Where-to-Invade-Next_poster_goldposter_com_3If you like to see your progressive values affirmed with a dash of cynical self-important humor, then you will love Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next. As a humanist, I have always sympathized with Moore’s stances. However, as a cinephile, his work is a bit dubious of what I want from a documentary filmmaker. Look, there is no documentary filmmaker without an agenda. It just depends on how heavy-handedly you want that agenda served up.

Of course it’s all done with a sense of humor. It’s labeled a comedy, after all. With a prankster style, Moore “invades” countries like France, Finland and even Tunisia to “steal” ideas of social programs that work in the respective countries and bring them back to the U.S. He interviews foreigners, government leaders and even some U.S. citizens who all cordially “submit” to Moore. He is Sacha Baron Cohen with a social agenda, and it all goes sweetly well … until it amounts to not much of anything.

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Since his 1989 documentary Roger & Me, where Moore confronts GM’s CEO about the negative effects of downsizing the automobile company in Moore’s home town of Flint, Michigan, Moore has built his reputation as an idealistic liberal. God bless him for his efforts, but the fact that he has never shied away from inserting himself in his work, compromising his perspective with his own celebrity, taints his message with unfair bias that will always put off viewers and hardly ever affect real change. I do not see that his work has ever done anything more than preach to his choir of followers. After Bowling for Columbine (2002), we still have mass shootings, George W. Bush was still reelected after Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) and the poverty divide in Flint, Michigan is as bad as it has ever been.

His latest product is therefore a bitter-sweet sort of movie. Who doesn’t want better public schools for the U.S.? Finland produces the best educated people in the world and kids don’t have homework and attend class for less than half the amount of time students in the U.S. spend in classrooms. They even get to pick their own curriculum. In Slovenia college students — even U.S. citizens — do not pay tuition. In Italy you get eight weeks standard paid vacation, even 15 days bonus when you leave work for your honeymoon (you don’t even want to know how much time they get for maternity and paternity leave — paid). There are some genuine moments that will punch you in the gut, like when a French school chef sees images of U.S. high school lunches and says, “the poor children.”

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These are easy things to argue for, but it doesn’t take into account the size of the countries or the political systems that genuinely do not compare to the gridlocked nation of the United States. It’s this selective reporting that makes the film a bittersweet viewing experience. Moore admits early on that his task is not to present a negative image of the countries he visits while pointing out their best social policies, but he knows how to bury that fact. “Sure, Italy has its problems like everywhere else,” Moore says in voice over at the end of his first segment, as he smiles and chats with a young, happy Italian couple over glasses of wine. It’s an idyllic image where the following phrase is nearly lost: “But my job is to pick the flowers, not the weeds.”

To be fair, Moore does allow his talking heads to speak without interruption and without telltale signs of cutting and pasting footage. Still, there is much selective presentation going on, which is of course enhanced by a mood-swaying soundtrack featuring everything from classic pop songs to overwrought sections of classical pieces. Moore sets out to do one thing: leave an impression that favors his ideology. It’s become an old tired, gimmick. Despite all his sincerity, including ending on a personal note visiting with a friend at the remnants of the Berlin Wall to say that “anything can happen,” it’s all pablum. I want to hope the films of Michael Moore can make a difference beyond giving people the feels, but they never have, and this one never will, either. In the end, it’s just another popcorn movie for a particular audience, and it  will matter little to the long view of our lives on this planet.

Hans Morgenstern

Where to Invade Next runs 119 minutes and is rated R. It opens in our South Florida area on Friday, Feb. 12, at the following theaters in the quad-county area, from south to north:

Monroe: Tropic Key West
Miami: AMC Aventura 24, AMC Sunset Place
Broward: Regal Oakwood 18/Hollywood, The Classic Gateway, Pompano 18
West Palm Beach: Cinemark Palace 20 /Boca,  Regal Shadowood 16/Boca Raton, Cinemark Paradise 24/Boca, Parisian CityPlace, Regal Downtown at the Gardens 16 Cinemas
If you live outside that area, check out the film’s website and click on the box that says “See The Film.”
(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

The Treasure PosterThe Treasure is Corneliu Porumboi’s fourth feature film and another opportunity to explore the socio-political ecosystem of post-communist Romania. The film seems simple at first glance, but it carries depth in its simplicity. It follows Costi (Toma Cuzin), an average Romanian man leading a non-extravagant life who has a steady job, a wife and a young son. Porumboi takes time to show us that Costi’s life is low-key, average and ordinary. His home life is filtered by TV watching and some episodes of bonding with his child, who steals some of the scenes as an affable little man. Costi has a staunch quality that a calm life may bring, a middle-class family man that does not seem to wander, rather moves forward in a non-confrontational way.

The action in The Treasure is catalyzed by Costi’s neighbor Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu), who appears at his doorstep one evening to ask him to borrow a large sum of money. Surprised by the request, Costi responds that he is unable to help. The two ruminate on details about borrowing money in post-communist Romania and the different possible interest rates, as well as the differences between using Euros versus other currencies. One gets the sense that this is a typical water cooler conversation, one that in a country like Romania may be seen as a trap. Ultimately, Costi refuses to loan Adrian any money, and he leaves only to return soon after with the full story. It turns out that his family has buried treasure in his backyard and the initial loan was to cover the costs of a metal detector. Now he offers Costi a share of this treasure if he decides to go in and invest with him.

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Porumbiou’s style is naturalistic. He allows cinematographer Tudor Mircea’s camera to linger on the subjects and allow them to be. The action is not driven by the director, but it is actually character-driven in a style that is far from Hollywood and indeed moves in the direction of minimalism. The tone follows the story wherein seemingly small actions point toward big payoffs. When Costi agrees to follow Adrian in this quest to find the treasure it all seems naïve, childish even. Costi consults with his wife about the investment to go after this treasure and shares with his son the exciting quest — a bonding moment for the two. It would seem throughout that Costi is about to get into deep trouble. His easygoing nature and the simplicity with which he approaches most situations make us wonder what is beneath this guilelessness. The quest for the treasure involves Costi facilitating the entire trip to Adrian’s old family estate in a venture that might indeed be headed to failure.

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The main action of the film sees Adrian, Costi and Cornel (Corneliu Cozmei), a man with a metal detector who, in a running gag, clashes with Adrian over ridiculous trivialities that begins with ideology and devolves into ad homonym attacks. The quarreling between the two shown in long takes slows down the pace of the narrative, but also makes for some very funny moments when we see different sides of the everyday politics of post-communist Romania, with the disenchantment that capitalism has brought, especially in light of the many loses people suffered in the 1990s.

Although the hunt for the treasure is where the main action of the film lies, it is the little moments between Costi and his family that reveal the deep, real quality of this film. As with his earlier films, Porumbiou has again presented, in a very simple manner, something that is complex and hard to capture, which is revealed in the last few minutes of the film. Without going into spoilers, let it suffice to say that the film deserves repeated viewings and may in fact be one of the best depictions of the pitfalls of modern life and the redeeming qualities of life through the simplicity of human bonds — which have no price. Indeed, the Romanian director gets to the heart of what is valuable in civilized society.

Ana Morgenstern

The Treasure runs 89 minutes, is in Romanian with English subtitles and it is not rated. It opened in out South Florida area exclusively this past Friday, Feb. 5 at the Coral Gables Art Cinema where it will play at least through Feb. 11, Thursday. IFC Films provided all film stills in this review as well as an on-line screener link for the purpose of this review.

