Julius Rosenwald accomplished many things throughout his life during the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. He became co-owner and head of Sears, Roebuck and Company, became a philanthropist by building 5,400 schools, with the help of Booker T. Washington, in impoverished African-American communities in the South. He also built YMCAs for blacks in 25 cities, and established scholorships for African-American students. When the KKK burned down some of the schools, he rebuilt them even when it was the 2nd time he they were burned down. Rosenwald, directed by Aviva Kempner, charts Rosenwald's rise from his hometown in Springfield, IL to become a wealthy businessman/philanthropist. Just like with Yoo-hoo, Mr. Goldberg, Kempner does an impeccable job of enlightening you while keeping you entertaining and moved concurrently. It's also very well-edited, well-researched and paced briskly enough so that it never drags. You'll not only clearly understand what made Rosenwald such an iconic, vital and brilliant man, but also why he did so much for the African-American community. It's equally uplifting and inspirational to learn that such a genuinely kind-hearted, brilliant and productive individual exists in American history---he's a mensch in every sense of the word. It would have been interesting what were to happen if he would've run for President because most politicians don't even have half the brains, heart, courage or sanity than he did. Although whether or not he would be able to survive politics is a whole other matter. Ciesla Foundation opens Rosenwald at Landmark Sunshine Cinema. Hubert Sauper, director of We Come as Friends captures the different degrees horrors taking place in South Sudan after it had declared its independence back in 2011. Foreigners exploit South Sudanese in many ways, especially via their land when it comes to extracting oil from it while leaving them impoverished and, eventually, sick from the toxic water supply. They also get displaced from their homes. Politicians in war torn South Sudan and around the world turn a blind eye to the people's suffering, and embrace colonialization. Sauper avoids the use of excessive narration, preachiness or spoon-feeding the audience. In other words, he trusts that you're intelligent enough to use critical thinking to piece information together on your own and come up with your own conclusions. He also understands the power of images---after all a photo, or in this case video footage, is a thousand words. Prepare to be emotionally engrossed and enraged by this alarming and searing exposé on neocolonialism in South Sudan. It opens via BBC Worldwide North America at IFC Center. Meru follows mountain climbers Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk as they attempts to scale Mount Meru in India. Their first attempt, in 2008, to reach the peak via the Shark's Fin route failed, but they mustered the courage to try again in 2011. Co-directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi capture their journey with truly breathtaking cinemagraphy. They blend riveting footage from the climbers' journey up the mountain with talking-head interviews which help to give you a sense of what went on inside their heads. You'll feel like you're there with the climbers feeling what they feel as they brave the elements. Their courage, perseverance and determination are very impressive and inspiring, especially given the fact that they were willing to put their life on the line. Meru joins To the Limit and Touching the Void as another essentional mountain climbing doc that's a must-see on the big screen. Music Box Films opens it at Angelika Film Center before it expands on August 21st to Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Go Away Mr. Tumor
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Paulette (Bernadette Lafont), a grumpy widow, can no longer afford to pay her bills and is jut about to lose her apartment when she seizes the opportunity to make money: selling hashish for Vito (Paco Boublard). She first splits the money with him 90-10 (in his favor) before she wises up and learns to ask for a higher cut. Meanwhile, she (initially) tries to hide her secret from her friends, Maria (Carmen Maura), Luciennne (Dominique Lavanant), and Renée (Françoise Bertin), as well as her estranged daughter, Agnès (Axelle Laffont). Her son-in-law, Ousmane (Jean-Baptiste Anoumon), a police officer, doesn't quite believe her when she confesses to him that she's selling drugs; the only person who does believe her priest (Pascal N’Zonzi).
Writer/director Jérôme Enrico blends comedy, drama and thrills with mixed results. Some of the attempts at comedy fall flat and get repetitive while others work, so it's more often mildly amusing than laugh-out-loud funny. When it comes to its dramatic scenes involving the relationship between Paulette and her friends or her daughter, that's when the film gets somewhat contrived and banal. While Paulette does get silly and preposterous at times, it does have some charms up its sleeve thanks to the lively performance of Barnadette Lafont. She's engaging to watch even when her character is not particularly nice or lawful for that matter, so don't be surprised if you root for her despite her many flaws.
Paulette would probably make for an interesting double feature with the French comedy Tatie Danielle because both films are bittersweet dramadies deal with the unexpected antics of grumpy grandmas (Paulette and Tattie Danielle are essentially kindred spirits). In terms of plot, it's very similar to Saving Grace because in that film, a widow also turned to the marijuana business to pay her bills, but Saving Grace is more funnier, witty and imaginative. At least Paulette doesn't feel overstuffed and boring like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel nor does it overstay its welcome during its light and breezy running time of 87 minutes.
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