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Strong Female Leads (4)

Elle + Julieta= Who needs Hollywood?

Elle (French for “she” or “her”) “is a 2016 psychological thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by David Birke, based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian. Djian’s novel was released in 2012 and received the Prix Interallié (National Literary Award). The film stars Isabelle Huppert as a businesswoman, Michèle Leblanc, who is raped in her home by an unknown assailant and plots revenge.

The film is Verhoeven’s first feature since 2006’s Black Book, and his first in the French language. It premiered in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where it received critical acclaim.Elle won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Foreign Language Film; it was also selected as the French entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but was not nominated. At the 42nd César Awards, the film received eleven nominations.

Huppert’s performance was widely acclaimed, considered to be one of the finest of her career and she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also won several awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, and the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actress.”

Wow a fantastic return to form for neglected filmmaker Paul Verhoeven. Originally conceived as a Hollywood production, Verhoeven and writer Dijan shopped the script around L.A.but were turned down by every major actress. So the pair turned to Europe and when financing came through Verhoeven was to have to rise to the challenge of working in an unfamiliar language: French.

However the turn of events seems to have been a good turn really.

With the aid of stellar actress Isabelle Huppert and a fine supporting cast, Verhoeven weaves Dijan’s story into an intricate neo-noir infused with unexpected developments and a strong flavour of black humour.

Complimented by a haunting score from Anne Dudley ,as well as inventive editing and cinematography, Elle turns out to be perhaps the best film of Verhoven’s career and a top work in the rather extensive credits of Isabelle Huppert.

So who needs Hollywood, really? As the Oscars proved  once again…


Julieta “is a 2016 Spanish film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar based on three short stories from the book Runaway by Alice Munro. The film marks Almodóvar’s 20th feature and stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as older and younger versions of the film’s protagonist, Julieta, alongside Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner and Rossy de Palma.

The film opened on 8 April 2016 in Spain to generally positive reviews. It made its international debut at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or, and was released across the world throughout the remainder of 2016. Julieta has grossed over $21 million worldwide.

It was selected by the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España as the Spanish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards, but did not make the shortlist.[2] It was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language in addition to receiving 4 nominations for European Film Awards and 7 nominations for Goya Awards.”

This new flick left me pleasantly surprised. I will admit to not being the biggest fan of director Almodovar so I went into this screening as an aside really. But what unfolded was a  wonderful film chronicling the life of Julieta, with all it’s trials and tribulations.

Based on the writings of Canadian author Alice Munro- this is a understated and engaging woman’s story(s) , with some nourish elements woven in . Women are at the focus of this film and its greatest strength.

Julieta is one of the best films  Almodovar has directed , and another strong European feature that exists outside of the mainstream American industry

The Zookeepers Wife+Toni Erdmann= pedestrian filming in a rapid era


The Zookeeper’s Wife “is an upcoming 2017 British-American war drama film directed by Niki Caro and written by Angela Workman, based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Diane Ackerman. The film stars Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Michael McElhatton and Daniel Brühl.

The film is scheduled to be released on March 31, 2017, by Focus Features.
A true story about the Warsaw Zoo keepers couple Jan and Antonina Żabiński, who saved many human and animal lives during World War II by hiding them in animal cages.”

I had a chance to see this at a preview screening at the TIFF Lightbox theatre in late January. Jessica Chastain is shooting a film in Toronto and was invited to screen the film and chat about it (and her career) . Unfortunately the audience was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but hopefully enough time has elapsed, for me to comment?

This was a big disappointment, based on a very interesting and real story from WWII Poland. Bland, predictable, simplistic filmmaking. And the Polish characters all spoke English in some strange faux-Eastern European accent which really took away from the screening.

Fans of the book may enjoy this but it’s a miss for me I am sorry to say.


Toni Erdmann is a “2016 German-Austrian comedy-drama film directed, written and co-produced by Maren Ade. It stars Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller.

