Blu-ray Review: Cub

If you’ve followed this blog closely you may have noticed that many films from the Benelux region have been featured here. There is a good reason for this, many of these films have been finding distribution, and a large number are of extremely high quality. Cub is no exception.

The film tells the tale of a Belgian scout troop heads out on a camping trip and slowly discover a campfire tale their counselors are telling them has a lot of truth to it.

It’s a simple, stripped down narrative that lacks obsession with backstory and remains strongly situation-based. It opens up cans of worms and allows you to think on certain implications and meanings without force-feeding you information. Things get going right away and never really stop moving until the final fade to black.

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

Cub simultaneously moves briskly with a tight edit and sparse running time without hitting the gas too soon on the most horrific elements. There is a steady crescendo that really gets heightened consistently from the midpoint through the harrowing conclusion.

The film effectively deals with the problem of disbelief throughout. In linking the nearly mandatory disbelief element in any horror film with its protagonist, Sam (Maurice Luijten), and having him be not only ostracized but suspected; it really does well to increase identification and build character.

Eeriness pervades the proceedings throughout and is heightened by the score by Steve Moore, which is brilliantly catchy and an excellent throwback; the camp song, which plays brilliantly and ominously, and there is the occasional homage to Argento which is greatly appreciated.

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

The cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis is effectively moody and at times seamlessly artful. Some of the imagery in this film like Kai’s (the purported werewolf of the woods) silhouette and a few of the kills could prove iconic over time.

Also assisting in the creation of imagery is the art direction. With a tale set in the woods you may think there isn’t a chance for the art direction to shine, but there are some environs in the film that needed to not only be created but communicate tonally, and this is something exceedingly well done here.

Horror films are notorious for not requiring exceptional performances from their players, but this film does need them and gets them throughout. Kris (Titus de Voogdt) and Baloo (Stef Aerts) are foils, the former a little more understanding, and seeking to aid the children; the latter is impatient, immature and combative. Each executes his role perfectly, and the characters are rivals for Jasmijn (Evelien Bosmans), in an unobtrusive triangle. Bosmans inhabits a character given a bit of dimension despite sparse screentime, and she imbues it with genuine star power. Luijten has the hefty task of shouldering much screentime, seeming stoic and clench-jawed, and not talking a great deal and still emote and travel an arduous character arc. It’s quite a feat for an actor so young in his feature film debut. The ensemble of kids around him, and mostly against his character, also has moments in the spotlight and add to the texture of the film.

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

The above, as well as the overall success is of course also a tribute to debutante director Jonas Govaerts. Cub is a bloody, creepy film, that has some depth and can still satisfy a seasoned viewer. It’s not one that’s for the faint of heart because it “goes there” often. Horror must be unafraid to go into deep, dark places and this is a trip to the woods the worth taking for those fans of the genre with a strong constitution.

Bonus Features

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

It’s always nice, especially in the current state of affairs in home entertainment, when you are incentivized to get a physical edition of a film. Often there are no bonuses anymore such that you won’t get a physical copy unless you really like the artwork or are that adamant about having physical media.

Short Film

Of Cats and Women (2007, Potemkino)

On this disc there is a short film by Jonas Govaerts which is a little over ten-minutes long called Of Cats and Women. It’s an original piece, as opposed to a short version of the feature, but you can definitely see a director’s style emerging, also be on the lookout for an homage here as well.

Music Video

One Hour (2013, The Dead Sets)

Also included is a Govaerts-directed music video which is a text-book example of juxtaposing imagery and music.

FX Reel

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

Also nice to see, when so often visual effects are not as overt as they once were, to see a demonstration of what the effects artists contributed to the film, which also added to the feel of the film.

Deleted Scenes

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

These are interesting because they show a bit more character development, and even new characters, and add some information. They are free of commentary but fairly self-explanatory.

Movie: 9/10
Features: 8/10

Cub will be released on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital platforms on August 18th.

