Film Reviews by DF

Welcome to DF's film reviews page. DF has written 23 reviews and rated 95 films.

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Argentina

Zamba!

(Edit) 26/09/2019

Excellent movie.  Not what I expected but really enjoyable with music ranging from traditional folk to jazz ( fantastic performance from guitarist Luis Salinas).  Some mesmerizing dancing from a talented ensemble.  If you are interested in Argentina and its music old and new, I recommend this movie.   

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Guernica

ham-fisted romantic storyline

(Edit) 03/05/2018

I found this movie disappointing. The bombing of Guernica was a horrible and tragic episode during the Spanish Civil War and something worthy of a serious and sensitive recounting of events. The movie strings in a ham-fisted romantic storyline pandering perhaps to a broad audience base. The factual basis of the main characters actions I find dubious; a drunken American reporter? Yes, there were a few of them in Spain during the war. I reckon that the characters in the movie are drawn from the real-life reporters such as Hemingway, Capa and Taro et al (well described in the book Hotel Florida). The romantic element of the movie between 'Henry' and 'Teresa' is woeful and the photographer 'Marta' obviously based on Taro is a joke. As for the depiction of the propoganda/censorship offices; for a more accurate description of how they operated, Hotel Florida has a good insight. Although the director is Basque, I have a feeling his handling of the movie was compromised by the producers.

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Across the Waters

The synopsis of this movie fails to do it justice

(Edit) 06/12/2017

In my opinion the synopsis of this movie fails to do it justice. Cliché type comments such as 'thrilling drama', 'darkest hour' and 'hot on their heels' cheapen a movie that has more serious intent. Across the Water is a very good movie with an excellent cast (especially Danica Curcic) who do not overplay their characters in this disturbing story. World War 2 movies, or any war movies, often tend to build up 'heroes and villains' in a two dimensional way serving 'drama' and, dare I say, 'entertainment'. Across the Water sensitively portrays what happened to the Danish Jewish population when, after a period of toleration, the Nazis decided to begin persecution. The movie is not afraid to show that some Danes could either be opportunist mercenaries or Nazi collaborators. At the very end of the movie a note in the finishing titles tells us that 95% of the Danish Jewish population were successfully smuggled out of Denmark to safety. That was with the humanitarian assistance of Danish people. For me, the significance of this movie is not only the tragic story of Jewish persecution during WW2 but also bringing forward a reminder of how ethnic persecution continues to this very day right across the world. Refugees fleeing persecution face continuous suffering be it from mercenary gangsters or a politics and media which for whatever reason demonises and robs refugees of identity. The movie has some harrowing scenes; the separation of the fleeing family in the forest and the casual violence of the Nazis. The movie asks serious questions about ethnic persecution and its toleration. Across the Water is perhaps not a movie for entertainment but for me it is certainly a movie that I will remember. Highly recommended.

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Visitors

Should be 'live' ?

(Edit) 11/11/2017

This is a difficult movie to review because, in a way, it is not a 'movie'. It is the music of Philip Glass together with the visual cinematography which contribute to making this a subjective 'event' rather than an experience of watching a movie in its own right. I understand that the visual part of Visitors, i.e. the movie, was intended and shown as a background to live performances of the music and this I can appreciate. The 'movie' on its own I feel becomes two dimensional without the effect, if you like, of the live orchestral performance. To review Visitors as a movie therefore is problematic. I do like the music of Philip Glass and in that respect I enjoyed Visitors, although my laptop loudspeakers failed miserably to do it justice. The visual aspect of Visitors, as I said becomes two dimensional without the experience of a LIVE performance and it in this respect that a subjective personal experience is lost. The visuals are interesting; a lot of close-up portraits; very minimalist and without any existential context, Other scenes include brutalist architecture, deserted funfairs and landscapes with time-lapse (a bit clichéd?) but all very sombre in the powerful black and white cinematography. If you appreciate the music of Glass (and you have a good sound system) then the DVD is worthwhile and as a bonus there are minimalist visuals to complement the music.

