Saturday, November 6, 2010
Note: Times have been revised to reflect the EU’s current last available thinking, but based on past experience, you might be wise to give each time after the first film of the evening an additional 10 or 20 minutes earlier starting time.
Title/Original Title/Country/Category/Director/Length/Festival Synopsis/My Comments
Ho Ho Ho (2009)
Original Title: Ho Ho Ho
Category: Family comedy
Director: Jesus del Cerro
Principal Cast: Ştefan Bănică, Jr., Bogdan Iancu, Pavel Bartos, Alina Chivulescu, Valentin Teodosiu, Ion Sapdaru, Alex Margineanu, Raluca Aprodu, Laura Cosoi.
Length: 101 mins
Horatiu, an 8-year-old boy who still believes in Santa, is taken by his mother to the shopping mall as a Christmas gift. A day that should have been nothing more than ordinary turns into a boisterous adventure when Horatiu gets lost. He meets Ion, a small-time crook disguised as Santa Claus, who is rude and doesn’t really like children; however, Horatiu has no doubt that Ion is the real Santa and follows him around, causing all sorts of trouble, both amusing and dangerous. By the end, the cynical Santa grows fond of Horatiu, who learns that miracles do indeed happen.
Thomat: Seems to be a very engaging Christmas tale, with a most appealing Bogdan Iancu playing the eight-year old who befriends a fake Santa, starring with one of Romania’s top entertainers and pop music icons, Ştefan Bănică, Jr.
IMDb viewer: A typical Christmas movie. The action takes place in Bucharest, a day before Christmas. Unable to pick her son, Horatiu, a Christmas present, Carmen promises to offer him a day at the mall. Unfortunately, Horatiu gets lost in the shopping center and meets a thief, John, disguised in a Santa Clause costume who doesn't seem to behave like the traditional Christmas character. The adventure begins as Horatiu is desperately trying to find his mother, while John's team is planning to steal a priceless diamond. It is a typical Christmas movie, inspired by the concept of 'Home Alone'. The fact that the distribution is Romanian may be a deterrent for foreign audience. Added to this, the actors' performance as a whole is mediocre and the screenplay reflects a dearth of originality. I recommend you watch this movie if you are a fan of Ştefan Bănică Jr. or you haven't got any Christmas-related films on 25th of December.
Original Title: Kickoff
Category: Cheerful documentary
Director: Hüseyin Tabak
Awards 2010 - Diagonale Festival of Austrian Film: Youth Jury Prize for Best Young Talent Film, Audience Award
Length: 94 mins
The Homeless World Cup is an annual, international football tournament, uniting teams of people, among them the homeless, asylum seekers, former alcoholics, and drug addicts. Kick-Off is a documentary that follows the Austrian team as they prepare physically and mentally for the tournament in Melbourne, Australia, in 2008. The film tells the stories of these determined individuals as they regain feelings they lost a long time ago: respect, pride, self-confidence, and a renewed zest for life.
Eight people from the streets of Austria getting their second chance in life by competing at the Homeless World Cup in Melbourne. The street-soccer championship for homeless people, asylum seekers, former alcoholics, and drug addicts. None of them will earn money in this competition; it's about much more than that: a chance to play themselves their way back into life. Soccer gives them back feelings they lost a long time ago: respect, pride, self-confidence. And renewed zest for life. Perhaps, above all, renewed zest for life.
The Girl on the Train (2008)
Original Title: La fille du RER
Director: André Téchiné
Principal Cast: Emilie Dequenne, Catherine Deneuve, Michel Blanc, Ronit Elkabetz, Mathieu Demy, Nicolas Duvauchelle.
Length: 105 mins
Jeanne lives in a house in the suburbs with her mother Louise. The two women get on well together. Louise earns her living by looking after children. Jeanne is half-heartedly looking for a job. Louise harbors the hope of getting her daughter a job with Samuel Bleistein, a famous lawyer whom she knew in her youth. Jeanne and Bleistein's worlds are light years apart; however, they'll be set on a collision course because of an incredible lie that Jeanne invents, a lie that grows into the biggest news and political story of the day.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: It's a bit of a comedown for director André Téchiné, but this fact-based drama raises some thorny questions -- and benefits from strong performances by Catherine Deneuve and Emilie Dequenne.
Rotten Tomatoes Synopsis: Based on the true story of a young girl who stunned France when she falsely claimed to be the target of an Anti-Semitic attack. Based on the true story of a young girl who stunned France when she falsely claimed to be the target of an Anti-Semitic attack.
Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan: Best known for 1994's "The Wild Reeds," Techine has been a director for more than 30 years, and the fluidity of his polished, intelligent, at times enigmatic works make him someone whose films are always worth watching.