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Review: Labyrinthus

Labyrinthus is, like many films around the world, a multi-national co-production. It is essentially a Belgian film as the talent involved hails from there, it’s in Flemish with smatterings of French and it’s Belgian-set in a very vague way. It tells the story of Frikke (Spencer Bogaert) who discovers a video game by chance and beneath the surface of this mysterious game is something sinister. It is plunging kids from the neighborhood into the game, while simultaneously sending their real-world into inexplicable comas. This creates a precarious symbiosis. Frike’s mission then is to discover who the nefarious creator of the game is.

This is not the first children’s film to deal with video games that I can think about off the top of my head. The obvious allusion would be to Spy Kids 2. However, what differentiates this film is the aforementioned duality. We mainly see the comatose character’s personae in the game. However, there is a tonality to it that is unique. The film is not overly-concerned about creating a video game onscreen. While this can be read to mean that the visual language isn’t terribly inventive, and the CG is nothing to write home about; what that thought would overlook is that it is interested in developing characters in these situations that we get to care and know about, also allowing them many crucial moments of decision and action. It also manages to craft some interpersonal relationships we care about.

This film also wastes no time getting things underway. Frikke’s introduction to the game comes very quickly. Characters and visual clue immediately spring to fore; Frikke’s very soon aware that something very odd is going on and that he has to get to the bottom of this mystery. It should be expected but a film with a brief running time should move well and this film does.


All those character and relationship moments are inevitably buoyed by the excellent performances by the young cast. It is shocking to consider that this is Spencer Bogaert’s first screen credit as he carries himself with the certitude of veteran. His presence is engaging and he easily conveys an every-kid type. Felix Maesschalck whose few moments in Time of My Life where rather is, in heartbreaking and beautiful scenes, here demonstrates a different type and shows a decent amount of range. Also notable is Emma Verlinden as Nola who has a genuine cinematic radiance.

The tonal balance that this film reaches is is perhaps what makes it work best. Any stuck-in-a-video-game film needs a fair bit of whimsy, but considering the stakes it also needs the correct amount of gravitas. Labyrinthus has enough of both and keeps it light at times, has its humor but also plays the drama and romance up where appropriate.

Labyrinthus may find its way to US audiences, like the recent Attraction Entertainment title Antboy, did. If it does it is a family-friendly tale that is well worth seeking out and should prove entertaining to viewers of all ages.

7/10

Thankful for World Cinema: The Fifth Season (2012)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of Thankful for World Cinema please go here.

The Fifth Season (2012)

The Fifth Season is a film that tells the story of a small town in the Ardennes region of Belgium that starts to suffer greatly when winter doesn’t end as its supposed to. This is a film that starts out with a more community-oriented view and starts to narrow its focus to a few central figures and storylines, as the climate begins to take its toll on the agrarian community more and more as things deteriorate.

These problems get their first indicator at a bonfire celebration. In a scene that could be plucked out of a low-key horror film you get a sense that some very weird things are afoot. As with many stories about unusual occurrences, there is naught found in the way of explanation. In lieu of that we examine people under duress and see what they do when bereft of  basic necessities. It’s a harsh illustration not only of the affects of climate change but also mob mentality which assumes that it can’t be everyone’s fault, which is the more likely explanation, but rather seeks to find a single person to scapegoat.

However, on smaller levels you also witnesses relationships deteriorate: such as the young couple like that of Alice (Aurélia Poirer) and Thomas (Django Schrevens) and even between man and beast. There are also small wondrous scenes that turn bittersweet in light of later events like the wonderful scene where Pol (Sam Louwyck) and his son Octave (Gill Vancompernolle) sing one of Papageno’s arias together.

There in this film a precision of framing as well as a tonally brilliant approach to the edit that communicates far more than any piece of dialogue in the film can. Thus this way the utter malaise that the town is thrown into, the depth of despair is exactly communicated, whilst how they react to it is guarded such that those moments where there is a lashing out still come as a surprise.

In The Fifth Season nature and the environment are not merely part of the atmosphere, but are turned into an active player, much as it is in reality. The task of making it a palpable entity in a two-dimensional plain is never easy and this film succeeds at that and having its impact on the characters rendered quite dramatic; more dramatic, in fact, than if anything supernatural had occurred, because few things are actually more palpably frightening than a cessation of any kind of order to something we as a species had become reliant upon – this is especially true when we’re most to blame for such erratic shifts.

