“Faire le Pitre” [Clowning Around]

“Faire le Pitre” [Clowning Around]

A review of "LOST IN PARIS." [Mountain Shadow's show for May, 2017] - While the film-making team of Abel and Gordon don’t credit Chaplin directly as the inspirational source for their latest work, they readily acknowledge they are part of what they call the professional “actor-clown” tradition; with what they themselves dub as “burlesque comedy.” In this, their latest film, the dialogue is minimal; leaving facial expression and body movement to tell a tale that’s sheer comic delight. This was Mountain Shadow's selection for May, 2017. Click on the image above to read the review.

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Parts Known & Unknown

Parts Known & Unknown

"Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent" - [Mountain Shadow's show for April, 2017] - The popularity of Anthony Bourdain’s well known series, Parts Unknown, is all about revealing people and places as yet undiscovered. But what about the first well-known “celebrity chef” who, to this day, remains an unknown mystery?  The answers are not to be found in some secret recipes, but in a study of one extraordinary man’s unique personal gifts and baggage. This was Mountain Shadow's selection for May, 2017, and a Bay Area premiere.Click on the image above to read a Mountain Shadow review.

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Free and Clear

Free and Clear

A Review ofAsghar Fargadi's Oscar-winning film, "The Salesman" - [Mountain Shadow's show for March, 2017] - In Arthur Miller’s 1948 theatrical classic, Death of a Salesman, the main character plays the role of a disgruntled shell of a man; exhausted from a life spent peddling some unnamed commodity that ends up being as meaningless as the sum of all his days.  Willy Loman is plagued by his failures that are a heavier burden to bear than the suitcases full of worthless wares he carries. In the end, he puts an end to his embittered life; but not before inflicting plenty of pain and misery on those around him. In the course of Asghar Fargadi's Oscar winning film, The Salesman, Emad is left to deal with the aftermath of a suspected and presumed assault on his wife, Rana. But the cost of revenge can be both deadening and deadly. To read the full review of this gem of a film, click on the image above.

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When Poetry and Politics Mix

When Poetry and Politics Mix

As the son of a railway worker, Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto’s sympathies for the working class are in his bones. But when he achieves success as a world-renowned poet and later Nobel prize winner, he changes his name to Pablo Neruda; and joins a company of world-class intellectual elites like the artist, Pablo Picasso, and existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre. He is not just an esoteric, rabble-rouser poet. In 1948, he is also a Chilean opposition leader, whose political views are subversive to the status quo; where gross economic disparity reigns and divides a nation. When a warrant is issued for his arrest, he will run only fast enough to elude and torment his would-be captor. The escapade will blur fiction and non-fiction as an epic cinematic poem. [Mountain Shadow's show for January, 2017] - To read the full review, click on the image above.

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A Dramedy on Thin Ice: A Review of HERE IS HAROLD

A Dramedy on Thin Ice: A Review of HERE IS HAROLD

Charlie Chaplin once said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” There’s also hardly anything funny to be found in the first fifteen minutes of this Norwegian cinematic drama-comedy; but subtle humor that underlies much of the way the real world exists will break through the ice and expose both the absurdity and touching beauty of life. Click on the image above to read the full review.

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Two Left Feet

Two Left Feet

Fúsi is a baggage handler at the airport, where he spends his days handling everyone else’s arrivals and departures. Unfortunately, it suits him well.  Enter Sjöfn, a spunky, but seriously flawed chick who introduces Fúsi to a whirlwind of new experiences he could hardly have conjured up for himself.  Fúsi then goes through all the pains of growing up; from the innocence and naiveté of childhood to a kind of mature and compassionate affection some adults never achieve. Click on the image above to read more about this little gem of a film.

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An Impossible Dream

An Impossible Dream

As a place known only too well as one of international conflict and internal civil strife, modern day Iraq might seem an unlikely place for a film about two star-crossed lovers following an impossible dream.  In fact, the director of El Clasico, Halkawt Mustafa, has described how filming on location in Baghdad’s “Green Zone” was interrupted numerous times by nearby bombings. At the same time, perhaps the point of the storyline is made all the more poignant and persuasive when the internal ways of the heart can withstand all the slings and arrows the outside world can heave, and still triumph in the end.  With no U.S. commercial release for this film (only a few select festivals), this was Mountain Shadow's exclusive screening and selection for October, 2016. Click on the picture above to read the full review.