Ho Ho Ho (2009)
Cineclub: The Homeless World Cup is an annual, international football tournament, uniting teams of people, among them the homeless, asylum seekers, former alcoholics and drug addicts. The teams take part in a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent their country and change their lives forever. None of them will earn money in this competition – it’s about much more than that: a chance to play themselves back into life.
Director Hüseyin Tabak
Kick-Off is a remarkable documentary that follows the Austrian team as they prepare physically and mentally for the tournament in Melbourne Australia in 2008. The film tells the stories of these determined individuals as they regain feelings they lost a long time ago: respect, pride, self-confidence and a renewed zest for life.
To find out more about this project visit www.homelessworldcup.org
Hüseyin Tabak, born in 1981 in Germany, discovered his love for film making at the age of 13: with his father’s camera he filmed Street-Soccer-Tournaments. After gaining practical experience in more than 20 film and TV productions in Hamburg he enrolled in 2006 at the Department of Film and Television (Film Academy Vienna) of the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna (http://www.mdw.ac.at/?pageid=144). Already his first short film, "Cheeese", about a Kurdish family during the Iraq War in 2003, produced in 2008 at the Film Acadamey Vienna, received international praise. More information on Hüseyin Tabak (in German only) at http://oe1.orf.at/artikel/231243.
Trailer can be seen on YouTube here.
For an extended article on the film and its production, see here. The article starts: “Director Hüseyin Tabak, a student at the Vienna Film Academy, accompanied the Austrian team for the Homeless World Cup 2008 during training for the tournament and to the event itself in Melbourne. In his first documentary film for the cinema, Kick Off, he recorded the way the men from the bleaker side of life played their way back into a semblance of normality.”
The Girl on the Train / La fille du RER (2009)
France, Drama – 1 hr 45 mins – Generally favorable reviews: 68/67 out of 100.
Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan:"The Girl on the Train" is inspired by a much- discussed real event that took place in Paris a few years ago, but don't expect any kind of neo-documentary examination of cause and effect. That's not filmmaker Andre Techine's style, and this is one of his most successful films.
Best known for 1994's "The Wild Reeds," Techine has been a director for more than 30 years, and the fluidity of his polished, intelligent, at times enigmatic works make him someone whose films are always worth watching.
What caught his interest for “Girl on the Train” was an incident on a suburban Paris train (the film's translated French title is more site-specific: "The Girl on the RER") when a young woman claimed she was the victim of a vicious anti-Semitic attack.
As dramatized by screenwriters Techine, Odile Barski and Jean-Marie Besset (who wrote a play about the incident and its aftermath), this film is not a "problem" picture, and it's only tangentially interested in Jewish identity and French anti-Semitism, though it does touch on those issues.
Rather, Techine, as always, is concerned with the human dynamics of a situation, with the mysteries of interpersonal behavior. "The Girl on the Train" is focused on the paradoxes and contradictions of how people act, on the drives that make us do what we do and on how often our actions do not add up in any defensible way.
At the center of things is Jeanne, a young woman in her 20s first glimpsed rollerblading through her neighborhood. It's soon clear that for Techine this is not a random choice of diversion: Jeanne is a person who is always moving, always eluding and escaping, someone more comfortable with action than reflection.
As played by French-speaking Belgian actress Émilie Dequenne (who debuted in the title role of the Dardenne brothers' Cannes success "Rosetta"), Jeanne is a beautiful young woman but very much an enigmatic one. Techine can't get enough of showing her in close-up, and the more he does the more we realize that her look is unfathomable, that she has one of those faces into which anything can be read.
Restless, aimless, with no great sense of self, Jeanne still lives at home with her widowed mother, Louise (Catherine Deneuve, Techine's favorite actress). Louise runs an at-home daycare center, and Jeanne is so uninterested in getting a job that her mother is reduced to trolling the Internet on her behalf, one day turning up an ad from Samuel Bleistein (French veteran Michel Blanc), a prominent Jewish lawyer whom she knew when she was younger.
The dynamics of Bleistein and his family figure in the film as a parallel plot. Besides the lawyer, we meet his angry son Alex (Mathieu Demy, the son of Anges Varda and Jacques Demy), the son's Israeli ex-wife, Judith (top Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz), who works for Bleistein, and their 12-year-old son, Nathan (Jeremie Quaegebeur).
While we meet this family, Jeanne gets involved with Franck (Nicolas Duvauchelle), a wrestler with dreams of the Olympics who has the drive, focus and intensity that Jeanne lacks. But Franck also has an edge that is hard to figure that leads to a series of fraught acts that change everything.
We never find out definitively why Jeanne does what she does, though anything from a kind of desperation to a paradoxical need to be loved emerge as possibilities. Of course, the specific reason is not what is of interest here. It is as always the intricacies of interpersonal drama that make it impossible to turn away.