Love and Habeas

Anything for Her (2008)

Pour elle_131_31a_jm_leroy
Mars Distribution

The writer and director Fred Cavayé is not a man given to idle dawdling. Within 10 minutes of setting up the perfect Parisian lives of his lead characters in “Anything for Her,” he swiftly tears them apart by having the gendarmes come crashing through their apartment door. Up to this point, the couple – mild-mannered teacher Julien (Vincent Lindon) and his beautiful wife Lisa (Diane Kruger) – were blissfully happy. In spite of having a three-year-old son, they find the time and energy to make love with the enthusiasm of a pair of adolescents but with decidedly more panache. Well, they are French after all.

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The Burden on Those Left Behind

Fugitive Pieces (2008)

N. Nikolopoulos/Samuel Goldwyn Films

There is a certain air of familiarity surrounding “Fugitive Pieces,” which – thematically at least – treads similar ground to one of the year’s more successful releases, “The Reader.” Both films are based on much-lauded novels and concern a middle-aged, academic type coming to terms with a past which has been blighted, in some way, by Nazi atrocities. In “The Reader,” Ralph Fiennes played a lawyer mentally haunted by the woman who was his first love and the subsequent revelations of her true nature. Meanwhile in “Fugitive Pieces,” a writer named Jakob (Stephen Dillane) is obsessed with the fate of his older sister, who was seized by German soldiers and taken to an unknown but certainly tragic end.

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I'll Be There for You, Literally

Management (2009)

Suzanne Hanover/Samuel Goldwyn Films

If, as some people believe, that the best comedy is grounded in truth, then it is no wonder that “Management” falls so flat on its face. The film begins with an unbelievable scenario and then proceeds to get progressively sillier as it goes along. Not that there is anything inherently wrong in silly - Monty Python made a pretty good career out of it - but it needs to work in conjunction with “funny” to be successful, and “funny” is not a word that springs to mind in the case of “Management.”

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Forbidden Fruit in the Cement Garden

Delta (2008)

The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival

When the young female lead in a film is introduced wearing an apron splattered with pig’s blood, it is a sure indication that the next 90 minutes are not likely to send you out of the cinema wiping tears of mirth from your cheeks. So it is with “Delta,” an on the whole downbeat experience, but a very rewarding one for those willing to make the effort.

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Keeping a Friend Close as Enemies Get Closer

Flame & Citron (2008)

The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival

The eponymous anti-heroes of this stylish and exciting thriller from Ole Christian Madsen were never mentioned in any history lesson that I ever took. Otto Von Bismarck, Winston Churchill and even the Venerable Bede were all present and correct during my studies but not "Flame & Citron." The latter might console themselves from beyond the grave with at least being well known in their native Denmark.

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Smelling the Forgotten Roses

Gardens in Autumn (2006)

Artificial Eye

A rather beautiful leopard appears in the film "Gardens in Autumn," languishing in the white and gold opulence of the home of government minister Vincent (Séverin Blanchet). There are animals everywhere, in fact, but this particular beast - Otar Iosseliani, the film’s writer and director, has claimed - symbolizes power, in much the same way as the ancient kings would keep menageries of the rare and wild within their palace walls.

In some ways the leopard also reflects the nature of the film itself as it remains rather tame throughout, casting a sly eye over proceedings rather than surrendering to more savage instincts and letting rip with tooth and claw. Likewise, "Gardens in Autumn" is a droll, gentle film which pokes a satirical tongue out at the world of work and politics without being sharp enough to suggest anything that is not already universally familiar.

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'Slumdog' Has Its Day at British Independent Film Awards

Angelo Valentino/British Independent Film Awards

Danny Boyle found himself in an especially cold and wet part of London on the evening of Nov. 30 but his thoughts were clearly further afield. One would have expected him to be entirely jubilant, considering he had just picked up both the “Best British Film” and “Best Director” prizes at the British Independent Film Awards for “Slumdog Millionaire.” The film was shot on location in Mumbai which had made headlines the previous week for far more tragic reasons as real life scenes of terrorist violence were played out on its streets. Mr. Boyle was mindful that his film had gained a sense of topicality that no sane man would ever have wished for.

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Lovers of the Arctic Circle

Far North (2007)

Celluloid Dreams

The number of films shot on location in the Arctic could be counted on the blackened fingers of one frost-bitten hand. Hardly surprising, really, given the trials involved in working there. The makers of "Far North" filmed in Svalbard, one of the world’s most northern settlements, enduring night temperatures of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the ever present threat of becoming a polar bear’s lunch.

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Bullied Game Boy Seeks Diversion

Ben X (2007)

Film Movement

Most think the gradual democratization of the media and its resources is a good thing, but one can always find a downside. Take bullying for instance, which has reached whole new levels thanks to the advent of accessible technology. Such horrible activities, once confined to a dark corner of the playground, can now be recorded and broadcast to a generally outraged society. "Happy-slapping" (surely the most oxymoronic of terms) videos can be beamed from cell phone to cell phone, or uploaded to the likes of YouTube, turning the Internet into an instrument of humiliation as opposed to illumination.

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Babushka Plays Surrogate Mother Russia

Alexandra (2007)

Cinema Guild

"Alexandra" takes place in Grozny, capital of the Republic of Chechnya, whose fight for independence from Russian rule led to it being carpet-bombed into near submission in the 1990s at a cost of more than 80,000 lives. The film centers on a Russian army camp in the present day where young soldiers nervously await their next clash with separatist forces. The central figure in the story wears no uniform, however. She is Alexandra, an 80-year-old woman, seemingly as grand and enigmatic as her name suggests.

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