(Copyright 2016 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

hail-caesar-posterIf Hail, Caesar! is anything more than a series of send-ups of the Hollywood studio system of the 1950s, then I didn’t see it. The Coen Brothers have the luxury of looking back from decades of cynicism that have since passed, so the studio system is immediately suspect as an easy target. However, there is affection to be found in the sincerity that was the basis of the industry of that era, a period when movies were “another potion of balm for aching mankind.” And the Coens channel it to make Hail, Caesar! a rather decent if toothless bauble in their filmography.

Our entry into this world is studio honcho Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a fixer who greases the wheels of the cumbersome production house that is Capitol Pictures. Privately, he also happens to weep over his betrayal to his wife by lying about his cigarette habit. Mannix’s job is to clean up the images of the studio’s stable of actors, from digressions like kinky private photo shoots to arranging marriages. He also oversees meetings with religious leaders to assure the studio’s biggest production yet — Hail, Caesar!  A Tale of the Christ — offends no one’s beliefs. Just as the picture is about to wrap production, its star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), known to disappear on benders of drink, goes missing. It turns out he was kidnapped by a group of communists who consider movies — gasp — “instruments of capital.”

Clooney Hail Caesar

It’s a funny film, and a highlight includes the meeting with religious leaders that speaks to the Coens’ skills at buoyant humor at the expense of grave subject matter like faith in God. They also go deep into commie humor, referencing not only Marx but also Herbert Marcuse (John Bluthal), who turns out to be one of the kidnappers that Baird quickly warms up to (in a moment of enlightenment while in discussion with his kidnappers, he compares the problems of capitalism with being bamboozled into shaving a famous actor’s hairy back). An unlikely hero rises in the form of Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), a star in Westerns suddenly shuttled into a comedy of manners at Mannix’s whim (one of the film’s greatest jokes is highlighted in the film’s new trailer below). It is his free thinking, as dim as it might seem, that allows him to crack Baird’s disappearance.

The brothers’ affection for the films of John Ford, Busby Bekeley and even Vincente Minnelli comes out in extended scenes that pay tribute to the production numbers featured in many films of that bygone era. The meticulously choreographed numbers walk a balance of irony and plain shiny humor. There are over-the-top horse-riding stunts by Hobie and an extended dance sequence featuring a group of sailors led by Channing Tatum. A lengthy synchronized swimming dance number features Scarlett Johansson, who plays a terrific actress modeled after Esther Williams who can hold a perfect smile while doing frightening dives, until the camera turns off to reveal a plucky attitude.

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It is in these reveals that the Coens keep the movie engaging, and it never lets up by playing with the artifice with a wry humor. Hail, Caesar! may not reveal anything anyone with an awareness of the Hollywood system would not already know, but its pleasures are as sincere as its inspirations. The machinations of the industry treated actors like commodities and perpetuated a false idealism. Its concern for image and money gave no one seeking true art any real constructive release, and this flick ends up feeling a bit shallow for a movie that one would expect from the team who last gave us a true masterpiece (Film Review: Inside Llewyn Davis offers elegiac portrait of struggling folky). Still, it has a consistently fun tone befitting of the material that also, thankfully, never veers into darker territories to push it off of any edge, but then that also doesn’t make it as edgy as some may have hoped for from the Coens.

Hans Morgenstern

Hail, Caesar! runs 100 minutes and is rated PG-13. It opens pretty much everywhere this Friday, Feb. 5. Universal Pictures provided all images in this review and invited me to a preview screening for the purpose of this review.

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

new-banner_miffToday, Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival announced its line-up for the 33rd edition of the festival, taking place at various venues across Miami-Dade County, on March 4 – 13. We shared a hint of what was coming last year, including what opening night will be like (Miami International Film Festival hints at Spanish heavy line-up for 2016). There is much to look forward to, including 12 world premieres, 16 North American premieres and 13 U.S.premieres, so start planning your screenings, jump through this link to start your scheduling.

As for what this writer sees in the 129 films chosen to screen at this year’s festival, one of the films I have been looking forward to for years has been The Lobster by Yorgos Lanthimos. When I first read about this movie about a man who has to either pair up with a mate by a certain age or choose an animal he would like to be turned into, I wholly expected it to be another quirky Greek-language movie by the director of Dogtooth. It’s now become an English-language production featuring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly. It’s being handled by small productions houses, so it’s still an indie movie. I can only hope this means Lanthimos is still being granted free license to be as weird as he wants to be.

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The Lobster is in competition for the festival’s main prize, the Knight Competition, presented by The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation (Full disclosure: We are winners of a Knight Arts Challenge Grant). The contest  for Achievement awards totaling $40,000 in cash. There 28 films in the contest and include a world premiere by a Miami filmmaker we have profiled here, Monica Peña (Storytelling through collaboration – Director Monica Peña discusses filmmaking and upcoming Speaking in Cinema panel). Her film, Hearts of Palm, will also have its world premiere at the festival. We wish her the best of luck because we quite love her and truly consider her a visionary. But she has some stiff competition.

Among other notable filmmakers in the Knight Competition are Carlos Saura with Argentina, Jia Zhangke’s the much-loved Mountains May Depart and Terence Davies with his latest, Sunset Song. There are 17 films in the competition. Other notable films include Chronic, Mexico’s Oscar entry starring Tim Roth, Dheepan, Jacques Audiard’s latest, and Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper, a film by one of today’s great documentary filmmakers and a longtime regular of the festival, Liz Garbus. For a complete list in the competition, see the press release below.

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The festival is also about the guests, and they include actress Monica Bellucci, director/actress Iciar Bollain, director Gavin Hood and director Deepa Mehta. All four will participate in a new “Marquee Series” of on-stage conversations to correspond with screenings of their latest work. The closing night film will be the U.S. premiere of The Steps by director Andrew Currie. The comedy about a clash of two dysfunctional families stars James Brolin and Jason Ritter. After the screening, the closing night party will commence in the outdoor plaza at the newly announced One Brickell property, located on the banks of the Miami River at 444 Brickell Ave.

We also have to note other locals, besides Peña, who we are excited to see take part in the festival. Orlando Rojas has a documentary about Rosario Suarez, a noted exiled ballerina from Cuba now living in Miami. It will be the film’s world premiere. Then there will be a series of short films about local artists by some of Miami’s upcoming filmmakers, many of whom have appeared at Sundance or are associated with Borscht Corp. The program is entitled I’ve Never Not Been from Miami and features films directed by Peña, Andrew Hevia, Joey Daoud, Jonathan David Kane, Tabatha Mudra, Keisha Rae Witherspoon, Kenny Riches, Jacob Katel, Kareem Tabsch and Tina Francisco. It screens  Ten short films all directed by local filmmakers.

Here’s a playlist to all the YouTube trailers for the films playing at the festival:

Finally, below is the festival’s comprehensive press release:

For Immediate Release

Monday, February 1, 2016

Monica Bellucci, Iciar Bollaín, Gavin Hood, 

Deepa Mehta and Raphael to Headline 

33rd Edition of Miami Dade College’s Acclaimed 

Miami International Film Festival

Running March 4–13, 2016, Filmmakers from 40 Countries Proudly Exhibit 129 Feature, Documentary, and Short Films

Miami, FL — Monica Bellucci, Iciar Bollaín, Gavin Hood and Deepa Mehta will all receive tributes in a new Marquee Series to be presented at the 33rd edition of Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival scheduled for March 4 – 13, 2016, it was announced today.  Additionally, Andrew Currie’s comedy The Steps, starring James Brolin, will receive its US premiere at the Festival as the Closing Night selection. The Festival is the only major film festival worldwide produced by a college or university.

