of authoritarian drilling. Nonetheless, the fixation on normed standards determines lessons more than ever. For some time now a harsh wind blows at schools. “Performance“, the maxim of the competitive society, has become the inexorable measure of all things throughout the world. But the exclusive orientation towards technocratic learning goals and the accurate repetition of context-free information is the death of precisely that playful creativity which might help us, without fear of failure, to seek new solutions. Alphabet concludes a trilogy that featured We feed the World and Let‘s make Money; it reverts to the themes of both, concentrating them in its lense and magnifying them to the point of ignition.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:

Breaking free of the boilerplate: Testament of Youth – now in a cinema near you

This is a re-post of a post I did on Testament of Youth last December when the lead actress and I sat down to watch it for the first time (as you do). My excuse for reposting it is that the film has now been released in Australia and so is at a cinema near you. However the blogosphere is harsh and unforgiving, even here at Club Pony. So, to keep the howls of protest down, to throw a little meat to the wolves to keep them at bay till I can slink away, the post now has an EXTRA PARAGRAPH on my favourite scene. I discovered (HT James Kent) that the screenplay for this film and many others funded by the BBC repose freely available on the BBC website. A small victory for sensible publishing and an invaluable guide to my paragraph on my favourite scene. Anyway, the review is below the fold. Continue reading

French Film Festibule for Melbourne: with timetable of best films

Here’s another post highlighting a film festival. It derives from my frustration at being able to actually work out what’s worth seeing and when from festival propaganda which is mainly directed at trying to get you to go, not helping you work out what you’d like to see. Regulars know that I’ve been doing this for some time. I get someone in India to identify films that have passed a quality threshold – judged by standard review sites and other reviews and then run them up for me. Then I put them up here for everyone’s benefit.

However I don’t think I’ve ever got any feedback on this, so I’d appreciate it if people could offer some comments on the usefulness of the service. Note because it’s still a hassle to identify a film and then work out where and when a film is on, there’s now a new feature, which is a timetable at the bottom of the list of best films which have been identified. That way if you’re not studiously trying to get to the best films, but want to go out on a particular night or nights and want to know if, where and when there are any good films on that night, you can now do so using the table.

Top Picks

Trailer Icon 03 Gemma Bovery (Opening Night)
Martin, an ex-Parisian well-heeled hipster passionate about Gustave Flaubert who settled into a Norman village as a baker, sees an English couple moving into a small farm nearby. Not only are the names of the new arrivals Gemma and Charles Bovery, but their behavior also seems to be inspired by Flaubert’s heroes.
☆☆☆☆ Cinemablographer
☆☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:

The Imitation Game: See it if you can (And Keira Knightly is a bit of a dud)

I saw The Imitation Game last night and enjoyed it very much. Engaging and really well paced. Go see it if you can.

Keira Knightley was a disappointment. Her fate is a little like Helena Bonham Carter’s. Spectacular looking Young Thing HBC ended up parlaying her prim young ingénue routine in Lady Jane Grey and A Room with a View into prim older thing as the Queen Mum in The King’s Speech and endless baddies and weirdos all played in a similar way – for instance as Mrs Havisham in Great Expectations. As far as I could see she played pretty much the same character in Harry Potter and Les Miserables.

Keira’s problem is similar but somewhat different. She isn’t typecast by casting agents. She gets lots of different roles requiring a much wider range. But her most distinguishing physical feature, a certain aspect of her mouth and cheeks now seems to dominate everything she does like Louis Vuitton logos on Louis Vuitton luggage. She wasn’t much chop in this movie.

Two films to see, one to miss

On any trip one takes in a bunch of movies, at least on the plane. I’ve seen two that I heartily recommend. Belle dramatises (meladramatises?) the true story of a girl who was the product of a British military seaman in the 18th century and a black west indian woman. Before he dies he extracts from a relative the promise to look after his illegitimate daughter that is the product of this union. The resulting dark skinned girl receives a lady’s upbringing and the film portrays all this in a way that was convincing (for me anyway). She ends up marrying an opponent of the slave trade and so the films’ producers have turned this into a Jane Austen style story in which the drama of romance (including the wider family drama) becomes the vehicle in which virtue discovers itself in the world. An difficult thing to try, but well brought off I reckon.

