Saturday, October 31, 2009

Acácio

(Brazil, 2008, 88 minutes)

An aging immigrant in Brazil and his wife remember for the camera the thirty years during which he lived as a Portuguese colonist in Angola, travelling across the country recording the customs of the native people. Sensitive documentary combining memoir, oral history and found footage that is moving and attentive but never seems to get quite a grip on its subject.

Brazilian Culture Ministry, Government of Minas Gerais, Jalles Machdo, Vivo, Teia present a Teia production in partnership with Filmes de Quintal, with cultural support from Plena Transmissoras.
Directed by Marília Rocha; produced by Diana Gebrim Costa, Glaura Cardoso Vale; written by Glaura Cardoso Vale, Clarissa Campolina, Marília Rocha; research, Glaura Cardoso Vale; photography and camera (colour), Clarissa Campolina, Marília Rocha; sound, Pedro Aspahan; film editor, Clarissa Campolina.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Michael Jackson's This Is It

(USA, 2009, 110 minutes)

A few weeks before his sudden death, Michael Jackson and his band, dancers and crew rehearse the concert production due to start in London in July 2009. Rehearsal and back-projection footage is professionally edited into an approximation of the live concert that never was, revealing a focussed but frail superstar that remains as distant and unattainable in this film as he was in real life; not so much a feature film as a blown-up DVD bonus.

A Columbia Pictures presentation/production, in association with The Michael Jackson Company and AEG Live.
Original concert created by Kenny Ortega and Michael Jackson; choreography, Michael Jackson, Travis Payne; production designer, Michael Cotten; lighting designer, Patrick Woodroffe; musical director, Michael Bearden; costume designers, Zaldy, Topaz Erin Lareau, Dennis Tompkins, Michael Bush.
Directed by Kenny Ortega; produced by Randy Phillips, Kenny Ortega, Paul Gongaware; music by Michael Bearden; camera (DeLuxe), Tim Patterson, Sandrine Orabona; film editors, Don Brochu, Brandon Key, Tim Patterson, Kevin Stitt. 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Surrogates

(USA, 2009, 87 minutes)

In a future, crime-less world where people live vicariously through “surrogate” androids they manipulate from their homes, an FBI agent investigates how an “operator” could be murdered through his surrogate. Smart, brisk sci-fi thriller, cleverly updating 1970s dystopian sci-fi pictures.

Touchstone Pictures presents a Mandeville Films/Top Shelf production.
Starring Bruce Willis; Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, James Francis Ginty; with James Cromwell; and Ving Rhames.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow; produced by David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Max Handelman; screenplay by John Brancato, Michael Ferris, based on the graphic novel Surrogates by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele; music by Richard Marvin; director of photography (DeLuxe/Technicolor, Panavision), Oliver Wood; production designer, Jeff Mann; costume designer, April Ferry; film editor, Kevin Stitt; visual effects supervisor, Mark Stetson.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Iki Dir Bil Bavul

On the Way to School

(Turkey/Netherlands, 2008, 78 minutes)

A young Turkish teacher fresh out of school is assigned to a remote Kurdish village where many of his first year students can't even speak Turkish. Amiable but rather middling documentary.

A Fortissimo Films presentation. A Peri-San Film presentation/production, in association with Pieter van Huystee Film & TV. 
Directed and produced by Orhan Eskiköy and Özgür Dogan; written and photographed by Orhan Eskiköy; sound, Özgür Dogan and Zeynel Dogan; film editors, Orhan Eskiköy and Thomas Balkenhol.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Commissariat

(France, 2009, 83 minutes)

The daily life in the police station of the French city of Elbeuf sur Seine, half an hour from Rouen. Interesting but not particularly memorable documentary on the daily grind of beat cops.

A Les Films Pelleas presentation/production; with the support of Région Île-de-France.
Directed, photographed and edited by Ilan Klipper and Virgil Vernier; produced by Philippe Martin and Geraldine Michelot; editing collaboration, Roger Ikhlef.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hasta la Victoria

(Switzerland, 2009, 84 minutes)

A young couple in Havana dream of leaving Cuba for good; she is allowed to leave to attend a medical course in Switzerland, but he has to stay behind and hope to join her later, and they exchange “letters” shot with video cameras. An interesting subject for a documentary, left severely underexploited by the actual handling.

