In 1962 Paris, wealthy broker Jean-Louis (Luchini) and his wife Suzanne (Kiberlain) live in his family flat, oblivious to the Spanish maids who occupy tiny rooms on the top floor and gather in the park to gossip about their bosses. It's not until Jean-Louis and Suzanne hire new arrival Maria (Verbeke) to work for them that they discover this world of labourers. And Jean-Louis embraces it, finding new satisfaction in helping to make their lives better while flirting quietly with Maria. But Suzanne suspects something else entirely.
Continue reading: The Women on the 6th Floor Review
Just before his 18th birthday, cruise ship waiter Bennie (Ehrenreich) gets some shore leave in Buenos Aires and immediately looks up his estranged brother Angelo (Gallo), a moody artist who now goes by the name Tetro and lives with his longsuffering girlfriend Miranda (Verdu). Their reunion is rather awkward, and it's not just because of the years that have passed and the tensions that remain around their relationships with their famous father (Brandauer). The problem is that Bennie thinks he can get Tetro back on track.
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Volver starts with a wonderfully lyrical scene in which the old women of a rural village clean the headstones in a graveyard during a fantastic windstorm -- the blowing leaves quickly render absurd any cleaning. The village is a slightly unreal place anyway, populated mostly by the very old (in actuality, a common occurrence in Spain) and known far and wide for the wind, which is reputed to drive the inhabitants insane. The stars are a pair of sisters, Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and Sole (Lole Dueñas) who long ago decamped for Madrid, much like Almodóvar himself did as a child (he shot the village scenes in his hometown of La Mancha). The sisters' parents died in a fire years back, but they return on occasion to check in on their elderly aunt, Paula (Chus Lampreave, who has mellowed here somewhat since her hilariously venomous turn in Almodóvar's 1995 film The Flower of My Secret). They still feel that tenuous link to their ancestral village, but with their parents dead and unfulfilling lives in the city, the two seem stuck in a hazy netherworld, home in neither place.
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800 Bullets is Alex de la Igelsia's (the long neglected Spanish director responsible for the cult sci-fi satire Acción Mutante and the dark comedy La Communidad) ode to the eternal mystique of the spaghetti western. It is both a black comedy (de la Igelsia's forte) as well as a nostalgic look at the films that, for many, informed a generation.
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Continue reading: Le Pacte du Silence Review
I didn't understand any of this, and I don't expect anyone else to, either. That is, unless you have a psychic connection with the screenwriter. There are long shots of the countryside, slow-motion shots of waves, and an old man falling down the stairs. What does it all mean? Hell if I know. Something about love, obsession, relationships? I know a lot of crazy people, and none of them act like this.
Continue reading: Alice Et Martin Review
Set in Argentina in 1969, Valentín (Rodrigo Noya) is struggling to understand the circumstances that created his broken home. His mother has disappeared, and his father (Alejandro Agresti) has moved away to concentrate on work and a steady stream of failed relationships. That leaves Valentín with a world circumscribed by his ailing, overbearing grandmother (Carmen Maura) and Rufo (Mex Urtizberea), a pianist who watches after him and encourages his imagination. Valentín wants two things: A mother, and a chance to go to the moon. In his spare isolated moments, he builds model rockets and plans his moon shot; one of the loveliest scenes shows him plodding down the stairs in a home-made spacesuit while a record by what appears to be the Argentinean version of the Bonzo Dog Band plays in the background.
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Handsome, stormy Alexis Lorent gives a memorable performance in his screen debut as the Martin half of "Alice and Martin," a bipolar young man haunted by guilt over the death of his callous father, and forever flighty from a hard childhood under dad's stern hand.
Juliette Binoche ("The English Patient") is also affecting as Alice, an inhibited and financially strapped violinist and Martin's slightly older lover who tries to quell his tortured psyche.
But this awkward drama about romance, estrangement and what people are willing to do for love is such a structural mess that it's impossible to get lost in the strength of the performances because you're too busy trying to keep up with the entangled narrative.
Continue reading: Alice & Martin Review