CHOICE PICKS OF LOVE & HATE
By Robin E. Simmons
Director Lee Hirsch’s visceral, emotional, exploitive and voyeuristic documentary works on many levels. It is explosively dramatic and it may also be meaningful if it lets us empathize with the victims of bullying in a way that halts this reprehensible behavior. The Weinstein brothers milked all the publicity they could from the ratings battle (trying to get an R reduced to PG-13). This terrific film makes bullying an extremely gut wrenching experience because it personalizes it. Masterfully shot and edited, this intimate, character-driven documentary should be mandatory viewing for all parents and certainly for grade school and high school kids. Bravo for the Weinstein’s decision to release this as “unrated.” Victims of political and religious bullying are everywhere in our wider global culture. How do we love with grace? How do we forgive? How do we heal? How do we fight back – if ever? In theaters now.
I love being disarmed by sweet French cinematic fables of bittersweet love. Audrey Tautou and Francois Damiens play Nathalie and Marcus, two unlikely people who find each other. Nathalie is a beautiful widow working overtime to quell her grief. Marcus is her unattractive, awkward co-worker in a nameless business. The heart of the movie is in the unexpected development of their relationship after a surprising incident triggers a series of often funny and heartwarming encounters. In spite of the opposition from family, friends and co-workers around them, they slowly get to know and trust each other. Along the way, we are treated with some of the brightest, wittiest dialogue I’ve heard in a long time. This sly, beauty and the beast romantic comedy from David and Stephane Frankinose, a big hit at PSIFF, is one to see. French with English subtitles. In theaters now.
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
Director Lassie Hallstrom’s quirky, engaging and winning romantic dramatic comedy begins when consultant Emily Blunt approaches Ewen McGregor, Britain’s top fisheries expert, to make the crazy dream of a wealthy sheikh come true: to create a river environment that can sustain salmon in the Yemen. The issues in Blunt’s character balance the absurdity of the situation and his life. But as the two workers wend their way around obstacles of the task at hand, they discover possibilities of love – and even faith – when the true “fish out of water” find their best stream and go with the flow. The exceptional screenplay is by Simon Beaufoy. This wonderful film made me think of all the reason LOCAL HERO never grows old. In theaters now.
NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER
For a brief time I worked for Ralph Bakshi as an animator, so maybe my appreciation of this odd 1976 film’s mix of artistic styles is better than deserved. Bakshi unfiltered Brooklyn roots imbues his manner and movies. I loved the guy, but this film has garish cartoonish creatures next to extraordinary visual passages of great power and gothic intensity. It reminds me of Disney’s big fail with THE BLACK CAULDRON. Too silly in places, especially the art, it dilutes the fuzzy core theme of the movie: What happens when the powers of religion (or magic) and technology do battle to dominate the earth? Now here’s a worthy subject for an epic animated film reboot. The Blu-ray has a collectible 24-page book and a rambling, revealing commentary from Bakshi. Twentieth Century Fox.
IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY
Anjelina Jolie’s dark romance got a lot of negative political publicity when it was in production. Some people thought it was a manifesto for one side or the other in the horrendous Bosnian war that decimated the Balkans in the 1990s. Feelings are still raw regarding the conflict that involved Muslims, Serbs and Croats. Ethnicity and religion are sometimes the fiercest foes of love and hope. The movie is sometimes hard to watch as two people dance with their fate. Angelina Jolie wrote the screenplay and directed with a knowing hand. The Blu-ray/DVD combo features an English audio version only on the DVD. Filmdistrict/Sony
Fritz Lang’s terrific 1945 noir gets deluxe treatment in this near pristine high-definition transfer from a 35mm negative found in the Library of Congress. Edward G. Robinson is Christopher Cross (interesting name?), a sad, lonely guy married to a nagging shrew. But at least Cross has art and painting in his life to give him some pleasure. However, when Cross takes up with Joan Bennett’s scheming Kitty, things get very bad indeed. She thinks he’s a great artist and begins an affair with him. Johnny, Kitty’s her real boyfriend, encourages Kitty to talk Cross into embezzling his boss in order to pay for her expensive tastes. Happy in a lavish new apartment, he paints Kitty’s portrait. And then kills her when he realizes he’s been conned and manipulated. Cross breaks down, loses his job and, haunted by guilt, is unable to paint. This mostly forgotten noir is a gem in everyway. Fantastic performances by Robinseon, Bennett and Dan Duryea as Johnny Prince. Bennett and Duryea are among the coldest, most amoral villains in film. It’s their cool casualness that gives shivers. And the glorious black and white photography by Milton Krasner burns with embedded tension. Kino Lorber.
Let’s talk movies. RobinESimmons@aol.com