Tag Archives: foreign films

Coming to a Library Near You

Image from the website: http://3rff.com/

Image from the website: http://3rff.com/

My winter stay-cation this year just happened to coincide with this year’s Three Rivers Film Festival, so for the first time since moving to Pittsburgh I’ve gotten a chance to watch a handful of the festival’s offerings. For those unfamiliar with the festival, it has been running for 32 years now and features about 80 films, ranging from experimental to independent to foreign favorites.

Most of these films will eventually be coming to the Film & Audio Department at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main, so here is a sneak peak of a few films from the festival that will eventually be coming to a library near you.

Image from: http://3rff.com/

Image from: http://3rff.com/

I was hoping to catch a comedy from the Netherlands called The Deflowering of Eva Van End, but due to technical reasons another film was screened. Luckily, we will be getting that comedy soon as part of our excellent Film Movement collection. The film that I saw instead was called Ilo Ilo, a slice-of-life drama about a family dealing with various stresses during the financial crisis of 1997. We do not own this film yet, but we have plenty of other films that take place in Singapore and surrounding countries.

Broken Circle Breakdown was probably my favorite film of the festival so far, even though it was incredibly difficult to watch at times (I believe I cried on three seperate occasions, so if you decide to check it out be prepared for that). The movie jumps back-and-forth through time to tell the story of the relationship between a sweet & funky Belgium couple, who eventually marry and have a daughter. The couple also play in a bluegrass band together, and the movie is peppered throughout with wonderful country, gospel, and bluegrass standards. It was strange seeing music I so closely associate with the United States being reimagined by a Belgium couple, but all of the songs fit the film perfectly. If you can’t catch this one in the theater but you’re in the mood for a good cry, you can always check out one of these bummer love stories. Or I dare you to listen to this RadioLab podcast without crying by the end.

Image from: http://3rff.com/

Image from: http://3rff.com/

I was also lucky enough to catch a sold-out showing of Stephen Frears’ latest film, Philomena. The film is based on the real-life story of Philomena Lee, a retired nurse who goes in search of the son she was forced to give up 50 years ago. She teams up with a cynical ex-BBC reporter and together they bicker and travel to America to track down Lee’s son. This is the kind of movie that the cliché “crowd pleaser” was invented for, and even though I tried, I could not resist its charms. It’s got Judy Dench, it’s got Steve Coogan, and it makes fun of the movie Big Momma’s Housein short, it’s going to win some Oscars. We probably won’t have this film in the library until some time next year, so I would recommend instead checking out a film on a similar topic, or another one of Stephen Frears’ great films.

There are also a couple documentaries I hope to catch before the end of the festival–Braddock, America and Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction—in edition to a special screening from the folks at the Orgone Archives.

How about you? What are you watching, or hoping to watch soon?


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Filme Romanesti

Yes, Julia Roberts has a big, adorable smile. Of course there’s much to love about Brad Pitt’s eyes.  And beyond the gorgeous stars, there are explosions, fantastic effects, car chases, and even the occasional, glamorized peek into some forgotten corner of history. Hollywood movies have a lot to offer. But every so often, one gets a hankering for a different kind of movie. If you are feeling a little underwhelmed or restless when it comes to American movies, may I suggest filme romanesti?

I’ve always had a thing for underdogs. Romania is one such underdog (as explained by MA in a previous eleventhstack post).  And the films that have been coming out of Romania in the past decade or so are turning this quiet Eastern European country from a cinema dark horse into a film force to be reckoned with. Story lines and cinematography trend toward the beautiful yet understated; screen writers and directors are patient and creative with dialogue. Also, Romanians maintain a wicked, sharp and dark sense of humor, which  shines through with gusto in many recent films. I’m a total sucker for a wicked, sharp and dark sense of humor.

I find my cure for the common movie, Romanian films, in the Music, Film & Audio department’s awesome foreign film collection. Some favorites are listed below, but I suggest browsing the entire collection at Main.

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle

Photo courtesy of vreausafluier.ro

This  2010 tale of a Romanian juvenile detention center  focuses on Silviu, biding his time in an often brutal atmosphere until he can again care for his family. He is 18 and two weeks away from his release when he discovers his mother has come back to town. A few years earlier, Silviu’s crime of survival was committed to provide for himself and his younger brother. Despite having abandoning her children years ago, his mother wants to whisk off the little brother to Italy before Silviu’s release. Silviu was only able to endure prison by dreaming of being reunited with this little brother. Now helpless and locked away, he takes matters into his own hands.

