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Here are mini-reviews of three foreign films, all worth your serious consideration, depending upon your interests:

The Square*****

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The more I think about this documentary about the Egyptian Revolution, the more I like it.

If, as a ‘professional’ movie reviewer once told a group of us, one way of thinking about a film is to ask and answer three questions: what was the director/writer trying to do, how well did he/she do it, and was it worth doing, then The Square scores well on all three questions.

If what has been occurring in Tahrir Square and in Egypt in the last several years has interest for you, and if you are perhaps a bit unclear about the players, all of the issues, and what has happened and why, then find a theater where you can see The Square.

Using several individuals who have been in the midst of the Tahrir revolution, common folk who don’t necessarily have the same point of view, writer Yasmir Karnal and director Jehane Noujam look at what has happened in Egypt from 2011 to the present.

You are put in the middle of these current events, and while there is much to dislike about what has happened, The Square is surprisingly hopeful as it presents this revolution in progress.

I came away from the film with a clear understanding of the issues, the players, the events, and the difficulties faced by all of those involved in the chaos of Egypt in the last two and a half years. And, I think I will be able to follow what happens going forward.

The Past ****1/2

The Past.index

Did you see A Separation, the 2012 Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film? It was certainly one of my favorite films of that year (see my mini-review).

Now director Asghar Farhadi has a new film, The Past, and one of the strengths of A Separation can also be found in this new film. Farhadi has the ability to show you and involve you in the lives of his characters, all of whom are struggling with the past, the present, and the future.

I’ve always been most attracted to films and books with multiple characters who each have a story to tell (e.g., Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author) and whose story is appealing because each character is presented fully, warts and gifts included.

In The Past, Iranian director Farhadi has moved from Teheran to Paris (the suburbs) and has broadened his story to include a French woman, an Iranian man, and an Arab man, plus three children. As the story unfolds, each of these character’s character and past is revealed, and, at various times, I found myself ‘rooting for’ each. Plus, Farhadi’s ability to use children well continues in this film.

Unlike A Separation, whose setting was Iran and gave the viewer a window into what is happening in that society today, The Past is less about the setting and more about how each individual’s past presses on today and the future.

The Past could have continued for another 130 minutes of the tangled lives of it’s main characters, but I’m not sure we would have learned much more. What is shown is sufficient, revealing of the characters and their struggles and allowing us to understand and care about each of them.

The Lunchbox ****
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Having just returned from India, I was delighted when our Sunday Cinema Club had The Lunchbox as this week’s presentation.

In the way that A Separation both told a story about its main characters and also gave the viewer a window into a society that is unknown to many, The Lunchbox was also entertaining and revealing.

It is the story of two individuals, linked by a lunchbox, prepared by one and mistakenly delivered to the other. Thinking she is cooking for her husband, there is a mix-up in this supposedly error-less system of providing lunches, and the two individuals whose lives are unhappy begin to communicate through food and writing.

In addition to the story, the scenes of how this food is conveyed and what Mumbai (Bombay) is like today is ‘spot on’, and takes you inside another world.

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Our Sunday Cinema Club audience rated the film Tim’s Vermeer 99.01% Good/Excellent and gave it a Recommended Rate of 100%. I don’t remember any ratings quite so high as that in the more than ten years we’ve been members of the club. You can check out my brief review previously posted on MillersTime. 

Also, if you are interested in the Oscar Nominated Short Documentaries, they are now being shown in a few theaters around the country. In DC, you can see them in two parts at the West End Theater whose show times will expand beginning Friday, Feb. 7. Last year, these short documentaries were among my favorite films of the year.