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When Marnie Was There

When Disney Was There

(Edit) 06/11/2017

I will go against the grain here in relation to previous reviews. I admit that I am not versed in Japanese style animation movies so this is my first example of the genre. Okay, the visual animation is superb and it was fascinating to watch the exquisite attention to natural details. Beyond that, however, I found the narrative of the movie both banal and tiresome and the characterisations somewhat bizarre. The movie does engage with the issue of a child dealing with alienation in a world where 'normal' family ties breakdown, but the movie's 'happy' ending developed through a context of either fantasy or dreams did, for me, stretch things quite a bit. The movie does show interesting elements of what I assume to be Japanese communal and cultural life (the village festival) but otherwise most of the characters seemed to be a mishmash of standard Disney stereotypes emphasised by the American accents. The adapted story line could serve any low budget 'family-friendly' straight to DVD type movie.

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White God

Dog lovers be prepared to close your eyes now and again.

(Edit) 04/06/2017

A word of warning for dog lovers; treat this movie with caution. It may upset. Nevertheless, as a movie, it has merit, but quite honestly I did not enjoy it; parts of it are brutal (I did investigate and it has been affirmed that no dogs were harmed or mistreated in the movie).

The movie has allegorical themes about oppression, exploitation, racism and authoritarian government. There are also themes around 'coming-of-age and relationships (post-modern). Although dogs take, as it were - the limelight, for me they did not register as characters. There is some attempt as characterising the dogs in a 'disney' sort of way. The main human character is Lili, a young 13 year old, played very well by Zsofia Psotta, who suddenly finds herself and her dog, Hagen, relocated with her father (divorced). Father is somewhat grumpy and awkward about the arrangement, especially about Hagen and he sets about getting rid of the dog. Hagen's breed type is out of favour and subject to a new government tax levy. Hagen is thrown out in the street and abandoned. Avoiding a very enthusiastic troop of official dog-catchers, Hagen is eventually picked up by a collection of crooks and ne'r do wells who horribly mistreat him. Hagen, however, will return later with his fellow mistreated to wreak revenge; not pleasant. In the meantime, Lili finds herself very much alone, trying to recover Hagen and coping with the rather strange backdrop of the school orchestra where she plays trumpet under the direction of a rather 'fascist' teacher-conductor. Coming-of-age is a popular theme in movies; sometimes treated in a voyeuristic and seedy manner but Lili's character thankfully avoids this stereotyping. There are some pretty effective scenes of dogs charging around the city (I take to be Budapest?) which is set as a fairly miserable place.

Although the movie is ostensibly allegorical, for me there were some disturbing stereotyping of the 'baddies' in that they were blatantly portrayed as being migrants or ethnic Romany. This I found this disturbing or perhaps I was missing a more nuanced point? Dog lovers be prepared to close your eyes now and again. And the ending of the movie? Mmmmmm......

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The Travelling Players

War, politics, drama and tragedy. Be prepared!

(Edit) 24/01/2017

For me, a 5 star movie because it is an exceptional cinematic and passionate movie dealing with a part of WW2 history that is very much hidden, unknown and tragic. The eponymous 'travelling players' are are a somewhat forlorn bunch of actors who travel around Greece performing an old fashioned classical play in small towns. The action of the movie takes place against the background of the closing stages of WW2 in Greece. The players try to avoid the impact of the war and doggedly pursue their theatrical odyssey. Inevitably the background politics and war turmoil enter into the group; causing tensions and leading to some tragic consequences.

The cinematic direction of the movie shows no pity to the dismal background of a wartime country and the cruelties therein.

As a 'movie' I did find it difficult to keep track of some of the characters and their underlying story lines. For me however, two outstanding scenes in the film are two soliloquy spoken directly to camera by characters telling their harrowing stories. There are a couple of things that I would mention to any prospective viewer. The film is exceptionally long (3.40); so, be prepared for that! The director Angelopoulos in the making of this movie does not hide his political leanings. His historical perspective is particularly scathing about the wartime allies, especially the British and their part in how Greek partisans were dealt with. Essentially, the partisans were obliterated or imprisoned because their politics was 'communist' and this didn't fit the allies 'plan' to restore the monarchy to Greece. In this respect, some knowledge of the historical background will add greatly to appreciating the movie.