The Way  I Spent the End of the World

Photo courtesy of sfarsitullumii.ro

In 1989 Bucharest, Eva (played by Dorotheea Petre, who won an award at Cannes for her performance) and her boyfriend accidentally break a bust of  dictator Ceausescu. Eva is sent to an alternative high school, while her boyfriend is spared punishment, due to his father’s connections to the communist party. The romance doesn’t last. Eva is furious, and plots to escape the country with a classmate. This doesn’t go unnoticed by her 7-year-old brother, Lalalilu. He loves his big sister,  and so Lalalilu and his friends devise a plan to kill the dictator to avenge his sister’s punishment. This movie is a tragicomedy with a big heart.

Police, Adjective

Photo courtesy of ifcfilms.com

A young police officer faces an ethical dilemma when he is asked by his superiors to go undercover and investigate a teen selling hash. Not only does Cristi believe that the crime is not so severe, but the government is about to change the laws to lessen the punishment for drugs. The police department could care less, and only wants Cristi to carry out orders, rather than question them. Police, Adjective is not the typical crime drama, as it avoids the typical good guy/bad guy dichotomy and instead examines individuals stuck in broken systems. In this sense, it could be recommended to fans of the The Wire.

The Death of Mr.  Lazarescu

Photo courtesy of tartanfilmsusa.com.

Perhaps the bleakest of these film recommendations, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is a dark comedy that doubles as a sharp criticism of Romania’s healthcare system. Mr. Lazarescu is a hapless widower with a fondness for wine, cats, and behaving cantankerously. When he encounters a bout of extreme pain, he calls for an ambulance. The ambulance arrives, hours later, and begins a journey across Bucharest, from hospital to hospital, and is rejected from each. Mr. Lazarescu’s pain increases throughout the hours-long trip, and the tension builds, with viewers left to wonder if he will get treated in time.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Who’s Your Tough Guy?

Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Have you ever just latched on to a performer, and they never seem to fail you?  Maybe a Springsteen or Stevie Wonder?  I’m that way with films and certain stars –  Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart or Gregory Peck.  They never fail(ed) to entertain and captivate.  The problem is their best work product was more than 40 years ago . . . and all three of them are dead.

So, is there anyone around today who does this for me in contemporary films?  There is, and I even surprised myself when I came to realize it, because on the one hand he is probably well-known to most of you, but not obvious.  He isn’t a B actor, but he’s at his best in a supporting role, unless he’s the lead.  If I’ve piqued your curiosity, it’s the French actor Jean Reno.

Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Reno was born in Casablanca, French Morocco in 1948.  He is equally comfortable working in French, English, Spanish and Italian.  His American credits include Armored with Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne, Couples Retreat with Vince Vaughn and Jason Bateman, Flyboys,  Mission: Impossible, and of course the Da Vinci Code as Captain Bezu Fache.  My personal favorite is Ronin where he is superbly cast opposite Robert DiNiro.

I think his best Hollywood film is probably the Professional aka Leon: the Professional.  This film is different than almost all of his other “American” films because it isn’t an ensemble cast, he’s not on a team. Reno plays Leon,  an immigrant to America seeking the American Dream . . . as a hitman for the mob. Mathilde – a young Natalie Portman is Leon’s 12 year old neighbor.  She witnesses the murder of her family after returning home, and saves herself by hiding in Leon’s apartment.  The movie is Leon’s quest to care for, teach, and avenge the death of Mathilde’s family by corrupt cops.

Image courtesy of Internet Movie Database

If you remember Jodie Foster opposite DeNiro in Taxi Driver, you’re not too far off, but while Portman’s Mathilde isn’t a working girl, she brings a sophistication to the screen that Foster doesn’t.  It’s Leon the professional killer and green-thumb who has the humanity in this film and he reaches out to someone who desperately needs him.  You wouldn’t be remiss in watching any of Reno’s dramas, either the Hollywood ones, or his French ones.  He is a champ at portraying the weary “I’ve-seen-too-much” mid level “flic” (French policeman) or the cynical Senior Detective.  I’m not sure why, but the French and French actors can still make Film Noir (Where have you gone Mr. Mitchum,) even in color.

