In a small Kyrgyz village, the cheeky electrician (Arym Kubat) is simply called "Mr Light", and he's often in trouble for helping people get free electricity off the national grid. When he's drunk, he confesses to his friend Mansur (Toichubaev) that he wishes he and wife Bermet (Abazova) had a son instead of four lively daughters. And when rich businessman Bezkat (Sulaimanov) arrives, buying up land saying he wants to improve village life, he gives Mr Light a great job. But is Bezkat as nice as he seems?
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Asa (Kuchinchirekov) is a young guy just out of his naval service and wanting to settle down with a wife and a flock of sheep on the remote steppes of Kazakhstan. He's living with his sister (Yeslyamova) and her husband (Besikbasov), and the only eligible girl nearby is Tulpan. But her parents (Nurzhanbayev and Khalykulova) are fiercely protective, so Asa tries everything to get through to her. Meanwhile, he's busy caring for sheep that are struggling to find enough grass to stay healthy.
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Hamer builds his central characters around the minutest details of a man's routine, and he loves characters who have sealed themselves into a life of stolid isolation. Here, 67-year-old train engineer Odd Horten (Baard Owe) is placed by the auteur in an Oslo apartment a few yards from the city streetcar that whips by in blurred frenzy outside his window, a sudden and loud contrast to the undisruptable quiet within.
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The very setting of Sergei Dvortsevoy's film, his first narrative feature, is meant to polarize and isolate. Living in a shared yurt with his sister (Samal Esljamova) and Ondas, Asa sets into a hazy depression as Ondas continually demeans his admittedly inept attempts at sheep-herding and winning Tulpan's heart. Filming in southern Kazakhstan, Dvortsevoy's home-country, the director submerges the viewer in the empty space of Betpak Dala and the rituals and day-to-days of its inhabitants, "inhabitants" which are relegated to Asa's family and Tulpan's.
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The Stratosphere Girl is about that rarified subculture of young white women (preferably blonde) who live in Tokyo and work as "hostesses" in upscale nightclubs. It's a fine line between waitress and hooker, and its a world in which Angela (newcomer Chloé Winkel) finds herself thrown.
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First-time director Sandra Nettlebeck introduces Martha (Martina Gedeck) as an obsessive-compulsive chef at a chic restaurant in Hamburg, Germany, with no friends, no love interest, and no life other than an unparalleled knowledge of cuisine and the ability to cook any gourmet meal to perfection. As expected from an against-all-odds love story, Martha embodies the typically cinematic diamond-in-the-rough protagonist combining talent and beauty yet faced with a fatal flaw that plunges her into misery. Touted by her boss as "the second best chef in the city," she appears haughty and overly obsessed with "cooking by the book." In fact, in all her culinary glory she forgets that despite her impressive skills, the customer is always right. It becomes clear that Martha's manic tendencies must be overcome in order for her to gain personal fulfillment.
Continue reading: Mostly Martha Review