Monday, May 31, 2010

Richie Mehta - Amal (2007)


Following the legacy of his deceased father, Amal Kumar (Rupinder Nagra) turned down a higher paying job at the post office to drive an auto-rickshaw on the streets of Dehli, India. Maneuvering daily through crowded streets daily to barely eke out a living, Amal is good natured to a fault, refusing to accept tips and always charging the meter rate. Shot on location in India by a Canadian and Indian crew, Richie Mehta's low-budget feature Amal is a charming O'Henry-like tale about class, wealth, and family in India. It is a very worthy first effort that captures the frenetic street life of the city of Dehli and provides a sense of immediacy in the style of Michael Winterbottom, but without the hand-held camera cliché.

When Amal refuses to accept a tip and offers cough drops to a gruff old man dressed in rags, G.K. Jayaram (Raseeruddin Shah), the man is convinced he has finally found a good man, a man of principle. When the old man dies suddenly, his family discovers that he has done something no one expected. Though we hear G.K. beautifully singing a traditional song in a café, we are still astonished when the eccentric old man turns out to be a man of means who leaves his fortune to Amal, though the rickshaw driver remains totally unaware of these events. The story concerns how the old man's request is handled by his business partner Suresh (Roshan Seth), his lawyer Sapna Agarwal (Seema Biswas), and his scheming sons Harish (Siddhant Beh) and Vivek (Vik Sahay) who simply want what they feel is owed to them.

G.K.'s will contains instructions that his assets will remain locked for thirty days until Amal can be found and the dead man's attorney sets out to locate Amal, not an easy attack in a city with thousands of Amals. Then again, it might be in his attorney's best interests not to find him: if Amal doesn't show up within thirty days, G.K.'s fortune will revert to his sons, with whom Suresh has a secret deal. A few subplots spice up the intrigue over the will but serve only to reinforce the film's underlying message.

Amal's develops a romantic interest in Pooja Seth (Koel Purie), a passenger he picks up every day and becomes devoted to the health of a young girl who is run over and injured by his rickshaw while begging in the streets,. Filmed in English and Hindi, Amal was inspired by a real-life experience and story idea by his brother, Shaun Mehta. Together they turned it into a short and then expanded it into a full-length feature in time for the Toronto Film Festival in 2007. While its theme of happiness trumping wealth has been done many times, Amal feels original and an impressive performance from Toronto actor Nagra holds the film together

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Félix Viscarret - Bajo las estrellas (2007)

Benito Lacunza, a mediocre trumpeter, returns to his hometown for his father’s burial. There he finds out that his kind brother Lalo, nicknamed ‘Ironman’ because of the sculptures he makes from recycled scrap iron, is going to marry. His fiancée is Nines, a single mother whom Benito knows from his adolescent partying sprees. Benito intends to rescue Lalo from Nines… but he stumbles upon Ainara, Nines’ daughter, a rebellious and introverted child, with whom Benito will end up developing an unusual friendship.

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Luís Galvão Teles - (2007)

Reflects upon the effect of new technologies on the lives of the 39 inhabitants of Aguas Altas, a village in the north of Portugal. An engineer who finds himself stuck in the village for professional reasons decides to create a website dedicated to the region. The initiative is well accepted by the locals and even by the priest, who claims that if Jesus Christ were alive, even he would have a personal website. However, a Spanish multinational wants to claim the name of Aguas Altas to launch a new brand of mineral water. This spawns a controversy that pulls in the media and the local government, while some of the residents lead a campaign against a so-called Spanish invasion.

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Robert Sarkies - Out of the Blue (2006)

Plot Outline:
Ordinary people find extraordinary courage in the face of madness. On 13-14 November 1990 that madness came to Aramoana,a small New Zealand seaside village. It came in the form of a lone gunman with a high-powered automatic rifle. As he stalked his victims the terrified and confused residents were trapped in the village for 24 hours while a handful of under-resourced and underarmed local policeman risked their lives trying to find him and save the survivors. By dawn 13 people lay dead. This is a true story.

Rar Password: westinghouse

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Koji Kawano - Love My Life (2006)


Ichiko and Eri are two beautiful Japanese Uni students who are in a lesbian relationship. Ichiko comes out to her father who tells her he is also gay and her mother was a lesbian. Her best friend is gay too, though he has a female who is after him. Their liaison is very intense, but Eri suggests a temporary separation so she can concentrate on her law studies. The break from their affair is difficult for Ichiko to deal with. But Eri soon sorts out her priorities.

eng subs

Rar Password: scaly

Gianni Amelio - La Stella che non c'e aka The Missing Star (2006)


Gianni Amelio’s new film explores the cultural divide between West and East through the character of Vincenzo, an Italian engineer who finds himself on a startling, life-changing voyage. “The Dismissal,” the best-selling novel that inspired The Missing Star, is a story with many dimensions. In Amelio’s sensitive hands, it is a moving tale about an obsessive desire to right a wrong. But Vincenzo’s near-messianic voyage is as complex as the man and the culture from which he has come.
The Missing Star is also a road movie, tracing a trip from Italy to China and, once in China, across and through its vast landscape.

