It often takes the worst examples of humankind’s hideousness to highlight the heights of its kindness. As many portrayals of the Holocaust in fiction focus on the extraordinary stories of survival and unlikely camaraderie as do on the awful tales of death and destruction. Rose Bosch’s The Round Up finds its hopefulness in the resolve of the Parisian Jews raided and captured in 1942, and in the 10,000 who managed to escape their fate in the protection of their neighbours. Her film focuses particularly on the fortune of one family and a doctor and nurse they befriend in their time at the Winter Velodrome, where the thousands of star-branded prisoners are held as they await transfer to the camps.
Browsing: World Cinema
The success of The King’s Speech perhaps yet lingering on the selective committee’s mind, Denmark’s submission to the 85th Academy Awards offers another behind-the-scenes look at the life of a European monarch, focusing on the infamous love triangle that largely defined the reign of King Christian VII. Director Nikolaj Arcel makes courtly costume drama of A Royal Affair, dramatising in lush tones the illicit affair that blossomed between Caroline—Christian’s English bride—and Johann Friedrich Streunsee—his German physician and a secret revolutionary writer of the Enlightenment—and the overhaul and undermining of the Danish social structure that went with it.
A bullet to the head would give anyone a new perspective on life. It’s the literal case for Tul, the hero of Headshot and recipient of the eponymous wound, whose thusly damaged brain fails to perceive the world the right way up as for the rest of us. Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s film—this week announced as Thailand’s official submission for the 85th Academy Awards—traces his journey to such an occupation, exploring his prior life as a cop jaded by the judicial system that failed him, and the aftermath of the shooting as he tries to find some solace in the tenets of Buddhism.
How does one become a diplomat? It’s a position of considerable influence, presumably requiring years of service to one’s country and tireless work in the field of international relations. Not so for Mads Brügger, whose appointment as the Liberian consulate to the Central African Republic comes less through hard work than hard cash. Brügger chronicles his rise to this lofty position in The Ambassador, an often shocking and largely amusing portrait of the widespread corruption inherent in African states, and the lingering grasp of Western society over these now “independent” nations.
Whether a lover of the Rec series or not, there’s a certain amount of commendation due Paco Plaza for his boldness; turning a franchise on its head is a brave move with risk aplenty, testing the fans’ loyalty and threatening total alienation of their tastes. Rec 3: Genesis, the long awaited—and allegedly penultimate—instalment in the acclaimed series takes a decidedly stark turnaround from the previous films’ established format, recognising the diminishing returns already evident in Rec 2 and opting to totally reinvent the concept. Genesis, to a large degree, is to its predecessors what Evil Dead II was to The Evil Dead, taking the prior films’ now-familiar scenario and imbuing it with a deftness of tone to offer, as well as a whole new experience, commentary of a sort on what came before.
Released so long ago in its native Sweden that director Daniel Espinosa has since had time to not only film a major Hollywood action film and to see its release, but to oversee a sequel to this too, Easy…
No stranger to impromptu Parisian romances, Ethan Hawke again finds himself unexpectedly enthralled by the allure of a stranger in The Woman in the Fifth, writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski’s belated return to filmmaking. That his character here is also a novelist is where the similarities to Richard Linklater’s Before diptych end, Pawlikowski’s film less realist romance than a psychological mystery story. Hawke is college professor turned writer Tom Ricks, come to Paris in order to visit his ex-wife and daughter. Turned away by them and robbed of his few possessions, he takes a shadowy security job to fund his dingy lodgings, by day meeting with a strange woman whom he encounters at a literary discussion party.
A category far more open to international efforts than its predominantly Anglophonic older brother Best Picture, the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars has, since its 2001 inception, welcomed a variety of foreign talents to the competition. Joining Chico and Rita at the 84th ceremony to make for a rare two non-American nominees was A Cat in Paris, a French escapist fantasy following the eponymous pet’s adventures amidst the Parisian criminal underworld, and the efforts of its young owner Zoé to discover just where it goes each night.
The final Scandinavian production graced by the presence of Noomi Rapace before her departure for Hollywood stardom in Prometheus and more to come, Babycall arrives amid a torrent of thriller imports from Norway and Sweden, hoping to capitalise on the growing appetite for more substantial genre fare. Rapace plays Anna, an abused young woman who, together with her eight year old son, enters the witness protection scheme to escape her violent husband. Her palpable paranoia only grows more desperate when the baby monitor she purchases to keep watch over her son begins picking up the sounds of struggle from another apartment in her large complex.
The Red and the White is not a film that seeks to rationalize nor define the reasons of the senselessness of war. It simply presents it as a confusing and ubiquitous element of the human condition that is as ultimately illogical as it is insignificant. Battles will be won and lost through the course of human history, and the reasons for these battles will be long forgotten in the endless cycle of ebbs and flows that define and torture our existence.