John Duigan – The Year My Voice Broke (1987)

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Danny Embling (Noah Taylor) must face the bittersweet aches and sometimes harsh consequences of growing up when his childhood love (Loene Carmen) falls for a troubled older boy (Ben Mendelsohn) and the three whirl amidst the excitement and confusion of their own budding sexuality. Set in 1952, in a small rural town in the Australian outback, this poignant coming-of-age film beautifully captures the exquisite torture of adolescent longing and alienation. Continue reading

Timo von Gunten – La femme et le TGV AKA The Railroad Lady (2016)

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Synopsis:
A touching story between a lonely woman and a TGV train driver.

Review:
The spirit of warming one’s heart and melting one’s shell brings the fifth Oscar nominee to life. La femme et le TGV (dir. Timo von Gunten; Switzerland, 30 min.) stars Jane Birkin (Blow Up, Twice Born) in a quirky and amusing love story about a frumpy baker who finds one daily bit of solace in her small Swiss town. Every day when the TGV train goes whizzing by, she rushes to the window and waves her flag. For such a grumpy sourpuss, the baker completely melts with joy each time the train passes. She’s as happy as a kid in a candy store—doubly so when a pen pal from the train starts pitching gifts and notes out the window. Birkin is lots of fun and gives La femme et le TGV its sprightly bounce and offbeat charm. Of all the shorts nominated here, La femme et le TGV is the most complete picture. With its economy of storytelling, upbeat tone, and underdog spirit, this fun comedy is a refreshing reminder that lightening up and being good to one’s neighbours is the richest truffle of all. Continue reading

Michael Curtiz – The Matrimonial Bed (1930)

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Plot:
It is the fifth anniversary of the death of Adolphe Noblet who died in a train wreck. His servant and friends still worship him but don’t care much for his wife Sylvaine’s second husband Gustave with whom she has recently had a child. Sylvaine’s friends recommend that she use a new hairdresser, Leopold Trebel. However, when this womanizing coiffeur arrives, he turns out to be Adolphe suffering from amnesia. A doctor restores his memory using hypnosis but in the process wipes out everything that has happened to him over the last five years. Continue reading

Raoul Ruiz – Mistérios de Lisboa AKA Mysteries of Lisbon (2010)

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Raúl Ruiz is one of the great cinematic self-perpetuators, like Louis Feuillade and Jacques Rivette—a film like this gathers a motion and a rhythm that makes it feel like it could on and on, self-generating new stories and new characters ad infinitum.  Based on the novel by Camilo Castelo Branco (whose writing has been the source for Oliveira’s similarly fatalistic romance,Doomed Love), Mysteries of Lisbon is, to paraphrase a line from one of its many characters used to describe a disastrous relationship he had, a game that turns into a bourgeois romantic drama, to which I would add, that turns into a game.  It starts—as all stories must?—with an orphaned boy questioning his parentage and falling into a fever, and out of that starting point the film evolves less as a story than a cartography of characters crossing points in space and time.  On paper it is indeed all melodrama: identities revealed, lives saved in the past coming back to haunt the saviors, secret connections, loves turns to hatreds. Continue reading