Recently Watched Films 2020

Not the stuff on your shower tiles.

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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by Dan Warburton »

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Frederick Wiseman, Monrovia Indiana, 2019

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-f ... wn-america A fine review by Richard Brody of a terrific film, which ends with a twelve-minute funeral oration, which Brody describes in his closing paragraph as follows: "That extraordinary skein of rhetoric—at once persuasively consoling, hectoringly hortatory, and chillingly hollow—is followed by the ceremony of burial, where the warmth and the love of the assembled company yields to the unpeopled emptiness of the cemetery and its tombstones, many accompanied by American flags. The movie ends with the coffin bearing the body of the deceased being lowered into the ground, covered with a truckload of dirt, and, with an undertaker casually tossing a wreath, the new earthen mound reposing in forlorn isolation. Monrovia, Indiana is nothing less than a work of mourning for the American soul." I only hope that it won't be the last we hear from the mighty Wiseman - never was a documentary maker more aptly named - 90 years young, but I'm afraid the good folks of Monrovia Indiana will still be chowing down on their greasy fast food, enthusing about guns, investing in tacky plastic crosses for their tacky plastic wedding ceremonies and electing Donald J. Trump again later this year.
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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by Dan Warburton »

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Jóhann Jóhannsson, Last and First Men, 2020

Could somebody lend me a film crew and buy me a round-trip to Podgarica in Croatia to film an hour's worth of slowmoving pans around
Dušan Džamonja's brutalist 1967 sculptures (Monument to the Revolution, indeed - anyone remember Tito?)? Meanwhile, you can dig up some fusty old dystopian science fiction novel - I'll leave the choice up to you, it's not really my cup of tea - and book an actress with a beautiful voice (if you can't afford Blanchett, I'll settle for Tilda Swinton) to read its deeply meaningful text as voiceover. As far as the music goes, just get me an orchestra and a few weeks' rehearsal time, I'll do much better than this, promise. Since his untimely demise at the age of 48 (moral: don't mix coke and flu medecine), Jóhann Jóhannsson has been hailed as a "visionary composer" - eh, there's nowt like an early death to boost your box office, you ask Morrison, Hendrix, Curtis and Lennon - but in the Age of Zimmer it's not that hard to become one, you know. Here's how you do it: 1) Think orchestra and voices, more "human". Church vibe, too. Religion's deep, man. 2) Keep that harmonic language tonal: folks really just don't like that nasty dissonant stuff, except in horror movies (Penderecki figured that out). 3) Opt for minor keys, they're much more serious.. only Mozart and Schubert could ever get deep in major keys, and you're not as good as they were. And, most importantly, 4) Keep that tempo nice and slow (the slower the better: it worked for Arvo Pärt and Max Richter - you don't want to end up sounding like Philip Glass, do you?). The chap from Variety seems quite impressed https://variety.com/2020/film/reviews/l ... 203526300/ - I personally prefer what happens at 37'32" (this just to prove that I have watched this dreary mess from beginning to end) when the music suddenly stops. Not for long, alas.
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by henriq »

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Éric Rochant - Les Patriotes (1994)

An excellent thriller, the best of the genre I’ve seen in a long time. Set within the world of Mossad, we follow French jew Ariel from recruitment and training in the service to an increasingly sordid and soiled career. A career expertly plotted and paced - I am brought to mind of nothing so much as the tv version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the patience and gentleness, the slowburn exposition. The first part especially, set in Paris, where the team of operatives try to ensnare Jean Francois Stevenin’s nuclear engineer, is just amazing (le pauvre Stevenin, if only he had read his Le Carré - the agent trapping him calls himself Bill Haydon…). There is a glassine feel to proceedings here, metallic and poignant in equal measure - the seduction and attractions maintained and deferred between Yvan Attal’s Ariel and Sandrine Kiberlain’s Marie-Claude a clear case in point. Pathos enters stateside, but is kept in close check, with the appearance of bumbling idealist spy Jeremy, played by Richard Masur. He does bumbling well, that man. An obvious adjunct to Spielberg’s Munich - the personage Yossi from that film play a large part here - this film is clearly the better one, by far.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by Dan Warburton »

