Genova (UK) (review/wiki)
An effort from the domestic FilmFour brand, this film by Michael Winterbottom stars Colin Firth in a part almost made to exploit his navel-gazing talents. He plays Joe, the husband and father, the latter to two daughters, one is Mary, a spunky, springy ten year old, the other is Kelly; older and midway through her teens with all the all-knowing, self consciousness that brings to the part. On a car journey home in the middle of a frozen American state, spunky daughter causes them to crash, killing her mother. After the funeral, Joe decides that they should try to begin again, and move to Genoa to work with an old childhood friend teaching philosophy to Italian students. He shoulders the strain pretty silently, trying to support both daughters who begin to go off the rails trying to cope with the loss; Mary becomes convinced her mother is visiting her and often trails off into the narrow, foreboding back streets to try and stay with her. Kelly quickly fits in with the moped-riding cool kids and becomes increasingly detached from the family unit.
Genova is a solidly-made, entertaining film, the script is tight and believable, and there are moments of thrill and intrigue at what will happen next, but the film doesn't achieve greatness because after the preamble of moving to a new place, it becomes a series of near-but-not-quite disaster situations that lead to a predictable but not unwanted climax at the end. 7.5/10
Chomsky & Co (France) (site)
Noam Chomsky is a political activist both celebrated and criticized, whose credentials span back to the sixties. Now 80 years old, he still works as a journalist putting in a hundred hour week. The French radio jockeys who made this documentary see him as one of the eminent voices for a truly free and open society today. With nearly two hours to play with, this film interviews Chomsky as well as fellow thinkers from around the world on a host of subjects revolving around the notion of freedom and how free we are to do things as opposed to how free we think we are.
Chomsky describes the true extents of democracy, and how those in power can retain control of people's lives even in a democracy through the 'manufacture of consent' - changing peoples' opinions of things by using the correct words to describe them. His most straightforward example is GM crops and the experiments some of the big agriculture companies did by testing different descriptions of their GM produce with different wordings to see which ones gave the most favourable reactions. The film also touches on the use of media to play up or down certain world events, such as the massacres in Indonesia and East Timor, the latter being hardly touched by the press because the guns used in the killing were mostly sourced from the US.
There is much more to this film than what I could write here. Chomsky definitely knows his onions, but the film suffered a bit due to it being in a foreign language - some of the dialogue flew by, expecially when listening to some of Chomsky's foreign compatriots, who clearly had much to say and not a lot of time to say it. It was definitely worth seeing, but I would recommend one of Chomsky's books first, which I am going to chase up myself thanks to the contents of this film. 7.5/10
Parting Shot (Swiss/France) (site)
Featuring the gorgeous Isild le Besco in the starring role as Fred, a nurse suffering with clinical depression, who also happens to be an expert on a shooting range. After a particularly bad day, she goes off the rails and tries to shoot herself with her rifle, only to stop at the last moment when she sees two youths shooting at birds in a park. Overcome with the situation she takes aim and fires, injuring one of them badly in the leg.
By coincidence, he is admitted to the ward where she works, and being the brattish lout that he is, makes life difficult for the nurses, and shouts and swears at his mother whenever she comes near. Only his father gets any form of acceptance and its tearing the already strained family bonds apart.
By good fortune, the boys didn't see who shot them, so Fred is safe for the moment to take care of her new patient, who the other nurses have more than happily put in her charge of. Slowly a friendship builds between the two, and the violent outbursts bely a frightened child underneath, and this revealing goes some way to healing the family rifts. But the secret cannot be kept forever, and when it inevitably slips, what course of action is open to her?
This was another well-made, well scripted film which didn't drag and would stand up to a second viewing quite easily. You could see exactly where the film was headed within the first half-hour but the ride there is a good one. 8/10
Black Ice (Finland/Germany) (site)
A thrilling end to the night, this film is quite rightly riding high in the audience reviews, and tonight was the last chance to see it before it goes on general release, which in the UK, will probably be never. Saara is a middle-aged woman who discovers an open packet of condoms in her husbands belongings, which after some detective work on his computer, leads her to his mistress, the uncompromising Tuuli, who is a student at the art and design college where her wayward husband works. Initially intending to confront her at the evening Taekwondo classes Tuuli attends, she is mistaken for a new recruit and asked to join in, where an idea is planted in her mind to invent an other self, in order to get closer to this mysterious girl and find out exactly what is going on.
Black ice plays brilliantly as a thriller, Saara (now Crista) weaves an increasingly complicated life for herself as she works to ensure neither Leo (her husband) is aware of Tuuli's new 'friend' or that Tuuli knows just who it is she is accepting deeper and deeper into her own life, especially when she begins boasting about the affair she has had.
Though the obvious eventually happens, there are so many fresh and unpredictable twists and turns that it at no point becomes boring, the audience kept in the loop at all times despite the many layers of deceit between the principal characters, thanks to a great script that neither overcomplicates a good idea, nor dumbs it down to ensure that people can keep up. A really good film, and its a pity it won't see a full release outside its home territory. 8.5/10