Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Des Hommes et des Dieux (Of Gods and Men) - Xavier Beauvois (2010 France)

Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay.

wow! winner of the grand prix at Cannes 2010, this is a really unique film. Not everyone's cup of tea however. The film concerns a group of French, Christian monks in Algiers during the 90's and their confrontation with Islamic militants who try to force them out. Heavy in parts, sparse in others, deeply religious yet completely human. At times it almost feels like an old western from the 50's yet managed to keep me riveted throughout.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Last Train Home - Lixin Fan (2009 Canada)

A family embarks on an annual tormenting journey along with 200 other million peasant workers to reunite with their distant family, and to revive their love and dignity as China soars as the world's next super power.

Excellent new documentary following the annual Chinese new year journey embarked on by millions of migrant workers as they leave the mega-cities to visit their families. Using this as a framework the doco paints a vivid canvas of wealth, poverty, west/east and forces us to take a hard look at what we value as quality of life.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Time That Remains - Elia Suleiman (2009 UK)

The final instalment in a trilogy that includes CHRONICLE OF A DISAPPEARANCE and DIVINE INTERVENTION, this is set among the Israeli Arab community and shot largely in homes and places in which Suleiman’s family once lived. Inspired by his father’s diaries, letters his mother sent to family members who had fled the Israeli occupation, and the director’s own recollections, the film spans from 1948 until the present, recounting the saga of Suleiman’s family in elegantly stylised episodes. Inserting himself as a silent observer reminiscent of Buster Keaton, Suleiman trains a keen eye on the absurdities of life in Nazareth.

Wonderful film making here. A colour palette to die for. An absurdist meditation on life, interconnectedness, loss and meaning. I will admit to having to pause and visit wikipedia a couple of times during this to fully understand the context and time-frame for the setting. That said I think there is more than enough universal appeal to make this enjoyable for anyone. Solid, theatrical performances. Subtle Coen-esque humour.