8/10

Bela Tarr Retrospective: Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

Introduction

As has become customary for winners of the Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award at the BAM Awards, I have begun a Bela Tarr retrospective. The introduction and initial short film post can be found here and here.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

So it’s been a little longer than I wanted it to be before I returned to this series and gave my first closer look at a title but here it is.

With Werckmeister Harmonies not only do you have Tarr fully embracing his new aesthetic but you also have him creating the trajectory of his remaining films. What can be found here is the opening salvo in the ongoing dialogue of his cinema. Some of the themes both visual and otherwise start here and you can feel them echoed in later works.

For example, the film begins with a shot of a piece of wood being added to the fire on an oven. Now, as it turns out here this is just the opening frame of a lengthy tracking shot, but the motif of wood-burning ovens, flames through the grate and things of the like reappear, most notably in the Turin Horse.

The opening shot is an intricate and quite a famous one. It is perhaps the most we will hear out of our protagonist. However, interestingly this protagonist is one whom for the most part is just a vessel with through which we can be shown the story, such that it is.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Facets)

There are two significant and long speeches in the film and much like the only dialogue of consequence in The Turin Horse, the temptation to disregard it rather than trying to ferret out some semblance of meaning is compelling but erroneous. The first such extended piece of dialogue is right there in this opening tracking shot wherein Janos describes to bar full of inebriates the workings of the solar system. I read of a God Complex in one essay but the way Janos walks around observing the whale, being transfixed by it and assigning it no special significance, save for the wondrous work of God that it is, doesn’t quite mesh. I think the intent is likely to define Janos here for we will see little else throughout that does. He listens and does what he is told most of the time. Whether or not he does that to a fault is debatable, but what this is establishing is that he thinks on a simple matter and sees the wonder of it, much like a child would, and seeks to share his wonder. The barkeep lets him go on only so long before kicking him and everyone else out.

The second dialogue passage of significance is when the title the Werckmeister Harmonies is disseminated. It is a rant on musical theory on how the tuning of instruments and the regimentation of notes and octaves created something far more mechanical and less artful and organic than existed prior. On the surface it has nothing to do with anything else, save for the fact that it is this old man’s, Gyuri Eszter’s, obsession. However, it’s not the explanation that matters, but how he feels about it. He likens it to man tinkering with the work of God and here, yet again, we have a theological reference. Now, God here is being invoked in a more existential and cosmic way, rather than in a dogmatic way. It’s seemingly invoked as a larger ideal rather than a denominational claim, much like the the whale and the so-called prince, a dwarfish shadow-figure whose face is not shown threatens the natural order in the minds of many in the town, are.

As in much of Tarr’s work when he stayed shooting in black-and-white, moved the camera more and created a course the film is about decay. It’s about how we as human beings are always teetering on the edge of devolution and anarchy.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Facets)

The sound of church bells in this film, much like in Satantango are ascribed and ominous connotation; similarly to that film a broken clock in a church starts working anew rather mysteriously. Much in the way many of the people, except Janos, interpret the whale in their own way. The allegory of the whale is perhaps the most powerful in Tarr’s filmography because for as large and imposing as it is, as much of a spectacle as it is, it can’t do anything. It does not do anything and neither does the feared Prince who evokes passion and creates followers. However, the people believe they can and do and that’s what causes them to react the way they do. The people want no change, in spite of its constancy, and when something threatens that they lash out.

The order the enraged mob seeks to be restoring is an illusion. It’s as much an illusion as film is, which could be why Tarr in this instance brought in two German actors, the wide-eyed, childlike Lars Rudolph as Janos and the formerly omnipresent Fassbinder vamp Hannah Schygulla; and had them speak their lines in German and then had them dubbed, and not necessarily in a way that syncs perfectly, because something it always off.