This is one now scheduled for viewing tonight! Was meaning to watch it a couple of days ago, but we sidetracked (no regrets) by

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Antonia Bird, Cracker, 2006

Cracker is the word for it - this is a really fine film, in every way. Jimmy McGovern's chainsmoking, hard-drinking, obese gambling addict psychologist, played to perfection by Robbie Coltrane, is such a great character they made three series featuring him. I've seen and enjoyed the first episode of the earlier series, directed by Michael Winterbottom, but it's not as good as this tale of a scarred ex-soldier traumatised after his service in Northern Ireland. Set against a seemingly non-stop barrage of post 9-11 TV (images of Bush, Blair and bodybags abound) and set in Manchester, it's hard to decide what's most impressive, the plot, the acting or the editing. Excellent stuff.
Last edited by Dan Warburton on Thu May 28, 2020 11:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by henriq »

Dan Warburton wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 7:50 am
This is one now scheduled for viewing tonight! Was meaning to watch it a couple of days ago, but we sidetracked (no regrets) by

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Antonia Bird, Cracker, 2006

Cracker is the word for it - this is a really fine film, in every way. Jimmy McGovern's chainsmoking, hard-drinking, obese gambling addict psychologist, played to perfection by Robbie Coltrane, is such a great character they ended up making three follow-up series featuring him. I've seen and enjoyed the first episode, directed by Michael Winterbottom, but it's not as good as this tale of a scarred ex-soldier traumatised after his service in Northern Ireland. Set against a seemingly non-stop barrage of post 9-11 TV (images of Bush, Blair and bodybags abound) and set in Manchester, it's hard to decide what's most impressive, the plot, the acting or the editing. Excellent stuff.
Not to pick nits, but I think the series came first, in the nineties. This capped the narrative, so to speak.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by Dan Warburton »

Good grief, you're quite right. Nitpick by all means, that was a stupid mistake on my part. Will edit original post (which might make your reply seem a bit bizarre, Henrik). Quel con, vraiment.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by Dan Warburton »

Meanwhile -
henriq wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 6:21 pm
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Éric Rochant - Les Patriotes (1994)

An excellent thriller, the best of the genre I’ve seen in a long time. Set within the world of Mossad, we follow French jew Ariel from recruitment and training in the service to an increasingly sordid and soiled career. A career expertly plotted and paced - I am brought to mind of nothing so much as the tv version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the patience and gentleness, the slowburn exposition. The first part especially, set in Paris, where the team of operatives try to ensnare Jean Francois Stevenin’s nuclear engineer, is just amazing (le pauvre Stevenin, if only he had read his Le Carré - the agent trapping him calls himself Bill Haydon…). There is a glassine feel to proceedings here, metallic and poignant in equal measure - the seduction and attractions maintained and deferred between Yvan Attal’s Ariel and Sandrine Kiberlain’s Marie-Claude a clear case in point. Pathos enters stateside, but is kept in close check, with the appearance of bumbling idealist spy Jeremy, played by Richard Masur. He does bumbling well, that man. An obvious adjunct to Spielberg’s Munich - the personage Yossi from that film play a large part here - this film is clearly the better one, by far.
I imagine you're right, though I'm not likely to want to watch Munich to find out. Yes, calling him Bill Haydon was a tad obvious, wasn't it? Good soild cast, well done, but spy films / novels generally aren't my thing (I could never finish a Le Carré book and I eventually gave up on the BBC TTSS, despite Alec Guinness). Of course, the fact that it begins with that classic disclaimer (fictitious characters and all that) means you know it's basically a true story. Or rather two true stories (Hippolyte Girardot's character being the link), of which I much preferred the first one with Stevenin.
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by henriq »

Dan Warburton wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 11:58 pm
Meanwhile -

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Éric Rochant - Les Patriotes (1994)

