Goodbye Solo. Rahmin Bahrani, American-born son of Iranian parents, made his first two films about New York. But his third, set in North Carolina, is Iranian in mood and manner. A Senegalese taxi driver and a grizzled American loner are linked by the prospect of the latter’s suicide. Tender, deep, beautiful. (5/6/09) Hunger. A somewhat abstract rendering of grim facts. In 1981 Bobby Sands, an IRA activist in a British prison, leads a hunger strike against prison conditions.
Hunger IFC Films American Swing Magnolia Pictures Steve McQueen is a well-known British artist who is becoming a well-known film-maker. Hunger, his first feature film, is less a promising work than a fulfillment. It has nothing to do with Knut Hamsun's famous novel of the same title (beautifully filmed in 1966).
Everlasting MomentsIFC films12Sony Pictures ClassicsThe best films I know by the greatly gifted Jan Troell, who is Swedish, are set in the Scandinavian past. Here's Your Life takes place in Sweden during World War I; The Emigrants and The New Land form a diptych about nineteenth-century Swedish immigrants; Hamsun is of course about the Norwegian writer who died in 1952. Merely to mention those films is to wish that every viewer knew them.Now, after some years of absence--at least from the United States--here is Troell again with his latest visit to the past.
Katyn Koch-Lorber Films Tokyo! Liberation Entertainment The Polish director Andrzej Wajda, who has had a sixty-year career, crowns it with a consummate film. Katyn seems to be the work that he has been moving toward all of his busy life. Katyn Forest is the place, or the main place, where more than twenty thousand Poles were massacred in 1940. Most of them were army officers, some of them were intelligentsia--professors, lawyers, doctors, scientists. Wajda's father was one of the officers. Katyn is thus something other than just one more film for Wajda.
From “Album of My Germany” Our German trip was coming to an end. I reserved the last afternoon in Berlin to visit a place I wanted Laura to see. I had seen it in 1967 and had dreamed of it since. It was a Catholic church in an outlying district, Charlottenburg. Maria Regina Martyrum stands near Plotzensee, the prison where many had been executed during the Hitler years and where, in August 1944, the eight German officers found chiefly guilty in the July plot against Hitler were hanged.
From “Album of a Theater Critic” One of the jobs I have had in my life was the post of theater critic of The New York Times, where I was for eight months in 1966. It seems now like merely one of the jobs. When I went there, it seemed final. Remembrance begins with the vague figure of a man on a leathery sofa, offering me the position. When I accepted, he welcomed me to The Times for the rest of my life. It was only the second time, after my marriage twenty-three years before, that anyone had welcomed me to anything for life.
From “Album of Marilyn Monroe” The deadline for the Monroe book began to loom over our office, seemingly blocking out the light of day. At last her intermediary said she would see me, without fail, on Wednesday afternoon at two. On Wednesday morning, my agent telephoned to say that she was having lunch with my editor that day, expected an answer about my novel, and would telephone me after lunch. I explained to her that I would be incommunicado with an author of my own. I asked her to telephone my wife and give her the news. I would call home as soon as I could.
Everlasting Moments. The lyric-humanist Swedish director Jan Troell has made another gem, this time chiefly about a working-class wife and mother in 1907 who happens to acquire a camera. Her view of herself and her life alters through this camera in Troell’s exploratory rather than highly dramatic way. (Reviewed 4/1/09)Katyn. Katyn Forest was where 20,000 Polish officers and others were murdered by Soviets in 1940. This film, though it has some murder details, is mostly about the effects on the relatives and friends.
GomorrahIFC FilmsOur City DreamsDi San Luca FilmsThe title of an Italian film, Gomorrah, is a play on words. The subject is not the biblical sinkhole: it is the Camorra, the local Mafia of Naples, which--according to the film and the book that it is based on--has made Naples an equivalent sinkhole. That book was written by Roberto Saviano, a Neapolitan historian and journalist, and was so ruthlessly candid that it became a huge best-seller in Italy, possibly even a cause for some social action.
Defiance. The forests of Belarus during World War Two help the near-miraculous rescue of 1200 Jews from the Germans. The basic story is true--how two thuggish Polish-Jewish brothers shepherded their flock to safety. The action sequences around this story are sometimes strained, still the film is thrilling. (Reviewed 2/18/09)Katyn. The celebrated Polish director Andrzej Wajda caps his 60-year career with a tremendous film about the massacre of 20,000 Polish officers by Stalin’s orders in 1940.