Uncle Gyuri Eszter, in his diatribe about the Werckemeister harmonies, states that what the struggle is as follows “the octave versus the note; the natural tune versus the manmade construct; the heavenly versus mundane; human hubris versus divine gifts.” And that’s much of what the struggle in this film is.

There are still mysteries to be unraveled. Many can assume, since we did not see him through much of the assault on the hospital, that Janos was not there. However, that long and significant tracking shot ends on him looking terrified after the violence stops upon the site of the frail old man who no one wants to harm. So one can wonder did he just witness it all, unable to stop it; or was he a party to it. Similarly is the account he reads in the church one he found or one he wrote himself. The film leaves them purposely vague. However, I think it correlates more with both his passivity and his folly that he was merely a witness. What is left unsaid the end that he was inactive in the assault and not the author of what he read.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Facets)

When all is said and done he’s the perfect scapegoat. The society back to its so-called sense and must now restore order and the most logical scapegoat is Janos. They, meaning all the citizens, recognize neither God nor Man, so he must leave. The end of the film is uncle Gyuri Eszter going to see the whale. It is left out in the square on display where the madness began passive and immobile as it always has been.

It’s a film that’s really not about what happens, but why it happens and that answer is not nearly so nebulous people have willed it to be. They’ve assigned meanings based on their fears and ignorance and punished the guilty. In almost an eschewing of genre toward the end there is a helicopter, maybe verifying early rumors of military involvement, hovering in the sky behind Janos. It circles him quite bit, but it’s not going to try and barrel him over like the cropduster in North by Nothwest. It’ll just watch him and let him know that he’s targeted. He’s the odd man out because he embraced the whale and got the finger pointed at him and now he must go down the train tracks and out of town.

All that remains is delusion and lies, he’s told once and that’s the way it stays. It’s merely an illustration of that statement is what the film is. The people fear, they know nothing. They do not move on. The Prince is gone, the circus is burnt, the whale lies alone; an abandoned blasphemy and things go on unchanged.

DVD Review – Allez, Eddy!

Introduction

This was a film I was initially going to discuss in my Mini-Review Round-Up. However, the review grew such that the ‘mini’ tag didn’t really fit anymore. This is a film that has not seen North American release and has only been out on Region 2 Blu-Ray on DVD. These titles are still viewable in other regions on computers or region-free players. I discuss that here.

I found this film through an importer on Amazon, and as I will describe below it goes above and beyond the seemingly simple call of its synopsis.

Film

Allez, Eddy! (2012, Benelux Film Distributors)

With a film such as Allez, Eddy! there are with its various components, which prescribe certain plot points and confrontations. However, what is unique about the film is the handling of said situations, not necessarily the situations themselves. Also, adding to the distinctive palate of the film is the combination of these situations.

To be a bit more specific, in this film you have: the tradition vs. advancement plot of the family-owned butcher shop versus the new supermarket, which in the setting of this tale is a new concept in an of itself. Then you also have the underdog sports story of a kid who comes out of nowhere to shock his hometown in emulation of his hero. Intermingled with those concepts is a family drama, but lastly you have the tale of an isolated child. The cause of his isolation is a malady that could be the cause for much potty humor, but is for the most part handled deftly and delicately. Already upon combining these things you can see this film is anything but run-of-the-mill.

All those items are tethered to one another so there’s no feeling of the film being disjointed as there is a unity to it all; a common thread. There are other subplots that could be touched upon, but its better that those be discovered in the film. Aside from their connection what makes the handling of these themes and plots unique is that things don’t always turn out as you expect or occur when you expect. The film sets you up believing there will be a clichéd climax or sequence and pulls a reverse on you at the last second.

So on a narrative, and more intellectual, level it is intriguing. However, it also captures you viscerally with the varied and wondrous performances of the cast. They elicited from me all the emotions desired. As viewers we are constantly put in a place of being ‘for’ or ‘against’ a character in a scene. Empathy and understanding throughout a film, even with character you dislike or are mad at, is rare. This film achieves that engagement. Regardless of how characters are designed to affect you, you understand them. And within a film that focuses mainly on a family dynamic that’s quite a feat, for even though you may not like the way a family behaves individually at times, or toward each other, the striven for reconciliations are stronger if you desire them for the characters as well.

