The holiday season brings an affair to a head, forcing all parties to make hard choices about what the New Year will bring. Terrific acting from the central trio gives the relatively simple plot real weight, as we sit with them in painfully realistic unbroken shots, until a pediatric orthodontic consultation builds more tension than your average thriller.
A poetic film from Claudia Llosa about a young Peruvian woman who learned from her mother’s truly horrific experiences to fear men, but also to use song to channel her pain and grief. After her mother’s death, she must find a way to raise the money to give her a proper burial, and the physical and emotional barriers she has set to keep the world at bay start to splinter. A moving case for the potential to transform generational trauma into healing.
Staring down a tabloid scandal for drunken brawling and his first-ever box-office flop, a movie star hops a train across the country. En route, he meets a female journalist whose pointed questions make him start to grapple with how much he gave up in exchange for wealth and fame. The performers are as charismatic and effortless as in any Satyajit Ray film, and their spirited debates about what makes an actor more than a puppet, and what you owe your audience and yourself, still resonate a half century later.
One of the most harrowing war films I’ve ever seen, full of the unremitting rage of experience. Soviet partisans scoop up a boy from his village and enlist him to fight the German occupation, during which one out of four of the entire population of Belorussia would ultimately be killed. As he is batted around a nightmarish landscape, we watch him struggle to process a level of devastation that no one, especially not a child, could make any sense of. Klimov occasionally uses almost beautiful images as strange reprieves from the brutality, but the darkest events he recreates are nothing compared to the real footage of the horrors inflicted on civilians that he deploys in the film’s last minutes, before his fury finally gives way to grief.
The Bri-terion Collection
I’m loving the Criterion Channel streaming service, so every week I’m going to share my favorite new find.