OPEN HEARTS (2002)

Directed By: Susanne Bier
Written By: Anders Thomas Jensen
Cinematography By: Morten Soborg
Editor: Pernille Bech Christensen & Thomas Krag

Cast: Sonja Richter, Mads Mikkelsen, Nicholaj Lie Kaas, Paprika Steen 

When you watch a Susanne Bier film you know you will be put on an emotional path that is in your face the whole time. the film and characters are raw which is emphasized by the grainy film she uses and the fact that most of the scenes are done in full close-up on the character’s faces. it helps that she tends to cast beautiful actors too.

I have seen her Films before this one BROTHERS was my first followed by her English language debut THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE. so I knew what to expect watching this film and i was still blown away. Now describing the plot of most of her films they sound like corny melodramas and the plots are, but they are also real. they are so full of emotion and address the things that are not seen in the film’s American counterparts.

The characters here feel full and real and are not afraid to show their unlikeable sides and decisions whereas other films would try to make every character lovable and likable. The thing that amazes me about her films is that on paper they are not the films I would normally watch or enjoy, but through her talented filmmaking and gut-punching scripts she makes them rewarding and essential viewing.

Sonja Richter is so beautiful a virtual screen goddess, Yet, she downplays her beauty for actually fully realizing an emotionally needy young woman. Who is engaged to be married when her boyfriend gets into an accident and ends up paralyzed in the hospital.

The female driver of the other car is so stunned she sends her husband. A doctor to talk to the young woman. Soon they become friends and he becomes her go-to friend especially when her boyfriend refuses to see her. Soon they are becoming more than friends and fall deep in love though they both feel guilty about the situation they go full speed ahead. It is here where the film becomes interesting as it explores all sides of this triangle. It even shows the effects it has on his children.

The film has no heroes, no villains just real people who make mistakes, change their minds, and don’t know what the right decisions are. The film is a multi-layered love story. that is sweet one minute and dark the next with little to no sentimentality. It’s such a gritty love story that scrapes the heart at times. It becomes hard to watch, but you must see ith through to see what happens. How will it end?

Mads Mikkelsen plays the husband he truly shows range as i have usually seen him only as a one-eyed Viking in and a villain in CASINO ROYALE. So him playing a compassionate family man who falls out of love with his wife for an unstable young woman and how it pains him to do it, is so moving.

The film is a DOGME 95 Film which is a decree that is summarized below. As with most DOGME films this one cheats on the rules a bit. but generally stays on with its doctrine. IT’s definitely worth watching and stay true to its artistic spirit.

The goal of the Dogme collective is to purify filmmaking by refusing expensive and spectacular special effects, post-production modifications, and other technical gimmicks.

The filmmakers concentrate on the story and the actors’ performances. They believe this approach may better engage the audience, as they are not alienated or distracted by overproduction. To this end, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg produced ten rules to which any Dogme film must conform. These rules, referred to as the “Vow of Chastity,” are as follows:[1]

1. Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found.

2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic.

3. The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.

4. The film must be in color. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).

5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.

6 .The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)

7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now).

8. Genre movies are not acceptable.

9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.

10. The director must not be credited. (Thanks to Wikipedia) a definite addition to the Film Library

GRADE: A

#ALIVE (2020)

Directed By: Il Cho

Written By: Il Cho & Matt Naylor Cinematography: Won-Ho Son Editor: Min-Kyeong Shin

Cast: Yoo Ah-In, Park Shin-Hye, Jeon Bae-Soo, Hyun-Wook Lee 

The rapid spread of an unknown infection has left an entire city in ungovernable chaos, but one survivor remains alive in isolation. It is his story.


The range of what movies can trigger me or do trigger me unfortunately is growing. Even films that might not have bothered me before. This pandemic has changed me and others quite a few others.

Though truthfully before movies like THE ROCKER and SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE would as they hit a little too  close to home. Just as UNITED 93 did after 9/11. 

These days it makes it harder to enjoy my preferred genre of horror at times. As usually we watch movies as a means to escape or experience magnified consequences and outcomes from simple decisions.

So that when it comes to this movie or zombie films in particular recently (As well as post apocalyptic) one has to tread carefully. Especially as when the pandemic first hit everyone wanted to watch and/or rewatch these films. Now, all it does is more serve as a reminder for some and more and more people who want to see something to escape. 