Magic in the Moonlight is Woody Allen’s latest. It’s everything a good Woody Allen movie is. It’s funny and built on a conceit that generates a nice, neat plot through which Allen explores some of his themes. Colin Firth delivers the humour well, though his character is rather too didactically drawn as is Allen’s way. But a very enjoyable movie, if not must see viewing.

The final movie is Russell Crowe’s “The Water Diviner”. I would have steered clear of it from the trailer alone – which allows the viewer to gorge himself on Crowe’s non-acting – but for one thing. It was opening in Istanbul and the film is largely set in Istanbul. It’s the story of an Aussie, Aussie, Aussie who, visits Gallipoli after WWI to find his three dead sons. There in the aftermath of the war he finds Australian and British soldiers going about their moustachioed business of identifying and burying the war dead. They haven’t been able to identify his sons, but hey, Aussie, Aussie Aussie is a water diviner, so he tells them where to dig. And there they are! The characters consist of Aussies (salt of the earth – with the exceptions of the moustaches which are pretty obviously stuck on), Poms (whining and stuck up), Turks, who really can wear a moustache (tough but civilised and with a heart of gold).

But the best is kept till last. Russell ends up in Anatolia where there is major unrest between the muslim and Greek Christian population. Here the Greeks are Bad. As in About As Bad As You Can Get. They’re made up in near blackface from boot-polish and their main pass-time appears to be machine gunning turks. Russell manages to save a Turkish buddy from trouble by whacking a Greek Baddie with a cricket bat with which he’s been teaching the Turks to play cricket - I am not making them up. This was the obvious place for an “oy, oy, oy” but owing to the understated tone of the movie, we are spared. Anyway, I was puzzled at this as it made little sense to me that the Greek minority in the middle of the country would suddenly become uppity – as it was so against their interests. So I looked it up in Wikipedia. There was some aggression from the Greek nation supported by its coalition allies from WWI which landed at Smyrna inflaming racial tensions in the region. the Greeks also had designs on areas in Anatolia in central Turkey where Greeks were a majority. The upshot was vast Turkish massacres of Greeks known as the Greek genocide. It accounts for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Greeks with some accounts giving it a similar scale to the Armenian genocide. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the film.  Still I wouldn’t’ avoid the film for that reason. Avoid it for its vacuity masquerading as profundity, it’s non-acting masquerading as acting.

Testament of youth: Breaking free of the boilerplate

There comes a terrible moment to many souls when the great movements of the world, the larger destinies of mankind, which have lain aloof in newspapers and other neglected reading, enter like an earthquake into their own lives — where the slow urgency of growing generations turns into the tread of an invading army or the dire clash of civil war, and gray fathers know nothing to seek for but the corpses of their blooming sons, and girls forgot all vanity to make lint and bandages which may serve for the shattered limbs of their betrothed husbands.

Vera Brittain quotes this magnificent passage from George Elliott’s Daniel Deronda in her own great work, Testimony of Youth. It is of course the story of her generation and the catastrophe of the Great War visited upon them after a century of peace (if you ignore the horrors of colonialism at the periphery). She also says this in the book.

There is still, I think, not enough recognition by teachers of the fact that the desire to think – which is fundamentally a moral problem – must be induced before the power is developed. Most people, whether men or women, wish above all else to be comfortable, and thought is a pre-eminently uncomfortable process.

One of the most iconic and haunting episodes of war, indeed of any time is the Christmas parties that broke out spontaneously – to the horror of the authorities – along substantial sections of the Western front in 1914. Those events stand for many things – most particularly the life-world, in all its fragility breaking out against the iron fist inside the velvet glove of civilisation – the organised forces of coercion and violence behind any successful mass social formation. Yet, by then it was too late. Any insight or inclination that those events stood for could not be turned to any material advantage to anyone and the soldiers were hounded back into the trenches.