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Life of Riley

Second time around

(Edit) 23/12/2016

I had to come back to this movie after abandoning it first time around after 20 minutes. I saw it through second time and enjoyed it. It is different to the usual 'movie' format as the action is staged with scenery and props as per a theatre play. Some outside film footage is used to set the scene (Yorkshire). The movie is based on an Ayckbourne play. Although the action is very stagey and theatrical it is all carried off very well by an accomplished cast who bring depth and humour to the story. The movie develops as a play within a play whereby the 'real-life' characters become involved in their own person dramas when they good-naturedly invite a dying friend to join their production. The dying friend (never seen) however turns out to have some life left; mainly concerning the women characters. All quite humorous but nevertheless some profound insights into death, friendships, marriage and the 'secrets' of youthful shenanigans.

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Aguirre, Wrath of God

Just as significant today

(Edit) 02/12/2016

The masterly direction of Herzog and the terrifying portrayal by Kinski create a powerful allegory on the shameful history of colonialism and its attendant racism together with the all too familiar danger of a megalomaniac managing to cast himself into a position of power. The film was made in the 70s and presumably Herzog had in mind Nazism and Hitler. Chillingly, however, the theme of the movie strikes me as being just as powerful in 2016 and one doesn't have to look too far for the allegorical representation. Aguirre, has a maniacal obsession to create a 'new world order'. He summarily disposes of his main opponent using a made-up quasi judicial process and continues by leading a hopeless band of passive followers up a jungle river to an inevitable conclusion. Kinski's portrayal of Aguirre is, as I have said, terrifying; every move and gesture that he makes has chilling menace.

A movie just as significant today as when it was made. A warning for our times.

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Goodbye to Language

Tired Goddard

(Edit) 10/10/2016

I saw no point to this film therefore it is a little difficult to try and make any constructive criticism. Goddard is, of course, famous and iconic so those who assume to know what the film is about will, no doubt, give it maximum stars, but I can only give it one; albeit just for giving the actors and film crew employment. I can see that some of the scenes are in 3D and coloured as per 60's psychedelia, but such effort was lost on me as my TV is ordinary run-of-the-mill. The dialogue (when translated into subtitles) is cliche stuff; state of relationships mixed in with random existentialist musings. There is quite a bit of walking around a house undressed cut in with a dog running about in the countryside (example of dialogue: 'a dog is naked because he is naked'). Well, take it or leave it. To be honest, just towards the end of the movie, somebody called, so I never saw the last 10 minutes or so. I didn't bother rewinding.

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A World Not Ours

Unintended consequences?

(Edit) 04/09/2016

An interesting film with an insight into the plight of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and now into three or four generations. The film is mostly made up of home style video clips interspersed with some historical footage. As with any reference to Palestine, there are political issues involved. The refugees lived in a town that was more or less sealed off from the outside world. The 'town' consists of alleyways and .mostly makeshift concrete buildings - some very basic and others more substantial. Apparently the population are not allowed to work outside the town and as most of the population don't have citizenship, hence no passports. Mahdi the London based director visits the camp regularly to see his family members who still live there along with meeting various of his friends. Mahdi keeps the camera rolling at every opportunity which allows intimate interaction with assorted people including his very grumpy granddad. Although the movie 'blurb' talks of a 'humorous' portrait of life, that description did not occur to me. With very little to look forward to, the younger menfolk seem to idle away their time whilst the elders looked to the past; all a sad a pitiful reflection on refugee life. The close connection between Mahdi and his movie 'subjects' also raises the question as to how far can such movie-making actually affect personal outcomes for those being filmed and influenced by an 'outsider'? There is one pertinent case of this in the movie (the man who goes to Athens). A worthwhile movie, showing the plight of Palestinian refugees and the hopeless intractability of politics. But, for me, there is a niggling worry about how such a movie might have unintended consequences for those folk interacting in a very personal way with the director.

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Dogtooth

But, for me, no laughs.

(Edit) 21/04/2016

This is a strange one. From the outset I will say that I found the movie unpleasant. Nevertheless the movie has been well received in the festival circuit and by the usual bands of critics and I will admit it has some merit, but not, for me, five stars.