I imagine you're right, though I'm not likely to want to watch Munich to find out. Yes, calling him Bill Haydon was a tad obvious, wasn't it? Good soild cast, well done, but spy films / novels generally aren't my thing (I could never finish a Le Carré book and I eventually gave up on the BBC TTSS, despite Alec Guinness). Of course, the fact that it begins with that classic disclaimer (fictitious characters and all that) means you know it's basically a true story. Or rather two true stories (Hippolyte Girardot's character being the link), of which I much preferred the first one with Stevenin.
Oh yes, completely, the French setting is superior. Love the chill of the agent calling Stevenin up as he is about to crack... It wobbles quite some bit with Richard Masur, a sentimental pathos that seems a little out of place. Munich: yes, you would probably hate it, though it has both Michel Lonsdale and Mathieu Amalric in it. Damning with faint praise, as they say, but it is good for a Spielberg: or maybe it seemed good or even great at the time because it avoided the obvious trappings. Should look at it again to see if it holds up, I remember I loved it at the time.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Jean-Pierre Mocky, Les ballets écarlates, 2005

What an intriguing mess. Mocky's obviously well-intentioned exposé of institutionalised child abuse in a French small town - Vienne, as it turns out, but it could be anywhere - was never shown in cinemas, and released only direct to DVD. Why, especially when, as one punter points out online, the French Minister of Culture had no problems at all with ultraviolent affairs like Gaspar Noé's Irréversible? Could it be that the film is just, how shall I put this, fucking awful? I'll happily admit I've seen barely a dozen of the, what, 82 films (shorts included) Mocky directed in a career spanning nearly half a century, but a list of the actors and actresses he worked with (and who often chose to work for him for peanuts just because it was him) is a veritable Who's Who of Great French Acting: Fernandel, Bourvil, Simon, Moreau, Noiret, list goes on and on.. So I'm led to conclude that he knew exactly what he was doing casting some truly terrible actors to play the villains (in Mocky, almost everyone's a villain). Even the leading lady, Patricia Barzyk, despite a long list of appearances dating back to the 80s, was presumably only cast because she was the director's partner. The story, for what it's worth (you're highly unlikely to see it anyway, probably never with English subtitles, but I'll try not to spoil it for you) is of a boy, Eric, who manages to escape from one of the eponymous "scarlet ballets", private paedophile orgies organised and paid for by prominent public figures, and takes refuge in a nearby house belonging to Violaine (Barzyk), whose own son disappeared in mysterious circumstances years ago and who, once she learns of the child sex abuse ring, sets out on what can only be described as a French smalltown version of Kill Bill, not so ably aided by the owner of the local gun shop (!), played by Mocky himself. Despite the dark subject matter, there's plenty of humour, hardly any bad language, one strangulation and half a dozen shootings but remarkably little gore. In fact the special effects are simply dreadful. So.. why? My theory, for what it's worth, is that Mocky's playing a curiously Brechtian (Bressonian?) game here, dulling / dumbing down the acting so the spectator can be more shocked and revolted by the events portrayed precisely because they're portrayed so badly. If you see what I mean - in the hands of a Hollywood producer this could easily have been made into a revenge "classic" like Taken, we'd all go skipping off to the movies with our popcorn and punch the air when Our Hero(ine) blows away the baddies in a rain of bullets and blood, then stream out of the cinema at the saying saying, wow shit that was a great film.. and promptly forget about it two days later. Whereas Mocky's film is so dreadful you'll never forget it. Well, see what you think, if you're feeling courageous.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Hm, can't figure out how to edit my own previous posts, but in the one above it should read "stream out of the cinema at the end saying"
Not that many folks are paying attention, looks like it's just me and Henrik here :) Bref, continuons --

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Terry Zwigoff, Crumb, 1994

I can't really compete with JR https://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2020/ ... onsidered/.-+- (his earlier review of the film - linked - is also well worth checking out), but would just add that Robert Hughes' description of Crumb as the "Brueghel of the second half of the twentieth century - there wasn't one in the first half" is splendid. But I am rather biased pro-Hughes anyway. What comes out most forcefully from this fine documentary is how, well, happy and normal Robert seems, compared to his two seriously fucked brothers (Charles, above, killed himself a year after this was made, poor bugger). You can take him at his word, I think, when he says if he didn't draw he'd "get really crazy, depressed, and suicidal.” As I dig out my old well-thumbed Mr. Natural comics, I, for one, am grateful he did (does? I have no idea what he's been up to since he relocated to France three decades ago).
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 3:36 am
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Stuart Rosenberg, The Laughing Policeman, 1973

