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Review: A street in Palermo-Via Castellana Bandiera (2013)

Directed by: Emma Dante | 92 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Emma Dante, Alba Rohrwacher, Elena Cotta, Renato Malfatti, Dario Casarolo, Carmine Maringola, Sandro Maria Campagna, Elisa Parrinello, Giuseppe Tantillo, Daniela Macaluso, Marcella Colaianni, Giacomo Guernieri

In the beginning of ‘Una via a Palermo’ something strange is going on. The characters are mostly filmed from behind. Their faces remain hidden from the viewer. As a result, the characters are not only people of flesh and blood, but also metaphors for today’s Italy. The situation in the country in 2014 is still messy. Politics is in chaos. The differences between Northern Italy and the Southern part are large. The differences between men and women have also remained intact since ancient times. Modern progress has further sharpened the contradictions. Some of them agree, the rest give up and would rather keep everything as it was. They are all unhappy. The characters in ‘Una via a Palermo’ are therefore the archetypes of present-day Italy.

The differences that exist in society cannot help but lead to a head-on collision. ‘Una via a Palermo’ shows the moment just before that collision. The film does this in a literal way when a female couple in one of the narrow roads on the Italian island of Sicily is confronted by a car containing an entire family, led by grandmother Samira. Overtaking is not an option. Return is the only option. However, both directors do not want to budge. The women stubbornly remain in place. They refuse food and drink. Sleep is a weakness. As a result of this status quo, the entire street is out to express their opinions. Women show that they are not only stubborn, but also strong. Men try to shout their faded blazon.

It is young and old who oppose each other here. The traditional family versus free-spirited emancipation. Above all, it is the clash between modern and ancient Italy, who cannot let go of their own perception of the world. Both wants to continue on the path they have taken. But such a future is inconceivable. In accordance with the lack of space in the street, the camera stays close to the characters. There is no escape from the problems. The deadlock in Italy has lasted long enough, as first-time director Emma Dante implies here. But the volatile handheld camera also shows that an agreement will be far from streamlined. More mutual understanding and awareness of time is needed to progress. The standstill can have a cathartic effect in this. The narrow passage in which the two cars face each other is now gradually widened by a mechanical wall. Ultimately, the barriers within society mainly exist in the minds of the people themselves.

Dante keeps it light by not wanting to preach too moralizing. However, don’t expect corny jokes and fun. ‘Una via a Palermo’ is not a typical thigh squirt but a more subtle, satirical comedy. This is mainly reflected in the crazy situations in which the characters end up. The fact that ‘Una via a Palermo’ is so metaphorical therefore works surprisingly well. This is also due to the fact that the contradictions are magnified so much and the differences between the archetypes are clearly delineated. Filmmaker Dante knows how to explain in great detail what the problems are in her country. The way in which she does this makes ‘Una via a Palermo’ more than worthy of prestige.

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Review: Turbo (2013)

Directed by: David Soren | 96 minutes | animation, adventure, comedy, family, sports | Dutch voice cast: Waldemar Torenstra, Ruben van der Meer, Javier Guzman, Roué Verveer, Murth Mossel, Maurits ‘Nega’ Delchot, Lieke van Lexmond, Patrick Martens, Tony Neef | Original Voice Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Samuel L. Jackson, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Mario Andretti, Mike Bell, Aidan Andrews, Aaron Berger, Jen Cohn, Ryan Crego, Rich Dietl, Paul Dooley, Derek Drymon, Susan Fitzer

Fluttering the black and white checkered finish flag at the Indianapolis 500 is one of Theo’s daydreams, a garden snail with a predilection for racing. Unfortunately, he is just an ordinary snail. Bored, he slips to the tomato plantation together with his peers every day. In the human vegetable garden, they separate the ripe tomatoes from the rotten varieties. And so Theo’s life passes day in, day out. He spends his spare time in the garage, where he is literally stuck to an old TV with a racing channel. His great hero, Indy 500 driver Guy Gagne, encourages him through the picture tube to always follow your dreams. And that is exactly what Theo is going to do.

