When You Can’t Have It All - A Film Review of "The Second Mother"

When You Can’t Have It All - A Film Review of "The Second Mother"

Writer/director Anna Muylaert gets personal with a simple story exposing the human costs with the last remaining vestiges of a class system that is all but gone. Where one film critic dubbed THE SECOND MOTHER “ is a soap opera with a social conscience,” I call it Downton Abbey in Portugese. 

Val is the loving and lovable maternal surrogate and domestic backbone of an affluent Sao Paulo household that maintains a vestige of Brazil’s colonial past through a combination of pretension and dysfunction. 

Click the image above to continue reading. 

Read More

Trust, but Verify

Trust, but Verify

A Commentary & Review of ABOUT ELLY
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Volunteer Director
A Film by Asghar Farhadi
Drama-Mystery - Non-rated - 118 min. Iranian (Persian, with English subtitles). 
This was the Society's film for August, 2015.  

It’s August, so what better time for a movie about a fun-filled seaside weekend vacation amongst family and friends? At least that’s the way the film, ABOUT ELLY begins … The men will dance together, the women will laugh and clap their hands, the children will, well, be children.  It’ll be a great time for this group of educated, up and coming, middle class types with their Beemer, their SUV, their spouses, girlfriends and kids.
 It could be the ordinary beginning to a summer vacation story. Except this beach house just happens to be located on the Caspian Sea, about 200 kilometers from Tehran.  And presumably, it's a story all about Elly.

Click on the picture above to continue reading.  

Read More

Getting Even

Getting Even

A Commentary & Review of “WILD TALES”
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Volunteer Director

A Film by Damián Szifrón
Comedy-Drama-Thriller - R, 122 min. Argentine
This film was the Society's selection for July 2015

It has been said one can marvel at the depths to which we are sometimes willing to sink in order to seek revenge. It can be sweet, but the pleasure short-lived. If one survives long enough, a bitter aftertaste is often the result. 

But what if one has been unjustly wronged? In such a case, retribution would appear justified. With retributive justice, the offender is said to pay a price for their misdeeds. The punishment should fit the crime, we say. Lex talionis (‘an eye for an eye’) is an ancient legal concept that is still fully operative today. But when is enough enough? And when is that thin line crossed between justifiable retribution and unbridled vengeance?

Click on the picture above to read the full review.  

Read More

A Touching Film

A Touching Film

MARIE’S STORY - Biography • Drama, Non-rated, 95 min. French (English subtitles)
A Film by Jean-Pierre Améris, screened by Mountain Shadow in May, 2015

Review by John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Volunteer Director

It is an intriguing task to tell such a “true” and “biographical” fable like MARIE’S STORY with sumptuous cinematography, a minimal script and a stirring musical score where the main character is blind, deaf and dumb. It leaves the only two remaining sensory experiences unavailable to such a medium as film (touch and scent) to the visceral world of filmmakers and critics alike.  As the filmmaker comments on his work: “This project began with my fascination for the story of Helen Keller..." 

Click on the image above to continue reading.  

Read More

A World Away That’s Closer Than You Think

A World Away That’s Closer Than You Think

A Commentary Review of the Film, TIMBUKTU
A Film by Abderrahmane Sissako • 97 min. • Rated PG-13
Review by John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Volunteer Director
This film was Mountain Shadow’s feature film in April, 2015

Located 20 miles north of the Niger River, on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert in the West African country of Mali, Timbuktu dates back to the 12th century. Timbuktu today is impoverished, suffering from “desertification.” But seven centuries earlier, the city had been a flourishing trading route, and a center for Islamic scholarship; before a succession of invading forces vied for its control to this very day.  

For a brief time in 2012, the Timbuktu region was overtaken by outside extreme Islamic Jihadists, who strove to impose a strict and distorted form of Shariah law.  In January, 2013, French and Malian government troops began retaking Timbuktu from the radical extremists; but not before scores of ancient documents were destroyed, and rebel suicide attacks wrought further havoc for another six months. 

In the midst of this widespread chaos, one incident went largely unreported; namely, an unmarried couple who were stoned to death by religious extremists, leaving their children orphans. It is against this backdrop that Abderrahmane Sissako wrote the screenplay, and then directed  (and co-produced) his film, TIMBUKTU.

Click on the image above to read the full review.

Read More

PLACES OF THE HEART

PLACES OF THE HEART

Brief Reviews of Six Oscar Short Film Nominees for 2015
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Volunteer Director

Like the literary genre of the short story, an effective short film can tell an entire tale and convey everything that needs to be seen and said in a matter of minutes.  At the same time, these vignettes can leave enough spaces between the lines to engage the viewer’s imagination.

The Oscar nominations for Best Short Film has three categories, documentary, live action and animated. Over Valentine’s Day weekend in February, Mountain Shadow’s audiences enjoyed all five of the live action shorts, along with one of the animated titles.  

Click on the image above to read the full review.

Read More