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September 13, 2012 | By Sheri Linden
Documentarians David Redmon and Ashley Sabin have pieced together an eye-opening account of a form of human trafficking: an industry that sends pubescent European girls to Asia as wannabe models, offering meaningless contracts and no accountability. As an indictment of 'an unscrupulous business, "Girl Model" is more impressionistic than investigative. The nonaggressive approach can be frustrating, but it nonetheless gets under the skin-deep promises of glamour and wealth that lure a seemingly endless stream of very young hopefuls.
February 8, 2008 | Kevin Thomas, Special to The Times
The decline of the art-house theater has severely curtailed America's exposure to foreign films -- now limited largely to the occasional picture so prize-laden or distinctive that it breaks through. Romania's current critical darling, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," is a prime example.
January 20, 2012 | By Mark Olsen, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Over the course of a career that stretches back more than 50 years, Jean-Luc Godard might have cultivated a reputation as a maker of forbiddingly dense, impenetrably allusion-heavy films, but his work also always holds the potential to offer something groundbreaking and new. Despite (or maybe because of) his penchant for provocation and predilection toward the obtuse, he was and remains a rare, uncanny mix of professor, trickster and crackpot, guardian of the past and gatekeeper of the future.
February 24, 2012 | Gary Goldstein
A crucial civil rights issue receives dull, inelegant scrutiny in "Iranian Taboo," director Reza Allamehzadeh's documentary that attempts to shed light on the persecution and scapegoating of members of the Bahá'í faith by Iran's Islamic regime. Allamehzadeh, reportedly banned from entering his native Iran (friends secretly filmed "Taboo's" Iran-set footage, while the director shot in such countries as France and Israel), takes an unsatisfying, two-pronged approach to this complex subject.
September 30, 2010 | By Gary Goldstein
The austerely titled "The Girl" is a lyrical, deliberately paced summer's tale of a 9-year-old Swedish child (never referred to by name) whose Africa-bound, missionary parents leave her in the care of her flighty aunt. It's no spoiler to reveal ? an offhand remark tips us off to Aunt Anna's spotty reputation before she even arrives ? that the girl must fend for herself around her rural home when Anna soon takes off with her Porsche-driving beau. The result is a kind of quiet Scandinavian cousin (OK, twice removed)
June 28, 2012 | By Robert Abele
Alma, the 15-year-old heroine of the Nordic import "Turn Me On, Dammit!," is introduced pleasuring herself on the floor of her kitchen to the chatter of a phone sex operator. Instead of setting up a single-minded comedy about teenage desire, however, this gently amusing film from writer-director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen delicately renders more than a few shades of a turbulent female adolescence. Soft-eyed, hangdog Alma (a wonderful Helene Bergsholm) is racked with horny/romantic fantasies and hates the backwater mountain village where she lives.
January 13, 2008
The Air I Breathe Four stories based on a Chinese proverb interweave to depict life's emotional cornerstones: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love. With Kevin Bacon, Forest Whitaker, Andy Garcia, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Brendan Fraser, Julie Delpy and Emile Hirsch. Written by Jieho Lee and Bob DeRosa. Directed by Lee. ThinkFilm, Jan. 25. Alexandra Opera star Galina Vishnevskaya plays an elderly woman visiting her grandson, an army officer, at his base in Chechnya.
May 25, 2012 | By Sheri Linden
Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, whose 2003 feature debut, "The Return," was a masterpiece of cinematic allegory, turns to noirish territory, by way of Dostoevsky, in his third film, the spellbinding and impeccably crafted"Elena. " Set in contemporary, well-to-do Moscow and its seedy, Soviet-leftover suburbs, the drama lays bare the moral dilemma - and class divide - between a 60ish couple. Elena (Nadezhda Markina) and Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) share an orderly life in the ocean-blue expanse of their apartment, but their relationship feels more like an arrangement than a marriage.
November 15, 2012 | By Gary Goldstein
"Bel Borba Aqui" is a sunny vacation of a film, a documentary that's as jaunty and improvisational as its colorful subject, prolific Brazilian artist Bel Borba. Co-directors Burt Sun and André Costantini eschew the usual personal history, observer commentary and specific narrative structure for a grab-bag look at a man whose hometown of Salvador de Bahia is his canvas. For 35 years, Bel Borba has transformed Salvador's urban landscape with his eclectic explosion of average-sized to grand scale art, including sculptures, paintings, murals and mosaics.
June 15, 2012 | By Robert Abele
Sexy rebel Emilia (Natalia Galgani) wears a Ramones T-shirt when she and Julio (Diego Noguera) first make love, while he's got a square of pale skin on his otherwise tanned chest from accidentally sunbathing with an open Proust novel. In Chilean writer-director Cristián Jiménez's odd, wistful "Bonsái" this youthful romance steeped in clingy passion and literature read aloud is offset - in alternating segments - by events eight years later: Julio is now in a convenient fling with a neighbor, convincing her the handwritten novel he's secretly been working on about that lost love is the new book by a great author who's hired him to type it out. The stunted, artfully designed show-plant of the title enters the story a little too conveniently as a metaphor for Julio's struggle to bring narrative shape to his own life (the film is based on a novel by Alejandro Zambra)
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