The secret of a strange friendship
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A documentary featuring Arnon Goldfinger, Hannah Goldfinger, Edda Milz von Mildenstein, Harald Milz, Gertrude Kino, Tamar Tuchler, and Michael Wildt.
In the 1930s, two German couples visited Palestine together. One couple, the Tuchlers, was Jewish. The husband in the other couple, the von Mildensteins, was the predecessor of Adolf Eichmann, Nazi propagandist and eventual war criminal. Baron von Mildenstein wrote an article about the trip, "A Nazi in Palestine," for a…
The lord alps those who alp themselves
Simon, the 12-year-old boy at the center of Ursula Meier's chilly, austere “Sister,” enters without introduction. We don't even get a good look at him for the first few minutes of the movie, because he hides his face beneath a ski mask and helmet. We learn about him simply by following him around a busy Swiss ski resort, apparently unnoticed by everyone but Meier's camera, as he goes about his business, which involves…
The boy and the way of his people
Although it was published only in 1972, Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me, Ultima" has achieved the iconic stature as such novels as "The Grapes of Wrath" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." Now comes a movie to do it justice. Carl Franklin's film is true to the tone and spirit of the book. It is patient and in no hurry. It allows a balanced eye for the people in its hero's family who tug…
Adolescents on the brink of nuclear annihilation
They're part of informal left-wing community group also including Ginger's mother, Natalie* (Christina Hendricks); May Bella (Annette Bening), a sparky leftist, and an avuncular gay couple both named Mark (Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt). Rosa is played by Alice Englert, daughter of the Australian director Jane Campion, and the film's tone is wonderfully maintained by Dakota Fanning's younger sister Elle as Ginger, convincingly playing 17 at the age of 13.
Fanning becomes completely…
Ramin Bahrani, the best new American director of recent years, has until now focused on outsiders in this country: A pushcart operator from Pakistan, a Hispanic street orphan in New York, a cab driver from Senegal working in Winston-Salem. NC. His much-awaited new film, "At Any Price," is set in the Iowa heartland and is about two American icons: A family farmer and a race car driver.
This is a brave, layered film that challenges the wisdom of victory at…
Honor, morality, and ritual suicide
Samurai films, like westerns, need not be familiar genre stories. They can expand to contain stories of ethical challenges and human tragedy. "Harakiri," one of the best of them, is about an older wandering samurai who takes his time to create an unanswerable dilemma for the elder of a powerful clan. By playing strictly within the rules of Bushido Code which governs the conduct of all samurai, he lures the powerful leader into a situation…
If you don't have a dog, you'll need one
"Sleep Furiously" is a lovely film, but maddeningly complacent. Let me begin with the loveliness. It was filmed in and near Trefeurig, where its director, Gideon Koppel, was born, and where his mother still walks her dog. Here the year rotates through the seasons, calves and piglets are born, the choir sings in church, there are bake sales and village meetings, and in music class, the students bang away on rhythm…
A twisted road through a landscape of dreams
It's well known that David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr." was assembled from the remains of a cancelled TV series, with the addition of some additional footage filmed later. That may be taken by some viewers as a way to explain the film's fractured structure and lack of continuity. I think it's a delusion to imagine a "complete" film lurking somewhere in Lynch's mind — a ghostly Director's Cut that exists only in his…
Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
This is another of Roger Ebert's final reviews, which we were holding until the movie opened theatrically. We published the very last one he wrote, of Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder," last week.
There is this. The conjurer Ricky Jay is in London appearing in a documentary for the BBC. A journalist for the Guardian is sent to interview him over lunch. Driving to the restaurant, they lose their way, arrive…
Note: The following was reworked from a blog post that Roger Ebert filed from the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. In late March, he requested that it be refashioned into a review because he was not feeling well enough to write one from scratch. "Blancanieves" was one of 12 films invited to this year's Ebertfest, and Roger was one of the movie's biggest champions. As director Pablo Berger urged Ebertfest attendees, "If you like this film, spread the word, in…
The elderly are left on the mountain to die
"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens up between its origins in the kabuki style and its subject of starvation in a mountain village! The village enforces a tradition of carrying those who have reached the age of 70 up the side of mountain and abandoning them there to die of exposure.
"Everything in the movies is fake"
In a vast Spanish plain, harvested of its crops, a farm home rests. Some distance away there is a squat building like a barn, apparently not used, its doors and windows missing. In the home lives a family of four: two little girls named Ana and Isabel, and their parents, Fernando and Teresa. He is a beekeeper, scholar and poet who spends much time in his book-lined study. She is a solitary woman who…