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Winter Sleep

(Turkey, English subtitles). Ayden a former stage star who is wealthy and owns a hotel in Anatolia. He lives there with his sister Necla, who is divorced and has regrets about the dissolution of their marriage, and with his much younger wife Nihal. As winter approaches, the hotel customers become much sparser and the tensions among the three find new life. This is an amazing film. It is over 3 ½ hours in length, but it never feels that long, and it felt like it could have gone on longer. This is a dialog film, and patience is rewarded as …

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The Wild Pear Tree

(Turkey, English Subtitles): Sinan has just graduated college and returns home to a small and more rural town, hoping to publish his first book that he refers to as an “auto-fiction meta novel” (which in itself reflects the film’s ability to get you to constantly try to unpack the narrative). His father is a schoolteacher who has gambled away the family home. He is close to retiring, and at the beginning of the film, he is trying to dig a well on a family plot that everyone says will never run. The film is partly a father-son relationship journey, but …

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Tigertail

(Taiwan-American): The film spans three generations centered on Pin-Jui: Pin-Jui’s childhood and young adulthood; his married years, and his children. The screenplay bounces back and forth in time to tell the story of how Pin-Jui followed his dream and moved to America from Taiwan. It is a story about the choices we make and their ramifications. I liked the film, although I did not think it great. While it is a nicely told story, it lacks the emotional depth needed to connect with the characters. So many of the stories are half-told, and it all felt rushed (one example is …

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Away

Latvia: This is probably one of the most unusual animated films I have seen. It reminded me a lot of the wonderful Red Turtle that came out a few years ago in that there is no dialog at all. The film, told in 5 chapters, starts out with a boy, probably a teenager, who is dangling from a parachute in a tree. When he regains consciousness, he is confronted by a large, menacing figure who pursues him throughout the film. The boy discovers a map that will take him to the other side of the island where civilization is, and …

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Sorry We Missed You

This is a new film by Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake), which like the previous film, is focused on the working poor.  Ricky has had his share of troubles: He and his family (wife Abby, son Seb, and daughter Lisa) lost their home as a result of the 2008 crash, and they have struggled to make ends meet. His wife works in a low-paying home health aide position, and he has not been able to get a decent paying job. One day, he applies and joins a parcel delivery company that promises that “he won’t work for the company, he …

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Beanpole

(Russia). Iya returned home early from the war (World War 2) to Leningrad, having suffered some kind of concussion that results in her lapsing into occasional catatonic states. She is working for a hospital treating war casualties and trying to care for her son. Her best friend Masha returns later, and the film takes up the story of both women, as different as night and day, trying to survive in post-war Leningrad. There is one scene early on that is heartbreaking, and Iya’s reaction to it defines their worlds.  The film is as psychologically intense as it is tragic. Iya’s …

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Wild Goose Lake

(Chinese): Zhou is part of a rival gang of motorcycle stealers. At the beginning of the film, we meet Liu, who is there “in place of Zhou’s wife”; the reason for this becomes apparent as the film progresses. He tells Liu that he has upset a rival gang, who is after him, and inadvertently shot a police officer, and the police force is after him as well. The film, told in flashbacks, build Liu and Zhou’s stories. The film is like a film noir; it is mostly set at night in Wuhan, and the lights and neon of the city …

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Bacurau

(Brazil): Teresa returns to her hometown for the funeral of her grandmother Carmelita. After Carmelita’s death, strange things begin to happen: The town of Bacurau disappears off the map; cell phone service suddenly vanishes; the water truck returns to town with a number of bullet holes; and a flying saucer hovers overhead. During the first hour, we get introduced to the town and its inhabitants and a slimy major from the next town over who is running for reelection. For the second half of the film, everything goes south. This film is wonderful but very strange. There are similarities to …

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Corpus Christi

(Poland): Daniel is a young man who, while in juvie, has a sort of spiritual transformation. He wants to become a priest, but his crime makes that not possible. Once released, he is sent to a small town to transition back as a factory worker. He stops in the church and speaks to a young woman who asks him what he is, and he replies, “a priest”, and pulls a clerical collar from his bag. By accident, he becomes the town’s priest. The film is carried by the brilliant acting of its lead (Bartosz Bielenia) who literally embodies a Christ …

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Super Deluxe

(India). The film comprises four intersecting stories. An unhappy woman has a sexual encounter with a former lover who dies during the act; a father, who left home suddenly 7 years prior, returns as a transgender woman; four boys are watching a porno when one of them discovers his mother is the star, and a man who believes he is the sole survivor of a tsunami believes he has the power to heal people. I loved this film. It reminded me a lot of two other films I really liked: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. In …

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