Iran, 107 minutes
The folly of unfounded traditions
Is it wise to bring a next-generation family “together” based on an umbilical cord? Do fake passports guarantee a better life in another country? Does a group of village elders have more “common sense” over the lives they cannot possibly imagine?
After Panahi was arrested and put in jail July 11, 2022, Iran has once more shown what a non-country it is, since its “bears” are the scourge of humanity and ought to meet their miserable fate sooner than later.
But that dilemma is not confined to the Middle East. JWR
Poland, 88 minutes
Definitely wagging the tale
After a relatively brief life in the circus, what’s a show donkey to do?
In Skolimowki’s expertly crafted film (co-written with Ewa Piaskowska) people behaving like animals artfully becomes animals behaving like people.
Bathed in copious amounts of red (from the opening circus stunt), the beleaguered four-hoofed creature (cast by six fellow creatures through the gruelling trek of life outside of the tent), endures brutal masters (one whose demise will be cheered by farmyard animals in the crowd), revels in child therapy, nervously escapes from lasers and wolves, subject to several captures and a ZRVW football match where the victory party goes decidedly south (notably featuring a marvellously inventive ambulance sequence).
The original score by Pawel Mykyietyn (aided and abetted by Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto and a snippet from Pagliacci during some far-flung road trips) is as inventive as the narrative—oboist Arkadiusz Krupa’s double-reed interventions are particularly welcomed.
The film is a wonderfully imaginative revelation of life that will remain in memory for all of those lucky enough to see it until they are finally penned in. JWR
Germany, 33 minutes
What price justice?
The expression “revenge is a dish best served cold” takes on a decidedly bittersweet tone in Kessler’s treatment of writer Fabian Virayie’s retelling of the real-event story of prodigy violinist Motele Schlein’s deadly actions on behalf of Eastern European Jewish partisans to put Nazi SS officers in their final place.
Anton Krymskiy does a commendable job playing 12-year-old Mitka and his violin (the only quibble being not tuning up his fiddle before performances in the small town’s local restaurant). He is accompanied by a philosophical, war-weary pianist who knows his place and his music in the German occupied area. As Yegor, Jevgenij Sitochin manages just the right mix of tough-love teacher and surrogate father for his orphaned star. Tellingly—thanks to the occupiers—their work is paid for not in cash, but bread and soup.
As one of the Führer’s henchmen, Peter Miklusz is readily believable playing August Seeger, equally at home meting out his version of justice whether with a noose or bullets.
Yet it seems his days are numbered when a plot is devised to send Seeger and four of his colleagues to early graves while feasting and drinking, serenaded by the two unsuspecting musicians.
Virayie inserts a few plot twists (e.g., what’s really in the violin case?) as Mitka dutifully plays his part (literally and figuratively) in ensuring that the Nazis’ dinner party will conclude with a bang.
Nonetheless, by journey’s end there’s musical satisfaction in listening to the talented duo—perhaps much less violence if everyone would embrace art and not bullying—rather than permanently settling a few scores. JWR