Picking up where I left off, here's yet another batch of recently seen films that have not been critiqued on this my blog in sufficient detail and thus have to make do with a mini-review. The term 'missed movies' no longer applies here, since I have seen these films after my PC was returned to me and I was back online again. Truth is, now that I am writing for MovieScene and screening films for audiences at Provadja, next to my regular work at Pathé, I just don't have time for old-fashioned extensive reviews anymore. I am watching more movies than I can handle, so to say. Expect to see this type of mini-review more often and 2,000 word reviews less and less around here. It may not be a bad thing per se, considering word has reached my ears regarding modern man and his lack of time and interest for lengthy movie discussions. By keeping it short and simple I might actually attract more readers, even though one could argue my blog is dumbing down. Not to worry, I'm sure there's still many a long review to come (MovieScene reviews aside, though they're of medium length really), at least once I've caught up with mentioning all the films I've seen in the past months. Getting there, slowly but surely.
Lore: ****/*****, or 7/10.
Fascinating microcosmic (post) WW II tale from a German perspective, focusing on the plight of teenage girl Lore, shortly after Germany has capitulated to the allied forces. Lore has had a good life in a happy Nazi family until she finds her world shattered by the Führer's death and the downfall of the Third Reich. Her parents, being devout Nazis, have to run before the Allies catch up with them and are forced to leave their children behind in the process. Lore, a powerful performance by the young Saskia Rosendahl, has to trek her way with her younger brothers and sisters to distant Hamburg across newly occupied territory, dodging Russian forces and her own countrymen who have degenerated into lawlessness. Along the way she meets a young Jewish man, freshly released from Auschwitz, who uneasily teams up with them to their mutual benefit for mere survival. The movie does a great job of portraying the lost German generation that grew up in the Third Reich and didn't know better, but had to cope with their parents' atrocities and lies afterwards. The key issue for Lore is trust: she trusted Hitler and her parents unconditionally, only to be betrayed by their failure. Now she has to trust a man whom she has been raised to hate, despite the genuinely helping hand he offers (which quickly earns him the faith of Lore's siblings, who are just too young to understand the stakes involved). Matters are complicated further when she develops a strange, possibly romantic, attraction to the guy, something he may or may not be exploiting. To Australian director Cate Shortland's credit, the film is completely spoken in German. She also presents a great metaphor for puberty, when a child's world is changed completely as are its feelings for those it has always taken for granted, without getting overly preachy. However, a less lyrical and dream like quality, plus a little faster pacing, might have made her movie more accessible.
De Ontmaagding van Eva van End: ****/*****, or 8/10.
Whaddayaknow, a good Dutch movie! Not surprisingly, considering director Michiel ten Horn used the fabulous work and style of Wes Anderson for inspiration, creating a definite Dutch counterpart of that particular auteur's work. All the typical Anderson ingredients are there (except for Bill Murray), including wacky characters, colourful visuals, dysfunctional family drama and a funky soundtrack. And decent writing of course. The Van End family members have a hard time connecting to one another and lead their own little lives in their own silly little worlds, until daughter Eva takes home a German foreign exchange student. The boy turns out to be the perfect human being, an angelic blond persona with great empathy for the whole world, whose healthy, altruistic life style soon creates havoc at his guest home as the whole family reacts differently to his presence and their natural balance is severely upset, exposing a few dirty family secrets in the process. And yes, Eva gets her cherry popped as the title indicates, though not in the way you would first expect. Solid acting, especially for Dutch actors, though of course young Austrian actor Rafael Gareisen leaves the greatest impression. The movie leaves ample room for both genuinely heartfelt drama and funny jokes and situations, some surprisingly edgy and politically incorrect. Ten Horn does a fine job of translating Anderson to a Dutch setting (unconsciouslyly or not, but it seems utterly unlikely he has never heard of his American inspiration), making the movie look distinctly Dutch but not feeling like any other Dutch film, all for the better. It's a real shame Dutch audiences prefer to watch crap like Verliefd op Ibiza and Het Bombardement over little gems like this, but it's good to know not all hope is lost for Dutch cinema thanks to talented directors like Ten Horn inspired by all the right people.
Zero Dark Thirty: ****/*****, or 8/10.
Kathryn Bigelow continues to critique America's army following her big Oscar breakthrough The Hurt Locker (2009). This time she focuses on the hunt for Osama bin Laden by the driven and resourceful female CIA agent Maya (excellent bit of acting on Jessica Chastain's part), inspired by true events, not all of which have been formally disclosed. Maya gets increasingly obsessive over the Agency's inability of locating Bin Laden and soon makes it her personal job to see the hunt come to an end, especially after dear colleagues of her die in related terrorist bombings. The climactic chopper showdown at Bin Laden's villa where a team of Navy SEALs has to quietly fight its way through the building to claim its prize was one of the most rewardingly suspenseful scenes of 2012. And to Bigelow's credit, the face of the Al-Qaeda leader was never even shown, clearly stating the movie is not so much about the man himself, as about Maya's long road to get to him. The movie's merit as a genuinely good film was overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Bigelow's explicit portrayal of torture of terrorist suspects at the hands of American agents: no doubt such crossing of political and ethical lines took place historically, but Bigelow was said to condone it. However, Bigelow makes no statement of her own, just showcasing events as they supposedly happened. The torture could have proven to be instrumental in tracking the most wanted man alive down in the long run, but she presents it as just another part of the bureaucratic machinery: a frightfully gruesome part though, revealing more than we would want her to reveal on the subject, and as such already indicating torture sure is no fun. Nevertheless, she was denied a well deserved Oscar or two: Zero Dark Thirty's only win was for Sound Editing, an award the movie had to share with Skyfall in a rare 'tie' situation at the Academy.