An RSI production.
Directed by Chris Guidotti, Matteo Besomi; camera and sound, Odette, Silvio, Matteo Besomi, Chris Guidotti; film editor, Emanuela Andreoli.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bassidji

(France/Switzerland/Iran, 2009, 115 minutes)

An Iranian filmmaker living abroad returns to try and understand the Bassidji, organised supporters of the Islamic regime that rules the country. Intriguing documentary that takes a disenchanted yet passionate look at contemporary Iran through an avowed attempt to understand the other.

A CDP/Interland/Box Productions/Mehran Tamadon production, supported by Centre National de la Cinématographie, Media Plus Slate Funding; with the participation of Télévision Suisse Romande.
Directed by Mehran Tamadon; produced by Catherine Dussart, Franck Hulliard, Elena Tatti, Thierry Spicher, Mehran Tamadon; camera, Majid Gorjian; film editors, Andrée Davanture, Rodolphe Molla.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Petition

(France/China, 2009, 124 minutes)

Petitioners come from all over China to attempt to have their local grievances taken care of by the central government, but find themselves lost in the system. Painstakingly shot in secret over twelve years, this harrowing, gruelling documentary is a stunning but often hard to watch testimony to the growing pains of modern China.

An INA/ARTE France/Three Shadows Photography Art Centre presentation/production, with the participation of Centre National de la Cinématographie, YLE TV1, BBC Storyville and Télévision Suisse Romande; in collaboration with RTBF Télévision Belge. 
Directed and photographed by Zhao Liang; produced by Sylvie Blum, Zhao Liang; edited by Zhao Liang in collaboration with Sylvie Blum, Kong Jinglei. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Until the Next Resurrection

(Russia, 2008, 90 minutes)

A documentary following a small group of inhabitants of the Russian city of Kaliningrad who died of alcoholism, drug use or disease. Alternately fascinating and harrowing documentary that treads a very fine line between cautionary tale and heartless exploitation.

A ReProduction production. 
With Yevgeny Yegorov, Viktor Mytin, Tatyana Shashko, Aleksander Chichkanev, Yulya Ystomina, Zhanna Serebryakova.
Directed by Oleg Morozov; produced by Aleksander Slavin, Larisa Bekh; written by Oleg Morozov and Oleg Dane; photography (colour), Oleg Morozov, Larisa Bekh, Igor Ryazantsev; film editors, Oleg Morozov, Larisa Bekh.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Informant!

(USA, 2009, 103 minutes)

The true story of agribusiness executive Mark Whitacre, who collaborated with the FBI to unmask a food additive price-fixing cartel but in the process unmasked his own double life. Bewildering, surreal dark comedy shot like a 1970s political thriller but scripted like a 21st century meta-fiction, twisting true-story conventions upside down in the usual playful manner of its protean director.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Participant Media and Groundswell Productions, a Section Eight/Jaffe-Braunstein production.
Starring Matt Damon; also starring Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey.
Directed and photographed (under the alias Peter Andrews; Technicolor) by Steven Soderbergh; produced by Gregory Jacobs, Jennifer Fox, Michael Jaffe, Howard Braunstein, Kurt Eichenwald; screenplay by Scott Z. Burns, based on the book by Kurt Eichenwald, The Informant; music by Marvin Hamlisch; production designer, Doug Meerdink; costume designer, Shosana Rubin; film editor, Stephen Mirrione. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Constantin and Elena

(Romania/Spain, 2008, 103 minutes)

The daily life of an elderly peasant couple in a backcountry Romanian village. Touching, moving documentary where nothing much seems to happen but in fact a lot does, emotionally, by accumulation of tiny details.

