2015 films

IDA (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
September 18 & 19, 2015

18-year old Anna (stunning newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska), a sheltered orphan raised in a convent, is preparing to become a nun when the Mother Superior insists she first visit her sole living relative. Naïve, innocent Anna soon finds herself in the presence of her aunt Wanda, a worldly and cynical Communist Party insider, who shocks her with the declaration that her real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation. This revelation triggers a heart-wrenching journey into the countryside, to the family house and into the secrets of the repressed past, evoking the haunting legacy of the Holocaust and the realities of postwar Communism. Ida won the 2015 Academy Award For Best Foreign Language Film. (In Polish) (82 minutes).

LEVIATHAN (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
October 9 & 10, 2015

The new film from Andrey Zvyagintsev stars Aleksey Serebryakov as Kolya, a man who dwells by the sea on the Kola Peninsula, in northwest Russia. The climate is curiously temperate, but the land is spare, unforgiving, and wild: a good match for the roughness of our hero. He is a hard drinker, but no one here drinks softly—not the cops, not the visiting lawyer from Moscow, and least of all the local mayor, who tries to bully Kolya into giving up his home for redevelopment. In amassing these small parochial lives, Zvyagintsev hints at something rotten in the body politic—scaly with corruption, pickled in alcohol, and inflamed by the rhetoric of the Church. Yet the movie is neither spiteful nor disorderly; the camera stays unshakably calm. Not since Zvyagintsev’s début feature, The Return, has his litany of images struck home with such persistent power. One relieving grace note: if there is equilibrium here, or a sense of natural justice, it belongs to women. Would the nation not be safer in their hands? New Yorker. Leviathan was the winner of the 2015 Golden Globe Award For Best Foreign Language Film. (In Russian) (142 minutes).

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
November 13 & 14, 2015

Thomas Hardy’s classic Victorian tale about one woman’s dueling desires for feminist independence and fiery passion has been catnip for filmmakers dating back to 1915, the most famous adaptation being 1967’s angsty Anglo incarnation starring Julie Christie. But Thomas Vinterberg’s latest version is, hands down, the best yet. With a steely resilience burning beneath her delicate, creamy complexion, Carey Mulligan brings remarkable nuance and a rich inner life to the role of Bathsheba Everdene, a modest English country girl who inherits her late uncle’s farm, leading to a wealth of choices most women at the time wouldn’t dare to dream possible. Those, naturally, include a trio of romantic suitors: the earthy shepherd who was smitten with her even before she came into money (Matthias Schoenaerts), the rich and slightly bumbling landowner next door (Michael Sheen), and the rakish bad boy in uniform (Tom Sturridge). Mulligan, who refuses to play the helpless, hapless victim is strong and smart and sensual. Entertainment Weekly (In English) (119 minutes).

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
January 15 & 16, 2016

The headlines keep reminding us that the economy has recovered. But try telling that to the millions of people still out of work, scraping to get by. The latest gut-punch import from the filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne may be set in Belgium, but it has a timeliness and urgency that feel right at home in America now. The peerless Marion Cotillard stars as Sandra, a mother, wife, and factory worker who learns that she’s been laid off after taking a leave of absence from her job due to a nervous breakdown. Her co-workers were given the option of either letting her go or forfeiting their year-end bonuses, which in most cases are sorely needed. Desperate to hold on to her paycheck, she persuades her boss to hold a revote and spends the weekend going door-to-door, hat in hand, campaigning for compassion with her husband by her side. In such previous films as Rosetta and Lorna’s Silence, the Dardennes have shown themselves to be masters of unvarnished, closely observed human drama. But Two Days, One Night may be their most philosophically poignant and thorny film yet. With her wide, sad eyes and quiet air of embarrassment tinged with pride, Cotillard’s Sandra is asking a question not only of her colleagues but of the audience, too: Are we willing to put aside our own self-interest for the sake of empathy? Are we cowardly or brave? Cotillard’s exquisite performance makes you feel every ounce of the weight of that dilemma. Entertainment Weekly (In French) (95 minutes).

SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
February 12 & 13, 2016

Meet Seymour Bernstein: a virtuoso pianist, veteran New Yorker, and true original who gave up a successful concert career to teach music. In this wonderfully warm, witty, and intimate tribute from his friend, Ethan Hawke, Seymour shares unforgettable stories from his remarkable life and eye-opening words of wisdom, as well as insightful reflections on art, creativity, and the search for fulfillment. As its title suggests, Seymour: An Introduction doesn’t try to offer the final word on its subject. Instead, in 81 transporting minutes, this big-hearted documentary draws you so completely into Seymour’s world that you feel as if you know all there is to know, even as questions linger. So effective does it close the distance between you and Mr. Bernstein that afterward you may find yourself scanning the streets, hoping to catch sight of him, as if for an old friend. NY Times. (In English) (81 minutes).

TANGERINES (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
March 4 & 5, 2016

Set in 1992, during the growing conflict between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, this compassionate tale focuses on two Estonian immigrant farmers who decide to remain in Georgia long enough to harvest their tangerine crop. When the war comes to their doorsteps, Ivo takes in two wounded soldiers from opposite sides. The fighters vow to kill each other when they recover, but their extended period of recovery has a humanizing effect that might transcend ethnic divides. Set against a beautiful landscape defiled by war, this poetic film makes an eloquent statement for peace. (In Estonian and Russian) (87 minutes).

ABOUT ELLY (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
April 1 & 2, 2016

About Elly is a terrific film written and directed by Asghar Farhadi prior to making the Academy Award-winning A Separation and The Past. It is now getting a well-deserved U.S. release, and richly repays the wait. Like Farhadi’s other films, it is full of subtle motivations and believable characters, building intense emotional involvement as the story unfolds. Beautiful Sepideh is a friendly young wife and mother with a tendency to stretch the truth to try to make things better. She arranges a weekend getaway to the seashore with three couples that were friends at university, with their young children, and includes Ahmad, the newly-divorced brother of one of them, home from Germany looking for a wife. She also invites, with considerable arm-twisting, Elly, the sweet but shy kindergarten teacher of her daughter, to get acquainted with Ahmad. Everyone is having a good time until tragedy suddenly strikes, with a mysterious disappearance. Recriminations ensue and relationships are strained. The friends try to cover up the truth, and lie piles upon lie leading to disaster. About Elly depicts the strains between strict Islamic traditions and modernism within Iran’s affluent, sophisticated middle class. (In Persian) (119 minutes).

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
April 29 & 30, 2016

In this vibrant, funny and heartfelt film, a widow and former songstress discovers that life can begin anew at any age. After the death of her beloved dog, Carol (Blythe Danner) finds the everyday activities that have given her life structure—her regular bridge game, gardening, a glass of wine or two—have lost their luster. With the support of three loyal girlfriends (June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place), Carol decides to embrace the world, embarking on an unlikely friendship with her pool maintenance man (Martin Starr), pursuing a new love interest (Sam Elliott) and reconnecting with her daughter (Malin Akerman). A beautiful and smart coming-of-old-age film. (In English) (92 minutes).

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
May 20 & 21, 2016

We don’t need movies to tell us war is hell. But at their best, they humanize its unfathomable losses in a way that history books never quite can. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) stars as real-life memoirist Vera Brittain, a privileged young Englishwoman whose idyllic world is shattered by the onset of WWI. A blossoming feminist with writerly ambitions, she abandons a hard-won spot at Oxford to follow her brother and his friends (including the aspiring poet Roland, played by Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington) into combat the only way she can: by becoming a battlefield nurse. And though it’s all beautifully shot, the film’s best visual asset is Swedish actress Vikander. Not just because she’s gorgeous—outfitted in creamy pinks and blues and maroons, she looks like a long-stemmed peony—but because she lets every nuance play across her endlessly expressive face: love, fear, anger, heartbreak. Lost youth is easy to idealize; her testament makes it feel true. Entertainment Weekly (In English) (129 minutes).