Loosely based on the novel of the same name by Maj Sjöwall (RIP - Covid) and Per Wahlöö , who more or less singlehandedly invented what's now called Nordic Noir, this is set in San Francisco instead of Stockholm (one thinks inevitably of Dirty Harry and Bullitt, but also - the car chase under the Embarcadero Freeway - The French Connection). Walter Matthau plays Jake Martin (the original unsmiling Swedish detective in the novels is Martin Beck) and has to team up with Leo Larsen (Bruce Dern) after his partner is gunned down in a bloody massacre on a bus. Matthau & Dern - great double act! A tight, well-scripted film, well worth checking out. Roger agreed with me https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the- ... ceman-1973
i watched this and enjoyed it very much, great texture and characters/faces (more than the acting itself), and the way the story unfolds ... except the finale (the way matthau provoked the supposedly untouchable criminal mastermind to an attempted repeat massacre by just hanging around somewhere in the distance and looking sheepish) was so utterly bogus that in the end the whole film felt like a waste of time ... (i'll chalk this one up to roger, not to you)

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Nice to see you back, Lutz. That makes three of us :) Anyone else out there reading this stuff? Here's one I've only just discovered -

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Christopher Nolan, Following, 1998

Working at speed with maximum pre-shooting rehearsal, natural light and extant locations, Nolan's 16mm black and white debut was a smart art noir that wooed the festival circuit across the pond and quickly opened the doors of Hollywood. The rest, from Memento onwards, is history, as they say. Dunno if I don't prefer this: there's the same timeline dislocation, though not as rigorously explored as in the later film. Apparently the DVD comes with a "chronological edit", which sounds like a total waste of time, and reminds me of Adèle Haenel's line about re-editing in Le daim ("I once put Pulp Fiction back in order [..] in the end, it plain sucked").
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Hey there, back again - a push of energy this morning led me to write this:

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Howard Hawks - Red River (1948)

It’s fascinating watching Hawks’ films this late, seventy years on, and realising how minimal, how avantgarde they feel. A true western epic, with John Wayne as Thomas Dunson, forced to move his herd of cattle from Texas to Missouri. An intriguing inversion takes place, in that his power and wealth is established at the onset of the film - land claimed, property established, wealth and power accrued - only then to have it fall apart, with the pressure and strife of the trail, the power struggle with Montgomery Clift’s young protegé Matt Garth. (Eureka didn’t really have to happen - here it is, already in the forties, and within the genre!) And the way he handles his exposition: everything has the feel of an interior, even when set outside. Action and scene delineated through a simple graph of men+wagons+cattle+charging indians+stampeding cattle… I think Rivette makes this point more eloquently. And this goes for other of the director’s films as well: think His Girl Friday, with action and thrust constantly worked through in interiors, with information and speech rising and receding through the constant ringing of telephones, an exterior filtered through and given shape in the interior. Or Only Angels Have Wings: how much of the action there is actually set in airplanes, in the field? Not a lot: mere signposts and staging of the real drama between the men, and women, of the airfield and offices. Deleuze elaborates this as a ASA’ schema, Action giving a Situation giving a differently vectored Action’. An inversion of the epic format, say John Ford, of SAS’ - the sweep of a grand Situation giving and proscribing Action, acting on a new Situation’. The cowboy stealing sugar, turning over pots and pans, scaring the cattle into a stampede; John Wayne picking up a whip to teach him, like with a kid, has an uncomfortably real, almost perverse, feel. The stage is set, but tentative: this could happen, or this, or that: catastrophe and pathology given heft and presence. It is easy to see why Hawks was such a pivotal figure for the Cahiers crowd: this points, in a way, to both Rivette and Rohmer. But also to what Clint Eastwood did with the genre in Unforgiven, or with Million Dollar Baby. Or to Arthur Penn with Bonnie and Clyde: think the thronged bodies in the cars and rooms, explosive action erupting from these scenes into ever more and widening violence. A true classic.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Nice write-up. Yes, you can see why Rivette and his chums liked Hawks so much, can't you? I'll take your word for it on the Deleuze equation (I did as it happens get that far in his book before I gave up). I'm no great Wayne fan but this is his best performance, I reckon - and Clift is superb as always. Good stuff! Remind me to watch it again when I've whittled down the Still To Watch list to under 600 :lol:
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Jean-Pierre Mocky, Les compagnons de la marguerite, 1967

