As Demon begins, a newcomer arrives to a relatively remote, contemporary Polish community. He's ferried across a river amidst none too subtle hints of entering an alternative world. Peter, the central character and groom, will soon endeavor to wed Zaneta in a ceremony populated by friends and relatives, those who support the union and those who don't.
Based on Polish playwright Piotr Rowicki's play, Demon draws on the archetypal dybbuk tales, explicitly referenced in the film. In Jewish mythology, a dislocated dead person inhabits a live person's body, and this being Poland, connections to the Holocaust emerge. Peter will become the vehicle for Hana, speaking Yiddish, and literally and figuratively unearthing the tragic past.
Director Marcin Wrona, who also co-wrote the script, starts Demon slowly, building its premise toward frightening events. The occasion of a celebratory wedding with some heavy rain introduces a palpable tension.
But once Peter's inexplicably erratic behavior begins with the obvious possession soon acknowledged, events quickly erupt in convulsive and disturbing moments.
Low light, many scenes with fog, and a few dizzying dances keep the technical elements in synch with the psychological and physical disturbances. The blonde, happy bride will, of course, be subjected to trauma, robbing her of any promising future -- a bitter irony that horror films love to exploit, reducing the blissfully happy to hysterical wrecks. But Demon has more on its mind than unleashing chaos. It proposes and pursues several oppositions: Jewish and Christian, funeral and wedding, hallucination and reality, bliss and trauma, past and present, remembering and forgetting, insider and outsider, ghosts and the living.
Several false alarms, always a bit of a cheat to me, crop up in the early going. And Demon shares another common horror film problem -- it doesn't satisfactorily resolve the chaos it has indulged. But it so wildly and exuberantly jumps into the fray for its unhinged journey that those along for the ride will probably not mind. With smatterings of English, Yiddish, German and Russian but primarily in Polish with English subtitles, at Landmark's Tivoli Theatre.
As The People vs. Fritz Bauer begins, even before credits appear, Bauer addresses the camera in archival, black and white footage asserting, indeed hoping, that Germany's younger generation in 1957 is prepared to confront their country's true history. District attorney of the German state of Hessen, Bauer seeks and struggles to bring crimes and criminals of the Nazi years to justice.
This includes tracking down Third Reich officers hiding under pseudonyms in other countries. Bauer's attention will soon focus on one of those men most responsible for Jewish deportations to concentration camps, namely Adolf Eichmann living now in Buenos Aires under a false identity. The circuitous twists and turns of Bauer's pursuit are impacted by continuing anti-Semitism, even death threats, against the Jewish attorney Bauer and by former Nazi Party members and sympathizers currently directing -- and as often misdirecting -- Germany's justice system to protect themselves and escaped designers and perpetrators of the "final solution." Knowing this, with the support of loyal public prosecutor Karl Angermann, a composite character, Bauer will risk charges of treason by petitioning Israel's Mossad for assistance.
Details of Bauer's courageous investigation did not surface until ten years after his death in 1968. Seeking justice and an enlightened future for his country, Bauer wrote in 1962 that "everything that was inhumane" must be put on trial, including persistent prejudice against Jews and homosexuals, an issue dramatically intertwined here. Bauer's efforts resulted in the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, the first in 1963, none of which are depicted in the film.
Director/co-writer Lars Kraume navigates this complex, fascinating story chronologically with his and Olivier Guez's screenplay a targeted indictment of post-WWII Nazis hiding in plain sight with each other's cooperation duplicity. As Bauer, Burghart Klaussner embodies a credible, level-headed prosecutor with tragic regrets of his own. As Angermann, Ronald Zerhfeld is conflicted and supportive. The entire German cast and cinematographer Jens Harant present the film in documentary style. The People vs. Fritz Bauer is an essential reminder that justice must be ceaselessly and fearlessly fought for by everyone at all times. In German with English subtitles. At Landmark's Tivoli Theatre.
The title translates from the Italian to "My Mother," which makes sense for this film about a dying mother, based emotionally by the director, Nanni Moretti, on the recent death of his own mother. The protagonist in the plot is a film director, who is having a crisis.
Margherita has trouble reconciling the film she's slaving over with the death of her beloved mother. She is making a film on a political theme concerning labor and industry, plant closings and bottom lines -- all pertinent to her work in film. She has hired Barry Huggins, an American actor with Italian roots, to star, but she finds out almost immediately that the actor has delusions of grandeur and a less than stellar command of the Italian language. He resents his translator as superfluous, and he does not take direction at all well.