A First Hand Films release of a Filmlab/Chello Multicanal production; supported by European Documentary Network, Romanian Film Center, Romanian Cultural Institute.
With Constantin Vinca, Elena Vinca.
Directed, photographed and edited by Andrei Dascalescu; produced by Andrei Dascalescu, Roberto Blatt.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October Country

(USA, 2008, 78 minutes)

A documentary on the troubled working-class Mosher family of Mohawk Valley, New York. Harrowing but beautifully shot look at a struggling family inspired by one of the siblings' series of photographic essays.

A Wishbone Films production.
Directed, produced and written by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher; music by Danny Grody, Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri, Kenric Taylor; photographed and edited by Michael Palmieri. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Below Sea Level

(Italy, 2008, 114 minutes)

A documentary on the life of seven people who live at the homeless community of Slab City, in California, in an abandoned military base 200 miles from Los Angeles. No-holds-barred documentary on the plight of the homeless that treads a fine line between candid and exploitative but mostly keeps on the right side of the divide.

A 21oneproductions production.
With David Michael Sterling, Michael Bright, Lili Elisabeth Lansing James, Kenneth W. Danielson, Larry M. Meyer, Everett Wayne Smith, Carol Lorreine Cox.

Directed, produced and photographed by Gianfranco Rosi; edited by Jacopo Quadri. 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pediatrics Department

(China, 2006, 107 minutes)

Three months in the daily life of the under-staffed, under-paid and under-supplied doctors at the pediatrics wing at the Ning Gao hospital in the Chinese province of Anhui. Artless, amateurish documentary that is a worthwhile testimony of working conditions and modern Chinese mentalities but doesn't really know how to get its points across.

A Just a Film Studio production.
Directed, photographed and edited by Wang Hao. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

La Forteresse

The Fortress

(Switzerland/Belgium, 2008, 101 minutes)

A documentary about an immigrant centre in the Swiss village of Vallorbe, where asylum seekers from all over the world stay while waiting for their requests to be processed. Attentive, eloquent documentary on the plight of immigrants.

A Climage presentation/production, in co-production with TSR, TSI, SRG SSR Idée Suisse, ARTE G. E. I. E.; with the support of Office Fédéral de la Culture (DFI), Fondation Vaudoise pour le Cinéma, Fonds Régio Films, Succès Passage Antenne, Succès Cinéma; with the participation of Radio et Télévision Belges Francophones.
Directed by Fernand Melgar; collaboration on writing and editing, Claude Muret; camera, Camille Cottagnoud; sound, Marc von Stürler; film editor, Karine Sudan.

Friday, October 16, 2009

La Journée de la jupe

Skirt Day

(France/Belgium/Switzerland, 2008, 88 minutes)

A harried teacher in a troublesome inner city high school finds her main problem student has brought a gun into class and the confrontation escalates into a hostage situation. Brisk combination of taut drama and social satire carried by a star performance from an unrecognizable star that isn't afraid to look her age; originally made for television.

ARTE France presents a Mascaret Films/ARTE France/RTBF/Fontana co-production, with the participation of Carrimages 4; with the support of Région Île-de-France in partnership with Centre National de la Cinématographie; with the participation of 13ème Rue and Télévision Suisse Romande.
Starring Isabelle Adjani; Denis Podalydès; Khalid Berkouz, Yann Ebongé, Sonia Amori, Kévin Azaïs, Sarah Douali, Hassan Mezhoud, Karim Zakraoui, Fily Doumbia, Salim Boughidene, Mélèze Bouzid; with the participation of Jackie Berroyer; Yann Collette, Anne Girouard, Olivier Brocheriou, Stephan Guerin-Tillié, Marc Citti, Nathalie Besançon, Ahmet Zirek, Benaïssa Ahouai, Régis Romele. 
Directed and written by Jean-Paul Lilienfeld; produced by Bénédicte Lesage and Ariel Askénazi; music by Kohann; director of photography (colour), Pascal Rabaud; production designer, Olivier Jacquet; costume designers, Chattounne, Agnès Béziers, Julien Régnoux; film editor, Aurique Delannoy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Morrer como um Homem

(Portugal/France, 2009, 133 minutes)

An aging drag queen with a hellish personal life is unsure whether to undergo a sex-change operation. Bewilderingly indulgent but gloriously handled melodrama that veers wildly between high-camp flamboyance and heavy-handed pathos without ever finding the right balance or even a measure of tone.

