Monday, July 12, 2010

When We Leave

A young woman (25 yo) leaves a physically abusive husband in Turkey and returns to Germany with her young son in tow to live with her parents. Unfortunately, she is not out of danger. When she finally takes a new boyfriend, her family basically puts out a contract and instructs her brothers to assassinate her. Some cultures don't afford much value to women and view them as possessions rather than people.

I wonder if the merging of two disparate cultures is possible without considerable conflict. In the case of this story, "Western" and "Turkish-Muslim" values aren't compatible. In recent years, we've seen quite a few films that are a melds of German and Turkish at the festival. It's an interesting combination and I've really enjoyed the stories.

The performances are competent and believable. The cinematography and general production quality is good. I liked how the choice of musical score, it nicely sets the cultural mood. There's nothing original about the plot, but if you can get past your anger towards Umay's neanderthal family, then it's a compelling story worth seeing.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2010
Mood: Sweet and depressing
Screen size: Any
Language: German and Turkish w/English subtitles
Genre: Drama
Rating: 4/5

SIFF
IMDB
Official Site

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Extra Man

Want to learn how to freeload and eat semi-well by dating elderly women and filling a place setting at people's dinner parties? Itching to try on some girl's delicates because you like to cross dress? We follow the life of a very young, recently unemployed prep school English teacher as he moves to New York and takes up residence with one Kevin Kline. It's the struggling writer scenario, taking place in present day Greenwich Village.

I'm really not sure what this film was trying to say. Maybe it was trying to teach us tolerance and kindness towards everyone, no matter how high their voice or how odd their disposition. I think it was supposed to be an off-beat comedy meant to shock everyone, but there was very little to laugh at (or be shocked by). Some of the characters were superfluous and uninteresting, such as Kevin Kline's mechanic manservant friend.

Opening and closing night galas at SIFF often screen what I term "safe" films (ones with a couple of big name actors but very little artistic or thought provoking punch). An exception to this pattern was Miranda July's You and Me and Everyone We Know a few years back. That was a truly good movie, and it had some really funny scenes.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2010
Genre: Comedy Drama
Mood: Attempted shock, positive, hopeful
Screen size: Any
Language: English
Rating: 2.5/5

SIFF
IMDB

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Letters to Father Jacob

A pardoned, female convict named Leila moves in with an elderly, blind priest. She has been employed to read his letters, and to help him answer some of them (the rest she throws down a well), and to occasionally bully the postman when there is no mail. She once attempts suicide, considers stealing from the padre, and doesn't talk much.

The cinematography is why you should see this film, so my giving away any of the plot is unimportant. Many films are too long, and some are too short (very few are too short). At 75 minutes running time, Father Jacob sounded more like a novella than a feature, but it's just the right length. We were lucky enough to see this at one of the morning press screenings during the festival. I like press screenings because they're quiet and make it easier to appreciate subtle art.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2010
Genre: Drama
Mood: Reflective and resigning
Screen size: Any
Language: Finnish w/English subtitles
Rating: 4/5

SIFF
IMDB