Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Movie No. 48 (2014): OMAR

Omar (2013)
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Cast: Adam Bakri, Leem Lubany, Iyad, Hoorani
In Arabic, with English subtitles

The main character, Omar, is a baker. In his free time he climbs the separation wall that divides the Israel-occupied and unoccupied Palestine, meets his girlfriend on the other side of the wall, and "trains" with his two childhood friends for an "operation" against Israeli soldiers.

The operation materializes. Omar is caught, put to jail, and is offered a "new life" in exchange of his confessing to the police the killer of an Israeli soldier in the garrison. This is the turning point of the lives of the three friends and of the people they care for.

Each of the important characters is well developed so that it's so easy to judge them or, sometimes, empathize with them. The separation wall itself is a prominent character that the other characters can't simple ignore in their daily existence. The script is able to convey an unforgettable tale of friendship and betrayal.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: July 29, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Movie No. 47 (2014): ENEMY

Enemy (2013)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Sarah Gadon, Melanie Laurent, Isabella Rossellini

What attracted me to see the movie was the director who also made the unforgettable Incendies, an Academy Award nominated film (Best Foreign Language Film). Watching the film at the point when I noticed the two characters played by the same actor (Jake Gyllenhaal) made me suspect something which, at first, I kept in my head. Later, I could even guess what would happen next. I was right: the movie was based on Jose Saramago's novel, The Double, which I read some years ago. I remember liking the novel. Then the disturbing ending of the novel resurfaced in my memory. 

The movie gets only the basic plot of the novel. The director takes the liberty of interpreting the novel as a thriller about the bizarre intertwining of the lives of doppelgangers. The director injects elements of surrealism in the narrative which, sometimes, makes it murky, but not in a negative way. What do you do when you meet someone who looks exactly the same as you, even mannerisms and the speaking voice? Sounds creepy. Yes, that's exactly how I felt when I read the novel and saw the film.

By the way, I'm not going to compare the book and the film. They are different media. I review Enemy as if I I haven't read the novel from which it was adapted, or loosely based. That way, I can only praise the way Denis Villeneuve presented the story in the medium called cinema. I have to mention also that the ending is something I didn't see coming.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: July 24, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Movie No. 46 (2014): THE MISSING PICTURE

The Missing Picture (2013)
Director: Rithy Panh
A documentary

The Missing Picture is a powerful documentary that effectively blends the narrator's own memoirs with his nation's (Cambodia's) turbulent history in a manner so poetic and, sometimes, devastating. The narrator shares how he's been searching for the missing picture(s) that will prove mass murder during Khmer Rouge's rule in Phnom Penh between 1975 and 1979. He confesses he fails to find the picture. So he constructs it using clay figures to create a diorama and tableau of the "missing" historical events. The process results in a powerful cinema.

The film was well-received in the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, winning Grand Prize in the Un Certain Regard category. Early this year, it got nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards, which was first for Cambodia.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: July 13, 2014

Movie No. 45 (2014): ERNEST & CELESTINE

Ernest & Celestine (2013)
Directors: Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar
Animated film; in French, with English subtitles

The film was nominated in the Best Animated Feature category of  this year's Academy Awards (for films exhibited in 2013). And, in my opinion, Ernest & Celestine is better than the cliche-ridden Frozen, the eventual winner of the said award.

The film used traditional animation. It took advantage of the limitless possibility of storytelling using the format. The absence of (sometimes) unnecessary technical advances like those used in recent animated features makes the film (even) more wonderful and charming because it can focus on the strength of the script. The film essays the unlikely friendship between a little mouse (Celestine) and a bear (Ernest) in a civilization of bears and mice, where the mice get terrified even by a mere mention of the word "bear."  There's an obvious hint that Bonnie & Clyde may have influenced the film. Comic timings are so well placed. And the ending is heartwarming.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: July 13, 2014