Academy Awards nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film Award for 2015 missed a great film: Corn Island. It is not difficult to guess that for many obvious reasons, Oscar most probably will go to Ida. There are no films from countries that have won most of the Oscars in this category in the past, France, Italy and Germany.
“Ida” (Poland), directed by PaweÅ‚ Pawlikowski. As she prepares to take her vows, a young novitiate (Agata Trzebuchowska) who has grown up an orphan in a convent in post-war Poland learns that she is Jewish. She joins her aunt (a judicial official with a taste for liquor and men, played by Agata Kulesza) and sets off on a journey to uncover her parents’ fate,
This haunting drama of self-discovery, shot in shimmering black and white, won the European Film Awards’ top prize (along with Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography), and was named Best Film of the London Film Festival. It received the Best Foreign Language Film Award from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The L.A. critics also named Kulesza Best Supporting Actress.
A Golden Globe nominee, “Ida” (Music Box Films) is available on Blu-ray and DVD, and on VOD via Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube. It is also available via streaming at Netflix. To watch a trailer for “Ida” click on the video player below.
“Leviathan” (Russia), directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. A corrupt official tries to take a patch of land overlooking the Barents Sea but is rebuffed by the landowner, thanks to the help of a friendly lawyer. The thwarted official seeks vengeance, turning the suffering real estate holder into a modern-day Job.
A parable that makes pointed attacks on contemporary Russia, “Leviathan” won the Best Screenplay Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It also won Best International Film at the Munich Film Festival, and was named Best Film at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival.
A Golden Globe nominee, “Leviathan” will be released in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics on December 31. To watch a trailer for “Leviathan” click on the video player below.
“Tangerines” (Estonia), directed by Zaza Urushadze
A Golden Globe nominee about the battles that ravaged Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union, “Tangerines (Mandariinid)” follows the two remaining men in a small Estonian village who come upon two rival soldiers, survivors of the encroaching war between Georgia and Abkhazia in 1992.
Caught in both actual and metaphysical crossfire, the two men tending their orchards take in the wounded soldiers who, despite their wounds, vow to kill each other.
There is no U.S. release date set for “Tangerines” (Allfilm).
“Timbuktu” (Mauritania), directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. The Islamic jihadists who have taken control of the city of Timbuktu in Mali have assumed the role of police, riding through town on motorcycles, and with bullhorns they proclaim the new sharia laws that must be followed: No music, no football, no loitering in front of your house, no adultery (especially during Ramadan). Women must be completely covered.
The narrative of “Timbuktu” (beautifully shot in Mauritania) is not so much about plot as it is incidents in the life of a city whose residents are reeling from the onrush of change, or standing defiantly in its path. The film mostly ignores specific historical events, but instead paints a humanistic portrait of life in an occupied territory, in which the new authority wields power in ways that are self-righteous, cruel, and without sense.
Abderrahmane Sissako, winner of the Ecumenical Jury prize at Cannes, was named Best Director at the Chicago International Film Festival.
“Timbuktu” (Cohen Media Group) will be released in the U.S. on January 28, 2015.
“Wild Tales,” (Argentina), directed by Damián Szifrón. The massively-honored comedy (it received 21 nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Argentina, and won 10 awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor Damián Szifrón and Best Actress Erica Rivas) is an anthology of six madcap tales on the theme of vengeance.
That Pedro Almodóvar is one of the producers should give a hint of the surreal humor with which these screwed-over souls take out their anger — from the bride who discovers her groom’s infidelity, to the diner waitress who encounters the loan shark responsible for her father’s suicide; to the jerk motorist who discovers himself in need of a helping hand, only to see a driver he’d insulted pull up alongside on the desolate highway; to the demolition expert who concocts revenge against an impossibly crushing bureaucratic system.
“Wild Tales” (Sony Pictures Classics) will be released in the U.S. on February 20, 2015.