Here’s a run down of films I saw in May that were new to me.
Fellini’s Satyricon (1970) Federico Fellini’s Roman Odyssey, based on the book “Satyricon” which I’ve never read or heard of but it was mostly used as inspiration of a story which deals with a young student and his many bizarre adventures in ancient Rome. Nothing feels real in the film, but I suppose that’s the point, it’s a series of vignettes strung together by the inclusion of the main protagonist. Some deal with love, life, and sex, something that in prevalent in most of Fellini’s films before and after this. Visually, the film is impressive, and some parts are more poignant than others. I’m not sure if there is much of a meaning to all of it, but it is the world of Fellini, who was one of the great visionaries. I will probably rewatch this film at some point, but at the moment, I’ll still take “8 and a half”, or “The Nights of Cabiria” as my Fellini of choice. (3 stars out of 4)
Captain America: Civil War (2016): You have to hand it to Marvel for being this deep in its series of movies and still churning out well done popcorn entertainment. “Civil War” is the most Soap Opera-y in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Steve Rogers and Tony Stark at odds when it comes to government intervention towards the Avengers. This causes much inner turmoil within the group. The film itself feels like a really well produced television episode, but perhaps that is part with Marvel insisting that everyone of their movies looks the same. But like a good television show, we tune in to see these very engaging and likable characters that we care about interact with eachother, that’s the real strength of these films. (3 stars out of 4)
Like Someone in Love (2012) Directed by famed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami who directed one of my absolute favorite films of the past decade “Certified Copy”, this film takes place in Japan, and it concerns a young college student who moonlights as a prostitute, and the connection she has with a lonely old widower. The film is like a snapshot of these two people’s time together within a period of one night and the day after. Not much is revealed between the two as you might expect in a story such as this, instead the story moves leisurely from one scenario to the next almost in real time. When it reaches to its unexpected non-climax, it feels like a release of something that was bottled up throughout the whole movie, you weren’t sure what to expect, but it’s quietly devastating. A very unique film by a unique filmmaker with a very contemplative style. (3.5 stars out of 4)
The Nice Guys (2016) A highly entertaining noirish film featuring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe showing off nice comedic chemistry as a couple of Private Eyes searching for a missing girl. Written and directed by Shane Black, this film hits a lot of right notes most of the time, and it was nice just seeing a real mystery with some real stakes, where people die in it. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and Gosling and Crowe are having a ball. The finale felt rushed with too many things happening, and had me wondering what was going on, but convoluted plots are a part of the business, still this is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year. (3.5 stars out of 4)
Barbara (2012) This German film is from the same director and stars from last year’s “Phoenix” which was my second favorite film of 2015. Nina Hoss is a doctor in communist Germany, finding a way to escape. Ronald Zehrfeld plays a kindly colleague working in the same hospital who falls in love with her but is also meant to keep tabs on her. The film is a quiet little drama that doesn’t lose its sense of political outrage, but also its humanity. Just like “Phoenix” did, “Barbara” ends perfectly. Nina Hoss is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses, her character in this film is fierce and determined, but also someone who later becomes conflicted. “Barbara” wasn’t seen by very many people but those who did praised it. I think it’s a wonderful hidden gem, I’m glad I found it. (4 stars out of 4)