Lost in thought, he leaves the garden in the evening and crawls towards the highway. Picked up by the driving wind, he is launched in a completely different setting: a street race and his heart immediately starts to beat faster. Theo has landed on the hood of one of the challengers and is bracing for the showdown between the two cars. With a thunderous force, it is sucked into the air intake and immersed in Nitrous Oxide, a liquid that provides a huge boost. And from that moment on everything has changed. The blue panacea is pumping through his body. With a strange feeling inside, he returns home and when the nemesis of the snail family is playing in the driveway on his tricycle, he carefully tries out his new superpower. With a bright blue skid mark as a result. The child on the pedal bike does not believe his eyes.

Chet, Theo’s brother, is not very impressed with the transformation and suggests that he just go back to work. But that is not on the agenda of the speed demon. He wants to participate in the race of the races: Indianapolis 500. Both do not notice that a few crows above their heads are in the mood for snails. When Chet is caught, Theo goes after him with full force and manages to free his brother from the crow’s beak. They have traveled quite a bit and ended up in a different part of the city. That is, in a dilapidated shopping square. The brothers look uncomfortably at each other and at that moment a plastic cup is placed over them. They are caught by Tito, a smiley taco restaurant owner. He has several racing snails and made a circuit especially for his slippery stars. The other shopkeepers of the square watch as Tito enthusiastically counts down the race. And there they go… at a snail’s pace. Participants Whiplash, Smoove Move, Burn and Skid Mark are equipped with side skirts, spoilers and neon lights, but this doesn’t make them a meter faster than a regular snail. Turbo can’t stand it, accelerates and pulls the tiles out of the street. Tito does not know what he sees, because he shares a great love for the Indy 500 with Turbo. An idea was born, because he wants Turbo to compete in the most important race in America. His brother Angelo, like Chet, is not very enthusiastic and would rather invest the entry fee in a new stove for the restaurant. But Tito doesn’t listen, sneaks out on the taco bus and heads for Speedway, Indiana with the snail team.

Turbo is overjoyed when he finally feels the speedway tarmac under his stomach, providing the perfect opportunity to test his super strength. The speed reading hangs at 220 mph and that guarantees him a spot in the race. Via the social media he becomes a huge hype and on the day of the race the stands are packed with audiences who come to see the spectacle. The shopkeepers and Angelo are also present and cheer Turbo on. His great hero Gagne is his formidable opponent. Everyone takes their place on the track and the race starts. Will Turbo have enough horsepower to cross the finish line first after 200 laps? Or is sportsmanship compromised by his great example Guy?

Animation is a genre that appeals to both young and old. And director David Soren, known as the voice actor of blockbusters such as ‘Madagascar’ and ‘Shark Tale’, also knows that. With newcomer ‘Turbo’ he tries to conquer pole position, but unfortunately this colorful family film ends in third place. The characters have been carefully designed and by wearing the 3D glasses you can almost feel the rubbery texture of the characters. But the articulation of the mouths in relation to the voices are not matched enough, which is sometimes very disturbing. Fortunately, a solid cast has been chosen that includes Ryan Reynolds (‘Green Lantern’), Snoop Dogg and Maya Rudolph (‘Bridesmaids’) and with their empathy for the gastropod creatures, they add much-needed depth to this generic Dreamworks film. . As original as animated films ‘Despicable Me’ or ‘Wall-E’ are, as predictable is ‘Turbo’. But that doesn’t really matter, because no child who sees this feel-good film will be disturbed by this. They will enjoy “turbo boosted” snail Theo and its Nitro-filled snail shell with open mouths. You can best compare ‘Turbo’ with an unadulterated entertaining boys’ book.

