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Belgium

Raphaël Jacoulot – Avant l’aube (2011)

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Director Raphaël Jacoulot’s dark and atmospheric mystery, set in an isolated high-Pyrenees hotel, has all the desired elements – precise and intelligent direction, excellent casting and a great plotline in the Chabrol-Simenon tradition.

The events, as they first unfold from an innocuous opening, quickly spiral downward for la famille Couvreur. One snowy evening, despotic hotel-owner Jacques Couvreur (Jean-Pierre Bacri) sends his incompetent son down into the valley to re-stock several cases of wine. The son collides with a pedestrian and for some reason the father decides to hide the truth and say nothing about the hit-and-run accident. A young trainee, Frédéric (Vincent Rottiers), just released from prison and re-starting his life, becomes implicated in this strange affair. Inspector Poncet (Sylvie Testud), in her endearing and off-putting Columbo-esque investigative style, strives to uncover the truth behind the discovery of the corpse. Read More »

Tom Tykwer – Lola rennt AKA Run Lola Run (1999)

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Pieces of the Action

A low-budget no-brainer, Run Lola Run is a lot more fun than Speed, a big-budget no-brainer from five years ago. It’s just as fast moving, the music is better, and though the characters are almost as hackneyed and predictable, the conceptual side has a lot more punch. If Run Lola Run had opened as widely as Speed and it too had been allowed to function as everyday mall fodder, its release could have been read as an indication that Americans were finally catching up with people in other countries when it comes to the pursuit of mindless pleasures. Instead it’s opening at the Music Box as an art movie.

Why try to sell an edgy youth thriller with nothing but kicks on its mind as an art movie? After all, it’s only a movie–a rationale that was trotted out for Speed more times than I care to remember. The dialogue of Run Lola Run is certainly simple and cursory, but it happens to be in subtitled German–which in business terms means that it has to be marketed as a film, not a movie. And of course nobody ever says “It’s only a film,” just as no one ever thinks of saying “It’s only a concert,” “It’s only a novel,” “It’s only a play,” or “It’s only a painting.” Because they’re omnipresent, movies almost oblige us to cut them down a peg or two just so we can breathe around them. Read More »

Ruben Desiere – La Fleurière AKA The Flower Shop (2017)

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During the holidays three men try to break into the Belgian National Bank from a florist’s shop. During their rain-hampered digging, they discuss trips to sunnier climes, the basic laws of physics and those back at home in Eastern Europe. Read More »

Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne – Le Fils AKA The Son [+Extras] (2002)

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Olivier is a good teacher of carpentry, but a touch gruff; even so, when he refuses to accept young Francis into his workshop, that doesn’t explain why he takes to following the boy, as if he were spying on him. Might it have something to do with his own dead son, as his estranged wife insists?

One strength of the Dardennes’ follow-up to Rosetta, winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or, is that, once again, they ask us to discover certain crucial facts for ourselves: by the time we’re faced with questions of ethical and spiritual import, we’ve done enough groundwork to assess the evidence properly. Wisely, the camera stays close to Olivier, with the result that, notwithstanding his subtle understatement and a relatively taciturn script, we’re privy to his every fleeting thought and nagging emotion. Never manipulative or sensationalist, the film is none the less deeply moving. – Time Out Read More »

Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne – Le Silence de Lorna AKA Lorna’s Silence (2008)

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Sokol and Lorna, two Albanian emigrants in Belgium, dream of leaving their dreary jobs to set up a snack bar. They need money, and a permanent resident status. Claudy is a junkie – he needs money to satisfy his addiction. Andrei, the cigarette smuggler, must hold up for a while outside Russia; he has loads of money. Fabio, the Italian taxi driver and aspiring gang boss, elaborates a clever scheme: he will pay Claudy to marry Lorna so that she acquires a Belgian citizenship. Then she is to re-marry Andrei, who will in this way obtain the coveted EU passport – and pay a hefty price to Fabio and Lorna for the service. Like all plans, this one will not survive the contact with reality.
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Olivier Smolders – Axolotl (2018)

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Quote:
The story of a man lost in a labyrinth. Read More »

Marion Hänsel – Le lit (1982)

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Quote:
A sculptor is fighting his final battle against death on his houseboat on the frozen Schelde river. Two women are at his side: his first wife, who he is divorced from, and his second wife. The latter is most concerned about his death as she realizes that in the end the only result will be irrevocable loneliness. She wants to postpone the fatal moment and therefore tries to find comfort in her reminiscences from the times when she was happy with him. A story about fidelity till after death. Read More »