FAREWELL (2019)

A film by  Lulu Wang

Cast:  Shuzhen Zhao, Awkwafina, X Mayo 

When they learn that Nai Nai, their beloved grandmother and mother, is suffering from an incurable disease, her relatives, according to Chinese tradition, decide to hide the truth from her. They then use his grandson’s wedding as a pretext for a family reunion to share together her last moments of happiness. For her granddaughter, Billi, born in China but raised in the United States, lies are harder to respect. But it is also a chance for her to rediscover her origins, and the intensity of the ties that bind her to her grandmother.

The Farewell announces at the beginning that the story is based on an actual lie. For Lulu Wang is a personal film and a powerful one. The crisis was actually Wang’s crisis when she actually found out that her grand mother was dying of cancer. The family in China does not tell her grand mother that she is dying it is up to the family to spare her from the fear and to protect her so they plan a grand wedding of her grand son so all the family will be there one last time to see her. However when Billi finds out by her parents that her grand mother has terminal cancer she wants to go with her parents to china to see her but they don’t think it is a good idea because Billi can’t hide her emotions. Imagine their surprise when she shows up at her grand mother’s apartment.

Billi is shock that the family does not to tell her the truth, she is having a hard time with it. On the other hand the family has not problem with it due to the fact it is a tradition of sort. Wang here explore cultural differences between China and the United States without judgment. it is a kind hearted and delicate film, she makes you fell part of the family. It is all there the usual suspects at the wedding, the photo shoot, the dances, the guests who are a little drunk well you get the picture. She avoids the clichés to make this light bearded film. Great performances from this actors, a superb ensemble cast. Of course there is the perfect ending. A great film not to be missed.

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (2019)

A film by  Edward Norton

Cast:  Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Bruce Willis

New York in the 1950s. Lionel Essrog, private detective suffering from Tourette syndrome, investigating the murder of his mentor and only friend Frank Minna. Thanks to the rare clues in his possession and his obsessive mind, he discovers secrets whose revelation could have consequences on the city of New York … From jazz clubs from Harlem to the slums of Brooklyn, to the upscale neighborhoods of Manhattan, Lionel will face the most powerful man in the city to save the honor of his missing friend. And perhaps also the woman who will assure him his salvation …

Based on the Novel from  Jonathan Lethem, Ed Norton took on the adaptation , directing , acting and producing this film. It took 20 years to be able to lift off this project. Here Lionel played by Norton is a character with Tourette syndrome where he is going to investigate the murder of his boss who was on something big. The story takes place in the 50’s. Moses Randolph, (Alec Baldwin) is a builder and will crush anyone who gets on his way. Randolph wants to displace a neighborhood mostly where black people lives, to put hospital and new houses. Here comes in the picture Laurie Rose ( Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is political activist  helping African-Americans resist displacement. Lionel has colleagues who were in the orphanage with him. Norton here was able to play this character with skills . He also make the choice to make it a film noir like the old days. Here is a man who plans to rebuild New York his way but has a secret that he wants buried. Alec Baldwin here shines as well playing this politician who is hungry for power but is a racist, he did have to look to much further for research as he played Trump on many occasions in Saturday Night live. The film is a smart slow burner but to me is a little too long.

FORD V. FERRARI (2019)

A film by  James Mangold

Cast:  Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal 

Based on a true story, the film follows a team of eccentric American engineers led by the visionary Carroll Shelby and his British driver Ken Miles, who are sent by Henry Ford II to build from scratch a new automobile that will dethrone the Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans competition.

Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), is a champion racer whose hypertension forces him to retirement. After hanging up his gloves and his helmet, Shelby goes into car sales with a sideline in modification and design, and he also manages some racers, including the eccentric Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale. Ford was not too crazy to have Miles on board which created some friction there but Shelby insisted that Miles was the best man for the job. It is the story of those two Miles and Shelby who are going to be friends and the struggle that Shelby had to endure to have Miles stay as Ford’s driver. Great camera work here where Mangold put you in the driver seat. It is you basic story which will be a bit predictable but who cares you are going to have a good time watching this. And don’t get me wrong Ferrari even back in the day and now is a hell of a car. . It is a fine machine that drives like a dream.

BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956)

A film by Nicholas Ray

Cast: James Mason, Barbara Rush, Walter Matthau

A  sick schoolteacher becomes dependent on this  drug  called cortisone that begins to affect his sanity.

At the time this film caused a big splash because of this new drug that was on the market.  It is about this drug called cortisone and the effect that it has if taken.  Unfortunately the film was released in 1956 to a largely negative reception.

