"Bridge of Spies", "Brooklyn", "Flowers", "Labyrinth of Lies", "Meet the Patels", "Room", "Suffragette", 24th Philadelphia Film Festival, Documentaries, Films, Foreign Language Oscar Submissions, Movies
Four of the five good films mini-reviewed below are in theaters now, and one of the two not so good ones is also widely available around the country.
Labyrinth of Lies ****1/2
The time is 1958 and a low level young public prosecutor stumbles onto and pursues a story most of post WWII Germans want left alone — the participation and guilt of many Germans who were part of the Auschwitz holocaust.
Labyrinth of Lies is based on true events, but here it is a fictionalized account of what occurred. As Johann Radman (Alexander Feeling) proceeds on a lonely effort to expose war criminals, he meets stiff resistance from virtually everyone in Germany. They just want all of these issue left behind. Yet he perseveres.
Germany’s official entry into the foreign film category of the Oscars, Labyrinth of Lies tells the story of what one person can do, did do, and at what costs and with what results.
(More than 97 per cent of our Sunday Cinema Club rated this film either excellent or good.)
Bridge of Spies ****1/2
Some of you may remember the Soviet shooting down of Francis Gary Powers and our U-2 spy plane in 1957. The younger ones of you may not know his name nor the incident that was major news at the time. In either case, there is much in this film that will be new to all of you.
The film opens with lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) defending Soviet spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) who has been caught by the CIA. Donovan does more than simply represent Abel; he fights for him to have his day in court.
Then, when Powers is shot down, arrested, and in Soviet hands, the CIA turns to Donovan to negotiate Powers’ release by means of a prisoner exchange.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Matt Charman, and revised by the Coehn brothers, Bridge of Spies tells a story (true in this case), informs the audience beyond what even well informed people might have known about that story, and does so with good acting, good writing, and good direction.
I enjoyed the book, and I enjoyed the movie.
The film is quite faithful to the novel, except it was not filmed in Brooklyn; so if you are going to see it in part because you live or once lived there, be warned you won’t see places you know or knew.
Otherwise, it’s a lovely film about a young Irish woman who leaves her mother and sister to move to America. She has a difficult passage both across the ocean and into her new life. Then, as it seems she has made a successful adjustment to her new world, she is called back to Ireland because of the unexpected death of her sister. There she is confronted with a dilemma of whether to stay in the country in which she was born and knows well or to return to her new country.
Good acting, a good story, and good filming (except for those of you who are hoping to see Brooklyn itself).
(Ninety-four + percent of our Cinema Club rated the film either excellent or good, and 98.8% would recommend it to a friend.)
The first half of this story is about a mother and her five-year old son who are trapped and have long been confined in a small, locked room. The mother works to make this world safe and happy for her son, but, as their existence becomes untenable, they plan an escape.
Then their lives become difficult in different ways, ones the mother never expected as they must now negotiate the real world.
Jacob Trembley, the young son, is simply superb, and his performance made me wonder how a five-year old could understand what he must do in that role and then execute it so well. Brie Larson, as Ma, is also quite good.
I suspect that if you’ve read the novel, you might not feel the film has done justice to the book. But there is much in the film that grabs you and stays with you. Know, however, it is a tough film to watch.
(Ninety-five percent of our Sunday Cinema Club rated the film excellent or good.)
Meet the Patels ****
The previews for this film do not do it justice.
Basically, it’s a documentary by a filmmaker, Geeta Patel, who follows her 30-year brother Ravi as he tries to find a wife and at the same time not alienate his parents.
Ravi has just broken up with an American woman (whose existence he has kept secret from his parents). He, his sister, and his parents go to India on a family vacation, with the intention of finding a wife for Ravi.
The film has the quality of a homemade movie (because it really is just that, though done by a filmmaker), and it is both funny and touching. The parents are as important to the film as is Ravi, and they are delightful.
All the issues of assimilating to a new culture, keeping family traditions, taking into account responsibilities to parents and to self, and what it means to be a family in modern times are present here.
You don’t have to be Indian to enjoy this film, though I suspect if you are or know the trials and tribulations of dealing with ‘old world parents’ in the new world, you’ll enjoy Meeting the Patels. If you’re looking for a seemingly light film with a good deal of humor, and some thoughtful issues well presented, check it out.
Perhaps my expectations were unrealistic, but there was something that was missing in this film. I can’t quite articulate why I was less enthusiastic about it than many others who seemed to enjoy it the night we saw it
It’s history told and seen largely through the eyes of an ordinary person, a woman who works in a laundry in Britain in 1912. Maud Watts (well portrayed by Carey Mulligan) gets caught up in the woman’s movement to win the right to vote. Although she is not a feminist nor even politically aware, she gets drawn into the battle for equal rights.
Meryl Streep plays a minor role, and, not surprisingly, the male society comes in for deservedly rough treatment. Seen through today’s ‘eyes’, it’s easy to wonder how things could have been so bad, but isn’t that often the case?
A film in the Basque language and Spain’s entry into the foreign language film category for this year’s awards, Flowers may be a film more appreciated by critics than audiences at large. (Our film club gave it an excellent or good rating of only 53%, although it also gave it a recommendation rating of 71%.)
It’s a sad story of unfulfilled lives and loneliness. It centers on a woman approaching middle age whose marriage is unhappy. She receives flowers one day and then repeatedly over many weeks. As she tries to determine who has sent these to her, somehow her life seems to gain some meaning. Then the flowers suddenly stop coming.
As she learns about the person who sent the flowers, we come across others, particularly two other women and one man, who are also living unfulfilled lives.
I’ll leave what happens then for you to discover for yourself. The strong performances of the three women portrayed, led particularly by Nagore Aranburu as Ane, are the best part of this sad film about lonely lives and missed connections.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
Our friends from Philly who have thankfully enticed us to come there for their annual film festival sent word that they went to an additional 17 movies in the week following the opening weekend and reported the following:
“After you left, we particularly enjoyed seeing the following. An asterisk is my code for don’t miss:
Embrace of the Serpent*
Mountains May Depart
Not as much standouts, but definitely worth seeing were:
The High Sun
The Birth of Sake
Where to Invade Next
We were very disappointed with Youth (but some loved it).”