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Tag Archives: foreign film

The Devil’s Mistress



The Gene Siskel Film Center is currently running a Czech Film Festival, which is exciting for me because my mom is Czech. The other night I went to see The Devil’s Mistress, which is a true story about a Czech actress who goes to work in Germany and has an affair with Hitler’s right-hand man, Joseph Goebbels. Hitler’s character is, of course, frightening and awkward, but well-played. The movie is melodramatic, but the starlet, played by Tatiana Pauhofová, is stunning and charming. Her flirtatious spirit is disturbing at times, as she knows she can use it to get what she wants, and the way she falls in love with Goebbels is shocking given his political affiliation and stature. I have to say I much prefer the actor she has a passionate affair with who she leaves for Goebbels, but the heart wants what it wants I guess…


The setting of all the scenes is beautiful, as well as the scenery, especially the modern house Lida buys for her parents. All based on true events, it was an interesting historical lesson for me, in addition to being entertaining and visually engaging. Hearing the Czech language was so nostalgic for me and I was surprised by how many words I could understand based on what I’ve picked up listening to my mom speak to my grandparents over the years. I only wish there had been a little less dialogue in German and a little more in Czech!


“One Kiss”


The Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago was running a European Union Film Festival for the month of March and I took full advantage. I went to see eight movies and I was sad that I didn’t make it to more, but I beyond enjoyed the ones I did see. I loved many of them, but there was one that stuck out to me for its existential authenticity and realistic portrayal of what it is to grow up during your teenage years and navigate the nightmare that is high school. It was an Italian movie called One Kiss directed by Ivan Controneo.


The protagonist, Blu, played by Valentina Romani, who is relatively new to the acting world, did a marvelous job of taking on a difficult role filled with teenage frustration, as she has to learn to maneuver around the limitations placed on us by others during those high school years that can be so challenging for people to overcome. What helps her overcome this is a friendship she forms with a new kid at school, who happens to be gay, and waltzes in like he owns the place in dramatic fashion. They then take on a shy, quiet guy under their wing and the three of them have adventures akin to those of Jules, Jim, and Catherine in Truffaut‘s Jules et Jim, and Matthew, Theo, and Isabelle in The Dreamers. These parallels are quite obvious, as the three of them dance several choreographed pieces recalling the famous dance in the cafe in Jules et Jim, and run through their high school hallways like Matthew, Theo, and Isabelle run through the Louvre in Paris, in The Dreamers, which is in itself a parody to Jules, Jim, and Catherine running through the Louvre in Jules et Jim.


Their adventures remind you of everything you ever wanted to do in high school but were too embarrassed to do because you were afraid of what others might think of you. But Blu and her two partners in crime just don’t give a f**k and prove how much fun you can have if you liberate yourself enough carry out your wildest dreams. The soundtrack is stellar which only intensifies the freedom they exert, as well as the freedom you feel while watching them and living vicariously through them, even if only for a couple hours for the duration of the film.


The three of them don’t live in such a free, happy state all the time though. These moments of bliss are definitely interspersed with the hardships they face, which are truly painful. And at the end of the movie there is a shocking finale that had much of the audience jump in their seats and gasp a sigh of terror. Despite this, it is a beautiful movie about what it is to grow up and it will surely become an Italian classic for a younger generation.

Lost and Beautiful



I recently saw a new Italian film, Lost and Beautiful, by Director Pietro Marcello. An ode to Italian neo-realist film, it is a slow-moving film with sparse dialogue and stunning visuals of the Italian countryside. It is told from the perspective of a buffalo calf that we see grow up into an adult buffalo, which is thought to have the power of speech by one of the film’s characters. This power of speech is what saves the buffalo from slaughter early in its life, and what it allows it travel nomadically throughout the Italian countryside.


A stately abandoned villa is also a central subject of the film, which, in the care of a dedicated groundskeeper, survives total oblivion.  It is not entirely clear where the plot line is headed throughout the film, but the tragic end, at least in my mind because I am so fond of animals, culminates in the beloved buffalo being sent to the slaughterhouse. Though a very sad and melancholic movie, it is worth the watch simply for it’s stretching of time, which affords the opportunity of contemplation while watching something that is visually enriching.



Films with shots that can stand alone as photographs demonstrate the quality of the filmmaker, and I think this is truly how you can tell that a filmmaker is great. Ida is a film with very interesting, unique shots that can definitely stand alone as photographs. It is shot in black & white, which makes it look more dramatic and authentic to begin with, not to mention the beautiful cinematography, which makes it really very compelling.


A Polish movie directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, it is about a young girl abandoned at a convent as a baby who goes on a journey to find out about her family as a young adult.  She does not do so by choice, but is rather forced to meet her aunt by the Mother Superior at the convent shortly before she is to take her vows. Ida’s first encounter with her aunt is not a positive one, as her aunt does not seem very interested in meeting her, and not yet knowing what her profession is, comes off as a prostitute. Ida is about to go back to the convent after their brief meeting when her aunt retrieves her and decides to start a relationship with her. Ida finds out that she comes from a Jewish family, and considering she is preparing to take her vows to become a Catholic nun shortly thereafter is rather ironic.








Ida and her aunt go on a little road trip to find out what happened to her parents and they meet the family that was hiding them. This family turns out to be rather unpleasant, although helpful in the end. They find out that her parents and a young boy, who appears to be either Ida’s brother or her aunt’s son, are buried in the woods. He takes them there and digs out the grave so that Ida and her aunt can have proof and perhaps gain some closure. The aunt takes the child’s skull in her arms and Ida does the same with her parents so they can give them a proper burial at the family gravesite. I must admit this sequence is eerie, but it does bring a sense of closure both to Ida and her aunt and to  the audience.



Along the way, they pick up a young musician looking for a ride. He happens to be going to the same place they are and performs shows at the hotel where Ida and her aunt are staying.  Ida and the musician develop a bit of crush on each other, which in time develops into a relationship. It ends, however, after a sexual encounter much welcomed by Ida, but propels her back to the convent to take her vows and become a nun. Meanwhile, her aunt commits suicide by jumping out of her apartment window and Ida is again left without a family. This is perhaps one of the reasons she decides to go back to the convent. Her blossoming relationship with the musician is brief and filled with passion, but not true love and would not have necessarily turned out to be long-lasting even if she had stayed.



It is a slow-moving movie, it is a quiet movie, and it is a sad movie. Its plot and unique cinematography is not for everyone, but it is beautiful. I would encourage anyone interested in foreign film or great cinematography to give it a chance. It definitely makes me eager to see more of Pawel Pawlikowki’s films and more Polish films in general.