A Rosa Filmes/Ad Vitam presentation/production, with the support of ICA, RTP, Centre National de la Cinématographie, with financing from FICA. Starring Fernando Santos, Alexander David, Gonçalo Ferreira de Almeida, Chandra Malatitch. Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues; produced by Maria João Sigalho; written by João Pedro Rodrigues, Rui Catalão, with João Rui Guerra da Mata; director of photography (Tobis/LTC), Rui Poças; art director, João Rui Guerra da Mata; costume designers, Joaquim Guerreiro, Aida Cabrita; wardrobe, Patrícia Dória; film editors, Rui Mourão, João Pedro Rodrigues.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ne te retourne pas

Don't Look Back

(France/Luxembourg/Belgium/Italy, 2009, 109 minutes)

A struggling writer finds everything around her seems to be changing, from her apartment floorplan to the faces of her family, until even herself seems to be becoming somebody else. Handsomely mounted, intriguing psychological thriller that starts off wonderfully then loses steam until a letdown ending; the premise is so strong that no resolution could probably do it justice, let alone this one. Performances and technical credits alike consummately professional.

A Wild Bunch release. An Ex Nihilo presentation/production, in co-production with Wild Bunch, Samsa Film, Entre Chien et Loup, Studiourania, Ateliers de Baere, RTBF; with the support of Casa Kafka Pictures, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, Pôle Image de Liège; with the participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star, Film Fund Luxembourg, Région Wallone; with the support of Apulia Film Commission, Regione Puglia, Eurimages; in association with Cinémage 2, Banque Populaire Images 8, Uniétoile 5.
Starring Sophie Marceau, Monica Bellucci, Andrea di Stefano, Thierry Neuvic, Brigitte Catillon, Sylvie Granotier.
Directed by Marina de Van; produced by Patrick Sobelman; screenplay by Marina de Van and Jacques Akchoti, based on a story by Marina de Van; music by Luc Rollinger; director of photography (colour, widescreen), Dominique Colin; production designer, Véronique Sacrez; costume designer, Magdalena Labuze; film editor, Mike Fromentin; visual effects director, Krao. 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Il Divo - La Spettacolare Vita di Giulio Andreotti

Il Divo

(Italy/France, 2008, 118 minutes)

The strange events in the life and times of seven-times Italian prime-minister Giulio Andreotti. Not so much a traditional biography as a breathtakingly shot but disquieting meditation on a country's broken political system, almost experimental in its absence of traditional plot.

A Lucky Red Distribuzione (in Italy) release of an Indigo Film/Lucky Red/Parco Film production, in co-production with Babe Films, Studiocanal and ARTE France Cinéma; with the collaboration of Sky Cinema, with the support of Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali; in collaboration with Film Commission Torino Piemonte, Regione Campania, Centre National de la Cinématographie.
Starring Toni Servillo; with Anna Bonaiuto, Giulio Bosetti, Flavio Bucci, Carlo Buccirosso, Giorgio Colangeli, Alberto Cracco, Piera degli Esposti, Lorenzo Gioielli, Paolo Graziosi, Gianfelice Imparato, Massimo Popolizio, Aldo Ralli, Giovanni Vettorazzo.
Directed and written by Paolo Sorrentino; produced by Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima, Andrea Occhipinti; music by Teho Teardo; director of photography (Cinecittà, Technovision), Luca Bigazzi; production designer, Lino Fiorito; costume designer, Daniela Ciancio; film editor, Cristiano Travaglioli.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Aruitemo Aruitemo

Still Walking

(Japan, 2008, 115 minutes)

A Yokohama family comes together to mark the anniversary of the eldest son's death. Subtle, intimate drama of family secrets, performed and handled with extreme elegance and delicacy.