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Review: Tsotsi (2005)

Directed by: Gavin Hood | 94 minutes | drama, crime | Actors: Presley Chweneyagae, Mothusi Magano, Israel Makoe, Percy Matsemela, Jerry Mofokeng, Benny Moshe, Nambitha Mpumlwana, Zenzo Ngqobe, Kenneth Nkosi, Thembi Nyandeni, Terry Pheto, Ian Roberts, Rapulana Seiphemo, Owen Sejake, Zola

In the Johannesburg slum where Tsotsi and his friends Boston, Monkey and Butcher live, everyone has heard about this young criminal. The hard-working residents who fight for a fair living fear him, the rich gangsters with pimped cars laugh at him for not being able to drive. Everyone has an opinion about this boy and his gang. But nobody really knows him. In fact, even his friends don’t know about his past, let alone his real name. Tsotsi has called himself “crook” or “bastard” in order to hide his childhood.

With this South African production, director Gavin Hood has succeeded in bringing Athol Fugard’s novel of the same name to the canvas in a beautiful way. With a great eye for environments, he creates atmospheric panoramas of the shacks and shows the many contrasts that can be found in South Africa: skyscrapers and shacks and wealth and poverty. ‘Tsotsi’ doesn’t just stay with portraying these contrasts: the film also explains why and in what way the lives of young South Africans are shaped from their starting point. With the emphatic message that hope brings life, and that there is a chance for everyone.

An extremely violent but unnoticed robbery in the metro in one of the first scenes breaks up the Tsotsi gang. Boston, a failed teacher, finds it unacceptable what the gang has done and in a drunken mood he forces Tsotsi to tell something about his past. Decency, that’s what life is all about according to Boston. And Tsotsi, unwilling to hear about it, beats up his friend Boston and flees. A beautiful scene in which images of Tsotsi as a boy of about twelve and Tsotsi as he is now overlap, both on the run, both desperate.

The great thing about Tsotsi is that, despite confronting images of often extremely violent events, the film does not try to justify anything. The violence suddenly arises through fast-paced images reminiscent of ‘Cidade de Deus’ (2002, Kátia Lund, Fernando Meirelles), and what remains are the consequences and remorse that in the quiet moments of the film create an intense sense of intimacy with the main characters. From the moment when Tsotsi steals a car and finds a three-month-old baby in it, the film is also more about the relationship between people and the way they view life in the shacks.

Tsotsi realizes that life as a gangster has no future, and what’s more, his friend Boston’s words about decency are still running through his head. He decides to raise the baby himself and a bond develops between him and Miriam, the woman he initially forces to breastfeed his baby. While he first tries his best to keep the baby hidden and still behaves like a criminal, a crippled man at the station makes him realize that there is always hope, and Tsotsi realizes that it is precisely his dark side where he is. should be ashamed of it.

The true strength of ‘Tsotsi’ is neither in the theme nor in the direction. It is the authentic atmosphere that the film evokes through the use of ‘Tsotsi-Taal’, local actors and actresses and above all the South African music that supports the film. The local ‘Kwaito’ music, a sometimes somewhat aggressive form of street rap, adds energy to violent scenes of brawls and robberies, and the more spiritual sound of Vusi Mahlasela dominates in the quiet moments and fits perfectly with close-ups of a very emotional Tsotsi at the end of the movie.

Let’s talk about decency then. Boston blames his friends for not knowing this word, for not even being able to spell it. According to him, their world consists of violence, aggressiveness and having no respect for others. Actually, that’s what this movie is all about. Decency, hope and fight for a fair living. And for those who really don’t know how to spell that: ‘Tsotsi’ shows that letter by letter …

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Review: Transporter 2 (2005)

Directed by: Louis Leterrier | 87 minutes | action, crime, thriller | Actors: Jason Statham, Alessandro Gassman, Amber Valletta, Kate Nauta, Matthew Modine, Jason Flemyng, Keith David, Hunter Clary, Shannon Briggs, François Berléand, Raymond Tong, George Kapetan, Jeff Chase, Gregg Weiner, Gregg Davis

‘Transporter 2’ is an action movie, and unlike many others in this genre, the movie tries to be nothing more than this. No attempt at a well thought out story, no humor, drama or romance, no surprising plot twists and no high expectations of the actors. Making an entertaining action movie is hard enough. ‘Transporter 2’ succeeds completely, with fun fight scenes, exciting chases and stuffed with stunts, the hour and a half fly by and you can leave the cinema seat satisfied during the credits.

