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Reviews for September 11th, 2015

Documentary Round-Up

      Hélio Oiticica truly immerses you in the life and work of Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica so that by the time the end credits roll, you'll know what made him such a brilliant, brave and talented artist during the 1960's and 70's. Director Cesar Oiticica Filho, who's also the artist's nephew, incorporates into the film rarely-seen archival material with the voice of Oiticica himself. You'll learn about his sculptures, paintings and more that were part of his different installations, i.e. Tropicália, Cosmococas, Parangolés and Penetrables. The music Filho uses is quite well-chosen. Morevoer, he wisely eschews talking-head interviews for the very valuable archival material which there is plenty of. You'll feel as though you're observing an artist's exhibits at a museum with the artist himself as the tour guide. At a running time of 94 minutes, Hélio Oiticica is a captivating and illuminating introduction to a fascinating artist who deserves to be more widely known by everyone around the world. CINEMAflix opens it at Cinema Village. Also opening at Cinema Village via CINEMAFLIX is Goddess--Creation to Immersion, directed by Pradeep Rawat and Megha Agarwal, about Durga Puja, the world's largest outdoor art festival in South Asia regions such as West Bengal. The doc follows the talented sculptors as they combine bamboo and clay to sculpt the idols of the Goddess Durga. On the last day of the annual festival of Durga Puja, the idols are throw into the river where the clay and bamboo originally come from. The entire process of idol sculpting is not only beautiful to watch, but also magical in a way because none of the sculptors use any references while creating such amazing works of art; they rely entirely on their memory. The music that Pradeep Rawat and Megha Agarwal incorporate into the film is very well-chosen. Goddess--Creation to Immersion, most importantly, sheds light on the struggles of the sculptors who are very poor and deserve to be supported financially because, without them and the idols that they sculpt, the 100-year tradition of Durga Puja wouldn't be able to continue to exist. At a running time of just 60 minutes, this is a captivating, fascinating and breathtaking documentary that will open your heart, mind and soul the wonders of Durga Puja.

The Beauty Inside

Directed by Baek Jong-Yeol


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Well Go USA.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.

A Brilliant Young Mind

Directed by Morgan Matthews


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Opens at Angelika Film Center.

The Challenger

Directed by Kent Moran


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Wishing Well Pictures and Freestyle Releasing.
Opens at Regal E-Walk.

Goodnight Mommy

Directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by RADiUS-TWC.
Opens at Angelika Film Center and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision

Directed by Edgar Reitz

      In mid-19th century Germany, Jakob (Jan Dieter Schneide) lives in the village of Schabbach with father, Johann (Ruediger Kriese), mother, Margarethe (Marita Breuer) and brother, Gustav (Maximilian Scheidt). He and his impoverished family's only hope to escape their poverty is to emigrate from Schabbach to Brazil, the land of opportunity. While Jakob educates himself about life in the South American jungles by reading, he flirts with a local girl, Henriette (Antonia Bill), who catches his attention. The events that transpire after Gustav returns home from the war and Jakob gets sent to prison for sedition profoundly affect the dynamics between Jakob and his family.

      Writer/director Edgar Reitz and co-writer Gert Heidenreich trust your intelligence and patience as an audience member because they unravel the plot in a leisurely pace with plenty of quietly powerful moments and an interesting use of symbolism. If you're patient, you will be rewarded with a character-driven story that's thoroughly spellbinding because you'll find yourself emotionally invested in the characters' lives from start to finish while waiting in suspense for whatever happens to them next. It's equivalent to the feeling you experience while reading a good page-turner that becomes increasingly interesting, complex and quietly suspenseful the more you read it.

      Aesthetically speaking, the black-and-white cinematography (with occasionally glimpses of color) looks absolutely stunning and makes the film a must-see on the big screen so that you can truly appreciate the images in all of their glory. Many shots are simply breathtaking in their beauty and lyricism. It's safe to say that nature as well as human nature serve as important roles in the film, and Reitz does a great job of capturing the essence of both. Part of how he captures he essence of human nature is through the smart casting of talented actors, many of whom (i.e. Jan Dieter Schneide) have no prior acting experience, surprisingly. Everyone onscreen gives a very natural performance that hooks you in because it's brimming with humanism, a truly special effect (unlike CGI which should be called "standard effects"). There's not a single weak link among all of the performances, even those in the smaller roles. Each of them is an integral part of the delicate tapestry. Home from Home's greatest triumph, though, is that it feels epic in scope while intimate in its humanism at the same time. It's no hyperbole to call it the first masterpiece of 2015. Rarely has a nearly 4-hour running time passed by so quickly. I could have watched 4 more hours.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Corinth Films.
Opens at Anthology Film Archives.

Wolf Totem

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens nationwide.
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