A Separation (2011)

Separation 1

★★★★★
Iran. Written and directed by Ashgar Farhadi / Cinematography by Mahmoud Kalari / Edited by Hayedeh Safiyari / Production design by Keyvan Moghaddam. Starring Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi, Ali-Ashgar Shahbazi, Kimia Hosseini, Merila Zare’i, Babak Karimi.

A raw and uncomfortable film, A Separation encapsulates the tensions of an entire society through two interrelated stories of disturbed family life. In the absence of an agreed moral compass, there is, at worst, evasion and blood money and, at best, intelligent compromise. At a fundamental level, we are urged to identify imaginatively with the protagonists and confront for ourselves the moral and political complexities that the film exposes.

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The Nun [La Religieuse] (2013)

The Nun 1

★★★★☆

France / Germany / Belgium. Directed by Guillaume Nicloux. Adapted from Denis Diderot’s novel La Religieuse by Guillaume Nicloux and Jerome Beaujour. Cinematography by Yves Cape. Edited by Guy Lecorne. Music by Max Richter. Production design by Olivier Radot. Starring Pauline Etienne, Isabelle Huppert, Louise Bourgoin, Martina Gedeck.

Guillaume Nicloux’ version of The Nun – a story formerly filmed in the ‘sixties by Jacques Rivette – concentrates on novice nun Suzanne’s resistance to the orthodoxy forced on her in the various convents she is imprisoned in, as well as resisting successfully the cruelties and blandishments of a succession of Mothers Superior. As such, the film is primarily a political allegory about victimhood, submission, rebellion and the puncturing of mumbo-jumbo, rather than a meditation on religious calling and aspiration.

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Corpo Celeste [Heavenly Body] (2011)

Corpo_celeste_

★★★★☆

Switzerland / France / Italy. Written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher. Cinematography by Helene Louvart. Edited by Mario Spoletini. Art direction by Luca Servino. Music by Piero Crucitti. Starring Yle Vianello, Salvatore Cantalupo, Pasqualina Scuncia, Anita Caprioli.

Alice Rohrwacher’s assured first feature, Corpo Celeste, charts the coming of age of young Marta, transported to a new life in southern Italy. All is new to her, not least a rather grim urban environment, a bleak catechism class, the secret life of the town and the parish priest, and, ultimately, the mystery of the Agony of Jesus Christ. We see her in transition, on the eve of her transformation into someone with a life of her own.

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Stations of the Cross [Kreuzweg] (2014)

Stations of the Cross

★★★★☆

Germany. Directed by Dietrich Bruggemann. Written by Anna and Dietrich Bruggeman. Edited by Vincent Assmann. Starring Lea van Acken, Franziska Weisz, Moritz Knapp.

Conceived as a meditation on the Stations of the Cross, Dietrich Bruggemann’s powerful eponymous feature looks at the abuse of a young girl within a family wedded to the rites of a powerful religious sect. Isolated from the succour of the outside world, Maria is pining away with anorexia, smothered in agonized guilt at hurting and disappointing her mother. Only in the arms of God will she find peace.

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Private Property (2006)

Private Property Pascale on bed

★★★★☆

Belgium/France. Directed by Joachim Lafosse / Written by Joachim Lafosse and Francois Pirot / Cinematography by Hichame Alaouie / Edited by Sophie Vercruysse / Starring Isabelle Huppert, Jeremie Renier, Yannick Renier, Kris Cuppens, Raphaelle Lubansu, Patrick Deschamps, Sabine Riche.

Don’t miss out on Joachim Lafosse, an outstanding director who has yet to receive his due, not helped by poor availability of his films. Private Property is one of them, a bleak domestic piece de chambre in which all norms of a successful family life have been sacrificed and replaced, inevitably, by an alienating and annihilating self-centredness. The silent partner in the film is a manorial farmhouse over which destructive battles rage.

