The Non-English Movies of The Week
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia, 2020)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]
This movie is set in Bosnia in the days leading up to the Srebrenica genocide. It tells the heartbreaking story of a local who works as an interpreter for the UN peacekeepers under the Dutch command and ‘leadership’. The interpreter tries to save her family from an imminent catastrophe while the Dutch soldiers are only interested in enforcing the law in a clerical fashion without bothering about the spirit of the law. This movie is a damning indictment of the UN and the failure of the peacekeepers in protecting the most vulnerable. This movie is to Srebrenica what ‘The Pianist’ is to the Second World War. Normal people are placed under the unstoppable force of events beyond their control. The desperation of the characters as the the finale approaches is truly a difficult sight. Watch if you have some humanity left in you.
Dear Comrades (2020, Russia)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]
In 1962, the people in a small town in USSR revolt against price hikes. This invites the juggernaut of the Soviet establishment to the town. The full wrath and fury of the establishment is unleashed on unsuspecting residents and the rebellion is quickly extinguished. A local communist party functionary who is otherwise enjoying the fruits of her exalted position begins to question her beliefs when she sees the events unfolding in front of her. The more pertinent question is how Russia entered this movie as their nominee for the Academy Awards when it does not show the Russia of the past in a good light. This movie can be construed to be more devious than it appears on the surface. For example, the grave searching expedition could be considered to be a test for the protagonist. The state could be trying to find out whether she is lying about the status of her daughter. There are some stand out scenes though. The rant of the lady in the car is a standout moment. For all that and more, watch the movie.
Better Days (2019)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 6.5]
This Chinese flick takes a strong stand against bullying. The problem with it is that in the process of taking the stand it takes too much time to tell the story which is syrupy and sentimental. Frankly, I do not get the hype about this movie. The story revolves around a girl’s revenge on those who bully her. The plot is convenient at best and crumbles on closer inspection. Ultimately, the movie is a testament to the fact that it is not often the best movies that get nominated at the Oscars.
Movies I Saw This Week
The Father (2021)[IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]
‘The Father’ is adapted from a play and it shows. This is papered over by the performance of Hopkins who can draw parallels with his real life for this role. A man losing his memory in old age finds it difficult to make sense of the world around him. He finds it difficult to remember where he is. He even forgets the faces of the people nearest to him. I found this movie to be terrifying in some moments. Real horror is from lived experiences and not from the shriek of a shadow in the dark. The toll this illness takes not only on the patients but on those around them is alarming. Watch the movie for some solid performances.
Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]
Fred Hampton was a young life cut short by betrayal. This movie tells his story. FBI infiltrated the Black Panther Party to quell the militant activism of its members. I found this movie to be morally in an area that can be described as dark grey. It would be a fallacy to not expect the government to deal with an organisation with a penchant for violence. Black Panthers were no saints. The question is about the extent to which the high handed tactics of the FBI is justified in the situation. Judging purely from an artistic point of view, the movie is a seamlessly edited piece of work. If you know the real life events there is not even an element of surpise. The real question in the movie is about guilt and about the life lived after the betrayal. Also, Daniel Kaluuya will get the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor.
I Care a Lot (2021)[IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 6.5]
‘I Care a Lot’ is an opportunity lost. I thought I was in for a treat fifteen minutes into the movie but then the director decided to take the fizz out of the soda. Honestly, I was cheering for the Russian mafia at a point in the movie against the sinister character played with panache by Rosamund Pike who seems to revel in these ice-cold outings. As a ‘guardian’, Pike’s character is a sociopath who makes the near fatal mistake of being drawn into the orbit of the mafia. The plot is a lesson in convenient endings, coincidences and a general inefficiency of the Russian mafia. For god’s sake, the mafia cannot even get a killing right. What the movie really is about is the Frankenstein’s monster that late stage capitalism has become in America.
The Mauritanian(2021)[IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 7.0]
Snubbed royally by the Academy at the Oscars, this crime investigation / legal drama set in Guantanamo works on many levels. It lobs the grenade of the accusations of inhumane behaviour at the US forces. It tells the real toll that life in a prison extracts out of a detainee. On the other hand, it also make the viewers question the leniency accorded to the accused by the director. It is not often that someone receives a call from Bin Laden or invites terrorists to one’s apartment. There are no easy answers in this movie. There are no good guys either.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 7.0]
This is a silly movie. This is a funny movie. This is a hoot of a movie. I have not laughed, smiled and chuckled so much watching an English movie in recent times. Two women who have never ventured outside their hometown take an eventful trip to a seaside town. Actually, the plot does not matter. Just go with the flow and try not to take yourself seriously. Highly recommended.
Pieces of a Woman (2021)[IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.0]
This movie is what I would call an acting bait. The whole idea is to get people awards and in the garb of doing so make it look like you have a story to tell. The first half an hour of this disjointed jigsaw puzzle is a birth scene (that is the baby variety, in case you did not get it). Vanessa Kirby has acted well in the scene and in the film. Otherwise, the film has nothing new to say. It is a potpourri of infidelity, parental pressure and some legal bits thrown in to fill the remaining parts of the movie. I watched it to figure out how Kirby got the nomination for Best Actress. I figured it out and (as Forrest Gump would say) that’s all I have to say about that.
Documentary of the Week
The Dissident (2021)[IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]
Jamal Khashoggi was an insider who turned against the famouly short-fused rulers of Saudi Arabia. His story and modern day surveillance in this hard hitting documentary.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’ with Angelina Jolie
Did you know: ‘Godzilla vs Kong’ is the largest (pun intended) box office hit of the last one year.