The Joy of Singing – Ilan Duran Cohen – France
This is an oddity. A spy thriller that is more drama and comedy than anything else. The widow of a suspected nuclear materials dealer may still have his USB key which contains much needed information. Rival government and non-government agencies will do anything to get it including sending spies to join her opera singing class. What follows is slick entertainment. The characters each have something else going on besides their missions, and their real lives tangle inextricably with their work lives until it leads up to one big climax. It’s a bold, gutsy and artistic film. Very well made and entertaining.
Chef’s Special – Nacho G. Velilla – Spain
This spanish comedy is funny, to be sure, but the drama it tries to force in falls flat. The story concerns a gay chef, his restaurant on the brink of success (or failure), his staff, his love-life, and his newly arrived kids who he hasn’t seen in years. It’s fun and breezy for most of it, but when the drama arrives the film stalls. There is no beleivability to what the characters are feeling to lend it emotional weight, so when the emotional climax arrived I was left empty. Luckily, most of it was comedy so I did end up enjoying it.
Marcello, Marcello – Denis Rabaglia – Switzerland, Germany
An almost perfect fairy tale. Young Marcello lives in a village in Italy that has a tradition. To get the first date with a girl, the boys line up on her birthday to give gifts to her father. The father chooses the best gift and that boy gets the date. Marcello is in love with the mayor’s daughter, and he has found the perfect gift for him. But to get it, he is sent running around the island performing favors and trades for almost every town member. It’s fun, good-natured, and well-made. A feel-good movie that doesn’t set out to manipulate, it just wants to tell a nice story.
Rumba – Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy – Belgium
Strange and very quirky, this film is told with almost no dialog. It is a bunch of comedy set-peices set around a simple story. Dom and Fiona (the directors, writers and producers as well as actors), are school teachers who spend their off-time winning dance competitions. The film is colorful and funny as it follows their day to day lives. When a tragedy occurs, the film gets really bizarre. It should be sad and dark, but it tries to remain colorful and funny. It works, too. Some scenes are long or sub-par, but overall the movie was fresh and different throughout.
Revanche – Götz Spielmann – Austria, Germany
I usually like this type of film. It’s slow and deliberate. It has very raw, uninhibited and intense performances. It doesn’t dumb-down anything for the audience. The story concerns a prostitute and an ex-con, and an event that goes wrong that reverbarates through their lives and the lives of others. It’s intense and real. The only issue I had with it was that it felt split too much into two different films. There was the first part before the fateful event that felt like an entire film. The second part had a completely different feel, and felt like its own film as well. Nothing was wrong with either of them, but it was offputting having them together in one movie.