Jason Statham has the lead role, just like in ‘Transporter’. Statham has few facial expressions, but he has mastered those of a tough action hero. Mentioned in the same breath with Matt Damon as the next generation of action heroes, Statham has a reputation to uphold. The fact that, unlike Damon, he cannot handle other genres does not seem to interest him and why should it, in films like ‘Transporter’ he can play the heroic dry ass to his heart’s content. Maybe it’s because the budget ran out, maybe because Jason seems like a better actor by comparison, pretty much the rest of the cast is a mess. In particular the femme fatale, a role by Amber Valletta, turns out to have as much acting talent as clothes. Armed only with lingerie and two automatic pistols, whose bullets don’t seem to run out, she knows how to wrong every dialogue. The lack of clothes suggests that a certain target group has been targeted, an image that is confirmed by the number of men and the absence of women in the cinema.

The plot is written around the action and not the other way around. Already in the opening scene, where a group of gangsters try to steal our transporter’s car, it is clear that more attention has been paid to depicting all the blows than adding logic. The only thing to find fault with all that action is the unbelievability of the whole. An example for illustration. Jason Statham sees a bomb hanging under his car. Instead of getting out, he drives very fast with his four-wheeler over a nice sloping ramp, so that his car turns 180 degrees in the air. Coincidentally, a large hook of a crane hangs in the air where the bomb gets caught, the car turns the other 180 degrees and lands safely on all wheels again.

This sequel to ‘Transporter’ delivers exactly what the viewer expects: a hero, a villain, lots of combat, fast cars, flying bullets and explosions. Great evening of entertainment for the gentlemen and maybe for the ladies who like Jason Statham.

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Review: Underclassman (2005)

Director: Marcos Siega | 95 minutes | action, drama, comedy, crime, thriller | Actors: Nick Cannon, Cheech Marin, Shawn Ashmore, Roselyn Sanchez, Kelly Hu, Ian Gomez, Hugh Bonneville, Angelo Spizzirri, Johnny Lewis, Peter Bryant, Adrian Young

Actor Nick Cannon made his impressive debut in the movie ‘Drumline’ (2002). This was followed by the rom-bowl ‘Love Don’t Cost a Thing’ (2003) with Christina Milian and a supporting role in ‘Shall We Dance’ (2004). The actor is also known for the MTV improvisational comedy show ‘Nick Cannon Presents: Wild N Out’, in which he takes care of part of the comedy, direction and production. For the film ‘Underclassman’, the actor / rapper / comedian also wrote and co-produced in addition to playing the lead role. Just like behind the scenes, Nick Cannon is quite present as Tre Stokes. We’ve seen this type before, the screaming, no-nonsense, street-smart cop who gets the job done while joking. Eddie Murphy in the Beverly Hills Cop movies, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the Bad Boys movies.