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2nd Annual Short Film Competition

2nd Annual Short Film Competition

With the conclusion of our 2nd Annual Short Film Competition the weekend of September 16-17,  the consensus is in: “Wow, ten spectacular films by some remarkable filmmakers!”  All ten Finalists were winners for having beat out hundreds of other submissions; but you can click on the image above to find out the tallied results from the 300+ ballots cast from our three audiences. You can watch a YouTube video of the Q&A with the filmmakers here.

 

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A PAWN IN THE GAME

A PAWN IN THE GAME

For most players, chess is a game of attrition; knocking off enough of the opponent’s pieces, in order to expose the vulnerability of the king and its capture.  But for the skilled player, cornering the king with an inescapable checkmate can sometimes be accomplished when your opponent still has plenty of other powerful pieces left on the board. Even a few lowly pawns can potentially become the victors.  And sometimes with the help of a knight on horseback. It is the peculiar ability of the knight’s horse to leap over other pieces -- forwards or backwards, up two squares and over one, or vice versa -- that can sometimes be most effective. And therefore, sometimes it’s really just a matter of backing the right horse against all odds. To read a Mountain Shadow review of "The Dark Horse," click on the image above.

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Exchanging Notes

Exchanging Notes

THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS:  Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble

By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director

[This film was Mountain Shadow's selection for July, 2016]

Through the dramatic stories of an ensemble of characters, this new documentary film drives home the challenge for us to rethink how different cultures, with their unique traditional music lore, get preserved, honored and shared; to either evolve and interact, or clash. Any film intended to celebrate the universal thread of music, with the diversity of its expression in different cultural traditions, all sounds lovely. In point of fact, the Silk Road Ensemble’s throbbing rhythms and the joyful expressions so clearly expressed by its members, sounds powerfully persuasive. But we live in a world filled with more than harmonious musical notes. In focusing on the lives of several members of this ensemble, we are confronted with the unavoidable intersection of happy musicians colliding withever-present political intrigue and international conflict. Click on the picture above to read the full review and commentary.

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When Walls Build Bridges

When Walls Build Bridges

A Commentary & Review of A NEW COLOR
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director
[This film was Mountain Shadow's selection for June 2016]

Artistic expression is typically reserved for gallery exhibitions; and by those with a pedigree of obvious talent.  Even so-called “folk art” required the credentialed critic’s approval and the test of time, before posthumous recognition was even a possibility. But when Edy Boone found the gumption within herself to demand that the city’s public housing authority in Harlem clean up the squalid conditions in which she was trying to live a life, she was given some paint, and left to her own imagination and devices. As a result, she found herself and her vocation in a term she’d never known before: muralist.

Click on the image above to continue reading.

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Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones

A Commentary & Review of MARGUERITE
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director
[This film was Mountain Shadow's selection for May 2016]

Florence Foster Jenkins’ recording sold like hotcakes, with such albums as the one entitled, “Murder on the High C’s.” The self-deception of her dubious talent – spurred on by those who either indulged, used or mocked her – led her to eventually book a performance at Carnegie Hall. Next morning, the newspaper critics exposed her utter lack of talent. She suffered a heart attack, and died two days later.  What was unknown at the time was that the syphilis she’d contracted from an earlier marriage had damaged her hearing.

Click on the image above to continue reading.  

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Amazon Apocalypse, or, a Bend in the River

Amazon Apocalypse, or, a Bend in the River

A Commentary & Review of EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director
[Note: This film was Mountain Shadow's selection for April, 2016]

Here’s what you get in over two hours of movie watching: A river to explore. Two different adventurers in search of a legendary, but illusive prize with an unknown destination. Modern “civilized” man’s search for certitude and domination of nature, and the ill-fated consequences.

