Belle de Jour (1967, Directed by Luis Bunuel) French 7

Starring Catherine Deneuve, Michel Piccoli, Jean Sorel, Genevieve Page, Pierre Clementi

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(7-Very Good Film)

Fascinating. Striking. Ponderous.

A 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. A feminine version of Venus in Furs’ Severin. In any case, the sordid story is handled with expert control and exuberant style.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(367)

Armour of God (1986, Directed by Jackie Chan) Cantonese 7

Starring Jackie Chan, Alan Tam, Lola Forner, Rosamund Kwan, Božidar Smiljanić

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(7-Very Good Film)

Frenetic. Action-packed. Fun.

Jackie Chan plays the Chinese Indiana Jones, roped into helping his ex-best friend and the girl that came between them. To save her, the two have to locate and bring in pieces of armour collectively known as the armour of God in exchange. They trace the treasure to an evil underground cult hidden in a monastery. Like the best of Jackie Chan’s movies, Armour of God is light on plot and heavy on action. He’s amazing, and his fight late in this picture against evil fembots is a standout.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(340)

Dangal (2016, Directed by Nitesh Tiwari) Hindi 8

Starring Aamir Khan, Sanya Malhotra, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar, Sakshi Tanwar

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Inspirational. Gripping. Moving.

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 be 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 well 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.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(329)

Us and Them (2018, Directed by Rene Liu) Mandarin 6

Starring Jing Boran, Zhou Dongyu, Qu Zheming, Tian Zhuangzhaung

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(6-Good Film)

Romantic. Authentic. Absorbing.

Us and Them alternates between color and black and white, past and present, following a pair of friends turned lovers as they flow in and out of each other’s lives, but never out of love. Their romance is modest and realistic, and the film’s all the more effective because of it. Ultimately, their story is disappointing and, at times, difficult to watch, not due to any weakness on the part of the movie, but because of its aim to accurately portray the joy and pain of this relationship. I believe Us and Them is successful in what it’s trying to accomplish, despite its conclusion feeling dragged out, and certain moments becoming overly maudlin, but most of all, I happen to love romantic comedies, and be indifferent to romantic dramas, such as this film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(302)

Roma (2018, Directed by Alfonso Cuarón) Spanish 6

Starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Marco Graf

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(6-Good Film)

Intimate. Accomplished. Elegant.

I’m not sure I’ve seen Mexico like this, the way it’s shown in Oscar-winning director, Alfonso Cuarón’s, newest film. Roma portrays the life of a young maid, Cleo, who works for a well-to-do family in the upper class, Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City during the early ’70s. We see conflict at three separate levels: Cleo gets pregnant by a true bastard, who discards her and joins a paramilitary group, her employers’ marriage is strained, and eventually the husband leaves, and then, finally, the city itself endures a torrent of political violence. As dramatic as this all sounds, Roma is often a very quiet, languid piece, with stunning camerawork and a beautiful aesthetic. There’s also a strong sense of love and family present even at its saddest moments. That being said, I was more impressed by individual details of Roma then moved by it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(230)

 

The Virgin Spring (1960, Directed by Ingmar Bergman) Swedish 6

Starring Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Pettersson, Tor Isedal

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(6-Good Film)

Bleak. Thoughtful. Ponderous.

Sweet, virginal Karin leaves home to deliver candles to the local church in medieval Sweden. Along the way, two wayward men and a young boy stop, rape, and murder her. The three assailants seek shelter, and find it, in the home of Christian Per Töre (von Sydow), who, unbeknownst to them, is their victim’s father. This is a brutal tale, with several memorable scenes, but I’m still apathetic to Bergman’s style. I’m drawn to this morbid, haunting story, and some of his ideas, but I find it cloaked in rambling dialogue interspersed with dull quiet.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(229)

Yi Yi (2000, Directed by Edward Yang) Mandarin 6

Starring Wu Nien-jen, Elaine Jin, Issey Ogata, Kelly Lee, Jonathan Chang, Lawrence Ko

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(6-Good Film)

Intimate. Absorbing. Unique.

Yi Yi is a sprawling familial epic broken down into a long series of snapshots. The members of the Jian family are depicted: father NJ reunites with an old flame, mother Min-Min retreats after her own mother falls into a coma, teenage daughter Ting-Ting has a crush on her best friend’s boyfriend, and adolescent son, Yang-Yang, deals with bullying at school, while trying to understand the world through pictures. It’s not what I would call fascinating, and yet, eventually, it does absorb, and linger. Edward Yang’s style is difficult, forcing me to be patient, to work to understand the story and its characters. Ultimately, Yi Yi is worth it, and I expect, understanding more, to get more out of it upon second viewing, somewhere down the road.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(182)