Unfortunately, the young cop Tre is not yet put on the big business and has to fight crime with…. The bicycle. The opening scene is therefore a spectacular chase with bicycle, quad and truck. However, Tre and the crooks do leave havoc. This much to the disgust of captain and father figure Victor Delgado played by Cheech Marin from ‘Desperado’ (1995) and ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’ (2003). Tre is criticized and must from now on strictly adhere to his job description. Until a cop is needed for infiltration at a high school, Tre is now sometimes ‘the right man for the job’ with his youthful looks. His job is to befriend rich man’s son Rob Donovan played by Shawn Ashmore aka Iceman from the ‘X-Men’ movies, and his friends. Tre must find information about the murder of a school newspaper reporter and a bunch of car thieves. With some effort Tre manages to join Rob and his mates, although they have to get used to the strong ‘loud mouth’ that Tre is. In the meantime, he also manages to win over the charms of his handsome Spanish teacher, a role played by Roselyn Sanchez from ‘Rush Hour 2’ (2001), and befriend wannabe Alexander (Johnny Lewis). Tre is well on his way to solving the case, he uses Captain Delgado’s car as bait, but the backup in the form of detectives Brooks (Kelly Hu from ‘X2’ (2003)) and Gallecki (Ian Gomez) leaves it at the crucial moment. You have to see for yourself what exactly happens, “crap” is indeed the right word for it. Tre is therefore taken off the case. However, he tells the captain that he would like to get his diploma and he can finish school. In the meantime, Tre remains secretly involved in the case and eventually manages to catch the villain.

The film has become a mixed bag because it contains too many genres, action, comedy, thriller, romance and drama. The makers here are just as enthusiastic as Tre Stokes with a large part of all these elements in one film. The plot is not really credible either, the strongest point of the film is the action and that is quite impressive. Bumping cars, (paint-ball) pistols, the basketball, the rugby, the smashing jet-ski race and the fast one-liners that Tre spews out. The action accompanied by cool music makes up for a lot, but not everything. Entertainment for in between, that’s all.

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Review: Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)

Director: John Hyams | 97 minutes | action, drama, thriller, science fiction | Actors: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Andrei Arlovski, Mike Pyle, Corey Johnson, Garry Cooper, Emily Joyce, Zahary Baharov, Aki Avni, Kerry Shale, Yonko Dimitrov, Violeta Markovska, Stanislav Pishtalov, Marianne Stanicheva, John Laskowski

When the first six minutes of ‘Universal Soldier: Regeneration’ have passed silently before the viewer, about twenty people have been shot, six cars destroyed and at least as many liters of blood have spilled. And that is also the tone of the film. A tone that will also be continued in the rest of this spectacle. A solid start to a sequel to Roland Emmerich’s ‘Universal Soldier’.

Universal Soldier: Regeneration is a chilly, dark shooting film that involves little human emotions. The film is therefore a bit harder than the average action film. Even for Jean-Claude van Damme (in the role of Luc Deveraux), little room has been left this time for a spark of interpersonal communication. But what do we want differently? In this scenario, it is precisely the ‘fighting machine of Damme’ that has been removed from the stable. And that is what the real enthusiast wants to see. Director John Hyams emphasizes a cold and icy atmosphere in ‘Universal Soldier: Regeneration’ by dipping the image in many gray and black and white tones. Colors don’t exist in this almost surreal world of the Universal Soldiers, a world that feels like that of a computer game. The decor also seems to have been diverted from this. Like Hyams, game producers have also been making grateful use of an abandoned nuclear reactor as a lurid setting for their scenario for years. And then there is the splash of blood against the camera lens. Hyams seems to have found his gimmick in this.

After the first minutes of ‘Universal Soldier: Regeneration’, the sequel of the film can actually already be drawn. Not a problem in a movie like this. After all, the scenario is often secondary to the action and the spectacular stunts. But in this case this means that it will take a long time for Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) to appear on the scene. Obviously, this name of the character is somewhat secondary. Because in the end it is just hero Jean-Claude van Damme who we follow in his umpteenth job to save the world. An exciting and nerve-racking story fails to materialize in ‘Universal Soldier: Regeneration’. The film mainly relies on the hard fight and shooting scenes and stunts in which a lot of blood flows. And of course from the typical ‘action heroes’, as you only find them in these types of films. The entertainment level is high,

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Review: Twister (1996)