The middle-aged Vincenzo, wonderfully embodied by Sergio Castellitto, is an engineer working in a steel mill near Naples. When a Chinese delegation comes to buy a blast furnace from his company, Vincenzo feels he must warn them about a potential fault in the machinery’s control unit. The buyers, however, ignore his advice, dismantle the furnace and pack it up. After determining how to fix the suspect part, Vincenzo sets out alone for China with the mission of finding the furnace and giving the piece to the new owners. Landing in Shanghai, he has only the name of the Chinese interpreter who visited the mill with the delegation: Liu Hua (Tai Ling). However, she is suspicious of Vincenzo, as his behaviour caused her to lose her job. And locating the blast furnace in a country as massive and enjoying such spectacular growth as China summons comparisons with needles and haystacks.

As Vincenzo’s journey carries him deeper and deeper into the country, Amelio gently teases out the lessons of the tale’s developing metaphorical dimension. He has always been the most adept of filmmakers at exploring moral dilemmas and creating characters whose lives embody these tensions. Vincenzo is a truly great imaginative creation: unpredictable, stubborn, arrogant, obsessive – yet gentle and determined to do good. His foil is the young Liu Hua, and it is their story that serves to illuminate the cultural difference between West and East.

Subtitle: English

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Paolo Taviani & Vittorio Taviani - La Masseria delle allodole aka The Lark Farm (2007)

A film whose time has come but whose dramatic expression apparently has not, "The Lark Farm" is all the more disappointing for being the first high-profile picture after Atom Egoyan's "Ararat" to deal with the Armenian genocide, in which more than a million Armenians living in the Ottoman empire were slaughtered between 1915 and 1917. The fact that the genocide is still such a politically charged question for Turkey has kept it off Hollywood development lists, despite being a tragic precursor to the Jewish Holocaust in the following war. For reasons of uniqueness alone, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's film is bound to excite audience interest.

But while the militant Italian directors bring great sympathy and conviction to the Armenians' plight, "The Lark Farm" never comes to dramatic grips with its story, based on Antonia Arslan's novel. Rolling on for two hours with a sprawling cast of characters who don't come into focus, pic has the old-fashioned look of the quality TV of yesteryear, and its main outlet is likely to be the small screen. Taviani fans will search in vain for the imaginatively unorthodox touches that brought history to life in films such as "Padre Padrone" and "Chaos."

The first worrisome signal is the decision to have the whole international cast -- playing Armenians, Turks, Greeks, Italians and Syrians -- speak perfect, albeit poorly dubbed, Italian. As easy as it might make dialogue, the language convention flattens out every character and ethnic group. It also reinforces the feeling that this is really a television miniseries dressed up as a theatrical release.

The directors' most recent work has, in fact, been for TV, including an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's "Resurrection." The influence of the great Russians can be felt off and on in "The Lark Farm," particularly in the opening scenes set in 1915 in the wealthy home of the Avakian family. The kind-hearted Aram (Tcheky Karyo) and his wife, Armineh (Canadian-Armenian actress Arsinee Khanjian), don't listen to the winds of war blowing from the Young Turk government in Istanbul, and instead blithely ready their country estate, called the Lark Farm, for the arrival of Aram's brother, Assadour (Mariano Rigillo), from Venice.

The charming atmosphere of these scenes is shockingly overturned when a ferocious military detachment turns up at the estate, along with an Ottoman colonel of their acquaintance (Andre Dussollier), and slaughters every male member of the family, children included. The women are rounded up for a long march into the Syrian desert, where they will be left to die.

The cruelty of the plan to eliminate the rich Armenians, seize their property and leave "Turkey for the Turks" will instantly push Holocaust buttons for most viewers, and indeed this historical precedent casts a new, grim light on the 20th-century mind and the horrors it was capable of conceiving.

The gory massacre at the farm, including a great deal of vicious mutilation, is far less graphic than contemporary films such as "The Passion of the Christ," but still sickening to watch. The women's march into the desert, however, is strangely unconvincing, despite the star power of Khanjian and Spanish actress Paz Vega.

Vega's charisma anchors the story in the role of Nunik Avakian, a spirited beauty in love with a dashing Turkish officer (Alessandro Preziosi) who tries to save her, and later the lover of Moritz Bleibtreu, playing a less dashing but more noble officer sent on the march of Armenian women.

But like other fine thesps called onstage to play unlikely characters, including Mohammed Bakri as a heroic beggar and Angela Molina as a Greek friend of the family, Vega and Khanjian are basically set afloat in a stormy sea of awkwardly timed flashbacks and end up more as representative victims and eyewitnesses than full protagonists.

The Tavianis' usual fine tech staff hails from the Italian pantheon. Cinematographer Giuseppe Lanci creates a rich atmosphere, in tandem with Lina Nerli Taviani's eye-catching costumes and Andrea Crisanti's luscious sets.

Camera (color), Giuseppe Lanci; editor, Roberto Perpignani; music, Giuliano Taviani; production designer, Andrea Crisanti; costume designer, Lina Nerli Taviani; sound (Dolby Digital), Daniele Fontrodona; associate producers, Stefano and Ciro D'Ammico. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale Special), Feb. 13, 2007 [Deborah Young]

Language: Italian With English Subtitle
Rar Password: None


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