Starring Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kōji Hashimoto, Ken Watanabe
Two truck drivers help a widowed noodle shop owner achieve her dream of creating the perfect ramen dinner. Thrown into the mix are random group of vignettes, sometimes funny, sometimes erotic, sometimes just weird. This is one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen. It throws a number of things onto the screen, and still manages to be charming, if not coherent.
Starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Micheline Presle, Fernand Ledoux
Tragedy about a young officer (Delon) caught in an affair with the wife of his superior, just as he has fallen in love with a local Austrian girl named Christine (Schneider). The fatalism of its ending was, for me, contrived, but that didn’t keep me from caring. The stars-Schneider and Delon- are two of the most beautiful and photogenic ever to be on screen, and their romance is brief but sweet.
Starring Ryu Seung-ryo, Jung Yu-mi, Park Jung-min, Shim Eun-kyung
A thoroughly average man (Seung-ryo) working as a security guard mysteriously gains telepathic powers just as he’s reunited with the daughter he abandoned years ago. Initially, he uses the powers to make a quick buck as an illusionist, but he soon pushes his ability to the limit once he finds his daughter wrapped up in a serious battle against a corrupt corporation. It’s a unique take on the superhero genre, but ultimately lacks a compelling protagonist to make the action exciting. The average middle aged man hero is a nice idea, but here, he really is too average. He never comes across as a unique personality. There are some memorable moments, and the over-arching villain, or villainess, Director Hong (Yu-mi), steals the show. Unfortunately, she’s not in it more, and gets no significant closure in the story.
Starring Hilda Koronel, Mona Lisa, Rez Cortez
In poverty stricken Manila, beautiful Insiang deals with a boyfriend unwilling to commit, a mother who is critical of everything and everyone, and her mother’s brutish boyfriend who has eyes for Insiang. Lurid, melodramatic story mixed with gritty, documentary style filmmaking. Effective drama, with a beautiful leading lady.
Starring Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Inma Cuesta, Michelle Jenner
A chance reunion with the friend of her estranged daughter sets Julieta down memory lane, as she tries to recall the events that led to her daughter leaving. Julieta lets its slight plot unfold slowly which gives it a weight that would otherwise not be there. We see an older Julieta think back on why her daughter left, and flashbacks reveal a younger Julieta who has turned her back to her father for cheating when she herself is engaged in an affair. The film feels less thematic than some of Almodovar’s best work, but Julieta is masterfully done and intriguing. Based on an Alice Munro story.
Voices of Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Daveigh Chase, Susan Egen, Jason Marsden
A bratty preteen, Chihiro, moving with her family to a new home gets sidetracked by an apparent abandoned theme park. Stumbling into a world of spirits and witches and talking frogs, Chihiro fights to return home and save her parents. Forgive the overly simplistic synopsis, but the film defies explanation. It’s really to be seen and not described. Awe inspiring. One of the best films ever made. A beautiful work of popular art made my a master in Hayao Miyazaki. Each frame is staggering, and I love the characters in the film. Chihiro, at first fairly whiney, quickly becomes a memorable, tough protagonist, and I love that even the scariest of supporting characters can become a friend in Miyazaki’s world. Sidenote: Disney Studio’s work to create solid dubbing for this film is also admirably done.
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Michel Piccoli, Jean Sorel, Genevieve Page, Pierre Clementi
Satirical, almost whimsical tale about a bored young housewife, Severine (Deneuve), with seemingly everything, who becomes a high-end call-girl during the day time. Later, she meets and is oddly attracted to a local thug named Marcel (Clementi), whose obsession with her puts her duplicitous life in danger. A lurid, fascinating film by Luis Bunuel, considered one of world cinema’s old masters, Belle de Jour is one of the few he did that I’ve embraced. It’s regarded as a commentary on a woman’s fantasy life, but, as it’s written and directed by men, I think it has more to do with men’s fantasies about women. Deneuve’s Belle de Jour, as she is later called, is part classy, elegant lady, part prostitute. In any case, the sordid story is handled with expert control and exuberant style.