Ed Avery (Mason) is a middle class schoolteacher, who lives in a big house on a beautiful street with his wife Lou (Barbara Rush) and young son Bobby (Christopher Olsen). Plagued by mysterious recurring pain, he is prescribe cortisone but the doctor tells him to be careful with it. But soon after his friend wally (Walter Matthau) and his wife even his kid become aware of the changes of Ed. The thing is that Ed is under pressure and working two job to support his family. When he came down with this illness after taking the medicine things are getting a little bit out of hand. It does not take long that Ed’s personality is going to change. It is like he has double personality, Ed here is trying to be his old self but the drug takes control. This drug called cortisone has been  on the market since then. The doctor prescribes it even today. Keep it mind this film was made in 1956 and that 63 years later it is still on the market. And what a terrific actor is Mason in this film. the film here demonstrate the effect of the drugs if taking a little too much and the struggle with this married couple where their marriage are in the balance. A nice little drama that is worth seeing keep in mind that is a 50’s film so don’t be surprise of the ending. 

LES MISÉRABLES (2019)

A film by Ladj Ly

Cast:  Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djibril Zonga

Stéphane, just arrived from Cherbourg, joined the Anti-Crime Brigade of Montfermeil, in the 93. He will meet his new teammates, Chris and Gwada, two aggressive cops . He quickly discovers the tensions between the different groups in the neighborhood. While they are overwhelmed during an arrest, a drone film their every act and their every move…..

Stephane (Damien Bonnard) is a policeman newly moved to Paris and assigned to a unit of the Anti-crime Squad. His partners are Chris (Alexis Manenti), a virulently racist white man whom the kids on the street have referred to as “Pink Pig,”and Gwada (Djebril Zonga), who is African Muslim . Stéphane who is a bit snubbed as an outsider by the loser cops who give him the nickname of the “greaser”. The first day on the jobs  Stephane gets a taste of his partners’ brutal grip on the neighborhood harassing girls at a stop sign, bullying others spraying fear where ever they go. As the day goes by it turn into madness mode who the three are in the pursuit of a teenager who stole a baby lion at the circus in the neighborhood. Ladj Ly gets the film into high gear choreograph every scene beautifully well. Ly also keep the tension that is to the point of blowing up. Mobs of kids and adults, foot chase, and confrontation.

The Misérables start by the good cop, bad cop routine but Ly does not let this perception running too long . Here the police is abusing their power and double dealing the community to top it all off. Ly drags the story trough many level. The level of the film however is exiting with heart pounding action specially in the hallways of a housing project. Ly here put in some realism who has a documentary feel to it. The final sentence of Victor Hugo extracted from Les Misérables, highlighted before the credits, say it very well: “there are no bad men, no bad weeds, there are only bad farmers”. Well said there.

THE TRAITOR (2019)

A film by  Marco Bellocchio

Cast:  Pierfrancesco Favino, Luigi Lo Cascio, Fausto Russo Alesi

the story of Tommaso Buscetta, the first high profile mafia informant whose testimony led to a landmark court case, setting a precedent for others to come forward against the criminal organization.

It’s about the end of a major chapter in that world in the ‘80s in this Mafia saga. Pierfrancesco Favino, stars as Buscetta, initially a witness and an informant who is mournful of the days when the Cosa Nostra was an organization dependent on “men of honor.” The director here has decided to do something new and to not glorify the mafia in this biography. In the early 80’s it was the greatest time for the mob in Sicily, there was a code of honorable conduct “not killing women and children. At the opening of the films the families decided to get together to make peace with one another. Buscetta knew that was not going to happen so with his new wife and kids decide to leave the country to brazil under an assume name. But unfortunately Buscetta’s clan are assassinated one by one. As one of his clan member and long time friend put the pressure on him to return home.

Terrific performance by Favino who plays this soldier who didn’t like those who didn’t respect the code of honor. A part of the film deals with the trials and the arrestation of many mob bosses. Bellocchio here put in the mob boss in cage (for their security as well as for the security of the witness) where they insulted Buscetta of anything they can think of as as Buscetta addresses their counter accusations. The court room drama were done with testimony presumably based on actual transcripts. And yet, Bellocchio makes it absolutely captivating and thoroughly movie that is character driven.

J’ACCUSE (2019)

A film by  Roman Polanski

Cast:  Jean Dujardin, Louis Garrel, Emmanuelle Seigner 

English title: An officer and a spy

During the 12 years that it lasted, the Dreyfus Affair tore France apart, . In this huge scandal, at the end of the XIXth century, blend judicial error, denial of justice and anti-Semitism. The case is told from the point of view of Colonel Picquart who, once appointed head of the counterintelligence, will discover that the evidence against Captain Alfred Dreyfus had been manufactured. From this moment and at the risk of his career tries to defend Alfred Dreyfus . Will he succeed?

There were some friction at the Cannes film Festival to include this film in the competition at Cannes, especially one member of the Jury but what you don’t know is that once again Polanski is on the news in France and I am not going to go with the details because it is getting absurd. So that is why he can relate to this film especially the character played by Louis Garrel (Alfred Dreyfus) unrecognisable and what a great actor he has become.

