Scary Stories From Dark Times (Film Thoughts: The Keeper/Trautmann, Past Life)

the_keeperFor me, it is interesting that after all these years, there are still very interesting stories being told about the second world war. And I myself am more into them like before – perhaps old age has done this to me. I recently saw a film from last year, ‘The Keeper,’  which is an Anglo/German co production. It tells the true story of Bert Trautmann, a British POW who became a football hero for Manchester. It is a great story, and the film, co-written and directed by Marcus H Rosenmuller, is a great watch. It shows how Trautmann overcame being a Nazi sympathizer to become a football hero. There are great performances here, anchored by David Kross’s charming portrayal of Traumtann (In some markets, that is the title of the film)  I think I gravitated towards it because of the great love story between him and Margaret, the British woman he married (played by Freya Mavor) I got caught in the story instantly, and I this in the end feels a little more than just a football romance, it gives us a lesson on humanity and love. Much recommended.

past-lifeThere was certainly a lot of thought in Avi Nesher’s ‘Past Life.’  It’s a story of a young woman who finds out secrets from her family history. For me, this is a more interesting picture than an enjoyable one –  there is too much exposition and the payoff was a little limp. Still, this has some vivid characters that you will want to know, and some good performances, especially from Joy Rieger as Sophi. I also thought the production values were well done, as this is a period piece set in 1977. It felt like so.

Israel Too (Film Thoughts: Working Woman)

large_working-woman-poster#Metoo has been going on for as long as men have been in power over women, and it is sometimes astonishing to think there aren’t a lot of these stories in film. From Israel, Michael Aviad’s ‘Working Woman’ tries to fill that void in this timely tale of workplace sexual harassment.

Orna (Liron Ben Shlush) starts working for Benny (Menashe Noy) and he shows her the ropes in real estate marketing. But he also has a different eye on her, and one night he tries to kiss her. She resists and from there we see push and pull of him exerting power over her. This film is akin to a thriller, as he tries to assert power over her, dangling money and opportunity to compensate for his bad behavior. It sometimes feel like a domestic abuse drama, like a husband beating her up, and then minutes later becomes affectionate as he asks for forgiveness. It’s uncomfortable to watch, and Aviad does a good job creating tension and suspense. Shlush’s performance is on the subtle side, and I have to admit that at times I felt like it needed more, but of course, a fully nuanced performance is better than a showy one. She is ultimately effective here, and when we see her comeuppance at the end, we are with her.

Ultimately, this film is very important in showing a story that is probably very familiar to a lot of women, and hopefully it can inspire some to speak out. As entertainment, it is horrifying and disturbing, but there’s a great payoff in the end.

Let Him Eat Cake (Film thoughts: The Cakemaker)

large_Cakemaker_PressPosterHQClosing out Pride month, I am writing about, for me,  the best ‘gay’ film since last year’s ‘Call Me By Your Name.’  Written and Directed by Ofir Raul Graizer, ‘The Cakemaker’ is one of those movies that got to me. After seeing the movie, I wanted to just get home and think about it in silence. It’s the story of a German baker Thomas (Tim Kalkhof, looking like a German Jonathan Groff) who falls in love with an Israeli businessman who travels monthly to Berlin. When the businessman suddenly dies in a car accident, Thomas flies to Jerusalem and gets involved in the life of the man’s widow Anat (Sarah Adler)

This is a great example of how grief ties people together. There is a lot of softness and delicacy on the film, and I was engrossed from the first frame. It speaks to me about how a connection (or disconnection) can make a lasting impact in one’s life, and the different ways we deal with grief. Thomas changes Anat’s life for he better, and while there’s a certain plot point in there that I theoretically did not believe in, thee are fine actors that I swallowed it whole. Kalkhof is fantastic here, muted and passive, yet expressing powerful emotions in a  nod and a glance, and Adler a formative match, vulnerable, determined, sympathetic. It shows us realities in modern day Israel – the dichotomy of being religious and liberal, of tradition and acceptance. By the end, I was sobbing, and I didn’t know why. Of course, I knew it was because of the sheer beauty of the film.

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Can That Boy Fox Trot? (Film Thoughts: Foxtrot)

ftorI have always been fascinated with foreign films. To me, there’s something really comforting about seeing that even though human stories are flavoured with individual cultures, essentially they are all the same – they appeal to our hearts and our souls in the same exact manner. I just wrote about the brilliant Chile’s submission for the Academy,  and now I am writing about ‘Foxtrot,’ which is Israel’s submission.

Foxtrot is about a family who, in the beginning of the film, gets a knock from Isareli military, saying that their son has fallen in the line of duty up north while manning a ‘supply station.’ What that is is unclear to most people, even to the representatives of a military. The first third of the film is spent as we watch everyone mourn for the death of the young soldier. But that’s only the beginning of the film. We find in the second part that the military has made a mistake – a different young man with the same name has perished, and this family’s son is still alive. It was all a misunderstanding, sorry, boo hoo. We get to see the young soldier in action, manning a checkpoint. I will not spoil the last third of the film, as it is the most powerful part. But it has to do with the choices we make, and the guilt that we suffer from when we think we do what is best.

4416871.jpg-r_1280_720-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxWhile I like what the film has to say, I don’t really know if I really liked the film. It has a lot of parts that are quite moving, but I also found it painfully slow. There were times when I found myself checking the time. Could it be because I was not in such a relaxed state? I watched this after a particularly stressful week, plus this annoying woman sat next to me and she spoke with her companion throughout the film, as if she were watching the film in her living room. I think how you feel while watching a movie definitely affects how you view a film. But there’s no mistake the power of what is being said here, though, and perhaps I could do a second viewing of this and I may feel differently.