Marco Muller

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The Sun Review


Excellent
How do you like your tyrant? You have so many choices these days that it's hard to figure out what's best. Take Hitler for example. If you want him stone cold and terrifying, go for Oliver Hirchbiegal's Downfall, in which Bruno Ganz gave one of the most intense performances of the year as the Fuhrer. Want it weak and sorta awkward? Noah Taylor's turn as Adolf in Menno Meyjes' halfhearted Max should be your ticket. But for outright strangeness and surrealism, you've got to stand and marvel at Aleksandr Sokurov's Moloch, about a day in the life of Hitler with his mistress, Eva Braun, and some other close friends. It's not any easy watch by any stretch of the imagination, which explains why most of his films don't get U.S. distribution: One has to track down these films in DVD or at film festivals. Don't expect his latest, The Sun, to be any sort of exception.

While Moloch dealt with Adolf Hitler and 2001's Taurus dealt with Lenin, The Sun takes on Emperor Hirohito (Issei Ogata) during his August 1954 meetings with General Douglas MacArthur. Under any other director, a film like this would be a political thriller with crisp tension and lots of shouting about pride. Sokurov isn't interested in that stuff, thank God. Instead, Sokurov uses his entrancing, methodical style to search inside the Emperor and look at the character in relation to his use of power and the stress it puts on him. His meetings with General MacArthur (Robert Dawson) are straight-laced and hushed, like two lovers lying in bed in the dead of winter. Even when Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor come up, it's a solemn and sacred speech that they don't want to soil with such emotions as anger and resentment.

Continue reading: The Sun Review

Secret Ballot Review


Good
You'll be hard pressed to find a more un-Hollywood movie released this year than the Iranian film Secret Ballot. Writer/director Babak Payami is a fan of both the long shot and the long take, and while the movie's visuals are often striking, the tortoise-like pacing can be quite exhausting. Payami is a clever and charming enough filmmaker to keep the viewer involved, but frustration can easily set in when you realize that the director probably could have cut many of the scenes in half and not lost a single thing. That being said, Secret Ballot is still a film so earnest and well intentioned, one can't help but feel a bit guilty criticizing it.

The setting is an island off the coast of Iran, which is experiencing its first free election. The Iranian government is so intent on its citizens voting that they actually send an election agent, ballot box in hand, to the various communities on the island to collect votes. This agent (Nassim Abdi), much to the surprise of the soldier (Cyrus Ab) who is assigned to drive the ballot box and the agent around the island, is a woman. These two people, who will spend an adventurous day together, are proverbial polar opposites.

Continue reading: Secret Ballot Review

The Sun Review


Excellent
How do you like your tyrant? You have so many choices these days that it's hard to figure out what's best. Take Hitler for example. If you want him stone cold and terrifying, go for Oliver Hirchbiegal's Downfall, in which Bruno Ganz gave one of the most intense performances of the year as the Fuhrer. Want it weak and sorta awkward? Noah Taylor's turn as Adolf in Menno Meyjes' halfhearted Max should be your ticket. But for outright strangeness and surrealism, you've got to stand and marvel at Aleksandr Sokurov's Moloch, about a day in the life of Hitler with his mistress, Eva Braun, and some other close friends. It's not any easy watch by any stretch of the imagination, which explains why most of his films don't get U.S. distribution: One has to track down these films in DVD or at film festivals. Don't expect his latest, The Sun, to be any sort of exception.

While Moloch dealt with Adolf Hitler and 2001's Taurus dealt with Lenin, The Sun takes on Emperor Hirohito (Issei Ogata) during his August 1954 meetings with General Douglas MacArthur. Under any other director, a film like this would be a political thriller with crisp tension and lots of shouting about pride. Sokurov isn't interested in that stuff, thank God. Instead, Sokurov uses his entrancing, methodical style to search inside the Emperor and look at the character in relation to his use of power and the stress it puts on him. His meetings with General MacArthur (Robert Dawson) are straight-laced and hushed, like two lovers lying in bed in the dead of winter. Even when Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor come up, it's a solemn and sacred speech that they don't want to soil with such emotions as anger and resentment.

Continue reading: The Sun Review

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