I’ve been reading some of Ulysses S Grant’s autobiography and it’s notable how often he juxtaposes moral and physical courage giving the impression that they tend to substitute for one another: Lack of moral courage seems the norm, and it often exacts its price in the need for physical courage. In a world which is so often reduced to boilerplate prose, never less so than today when managers manage their brands, and their own personal ‘brands’, in which politicians of both sides gradually – nowadays rather quickly – disappear beneath the insincerity of their talking points, I loved this film for dramatising this dichotomy in our lives between life as the collection of the petty hypocrisies and insincerities that get us through a normal day and life as a creative and rational act.  Continue reading

British Film Festibule

Top Picks (Looks like a good crop!)

The young Vera Brittain, an irrepressible, intelligent and free-minded woman who overcomes the prejudices of her family and hometown to win a scholarship to Oxford. With everything to live for, she falls in love with her brother’s close friend Roland Leighton and together they pursue their literary dreams. But the First World War brings everything to a grinding halt, and tears the couple apart. As Vera experiences the heartbreak of one by one losing the most important men in her life, and of the horrors of working as a nurse to wounded soldiers, she determinedly resolves to create a world in which such a war can never take place again.
☆☆☆☆ Cine-Vue
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
Set in contemporary London, a Cambodian-Chinese mother is mourning the untimely death of her son when her world is suddenly disrupted by the presence of a stranger. Without a common language, the two have difficulties in trying to communicate. But through a translator they slowly piece together memories of a man they both loved and realize that while they may not share a language, they are connected in their grief.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
During ‘The Troubles’, a young British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter who lived from 1775-1851. Profoundly affected by the death of his father, this anarchic yet popular member of the Royal Academy of Arts lived a full and exciting life. From traveling and visiting brothels to being strapped to the mast of a ship so that he could paint a snowstorm, he was both celebrated and reviled by royalty and the public. Rich and immediately enjoyable, this is a portrayal both funny and visually immaculate, combining domestic intimacy with an epic sweep both lyrical and mysterious.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
This daringly anarchic vision of British society follows nonconformist Mick Travis, along with his fellow students, as they lead a revolution against their school. Mixing colour with black and white as audaciously as it mixes fantasy with reality, this remains one of cinema’s most unforgettable rebel yells.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆☆ Eye For Film
Show Timings:
A Hard Day’s Night is a lively trip back to an era of sensational music, marking the true birth of British Beatlemania. The Fab Four’s famous first foray into film is considered one of the most innovative and refreshing music movies ever made. Celebrating the phenomenon of Beatlemania in 1964 and capturing John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in their unselfconscious and electrifying element, we experience a wildly irreverent journey through one day in the life of the world’s greatest rock’n’roll act.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
Running from an unsympathetic working-class family, a pair of demanding fiancées and an insecure job at an undertaker’s, Billy escapes into a world of fantasy where he can realize his dream ambitions. As work and family pressures build to new intolerable levels, Liz enters Billy’s drab life and offers him the one real chance he’ll ever get to leave the past behind.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
A flashy, fast romp that chases a team of career criminals throughout one of the biggest international gold heists to ever appear on film. Charlie Croker is a stylish thief fresh out of prison. He takes over “The Italian Job”, a complicated plan to steal gold bullion from Italy, right from underneath the noses of the Italian Police and the Mafia. Combining action, humour, and an incontrovertible sense of style, this is undoubtedly one of the quintessential British caper films of the 1960s.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ Eye For Film
Show Timings:

Italian Film Festival: a bit late

Films

Marina Play Trailer

True story of beloved singer, songwriter and accordionist, Rocco Granata, from his early life as an immigrant in Belgium to his emergence as a worldwide musical phenomenon with his 1959 song Marina, one of the biggest international hits of that era.1948 Calabria, in southern Italy, poor local worker Toto Granata leaves his wife Ida and two children to work in the Belgian mines, promising to return wealthier. But like countless others, instead of returning after a few years as planned, his family are forced to join him and adjust to a new life as immigrants in a foreign country. It is here Toto’s only son Rocco discovers his sole joys lie in young love and the music that will eventually immortalise him.

