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Mother Night

Director – Keith Gordon – 1996 – US – Cert. 15 – 114m

*****

In this adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, a former Nazi propagandist awaits trial in Israel for war crimes – retail VHS review from Home Entertainment, 1997

From his Israeli prison cell where he must compose his memoirs while awaiting trial for his war crimes in black and white, Howard W. Campbell, Jr. (Nick Nolte in a career-defining performance) recalls in colour flashback his rise to fame in wartime Berlin as a radio propaganda writer/broadcaster for the Third Reich, surviving that regime’s madness by devoting himself to actress wife Helga (Sheryl Lee) and their self-contained Nation Of Two.

Recruited from a park as an undercover American spy by raincoat‑wearing American top brass John Goodman (a small part, but likewise impressive), Campbell has to incorporate coded messages to the Allies in his broadcasts. In 1944, Helga dies. After the War, Campbell winds up alone in a seedy New York apartment where neighbours include fellow widower Alan Arkin and Auschwitz survivor‑turned‑doctor Ayre Gross.

When admiring right wing activists arrive at Campbell’s door, the tale (based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel) lurches even further into surrealism. Gordon’s direction is flawless throughout.

SOUND Ironically bookended by White Christmas, the sparse but subtle surround mix manages two highly effective moments (the very start, the very end) that work as emotional punctuation marks.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Amulet

Director – Romola Garai – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 99m

*****

A border checkpoint soldier moves into a suburban, London house with a dark secret in the attic – out on VoD on Monday, February 28th

Somewhere in Russia or Eastern Europe – it’s not clear exactly where – a soldier (Alec Secareanu) is billeted in an austere wooden hut within walking distance of the border checkpoint he mans between certain hours of the day. The rest of the time, he wanders in the local woodlands. In one location, he gets the urge to dig in the peaty earth and finds a small figure – the eponymous amulet – of a female deity.

One day, a woman (Angeliki Papoulia) runs down the road towards the checkpoint, despite his warnings that he’ll shoot her, then trips. He takes her in, introduces himself as Tomaz and lets her use the shelter of his hut. Eventually it comes out that Miriam wants to cross the border, over which her estranged husband took their daughter, with whom she wishes to be reunited.

Is this in his past? It it a dream? It’s not entirely clear. In another reality or time period, Tomaz (now with a beard) is an immigrant in London, living in a squat and struggling to hold things together with piecemeal building work.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles

Director – Salvador Simo – 2018 – Netherlands – 80m

***1/2

Streaming on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) from Thursday, July 16th – with more Buñuel movies here.

Following the success of his surrealist film L’Age D’Or / The Age Of Gold (1930), film director Luis Buñuel finds his main source of funding cut off when the strongly Catholic mother of his primary investor puts pressure in the latter. At the same time, a stranger named Eli Lotar strikes up a post-premiere conversation with the director saying he saw no influence of Dali in the film and presses a book Las Hurdes into Buñuel’s hands.

Frustrated at the lack of funding for his films, Luis decides to film the book which details the appalling living conditions of poor people in a remote village in rural Spain.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles for DMovies.org.