Basil Khalil – Ave Maria (2015)

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Synopsis:
Nuns of the ‘Sisters of Mercy’ convent in the middle of the West Bank
wilderness have their daily routine of silence and prayer disrupted
when a family of religious Israeli settlers crash their car into the
convent’s wall.
The Sabbath is approaching and they need to get home urgently,
however, because of the Sabbath laws, the Israelis can’t operate a
phone to call for assistance, and the Nuns have taken a vow of
silence. Together they have to come up with an unorthodox plan to
help them get home. Continue reading

Irena Pavlásková – Fotograf (2015)

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Quote:
This acerbic biographical comedy subtitled “I Think You Should Calm Down, Ladies…!” is loosely inspired by the life of renowned photographer and celebrity Jan Saudek, outstandingly portrayed by Karel Roden. The film, appealing in its theme and treatment, focuses on the maestro’s relationships with women, specifically the devoted Líba, who enjoys subtle yet complete control over Jan (her character is undeniably inspired by his former partner Sára Saudková). In addition to numerous indelicate scenes, the brief flashbacks also reveal Jan’s ill-fated past (conflicts with the police and state security agents, a nightmare from his childhood), and there’s also room for staging Saudek’s famous photographic nudes, for which the models were usually morbidly obese. Pavlásková also exposes the artist’s quirky personality, where exhibitionism and vanity go hand in hand with Saudek’s fragility and male naivety, and his desire to extricate himself from his private solitude. Continue reading

Hal Ashby – The Last Detail (1973)

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The Last Detail fits very nicely into its early 1970s milieu: distinctly anti-authoritarian, the film is chock full of cursing, sexual language, rowdiness, and downright rudeness. Of course, Jack Nicholson’s devilish grin was the perfect vehicle to carry this sort of pointedly subversive material, because he was so likable doing it. From Easy Rider to Five Easy Pieces to The Last Detail to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nicholson made the role of the (often hilarious) nonconformist his own. Reclusive director/editor Hal Ashby was also a perfect fit for the film and the time period. Fresh from the offbeat critical success of the serio-comic Harold and Maude, Ashby brought an “experimental” feel to the film, most obviously in the jump cut editing borrowed from the French New Wave. Screenwriter Robert Towne was nominated for an Academy Award (his second of three in a row, following Chinatown and preceding Shampoo). Towne’s f-word-strewn dialogue had Columbia shaking in their boots, and they refused to release the picture. It was only after Nicholson won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival that they gave it a run. But they never supported it much, and it died an unnecessary death at the box office. It has since come to be regarded as one of Nicholson’s best, if not best-known, performances. Continue reading

Benjamin Crotty – Fort Buchanan (2014)

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Synopsis:
Roger spends the winter in a cabin in the woods at an army base. His husband Frank is on a mission in Djibouti and doesn’t communicate much, while their adopted teenage daughter Roxy is starting to get rebellious. Roger finds support with four women and an attractive farmer/boxing trainer, who are also all divorced from their better halves. They dispel the boredom by philosophising about life, seduction attempts and thinking up nicknames for their private parts.
In four seasons, an ironic melodrama unfolds with absurdist accents and conceptual tendencies. Benjamin Crotty, who grew up alongside an American army base, uses both French and American cultural elements, ranging from eco-architecture to dialogues based on texts from American TV series.
Fort Buchanan is a long version of the short, similarly-named film that was also screened in Rotterdam. Continue reading

Hal Salwen – Denise Calls Up (1995)

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Synopsis by Mark Deming
Thanks to the technological marvels of wireless phones, answering machines, the internet, and e-mail, it is no longer necessary actually to see anyone you know, and seven friends have taken this notion to its logical extreme in this comedy. Linda (Aida Turturro) throws a birthday party and to her dismay, none of her friends show up. The next day, while making phone calls with several acquaintances (none of whom ever meet face to face), Linda hears the same excuse from everyone: they were busy with work and tied up on the phone. Denise (Alanna Ubach), meanwhile, is pregnant, and she decides to call the father, Martin (Dan Gunther), whom she’s never met; he made what he thought was an anonymous donation to a sperm bank, and he isn’t so sure he wants to be part of the parenting process. Gale (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) wants to set up a blind date between her friend Barbara (Caroleen Feeney) and Jerry (Liev Schreiber), who exchange photos via fax machine. The group ends up having a wake via conference call when one of their friends dies in a car accident, while talking on a cellular phone, of course. Denise Calls Up was the directorial debut for screenwriter Hal Salwen. Continue reading

Georgiy Daneliya – Ne goryuy! AKA Don’t Grieve (1969)

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Synopsis:
After graduating from St. Petersburg University, full of hopes and grand plans, returned to his native town of the young doctor Benjamin Glonti. But life as before his departure, is running its course: a growing family of sestritsy Sofiko, hard from morning till night rewrite the paper her husband, Luke, from time to time in the cellar down to “topple” bottle. And still, the elephant, without the case, “getting” all the counsel of Dodo. Benjamin became a lament for the failed life. And then, to correct the matter brother, Sofiko decided to marry his daughter to the old doctor … Continue reading

Tony Bill – Five Corners (1987)

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Five Corners is a powerful, moody ensemble piece with an impressively heavyweight cast. Although the basic story of the film causes it to veer off from serious drama into melodrama, it manages to pack quite a punch, thanks to some tautly-written individual sequences, acutely observed characters and deft direction. John Patrick Shanley’s screenplay is not always successful at mixing the quirkily amusing segments with those of a more disturbing or frightening bent, but the individual moments work so well that the viewer tends to overlook the lapses. Working from the script’s strengths, Tony Bill’s direction finds abundant humor as well as almost unbearable tension. His work on the elevator sequence is especially good, finding unexpected visual beauty in the image of the shafts while simultaneously creating apprehension at the danger involved in the “game” being played. His direction is also noteworthy in the penguin scene and the lengthy climactic chase. Jodie Foster gives a lovely, understated performance, quietly but eloquently conveying the character’s desperation, frustration and determination, and contrasting effectively with John Turturro’s disquieting psychopath. Tim Robbins displays a gentle strength and is especially good in his diner scene, while Kathleen Chalfont is memorable in a small role. Robbins would hit it big the next year with Bull Durham, at the same time that Foster would earn recognition (as an adult actress) with The Accused. ~ Craig Butler, All Movie Guide Continue reading