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ALEX FARBA


 

Alex Farba Deleon is a filmfestivals.com ambassador

MY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEWS


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BEST and WORST of 2016 by Alex Deleon


BEST and WORST of 2016 by Alex Deleon for <filmfestivals.com>

 

"Jackie" with Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy should get the best actress Oscar of 2017.

 

2016 was a banner year for outstanding films from around the world -- but let me point out that this is not a list of films that first appeared in this calendar year, but rather of films that I saw for the first time this year -- even if they were from previous years.  Such as festival revivals of restored films, now becoming more and more available as the art of restoration comes into its own.  Moreover, this was a year that offered an unusually rich selection of documentaries, so many that have set them aside in a category of their own.


 

BEST TEN FEATURES

1. JACKIE by Pablo Larraín: Tour de Force by Natalie Portman inhabiting the skin of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the days immediately following the assassination of the president of Camelot, JFK. Should earn her a best actress Oscar hands down..


 

2. LANTOURI, by Reza Dormishian 
lantouri-868794703-large.jpg

Iranian film on last day at Berlin.  Bitter revenge in court, but many other hot themes including femme Lib with acid in your face!   Lantouri is the name of a gang of thieves and blackmailers in Tehran. Pasha, a member of the gang, falls in love with Maryam, a social activist who has started a campaign, 'No to Violence' asking the families of crime victims, to forgive the murderers of their loved ones. Maryam rejects Pasha's love and Pasha splashes acid on Maryam's face maiming and blinding her.  In court Maryam asks for 'Qesas' (revenge) or 'eye for eye' punishment according to Islamic Law -- but will we actually see it on screen...?

Super intense drama loaded with innovative sly stylistic touches, notably in the transitions between scenes.  Stunning and far better than Asghad's " Foroushnde,   the other big Iranian film of the year.  If this film is any indication it looks like director Reza Dormishian, 36, is the next big thing in Iranian cinema. 


 

3. MILES AHEAD --A Bravo Day in the turbulent Life of American jazz genius Miles Davis, by Don Cheadle. Heavy Oscar contender for Cheadle as actor. He also wrote, directed, produced and did just about everything else. Film premier at Berlin was greeted with nearly endless standing ovation by appreciative German crowd..

Résultat d’images pour miles ahead

4. ELLE  at Cannes -- Verhoeven + Huppert --Socko! Huppert has no peer as an actress  And neither does Verhoeven in the realm of kinkiness. Awesome. Basic instinct resurfaces at Cannes. Both artists at the top of their game.

Résultat d’images pour elle film
 

5.  TRAMONTANE, (Rabih) New Lebanese film, At directors fortnight screening in Cannes it got a 30 minute standing ovation.

220px-Tramontane_2016.jpg
Original Arabic title is RABIH,  the name of the central protagonist,played by a non- professional actor, Barakat Jabbour, who is really blind.  Rabih, a young blind man, lives in a small village in Lebanon. He sings in a choir and edits Braille documents for an income. His life unravels when he tries to apply for a passport and discovers that his identification card, which he has carried his entire life, is a forgery.

Director  Vatche Boulghourjian knows how  to tell a story with the sparest of means and is clearly a new Middle Eastern talent to keep an eye on. He is, incidentally, of Armenian background. The original Lebanese music we hear and see played all through the film is exceptional and a refreshing change from the usual descriptive music heard in most western films.


6. Memories of Underdevelopment, 1968, restored Cuban semi documentary made by Cuba's best known director, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1928–1996). Tells the story of a politically uninvolved upper class Cuban intellectual who elects to stay behind after his entire family emmigrates to the USA following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and gets involved in a messy affair wjth a teen age floozie.

Although made half a century ago it is more relevant than ever today with the recent passing of El Comandante, Fidel Castro at the age of ninety and the changes now on the hirizon in US Cuba relations.


 

7.  TRUMBO -- 2015 -- Caught this on the plane from Yerevan via moscow.  Tremendous indictment of the dark days of Hollywood witch hunt blacklisting, with Oscar worthy central role by actor Bryan Cranston I watched it three times on this long flight and it got better each time.  High point is when Otto Preminger dares to officially reveal the name of the banned writer who has had to continue working under a variety of aliases.


 

8.   THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS, Israel, 2013, 

viewed at the Budapest Israeli film week -- LSD on celluloid! One-of-a-kind half Animation logic defying extravaganza. Stars Robin Wright as an aging actress who accepts one last job which brings on extremely unexpected consequences. Director Ari Folman. Question: what will this guy come uo with next? Based on a fantastic novel  entitled  "The Futurolgical Hotel"  by Polish fantasy master Stanisław Lem. (He also wrote Solaris) The extended animation is dazzling, beautiful, and Mind-boggling'

   
 

9. "Peace After Marriage", or Only in New York. 

