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Diane Carson

In the first scene of  "Clouds of Sils Maria," Maria Enders and her personal assistant Valentine are in transit, on a train to Zurich, Switzerland, jostling along tied to technology, irritated with intermittent cell phone service. This opening establishes the film's central relationship and, within minutes, the tragedy that will shape subsequent decisions.

As dazzling for the brain as for the eyes, the science fiction film "Ex Machina" challenges assumptions about human emotion and behavior. Wealthy entrepreneur Nathan (first names used only) has his firm's top programmer, Caleb, flown to his remote, ultramodern research facility. He's selected Caleb for a Turing test, that is, can Caleb differentiate between A.I. and human intelligence, responsiveness.

Inspired by true events, "The Water Diviner" thrusts the viewer into the December 1915 Battle of Gallipoli, pitting Turkish troops against the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) trying vainly to control supply routes. Both sides would suffer a quarter million casualties. ANZAC's dead would reach almost 50,000; the Turks' dead an estimated 65,000. This story focuses on three brothers.

Cinema St. Louis' Q-Fest 2015 runs Sunday, April 19 through Thursday, April 23 with 12 different programs. They include five feature-length documentaries, six narrative fictional features, a shorts program of seven films, plus five other short films that precede feature screenings. Impressively diverse, high quality selections represent the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, The Dominican Republic, and Israel.

Kumiko's Office Lady life consists of taking orders from an insufferable boss--get me tea, steep it longer, take these suits to the cleaners. Fancying herself a Spanish conquistador, following a map to a cave near a beach, Kumiko finds a damaged VHS tape of "Fargo," watches Carl (Steve Buscemi) bury ransom money in the snow, and becomes entranced.

The title of writer/director Noah Baumbach's latest film, "While We're Young," is as much a plaintive assertion as a description of Josh and Cornelia's status. In their mid-forties, on the cusp of having to reconcile themselves to their personal and professional choices, Josh and Cornelia encounter a nagging challenge to any complacency through Jamie and Darby, hip twenty-somethings.

Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó's "White God" focuses on 13-year old Lili, left with her estranged father who soon forces her to abandon her beloved dog Hagen on a highway. The film then splits its attention between Lili's struggles as a distraught, wounded teenager and Hagen's struggle to stay alive in a world that exploits animals, a dispossessed species, Kornél says.

For film fans who admire good acting, and I do, the combination of Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner and Bobby Carnavale together raises my hopes. In "Danny Collins," they do not disappoint; in fact, they prove that such talent can not only convey the humanity embedded in melodrama, but also tease out universal emotions.

The very name Timbuktu often conjures exotic, even mysterious associations, but the city has also enjoyed a reputation for tolerance of Christians, Muslims, and other faiths. Director Abderrahmane Sissako takes that association and turns it upside down. In his film "Timbuktu," he immerses the viewer in a city and its environs ruled by conservative, brutal jihadists

It's no surprise that a serious film about a contested divorce is fraught with emotional turmoil. Still "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem" presents an unexpectedly gripping, impossible situation. Viviane, the title character, endures a painful predicament in her bid for divorce because, in Israel, the husband must fully consent before Orthodox rabbis can legalize a marriage's dissolution.

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