Allez, Eddy! (2012, Benelux Film Distributors)

So this film engages on those two levels, however, nearly from the start it also engages the imagination, which combines the intellect and the visceral in a number of ways. It achieves this engagement through the stylized, self-contained, imagined depictions of stories Freddy’s mother tells him. They are mainly tall tales of her fashioning designed to reinforce her rules but they do have a resonance later, and do play into the pure wonder of storytelling, which should be the foundation of all cinema, and ultimately art.

Oh, yes, and if you look at the synopsis much of the initial conflict is not only caused by Freddy’s wanting to be out of the house unattended, which is forbidden, but also his entering a supermarket-sponsored bike race, which is doubly forbidden. Thus, there’s the sports element perhaps 5th or 6th down the pecking order of things that stand out in this film. This makes it a film that features sports rather than a sports film, but it does that brilliantly. It uses Eddy Merckx’s quest for a 6th Tour de France title not only as a backdrop for the events of that summer, but also at one point as a tremendously artful parallel in a cross-cut sequence. There are other ways in which cycling is folded into the mix that are creative, but I will leave those as a surprise as well.

Allez, Eddy! plays all the right emotional notes throughout such that it can even earn a more subdued end quite well. It is uniquely beautiful, at times touching and warm, at times hilarious, often sad and empathy-inducing film that’s quite nearly always spot-on. It’s one of those films I come across once in a while that got better as I sat down to write about it. An extraordinarily well made film.

10/10

Extras

Allez, Eddy! (2012, Benelux Film Distributors)

A case of caveat emptor for those who seek out foreign region discs is that typically bonus features are not subtitled. Another word to the wise is if you do start scouring resellers, or foreign Amazon stores, become familiar with the words for “subtitles” and “English” in each. It’s usually fairly apparent. As per usual, the deleted scenes here are in Flemish and not subtitled. I confirmed that fact, but may see if they translate visually. So if you speak the language the film is in, as I speak Portuguese, you’ll get by, otherwise it’s good to keep in mind.

One very great bonus feature is a compelling, quirky and original short film called Vincent. The short is vaguely reminiscent of the early works of Robert Rodriguez, and you can clearly see the seeds for Allez, Eddy! being sewn in the style, content and tone.

Unless, it actually comes to region 1 at some point it won’t be a cheap or easy find, but it’s well worth it if you’re compelled to see it.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Animation (Part 7 of 17)

This is a recapitualtion of a paper I wrote in school. Part one can be read here. A search can retrieve subsequent parts. Since time does bring about changes and developments, I have included some notes in brackets after statements that may no longer hold true, or at least are in need of further enlightening.

In the 1980s Animation and Television are one. Even more so than in the 1970s animation was in the 80s a medium of television, while the animated feature was always a rarity we see in the 80s the complete discontinuation of cinematic shorts and the dominance of half hour animated programs before getting to that there are some important developments in the cinema that need examining.

Walt Disney Studios were my catechism in film. From 1937 to 1995 they were the Notre Dame of film in my eyes and could do no wrong. There is an asterisk, however, and that comes in the 1980s. The films they made were very eclectic in the 80s.

They made some very good films The Fox and the Hound (1981), The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and The Little Mermaid (1989) yet they produced films that I had no interest in seeing as a child and they were Oliver and Company (1988) and The Black Cauldron (1985). Disney went beyond the point of experimentation later on and just got bad on occasion. They’d lost the luster and were not something I looked forward to any longer. [I’ve since filled the 80s gaps in my viewing, and have found newer and older Disney titles I like. My fandom is complicated thing, as I will explore in March.]

If it takes about four years to produce an animated feature film then I estimate the death of Disney films as we knew them in 1991. Which is when they would’ve started working on Pocahontas and Mulan the first two Disney films I consciously avoided and then they released the terrible Hercules and it was over. The only quality they can come up with now is through collaboration with Pixar and through use of computer animation. [This too has changed since this writing and the introduction of Walt Disney Animation Studios, which focuses more on traditional techniques.]