The new announcements join Alex de la Iglesia’s My Big Night, previously announced as the Opening Night Selection, as the Festival’s major touchstones. The pop comedy My Big Night stars Spanish recording legend Raphael, who will open the Festival with a personal appearance at the March 4th screening.  The 10-day annual event takes place at the Festival’s traditional home, the historic Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami, plus six additional cinemas scattered across the Magic City; and includes a plethora of screenings, stylish parties, thoughtful panel discussions, spirited film competitions, awards ceremonies and immersive cultural exchange opportunities for filmmakers attending from across the globe. 

“This year’s lineup is like a prism that invites Miami to see the world with an illumination that only the cinema, and the artists that create the work, can provide,” says the Festival’s Executive Director and Director of Programming, Jaie Laplante. “The programmers have populated the program with films and events that are essential to the complex, dynamic, ever-changing Miami of the now.“

This year’s Festival showcases 129 films, including 100 feature films and documentaries and 29 short films produced and directed by both renowned and emerging talent from 40 countries. Forty-six are directed or co-directed by women. The Festival is pleased to announce numerous important premieres: 12 World, 1 International, 16 North American and 13 US premieres, debuting in Miami.

The Festival’s new Marquee Series category, dedicated to on-stage conversations with major film personalities of the moment, sharing a major new work, includes:

  • Monica Bellucci in Conversation with Guy Edoin (Tuesday, March 8th). The Italian fashion beauty and screen star will discuss her career up to and including her brilliant new starring role in Edoin’s Ville-Marie, which will screen after the Conversation.
  • Iciar Bollaín in Conversation (Sunday, March 6th). The double Goya Award-winning Spanish actress-director will speak about her career and her latest film, The Olive Tree, which will receive its World Premiere in Miami after the Conversation.
  • Gavin Hood in Conversation (Saturday, March 5th). The Academy Award-winning South African filmmaker of Tsotsi will speak about his career and screen his new film, Eye In The Sky, starring Dame Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman.
  • Deepa Mehta in Conversation (Wednesday, March 9th). The Academy Award-nominated Indo-Canadian filmmaker of Water will speak about her career in the context of the screening of her new film, Beeba Boys, described as “a desi Scarface”.

 

Additional films include:

CINEDWNTWN Opening Night Film presented by Miami Downtown Development Authority and Opening Night Party presented by The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building and Tilia Events on Friday, March 4, 2016

  • As previously announced, Álex de la Iglesia’s My Big Night (Spain), starring Spanish pop icon Raphael and an ensemble cast of many of the biggest stars in the Spanish film industry, opens the Festival. In a special treat for Miami audiences, Raphael will appear in person at the screening to officially inaugurate this year’s Festival.
  • My Big Night turns into “My Big Party” after the film with an outstanding Opening Night party at the Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building.  The party promises to ring in the new Festival with glitz and cheer, boasting rocking music, cuisine, cocktails, and dancing, all in the spirit of a glittering New Year’s Eve bash.  The events kick off the Festival’s CINEDWNTWN series, sponsored by Miami’s Downtown Development Authority.

CINEDWNTWN Awards Night Film presented by Miami Downtown Development Authority and Pyrat Rum Awards Night Party sponsored by The Related Group on Saturday, March 12, 2016

  • Following the presentation of the juried Awards, the US premiere of Andrew Currie‘s The Steps (Canada) will close the Festival’s official premieres. Featuring a brilliant ensemble cast led by James Brolin and Oscar-winner Christine Lahti, this riotous comedy is about what happens when two already fraught families are forced to merge into one big dysfunctional clan.  Also starring Jason Ritter and Emmanuelle Chriqui.
  • After the screening, continue a glorious evening by walking up “the steps” to the beautiful outdoor plaza at The Related Group‘s latest addition to the swanky Miami skyline, the newly-announced One Brickell property just “steps” away from Olympia Theater on the banks of the Miami River at 444 Brickell Ave.  Feel what it means to project light in the Magic City through an imaginative collection of installations and entertainers, all courtesy of Pyrat Rum and Stella Artois.

CINEDWNTWN SCREENINGS presented by Miami Downtown Development Authority:  Red carpet events featuring the year’s most compelling works be top-tier directors showcased at the historic Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami.  New titles announced for major screenings in the Festival’s historic home for all 33 of its years:

  • Queen of Thursdays (USA, directed by Orlando Rojas) *World Premiere  A documentary about Rosario Suarez, Cuba’s famed, exiled prima ballerina now living in Miami.
  • I’ve Never Not Been from Miami (USA, directed by Andrew Hevia, Joey Daoud, Jonathan David Kane, Monica Peña, Tabatha Mudra, Keisha Rae Witherspoon, Kenny Riches, Jacob Katel, Kareem Tabsch and Tina Francisco). Ten short films all directed by local filmmakers, about local artists. A Soiree Film paired with Behind the Curtain Onstage Party at Olympia Theater.
  • “Who Is Lou Gehrig?” (USA, directed by Gil Green). A documentary short mixing illusion and reality about local basketball coach Jeff Fogel and his brave fight to stay positive. Featuring Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem.

These films join the previously announced CINEDWNTWN GALAS:

  • Palm Trees in The Snow (Spain, directed by Fernando González Molina)
  • The Rebound (USA, directed by Shaina Allen) *World Premiere – A Soiree Film paired with “Who Is Lou Gehrig?” (USA, directed by Gil Green) – Screenings paired with a Backlot Bash at Toejam Backlot (150 NW 21st St., Miami)
  • Spanish Affair 2 (Ocho apellidos catalanes) (Spain, directed by Emilio Martinez Lazaro)

FESTIVAL COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

Knight Competition, presented by The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation: A mesmerizing variety of powerful works from around the world, directed by filmmakers who have directed at least one previous Official Selection (feature) of the Festival. Films are eligible for Achievement awards totaling $40,000 in cash. The 28 films (*indicates the title was previously announced) selected for this Competition are:

