Monday, March 6, 2017

Four more from Gasparilla

The Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa continues. The ambitious, professionally-run and well-funded festival, has been disappointing only in that its screenings haven’t attracted large audiences. Here are some more capsule reviews as the festival continues until Thursday.

The Sense of an Ending (Ritesh Batra): The film, starring Jim Broadbent, Emily Mortimore and Charlotte Rampling, is based on the book by contemporary Brit author Julian Barnes, and takes an episode from it to tell the story of a youthful romantic dalliance and the far-reaching consequences, understood only later in life. All the acting is good, with Broadbent as a curmudgeon a bit of a hoot in a bittersweet story than spans the generations.

Breakable You (Andrew Wagner): This is the best film I’ve seen so far, a character study with a star-studded cast including Holly Hunter, Tony Shalhoub and Alfred Molina. It’s also about theatre people and Manhattan’s Upper West Side intellectual milieu. The film rotates among several sub-stories concerning different individuals or couples, all related by family or profession. It made me think of the long-ago TV series Family with its mining of rich psychological themes and characters’ moral dilemmas. An entirely absorbing movie.

Past Life (Avi Nesher): This film, which takes place in Israel and Europe circa 1977, pits the father of two young women against his accuser for a death that took place during the Second World War. The father (Doron Tavory), a Holocaust survivor, reveals to his daughters his implication in an almost whodunit tragedy. While that is the overriding story almost as interesting is the dynamics between the two daughters -  Sephi (Joy Rieger), a music student, and Nana (Nelly Tagar), an acerbic journalist. World War II is much distant now, but in 1977 the wounds were still somewhat raw. Good performances all around although the story can seem convoluted; you have to pay attention.

Veras Mantel (Ronald Unterberger): From Germany, a horror film about a famous writer who suffers from agoraphobia. Shut-in, she freezes upon moving beyond the edge of her doorway. The film’s premise is good, as the plot is about her being unable to escape a deranged fan. But it sinks because the clich├ęs are pretty horrible, including a police investigator who wears an oversized Columbo trench coat, and a bronze-faced tormenter. Nevertheless, there still are a few chills and the main character, Veras, is convincing as the terror-stricken victim.

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