November 24, 2009 |
The Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon admires the oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino and readily acknowledges that "Kill Bill" influenced Kim's own recent film, the stylishly sanguine "A Bittersweet Life." Kim also cites Brian De Palma's gangster classic "Scarface" in shaping his film's frenzied final shoot-out. But like many contemporary Korean directors who came of age while ingesting Hollywood genre films, Kim strives to maintain a degree of independence from the L.A. dream factory. Although Hollywood has courted him since the breakout success of "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," his 2008 convention-tweaking "kimchi Western" set in 1930s Manchuria, the director shows a certain cautiousness toward the way the U.S. film industry does business.
November 5, 2009 |
The AFI Film Festival has no lack of excellent films, but the one I am happiest to find on the schedule is not the most anticipated or even the most prestigious. It's simply the one that's the most fun, and it's also a film I never dreamed would make it to the U.S., even though it debuted to much laughter at Cannes earlier this year. That's because this Belgian animated epic is completely over-the-top zany. It follows the adventures of three inexpensive toy figurines -- Cowboy, Indian and Horse -- who share a house in that panicky town and get into all kinds of mischief.
October 29, 2009 |
If every film you see, even every independent or foreign-language film, reminds you of the one you saw the week before, it's time to check out "The Maid." This completely unexpected feature, made in Chile by young director SebastiÃ¡n Silva and featuring a spectacular performance by actress Catalina Saavedra, has that particular gift of leaving you off balance in the best possible way. Already a winner of two key awards at Sundance and the only foreign-language film to be one of five best picture nominees at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, this is one to savor.
October 22, 2009 |
In a dark corner of a Fullerton lounge, Ahmad Zahra sat dressed in cargo shorts and a gray T-shirt as around him moved the hubbub of filming "Three Veils." Occasionally, actresses in little black dresses and heels walked by, waiting for the cameras to roll. For more than a year, Zahra, the producer, had been trying to find investors to fund his film -- about the intersecting lives of three Middle Eastern women -- approaching individuals, trying to strike sponsorship deals and holding two small, failed fundraisers in the Los Angeles area.
October 16, 2009 |
Top prize winners from the Cannes and Berlin film festivals are among 65 movies competing for the foreign-language honor at the Academy Awards next March. Oscar contenders include Germany's "The White Ribbon," director Michael Haneke's sober drama that won the main prize at May's Cannes festival. Set on the eve of World War I, the film explores the collective guilt of a small town besieged by strange acts of violence. The top winner at February's Berlin festival, Claudia Llosa's "The Milk of Sorrow," is Peru's entry for the foreign-language Oscar.
August 13, 2009 |
A powerfully told, devastating film, directed by Max Farberbock (who did the excellent "Aimee & Jaguar") and starring German actress of the moment Nina Hoss, this is everything you want in adult narrative cinema: It's intelligent, provocative and intensely dramatic. Its subject matter, however, is so taboo that it caused a scandal in Germany that lasted nearly half a century. That would be the period of postwar Soviet occupation of a half-deserted Berlin that resulted in what historians estimate was 100,000 rapes.