Margherita directs him not to stand inside his role, but to walk beside the character. Barry does not understand. He knows only how to peacock. Margherita does not have time to baby him as she is babying her mother, who insists that she's just fine.
Her doctor is more realistic with Margherita and her brother and tells them that their "madre" is dying and to prepare for that. How does one do that and be a commanding presence on the set -- and insist that your daughter study harder to pass her Latin test, if not for her own personal growth, then to show her grandmother, a classics major herself, that she can.
Margherita Buy plays the director, also named Margherita. She is excellent at being the head honcha director one minute, the despairing mother another, as well as the denying and grieving daughter alternating with the sister, sharing the caring. Moretti himself plays Giovanni and is very believable. John Turturro does not hesitate to play the mediocre actor -- hard for such a good actor to do.
Mia Madre may not cut fine facets on the gemstone of the theme, but still, it carries itself with integrity.
After taking off from New York's La Guardia Airport, January 15, 2009, pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River. Quickly dubbing it "The Miracle on the Hudson," the media pounced, exploiting the disaster and thereafter sanctifying Sully. Director Clint Eastwood's film, simply titled Sully, gives the events a profound, complex, human face.
Through post-crisis nightmares, flashbacks, and several of Sully's earlier experiences showing love of and expertise at flying, the story follows the traumatic impact of the Hudson event on Sully, his wife, and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles. While the media touted the fact that all 155 passengers and crew survived, the NTSB, as is required, instituted its own investigation complete with simulations that contradicted Sully's assertions that there was no way to return to LaGuardia or land in Terterboro. Insurance companies and the airline pushed back on the heroic interpretation for obvious reasons.
The private and then public hearings provide the occasion for describing the second-by-second catastrophe. Multiple and overlapping accounts weave flight footage elegantly into the narrative, without it ever losing a second of its drama. As Sully asserts, this was a triumph not just for him but, more accurately, for all involved, including co-pilot Jeff Skiles, the cabin crew, the passengers, and the rescuers. Sully struggles, often jogging to work off his anxiety.
With a documentary style, Eastwood does a magnificent job of eavesdropping on Sully and Stiles' interaction, of balancing information with emotion. Knowledgeable industry people have vouched for its impressive accuracy. We know the outcome and yet Eastwood had me tense and thrilled by every second of the drama.
Though less self-deprecating and less lean than Sully, Tom Hanks, as only he can, communicates Sully's conflicted, pained emotional core and his strength of character. He presents Sully without embellishment straight to the camera that loves to study his face. Why shouldn't it? Aaron Eckhart as Stiles, Laura Linney as Sully's wife, Anna Gunn, the passengers--all are superb. Sully is terrific filmmaking. At area cinemas.
Before the credits role, we see a woman in various rolls: nurse, flibbertigibbet, magician's assistant, scientist. The minute she opens her mouth, to a roommate in Portland, she is incredible, literally, unbelievable -- at least to the audience. But the people inside are more credulous, for why wouldn't they be?
After the credits, we meet Tom and his lovely wife, preparing for Tom's dinner party. Tom. Only his birthday cake says, "Happy Birthday, Tony." Wife allows that she should have checked, but this cake's frosting is the writers' way of letting us know that identities are going to be switchable -- as if the opening scenes weren't a broad enough hint. Tom and his wife are at odds regarding her career and his support of same.
We see this woman, we'll call her Alice because that's the name she's going by, flirt with Tom's assistant, Clyde. Alice accompanies Clyde to Tom's birthday party. Hmmmm? Wonder if she knew that Tom would be there? Wonder if Tom knew that she was an old flame named Jenny? Wonder if we care?
For all the mystery in this short, odd film, the writers, Julian Sheppard and Joshua Marston, play with the reveal and with the re-seduction of Tom by Jenny. Marston, who directed Maria Full of Grace, keeps the camera close up on Alice's and Tom's faces, trying to read them. He uses montages of flashbacks to tell Alice's story as she relates it to Tom.
The main cast brings strong work to this film. Rachel Weisz makes like a chameleon in this role, or roles. Michael Shannon, the lines in his face architectural, is a study in solemn. The supporting cast, Kathy Bates and Danny Glover, glow knowingly all over their parts as an odd couple who interact with Jenny and Tom. The four work better than the material.
Complete Unknown offers a bit of difference to a late summer scene, not a beach film nor a blockbuster.