The Secret in Their Eyes [El secreto do sus ojos] (2009)

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★★★★★
Directed by Juan Jose Campanella (Argentina, 2009). Written by Eduardo Sacheri & Juan Jose Campanella / Cinematography by Felix Monte / Edited by Juan Jose Campanella / Art direction by Marcelo Pont / Music by Federico Jusid & Emilio Kauderer. Starring Soledad Villamil, Ricardo Darin, Carla Quevedo, Pablo Rago, Javier Godino, Guillermo Francella, Mariano Argento.

The best foreign-language film at the eighty-second Academy Awards in 2009, Juan Jose Campanella’s The Secret in Their Eyes is an ingenious masterpiece of layered narrative, thematic complexity and astonishing cinematography, and yet works perfectly well as a thrilling, if startling, crime caper. A lengthy, doomed love affair is embedded in a story of crime and judicial corruption, which itself ordains the amorous adventure: love opens and closes the narrative, and crimes open and close the space within. The narrative also frames the city within the country: at the outset and during the story, from the country come calamity and inopportune distraction; and at the end, calamity returns us there.

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Microbe and Gasoline (2015)

★★★★★

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Microbe et Gasoil (Michel Gondry, France 2015). Written and directed by Michel Gondry / Edited by Elise Fievet / Cinematography by Laurent Brunet / Music by Jean-Claude Vannier. Starring Ange Dargent, Theophile Baquet, Diane Besnier, Audrey Tautou.

Microbe and Gasoline is an outstanding example of how conventional narrative and the joy of simple storytelling in the hands of a master of filmmaking can work in a tale that just wants to be fun. Gondry has achieved something that somehow seems rare these days: a heartfelt basket of delights about growing up, where the world is full of promise, and just the right balance is struck between hilarity, adventure and pathos. Not to be overlooked.

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Love (2015)

★★★☆☆

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Love (Gaspar Noe, France 2015). Written and directed by Gaspar Noe/ Cinematography by Benoit Debie / Edited by Denis Bedlow and Gaspar Noe / Music supervision by Pascal Mayer with music by Lawrence Schultz and John Carpenter. Starring Karl Glusman, Aomi Muycock, Klara Kristin, Isabelle Nicou, Gaspar Noe.

Some films are plain hard work, and Gaspar Noe’s grim, uncompromising 3D Love (2015) is one of them. The storytelling is accomplished and the filmmaking of a rare intensity, purveying a formidable (if unintended) saga of sexual addiction. Regrettably, we are let down by a platitudinous script, questionable acting, and a half-baked philosophy which has no moral compass worth speaking of to anchor the meaning of the unrelenting scenes of blatant, ultimately tedious sexual activity. For all its strengths, who would want to watch this film more than once (pace Peter Bradshaw)?

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