Director: Jan de Bont | 113 minutes | action, drama, thriller, adventure | Actors: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lois Smith, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Scott Thomson, Todd Field, Joey Slotnick, Wendle Josepher, Jeremy Davies, Zach Grenier, Gregory Sporleder

In ‘Twister’ Jo and Bill Harding are on the verge of divorce. Bill has said goodbye to tornado hunting and with it to his wife Jo and the team of specialists with whom they have been traveling and working for years. Today he earns his living as a television weather forecaster. He wants to force Jo to finally sign the divorce papers so that he can marry his new love Melissa (Jami Gertz). After a lot of hassle, he therefore tries it with a personal visit. However, Jo slows things down again by showing Bill the machines she had built to his design. The devices are aptly named ‘Dorothy’ and also feature an image of Judy Garland from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939). They are filled with sensors that have to be sucked up by a tornado, after which data is released for scientific research. Then a meteorological alert comes in and Jo and her team head for it. Bill waves to them, but then notices that Jo still has the divorce papers with him and quickly gets into the car. Once on the hunt it is difficult to forget his old hobby and his love for Jo is not yet a thing of the past.

‘Twister’ is a cinematic version of an exciting, heartwarming boy’s book. Not the kind of techno thriller that books by Michael Crichton are often used for, but just nice to watch. Just the way Bill is brought in as the prodigal son at the outset by the various team members and the close mutual bond they have, clearly conveys the clubbing feeling of a bunch of guys ready for any adventure. Helen Hunt is therefore a tough guy in this film for whom it all can’t get rough enough and the beautiful, very feminine Melissa must of course lose it to her.

Also the enemies against and against whom to fight are of great size, as it should be in a good boys’ book. There is a rival group led by the arrogant Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes). He stole Bill’s idea for the machines with sensors and also has a much larger budget, allowing him to afford high-tech equipment and expensive, black (!) Cars. The tornadoes are the other enemy. They are spectacularly portrayed and have an unpredictable and capricious character which makes them elusive and exciting as an opponent. A nice and exciting film that pretends little more than to provide pure, heartwarming entertainment and then does it to the fullest.

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Review: Between Heaven and Earth (2007)

Directed by: Frank van den Engel, Masja Novikova | 72 minutes | documentary | Featuring: Achat Nabiev, Tursun Ali Mamadzhonov, and their family

‘Between Heaven and Earth’ is an extremely atmospheric documentary that is a mixture of magnificent recordings of open air circus performances in the beautiful (mountain) landscapes of Uzbekistan and interviews with mainly Achat and Tursun Ali (the main characters) about their lives and political circumstances. in which they must maintain themselves. Uzbekistan is no longer a communist since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the old communist rulers have only changed hands and are also the new ‘notables’. Uzbekistan is still governed by a regime with dictatorial characteristics. In this documentary, the right balance has been found between circus and politics. This may be due to the fact that both often balance on the tightrope and sometimes need a safety net.

The film’s main characters are Achat and Tursun Ali, who have always been friends and who used to be together in a political movement, the ECA. Since their early childhood they have been active in the itinerant circus life. Together they shared a dream of a circus life, but also the dream of a fairer and better life for the residents of Uzbekistan. However, the political reality has become sinister, there is now another dictatorship after communism that is putting the opposition under pressure by all kinds of means. Achat has spent more than two years in jail for his political activities and Tursun Ali has lost a son under unexplained circumstances who drowned while swimming alone in a river somewhere. Normally his son never swam in a river because he could not swim.

This history has had a major impact on the relationships between Achat and Tursun Ali. Tursun Ali has let go of politics and only wants to deal with his circus, he leaves the political circumstances for what they are. He just wants to live in peace without being bothered.

