Ideas are imperishable, such is the premise of this powerful, upbeat allegory from one of Egypt’s most esteemed directors, Youssef Chahine. Ostensibly the true tale of revolutionary Muslim philosopher Averroes who lived in 12th-century Spain when Arabs ruled Anadulsia, it parallels the story of Chahine’s own experiences with Islamic fundamentalists when he released his 1994 film L’Emigre because it dared depict a sacred Muslim prophet. During that time, fundamentalists were not content to merely have the film banned, they also threatened Chahine’s life. Despite their destructive efforts, the fundamentalists ultimately failed and L’Emigre became one of Egypt’s most successful films. Averroes was a follower of Aristotelian thought, an innovative lawyer and an important scientist (he discovered the purpose of the retina) who lived during the rule of the great liberal Caliph Al Mansour. At the time, the Caliph’s rivals were part of Magdi Idris, a fundamentalist sect, who sought to destroy his power by cloaking their own political agendas in religious dogma and spreading it liberally amongst the easily influenced peasantry. Continue reading
‘La Promesse’ is the story of 15 year old Igor, who helps his small time crook father run a scam illegally employing immigrants on building sites. But when one of the workers is fatally injured, Igor promises to look after the man’s wife and child – a promise that changes Igor’s life forever. (ArtificialEye)
“The Promise” is the extraordinary story of a boy’s ascendance to grace. Under the conscienceless guidance of his father (Olivier Gourmet as Roger), fifteen-year old Igor appears destined to a life of petty crime. All changes, however, when Igor delivers an uncompromising promise to Hamidou – an immigrant who while working illegally for Roger accidentally falls to his death. As Roger scrambles to cover-up the accident, Igor suddenly finds himself torn between his loyalty to Roger and the agreement he made with Hamidou. Suspicious of Roger’s motivation and intimately drawn to the heart of his promise, Igor must choose between his love for his father and the demands of his awakening conscience. (New Yorker Video) Continue reading
A young girl and her mother both carry the scars of their experiences during the holocaust in this drama from Israel. In 1951, Aviya (Kaipo Cohen) is a ten-year-old girl being raised by her single mother, Henya (Gila Almagor), in a small village in Israel. Henya is a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, and has come out of the experience considerably worse for wear; she’s haunted by the memories of her past, and has become emotionally unstable.
The Summer of Aviya was based on a novel by Gila Almagor, who also plays Henya. A sequel, Under the Domim Tree, was released in 1995. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
As Frédérique lies dead on her kitchen table at the hands of Christophe, police try to piece together the events that led to the gruesome killing. Frédérique’s teenage daughter narrates the tragic tale of love gone wrong.
Review by Kevin Vu: Though it possesses the voice of a notorious auteur, “Perfect Love” is one of Catherine Breillat’s lesser works. Despite being her sixth feature, the film seems like an early and minor effort, containing recurring elements explored in more accomplished films (e.g. “Fat Girl” and “Romance”), not to mention the sex and flesh that marries her reputation with vulgarity and controversy. Although Breillat has since found alternative outlets for her provocation and feminine rage, such as costume drama and fairytale, she has always challenged the conventional notions of sex using facets of the human body and soul that she strips bare – figuratively and literally. The plot here is not a matter of boy meets girl, and it never is for Breillat as she continues to reveal human depravity through sexuality. Continue reading
Review by Roger Ebert:
The people materialize from out of clear white light, as a belltolls. Where are they? An ordinary building is surrounded by greenery andan indistinct space. They are greeted by staff members who explain,courteously, that they have died, and are now at a way-station before thenext stage of their experience.
They will be here a week. Their assignment is to choose one memory,one only, from their lifetimes: One memory they want to save for eternity.
Then a film will be made to reenact that memory, and they will move along,taking only that memory with them, forgetting everything else. They willspend eternity within their happiest memory.
That is the premise of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “After Life,” a filmthat reaches out gently to the audience and challenges us: What is thesingle moment in our own lives we treasure the most? One of the newarrivals says that he has only bad memories. The staff members urge him tothink more deeply. Surely spending eternity within a bad memory wouldbe–well, literally, hell. And spending forever within our best memorywould be, I suppose, as close as we should dare to come to heaven.
It’s only natural that Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day begins with a shot of a barely-lit light bulb. On the set of a movie, a director reprimands an actress for harping on the color of her dress. “This is a black and white film,” he says, one of many references to the symbolic darkness that overshadows the milieu of the film. A Brighter Summer Day is itself in color, but it may as well be monochrome. Much of the film’s action takes place at night or inside dimly lit interiors, and it’s not unusual for the characters to be confronted by light and its almost political implications. Some of the best images in the film (young boys staring at a rehearsal from a theater’s rooftop; a basketball bouncing out of a darkened alleyway) pit light against dark—a fascinating dialectic meant to symbolize a distinctly Taiwanese struggle between past and present. From weapons to watches, objects similarly speak to the present. Like the light, these objects are constant reminders that the past can’t be ignored and must be used to negotiate the present. Continue reading
In Wong Kar-wai’s 1991 film Days of Being Wild, Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), a charming drifter captures the attention of store attendant Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung) by asking her to look at his watch. When she sees that it says one minute before 3:00PM on April 16, 1960, he tells her that she will never forget the moment and will dream about him that night. The next time they meet, the moment becomes two, then one hour, then weeks and months but Yuddy is like the mythical bird with no legs that just flies and flies and never lands. Abandoned by his real mother and brought up by a wealthy alcoholic courtesan (Rebecca Pan), he does not know where he came from or where he is going. He treats women with little respect, discarding them when they no longer serve his purpose. When one lover asks him if he loves her, he tells her that during his life he will be friends with many, many women but won’t know whom he truly loves until the end. Continue reading