Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ***

Can you learn much about a particular society from watching a narrative film featuring a few characters from that society? My companion and I argued this point after watching A Call Girl, a Slovenian film from Damjan Kozole making its DVD debut this week and deals with the life of a college student/call girl, her family, friends, boyfriend, teacher and -- most frighteningly – two pimps who want her in their service. (Slovenia by the way, is the tiny country bordered by Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Austria and the Adriatic Sea, whose history, as is true of many eastern European countries, particularly in the area of the Balkans, is full of competing cultures, wars, border disputes and uneasy truces.)

Blog entry 09/07/2010 - 12:38pm

 Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson 
Rating (out of 5): ***

Scandar Copti, a Palestinian, and Yaron Shani, an Israeli Jew, teamed up to direct the crime drama Ajami. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film, which seems more a result of that behind-the-scenes achievement than anything that occurs onscreen. Indeed, comparing it to some of Amos Gitai's better films (Yom Yom, Kadosh, etc.) it feels rather graceless, and compared to something like City of God,Ajami feels practically inert.

And yet the film is still effective in its own, small way. It follows several characters in five overlapping chapters, all set in one multi-ethnic section of Jaffa, near Tel Aviv. It begins as a man working on a car is gunned down in the street. It turns out that the real target was the neighbor who sold him the car, Omar (Shahir Kabaha), an Arab Israeli. Worse, Omar is in love with Hadir (Ranin Karim), who is the right race, but the wrong religion; they can't be together. There's another revenge shooting, a botched drug sale, a cop searching for his missing brother, and another illicit romance, between a Jew and a Palestinian.

Blog entry 08/27/2010 - 11:40am

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ***½

The Wild West: An ancient locomotive speeds along a railroad track, as the passengers in the cars behind it chat, snooze, play cards, or nibble on food. Down the aisle comes the snack-seller hawk-ing treats, and we hear the dulcet call, "Candy! Rice cakes! Independence for Korea!" Yup: We're long past Kansas; in fact, so much farther west of California that we're east.

To be honest, we already know this, as The Good The Bad The Weird (yes, it is definitely meant to remind you of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) begins with a scene in which a sleek, handsome but slightly scary young Asian man has been given an assignment from an older, powerful and probably lethal fellow that involves the delivery of a valuable map. Then we see a scene of hawks and vultures nibbling carnage and suddenly all hell breaks loose, as bandits and bad guys of every sort seem intent on stealing that map, which you might immediately suspect to be a McGuffin.

Blog entry 08/25/2010 - 12:57pm

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ****½

Abdel Kechiche's The Secret of the Grain turned up in America late in 2008 and, thought it was sparsely released, made a few critics' top ten lists. But in France, it was a major critical success and placed on Cahiers du Cinema's list of the ten best films of the decade. (On Film Comment's list of the best of the decade, it came it at #125.) This could be due to a cultural level that French people could see in the film that Americans could not appreciate; it takes place in the world of Arabs living in France and speaking mostly French. The French original title is the much better La graine et le mulet (The Grain and the Mullet) - as in couscous and fish, and besides relating to the immigrant experience, Americans can definitely appreciate -- at the very least -- that it's one of the best food movies of the decade.

Blog entry 07/30/2010 - 4:01pm

prophet Academy Award nominated A Prophet (2009, Best Foreign Language Film) details the gritty prison career of a nineteen-year-old Malik (Tahar Rahim, 2009 European Film Award Winner for Best Actor). Arriving at the jail, he is cornered by the leader of the ruling Corsican gang (Niels Arestrup, 2009 César Award, Winner for Best Supporting Actor) and forced to carry out a number of dangerous missions including drug trafficking and brutal hits. Over time Malik is able to earn the gang leader’s confidence and rise up the prison ranks, all the while secretly devising his own plans. The new DVD includes commentary with director Jacques Audiard, Rahim and co-screenwriter Thomas Bidegain. And now you have a chance to win that DVD thanks to a giveaway sponsored by GreenCine and Sony Pictures Classics.


To enter, email and include your name, email address, mailing address, and, if you're a GreenCine member, your username in the email, and "A Prophet" in the subject header. Entries without all this information will not be considered. (You will not be added to a mailing list!). One winner will be selected at random from all valid entries. You must be a US resident to enter. The deadline to enter is August 23. Winner will be notified by e-mail and announced in future editions of the GreenCine Dispatch newsletter.

Blog entry 07/30/2010 - 10:26am

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****

I first saw Vincere when it had its American premiere during last year's New York Film Festival, but the film -- directed and co-written (with Daniella Ceselli) by Marco Bellocchio -- is so smart, dark and telling that it easily rewards a second viewing. Marco Bellocchio's skills as a filmmaker have only grown as he has aged.