  • *The Apostate (Spain, Uruguay, France, directed by Federico Veiroj)
  • Argentina (Argentina, directed by Carlos Saura)
  • Chronic (Mexico, France, directed by Michel Franco)
  • The Companion (Cuba, Colombia, France, Panama, Venezuela, directed by Pavel Giroud)
  • Dheepan (France, directed by Jacques Audiard)
  • Eye in The Sky (UK, directed by Gavin Hood)
  • *Happy 140 (Spain, directed by Gracia Querejeta)
  • *Hearts of Palm (USA, directed by Monica Peña) *World Premiere
  • I Promise You Anarchy (Mexico, Germany, directed by Julio Hernández Cordón)
  • Incident Light (Argentina, France, Uruguay, directed by Ariel Rotter)
  • *An Italian Name (Italy, directed by Francesca Archibugi)
  • The Lobster (Ireland, UK, Greece, France, Netherlands, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)
  • The Memory of Water (Chile, Spain, Argentina, Germany, directed by Matias Bize)
  • A Monster with A Thousand Heads (Mexico, directed by Rodrigo Plá)
  • Mountains May Depart (China, France, Japan, directed by Zhang-ke Jia)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Chile, directed by Alejandro Fernandez-Almendras)
  • The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (USA, directed by Morgan Neville)
  • *My Big Night (Spain, directed by Álex de la Iglesia)
  • *Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper (USA, directed by Liz Garbus)
  • The Olive Tree (Spain, Germany, directed by Iciar Bollaín) *World Premiere
  • One Breath (Germany, Greece, directed by Christian Zübert)
  • Paulina (Argentina, Brazil, France, directed by Santiago Mitre)
  • *Spanish Affair 2 (Spain, directed by Emilio Martinez Lazaro)
  • *Spy Time (Spain, directed by Javier Ruiz Caldera)
  • Sunset Song (UK, Luxembourg, directed by Terence Davies)
  • Tale of Tales (Italy, France, UK, directed by Mateo Garrone)
  • *Trapped (USA, directed by Dawn Porter)
  • *Truman (Spain, Argentina, directed by Cesc Gay)

Knight Documentary Achievement Award presented by The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation: Candid, thought-provoking feature-length documentaries examining social issues, diverse cultures and influential people compete for an audience-voted $10,000 cash achievement award. The 17 films (*indicates the title was previously announced) selected for this Competition are:

  • Argentina (Argentina, directed by Carlos Saura)
  • *Beyond My Grandfather Allende (Chile, Mexico, directed by Marcia Tambutti Allende)
  • *Cameraperson (USA, directed by Kirsten Johnson)
  • The Forbidden Shore (Canada, directed by Ron Chapman)
  • Mapplethorpe: Look at The Pictures (USA, directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barnato)
  • The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble (USA, directed by Morgan Neville)
  • *Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You (USA, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady)
  • *Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper (USA, directed by Liz Garbus)
  • Our Last Tango (Germany, Argentina, directed by German Kral)
  • Queen of Thursdays (USA, directed by Orlando Rojas) *World Premiere
  • Presenting Princess Shaw (Israel, directed by Ido Haar)
  • *The Rebound (USA, directed by Shaina Allen) *World Premiere
  • *Snacks, Bites of A Revolution (Spain, directed by Veronica Escuer and Cristina Jolonch)
  • Thank You for Your Service (USA, directed by Tom Donahue)
  • *Tocando la luz (Touch The Light) (USA, Cuba, directed by Jennifer Redfearn)
  • *Trapped (USA, directed by Dawn Porter)
  • *Weiner (USA, directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg)

Lexus Ibero-American Feature Film Competition: Open to all Ibero-American films in the Official Selection, competing for a jury-selected cash Achievement Award of $10,000, courtesy of Lexus. The 35 films (*indicates the title was previously announced) selected for this Competition are:

  • *Abzurdah (Argentina, directed by Daniela Goggi)
  • *The Apostate (Spain, Uruguay, France, directed by Federico Veiroj)
  • *The Bride (Spain, Germany, directed by Paula Ortiz)
  • Cien años de perdon (Spain, directed by Daniel Calparsoro)
  • The Companion (Cuba, Colombia, France, Panama, Venezuela, directed by Pavel Giroud)
  • *Dark Glasses (Cuba, Spain, directed by Jessica Rodriguez)
  •  Dogs’ Night (Argentina, directed by Nacho Sesma)
  • Elephant: The Horse (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, directed by Andrés Waissbluth) *World Premiere
  • The Farm (Puerto Rico, directed by AngelManuel Soto)
  • From Afar (Venezuela, Mexico, directed by Lorenzo Vigas)
  • *Happy 140 (Spain, directed by Gracia Querejeta)
  • The Heirs (Mexico, Norway, directed by Jorge Hernandez)
  • I Promise You Anarchy (Mexico, Germany, directed by Julio Hernández Cordón)
  • Incident Light (Argentina, France, Uruguay, directed by Ariel Rotter)
  • *The King of Havana (Spain, Dominican Republic, directed by Agusti Villaronga)
  • *Ma Ma (Spain, France, directed by Julio Medem)
  • *Magallanes (Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, directed by Salvador del Solar)
  • The Memory of Water (Chile, Spain, Argentina, Germany, directed by Matias Bize)
  • A Monster with A Thousand Heads (Mexico, directed by Rodrigo Plá)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Chile, directed by Alejandro Fernandez-Almendras)
  • *My Big Night (Spain, directed by Álex de la Iglesia)
  • *My Friend from The Park (Argentina, Uruguay, directed by Ana Katz)
  • No Kids (Argentina, Spain, directed by Ariel Winograd)
  • *Nothing in Return (Spain, directed by Daniel Guzmán)
  • The Olive Tree (Spain, Germany, directed by Iciar Bollaín) *World Premiere
  • *Palm Trees in The Snow (Spain, directed by Fernando González Molina)
  • Panamerican Machinery (Mexico, directed by Joaquin del Paso)
  • Paulina (Argentina, Brazil, France, directed by Santiago Mitre)
  • *Restless Love (Brazil, directed by Vera Egito) *World Premiere
  • *Siembra (Colombia, directed by Angela Maria Osorio Rojas and Santiago Lozano Alvarez)
  • *Spanish Affair 2 (Spain, directed by Emilio Martinez Lazaro)
  • *Spy Time (Spain, directed by Javier Ruiz Caldera)
  • *Truman (Spain, Argentina, directed by Cesc Gay)
  • Viaje (Costa Rica, directed by Paz Fabrega)
  • *We Are Pregnant (Spain, directed by Juana Macías)

Jordan Alexander Ressler Foundation Screenwriting Prize: Screenwriters from all feature films in the Festival that have a first-produced feature screenwriter credited, compete for a jury-selected cash prize of $5,000, courtesy of the family of the late Jordan Alexander Ressler. The 11 screenwriters (*indicates the title was previously announced) eligible for this competition are:

  • Beatbox (USA, written by Andrew Dresher)
  • *Dark Glasses (Cuba, Spain, written by Jessica Rodriguez)
  • Dogs’ Night (Argentina, written by Nacho Sesma)
  • The Farm (Puerto Rico, written by Angel Manuel Soto)
  • From Afar (Venezuela, Mexico, written by Lorenzo Vigas)
  • *Magallanes (Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, written by Salvador del Solar)
  • *Mountain (Israel, written by Yaelle Kayam)
  • *Nothing in Return (Spain, written by Daniel Guzmán)
  • *Siembra (Colombia, written by Angela Maria Osorio Rojas and Santiago Lozano Alvarez)
  • The Steps (Canada, written by Robyn Harding)
  • The Wait (Italy, written by Giacomo Bendotti, Ilaria Macchia, Andrea Paolo Massara and Piero Messina)

Shorts Competition: The latest in films 30 minutes or less from around the globe, the jury-selected winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize. The competing films are:

