Berlin, the Romantic Era. Austrian female director Jessica Hausner creates a magnificent period film at the heart of the paradoxes of bourgeois romanticism and conformism at the beginning of the 19th century.
Amour Fou is a tragi-comedy inspired by life and death of the historic poet Heinrich von Kleist (Christian Friedel). Harbouring a doomed passion for a young married woman Henriette Vogel (Birte Schnöink), Heinrich tries to persuade her to join him in a suicide pact, having failed to involve his cousin in a similar plan.
Reviews- “A master of tonal and thematic ambiguity who deals in spare, meticulously composed tableaux, the Austrian writer-director gradually locates the emotional pulse in a picture that plays less like a doomed romance than a seriocomic anatomy of one, subjecting its characters and their bubble of high privilege to sharply critical yet quietly affecting scrutiny.”- Variety
BELGIUM: TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
Directors: Luc Dardenne & Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione
French with English subtitles
Cannes Film Festival 2014 – Official Competition
In Two Days, One Night, French actress Marion Cotillard (Sandra) only has one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their annual bonuses so that she can keep her job.
At the heart of this story is a woman’s fight for her dignity and the dilemma of a working-class heroine torn apart by an unfair choice imposed to her.
This social drama is the latest project taken on by the multi-award winning Dardenne brothers – Palme d’Or winners in 1999 (Rosetta) and 2005 (The Child). Marion Cottillard’s brilliant performance earned her a second Academy Award Nomination for the 2015 Best Actress Oscar.
Reviews- “A tense dramatic situation and a subtly magnificent central performance from Marion Cotillard add up to an outstanding new movie from the Dardenne brothers.” – The Guardian
DENMARK: A SECOND CHANCE
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maria Bonnevie
Danish with English subtitles
San Sebastian Festival 2014 – Competition
Directed by Academy Award-winner Susanne Bier, A Second Chance boasts one of the finest cast in recent Danish cinema. The film features Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) as a detective, Andreas, who has settled down with his wife and son. His friend and colleague Simon, recently divorced, spends most of his waking hours getting drunk. But all that changes when they are both called out to a domestic dispute between a junkie couple, caught in a vicious cycle of violence and drugs. A Second Chance is emotionally gripping from start to finish.
Review – “A Second Chance is a chilling, yet affecting drama about real people forced into incredible circumstances; a film that confronts our core notions about right and wrong” – Zentropa Entertainment
FINLAND: CONCRETE NIGHT
Director: Pirjo Honkasalo
Cast: Johannes Brotherus, Jari Virman, Anneli Karppinen
Finnish with English subtitles
Toronto International Film Festival 2013
Concrete Night is a dream-like odyssey through beautiful Helsinki over the course of one night.
Simo – a 14-year-old boy and his older brother Ilkka – are the sons of a helpless and unpredictable single mother. Their chaotic home is located deep in the heart of a concrete jungle in Helsinki. Ilkka has one day of freedom left before starting his prison sentence and their mother persuades Simo to spend this last night with his brother.
Finnish female director Pirjo Honkasalo’s gorgeously stylised work is about what we pass on to younger generations, and the ways we do it.
“Director Pirjo Honkasalo renders this tale beautifully, emphasizing light and shadow in ways that remind us which is overtaking the other, and using sparse flashes of color to emphasize the dwindling possibilities Simo sees before him.” – NextProjection.com
FRANCE: 3 HEARTS
Director: Benoît Jacquot
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chiara Mastroianni, Benoît Poelvoorde
French with English subtitles
Venice International Film Festival 2014 – Competition
3 Hearts is the new film from festival veteran Benoît Jacquot (Farewell, My Queen). Starring film legend Catherine Deneuve along Chiara Mastroianni and Charlotte Gainsbourg, this romantic drama presents a love triangle with a hint of Greek tragedy.
One night in a French provincial city, Marc meets Sylvie. They wander through the streets until morning, talking about everything except themselves. They set a date in Paris, but misfortune befalls Marc. He searches for Sylvie and ends up finding someone else: Sophie. When Marc and Sylvie meet again, their unparalleled harmony still exists but fate has decided otherwise.
Reviews- “It’s … the faces of three European film legends, that makes this love triangle a compelling one to watch.” – Variety
GERMANY: BELOVED SISTERS
Director: Dominik Graf
Cast: Henriette Confurius, Hannah Herzsprung, Florian Stetter
2hr 20 min
German with English subtitles
Berlin International Film Festival 2014 – Competition
German Romanticism at its most expressively romantic. In late 18th-century Germany, beautiful aristocratic sisters Charlotte and Caroline both fall in love with the controversial writer Friedrich Schiller. Defying the conventions of their time, the sisters decide to share their love with the young Schiller.
What begins playfully, almost as a game among the three of them, soon turns serious. This large-canvas, brilliantly acted work of intense emotions and literary eloquence is a cinematic tour de force by director Dominik Graf.