Each zombie film might feel the same or offer the same experience or theme, but they also usually involve some aspects or ideas not previously seen to explore. Even if by not zombie films feel all too familiar. Liek vampires before them they feel like too much of a known commodity. Maybe werewolves are in the come up for examination or popularity. As there are few and even fewer good ones when it comes to them.

Thankfully this film is better and more than What the audience might be expecting. If this doesn’t bring back the popularity of a scythe as a weapon. One doesn’t know what will.

This film luckily isn’t heavily dependent on CGI. As it feels more organic with practical special effects.

For a while, the movie seems liek it will be a one man show. Struggling to survive alone and figure things out for himself. Then all of sudden he learns he is not alone and struggles to communicate with someone else.

The film ends up offering more than expected. While it proves that one can still breathe life into the zombie outbreak arena or an episode of THE WALKING DEAD International. 

As this film is a survival tale and a message of hope 

Grade: B

WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! (2018)

Written, Directed & Edited By: Kirill Sokolov
Cinematography: Dimitry Ulyikaev

Cast: Aleksandr Kiznetsov, Vitaliy Khaev, Evgenia Kregzhde, Milhail Gorevoy, Elena Scevchenko

Andrei, a detective and the world’s most horrible father, brings together a terrible group of people in his apartment: his resentful actress daughter, an angry thug, and a cheated cop. Each one of them has a reason to want revenge..


This is a twisted macabre funny grotesque crime comedy. That stays thoroughly inventive throughout.

The story grows as the film goes along as at first it just starts off with a grand scene where we don’t necessarily know the character’s motivation but as in each scene something new is revealed we flashback to find out how it was needed up there or why certain characters are introduced.

At a certain point motivations are predictable but that still doesn’t Take away any of the intrigue and fun.

Though not as good this film will remind audiences of EVIL DEAD 2 and to a degree SUPERMAN RETURNS for the amount of cruelty and abuse one of the characters throughout the film yet still Manages to survive and also the level of violence of the earlier mentioned film. You could also see this as a feature length version of one of the rooms from the anthology FOUR ROOMS. As it is goofy Strange, violent and funny. As well  as off kilter 

As there is tons of blood she’s throughout this film but though it is a dark comedy it always seems to keep an energetic spirit throughout. Where you actually start to care about the characters no matter how dastardly. 

As wild as this film is it plays almost like a love action cartoon. The filM feels like an early coen brothers comedy. Down More as a horror film And the writing not as sharp, but even more violent.

The film goes by quickly. Though it certainly isn’t forgettable. Even as most of the film takes place mostly inside of a spacious apartment. It only travels outside of it in flashbacks.

GRADE: B

I AM LOVE (2009)

Directed By: Luca Guadagnino

Written By: Luca Guadagnino, Barbara Alberti, Ivan Cotroneo & Walter Fasano 

Cinematography By: Yorick Le Seux 

Editor: Walter Fasano 

Cast: Tilda Swinton

The polished rooms of a Milanese villa ignite with anxious activity as the wealthy industrial family, the Recchis, prepare to celebrate the birthday of their patriarch. It is an occasion designed to ensconce family traditions—the handsome grandson, Edoardo, introduces his new girlfriend; his sister presents another piece of her artwork to her grandfather; and the grandfather, knowing this is his last birthday, names the successor to his empire. As the refined familial machinations unfold, the woman of the house, Emma Recchi , skates along the tight seams of the family, exuding elegance and uncertain turbulence. Change is like a fog at sea that quickly consumes the land.


The film is beautiful to look at atmospheric and naturalistic but it also tries to be grand like an opera almost. Since there is limited dialogue and a constant score throughout the film. It makes the film seem more experimental than it needs to be.

It’s an ensemble piece but feels more like a showcase for Tilda Swinton. The film plays like a romance novel dipped in sorrow. Yet not as exciting as it sounds. Though when it comes to scenes of actual love and passion the film is on point, but the other scenes that are more or less showing the longing of the characters in the film, It becomes more remote and boring. If that was the intention.

It’s an interesting choice but as an audience member, it feels indulgent and doesn’t make the film move any faster. The only thing of note here is the cinematography, It is rich and luscious as is the art direction and scenery.

The film will be way too melodramatic like an international soap opera played to grand artistic proportions. The ending which seeks to be poignant that comes off more as laughable. There were very few parts of the film that held my interest.

Beauty without depth just makes it all the more vapid.

