Tag Archives: foreign

Stroszek (1976)

1 Mar

Stroszek coverIt is a pleasure to review one of my favorite foreign films by one of my favorite directors, Werner Herzog. Stroszek is a poetic Herzog take on the American Dream as an unattainable myth for immigrants to the US. There are many subtle laughs along the way, but overall the movie leaves you with heartache on behalf of the title character and his attempt to improve his life by starting anew in the US.

While it is not a documentary, Herzog based this story on Bruno S., the actor who plays the title character, and there are several scenes that are shot in his actual tiny apartment. Herzog has a knack for picking out interesting human subjects to showcase in his movies. And although not based on the true story of one particular German immigrant, it isn’t hard to imagine the story that unfolds as one that is based in the reality of those who immigrate to the US these days.

The film introduces us to Stroszek as he is being released from jail where he was serving a short stint for some drunken misconduct of stroszek-Brunosome sort. He is released and heads straight to the nearest bar to pick up where he left off. Stroszek is motivated to leave his native Germany when he and his lady-friend, Eva, are both tormented and abused by her pimps. The two of them set off for Wisconsin with Bruno’s elderly neighbor, Mr. Scheitz, in search of the American dream. In the states, however, they are met only with obstacles and people who either take advantage of them or simply don’t understand them.

"Can't stop the dancin' chicken."

“Can’t stop the dancin’ chicken.”

I have a penchant for melancholy movies, and Stroszek is one of the best. This is a must see in my book; it is a movie that graces my current Top 10 list.

P.S. If you listen to Ratatat, you may recognize a sample from this film in the song, Drugs. ^^^Please watch that music video, it’s hilarious. It practically had me in tears of laughter when I saw them perform at Camp Bisco 10.


Biutiful (2010)

22 Feb

BiutifulOne of Alejandro Gonzáles Iñarritu’s newer films, Biutiful is not for beginners of his work. I recommend starting with Babel and working your way through to 21 Grams and Amores Perros to decide if you like his style. Like these other movies, Biutiful delves into the dark and unpleasant corners of humanity by focusing on themes like death, clashing cultures, and the gritty realities of life.

In this film, Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a single father,  (’cause Mom’s cray),who makes his living through black market dealings and illegal immigrant labor. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Uxbal spends most of the movie confronting his wrong-doings and getting his affairs in order so that his children will be taken care after he is gone. While slow-moving at parts, this film really picks up momentum as it goes, much like an impending countdown to one’s own death.

An interesting dynamic comes through as it is revealed at the beginning that Uxbal is also a medium who can communicate with the recently deceased. It led to some incredibly haunting scenes that had I couldn’t shake, even long after the movie was over.

Klown (2010)

15 Feb

klown coverI wasn’t a huge fan of Klown for several reasons, but I think that it’s because this is more of a dude’s movie. If you know me at all, you know I thrive on awkward, uncomfortable movies with weird sexual undertones or that break social taboos. This does all of that, but in a way that even makes me uncomfortable. I know! I thought it was impossible, too! But at least it is a comedy, and as such it comically exaggerates uncomfortable situations in a way that make me laugh half of the time, and cringe half of the time. The “pearl necklace” scene? Uncomfortably hilarious. The alleged rape references, uncomfortably upsetting.

But if you are not sensitive to hyper-masculine conversations, and you enjoy crass, awkward humor that is much akin to British humor, this movie will be right up your alley. The story mainly revolves around friends Frank and Casper who plan a “Tour de Pussy” canoe trip with the ultimate goal of spending an evening at a famous and exclusive brothel. Right before they leave, Frank finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant, and she is having doubts about Frank’s fatherhood potential. In order to prove he can be a good father, Frank drags his nephew (Bo) along for the trip, which severely pisses off the main proponent of the Pussy part of Tour de Pussy, Casper.

So ladies, despite this pink movie poster, it’s not as much a movie for us. Let the menfolk have their private sexist male bonding. I didn’t hate it, but it just wasn’t for me. And dudes, take note: this movie contains very informative instruction regarding “man flirting.”

Adrift- À Deriva (2009)

8 Feb

Welcome to my new feature: Foreign Film Friday! I had been having a lot of trouble getting into foreign films as of late. I’m often multi-tasking while watching, which means I miss crucial bits of dialogue all of the time when I look away from the screen. Even in Spanish movies a couple of lines slip by me, which is unacceptable because I am a Spanish teacher.

So, I got an elliptical trainer a couple of months ago, and got it all set up in front of the TV. I started twerkin’ that ish after throwing on Brick when I realized I couldn’t hear anything over the whir of my badass workout. (It’s an old, rickety elliptical machine I got off Craigslist). Then it hit me. This is the perfect environment to start chipping away at all of those foreign films in my Netflix queue!

So far I have ellipticized my way through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Biutiful, Whores’ Glory, and The Red Balloon, but it wasn’t until I watched Adrift (À Deriva) that I thought I should use this as new routine as fodder for a new feature. And thus, Foreign Film Friday was born!

