Capsule Film Reviews of Submissions for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar®

Denmark’s Official Entry For Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

At The Movies With…Lady Beverly Cohn

Editor-at-Large Worldwide

Competition for the 2018 coveted Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® has brought forth dozens of well-made films from around the world.  With far too many to cover, I will restrict my critiques to some of the European entries.

THE GUILTY”

Denmark’s Official Oscar® Entry For Best Foreign Language Film

Distributor:   A Magnolia Pictures Release

Directed by:  Gustav Möller

Starring:        Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Olsen, Omar Shargawi, &

Jakob Ulrik Lohmann

Genre:                      Mystery/Drama

Language:    Danish with English Subtitles

Rating:           R

Running Time: 85 minutes

If I were to tell you that almost the entire film takes place in a small cubicle inside a police station where officer Asger Holm, awaiting the outcome of an internal investigation into his activities, has been assigned to man what would be the equivalent to our 911 emergency line, you might think the film would be claustrophobic with all the action taking place in such close confines.  Normally you might be right, but thanks to Gustav Möller’s brilliant direction of “The Guilty” and Jakob Cedergren’s spine-tingling performance as a policeman dealing with both this looming murder as well as his own demons, instead what the film presents is an edge-of-your-seat unrelenting, tension filled thriller serving up unexpected twists and turns.   Briefly, a call comes in from a woman claiming she was kidnapped by her husband at knifepoint and she fears he is going to murder her.  The line suddenly goes dead and what ensues is a cat-and-mouse narrative as the officer uses all his wits to save this woman. Mölle’s directorial debut meticulously drives the tension-filled narrative, which will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last second of the film.    

*****


Poland’s Official Entry For Best Foreign Language Film 
Oscar® 
Courtesy Photo

“COLD WAR”

Poland’s Official Oscar® Entry For Best Foreign Language Film

American Distributor:  Amazon Studios

Directed by: Pawel Pawlikowski

Story:  Pawel Pawlikowski

Screenplay:  Pawel Pawlikowski & Janusz Glowacki

Starring:   Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Agata Kulesza, & Borys Szyc

Genre:            Drama

Languages:  Polish, French, Russian, Italian, German, Croatian, with English subtitles.

Rating:          R

Running Time:  88 Minutes

This visually stunning black and white film meticulously directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, with haunting cinematography by Łukasz Żal, got my vote for Best Foreign Language Film.  It is a sizzling, epic love story beginning in the shadow of the Cold War in 1950s Poland and takes us through a fascinating, passion filled fifteen-year journey, as two star-crossed lovers, magnificently portrayed byJoanna Kulig as Zula and Tomasz Kot as Wiktor, are magnetically drawn together through the years but fail to sustain their viscerally passionate relationship.  In addition to Poland, their adventures take them to Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris.  In his quest to restore Poland’s traditional folk music, Wiktor and his team tour the Polish countryside recording and auditioning singers and musicians for their folk music troupe Mazurek, based on an actual troupe.  At the opening, we hear a cacophony of voices as young men and women audition.  It is a most delightful beginning, which fully captures your attention and will make you smile.  It is in this setting that Wiktor becomes hopelessly infatuated with the young, beautiful and quite sexy, but perhaps duplicitous Zula who allows herself to fall under the spell of his raging attraction. You might recall that the director won an Oscar® for his brilliant “Ida.”  “Cold War” is equally compelling filmmaking and in countless ways, because of the complexity of the narrative, more deserving to be feted than the current favorite “Roma”.  Although another example of excellent filmmaking, in comparison to “Cold War,” it is a small slice of life story exquisitely written, directed, and photographed by Alfonso Cuarón Orozco.  Yalitza Aparicio gives a knock-out performance as the family maid Cleo while his direction captures the drama and textures of a small, affluent Mexican family set against the backdrop of street violence.  His use of water images almost becomes a fascinating character within the film.

****


Switzerland’s Official Entry For Best Foreign Language Film & Documentary Oscar® 
Courtesy Photo

“ELDORADO”  

Switzerland’s Official Oscar® Entry For Best Foreign Language Film & Documentary

Production Companies:  Zero One, Thelma Film, Ormenis Film, Swiss Radio and Television, Bayerischer Rundfunk

Director & Screenplay: Markus Imhoof

Producers: Thomas Kufus, Pierre-Alain Meier, Markus Imhoof
Director of photography: Peter Indergrand

Cast: Robert HungerBühler, Caterina Genta
Languages:  German, Italian, French, English
92 minutes

Genre:  Documentary

Rating   R

“Eldorado” director Markus Imhoof’s draws on a very personal story from his childhood when during World War II his family took in a young Italian girl named Giovanna who his parents eventually adopted.  Using that as a springboard, he

illuminates the unimaginable harsh conditions facing refugees trying to escape from Africa to Europe.  Zooming in on painful close-ups of the overcrowded boats and the desperate faces of those trying to flee to safety, his camera brings into sharp focus the harsh reality of what these desperate people endured on the Mediterranean Sea, in Lebanon, Italy, Germany, and in Switzerland. Although the story telling is very confusing at times, the film couldn’t be timelier in view of what’s happening as refugees from South America try to reach our southern border in search of sanctuary from the dangerous, life threatening conditions from which they are fleeing.  Perhaps some day the current administration will re-read and honor the words written on the Statue of Liberty:                                             

                                    Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me

I lift my lamp beside the golden door

**

Watch for my next three capsule reviews: “The Eighth Commissioner,” (Croatia) “Champions” (Spain) and “The Resistance Banker” (The Netherlands).

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