Claude Rich plays Matou(zek), a restorer of documents at the Bibliothèque Nationale who discovers his skill at forgery can be put to other uses, namely changing public records and official documents, firstly to escape from his own deadly marriage (amusingly, his stultifyingly boring TV-obsessed wife is played by Rich's real-life wife!) by exchanging spouses with hapless Inspector Leloup (Francis Blanche). Claude ends up with the divine Paola Pitagora.. and many prospective clients, eventually attracting the attention of the law, who do their best to catch him in act. Cocking a snook at all and sundry with his cast of regular nutcases, it's a lot of fun. No subtitles that I can find, but not too difficult to follow.
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 11:21 am
Nice write-up. Yes, you can see why Rivette and his chums liked Hawks so much, can't you? I'll take your word for it on the Deleuze equation (I did as it happens get that far in his book before I gave up). I'm no great Wayne fan but this is his best performance, I reckon - and Clift is superb as always. Good stuff! Remind me to watch it again when I've whittled down the Still To Watch list to under 600 :lol:
That schema is actually among the most memorable and useful in the books - I haven't read them for ages, but I can cite that and make it work for me. With you on Wayne - can't stand The Searchers, but here and in Rio Bravo he is excellent, as are the films.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Paul Wegener & Carl Boese, Der Golem : Wie er in die Welt kam, 1920

"Hey Paul, who did your hair?" Haha! Awesome, one of the great Expressionist adventures, and its influence on Whale's Frankenstein is clear. Splendid Murnau Archive restoration comes with a rather good new soundtrack (Admir Shkurtaj, I think). Of course, some folks moan about its depiction of the Jews https://rabbiatthemovies.com/2009/11/11/the-golem/ is a very interesting article, but don't let that put you off, this is great stuff.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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James Benning, Los, 2001

..Angeles, and its environs. Modus operandi similar to El Valley Centro (see above), so I won't repeat myself. Nor will I churn out the same superlatives. Let's just say.. excellent. And leave it at that.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Hlynur Pálmason, A White, White Day, 2019

The wonderful Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, rapidly becoming one of my all-time-favourite actors, plays a retired cop who finds out that his late wife had been "having an affair" (as we used to say), and very nearly goes off the rails altogether trying to find out the details. He nearly takes his nine-year granddaughter to hell too. This is a remarkably well-made and original film, with some arresting (you may prefer the word arty, I don't mind) sequences of montage (I wonder if the director knows Cavalier?) and excellent use of music, mostly by Edmund Finnis - a new name to me, https://edmundfinnis.com/biography/ - but also, in the closing sequence, Leonard Cohen. Reviews abound online, take your pick. But check out the film first if I can, it's very good indeed.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Pella Kågerman & Hugo Lilja, Aniara, 2018

Based on a 1956 Cold War-era sci-fi poem by Nobel Laureate Harry Martinson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aniara the film is "set in a dystopian future where climate change ravages Earth, prompting mass migration from Earth to Mars. When such a routine trip veers off course the passengers of the Aniara struggle to cope with their new lives" (Wiki). It's so nice to see a decent, well-made European science fiction movie with excellent special effects with NO Hollywood "stars" and NO awful music by Hans Zimmer. Of course, as you can probably guess, it doesn't end well. Unless, that is, you can stick around 5,981,407 years.. That's the only spoiler (of sorts) I'm willing to divulge, be careful there are more in this little review https://rogersmovienation.com/2019/05/0 ... fi-aniara/
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