Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ones that got away

Here are some films I’ve seen over the last few months that were overshadowed by my major reviews:

My favorite film at the recent Windsor Jewish Film Festival (which also screened at its Detroit counterpart), was The Women’s Balcony (Emil Ben-Shimon, 2016).  Nothing especially deep here but it’s a straightforward narrative that has the redeeming value of being humorous tinged with a bit of drama, with a great ensemble cast, and speaks to contemporary issues – a sect of Hasidic Judaism’s treatment of women……My second favorite at the fest was Sabena Hijacking: My Version (Rani Sa'ar, Israel, 2015), a documentary of a little known 1972 airplane hijacking which set the stage for how Israel fights terrorism. It’s amazing how many later high profile Israelis - including prime ministers Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu (the latter grazed by a bullet) - were intimately involved in the rescue operation of passengers on a hijacked Sabena jet, in a film that mixes archive film, personal interviews, and well done re-creations……

At the Detroit Film Theatre, last month, I caught Terence Davies’ 2016’s studied flick (aren’t all his flicks studied?), of US 19th century poet Emily Dickinson. Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon embodies the poet well, so much so you wouldn’t know she was the red-headed S & TC acerbic lawyer. But the pic was a little too monotonous for me, the most interesting aspect being Dickinson’s bon mots and even more so the devastating put downs of bosom buddy Vryling Wilder Buffum (Catherine Bailey)

Way back in February, at the Landmark Main Art, I caught the celebrated Raoul Peck doc (it won this year’s Oscar), I Am Not Your Negro, about the American 1960s iconic writer James Baldwin. It’s an investigation, through Baldwin’s thoughts narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, of the place of the African-American in US history, from racist caricature to episodic moments of the Civil Rights era. This film is sprawling but deftly made, and an absorbing multitude of montages. And lacing it together is Baldwin’s thoughts (and some vintage clips of him speaking) - such as: “The future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country.”

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