There’s also the tension between the reality of dreams and the horrific nightmares humankind enacts, time and again. There are ancient mythic tales that can chart a serpentine course no cartographer’s map can trace. There’s an Amazonian sage and shaman that not only challenges Western thinking, but can utterly transform a man in the process of his own evolution. 

Embrace of the Serpent offers up a spellbinding trip upriver with two tales and time periods that share a common quest.  Click on the image above to read the Mountain Shadow review.

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Winter of Discontent

Winter of Discontent

A Commentary & Review of RAMS
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director
[Note: This film was Mountain Shadow’s March, 2016 show.]

Two farmhouses, inhabited by two estranged brothers, stand a stone’s throw apart; separated only by a barbed wire fence and a thousand miles of jealousy, rivalry and resentment that has fueled a bitter feud for an unremembered number of years.

The bonds of affection held by Gummi and Kiddi Bolstadar are quickly evident, however; and equally spent on their wooly flock and the prize sheep. But soon the blackest of nights descends upon the valley, as Gummi’s grim discovery of an incurable sheep disease leads to the mandatory slaughter of all the stock.  Click on the image above to continue reading.  

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Wild, Wild Horses

Wild, Wild Horses

A Commentary & Review of MUSTANG
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director

Note: This Oscar nominee for "Best Foreign Language Film" was Mountain Shadow’s January, 2016 show.

Mention Turkey today and those who have traveled there might say it’s a wonderful place to visit, but they wouldn’t want to live there. The evening news brings with it daily images of Syrian refugees flooding across its southern border, civil unrest in the streets, and a repressive Erdoğan government that reinforces strict Islamic codes of conduct.
At first one might think it’s an unlikely setting for what
Deniz Gamze Ergüven, the co-writer and director of Mustang, describes as a fairy tale. It is not, however, a “once upon a time … and they lived happily ever after” kind of story. It’s more like the brothers Grimm, with the role of Rapunzel locked in the tower played by five young sisters; who are orphaned and bound to each other by blood and ferocious affection.  Click on the image above to read the full review.

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LOVE AND DEATH, AND A FOUR-LEGGED METAPHOR

LOVE AND DEATH, AND A FOUR-LEGGED METAPHOR

A Commentary & Review of HEART OF A DOG
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Volunteer Director

A Film by Laurie Anderson
Documentary  - Non-Rated - 75 min. 
This film was Mountain Shadow’s selection for December, 2015

“Life can only be understood backwards," wrote Søren Kierkegaard, "But it must be lived forwards.”  The 19th century philosopher’s quote expresses the conundrum that lies at the heart of Anderson’s film, HEART OF A DOG. The film is a meditative compilation of recollections, reflections and ruminations to be experienced by the viewer as a cinematic retrospective on love, life and death; all of which might enable one to move forward. To read the review, click on the image above.

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Remembering Skokie

Remembering Skokie

A Commentary & Review of SURVIVING SKOKIE
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Volunteer Director

A Film by Eli Adler and Blair
Documentary  - Non-Rated - 66 min. 
This film was Mountain Shadow’s selection for November, 2015

Surviving Skokie is the best kind of documentary. It’s historical and informative, to be sure. In addition, it tells a story that is inspirational; and, to my way of thinking, even redemptive. But it’s also personal, even autobiographical. And therein lies the kind of archetypal father-child journey that is authentically poignant and persuasive.

Everyone knows something of the Holocaust. It is the emblematic story of the kind of devastation, death and destruction which human beings seem all too capable of inflicting upon one another in every age and generation.  Whenever and wherever the spark is ignited once again, it requires the best in us to confront and denounce the worst in us. 

Click on the image above to continue reading.  

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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. 

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Audience Choice Awards for Short Film Competition

Audience Choice Awards for Short Film Competition

By Peggy Hora, VP, Mountain Shadow’s volunteer Board of Directors
The Short Film Competition was Mountain Shadow’s Show for September, 2015

The audience choice awards for the first Mountain Shadow Film Society Short Film Competition have been announced.

The finalists were selected by a twelve-member jury comprised of Mountain Shadow members.  A compilation of all seven films is available on Blu-Ray and DVD for Mountain Shadow members to borrow from our Lending Library. 

Click on image above to continue reading.  

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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.  

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