Nine Fridays/Saturdays of film for $35

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September 20 & 21, 2013


Starring Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Cinema feeds on stories of love and death, but how often do filmmakers really offer new or challenging perspectives on either? Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ (Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film) is devastatingly original and unflinching in the way it examines the effect of love on death, and vice versa. It’s a staggering, intensely moving look at old age and life’s end, which at its heart offers two performances of incredible skill and wisdom from French veteran actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmannuelle Riva. Among so many other things, this is a film about loyalty and being true to your word. ‘Amour’ is a staggering, highly intelligent and astonishingly performed work. It’s a masterpiece. Time-Out London (127 minutes) (In French).

October 11 & 12, 2013

Rating: PG

Starring Chayim Sharir, Hadas Yaron, Hila Feldman, Ido Samuel, Irit Sheleg, Razia Israeli, Renana Raz, Yael Tal, Yiftach Klein.

The story told by Rama Burshtein in “Fill the Void,” her remarkable debut feature, has an almost classical simplicity. Shira, a young woman living in an ultra-Orthodox enclave in Tel Aviv, faces a choice not unlike those faced by the heroines of Jane Austen novels and Hollywood romantic comedies. Which man will she marry? For Shira, this is an especially agonizing question because it forces her to weigh the claims of family loyalty, religious duty and her own desires. After a courtship conducted according to the rules of her community, Shira is engaged to a soft-spoken, ginger-bearded fellow. Her happiness is quickly overshadowed by the death of her beloved older sister, Esther, who leaves behind a newborn son and a husband, Yochay. As the family struggles with grief, the possibility begins to emerge that Yochay might marry Shira. Nobody suggests that this is a perfect or even a comfortable solution, but it offers some practical and emotional advantages, especially to Shira’s mother, who can’t bear the thought that Yochay might leave Israel with her only grandchild. But though Shira and her brother-in-law get along reasonably well, the idea that she could replace Esther shocks her conscience and her sense of propriety. Ms. Burshtein emphasizes both the loneliness of her heroine’s predicament and its implications for those closest to her. NY Times (In Hebrew) (90 minutes).

November 1 & 2, 2013


Starring Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers, Gael García Bernal, Jaime Vadell, Luis Gnecco, Marcial Tagle, N, Pascal Montero.

On Oct. 5, 1988, after 15 hard years under a dictatorship, the Chilean public voted No — as in, enough already — in a historic national plebiscite that removed Gen. Augusto Pinochet from power. Pablo Larraín's superb, Oscar-nominated, fact-based drama, “No,” explores the power of popular dissent, and the coordinated persuasions of media, marketing, and targeted advertising in shaping the word no to invigorate a populace pessimistically conditioned to think that nothing will ever change for the good. Gael García Bernal is typically soulful as a (fictional) adman -- more politically engaged than Mad Men's Don Draper -- who devises the effective and unexpectedly upbeat campaign, even while his agency boss works for Team Yes. The movie uses period detail, archival footage, and '80s-era technology to create an excellently authentic, bleached, looking document of a great democratic accomplishment. Entertainment Weekly (In Spanish) (118 minutes).

January 3 & 4, 2014


Danish director Tobias Lindholm spins an exacting drama out of a crisis in this deft, verite-style account of Somali piracy in the Indian ocean. Full credit to “A Hijacking” for resisting the siren-call of Hollywood histrionics in favor of the nuts-and-bolts. The actual hijack passes almost unnoticed. Instead, Lindholm homes in on its grinding, grisly aftermath, showing us the tense chess game of hostage negotiation and the shifting loyalties within the stricken cargo ship. The little details all ring true – right down to the spluttering fury of the pirate's spokesman, mortally offended at being regarded as anything other than an impartial translator. Don't shoot him, he's just the messenger. The Guardian (In Danish) (103 minutes).

January 31 & February 1, 2014


Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Joanna Vanderham, Julianne Moore, Onata Aprile, Steve Coogan.

Henry James’s short novel “What Maisie Knew” was suggested by a friend’s casual mention of “some luckless child of a divorced couple” caught in a custody fight. In the 1890s this kind of situation was perhaps more remarkable than it is now, but James’s interest was, as always, less in the sensational aspects of the story than in the window it offered into the relational dynamics of human psychology. In our own time, divorce and its consequences seem more banal than scandalous, but James’s tale of a young girl, “rebounding from racket to racket like a tennis ball or a shuttlecock” as her parents pursue their own narcissistic ends, still has the power to trouble and to shock. In their brilliant, haunting adaptation of “What Maisie Knew,” set in 21st-century Manhattan, the directors, Scott McGehee and David Siegel, and the screenwriters, Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright, take liberties with the Master’s plot while remaining true to James’ original “design.” NY Times (In English) (99 minutes).

February 28 & March 1, 2014


Starring Harry Gulkin, John Buchan, Susy Buchan.

In this inspired, genre-twisting new film, Oscar nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who's telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. “Stories We Tell” explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the larger human story. (In English) (108 minutes).

April 11 & 12, 2014


Starring Nina Hoss.

Winner of the Best Director prize at this year's Berlin Film Festival, the latest film from Christian Petzold is a simmering, impeccably crafted Cold War thriller, starring the gifted Nina Hoss-in her fifth lead role for the director-as a Berlin doctor banished to a rural East German hospital as punishment for applying for an exit visa. As her lover from the West carefully plots her escape, Barbara waits patiently and avoids friendships with her colleagues-except for Andre the hospital's head physician, who is warmly attentive to her. But even as she finds herself falling for him, Barbara still cannot be sure that Andre is not a spy. As her defensive wall slowly starts to crumble, she is eventually forced to make a profound decision about her future. A film of glancing moments and dangerous secrets, “Barbara” paints a haunting picture of a woman being slowly crushed between the irreconcilable needs of desire and survival. (In German) (105 minutes).

May 2 & 3, 2014


Starring Jacob Lofland, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Shannon, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson, Tye Sheridan.

A first-rate adventure film about two teen-age Arkansas boys—Ellis , who lives on a houseboat with his warring parents, and Neckbone , who is being raised carelessly in a trailer by his scapegrace uncle. They escape at dawn, hit the river, and discover a fugitive, Mud (Matthew McConaughey), living on an island in the Mississippi. Mud has long been in love with a white-trash goddess, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), and the two cast-adrift boys, stirred by his situation and by their own need to know that love can last, struggle to get them back together. Watching the boys in the wild, plotting and foraging on Mud’s behalf, we can’t help thinking of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. The writer and director, Jeff Nichols (“Take Shelter”), brings to the film Twain’s understanding of a boy’s best qualities—a love of adventure, instinctive loyalty, and generous chivalry. Nichols has a strong feeling for the tactility of natural elements—water, wood, terrain, weather. New Yorker (In English) (130 minutes).

May 23 & 24, 2014


Set on the French Riviera in the summer of 1915, Gilles Bourdos' lushly atmospheric drama “Renoir” tells the story of celebrated Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, in declining health at age 74, and his middle son Jean, who returns home to convalesce after being wounded in World War I. The elder Renoir is filled with a new, wholly unexpected energy when a young girl miraculously enters his world. Blazing with life, radiantly beautiful, Andrée will become his last model, and the wellspring of a remarkable rejuvenation. At the same time, Jean also falls under the spell of the free-spirited young Andrée. Their beautiful home and majestic countryside grounds reverberate with familial intrigue, as both Renoirs, père et fils, become smitten with the enchanting and headstrong young muse. (In French) (111 minutes).