Not that there was anything wrong with the Disney of the 1980s, oddly their best film of the period may have been The Brave Little Toaster in 1987 but one of the best things the 80s brought us was a legitimate alternative American feature length animation film for the first time since Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels.

One of the very best films ever made has got to be Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It took the technology from Bedknobs and Broomsticks to the nth degree. Not only that but it’s one of the most entertaining and delightful films I’ve eve been witness to and it’s nearly miraculous that Spielberg was able to pull it all together. What makes Who Framed Roger Rabbit truly a great film of the 80s cinema is how we see the cartoon characters. This probably has more resonance with people who saw this film as children because, in essence, what the film is doing is rounding out these characters, if not that adding dimension at least. Whereas in shorts we knew what Bugs Bunny was going to say and how Daffy would respond. Here we saw them in different situations and in a new light. It’s something kids do all the time: take characters that have existing attributes, stories, etc. and put them in new ones either just in their own imagination or with the aid of action figures. This makes it such a rich and pleasing cinematic experience. While as children get to bask in whimsical awe that all these characters we never saw interact are running around together (Donald and Daffy) we also get wrapped up in the mystery and it becomes very suspenseful. For adults the opposite effect must be true the suspense and plot keep you in it and the cartoon characters take you back in time, making this a unique experience for all who see it. It is truly a gem of the 80s which was hailed as a ‘landmark’ at the time but hasn’t had much said about it since. Spielberg attempted to make Roger a new star of shorts but the logistics probably got in the way and only a few were made, however, Spielberg has continued to work with animation making the all computer animation Shrek, yet another breakthrough and creating such television series as Tiny Toons Adventures, Anamaniacs, Freakazoid! and Histeria.

An American Tail (1986, Universal)

Aside from Spielberg’s efforts the 80s has produced another animation specialist named Don Bluth:

“Don Bluth was one of the chief animators at Disney to come to the mantle after the great one’s death. He eventually became the animation director for such films as The Rescuers (1977) and Pete’s Dragon (1977). Unfortunately, the quality of animation that Disney was producing at this point was not up to par with the great works of Disney, and there was rumor that the production unit at Disney might be shut down indefinitely. In retaliation, Bluth and several other animators led a walkout, and went off to form their own independent animation firm.”

Bluth’s story is one of those twenty-years-in-the-business-overnight-success-stories. In 1982 he released his first film The Secret of NIHM and it was a success. In fact, he didn’t have a bust in the 80s following that up with An American Tail, The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go to Heaven. While he’s never been on a Disney-like scale he has made quality films and continues to make his own works. As a businessman and a producer, he’s never said no to a sequel. God knows how many Land Before Time films there are now but he does have his standards as a director and his most recent animated sci-fi adventure Titan A.E. received sharply mixed reviews.

Animation is definitely now the domain of television. [Obviously this no longer holds as animated features now come from all studios and have spawned an Academy Award category all their own.] The short which used to be on before a feature film, is now paired with two other shorts and called a television show. The stage for this change was set in the 1980s as we will see in the television section.

Works Cited: http://us.imdb.com/Bio?Bluth,%20Don

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/TitanAE-1097051/

Thankful for World Cinema: North Sea Texas

This past weekend the Belgian Film North Sea Texas opened in New York and Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to watch this film in July when it screened at Q Fest in Philadelphia. Based on the plot synopsis I had hopes that it would be a good film, what I didn’t expect was for the film to be somewhat groundbreaking in the annals of gay cinema, and, yes, I feel that the way in which the film handles its subject can render it universal. However, the fact remains that it will be pigeonholed as such due to what it’s about. The way in which it’s groundbreaking is startlingly simple: it’s a positive, affirmative film that essentially says love conquers all. Now, on the surface you might think you’ve seen that done a thousand times, and you have for a film about heterosexual romance. It happens less often in gay-themed films, and is even more infrequent in gay-themed films about first love.