Palestinian Comedian, actor, director Ghazi Abuliwi is the new Arab Woody Allen...

A sexually frustrated new york Palestinian signs up for a paper marriage with a cute Israeli girl setting off a small family intafada! Ghazi Directs and performs  in a spnarkling comic leading role that calls into question the set-in-cement mind sets on both sides of the Israeli Palestinian fence.

  

10. "Die Russen Kommen" (The Russians are coming). An East German gem from 1971 about the last days of WW II when all Germans know that the war is lost but some die-hard fanatics  want to press local teenagers into service to mount a hopeless last stand. against  the approaching Red Army.  Obviously set at a certain point in time but timeless because of the treatment  of a kind of recurring universal human dilemma. Director Heiner.Carow (1929 -1997) was one of the leading lights of East German cinema under a Communist regime.

Outstanding Documentaries:

"Peter Von Bagh". 2016. 68 minutes.

Penetrating study of the life and work of the Finnish film historian and cinema polymath Peter von Bagh. Von Bagh  was the driving force behind the Festival of the Midnight Sun on the arctic circle in Lappland. He died in September, 2014.

This is a biopic of ideas so stocked with cinematic and life insights that it is worth watching multiple times. Director, Tapio Piiranen. Contains testimonials by many colleagues who knew him and a particularly amusing interaction with maverick Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki toward the end.


 

'Hitchcock/Truffaut" (2015)

Truffaut interviews Hitchcock --2016. Terrific documentsry on The young Truffaut interviewing his role model Alfred Hitchcock for the book which was to become the definitive study of Hitchcock's films and work. A fascinating aspect of this documentary are the many direct testimonials by famous filmmakers who either knew Hitchcock personally or were influenced by him; Olivier Assayas, Peter Bogdanovitch, Scorcese, Paul Schrader, Wes Anderson, et al. And then, of course, the direct interplay between Hitchcock and Truffaut. A film about the making of a book that is itself one for the books.


 

"Listen to me Marlon"  2015. Director Steven Riley. 

Outtakes from a life lived in the  limelight.
Documentary that utilizes hundreds of hours of audio recordings that Marlon Brando himself made over the course of his life to tell his own story from his own  perspective.
There has been so much written about Brando that one would think there isn't anything left to say. Thus biodoc addresses portions and aspects of the Brando phenomenon that are little known, especially about his early home life and aspirations. Gem of a documentary, even for those who, like myself, have had enough of Brando.


ALSO: Ken San, Japanese documentary on iconic Japanese actor Takakura Kem, king of the Yakuza films, but also a great actor in serious films as well. One of my lersonally favorite Japanese actors. 

 

WORST LIST: Turkeys of the year.

or biggest disappointments --

Biggest Turkey of the Year: 

Forushande, (the Client, or Salesman) by Asghar Farhadi,  Iran, premiere at Cannes. 

The story of a couple whose relationship begins to turn sour during their performance of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

Top Iranian director, top Iranian stars, top flop.  Mysteriously awarded best scenario at Cannes for a script that sucked a mile a minute. This Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has been adopted by the west as the Persian fair haired boy who can do no wrong. With this pretentious mess based somewhat obliquely around Arthur Miller's  he certainly proves us wrong.

 

The Road Back (restoration, at Berlin) --1937, Director James whale, ( of  the original Frankenstein, 1931). 

Andy Devine as a Kraut soldier with a cowboy drawl is laughable Altogether a limp sequel to "All Quiet on the Western Front. A Great disappointment because I was hoping for so much mire.

 

"Personal  Shopper" (French- Swedish)   2016. By Olivier Assayas. Stars Kristen Stewart. Dumb topic of gal who does all the shopping for a super busy star fashion  model. Set in the fashion world, badly made. Not even worth missing. Not even worth thinking about.

 

"The Fabulous Baker Boys" 1989 . Part of restored classic revivals at Berlin. Doesn't live up to its fabulosity because of tital absence of chemistry between stars Jeff Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer.                  
Of Hollywood historical interest only. Otherwise a star misfire.


 

And, let's not forget the abominable latest piece of snow covered trash from Tarantino, "The Hateful Eight" which opened the year back in January with a sickening thud. Absolute all star junk lovingly lensed by the master of shlock at his most pretentious.

Samuel L. Jackson as an abominable ebonic gunslinger is almost comical. Or forsooth that was Quentin's subliminal intention?

Résultat d’images pour Samuel L. Jackson hateful eight
Samuel L. Jackson as ebonic gunslinger in Quarantino's abominable "Hateful Eight"


   
 

 


 


 

 


 


 


 


 


 


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