The film, which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival,[5][6] was named the best film of 2016 by Sight & Sound and other respected cinema magazines.[7][8][9]

It has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.[10] It won five awards at the 29th European Film Awards: Best Film (a first for a film directed by a woman), Best Director, Best Screenwriter, Best Actor, and Best Actress.[11] It also won the European Parliament LUX Prize.[12]”

I was underwhelmed by this film- it had some very funny moments but seemed stilted and awkward to me. A 2 1/2 hour running time for a one note film is a little rich I would say as well:) Not much of a work of cinema, Toni Erdmann had a very plain and MOW look and feel to it… the German film from the previous year Phoenix, was a far superior film.

Really don’t get the accolades, did I miss something?

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Goethe Film Talk: Christian Petzold & Nina Hoss

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Goethe Interview with Nina Hoss and Christian Petzold

Published on 17 Sep 2014-Text courtesy of: Goethe-Institut Toronto
Oscar nominated director Petzold & actor Hoss in conversation.
Presented by the Goethe-Institut Toronto.
Christian Petzold is back at TIFF, after his 2012 success with “Barbara” and “Yella” in 2007. In his TIFF14 world premiere of “Phoenix”, he reunites top actors Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld in another story of a fiercely determined woman — and the deeply divided society to which she belongs — caught between a tragic past and an uncertain future. A disfigured concentration-camp survivor (Hoss) searches ravaged post-war Berlin for the husband (Zehrfeld) who might have betrayed her to the Nazis.
Moderated by Cologne film expert Nikolaj Nikitin.
Co-writer Harun Farocki to Petzold after “Barbara”: “With Nina and Ronald you have a romantic couple that is so intense and powerful – now you can tackle a difficult topic like ‘Phoenix’.”–
Christian Petzold was born in Hilden, Germany, in 1960 and has lived in Berlin since 1981. He studied German Language and Literature before studying film at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (dffb) from 1988-94, during which time he was assistant director to late Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky. He has taken part in the Berlinale’s Competition program three times, with “Ghosts”, “Yella” and “Barbara”. The latter was Germany’s Oscar entry 2013.
Nina Hoss was born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1975. Since acting school she has been equally present on the stage as in cinema. “Phoenix”‘s Nelly is her sixth lead role for Christian Petzold.
Her acting was twice honored with the Adolf Grimme Award and she won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale 2007 for her role in Petzold’s “Yella” .
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Soundtracks and Festivals and such…

Hey folks, I hope the holiday time has been good to everyone. I’ve been busy of late catching up on things and even trying to get to some films.Shocking I know:)

Unless you live under a rock you will know that there is a new instalment of Star Wars out in theatres right now. I have mixed feelings on whether I will break down and give the Disney Corporation 15$ of my money. But regardless,it has enough coverage as it is so I will continue with a few brief ramblings of my own.

Good on the local cinema(The Westdale )for programming in some great films this year, hopefully they will survive the changes that are bound to come in the near future. CBC Hamilton had some updates in the press recently: CBC Westdale Theatre

I did catch some films in Toronto and in Guelph at the Bookshelf Cinema. I also screened a few at Fantasia Film Festival 2015 , and of course for the HFF Jury.Here are some of my highlight films from my scattershot viewing. And there are a few 2014 holdovers….


Labyrinth Of Lies-Germany


Goodnight Mommy-Germany

The Master Plan-Sweden

The Demolisher-Canada


Project M-Canada


There Must Be Rules-Sweden

Autumn Blood-Austria


Cop Car-USA

Ex Machina-UK

Under The Skin-UK

Only Lovers Left Alive-USA




Bunny The Killer Thing-Finland

If you enjoy film music and the occasional electronic music interlude you should check out my radio programme: Soundtrack. It broadcasts every Wednesday from 10-12 EST on CFMU 93.3 in Hamilton and the surrounding area. You can also listen live online or via podcast at you convenience at: CFMU 93.3 Online

And check out our Facebook fan page : Soundtrack on CFMU 93.3. You find information on upcoming shows and playlists and fun links as well:)

The show will be on hiatus February-Mid April as I will be travelling in Europe. Part of the trip will be spent attending the Berlinale and EFM-Berlin Film Festival. I’m also going to catch Ennio Morricone in concert Feb 19 in Cologne, Germany so stay tuned for more information on that in the near future:)

Talk Soon