Bellocchio tells his version of Benito Mussolini (aka Il Duce) as combination black comedy, opera, history, horror, politics, and masochistic love story of the woman who fixated on Mr. M, married him and fathered his child. In that role you'll discover a very different side of popular Italian actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Ferzan Ozpetek's Facing Windows), who at times seems very nearly feral in this film, while getting yet another taste of the fellow who may well be the most talented, versatile and charismatic young actor in Italy, Filippo Timi (who starred in a different Ozpetek film, Saturn in Opposition.

Blog entry 07/26/2010 - 1:46pm

Reviewer: Craig Phillips
Rating (out of 5): ***½

Swedish author Stieg Larsson's  book The Girl With the Tattoo had moments so disturbingly chilling and evocative that I had to put it down - only to have to pick it back up again, the same kind of shuddersome grip reminiscent of Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs.  The film version won't shock those of us who read the book in the same way, but whether you have or have not, the film is inarguably a well-crafted thriller.

Larsson's novel has sold about 25 million copies worldwide, and spawned two sequels -- published, alas, posthumously, as Larsson died of a heart attack at the age of fifty in 2004 -- and spawned the film version, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, directed by Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev.  Larsson himself was a journalist who clearly used his own experiences as an activist reporter as a basis for the Mikael Blomkvist character. The screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg makes mostly good decisions about what to cut and condense in adapting the book, while maintaining the gist and the spirit of things, but as is often the case, it still loses a little something in transition.

Blog entry 07/06/2010 - 12:00am

by Roderick Heath

Continued from Part Two (1969-1989)


Part Three: 1990-Present

1. Independent's Day: The Reign of Quirk

Australian cinema in the past twenty years has often looked like a manifestation of a culture constantly trying to second-guess itself. Faced with a narrowed era of multiplexes and blockbusters, moviemaking in Oz has failed, in spite of the occasional spotlights falling upon it, to gain even the kind of effective niche that British or French films had managed to carve in the modern cineaste panorama, and the fact domestic audience could rarely be counted upon to give necessary support stirred the question as to whether that support ought to be given automatically or first earned.

On top of this, the always problematic issue of how and what films to sell to the public has become all the more confusing, leading to fractious partisan battles of rhetoric. In the early 2000s, Ray Lawrence's Lantana was seen as a nuanced, grown-up alternative to a small avalanche of modest TV-derived comedies and in-your-face provocation; by the decade's end, further attempts to make grown-up, sober-minded dramas were being blamed in media critiques for dampening the industry's ever-ailing chances in being "depressing."

Blog entry 03/25/2010 - 8:46am

A follow-up to Spanish enfant terrible Pedro Almodóvar's 2006 arthouse sensation Volver, Broken Embraces finds the filmmaker re-teaming with actress Penélope Cruz and working on a canvas much broader than those of his previous outings, in terms of genres covered, narrative scope, and duration. Writes Keith Phipps in the AV Club: "Welds Douglas Sirk melodrama to the most gracefully unsettling elements of Alfred Hitchcock, wrapping both in the stylish, hushed elegance that’s become Almodóvar’s trademark since his mid-’90s reinvention. And now thanks to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and GreenCine, we're having a Broken Embraces DVDgiveaway!

One (1) lucky winner will be given a copy of Broken Embraces on DVD.

Blog entry 03/16/2010 - 12:50pm

by Roderick Heath

The Cars That Ate Paris

Part Two: 1969-1989

1. Engines of Change

Continued from Part One

Few explanations for the almost unprecedented resuscitation of Australian cinema between 1969 and 1975 are immediately satisfying. Perhaps the most important changes were the most difficult to quantify, but it is easy to see that 1968 was one of the most important years in contemporary Australian history. A popular referendum gave equal citizenship to indigenous Australians after decades of excision from the communal dialogue. Demonstrations over a visit by Lyndon Johnson, and against Australia's follow-the-leader involvement in Vietnam, illustrated the rise of a new, protest-based counterculture, and a popular objection to the idea of the United States take Britain's place in dictating Australian international policy soon expanded into a new thirst for self-definition. The same year also saw the foundation of the Australian Council for the Arts, a federal panel for sponsoring cultural projects, after a sustained demand for aid in combating the apathy generally dubbed the "cultural cringe" that disdained home-grown art and entertainment.

Such events indicated a new attitude to issues long caught in stagnancy during the highly conservative government of Sir Robert Menzies, which had lasted from 1949 to 1965. The wave of political and cultural agitation rolling worldwide in this era coincided neatly with this reinvigoration, and a powerful nexus arose that fused renewed intellectual and artistic energy, and embraced both old and new versions of the national character. In any event, the close government interest in cinema Raymond Longford had pushed for in the 1920s to so little effect now became institution.

Blog entry 02/22/2010 - 3:09pm

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