  • “The 100 Years Show” (USA, directed by Alison Klayman)
  • “Doble 9” (USA, directed by Aisha Schliessler) *World Premiere 
  • “Glove” (USA, directed by Bernardo Britto)
  • “If I Was God” (Canada, directed by Cordell Barker)
  • “La Nube” (Cuba, directed by Marcel Beltrán)
  • “Land Tides” (Chile, directed by Manuela Martelli and Amirah Tajdin)
  • “The Lift” (Spain, directed by Javier Polo) *World Premiere
  • “The Man of My Life” (France, directed by Melanie Delloye)
  • “Memories of The Sea” (Brazil, USA, Peru, directed by Thais Drassinower)
  • “Najmia” (USA, directed by Cristhian Andrews)
  • “Party Girl” (Poland, Trinidad & Tobago, directed by Roma Zachemba)
  • “This Modern Man Is Beat” (USA, directed by Alex Merkin)

FESTIVAL NON-COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

SOIREE Series: A memorable evening out, beginning with an inspiring and entertaining film, segueing into a fabulous social experience. Films included in this series are:

  • The Idol (UK, Palestine, Qatar, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, directed by Hany Abu-Assad) – Screening paired with The Standard Affair at The Standard Spa (40 Island Ave., Miami Beach)
  • Tale of Tales (Italy, directed by Matteo Garrone) – Screening paired with Desserts & Directors at The Temple House (1415 Euclid Ave., Miami Beach)

Cinema 360° presented by Viendomovies and XFINITY: A vibrant and dynamic selection of narrative works (*indicates previously announced title), from both accomplished and emerging filmmakers, including an international selection of dramas, comedies, suspense thrillers, and innovative docudramas.

  • *4 Kings (Germany, directed by Theresa Von Eltz)
  • Disorder  (France, Belgium, directed by Alice Winocour)
  • The Endless River (South Africa, France, directed by Oliver Hermanus)
  • Gold Coast (Denmark, Ghana, Sweden, directed by Daniel Dencik)
  • Highway to Hellas (Germany, directed by Aron Lehmann)
  • Maggie’s Plan (USA, directed by Rebecca Miller)
  • Mammal (Ireland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, directed by Rebecca Daly)
  • The Measure of a Man (France, directed by Stéphane Brizé)
  • The Meddler (USA, directed by Lorene Scafaria)
  • *My King (France, directed by Maïwenn)
  • *Our Loved Ones (Canada, directed by Anne Emond)
  • *Parched (India, USA, UK, directed by Leena Yadav)
  • The Promised Land (China, directed by He Ping)
  • “Rocket Wars” (Greece, directed by Salomon Ligthelm)
  • Standing Tall (France, directed by Emmanuelle Bercot)
  • *Summertime (France, directed by Catherine Corsini)
  • The Surprise (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, directed by Mike Vam Diem)
  • Two Friends (France, directed by Louis Garrell)

Lee Brian Schrager’s Culinary Cinema: Returning for a fourth mouthwatering year, the Culinary Cinema category has teamed up with catering and foodie event legend, Lee Brian Schrager, for a schedule of distinct film & culinary pairings. Premiere sponsor, Frederick Wildman & Sons, will pair its wines with the four meals during the Festival. Take your palette and mind on a culinary adventure with these delicious options:

  • Crushed (Australia, directed by Megan Riakos) – Screening paired with a three-course meal prepared by Aussie native Chef Aaron Brooks at EDGE Steak & Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Miami (1435 Brickell Ave., Miami)
  • My Bakery in Brooklyn (Spain, USA, directed by Gustavo Ron) – Screening paired with an exclusive three-course private dinner at the ultra hip Wynwood kosher bakery & café, Zak the Baker (405 NW 26th St., Miami)
  • Snacks, Bites of A Revolution (Spain, directed by Veronica Escuer and Cristina Jolonch) – Screening paired with three-courses of Spanish experimental fare at Piripi Miami at The Shops at Merrick Park (320 San Lorenzo Ave., #1315, Coral Gables)
  • Sweet Bean (Japan, France, Germany, directed by Naomi Kawase) – Screening paired with prepared Japanese delights, by Japanese restaurant, Katsuya, and hosted at the MDC’s Tower Theater (1508 SW 8th St., Miami)
  • **PRE-FESTIVAL EVENT IN COLLABORATION WITH SOUTH BEACH WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL: Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico, 1992, directed by Alfonso Arau) – Sunday, February 28th at 6 p.m. / Following the screening, conversation with screenwriter, Laura Esquivel, at Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Americana Lawn (1601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach). The screening is paired with a dinner of authentic Mexican cuisine with James Beard Award-winning chef, Rick Bayless, at Loews Miami Beach Hotel, St. Moritz Lawn from 8 – 10 p.m.

Florida Focus: Showcasing films partially or wholly shot in the Sunshine State or by filmmakers who are native or current residents of Florida.

  • “Hand Built Boat” (USA, directed by Ani Mercedes)
  • Hearts of Palm (USA, directed by Monica Peña) *World Premiere
  • I’ve Never Not Been from Miami (USA, directed by Andrew Hevia, Joey Daoud, Jonathan David Kane, Monica Peña, Tabatha Mudra, Keisha Rae Witherspoon, Kenny Riches, Jacob Katel, Kareem Tabsch and Tina Francisco)
  • The Rebound (USA, directed by Shaina Allen) *World Premiere
  • “Star Child” (USA, directed by Tommy Demos) *World Premiere 
  • “Stripper Wars” (USA, directed by Giancarlo Loffredo)
  • Sweet Dillard (USA, directed by Jim Virga) *World Premiere 
  • “Swan Song of the Skunk Ape” (USA, directed by Brad Abrahams)
  • “This Modern Man Is Beat” (USA, directed by Alex Merkin)
  • “Tracks” (USA, directed by Logan Sandler)
  • “Who Is Lou Gehrig?” (USA, directed by Gil Green)

Visions: Provocative and stirring, these three feature-length visual experiences are guaranteed to test the limits and take viewers to the extreme.

  • Cemetery of Splendor (Thailand, UK, France, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  • Hearts of Palm (USA, directed by Monica Peña) *World Premiere
  • The King of Havana (Spain, Dominican Republic, directed by Agusti Villaronga)

REEL Music: Five films emanating the global power of music.

  • Bazodee (Trinidad & Tobago, directed by Todd Kessler)
  • Beatbox (USA, directed by Andrew Dresher)
  • The Forbidden Shore (Canada, directed by Ron Chapman) *World Premiere
  • The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble (USA, directed by Morgan Neville)
  • Presenting Princess Shaw (Israel, directed by Ido Haar)

Miami Film 2016 Retrospective Screenings: These films come from the winners of the Latin American film market, Ventana Sur, who were a part of Miami Film 2016 which was organized by The Related Group and Miami International Film Festival. The winners’ retrospective works being shown include:

  • Absent (Argentina, produced by Pablo Ingercher)
  • Villegas (Argentina, directed by Gonzalo Tobal)
  • Refugiado (Argentina, directed by Diego Lerman)

MIFFecito: Specially curated for younger aficionados, these narrative films are for the entire family to enjoy.

  • Elephant: The Horse (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, directed by Andrés Waissbluth) *World Premiere
  • The Little Prince (France, Belgium, directed by Mark Osborne)
  • Oddball (Australia, directed by Stuart McDonald)

From The Vault: 

  • The Long Day Closes (1992) (UK, directed by Terence Davies), presented in conjunction with Miami Beach Cinematheque

All feature films in the Festival (excluding retrospective screenings) are eligible for the Lexus Audience Favorite Feature Film Award. All short films are eligible for their own Lexus Audience Favorite Award. Lexus is the Festival’s official automobile sponsor.