Achat is still politically active and is constantly hindered by those activities. He cannot stomach the injustice that prevails and is willing to accept the disadvantages, including imprisonment. The way in which Achat presents his ideas testifies to moral courage and great wisdom. Here too he balances on the tightrope. In the dictatorship, however, no safety net is used for those who fall. Besides the way in which Achat and Tursun Ali philosophize about how to deal with politics and its excesses, we follow these people and their families in their daily performances in the street circus. Street performances are the only way of performing for such artists and artists, they have no money for a circus tent. The tradition in such countries is entirely focused on performances in the open air and then going around with the cap among the spectators. These are often destitute and can hardly make a financial contribution.

The film adaptations of these street performances are particularly atmospheric. The classic strongman who juggles with weights of 32 kilos as if they were tennis balls, the powerhouse who knows how to stop two cars with his teeth or muscles. No structured recordings full of sound effects and tricks with light or other aids, but the real circus pur sang with the strong man and the balancing artists. The camera work here is of great class, the atmosphere that prevails during such performances is tangibly conveyed, set against magnificent landscapes. You would wish to sit among these spectators and experience the performance. The recordings of the tightrope walker, Achat’s daughter, running high in the air over the tightrope, sometimes with her nephew on her shoulders, are of great class and breathtakingly beautiful. That daughter in itself makes a special contribution to this film. She talks candidly about her existence and actually dreams much more of a normal existence outside the circus, in which she is married, has children, is allowed to grow fat and probably has a husband who forbids her from working in a circus.

‘Between Heaven and Earth’ is another gem of a documentary that balances harmoniously between a sketch of the life of traditional circus artists, a circus performance in itself, and the drama of the conscientious little man who dares to compete against the prevailing political current. rowing. Magnificent camerawork and wonderful music. Cinephiles, fans of atmospheric street circus and realistic travel documentaries, or rather: highly honored audience, will see!

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Review: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Director: Monte Hellman | 102 minutes | drama | Actors: James Taylor, Warren Oates, Dennis Wilson, Laurie Bird, Harry Dean Stanton, David Drake, Richard Ruth, Rudy Wurlitzer, Jaclyn Hellman, Bill Keller, Don Samuels, Charles Moore, Tom Green, WH Harrison, Alan Vint, Illa Ginnaven , George Mitchell, AJ Solari, Katherine Squire, Melissa Hellman, Jay Wheatley, James Mitchum, Kreag Caffey, Tom Witenbarger, Glen Rogers

There are those films in which all kinds of things happen but about which sadly little can be said. There are also films in which almost nothing happens but about which you never speak out. ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ clearly falls into the latter category. This 1971 American production introduces the young driver of a Chevrolet and his equally young mechanic. They traverse the country without a goal and without looking further ahead than the next day. We also step in with the driver of a GTO, a huge chatterbox who also seems to have no purpose. During the 102 minutes that we follow those characters, nothing seems to happen to warrant a movie of this length. But as is usually the case with art house films, it is not about the events themselves but about the deeper layers below.

It is clear that the journey through provincial America must be interpreted metaphorically, although that does not clarify the meaning of the film. Director Hellman seems to mainly want to confront us with different ways of living. In this way, the young driver and his mechanic have detached themselves from home, hearth, past and future. Completely detached, they live purely in the present, without committing themselves and without focusing on anything other than their car. The driver of the GTO – unnamed, like all characters in this film – is another story apart. He has a curious habit of treating every hitchhiker he takes with another life story. For example, he changes his identity every day, so that as a viewer you ultimately have to ask whether the man has his own identity at all.

Equally opaque is the girl, who first gets into the boys’ seat and then back into the GTO. She too lives by the day, but where the boys always remain passive, she takes initiative when necessary. But where the girl comes from and what drives her is not clear. What director Hellman omits a bit here is to show the impact and meaning of the different ways of life. The boys are completely Zen in their car, but they don’t seem really satisfied either. It is inevitable that one of the boys will eventually become attached to the girl, but what is Hellman saying? That detachment never works? That attachment is the root of all evil? It never becomes clear, as so much is not clear here.