Lanthimos focusses on a family with parents, for whatever reason, impose a regime of complete isolation on their three grown up children; two girls and a boy. The vocabulary of the children has been deliberately warped by the parents to confuse what is reality and their daily life consists of engaging in obscure competitive games. The imminent sexual needs of the boy are catered for by a woman who is brought in from the father's factory. It is this woman, however, who brings about a chink in the isolationism imposed on the children. The father uses some cruel violence to try and protect the world he is projecting on the family. The cessation of the 'outside' woman's services leads to an even darker turn in the children's relationships. I did find the direction of the movie somewhat leaden at times yet the themes explored are interesting but disturbing. The movie could be seen as a critique on 'authoritarianism' and how ultimately it fails, whether it be in the national 'state' or the family; how language is perverted to infantilize and control people and 'competitiveness' to maintain tension and obedience. On the other hand, if one is very 'modern', the movie might be regarded in 'modern' terms as a 'comedy'. But, for me, no laughs.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

give it a try, you never know...

(Edit) 23/03/2016

Having read the 'general info' and the 4 reviews here, I approached this movie movie with trepidation but with some curiosity. For me, it could be one of those movies that succumb to the 'eject' button after ten minutes or, on the other hand, carry me along for the duration. Anyway I did enjoy this movie, although 'enjoy' is perhaps not the right word. A well known quotation came to mind; life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think. When I did laugh, why was I laughing? Yes, it could have an absurd 'tag' on it, but comparing it to Little Britain or Monty Python IS absurd. The movie travels with its episodes into deeper reflections on human beings the societies and circumstances in which we exist. The various characters all, had to me, a very recognisable reality and truth, even in some of the rather surreal situations. Andersson is very much in the same room as Beckett. Andersson has allowed himself to make some political metaphors, so what? It's his movie. In its 'visual' element, I found the movie extraordinary; the fixed camera, the lines of perspective and space, the lighting, which allowed no shadows. Okay, it'll have been said before; not everyone's cup of tea, but give it a try, you never know...

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What Have I Done to Deserve This?

Almodovar spares no mercy

(Edit) 15/03/2016

At the very start of this movie the main character, Gloria, walks across a town square being filmed by a crew as she walks into her own movie; this is an important marker. Gloria, played perfectly by Carmen Maura, is another of Almodovar’s female characters who is almost sinking in a suffocating, classist, patriarchal society. Yet, somehow, she manages, against all the odds to attain her self-liberation, but not in a triumphal or sentimental way. Gloria ultimately gains freedom by administering a well-practised blow on the nut of her loutish, delusional husband. Gloria lives in the milieu of what appears to be a very dysfunctional family, yet all of them (apart from husband), granny and two very ‘independent’ sons are sympathetically treated well observed characters and they, like Gloria, are survivors in the tough world that they find themselves in. There are some very interesting neighbours and although they are somewhat exaggerated; the ‘heart-of-gold’ sex worker and the mother who doesn’t want to be a mother, all add to Gloria’s somewhat fragile support network! Almodovar spares no mercy for the movie’s menfolk. They are loutish, schemers, tasteless, impotent and in the main, ridiculous (well, it is an Almodovar movie). Almodovar’s Hispanic take on satire and irony can at times be a little heavy-handed and the comedy, whilst funny, can be a bit gratuitous. I did, however, enjoy the scene where the kid magically redecorated the apartment!

I haven’t seen all of Almodovar’s movies, but I put this one as my favourite so far and I certainly recommend it.

A word or two about reviews. I fail to see any use whatsoever in the sort of so-called ‘review’ which proclaims a movie to be ‘slow, dull, rubbish’ with absolutely no critical appraisal be it negative or positive. Such comments do not comprise a review, they are merely a lazy opinion.

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The Maid

Remarkable acting.

(Edit) 20/02/2016

An interesting low-budget movie from Chile taking a deep look into the life of a housemaid in a modern bourgeois family set up. Catalina Saavedra plays the maid so convincingly that I felt slightly distraught at first watching the misery of her daily routine. But the maid, Raquel, seems to get some satisfaction from the relationship she has with the family, albeit rather vicariously. They arrange a birthday party for her in a patronising way, but, privately, Raquel's health, both physical and mental, is suffering. After additional domestic help is brought in to assist Raquel, she starts to act 'strange' and here the movie builds a 'Hitchcock' tension as to what she is going to end up doing next. Domestic servants are very much a feature in Spanish tradition drama, for example the works of Lorca and Bunuel and I can see Raquel as part of this genre which looks at the position of 'servants' who are significant, within a family but not quite part of it (reflecting class divisions in society). The movie gets off to a slowish start, but Saavedra's remarkable acting makes this a good movie.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.
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