The Festival was curated by Laplante and a team comprised of veteran programmers Thom Powers, Andres Castillo, Orlando Rojas, Eloisa Lopez-Gomez and culinary cinema specialist Lee Brian Schrager.

Special events include:

Google Seminar Series on Gender & Racial Gaps in Film & Technology: This unique partnership with Google on a new seminar series will address gender and racial gaps in the film industry, particularly in technical cinematographic roles. In addition to the forum and screening there will be an opening day keynote address and more. Participants and full schedule will be announced in the coming days. Presented at The Idea Center of Miami Dade College.

Masterclass Seminars: Dream. Script. Screen. These unique conversations will provide in-depth knowledge direct from the filmmakers, technical experts and industry leaders literally creating and shaping modern cinema.

  • From Doodle to Pixels: Over a Hundred Years of Spanish Animation (Spain)
  • Producing in Florida and Beyond – In conjunction with CineVisun and the BFMG.
  • Making the Leap from Short to Feature Film – Moderated by Diliana Alexander of FilmGate Miami.

The CinemaSlam competition aims to discover, showcase, and celebrate the work of undergraduate and graduate students in Miami/South Florida film schools. Open to any student enrolled in a participating South Florida college/university upon the completion date of the film. In this edition, students from the following colleges from Miami /South Florida have submitted their shorts: Florida International University, Miami Dade College, University of Miami, Miami International University of Art and Design New World School of the Arts (University of Florida) and the Center of Cinematography, Arts and Television. The selected projects will be announced very soon.

Miami International Film Festival screening venues are as unique as the films themselves, reflecting the communities the Festival serves through film. Historic landmarks Olympia Theater and MDC’s Tower Theater, presented during the Festival by Viendomovies, evoke the golden age of Hollywood, tailor-made for major red carpet events. The Festival will also screen films at Regal Cinemas South Beach, O Cinema Miami Beach, Cinépolis, Coral Gables Art Cinema, Miami Beach Cinematheque and O Cinema Wynwood. Special event venues include The Idea Center, Miami Animation and Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) at Miami Dade College, and The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Friday, February 12th. For membership opportunities or more information about Miami International Film Festival, please visit www.miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM (3456).

# # #

About Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival

Celebrating its 33rd annual edition March 4 – 13, 2016, Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival is considered the preeminent film festival for showcasing Ibero-American cinema in the U.S., and a major launch pad for all international and documentary cinema. The annual Festival more than 60,000 audience members and more than 400 filmmakers, producers, talent and industry professionals. It is the only major festival housed within a college or university. In the last five years, the Festival has screened films from more than 60 countries, including 300 World, International, North American, U.S. and East Coast Premieres. Miami International Film Festival’s special focus on Ibero-American cinema has made the Festival a natural gateway for the discovery of new talent from this diverse territory. The Festival also offers unparalleled educational opportunities to film students and the community at large. Major sponsors of the 2016 Festival include Knight Foundation, Lexus and Miami-Dade County. For more information, visit www.miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM(3456).

About Culture at Miami Dade College

The Cultural Affairs Department of Miami Dade College (MDC) is composed of the Miami Book Fair, Miami International Film Festival, Tower Theater, Koubek Center, Freedom Tower, MDC Live Arts and MDC Galleries and Museum of Art + Design. MDC is committed to providing its community with the opportunity to come in contact with innovative thinkers, creators and tradition bearers from around the world. With each presentation, MDC offers a bridge between cultures and ideas, creating new opportunities for the increasingly diverse population of Miami to come together through shared live arts experiences. For more information, visit www.mdc.edu/arts

About John S. & James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.KnightFoundation.org.

About Lexus

Lexus launched in 1989 with two luxury sedans and a commitment to pursue perfection. Since that time, Lexus has expanded its line-up to meet the needs of global luxury customers. Lexus is now going beyond its reputation for high quality vehicles with the integration of innovative technology, emotional exterior and interior designs, and engaging driving dynamics and performance. With six models incorporating Lexus Hybrid Drive, Lexus is the luxury hybrid leader. Lexus also offers seven F SPORT models and two F performance models. In the United States, Lexus vehicles are sold through 236 dealers who are committed to exemplary customer service.

About The Related Group

The Related Group was established in 1979, and is America’s leading developer of sophisticated urban living and one of the largest firms in the United States. Since its inception, the privately held company has built and managed more than 85,000 condominium and apartment residences. The Related Group has earned a national reputation for its visionary design and development of luxury condominiums, mixed-use center and affordable rental properties – often in emerging or undiscovered neighborhoods. The firm is one of the largest Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States with a development portfolio of projects worth in excess of $15 billion. TIME Magazine named Mr. Pérez one of top 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States, and has made the cover of Forbes twice. For more information, visit www.relatedgroup.com.

About Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA)

The Miami Downtown Development Authority is committed to improving the quality of life for businesses, employees, residents, and visitors in Downtown Miami. As an independent agency of the City of Miami, the Miami DDA supports business growth, infrastructure improvements and services for Downtown Miami residents and stakeholders. In addition to its programs and initiatives, the Miami DDA is partnering with the City and other government entities to strengthen Downtown Miami’s position as an international center for commerce, culture, and tourism. The organization is governed by a 15-member board comprised of three public appointees and 12 Downtown property owners, residents and/or workers. For more information about the Miami DDA and Downtown Miami, please visit www.MiamiDDA.com.

About The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building

Opened on Christmas Day, 1939, THE ALFRED I. DUPONT BUILDING was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, designated a Historic Landmark in 1992 and became a Dade Heritage Trust Inductee in 1999. Dubbed the “USS Neversink” during World War II, when it served as Fleet Headquarters for the 7th Naval Command, the iconic tower was the first skyscraper constructed in Miami after the completion of the Dade County Courthouse in 1928, signaling the city’s economic recovery from the Great Depression.

Formerly the headquarters of Florida National Bank, The Historic ALFRED I. DUPONT BUILDING Mezzanine became a Special Events Venue in 2001. It may take all evening to fully absorb the beauty of the two ballrooms, but the stately aura surrounding the venue is lot on no one. Rather than a cavernous event space absent of character, the stately yet unobtrusive ‘30s architecture complements each event it hosts. The building is a true Miami gem – a bit of New York in the heart of Downtown Miami.

About Jordan Alexander Ressler

This special award recognizes and supports first-time produced screenwriters. It was created by the South Florida family of Jordan Alexander Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell University film studies graduate who, during his brief entertainment career, held production positions with the Tony award-winning Broadway hits 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal and Jersey Boys.

 *  *  *

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Son of Saul poster artSon of Saul, the feature debut by Hungarian director László Nemes has an audacious premise: placing the viewer in the shoes of a member of the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The film follows Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig) over the course of two days at the Nazi death camp. He is at the end of his tenure as a prisoner tasked with corralling fellow Jews into mass gas chambers and disposing of the evidence as quickly as possible before he and other members of the Sonderkommando guide the next batch of frightened prisoners with promises of “After the shower, you will have some tea.”

