“Normal People” – BBC TV series by Lenny Abrahamson / Hettie Macdonald (2020)

Based on a novel recommended by (among others) Barack Obama. The novel is written by Sally Rooney.

Set in Ireland – the story follows an on-off relationship of a young couple. They know one another from school, then both (separately) move to Dublin to study at Trinity.

It is a love story of an impossible kind. Feast for the eyes. Little bits of nudity and a fair amount of passion. Relationships with peers, parents, siblings and the outside world.

Told in very few words. The camera eye is often a third actor – e.g. during one and the same conversation of the two over a cup of coffee sitting at opposite sides – Marianne is shot from a distance, while Connell gets a very close camera angle. This distance changes as the conversation shifts. Crafty!

Melancholic, as Ireland landscape provides the background for tumultuous events. There is cold Sweden and hot Italy too.

Recommend!

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“Love & Anarchy” (2020) by Lisa Langseth – Swedish TV series

Light, pretty, smart. Shot in beautiful Stockholm, with its classy designs and architecture.

Sofie and Max meet at a workplace and develop a particular bond which leads them through harmless craziness together. To a point, when it is no longer harmless and begins to become harmful.

Rich in relationships on multiple level. Clashes of old v. young, old habits v. modernity, analogue v. digital, parents v. children, partners in business, partners at home.

Pleasant experience and beautiful to watch – with realistic personalities and faces and surprising twists.

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“Saturday Night Fever” (1977) by John Badham

This film has not aged well. Despite it being made in the golden era of Hollywood. The daily problems of 20-somethings do not correspond well to today’s experiences.

One could argue that it is a fair social study of late 1970’s in New York among the children of 2nd or 3rd generation of immigrants from Old Europe.

I love dancing and I do see the appeal of the main story. So I understand how it became a success back in its time.

But now? No thanks. I am allergic to disco music, so probably that is why it has been a difficult watch.

Maybe I am wrong, maybe it is a universal picture of troubled youth. I just don’t dig it.

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“Spotlight” (2015) by Tom McCarthy

A fascinating experience. This film is much easier to watch than I had anticipated. It is well paced and somehow lacks intense scenes which is a big advantage given the incredibly difficult topic.

Long (over two hours), slow and yet not one scene is unnecessary. Edited and skilfully focusing on all the details, historic places and events.

Michael Keaton, who is no longer Batman or Birdman. He is a middle aged American journalist with mannerisms and a sort of hidden charisma.

John Slattery (Mad Men’s own Roger Sterling), Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) – in calm roles of people who work hard in professional journalism.

Deservedly Best Picture Winner in 2016 – with Oscar bagged.

It is a rare example of an ensemble cast where every character is in fact a leading role. Good homework on the realistic settings, costumes and ambience.

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“The Post” (2017) by Steven Spielberg

Remember “All the President’s Men” from 1976 with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman? Well – this is its prequel.

A phenomenal depiction of personal struggle of Mrs. Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) who decides to follow on The New York Times’ publishing of the Pentagon papers after the NYT has been banned from writing on the topic by the court.

Despite possible implications related to the IPO of The Post (The Washington Post), the owner and publisher of the title decides to fight for the freedom of speech, publishes the articles and then joins the New York Times in the Supreme Court fighting for the First Amendment / freedom of the press rights.

President Nixon is quoted several times (from real life tapes) digging one deeper hole after another which eventually leads to Watergate – shown in “All the Presidents’ Men”.

Beautifully shot, costumes, machinery, real breath of the times and the suspense held to the extent needed – without pushing it too far, which could easily be achieved.

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“The Imitation Game” (2014) by Morten Tyldum

Whenever I want to watch a ‘based on a true story’ film, I first try to confront what I already know beforehand. Enigma is a famous story in Polish schools, where we are taught that the Enigma code was broken by Polish mathematicians who anticipated Christmas greetings in the encrypted messages.
Watching this film, that school anecdote seems to be an urban legend.
Although Polish spies’ are said to have smuggled the Enigma machine into the UK, there is little mention of their input.

Aside from that, as a cinematic experience – it is a piece of solid story with the correct amounts of drama. I do not appreciate paralel stories being ran in multiple timelines. Here – we are following three story lines around Alan Turing – when he’s at school in the 1920’s, during the war, at the time of working at Bletchley Park in the 1940’s and after the war in the 1950’s, when homosexuality is still illegal in the UK.

Brilliant cinema.

I usually scan through the trivia section on imdb for films I like. What I found here is that the famous “M” from the James Bond franchise has a strong presence here. And that is quite a character.

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Mes provinciales by Jean-Paul Civeyrac (2018)

Over 2 hours in length in black and white. What to expect? It could be pretentious. But it’s not.

This film has everything I look for in the cinema. There is the protagonist: conflicted, entrapped in his own personality and indolence. Seemingly passive but in the end turns out to have had a clear agenda all the way. There is romance, there is love, there is quest for the sense of life and plenty of literature references (such as e.g. the original French title is a nod to Blaise Pascale’s “Les provincials”).

It’s set in Paris, so there is a lot of smoking, long discussions into the night over bottles of wine and traces of things that other metropolises do not have. There is also love and its diverse faces and measures. One of those films that leaves you thoughtful and pensive for a long time. Funny enough, we get asked one question throughout the film “why making films?”. Well this one provides a decent answer.

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Toril by Laurent Teyssier (2016)

A thriller wherein the emotions grab you by the throat.

Young man’s struggle with life, love, duty towards his father and desperate attempts at saving the family agricultural business.

What originally begins as long exposition, ends up a masterpiece of managing the audience expectations at exactly the right pace.

Feature debut and a really good mature film.

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Julie by Alba Gonzalez de Molina (2016)

Julie is French and for some reason ends up in the Pyrenees looking for an escape from the world.

There is a small village where she is welcomed with open arms and houses .

She quickly accommodates to the local customs and habits. She does, however, hide a secret. And when the secret comes out she loses the trust of the locals.

A peaceful study of loneliness and being lost in the world. Beautiful film. And a debut.

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Paris Tower 13 by Thomas Lallier (2016)

Documentary on cultural event of the year in Paris in 2013.

A gallery owner invites over 100 street artists to convert an abandoned block of flats set for destruction into an art gallery that will only be open to the public for one month.

The author became one of the artists involved in the project being the filmmaker among them.

A beautiful story – very vivid imagery and a statement that art is an important element of our lives.

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