“An enthralling, gorgeously mounted depiction of the complicated relationship between the post-Enlightenment writer and philosopher Friedrich Schiller and the sisters Charlotte von Lengefeld (who would become his wife) and Caroline von Beulwitz (his eventual biographer).” – Variety
ITALY: HUMAN CAPITAL
Director: Paolo Virzì
Cast: Valeria Golina, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
1hr 50 min
Italian with English subtitles
Tribeca Film Festival 2014 – Competition
Valeria Golina and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, two of Italy’s leading actresses, star in a film that twists love, class, and ambition into a singular true-life story.
Lake Como, Italy. A cyclist is hit off the road by a jeep the night before Christmas Eve. What happened that night? How will this accident change the destiny of the rich Bernaschi family and the Rovelli family on the edge of bankruptcy?
Through a sophisticated narration divided into four chapters, director Paolo Virzì explores human ambitions, generational conflicts and splendour and misery of the upper class.
“Stephen Amidon’s prescient 2004 novel Human Capital has been transplanted from its original Connecticut setting to the blandly prosperous environs of Milan, and the result is a very watchable multiple-point-of-view drama.” – The Guardian
THE NETHERLANDS: FRAILER
Director: Mijke de Jong
Cast: Leonoor Pauw, Adelheid Roosen, Lieneke Le Roux, Marnie Blok
Dutch with English subtitles
Toronto International Film Festival 2014
When her lung cancer is stated as terminal, Muis (Leonoor Pauw) gathers her dearest friends Ted, Carlos and Lian. Together the women come up with strategies to make the best of the time Muis has left: they garden and dance, share food, drinks and prescription marijuana.
But the differences between their four personalities surface when they try to prepare for the irrevocable loss.
With great humour and sincerity, female director Mijke de Jong draws an intimate portrait and captures the way we face death in a very unique way, making Frailer an unforgettable film.
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Cast: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska
Polish with English subtitles
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2015
Poland 1962. Anna is a beautiful eighteen-year-old woman preparing to become a nun at the convent where she has lived since orphaned as a child. She learns she has a living relative she must visit before taking her vows, her mother’s sister Wanda. Together, the two women embark on a voyage of discovery of each other and their past.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s film is the first Polish feature to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, coming after a myriad of other prizes and unanimously positive reviews all around the world.
Reviews- “There is an implicit argument here between faith and materialism, one that is resolved with wit, conviction and generosity of spirit. Mr. Pawlikowski has made one of the finest European films (and one of most insightful films about Europe, past and present) in recent memory.” – The New York Times
PORTUGAL: BLOOD OF MY BLOOD
Director: João Canijo
Cast: Rita Blanco, Anabela Moreira
Portuguese with English subtitles
San Sebastian Festival 2011 – Competition
Blood of my Blood is about unconditional love – the love of a mother for her daughter and of an aunt for her nephew – and about the lengths those women are prepared to go to in order to protect the ones they love.
Márcia, a single mother with two grown-up children, shares her home in a social housing estate with her sister Ivete. One day, her daughter tells her that she has fallen in love with a married man. When Márcia finds out who he is, she realises that the relationship poses a terrible threat to her family.
Review: “[Blood of My Blood] is a sprawling, all-consuming portrait of one week in the life a matriarchal run familial unit in the slums outside Lisbon, and may indeed be [João Canijo’s] masterpiece.” – IonCinema
Director: Pablo Berger
Cast: Maribel Verdú, Daniel Giménez Cacho
Run Time: 1hr 44min
Toronto International Film Festival 2012
In this masterpiece by Spanish director Pablo Berger, Snow White is recast as a talented bullfighter in a wonderfully eerie and erotic silent film treat.
Once upon a time there was a little girl who had never known her mother. She learned the art of her father, a famous bullfighter, but was hated by her evil stepmother. One day she ran away with a troupe of dwarves, and became a legend.
Blancanieves is a riveting and transgressive version of the Grimm classic fairy tale set in pre-war Spain.
Review: “The new film from Spanish writer-director Pablo Berger is a silent, black-and-white film so witty, riveting, and drop-dead gorgeous that moviegoers may forget to notice that they can’t hear the dialogue.” – Village Voice
UNITED KINGDOM: MY BROTHER THE DEVIL
Director: Sally El Hosaini
Cast: Saïd Taghmaoui, James Floyd
Berlin International Film Festival 2012 – Panorama section
My Brother the Devil is a masterful debut from director Sally El Hosaini, one of the brightest new talents of UK cinema. Mo is a young boy growing up in a traditional and modest British-Arab household in London. The impressionable Mo idolizes his handsome older brother Rashid and wants to follow his footsteps. However, Rashid, a charismatic and shrewd member of a local gang, wants a different life for his little brother and deals drugs hoping to put Mo through college. One eventful summer, the discovery of Rashid’s homosexuality forces Mo to confront his own fears and phobias, and threatens to tear the brothers apart.
“A crackling debut…Slick, muscular, entertaining and emotionally satisfying.” – The Hollywood Reporter
“A compelling gangland saga…crisp, cool and consistently street-smart.” – Empire