A Cine Quanon (in Japan) release of an Engine Film/Bandai Visual Company/TV Man Union/Eisei Gekijo Company/Cine Quanon production.
Starring Hiroshi Abe, Yui Natsukawa, You, Kazuya Takahashi, Shohei Tanaka, Kirin Kiki, Yoshio Harada.
Directed, written and edited by Hirokazu Kore-eda; produced by Yoshihiro Kato, Hijiri Taguchi; music by Gontiti; director of photography (colour), Yutaka Yamazaki; production designer, Toshihiro Isomi; costume designer, Kazuko Kurosawa.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Parlez-moi de la pluie

Let's Talk About the Rain

(France, 2008, 95 minutes)

A feminist writer attempting a political run for office in her native region accepts to be interviewed for a documentary being made by the son of her former nanny and a journalist who happens to be her married sister's lover. Bittersweet ensemble comedy that is very well performed and presented but adds little new to its screenwriting/acting/directing team's previous work.

A Studiocanal (in France) release. A Les Films A4 presentation/production, in co-production with Studiocanal and France 2 Cinéma, with the participation of Canal Plus; with the support of Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, in partnership with Centre National de la Cinématographie; with the participation of TPS Star.
Starring Pascale Arbillot, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jamel Debbouze, Mimouna Hadji, Agnès Jaoui, Florence Loiret-Caille, Frédéric Pierrot, Guillaume de Tonquedec.
Directed by Agnès Jaoui; written by Agnès Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri; musical director, Christian Chevalier; director of photography (LTC, Panavision), David Quesemand; production designer, Christian Marti; costume designer, Ève-Marie Arnault; film editors, François Gédigier, Sylvie Lager.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired

(USA/Great Britain, 2008, 96 minutes)

A documentary on the convoluted court case that followed Roman Polanski's 1977 arrest in Los Angeles for having unagreed sex with a 13-year old. Intriguing, well-made documentary that sheds light on a little known side of a controversial moment in the career of a controversial director while declining to take a side on the subject.

The Weinstein Company presents, in association with Graceful Pictures and the BBC, an Antidote Films production.
Directed by Marina Zenovich; produced by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Lila Yacoub, Marina Zenovich; written by Joe Bini, P. G. Morgan, Marina Zenovich; music by Mark degli Antoni; director of photography (Technicolor), Tanja Koop; film editor, Joe Bini.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Burning Plain

(USA/Argentina, 2008, 106 minutes)

A lonely Portland waitress is accosted by a Mexican visitor who brings news from a family she abandoned a long time ago. A slight but not uninteresting story of puppy love is belaboured by pointlessly fragmented scripting that moves back and forth in time without any apparent reason other than enlivening the tale. Handsome, stylish handling and committed performances from most of the cast merely underline the waste.

2929 Productions presents, in association with Costa Films, a Parkes+MacDonald production. 
Starring Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger; Joaquim de Almeida, John Corbett, Robin Tunney, Brett Cullen, Danny Pino, José María Yazpik.
Directed and written by Guillermo Arriaga; produced by Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald; music by Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Hans Zimmer; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Robert Elswit; additional photography, John Toll; production designer, Dan Leigh; costume designer, Cindy Evans; film editor, Craig Wood. 

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Damned United

(Great Britain, 2009, 95 minutes)

In 1974, soccer manager Brian Clough, who brought the Derby County team from obscurity to prominence, is lured by the opportunity to become the manager for his long-term foes Leeds United, but the experience will be sobering. Lively sports drama loosely fictionalizing a true story with typical English rigour and professionalism; not so much about soccer as it is about personal ambition and comeuppance.

Columbia Pictures and BBC Films present, in association with Screen Yorkshire, a Left Bank Pictures production. Starring Michael Sheen; Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Henry Goodman, Maurice Roëves; and Jim Broadbent. Directed by Tom Hooper; produced by Andy Harries; screenplay by Peter Morgan, based on the novel by David Peace, The Damned United; music by Rob Lane; director of photography (Soho Film Lab), Ben Smithard; production designer, Eve Stewart; costume designer, Mike O'Neill; film editor, Melanie Oliver.