THE SALESMAN (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
September 15 & 16, 2017
The Salesman is the second foreign language Oscar for Iranian director Asghar Farhardi (A Separation). Emad and Rana, married theater actors costarring in a Farsi production of Death of a Salesman, move into a new apartment, though one where the previous occupant (a loose woman, according to neighbors’ gossip) has not cleared out all of her belongings. One night while Rana is home alone, she is attacked by an intruder. Marital problems ensue as Emad insists on tracking down the perpetrator of the attack. It is in the midst of this painful tale of crime and punishment that the spirit of Willy Loman makes its improbable, powerful and surprisingly literal return. The Salesman is about trust and honor, about violence against women in a patriarchal society, about the woe that is in marriage, but it is also about death, a salesman and the hidden brutality of class. NY Times. (In Persian) (125 minutes).
The subtitle for this compulsively watchable film is The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer. It’s a mouthful. But Norman, written and directed by the acclaimed Israeli film director Joseph Cedar (Footnote) in his first English-language film, is a spellbinder that features Richard Gere in one of his best performances ever. Gere plays Norman Oppenheimer, a well-dressed, well-spoken Manhattanite, a type known in Yiddish as a macher. Norman travels the circuits of money and influence, always just a few capillaries removed from the beating heart of power. His mental Rolodex swells with the names of the good and the great, every one of them “a very close friend.” He’d be happy to introduce you. Norman is a nearly mythical figure, a creature sprung from the annals of Jewish literature (e.g., Isaac Bashevis Singer) and the films of Mel Brooks and the Coen brothers. (In English) (118 minutes).
I, DANIEL BLAKE (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
November 3 & 4, 2017
Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the latest from legendary director Ken Loach is a gripping, human tale about the impact one man can make. Gruff but goodhearted, Daniel Blake is a man out of time: a widowed woodworker who’s never owned a computer, he lives according to his own common sense moral code. But after a heart attack leaves him unable to work and the state welfare system fails him, the stubbornly self-reliant Daniel must stand up and fight for his dignity, leading a one-man crusade for compassion that will transform the lives of a struggling single mother and her two children. Graced with humor and heart, I, Daniel Blake is a moving, much-needed reminder of the power of empathy from one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers. (In English) (100 minutes).
A WAR (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
January 5 & 6, 2018
Like his 2012 film A Hijacking, Danish writer-director Tobias Lindholm’s drama A War (an Academy Award nominee) explores the theme of moral compromise with an uncomfortably astringent honesty. In the heat of combat, a commanding officer, Claus, makes the sort of risky judgment call that war demands every day. When that choice claims civilian lives, Claus de-scends into guilt, unsure that he should even mount a defense for himself in the martial trial that follows. But nothing is ethically clear-cut in Lindholm’s take on the high cost of conflict; ‘justice’ is a slippery concept when a soldier might be able to do the most good by lying to exonerate himself from a war crime. NY Times. (In Danish) (115 minutes).
AFTER THE STORM (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
February 2 & 3, 2018
Internationally revered director/writer Hirokazu Koreeda’s After the Storm follows divorced dad Ryota (played by a movingly mopey Hiroshi Abe), a failed novelist and gambling addict, looking to put his life back together. When we first meet him, he’s raiding his mom’s apartment and searching the possessions of his recently deceased father for anything he might be able to sell. Ryota, we learn, wasn’t a particularly attentive father or husband before his marriage fell apart, and only now, after the fall, does he realize the value of what he’s lost. Renewing contact with his initially distrusting family, Ryota struggles to take back control of his existence and to find a place in the life of his young son Shingo. After the Storm crosses cultural lines to offer timeless observations about parental responsibilities, personal bonds, and the capacity for forgiveness. One reviewer said that he “walked out of After the Storm wanting to be a better person — and convinced that Hirokazu Koreeda isn’t just one of the world’s best filmmakers, but one of its most indispensable artists.” (In Japanese) (117 minutes).
THE INNOCENTS (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
March 2 & 3, 2018
Warsaw, December 1945: the second World War is finally over and Mathilde is treating the last of the French survivors of the German camps. When a panicked Benedictine nun appears at the clinic one night begging Mathilde to follow her back to the convent, what she finds there is shocking: a holy sister about to give birth and several more in advanced stages of pregnancy. A non-believer, Mathilde enters the sisters’ fiercely private world, dictated by the rituals of their order and the strict Rev. Mother. Played with restraint and individuality by a fine ensemble, this is a moving but provocative study of belief, duty, compassion and acceptance. It is an emotionally involving rather than harrowing film, with scenes as beautiful as oil paintings. (In French and Polish) (115 minutes).
20th CENTURY WOMEN (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
April 6 & 7, 2017
Set in Santa Barbara, 20th Century Women follows Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), a deter-mined single mother in her mid-50s who is raising her adolescent son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zu-mann) at a moment (1979) brimming with cultural change and rebellion. Dorothea enlists the help of two younger women in Jamie’s upbringing —Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a free-spirited punk artist living as a boarder in the Fields’ home, and Julie (Elle Fanning), a savvy and provocative teenage neighbor. 20th Century Women is a poignant love letter to the people who raise us – and the times that form us – as this makeshift family forges fragile connections that will mystify and inspire them through their lives. While all the cast are sublime, this is Bening’s film. She gives a subtle tour de force as the crumbling heroine of this feminist epic. (In English) (118 minutes).
HELL OR HIGH WATER (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
April 27 & 28, 2018
Hell or High Water is an exciting neo-western with a surprisingly political undercurrent. Director David Mackenzie draws on the Old West mythos to tell this contemporary story of robbers driven to crime not by greed and status but by economic distress and desperation. While the film underscores the roots and effects of systemic poverty, these issues are mostly there as subtext; the film’s plot is ingenious, its action beats are tense and cleanly executed and the characters are riveting. Ben Foster’s trigger-happy thrill-seeker, Chris Pine’s rational man with a purpose and a plan and Jeff Bridges’s wise old lawman are so well drawn and authentically acted that the dialogue scenes are as thrilling as the shootouts. NY Times. (In English) (102 minutes).
MAUDIE (Metacritic Reviews & Trailer)
May 11 & 12, 2018
Maudie, based on a true story, is an unlikely romance in which the reclusive Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) hires a fragile yet determined woman named Maudie (Sally Hawkins) to be his housekeeper. Maudie, bright-eyed but hunched with crippled hands, yearns to be independent, to live away from her protective family and she also yearns, passionately, to create art. Unexpectedly, Everett finds himself falling in love. Maudie charts Everett’s efforts to protect himself from being hurt, Maud’s deep and abiding love for this difficult man, and her surprising rise to fame as a folk painter. Hawkins disappears into the performance, capturing Maud’s physical limitations but also the light in her eyes, the sly humor in her observations about life — and her gift for seeing the greatest beauty in the simplest things. (In English) (115 minutes).