Now, cinema, for the most part, has evolved past the point that is excruciatingly illustrated in the documentary The Celluloid Closet, which deals with the depiction of LGBT characters in Hollywood films up to that point. However, film in general, even when titles mean well, are beautifully, sensitively crafted and acted; still gravitate towards the quasi- and flat-out tragic tales when it comes to gay or lesbian protagonists.

This is not being judgmental, these are facts, and it’s a case wherein films are attempting to reflect realities. The examples are plentiful such as: This Special Friendship (Les Amitiés particulières) even being French, and dealing with the specifically named and ridiculed boarding-school romance, this is tragedy. Then you have films that deal with repression like Brokeback Mountain, Far From Heaven or even The Hours.

Then there is the kind of film that I expected this one to end up being like: Wild Reeds (Les Roseaux Sauvages), which is a tale of first romance that is all too typical: best friends one fall for another, there is experimentation but only one feels an emotional attachment because only one of the two is actually gay. It’s a first love deception that is commonplace and fair game for dramas.

However, what North Sea Texas strikes upon, and what makes it work so well and so important is that it’s an idealistic tale. It reminds me of a debate I and a professor had about the Indian film Fire in college. His criticism of the film was that the revelation of, and the familial objection to, a sexual abuse situation was unrealistic. My assertion was “Why should it be?” If you’re trying to make a point be it societal, political or otherwise, there are times when the best way to make it is to seek out an ideal and illustrate it, rather than just illustrating that the problem exists.

Not to say there isn’t drama, conflicts or struggles in North Sea Texas but the resolution to the the dramatic question the film poses is an overwhelmingly positive and beautiful one, made even more powerful because of how rarely it is seen.

It is also an extraordinarily timely one. With equality issues coming to the fore in many countries around the world, principally the United States, it is extremely useful and reassuring to see an illustration of it “getting better” and not merely being told that. Furthermore, this is not merely an assertion I’m making based on my read of the film, but it is also included in the credits where the film is dedicated to the kids whose parents refused to allow them to participate in the making of the film.

North Sea Texas is a wonderfully rendered artistic film that should win over any and all open-minded fans of film, but any film has its target audience and for the audience targeted here there are few films that ever so firmly, staunchly and beautifully espoused its over- and underlying messages. Few films can really said to be of social significance beyond just being a film. This, I believe, is definitely one of them. It may take time, but this film is one that I believe will stand the test of time and become quite a milestone. You may even try to dismiss it as a fairy tale if you want, but that could well be the point. For who doesn’t deserve their happily ever after?

Thankful for World Cinema- Le Petit Nicolas

When looking for a theme in which to select films from the start of November until Thanksgiving being literal is not the best option. Films centered around Thanksgiving tend to be overly obsessed with dysfunctional families. So in thinking about the nature of the day which was initially a celebration of survival in the New World, I thought why not focus on foreign films.

Le Petit Nicolas

Maxime Godart, Vincent Claude, Victor Carles, Germain Petit Damico, Charles Vaillant and Benjamin Averty in Le Petit Nicolas (Wild Bunch)

Firstly, I must say that the availability of this film in the US is virtually non-existant. I managed to acquire a Canadian DVD (Also a Region 1) on Amazon. The film didn’t really see distribution here because it is based on a book series by René Goscinny that doesn’t have tremendous cultural impact in the US.

His other major contribution is as one of the architects of the Asterix series of books, which some here do know so the terrible first cinematic adaptation did come here. All this is brought to the fore because its non-distribution in the US really is confounding. The adaptation angle needn’t be used to sell the film. The humor and themes of the film really are universal.

While being familiar with the book, I’m sure, helped some appreciate it. It is a delightfully simple and accessible story that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. There are little treats for those in the know like, for example, the boys get inspiration for a scheme from an Asterix strip but it isn’t necessary to enjoy it.

This film is also very funny and while it does test your suspension of disbelief it should pass. Much of the film hinges on misconceptions that Nicolas has about his home life, which could be clarified if he talks to his parents but a child’s fears aren’t always relayed to his parents especially these.

This was a wonderful discovery and hopefully there are others in the offing as the series of books is quite lengthy.

10/10