The opening of the film Dreyfus is being stripped of his arms and disgraced before the army, before being led away and into exile on Devil’s Island. Georges Picquart  is promoted to the head of the French Secret Service, he also finds himself looking into the possibility that Dreyfus might be innocent. Picquart gets sent to the statistics office a rundown building where are hero is going to find out about the lies, the misinformation and the defamation about this case. But trying to tell the story and to convince everybody what he found is not going to be easy. Jean Dujardin here delivers a solid performance as colonel Piquart as well as the rest of this wonderful cast we discover Louis Garrel, Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Denis Podalydes, Damien Bonnard, Melvil Poupaud, Grégorys Gadebois and Vincent Grass. Photography, sets, costumes, music, everything is simply impeccable. It is really a production of excellent quality. The quest for truth, justice, fake news, antisemitism and many more are told here. Is a matter a fact the film took off very well its first weekend.

HORS NORMES (2019)

A film by  Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano

Cast  Vincent Cassel, Reda Kateb, Hélène Vincent

Bruno and Malik takes care children and adolescents with autism for 20 years. Within their two respective associations, they train young people from difficult neighborhoods to supervise them. As they do not have enough on their plates inspectors are here to see if everything is by the book or they might close them down.

Based on a true story here L’escale is a place where Bruno keeps children with severe autism. Here the directors has done it again with a sensible subject with a dose of humor. Here Cassel does wonder with this role where his character is passionate about his job and wants to help every kid that he takes so they can take care of themselves and hopefully for some of them find a job so they can be independent. Reda Kateb does as well a wonderful job here and the chemistry of those two actors is there. This film here is design to educate french people about people who has autism. The autism cases that are exposed in this feature film are real . It can shock, amaze, upset you but it is all real. The research and documentation work was done with care, since the directors knew that the people who are working with teenagers who have autism knows the system. Here is the catch 22, there are inspectors that evaluate the establishment and to see the one that they hire have their diplomas , to see if the establishment is sanitary and that everyone goes by the book . Most employees however don’t have diplomas . So the inspectors are careful not to close them down , they know that if they do who will take care of the kids. A delicate situation here that the directors are showing us.

CAMILLE (2019)

A film by  Boris Lojkine

Cast:  Nina Meurisse, Fiacre Bindala, Bruno Todeschini

A young photojournalist Camille leaves France for the Central African Republic to cover the civil war that is going to start. Very quickly, she is passionate about this country and she is swept away by the turmoil. Her destiny is going to be played out.

Here is a film that pays a great tribute to Camille Lepage the photo journalist. In Central Africa there is only violence. While she would like to believe in the goodness of humanity, Camille only meets people armed with a machete ready to decapitate their neighbors, bodies disemboweled, men who are part of a group ready to kill. She takes pictures and tries to sell them to the newspapers because she wants the world to see the atrocities that is going on in Central Africa. Camille here is passionate about this country and fells unconditional love for this country and gets to emotional attach to it. She begins to question her life and struggle to stay in France and wants to come back to Africa. when she does come back Camille does not stop looking for that part of humanity that necessarily exists somewhere in them. The film has a documentary feel to it because here the director comes from directing documentary. The film here was film where the civil war took place back then and the photos that you will see are the photos of Camille who captured the colours, the life, death, the revolted faces, the angry crowds, the delirious youth or the violence between the people. Nina Meurisse offers a remarkable interpretation of her Camille. Nina looks like Camille it is unbelievable. We all know what happened to her it is unfortunate and sad. She was only 26 years old.

SORRY WE MISSED YOU (2019)

A film by Ken Loach

Cast:  Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Nikki Marshall 

Ricky, Abby and their two children live in Newcastle. Their family is united and the parents work hard. While Abby works diligently for a retirement home , Ricky goes from jobs to jobs. They realize that they will never own a home and become independent. It’s now or never ! A real opportunity seems to get the attention of Ricky, the digital revolution: Ricky buys a van to become a delivery driver finally his own business so he thinks. But the excesses of this new modern world will have major repercussions on the whole family …

This is a personal journey that a couple will face every day to see what they are worth to find a true connection of follow their passion. Maybe they are working to survive so they can save money to buy a home. However the audience are going to understand their struggle. Ken Loach’s new film is about a family who is struggling to make a living but with two kids and the economy that is not recovering fast enough Ricky the head of the family will get his own business started as a delivery driver. Here Loach shows how the digital world and the consumers who wants their products fast at their door. Ricky signs up for a delivery service franchise where they tell him he is his own boss but gets boss around by his supervisor . The delivery truck he has to buy or rent. His scanner if it gets damaged he has to replace it from his own pocket plus he gets fine it he does takes days off. Your own boss? really? It takes a toll on his family and Ricky is trying to keep his family together and as well as his job. The film isn’t so light hearted and we see how similar contracts where humans are neglected in the industry because the clients wants their products fast and cheap and the work isn’t properly recognised or paid for. Abbie here had to sell her car in order for Ricky to buy the delivering van but he does not get the position he puts Abbie into. She now has to take the bus and is struggling there on time to takes care of her patients. Even if his films has lost some glamor, Ken Loach still got it , at 80 some years old , he is determined to continue to highlight the injustices that may exist.