Arabian nights volume 2: The desolate one

Volume 2 of the Miguel Gomes Arabian nights trilogy is the best and the more conventional of the three films, if you can call those films conventional. It is a modern spin the One thousand and one nights collection of middle east stories. But the stories told by Scheherazade are about Portuguese people living in poverty due to austerity measures imposed on them by the government. In Arabian nights volume 2: The desolate one there are only two segments. The first one is about a judge who become “desolate” when she realize that every witness in her court has become a criminal or the victim of a crime. Every cases keeps getting worse. The star of the second segment is a cute little dog named Dixie. Dixie goes from homes to homes because her masters just don’t have the means to keep a dog. These ambitious films are a hard sell and certainly no for all, but it is about an important topic and they deserve to be seen.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Arabian nights volume 2: The desolate one

Directed by:

Miguel Gomes

Screenplay by:

Telmo Churro

Miguel Gomes

Mariana Ricardo

Inspired by One thousand and one nights

Starring:

Adriano Luz

Americo Silva

Carloto Cotto

Crista Alfaiate

Fernanda Loureiro

Rogerio Samora

131 min.

In Portuguese, English, German and Mandarin with English subtitles

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Labyrinth of lies (Im labyrinth des schweigens)

Although based on the real Frankfurt Auschwitz trials (1963 to 1965), Labyrinth of lies rearranges some of the facts. During that trial 22 defendants were charged under German criminal law for their roles in the Holocaust. The main character is fictitious prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling). The writers created Radmann from three of the real prosecutors who worked on the trial. It all starts in 1958 when journalist Thomas Gnielka (André Szymanski) gets Radmann in touch with Jewish concentration camp survivor Simon Kirsch (Johannes Krisch). Simon Kirsch is convinced he has found one of his persecutors now working as a teacher. Radmann’s boss is District Attorney Fritz Bauer who was the real DA in charge of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials. Bauer is played by late German actor Gert Voss who died in 2014 at 72. Labyrinth of lies is his last film. German authorities are no help and they refuse to reveal their lists of former SS officers. From an American officer Radmann gets a list of 8,000 names. After hundreds of gruelling interviews with camp survivors, Radmann, his secretary (Hansi Jochmann) and Gnielka have to find the whereabouts of the guilty. With no computers, they have to go through pages and pages of phone books from all over Germany. understandably, not everyone are happy as the trial is bound to dig up secrets and skeletons. At some point the lawyer thinks he might be able to get Dr. Josef Mengele, but with no success. Radmann finds that even in his family and some people very close to him there were SS officers. In fact, the whole country is in denial even twenty-years after the end of the war. Labyrinth of lies is director Giulio Ricciarelli’s first film, and it is interesting because it tells a story that has never been told from this particular angle. But I find it is too conventional and its narrative style too cold to be really compelling. I am happy I saw it, but would not see it a second time.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Labyrinth of lies (Im labyrinth des schweigens)

Directed by:

Giulio Ricciarelli

Screenplay by:

Elisabeth Bartel

Giulio Ricciarelli

Amelie Syberberg

Starring:

Alexander Fehling

Gert Voss

André Szymanski

Johannes Krisch

Friederike Becht

124 min.

In German with English subtitles

 

Aloft

The worst thing you can call a film is pretentious. Aloft is the slow-moving story of the estrangement between a mother and her son. Nana (Jennifer Connelly) lives in the cold Canadian country (Aloft was filmed in beautiful Manitoba) with her two sons. The oldest boy, Ivan (Zen McGrath), always bring his pet falcon with him. Twenty years later, Ivan (now played by Cillian Murphy) still has a falcon. He also has a wife and a baby. French journalist Jannia Ressmore wants to interview Nana, who has become a faith healer. Ivan travels with her to find the mother who suddenly abandoned him twenty years ago. We see in flashbacks what events caused this departure. Problem is we don’t get the reason why the characters behave the way they do. As a child, Ivan is a spoiled, annoying brat. And he not much better as an adult. The whole thing is confusing, depressing, boring and frustrating. This is the kind of films some people will call “deep”. “Hollow” is what I call it.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Aloft

Directed by:
Claudia Llosa
Screenplay by:
Claudia Llosa
Starring:
Jennifer Connelly
Cillian Murphy
Mélanie Laurent
Oona Chaplin
Zen McGrath
114 min.
Rated 18A

La petite reine‏

Julie Arsenault, a star of cycling is two races away from the world cup. She loves her sport, the spotlight and all the hoopla that goes with it. Encouraged by her coach and doctor, she takes performance enhancers from age 14. Since she is a high-profile athlete, the  anti-doping agency keeps an eye on her. After a close call test in Phoenix Arizona where Julie trains, the agency zeroes in on her doctor who, in order to save his hide denounces her. A scandal ensues. A deeply troubled and upset Julie tries to mask the truth along with her unscrupulous coach. This film is based on the life of ex-cyclist Geneviève Jeanson who was implicated in a scandal involving EPO, a performance enhancer, illegal in cycling competitions. Jeanson collaborated as a consultant on the film. Laurence Leboeuf offers a strong performance as Julie, a.k.a. Geneviève who thrives and has to live with a lie in order to keep her place in the sun and the spotlights on her. Patrice Robitaille steals the show as the unscrupulous, manipulative coach who will stop at nothing to brainwash and control Julie just for the sake of winning. The film is an interesting reflection on how far athletes are willing to go to be the best. You can’t watch this film without thinking of Lance Armstrong or Ben Johnson. All athletes who wanted to be the best, who cheated  and who, in the end disgraced themselves. The higher they want to climb, the harder they will fall. A must see movie this summer for sports fans, although it might leave a  sour taste in their mouth. 
 
 
 André St-Jacques
 
 
La petite reine‏
 
 
Directed by: 
Alexis Durand-Brault
 
Screenplay by: 
Sophie Lorain
Catherine Léger
 
Starring:
Laurence Leboeuf 
Patrice Robitaille
Denis Bouchard
Josée Deschênes
Jeff Boudreault
Mélanie Pilon
 
108 Min.
 
In French