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Hadewijch (2009)

★★★★☆

Hadewijch at prayer

France. Written and directed by Bruno Dumont / Cinematography by Yves Cape / Edited by Guy Lecorne / Starring Julie Sokolowski, Karl Sarafidis, Yassine Salime, Brigitte Mayeux-Clergot, Luc-Francois Bouyssonie, Marie Castelaine, David Dewaele.

One of a recent string of films about the religious life, Hadewijch tells the story of a young novice nun who has named herself after an ascetic Flemish medieval mystic. She craves a father who is also a Saviour and a chaste lover, falling into dire straits as a result of her need to belong. The resurrection of Hadewijch as she reaches a final point of despair is a triumph.

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The Son’s Room [La Stanza del Figlio] (2001)

★★★★☆

the-sons-room Costa

Italy. Directed by Nanni Moretti / Screenplay by Nanni Moretti / Cinematography by Giuseppe Lanci / Edited by Esmeralda Calabria / Production design by Giancarlo Basili / Music by Nicola Piovani. Starring Nanni Moretti, Laura Morante, Giuseppe Sanfelice, Jasmine Trinca and Sofia Vigliar.

Dealing with extreme loss in a family, Nanni Moretti’s The Son’s Room is an inimitable blend of lightheartedness and humour and an intelligent and deeply felt exploration of how circumstances conspire to change our lives, and how grief can actually be coped with and turned to advantage under the threat of unrequited melancholy. Moretti’s acting lends a poignant naturalness and the outcome is hardly to be expected. Read More

Three Monkeys (2008)

★★★★☆

Three Monkeys the couple

Turkey. Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan / Written by Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan & Ercan Kesal / Cinematography by Gokhan Tiryaki / Edited by Ayhan Egursel and Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Starring Ercan Kesal, Yaruz Bingol, Hatice Aslan, Ahmet Rifat Sungar and Cafer Cose.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s fifth, accomplished feature Three Monkeys is that pure kind of film, conceived as the excavation of a single theme – the human capacity for silence and corrupting self-delusion – to which the considerable art of the director and his ensemble is unerringly directed. Ceylan elevates his tale from melodrama to the stature of an archetypal parable for our times. Read More

Ida (2013)

★★★★☆

ida-6

Poland/Denmark. Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski/Screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz & Pawel Pawlikowski/Cinematography by Lukasz Zal & Ryszard Lenczewski/Edited by Jaroslaw Kaminski/Music by Kristian Eidnes Andersen. Starring Agata Trzebuchowska/Agata Kulesza/Joanna Kulig/Dawid Ogrognik.

Beautifully crafted, Pawlikowski’s third feature Ida is both a meditation on the emerging adult consciousness of a novice nun and a poignant thriller in which events are treated with a numbness and matter-of-factness which reflect the reactions of the protagonists to moments of terrible loss and revelation. Read More

Angel (2007)

★★★★★

angel in the snow
UK /France / Belgium. Directed by Francois Ozon / Screenplay by Francois Ozon and Martin Crisp (dialogue) / Cinematography by Denis Lenoir /Edited by Muriel Breton / Music by Philippe Rombi / Production design by Katia Wyszkop / Art Direction by Alexandra Lassen / Set decoration by Gerard Marcireau / Costume design by Pascaline Chavanne. Starring Romola Garai, Sam Neill, Michael Fassbender, Lucy Russell, Charlotte Rampling, Jemma Powell.

Angel is an English-language masterpiece from Francois Ozon, in which he brings to dizzying fruition as in none other of his films his penchant for combining a heady theatricality with penetrating psychological insight and a serious underlying intent. Inspired by the adulation accorded to the Edwardian pulp novelist Marie Corelli, Romola Garai as Angel is rightly the narcissistic star in its firmament, in this case, the faintly vulgar Victorian pile of Tyntesfield, as resolutely full of itself as Angel. The supporting cast is peerless, though none gets a look in when Angel is about. Read More