Yet ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ is not an annoying film. The race between the boys and the GTO may be nothing but the encounters along the way and the silly talks of the GTO are very entertaining. Moreover, the film is visually an experience. In ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ we are treated to vast landscapes against which people and cars form lonely and isolated objects. It is Edward Hopper’s America, an America of vast plains, deserted roads and abandoned petrol stations. Those images, combined with the lack of background music and narrative tension, ensure that the viewer becomes almost as alienated as the characters.

Another thing that stands out about ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ is the tragic fate of the cast. The boys are played by two well-known musicians, the driver by singer-songwriter James Taylor, the mechanic by Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. The latter would drown in 1983, shortly after his 39th birthday. The girl is played by Laurie Bird, a young actress who commits suicide eight years after ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’. Finally, the GTO is formidably put down by Warren Oates, who would already succumb to a heart attack at the age of 54. That hindsight science gives the film a tragedy that it does not have of its own.

Although ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ lacks a lot, it is a film that you, as a fan, cannot pass up. Despite the lack of explanation, it is clear that director Hellman has something to say about America just after the happy hippie era. But even if it is never clear what exactly he wants to say, ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ is still worthwhile with its still images, its wonderfully slow pace and its intriguing characters. Especially if you like cinematic curiosities.

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Review: Tricks – Sztuczky (2007)

Directed by: Andrzej Jakimowski | 95 minutes | drama | Actors: Damian Ul, Ewelina Walendziak, Tomasz Sapryk, Rafal Guzniczak, Iwona Fornalczyk, Joanna Liszowska, Andrzej Golejewski, Grzegorz Stelmaszewski, Simeone Matarelli, Krzysztof Lawniczak, Roman Baranowstyna-Matarellika, Stephanna Koleczeknaka, Katarzyna Koleczekna-Matarzyota Koleczekna-Katarzyna Koleczekna-Matarzyota Koleczekna-Matarelli Mankowska, Dariusz Bronowicki, Mieczyslaw Dziekanski, Lidia Michaluszek, Aleksandra Zaczek, Andrzej Lanczont, Marzena Kipiel-Sztuka

In ‘Tricks’ we experience a long hot summer in a Polish provincial town. We follow six-year-old Stefek and his eighteen-year-old sister Élka, young people each with their own concerns and desires. Stefek wants nothing more than a real father around her, Élka doesn’t really know what she wants: a quiet life with car mechanic Jerzy or a flashy career at the local branch of an Italian company. Brother and sister spend long days in parks and at the picturesque station, where they often do nothing more than observe.

Despite the minimal plot, ‘Tricks’ turns out to be an exciting arthouse film. This has partly to do with the fantasy that siblings have. Both live in their own world, and by following their daily routine we slowly get to know that world. By following Stefek’s gaze, often with the camera at child height, we see what he sees and experience his amazement at railway signals, market traders and adults sunbathing.

Equally amusing is the assortment of tricks (the ‘tricks’ from the title) that runs like a thread through the film. Stefek tries again and again to let the pigeons of the local pigeon fancier fly away from their loft. The trick he devises for this is as ingenious as it is humorous. But sister Élka is also a master of tricks, although hers are much more practical and never based on magic.

The most important quality of ‘Tricks’ is the way in which the non-professional actors give shape to their characters. Stefek, Élka and her friend Jerzy are captivating characters, portrayed lifelike by the actors. Brother and sister are even physically alike, with their stubbornly protruding lower lips and sullen look. From the first minute you become attached to those characters, and you like nothing more than to watch their faces suggest a world of thoughts and ideas.

For example, ‘Tricks’ is one of those rare films that cannot last long enough. After sharing joys and sorrows with brother and sister for an hour and a half, it is hard to say goodbye. It is therefore not surprising that the good-humored, humorous, nostalgic and accessible ‘Tricks’ was a big hit in homeland Poland. This special film about ordinary people should not let any Arthurian enthusiast walk away. You also get a useful lecture about women and cars.