I will admit to being bored quite a bit. I’m sure others will love this film but it really wasn’t for me

GRADE: D

THE BAND’S VISIT (2007)

Written & Directed by: Eran Kolirin Cinematography: Shai Goldman

Editor: Arik Leibovitch

Cast: Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabatz, Saleh Bakri, Khalifa Najour, Rubi Moskovitz, Uri Gavriel, Hilla Sarjon 

A band comprised of members of the Egyptian police force head to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts center, only to find themselves lost in the wrong town.


It took me some time to finally watch this movie. Now I am kicking myself for talking so long. As this film is low key magical. That might be best to discover without knowing too much. Even as the title says it all.

The film sneaks up on you the more you spend time with the film and it’s characters. The more depth you realize and feel underneath all the layers That you are charmed. 

Yet the film is filled with a quiet dignity and sadness. That maintains a distance yet leaves itself at times to be vulnerable.

One of the characters realizes who they want to be but also realizes that he is set in his sadness and no matter how he tries he will never be brought out of it. So he focuses on career as that is all he has to the point of obsession and when he is partly separated. He can see what he is missing and is overcome by the kindness shown when he has not been. 

The woman who tries to help them on his travels and takes an interest in him particularly is the first person he has opened up to. As she seems bored in her day to day and him or at least breaking him might be the first amount of excitement she has had In a while. Even as she is more outgoing and extroverted.

The leader of the band refuses her advances and tries to set up a younger Many to carry out the passion he can’t for her physically.

This film hits you like an alcoholic drink that is caffeinated. Throws you off balance but you can’t help but pay attention.

The film takes it’s time as each of the members of the band goes on a visit and has their own little adventure. That would seem more like footnotes In most film, But all add up to a grand experience 

The film stays quirky yet always seems dipped in sadness. As most characters seem longing for something and that leading to them being stilted emotionally.

Used to a certain Comfort yet longing for more even if just a simple gesture. 

Like the music itself, the film has it’s own rhythm and it’s own beats that makes the film not only visually lyrical. It’s a masterpiece of it’s own. Especially as what seems to be said and done with so little. 

Grade: A

OFFSIDE (2006)

Directed & Edited By: Jafar Panahi
Written By: Jafar Panahi & Shadmehr Restin
Cinematography By: Yuval Berazani & Korosh Bozorgpour

Cast: Sima Mobarak-Shahi, Shayesteh Ireni, Ayda Sadeqi, Golanz Parmani, Mahnaz Zabini

 “Offside” is about a group of Iranian girls who attempts to enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium dressed as boys in order to watch a big football match but some get caught and arrested. After the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, women are not allowed to enter the stadiums. 

The women here are not very convincing dressed up as men, Some could pass. Here we follow a first-timer tries and is caught and detained with other women. We get to see their passion for the sport. The camaraderie that develops between them. The hypocrisy involved in this law prohibiting women. Which even some of the men attending the game see as stupid or don’t really care.

It’s rare the movie that can involve social commentary and still be a light-hearted comedy, But this movie succeeds and scores.

This film involves characters you grow to love and are astonished at their rebellious nature. For what can be a trivial pastime but they are willing to lay it all on the line for football or what we in America would call soccer. The beauty of this film is that even though it’s a dramedy. It feels more like a documentary due to the realness. The camera work and the fact that it was filmed during an actual world cup qualifying match.

There is nothing outrageous it is more the comedy that comes from real-life situations. I like the fact that the film doesn’t make anyone out to be evil or a villain. Even the guards who are there to reinforce the rules are three-dimensional characters. Not one-dimensional zealots, that you see a lot of times in a lot of other movies.

This is definitely a must-see. It’s not propaganda or a political film drowned in messages and symbolism. In fact if not for the politics involved this could be a nice breezy comedy. I mean it is rated PG after all.

An Addition to the home library.

GRADE: A

DHEEPAN (2015)

Directed By: Jacques Audiard 
Written By: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain & Noe Debre 
Cinematography By: Eponine Momenceau 
Editor: Juliette Welfling 

Cast: Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby, Vincent Rottiers
Marc Zinga Dheepan is a Tamil freedom fighter, a Tiger. In Sri Lanka, the Civil War is reaching its end, and defeat is near. Dheepan decides to flee, taking with him two strangers – a woman and a little girl – hoping that they will make it easier for him to claim asylum in Europe. Arriving in Paris, the ‘family’ moves from one temporary home to another until Dheepan finds work as the caretaker of a run-down housing block in the suburbs. He works to build a new life and a real home for his ‘wife’ and his ‘daughter’, but the daily violence he confronts quickly reopens his war wounds, and Dheepan is forced to reconnect with his warrior’s instincts to protect the people he hopes will become his true family. 


