Staff Picks Category: Foreign film

Winter in Wartime [, ]

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This beautifully shot period film follows 13 year old Michiel, a small town boy in Nazi-occupied Holland in the Winter of 1945.  Michiel’s childhood innocence and restless desire for adventure lead him into increasingly dark and morally ambiguous territories when the realities of war,  resistance and adulthood collide and converge upon his small town life. He is apprehensive about his father’s uneasy cooperation with their German occupiers and looks up to his uncle Ben, a resistance fighter whose connections, gifts and attitude intrigue Michiel. When an allied fighter pilot crashes near the village, Michiel and his sister, a young nurse, are drawn into the search for the pilot and must debate whether to take action or remain silent, and question who they can truly trust. The film, while somewhat conventional in some of its WWII era plotlines, offers enough twists and intrigue to keep the viewer’s attention, but its real appeal is grounded heavily in the films setting. The scenes are filmed beautifully and the village, woods, snow, bicycles, knitwear and natural light combine to give the film an enchanting sense of place, and ground the viewer in Michiel’s conflicted world, caught between action and fear, occupation and resistance and childhood innocence and the risks of adult responsibilities. This film is one of several Forbes films now added in Blu-Ray and DVD (both discs are included in one case, so patrons will not mistakenly get home and find the film unplayable), and the Blu-Ray is especially recommended for its crisp picture, which captures the film’s setting wonderfully.

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The Triplets of Belleville []

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Sylvain Chomet’s feature-length animated film is like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s weird, funny, sad, serious, lighthearted, suspenseful, perverse, sweet, surreal, retro, postmodern, and fantastic (in both senses of the word). There is virtually no dialogue, but there is music, adventure and character aplenty. The animation is hand-drawn and loaded with sophisticated detail. There are homages to Fred Astaire, Josephine Baker, Jacques Tati, the Andrews Sisters, and Django Reinhardt. The plot is quite satisfying, yet the style is the overwhelming story here. Despite the near-total absence of language, it could only be French. I have seen it three times so far and haven’t begun to get tired of it.

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La gran final = The great match []

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Soccer fever has reached the remote corners of the globe. Follow the adventures of a family of Mongolian nomads, a camel caravan of Tuareg in the Sahara, and a group of Indios in the Amazon as they stop at nothing to watch the World Cup on television. I was laughing hysterically through the whole movie. In Kazajo dialect (Mongolia), Tamashek (Niger) and Tupi (Brazil), with optional English subtitles.

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Summer Hours []

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Three siblings’ memories of the past and aspirations for the future collide when confronted with their shared inheritance of an exceptional 19th century art collection and the family’s country house in Oliver Assayas’ 2008 feature film. Left to negotiate the future of the collection and the country house in which it has been kept, Adrienne (Juliette Binoche), a successful New York designer, Frédéric (Charles Berling), an economist and university professor in Paris, and Jérémie (Jérémie Renier), a dynamic businessman in China, confront the end of childhood, their shared memories and backgrounds, and unique visions of the future. The film is a complex spin on the traditional pastoral country house film and poses questions about the power of objects and their connection to the sentimental allure of the past in an age of globalization. One of two feature films that developed out of a proposed series of shorts that would have been produced to celebrate the Musée D’Orsay’s twentieth anniversary (the other film, The Flight of the Red Balloon, also starred Binoche). Despite these heady themes and what sounds like a relatively mundane plot, the film remains focused and often riveting due to its great casting and exceptional cinematography. French Language, with subtitles.

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Jules and Jim []

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Jules et Jim, François Truffaut’s third feature, is arguably his masterpiece. The film is based on a novel by Henri-Pierre Roché which drops us into a delicate love triangle that lasts for twenty-five years. A marriage, a child, romantic affairs and a World War (with the closest of friends on opposing sides) are seen through the lives of Jules, Jim and Catherine. Despite being a tragic piece, this 1962 film maintains a certain lightness and a sense of humor throughout many of its scenes. In addition, a beautiful score composed by Georges Delerue accompanies the equally impressive cinematography by Raoul Coutard.

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A Prophet []

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A brutal, raw and riveting look at the progression and growth of a young convict in the harsh environment of a French prison. Nineteen year-old Franco-Arab Malik El Djebena is just beginning his six year prison sentence in Brécourt after a youth spent primarily in detention centers. As a new inmate without friends or enemies inside, he finds the prison divided between Corsicans and Muslims, with the Corsicans holding the balance of power because of influence with the prison guards. Tahar Rahim is excellent as El Djebena, and seems to transform physically as his character rises from isolation and illiteracy to become a key player within Brécourt and beyond its walls. Director Jacques Audiard builds tension masterfully throughout, drawing out scenes with excruciating anticipation before moments of shocking violence. Frequently compared with the Godfather, this French Language film received the 2009 London Film critics “Best Feature Film” Award and was nominated for a 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign language Film.

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