With that long-winded explanation of the genesis of FFF, I don’t have much breath left to write about Adrift, (and I’m sure your patience is running thin as well).
I’ll make it snappy…

adriftAdrift is a beautiful film set in a beachy Brazilian paradise. Perhaps the combination of a welcoming summer atmosphere, the nostalgic ’80s feel and the melodic sounds of Portuguese are what got me smitten on this film. I have to assume that all of the allusions to photography in the film are not by accident, as the cinematography often takes on an etherial, Poloroid, spilling-out-of-the-frame quality. And maybe they’re overdoing it with the amount of times they played it in the background, but I love this song.

You might like this movie if you: love Portuguese, beautiful Brazilian people and/or seascapes; were ever a 14 year old girl (as is the main character); enjoy movies that showcase the effects of infidelity; or would like looking at Vincent Cassel in a Speedo from time to time.

Oh, and, by the way… If you decide to watch Adrift, and no one is speaking Portuguese in the film you put on, it’s probably Open Water 2: Adrift, and definitely not the movie you should be watching, under any circumstances or at any time, I can assume.

Also, there are no subtitles in the trailer, so you can just stop here if you’re not up for that type of thing.

I Am Love (Io sono l’amore) (2009)

26 Nov

Visually stunning, but a very slow start. Perhaps my first mistake was having such high expectations. I am certain that someone who has studied film, particularly Italian film, may get more out of the movie than I did, and might see my commentary as blasphemous. But I have to say that I just felt that it dragged on, especially in the first half, and it felt rather pretentious. Nonetheless, I do have some good things to say about this film as well.

In I Am Love, Tilda Swinton plays Emma, who begins to feel unfulfilled by her life in a well-to-do Milanese family. This isn’t verbally expressed, at least not in the beginning, but you begin to pick up on her distance from the rest of the cast as they toil over the Recchi family business they inherited from the late patriarch, Edoardo. When Emma tastes the dishes that her son’s friend Antonio prepares, she is brought back to her passions for cooking and her longing for her Russian homeland. Finally the film begins to take off in the second half as desires take form and tragedy befalls the family. In the end you realize that although the men have all the power and money through their tight control of business, the women of this family are the true subjects of interest, following their own passions and not just looking at bottom lines and profit margins. Add to this a dramatic score, comparable in some ways, to Jonny Greenwood’s arrangements in There Will Be Blood. (Although this film’s score still pales in comparison to Greenwood’s). There is promise to this film, and I will definitely admit that I enjoyed it, and certainly became entangled in the story by the end. But it was a slow climb that I am willing to bet many do not have the patience to take in order to reach such a summit.

The beautiful cinematography is the saving grace for I Am Love, as I was unfortunately a bit disappointed in the way it crawled through events and character development. I don’t know why it had to start out so slowly. Maybe so that the passionate love-making to follow in the second half would be that much more explosive. Unfortunately, Tilda Swinton reminds me of an android, and attempts to make her seem sexy and seductive were lost on me. However, as a postscript: I found out that Ms. Swinton learned Italian specifically for this role, and she did not previously speak the language. This is overwhelmingly impressive, the entire film is Italian and from the looks of things, so is the cast. I want to know what method she used (Rosetta Stone??). Maybe I can apply some of her techniques in my Spanish classroom. Oh shit, maybe she is a robot!

Although I complain about the slowness of the movie, I Am Love is like photography in motion, it is art as a film. This comes through in the way the lighting is played with, the style of the film’s flashbacks and fantasy sequences, which are definitely above and beyond many movies I have seen. And as it happens while observing art, it is hard to critique or analyze it without at least minimal background knowledge of the craft. I obviously love film, but I know very little about cinematography, the complexity of lighting and editing. While watching it, when I started to get bored with the way the plot was moving, I would try to put on a new set of eyes and observe why particular shots might have been chosen, what was unique about the lighting, or what emotions were being conveyed subtly by the actor that may not have been apparent at first glance. So it was a nice exercise in considering style, especially since that is about all I got out of the first half.

I would probably give this movie a B/B- because even the titillating parts that made the slow parts worth sitting through eventually became exaggeratedly dramatic. And so it swings like a pendulum from absurdly boring to over-the-top. But it still gets sexy. Passionate love affairs and  and the music tries to keep you with the emotions of the film. If you are in the right mood, I think this can be an excellent film. And when I feel more in that mood, (whatever that mood may be), I will watch it again.

I think in addition to the letter-grade scale  that I have been giving movies on Medicinema thus far, (can you tell I’m a teacher?), I will add the would-I-watch-it-again and would-I-buy it grade. Because ultimately this is what I think at the end of every movie I watch, no joke. So…

would I watch it again: yes
would I buy it: I’m thinking no. I’ll let you know if that changes after a second viewing.