☆☆☆☆ IMDB

Show Timings

PALACE CINEMA COMO

Wednesday 17 Sep 7:00pm

Wednesday 17 Sep 7:15pm

Saturday 20 Sep 6:45pm

Sunday 21 Sep 1:45pm

Monday 22 Sep 8:45pm

Wednesday 24 Sep 1:45pm

Friday 3 Oct 1:45pm

Friday 3 Oct 9:00pm

Saturday 11 Oct 4:15pm

KINO CINEMAS

Wednesday 17 Sep 7:00pm

Friday 19 Sep 1:00pm

Friday 19 Sep 6:00pm

Wednesday 1 Oct 1:00pm

Saturday 4 Oct 6:00pm

Tuesday 7 Oct 6:00pm

Saturday 11 Oct 1:00pm

PALACE WESTGARTH

Wednesday 17 Sep 7:00pm

Wednesday 17 Sep 8:30pm

Thursday 18 Sep 4:30pm

Friday 26 Sep 7:00pm

Monday 29 Sep 4:30pm

Thursday 2 Oct 9:30pm

Thursday 9 Oct 4:30pm

Saturday 11 Oct 9:00pm

PALACE BALWYN

Monday 22 Sep 1:30pm

Sunday 28 Sep 4:00pm

Tuesday 30 Sep 9:00pm

Thursday 2 Oct 1:30pm

Sunday 5 Oct 6:30pm

Thursday 9 Oct 8:45pm

Sunday 12 Oct 4:00pm

PALACE BRIGHTON BAY

Wednesday 24 Sep 6:30pm

Friday 26 Sep 1:30pm

Tuesday 7 Oct 1:30pm

Wednesday 8 Oct 6:30pm

Friday 10 Oct 6:30pm

Lots more films below the fold Continue reading

Israel Film Festival

It is remarkable – non? – that, with the vast amounts spent on arts marketing it’s so hard to know what great arts events are on, where they’re on and whether you should go to them ahead of other arts events. In other words that it’s so hard not just to ensure that the information turns up on some feed of yours in a form that’s easily accessible and comprehensible, but also in a form that allows you to ignore dross, unless you want dross.

As a small contribution to solving this problem (with larger contributions in the wings), as you know Troppo hosts film festival highlights in a form that makes it easy for you to identify when and where good films are on. Here’s the Israeli Film Festival films that score around four stars or more from decent independent reviewers.

What’s there not to like?

Top Picks

A deeply compassionate depiction of the intricate and complex relationship between Jews and Arabs in the late 1980s, based on Sayed Kashua’s bestselling novels Second Person Singular and Dancing Arabs. Leaving his Arab home town of Tira to attend a prestigious Jewish boarding school, Eyad faces a dilemma: can he be accepted in this new environment without sacrificing his sense of self and culture? Though this opportunity suggests a positive future, Eyad struggles among Israeli Jews, feeling shame at simple things like not knowing how to use silverware, what music to listen to, and not pronouncing Hebrew correctly.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
This multi award-winning comedy is set in 1991 during the immigration wave from Russia to Israel and depicts one family’s hilarious experience through a video recording when their aunt dies in-flight causing all kinds of problems with entry paperwork!
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
From around the world, a group of thirty somethings return to their homeland of Israel to attend a mutual friend’s wedding with dramas forcing them to reexamine their relationships and desires.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Zohara decides to travel to her estranged sister’s wedding, but on the way becomes an accomplice in a young Bedouin woman’s desperate escape from an arranged marriage.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ Vox Magazine
Show Timings:
Aidan Bloom is a 35-year-old man who finds himself at major crossroads, which forces him to examine his life, his career, and his family. A struggling actor, father and husband, he is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He winds up trying to home school his two children, when his father can no longer afford to pay for private education and the only available public school is on its last legs. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find.
☆☆☆☆ Examiner.com
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Two men, spy and handler, whom history insists must be adversaries, forge an unexpected trust and friendship. A Palestinian in Ramallah, Mosab Hassan Yousef, whose father is a Hamas leader, grows up angry and ready to fight Israel. Arrested for smuggling guns at the age of 17, he’s interrogated by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, and sent to prison. But shocked by Hamas’ ruthless tactics in the prison and the organization’s escalating campaign of suicide bombings outside, Mosab astonishingly agrees to spy for Israel. Focusing on the complex relationship with his handler, The Green Prince is a gripping account of terror, betrayal, and unthinkable choices, along with a friendship that defies all boundaries
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
Show Timings:

Continue reading