The film’s opening shot is a stunning moment of establishing thesis and aesthetic. After the film’s stark opening title card explains the role of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz, the audience will notice the idyllic chirping of birds. The viewer is confronted with a blurry shot of a lush wooded area in a tight, boxy 1.33:1 aspect ratio. There appears to be two young people (possibly children) crouched by a tree apparently digging in the dirt. A blurry figure approaches the center of the screen until his ragged, pale face with a cracked lip comes into focus, the mystery of everything else around him still blurred out. It is the jittery Saul, remarkably portrayed by non-actor and poet Röhrig.

It’s a crafty shot that reveals the film’s shallow focus and how nothing will appear as clearly as it might seem, as the film stays sharply focused on the man whose face you now clearly see. The cinematography by Mátyás Erdély, who worked in similar close up but to very different effect in James Son of Saul stillWhite (James White uses meticulous performances and precise camerawork to make damaged person sympathetic and real — a film review), creates an incredibly subjective experience. It’s not so much a first person perspective as it is presenting an out-of-body experience for the film’s main character. Saul goes about his job with meticulous, hasty precision, reassuring the victims, then cleaning out their hung clothes of valuables for the Nazis to collect and catalog before entering the chambers to help drag out the nude, lifeless corpses and stack them up for mass incineration.

Though details are often blurred out in his periphery, that doesn’t make them any less real. It’s a cinematic choice by Nemes to capture the sense that Saul is tuning out his environment to come to grips with his complicity, a role that bides him a little more time to live before he too is executed. Obscuring the atrocities only heightens the horror. It’s a respectful representation of the incomprehensible. Nemes never heightens the film beyond this. There are hardly any noticeable cuts in the flow of the action, which features long takes. There is also no music score. The soundtrack is industrial horror show from the rhythmic puffing of the train the victims ride in on, to the screams and metallic scratching on the walls as they are gassed. Even the plentiful gunshots from the SS troops become almost rhythmically routine in the film’s diegetic din.

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Beyond the sensory experience of Son of Saul, Nemes’ script, co-written with historian Clara Royer explores a complex dynamic of what happens over the course of the film. Saul latches onto a boy who is pulled from the chamber still breathing but is suffocated to death by a camp doctor. Saul seems to think this boy is his son, and he becomes bent on finding a rabbi among the prisoners to say Kaddish and give the child a proper burial. Meanwhile, a revolt is being planned around him. In another layer of complexity, it helps to understand that among the Sonderkommando, there are Polish and Hungarian Jews who hold an animosity toward each other, revealing the profound sense of divisiveness in humanity. Even under the same belief system there are tribal allegiances, and even as their captors and killers push them around, the internal hate among victims persists, enhancing the film’s Inferno-like quality.

As an effort to capture the horrors of Auschwitz, Son of Saul is incredible in how it harnesses the tools of cinema. From decisions in framing and focus to soundtrack and storytelling, Son of Saul is a remarkable achievement, and the film has indeed been duly recognized. It came out of Cannes last year with the Grand Prix and charged ahead to its current nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film prize at the upcoming Oscars, where most expect it to win. Holocaust films always matter, and Son of Saul is an indisputable effort in not just technical filmmaking but in channeling cinema’s power to capture subjective perspective. However, respect belongs to history. No matter the level of gruesome imagery, Holocaust cinema is mere representation. You will come out shaken but with the knowledge you are alive. Son of Saul is a life experience and a confrontation worth submitting to if only to remind yourself of the horror sentience is capable of inspiring in man, and Nemes should be commended for that.

Hans Morgenstern

Son of Saul runs 107 minutes, is in Hungarian, Yiddish, German, Russian and Polish with English subtitles and is Rated R. It opened at the following South Florida theaters on Friday, Jan. 27:
  • Tower Theater
  • Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale
  • Living Room Theaters
  • Carmike Muvico Parisian
  • Movies Delray
  • Movies of Lake Worth

For other theaters in the U.S., visit this link. All images are courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics who also provided a DVD screener for the purpose of this review.

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

45years_onesheet_webNo one can ever really know another person, not even a husband and wife going on 45 years of marriage. After all, a couple is composed of two individuals. The notion anyone can wholly understand and know anyone’s other half would call for psychic powers, not to mention a front-row seat to their lives from the day they were born. In 45 Years, the new film by British director Andrew Haigh, a wife (Charlotte Rampling) and husband (Tom Courtenay) have a confrontation with the husband’s past on the eve of their 45th wedding anniversary. It’s not just the past that has to be reckoned with, but what it means to their present and the entire history of their marriage.

Kate and Geoff Mercer are happily married but lulled into a cozy sense of complacency. Though they never started a family, they have plenty of friends in the bucolic English village they reside in with whom to celebrate their 45 years. The party is a week away when our story kicks off. As Kate returns from walking their German shepherd one morning, she finds Geoff sitting at the kitchen table reading a letter. “They found her … My Katya,” he says.

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The story of Geoff and Katya is nothing new to Kate, but she had long shelved that memory in the past. She hardly remembers Geoff ever mentioning a Katya to her. He has to remind Kate that Katya was his previous girlfriend, and she died during a hiking accident in 1962. However, the letter reveals, her body has now been found, perfectly preserved in a glacier. Thus, a specter is introduced to a married couple who are about to celebrate their lives together and all that they have shared in that time. Despite her being long dead, the memory of Katya becomes a profound interloper in the marriage. Kate never expected to be considering her past with Geoff alongside the ghost of a possible other life that her husband might have led.

Adapted from a short story by David Constantine, Haigh walks a delicate balance in dealing with an eruption in a longstanding marriage. Kate and Geoff are mostly stoic, and it seems like they are hardly bothered by it, but it’s always there, in their routines. Small things, like Geoff’s sudden curiosity in global warming and Kate reconciling her imagination with his facts, like the color of Katya’s hair. Their trauma reveals itself in these moments, as the two deal not only with the news but a quiet pain of having to look at the small cracks in their decades of marriage. With the news, Geoff apologizes to her in advance for needing a cigarette. She says nothing, even though it was his smoking habit that put him in the hospital, delaying their 40th anniversary party by five years. Not much is said between these two because when you are in a marriage as pacific as the one they are in, the time to stir up confrontation has long past.

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As in Constantine’s story, the events in the movie take place over the course of a week. But the writer/director opens the world up of this couple to include friends and throws in the anniversary party to crucial effect. A week is but a minuscule moment in their life, but it’s long enough to rattle Kate. These performances are both tempered with a quiet sort of suffering, and both actors deliver amazing performances of a rich kind of restraint.

Like the couple, the film’s tone is always soft and even. Geoff and Kate never yell at one another. Likewise, the film has a quietness that forgoes an extradiegetic score and features patient editing by Jonathan Alberts,who allows scenes and the actors a moment to breathe, capturing the characters’ complex but quiet contemplation. Their tension is only ever transmitted in tones of frustration. Geoff stutters or sighs, as Kate probes him with questions to uncover his thoughts and come to grips with this new iteration of man coming to form before her eyes.

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It’s not all about their alienation from one another. You always have a sense that this is a strong couple, and the film gives value to tender moments of simple, shared intimacy, which can be contrasted with new revelations between them. At one point Geoff soothes Kate’s nostalgia for their past when she can’t find many pictures of them over the years. “You used to say that everybody taking pictures of themselves prevented anyone from having fun,” he reminds her. Yet, she learns of his stealing away in the middle of the night to the attic for a private slide show of his hiking trip with Katya. When Kate investigates that attic alone, she discovers his set-up one day. She fires up the slide projector, for one of the film’s most incredible scenes, a long take with the camera fixed on Rampling’s face. The slides are kept hidden from the audience but still cast an eerie glow on Kate, as the reversed image of a blurred Katya shrouds her in a beautiful meta moment. As she pauses on these slides, Rampling rises to the long take with a profound look of curiosity, consideration and concern. It’s the film’s biggest confrontation, and it happens in near silence, with only the click-clack of the changing slides for a soundtrack.