– Richard


Filed under Uncategorized

We love the Criterion Collection






And that’s only thirty titles. We have 474 more.

– Amy


Filed under Uncategorized

How do you say “pass the popcorn” in Kurdish?

The Film & Audio Department is the home of foreign films and artsy photography.

The Film & Audio Department is the home of foreign films and artsy photography.

Among the many many wonders of the Film & Audio Department is our foreign language film collection. What started out a decade ago as four shelves of French, German, and Italian VHS tapes has expanded to twenty-nine shelves of VHS tapes and DVDs in fifty-nine languages.

So yes, we do have those Japanese samurai classics. And if you’re feeling a little Swedish, we can hook you up with some Ingmar Bergman. But come on, you can do better than that! Why not try a film in one of these languages?

  •  Estonian: City Unplugged– Russian mobsters plan to hijack a billion dollars of hidden Estonian gold bullion by recruiting Toivo, a poor electrician, to engineer a midnight blackout.
  • Icelandic: The Seagull’s Laughter – In 1953, Freya returns home to begin a new life in a quiet fishing village in Iceland. Freya, now a beautiful woman in her twenties, is somewhat of a mystery to the men of the community.
  • Kurdish: Journey to the Sun– Mehmet (from Western Turkey) and Berzan (a Kurdish rebel) become fast friends while living in Istanbul. When Berzan is entangled in political trouble, Mehmet embarks on a sweeping journey across Turkey to his friend’s Kurdish homeland.
  • Sinhalese: The Forsaken Land– During a cease-fire treaty between the Sinhala government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a serviceman who lives with his wife and sister receives orders from the army that will change their lives forever.
  • Tagalog: The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros – 12 year old Maxi is deeply loyal to his family of petty thieves. But when Maxi befriends Victor, a well-meaning and handsome policeman, he is torn between his family and his desire to follow a more honorable path in life.
Masai? Mongol? Marvelous!

Masai? Mongol? Marvelous!

Check them out, turn on the subtitles, and enjoy! And if you do know how to say “pass the popcorn” in Kurdish, be sure to let me know.

– Amy




Support your library! The Pennsylvania Library Association has designated the week of July 20th PaLA Call-In Week. Please take the time to call the Governor, your Senator, or your Representative and tell them how much your library means to you. Visit the PaLA website or our advocacy page for details.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

An international experience without breaking the bank!

Currently everyone is feeling the stress of the economy.  The need for a gratifying distraction is paramount during these times, and although something exotic like an international getaway isn’t always feasible, a simulated experience is at your fingertips with the assistance of your local library.  Here are some options that give all the joys of learning about a culture without the hassles of waiting in long queues at the airport or locating lost luggage.

To truly experience a culture we need to look at several aspects:  language, entertainment, religion and food. Let’s use Thailand as our example:

  •   Language:   To  quench your curiosity, head to the Film and Audio Department and take a gander at the language learning CDs.  For Thailand I would use the  Berlitz Thai Travel Pack.  The CD contains the basic travel phrases while the book presents the unique  beauty of Thai script.
  •  Entertainment:  Make use of the ever-growing  foreign films and CD selections.  Born to Fight is an interesting Thai movie dealing with mystery and murder in a local village, and Radio Thailand: Transmissions from the Tropical Kingdom, gives an excellent feel for traditional Thai music.  
  • Religion and daily life: Take a look at Pure and Simple:  Teachings of a Thai Laywoman (then consider, perhaps, visiting the local Buddhist Center).  See also the beautiful photo book A Day in the Life of Thailand which has scenic pictures that help simulate the feeling of actually being there.
  • Food:   Nothing speaks more about a culture than what they use for daily nourishment.  For the brave I suggest that you lend your hand at cooking traditional foods yourself.  My favorite Thai cookbook is Quick and Easy Thai.  The majority of the ingredients are easily found in the Strip District and the instructions are easy to  follow. Feel like  going out?  I would steer you towards Thai Gourment in Bloomfield:  the atmosphere is traditional and the food is phenomenal!

 We live in an incredibly diverse city that provides a window to other cultures so take advantage of it!  Simply pick a country, look at what CLP  has to offer, add in what is available here in the city and take a holiday!  Go ahead, you’ve earned it!






Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized