Starring Harriet Andersson, Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Lars Passgård
One long, revealing day on a remote island unfolds for Karin (Andersson), suffering from schizophrenia, her father, David (Björnstrand), sexually frustrated brother, Minus (Passgård), and embattled husband, Martin (Von Sydow). Dense with themes of God’s existence, incest, family turmoil, and mental illness, this chamber play grows bloated with symbolism and opaque dialogue. It’s a style many value as Bergman is renowned, but I can’t stand it. The acting is strong, the visuals are striking, but I have no heart for Through a Glass Darkly, and it doesn’t appeal to me thematically. Talkative. Leaden. Dreary.
Starring Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Antonia San Juan, Penélope Cruz, Fernando Fernández Gómez
Manuela (Roth), nurse and single mother, takes her son to a production of A Streetcar Named Desire for his 17th birthday. After the show, seeking an autograph from star actress, Huma Rojo (Paredes), her son gets his hit by a car, killing him, and leaving her reeling. She decides to search for the boy’s father who he never met, and along the way meets and becomes a surrogate mother to Agrado (San Juan), a witty transgender prostitute, Sister Rosa (Cruz), a kind nun with HIV and a surprise pregnancy, and finally Huma, theater diva and personal wreck. What stands out, even among Almodóvar’s bawdy humor, is an unflinching compassion for all of his characters. It’s a loving dedication to women and mothers, and Manuela becomes a hero figure just by being there for the supporting characters and doing the little things for them. Also on display is the director’s colorful, expressive style and flair for melodrama. This film kicked off what I believe is his best period, making his best film just three years later in Talk to Her. All About My Mother is a very good film conspicuously indebted to several classic films, but with a style that signifies its own director and makes it unique. Humanist. Melodramatic. Sensitive.
Voices of Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ruby Barnhill, Lynda Baron, Ewen Bremner, Morwenna Banks
A perennially bored young girl with flowing red hair, Mary (Barnhill), stumbles upon a rare and valuable flower known as a “fly-by-night,” which gives magical ability to the one who finds it, though for a limited amount of time. Next thing she knows, Mary’s being whisked away to a school for the magically gifted, where she discovers a dangerous plot led by the school’s headmistress, Madame Mumblechook (Winslet) and a professor, Doctor Dee (Broadbent). The story is unfulfilling, relying to heavily on the astonishing animation. As brilliant as that aspect of the film is, it serves what could possibly have been a short story stretched out to feature length. Beautiful. Disappointing. Passable.
Starring Aamir Khan, Sanya Malhotra, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar, Sakshi Tanwar
Feel good story about a disappointed former wrestler, Mahavir Phogat (Khan), who shifts his dreams from winning gold for India to having a son who wins gold. After trying for a son for years, Mahavir and his wife end up with four daughters, and his dreams seem to over. Years later, with his peers calling him crazy, he instead trains his two oldest daughters in wrestling. It’s a great story told exceptionally with Aamir Khan going to great lengths and succeeding in making his appearance authentic. Even more difficult is his ability to make this harsh, deeply flawed father sympathetic, and the actresses that play his daughters are excellent as well. The wrestling sequences are exhilarating. Much credit to the filmmakers and performers who made these scenes incredibly realistic.
Starring Margarita Terekhova, Oleg Yankovsky, Fillip Yankovsky, Innokenty, Smoktunovsky
Fragmented narrative chronicling several key moments in the life of a poet, Alexei, based on the writer/director Andrei Tarkovsky himself. Alternating between adolescence and adulthood, color and black and white photography, this film is considered one of the great feats of modern cinema. I consider it an enigma that I’m not interested in probing. There are instances of great beauty in the film, but there are longer instances of uninvolving, static scenery, a meandering, monotonous rhythm, acting and action without context, and a surplus of meaningless poetry. The Mirror is a perfect litmus test film for film buffs. Many of those who laud Tarkovsky’s vanity project as a masterpiece will deride many of the Hollywood action flicks that I enjoy. That’s fine, but I’ll stand firmly on my belief that this is a bad film.
Starring Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Valerie Chow
Two romantic tales involving police interweave in this movie: first, a young cop (Kaneshiro), getting over a break up, falls for a mysterious criminal (Lin). Second, another cop (Leung) also dealing with a breakup can’t see the cute food store worker, Faye (Wong) who secretly loves him and sneaks into his apartment to clean up after him. I’ve never cared too much for Wong Kar-wai’s work, and it’s a shame because I love the subjects he explores, his romantic flourishes, and vivid imagery, but I’ve never been anything but apathetic towards his films. Chungking Express was my first of his works, and seeing it now for the third time, I still find it monotonous. Even the humor, which is present at times, takes the same note as the moments of sadness.
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.