The first French film shot nearly entirely in the Tamil language. In fact The first film in Tamil language and with Tamil lead actors to win the Palme d’Or.

The film involves a former soldier is suffering from PTSD. Tries to start over with a new identity and a fake family.

Not as violent or action-packed as once thought and advertised. As mostly there are scenes of action but we see it mainly from his point of view and more towards the end. Even though throughout the film the characters are surrounded by dangerous characters and hear stories of violence in their new home and the one they are coming from.

As the film moves along it becomes a slow-burning vigilante tale with heart. As it seems here thankfully the film considers the characters first and the action is secondary.

Once the action starts what a glorious sequence it is. The film is full of vivid handheld camera work which makes some scenes more dramatic than one would think.

The film focuses on him and his makeshift wife mostly. Their relationship and how it actually blossoms purely out of survival at first then slowly becomes affectionate. While they also raise an orphan girl who is more in the background and used more to help them get sympathy but is the chain that binds them together. As they have escaped war-torn Sri Lanka only to move into and work in a gang filled Parisian housing development (projects)

She slowly gets close to the son of the elderly man she takes care of, the son is a gang leader who is under house arrest. So that she is constantly in the middle of the current war going on in the streets. 

Everything goes good until the third act with the reemergence of an old general who has lost it. He seems to have cursed them as old nightmares come to the forefront in the new form of continuous random violence until DHEEPAN decides to take a stand. As he couldn’t before, forming a peace block.

The film is pretty straight forward which is why it might seem like I am just telling the plot and scenes. Just as with his precious film director Jacques Audiard has us with the characters every step of the way. Right up in their faces.

The film is an immigrant story that doesn’t solely focus on being in a new country and trying to assimilate more dealing with the troubled past of the characters as they try to settle. Starting a new life when virtually everything is new and different. Especially as most of the leading cast had never acted in a film before. So it gives the film unmannered performances that make it feel all the more natural and real.

It’s the anti – BROOKLYN movie (which is a romantic tale of an Irish immigrant in New York on the 1950s)

Not much happens but much is felt though at times the film seems to try to hide it’s hand. Even as one thing really particularly shocking happens in the film.

After his more provocative films. He plays this one pretty straight other than turning the camera in characters and cultures usually not seen on the big screen.

Happy for the ending as it is rare for these types of tales to end positively and with promise. They always seem to be downtrodden, sacrificial, or compromised.

Grade: B+

THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS (2014)

strangecolor

Written & Directed By: Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani
Cinematography By: Manuel Dacosse
Editor: Bernard Beets 

Cast: Klaus Tange, Ursula Bedena, Joe Koener

Following the disappearance of his wife, a man finds himself on a dark and twisted trail of discovery through the labyrinthine halls of his apartment building. Led on a wild goose chase by cryptic messages from his mysterious neighbours, he becomes entangled in a hellish nightmare as he unlocks their strange fantasies of sensuality and bloodshed.

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WHITE GOD (2015)

white-god-2015

Directed By: Kornel Mundruczo
Written By: Kornel Mundruczo, Viktoria Petranyi & Kata Weber
Cinematography By: Marcell Rev
Editor: David Jancso 


Cast: Zsofia Psotta, Sandor Zsoter, Lili Horvath, Szabolcs Thuroczy, Lili Monori

Thirteen-year-old Lili fights to protect her dog Hagen. She is devastated when her father eventually sets Hagen free on the streets. Still innocently believing love can conquer any difficulty, Lili sets out to find her dog and save him.

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DREAM HOME (2010)

dream-home

Directed & Story By: Ho-Cheung Pang
Written By: Ho-Cheung Pang, Kwok Cheung Tsang & Chi-Man Wan
Cinematography By: Nelson Yu Lik-Wai
Editor: Wenders Li

Cast: Josie Ho, Michelle Ye, Norman Chu, Eason Chan, Juno Mak

Cheng Li-sheung is a young, upwardly mobile professional finally ready to invest in her first home. But when the deal falls through, she is forced to keep her dream alive – even if it means keeping her would-be neighbors dead.

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