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Monday, September 26, 2011

"Bobby Fischer Against the World"

Director, Liz Garbus, has done a brilliant job of presenting not only the most important events that shaped Bobby Fischer's life, his unprecedented fame, and then his tragic deterioration, but she has enabled the viewer unusual insight into the complexity that characterize the workings of the brain of a chess master.  Most famous, of course is Fischer's 1972 chess match in Iceland against the then World Champion Title holderSpassky, Russia's pride and joy.  Garbus researched and reviewed hundreds and hundreds of hours of existing film before selecting the sequences that comprise this excellent movie.   I was totally fascinated, though saddened by the terrible toll Fischer's genius took on his life. He began playing when he was six, winning when he was seven, and publicly noteworthy by the time was 13.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"My Afternoons with Margueritte"

(FYI: No, I didn't see two films today, I just didn't get around to writing about this one until now.)  Starring one of my all-time favorites, Gerard Depardieu,  cast as "Germain," the  unlikely park bench companion for delicate, elderly (95 year old?) "Margueritte," perfectly played by (or as they say, the role of "Margueritte" was "inhabited by")  Gisele Casadesus. That "Germain" is nearly illiterate, and "Margueritte" is highly educated sets the scene for the story of their evolving friendship. She reads aloud to him, and thus invites him into the world of sophisticated ideas captured by the written word. You've just got to love both of these special people!  (Depardieu more than ever in this film!)   It's not going to be a blockbuster, it's a sensitive, subtle, quietly charming tale of soul to soul connection -- you can call it love, if you wish. Kudos to Jean Becker, the Director, whose light touch allowed these two great actors to just be their great selves!

Higher Ground

Vera Farmiga already demonstrated  her expert acting skills in "Up In the Air," and now, in addition to starring in "Higher Ground," in her Directorial debut, she gets the best out of an  outstanding cast. Despite having read general plot themes (Christian) ahead of time, I was not prepared for the  unexpected, clever twists and turns of this film.  I really, really liked it!  It was different and original. Joshua Leonard plays "Ethan,"  the sincerely born-again preacher husband to Vera Farmiga's "Corinne," and Dagmira Dominczyk is her sister "Annika." And, though he doesn't appear in many scenes of the film,  I loved Sean Mahon in the role of "Corinne's" mailman.   I look forward to anything and everything that Farmiga does in the future!   Terriffic talent! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


French film (subtitles, of course), directed by Mona Achache who obviously brought out the best in a superb cast starring a remarkable young actress, Garance Le Guillermic, who plays "Paloma," an 11 year old girl who, using an old camcorder is making a film of what she terms the "Goldfish bowl," hopeless, useless lives of her rich family and the people she sees around her. Her depressing view of life is transformed by her unexpected discovery of the secret of the concierge (janitor!) in her building  "Renee Michel" played by the excellent Josiane Belasco), and an unlikely but marvelous friendship she develops with the charming, debonair Togo Igawa perfectly playing "Kakuro Ozu," a new neighbor in the building.  Only after seeing the film will you appreciate the title. What a joy to see such a totally enjoyable, unique, artistic, satisfying movie! 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sarah's Key

Kristin Scott Thomas plays a journalist researching the horrors of the French (no, not German!) round- up of Jewish families in 1942.  This movie is not for the faint-hearted. It is a gut wrenching tale of the suffering and mass murders of the Jewish people that took place in France, and particularly the story of one little girl named Sarah, who, in order to save her younger brother, locks him in a closet in their apartment (so the gendarmes don't catch him and take him away), and tells him to stay there until she comes back for him. She carries the key to the closet with her throughout the story, and tries desperately to get back to Paris for him.  There is no happy ending.  The film is very well done, but the story is  terribly tragic.  If you are willing to feel miserable, in order to learn more about this shameful period in history of "Man's Inhumanity to Man, " this movie is for you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame

Very Chinese, very noisy, extremely violent, confusing plot.  Subtitles help, but not enough to figure out for sure who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys.  Excellent photography, though. Lots of improbable,  if not impossible,  spectacular martial arts leaps and bounds and catches made with perhaps just one talented toe. There is an evil (is she really?) Queen, who becomes the first, and only woman Emperor of China.   A huge statue of Buddha, and of course, the famous Detective Dee, who sometimes has a beard, and sometimes hasn't. Oh, I almost forgot, the "Phantom Flame" refers to the mystery DD is hired to solve: why several people catch fire from the inside out and within seconds are reduced to ashes.  Not a pretty sight.  I found the film actually rather tedious after a while, but then, that's me.