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La jetee (The Pier) - Friday Foreign Film Review

Apocalypse. Time Travel. Love. Heartache. What more could you want from a 28 minute film? This film is entirely done in still pictures. The original language is French, but I viewed it dubbed in English on Netflix instant view. Normally I strongly prefer subtitles over dubbing, but since this was in still pictures, it didn't matter. I'm not going to say more since it's difficult not to give away spoilers in such a short film, but I highly recommend it if you're interested in any of the above.

My grade: A





February '11 Reading (and Viewing) Report

I had a really great reading month for only 28 days. I really enjoyed all the books, too.

I decided that I'm going to begin keeping track of my foreign films as well. I'd like to watch 50 by the end of the year.

Books read (8 titles, 2009 pages):

  1. Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin stars4.gif (2010, 272 pp.)
  2. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu stars4h.gif (2010, 233 pp.)
  3. Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool stars4h.gif (2010, 342 pp.)
  4. Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi ***1/2 (2010, 323 pp.)
  5. The Weird Sister s by Eleanor Brown stars4.gif (2011, 318 pp.)
  6. Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi stars5.gif (1975, 108 pp.)
  7. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan ***1/2 (1998, 193 pp.)
  8. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee stars4h.gif (1999, 220 pp.)

Foreign films:

  1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Grade: A; set in Sweden)
  2. Departures (Grade: A+; set in Japan; Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film)
  3. Disgrace (Grade: A; set in South Africa)
  4. Nowhere in Africa (Grade: A; set in Kenya; Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film)


  • first two episodes of Survivor -- love it so far
  • a few American Idol episodes -- we'll see, the jury's out
  • finished Fringe Season 1 -- LOVED it!

Nowhere in Africa (Friday Foreign Film review)

nowhereinafrica aka Nirgendwo in Afrika
Winner, Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film, 2002
in German, Swahili, and English; with English subtitles
based on the autobiographical novel Nowhere in Africa by Stefanie Zweig

My grade: A

In the beginning of the movie, it is 1938, and Walter and Jettel Redlich and their young daughter Regina have fled Nazi Germany for Kenya. Adjusting to their new home is a struggle, particularly for Jettel, who yearns for her comfortable life back in Germany. It is their daughter Regina who thrives in Kenya. Her relationship with the people, especially their cook Owuor, is very special. The family still has problems, though, even in Africa, and the strain is evident in Walter and Jettel's marriage. Knowing the unthinkable has happened to their loved ones in Germany is especially difficult on both of them.

After the war is over, the family must decide whether to stay in Kenya or return to Germany, or even whether or not to remain a family. The film is a realistic, astounding portrait of Jewish refugees during WWII.

Seeing the film definitely made me want to read Zweig's book. There is also a sequel, Somewhere in German y, that I'd like to read as well.

Highly recommended.

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (book and film)

disgrace-coetzee Winner, 1999 Booker Prize

Disgrace caught me by surprise. I didn't like the main character; I didn't like the events that happened in the book; but yet, as I turned the last page, I realized it was flat out brilliantly written. It definitely deserves its place on the shortlist for Best of the Bookers.

Before reading it, all I really knew about it was that a professor had an affair with a student. As it turns out, that's only a minor point. The book has several issues: men's subjugation of women, South Africa after apartheid, and animal rights. How Coetzee could say so much in just a little over 200 pages is amazing. There are several parallel stories going on. I want to say so much about it, but to do so would be to give away everything. I'm glad I was ignorant going into this novel, so I won't say much except that it will definitely get a re-read from me someday and preferably in a group setting. There would be many, many things to discuss.


(1999, 220 pp.)

As to the film, I thought it followed the book almost exactly. It was produced by Australians but I believe most of the outdoor shots at least were filmed in South Africa; the scenery was beautiful. John Malkovich played David Lurie exceptionally. My only small quibble is that his South African accent went in and out some. I thought the actress who played Lucy was also excellent. I highly recommend this movie IF you have read the book. You probably wouldn't appreciate it as much or at all if you haven't.

Film grade: A

Departures (Friday Foreign Film Review)


Amazon info

Departures , aka Okuribito

Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 2009

My grade: A+

I had no idea what Departures was about when I chose it on Netflix instant view. I just knew it won Best Foreign Language Film and it was something about a cello player. I'm kind of glad I didn't know, because if I had I might not have watched it.

At the beginning of the film, Daigo lives with his wife in a beautiful apartment in Tokyo and is employed by an orchestra. The orchestra ends up disbanding, and Daigo must sell his cello and go back to the town where he grew up because he can't afford to live in Tokyo any longer. He returns to his childhood home that his mother left him after she died. As he's searching for a job in the classifieds, he notices an ad for 'assisting departures.' Thinking it's a travel agency, he applies. When he gets to the agency, the boss informs him it was a misprint and 'departures' should be 'the departed.' The job entails the Japanese tradition of preparing dead bodies for cremation. Needing the job and the money it provides, he reluctantly accepts.

I cannot begin to describe to you the beautiful ceremony of this Japanese custom, and it is all done directly in the presence of the deceased's family. The care with which the body is prepared astounded me. I was really taken by surprise with this film. Also beautiful was the cinematography. Just gorgeous scenes, and not just the snowy landscapes. The indoor shots were beautiful as well.

I highly recommend this film to anyone with an interest in Japanese culture or in foreign films in general. I really, really loved this one.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Friday Foreign Film Review)

girlwhokicked I've only read the first book in this trilogy, but I've seen all three of the films. I love foreign films, and I don't know why more Americans don't watch them. Especially in the case of book adaptations, you get such a better feel for the atmosphere of the story when the film is done by the country of origin. I can't imagine the American versions of this trilogy being anywhere nearly as well done as the Swedish ones.

In my last book review, Crooked Letter Crooked Letter , I stated how I don't like gritty novels. The same is true for films, and these films are pretty gritty (with the first movie probably being the worst). However, since I read the first book of the trilogy, I really wanted to see how the story played out. I saw the first two films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire , in the theater. I really wanted to see the third installment in the theater as well, but I ended up missing it. So, last night I saw it on Netflix instant view.

I mostly loved the 'Swedishness' of the film. I loved seeing Swedish cities, Swedish apartments, Swedish offices and hospitals, and especially the Swedish people. I really just enjoy learning about different cultures and nations. If you're a fan of the books, I definitely encourage you to see the original films before you see the American versions. As far as the story itself, I thought this was a satisfying way to end the trilogy, but there was still some open-endedness to it. I can't help but wonder if Stieg Larsson had another book planned in the series. I'll definitely keep thinking of the characters, especially Mikael and Lisbeth, for awhile.

Grade: B+