Kate’s no fool, however. With her age and experience with Geoff, comes a wisdom. Despite her struggles with the revelations about Geoff and Katya (and there are many others that the film has in store) she harbors an awareness that feeling threatened by Geoff’s past is irrational. Rampling captures the discombobulation with vulnerable dignity, building to a surprisingly cathartic finish at film’s end that never betrays the film’s low-key tone, leaving the viewer with yet another instance that goes to show learning and understanding one’s other half in a marriage is a rich, never-ending journey.

Hans Morgenstern

45 Years (95 minutes, Rated R) opened in South Florida, yesterday, January 22, at the Bill Cosford Cinema, in the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus, Miami’s Tower Theater (which is showing the film with Spanish subtitles), O Cinema Miami Beach and Regal Cinemas South Beach 18. On Friday, January 29, the film arrives in Broward County at Cinema Paradiso Hollywood. IFC Films provided us with a DVD screener for awards consideration, last year.

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Eden posterAnyone who recalls the early nineties dance club era featuring chill rooms, breakbeats and jungle music, before EDM started to drive today’s bass-dropping, dub-stepping electronica and PLUR culture, understands the sudden tectonic shifts of the ever fluid scene of dance music. The scene feels so capricious that even referencing PLUR, much less dub-step, already feels dated. Though I’ve written about music for over 20 years and can say I saw Orbital play a nightclub in Miami Beach, I can’t relate to anything at the long-surviving Ultra Music Festival that my city is so well known for. It’s a whole other world now. It’s no wonder few DJs and electronic music acts have survived the gauntlet of time (again, see Orbital). They could either evolve, become nostalgia acts or worse, disappear into irrelevance.

Eden, the latest film by French director Mia Hansen-Løve, chronicles the path of a fictional DJ (Félix de Givry) in early nineties Paris inspired by the music scene of the time. It follows him over the course of a decade as he earns some recognition as part of a DJ duo and struggles to stay relevant in the scene’s casual drug-fueled atmosphere. Meanwhile, a parallel story line depicts how Daft Punk weaves in and out of his life. This movie is so much more than the simple logline following it around: “Paul, a teenager in the underground scene of early nineties Paris, forms a DJ collective with his friends and together they plunge into the nightlife of sex, drugs, and endless music.”

Félix de Givry in EdenHansen-Løve has a marvelously unglamorous, naturalistic style. What’s amazing about this movie is how slowly the characters come into their own through a rather difficult process: the bliss of music and the disillusionment of the cycle of that music’s scene — sex and drugs is but a footnote. Few can make such a lifestyle last a lifetime, and Hansen-Løve, who wrote the script with her brother Sven Hansen-Løvecaptures the futility of a young man’s attempt with a delicate, patient touch. The director finds an incredible balance that places music at the forefront, as characters are fleshed out through the more universal cauldron of time.

We first meet Paul against the sounds of “Plastic Dreams” by Jaydee. We are told it’s November 1992. He and Cyril (Roman Kolinka) wander into the woods after a night of clubbing, high on drugs and music. Paul is inspired, a vision of an animated bird — the film’s only betrayal of realism — portends inspiration but also false hope. His companion will also become a noted cartoonist who attempts to document the Parisian dance scene in a comprehensive series of graphic novels, which will turn out to be an even greater exercise in futility, something Hansen-Løve seems astutely aware of, as the film maintains a narrative focus on Paul, but leaves Cyril as a peripheral if more tragic side note. With her focus set on Paul, Hansen-Løve never resorts to a literal tight focus. She presents the world around Paul in mostly medium shot. The rest of the world and the people that come and go and sometimes return, including several girlfriends (among them Greta Gerwig), are essential.

Greta Gerwig in Eden

With Stan (Hugo Conzelmann) at his side, Paul seems on the right track toward success after forming the garage duo Cheers. They get some decent headlining gigs at clubs and earn radio appearances. Meanwhile, their friends Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (Arnaud Azoulay) and Thomas Bangalter (Vincent Lacoste), a.k.a. Daft Punk, get a few good notices, as well. The Daft Punk duo, however, like Cyril, are presented as a couple of oddballs on the periphery, who still have a hard time getting into clubs, even at film’s end, in “modern times” and riding a wave of many moments of Vincent Lacoste and Arnaud Azoulay in Edensuccess, all of which occur off-camera. But this is never presented as some kind of rivalry. Paul and Stan genuinely admire the early, French house developments of Daft Punk (which began as Darlin’ in 1992 with Phoenix’s Laurent Brancowitz on drums), and they continue to be friendly into the later years. This restraint is only part of the film’s natural unfolding. There’s no obligation to present the exact time where Paul is at in his life, though the film is presented chronologically and references to years appear, like one to 1995 in the early part of the movie. But it never feels heavy-handed. The demarcation of time is more clearly revealed in the changes of music, from recognizable tunes to the evolution of the scene’s sound, or the changes in Paul’s life, from girlfriends to his mother’s growing frustration with his obsession to make DJ-ing a career.

Eden is not some survey or comprehensive account of the genre through the eyes of Parisians, however. That would prove detrimental to Paul’s story, as ironically demonstrated by the fate of Cyril. A film that would have focused too much on the music, would detract from the people in it. If that is all these people define themselves by, what else is there that matters? The film is focused on telling one man’s story and all the others’ lives are filtered through his eyes. In one scene he is rolling in bed with Julia (Gerwig), who is in Pauline Etienne, Félix de Givry in EdenParis on a student visa. A bit later in the story, he is catching up with her in New York City as a guest DJ at a museum rave in the daylight. At this point in our story she is married and pregnant. Paul’s journey as a person flows with the trivializing of a music genre that has to constantly adapt for relevance. This is how the world of electronic music shrewdly informs the film. Music becomes more than a sonic landscape that captures atmosphere and time changing over the course of the film. It is also presented as either a fit for our hero or a foil. The conflict is as much in his trying to fit in with the music as much as in the passive-aggressive dynamism between his girlfriends, pals and rivals.

Eden speaks to character flaws and humanity in a warm, relatable way. If all we have is a list of hits or notable touchstones in this music scene, where is a life lived within this world? Hansen-Løve is clearly more interested in creating a feeling for a life, above all. As she did with her stellar prior film, 2011’s Goodbye First Love, she creates a profound impression of living life and enduring its inevitable life-changing conflicts and surviving them to confront new ones with an informed, unshakable past. She harnesses all the power of the language of cinema, from framing to editing to writing to acting to tell a story without calling attention to the technique. Eden just happens to also have a pretty cool, eye-opening soundtrack that works incredibly well as a narrative device.

Hans Morgenstern

Eden runs 131 minutes and is Rated R. It came out on home video Tuesday, Jan. 20. Support Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon, via this link. Broad Green Pictures shared a preview link to this film last year when it almost hit theaters in Miami. It’s also on-demand on Amazon (follow this link).

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
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