A Prophet


France / 2009 / French, Arabic & Corsican

Directed by Jacques Audiard

With Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif

Still from 'A Prophet'A nineteen year old man of Arab descent named Malik has just begun a six-year term in prison for attacking a cop. Going from the streets of Paris into prison life, which is at once regimented and anarchic, he learns that politics and cultural association take on an important, new meaning when locked up. A loner who does not readily identify with one group, Malik is nonetheless pulled into the Corsican gang who control much of the illicit activity on the inside. Threatened with death, he is to assassinate a prisoner named Reyeb, a man who by no accident happens to be Arab and who will testify against a friend of César Luciani, the gang’s cruel and volatile leader. Read the rest of this entry »


Still from 'The Forty-First'

Nomads, Wilderness, and the Soviet Mind

There figure into the mythology of a wide variety of cultures marginalized people who embody Otherness and a pure, essentialized humanity. These run the gamut from extinct to thriving, mythic to moribund: Native Americans in Westerns, Nishadas and Adivasis in Vedic literature, Romani people in British and French drama. In the case of Soviet cinema, these symbols often take the form of people still very much alive and active, namely nomadic cultures whose ways of life were, and still are, precariously close to being absorbed by modernization and the overriding powers of the state. Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.A. / 1937 / English

Directed by Leo McCarey

With Beulah Bondi, Victor Moore, Fay Bainter

Still from 'Make Way for Tomorrow'In the sitting room of a small rural homestead covered in snow and icicles, an aging couple have gathered four of their grown children, who now live in far-flung places and with lives of their own, after a long period of separation. There are two sons and two daughters, with a third daughter who lives off in California not present. Bluntly the father tells them that he and their mother have fallen behind on the payments for their house and will soon have to vacate. And so begins a heartfelt fable of graceful humanity, under whose amiably presented exterior lies a robust and lucid commentary on modernization and the responsibility of one generation to those who raised them. Read the rest of this entry »

Colombia / 1990 / Spanish

Directed by Víctor Gaviria

With Ramiro Meneses, Carlos Mario Restrepo, Jackson Idrian Gallego

Still from 'Rodrigo D: No Future'Víctor Gaviria’s Rodrigo D: No Future is a startling and abrasive film telling a story of young men growing up amid violence, poverty, and cynicism in the Colombia of the late 1980’s. At the time Medellín, where it takes place, was considered the most dangerous city in the world, as it became a focal point of international drug trade, and the government was ill-equipped  for controlling it. Confrontingly real, tied to its urban location, and without a saccharine sheen to render its content palatable, the film is brought to life by a sterling cast of young, nonprofessional actors from the area, four of whom lost their lives to violence even before its release. Read the rest of this entry »

Peppermint Candy


South Korea / 1999 / Korean

Directed by Lee Chang-Dong

With Sol Kyung-Gu, Kim Yeo-Jin, Moon So-Ri

Still from 'Peppermint Candy'On a sunny day by a whispering river a group of friends, all middle-aged, are having a reunion, celebrating twenty years since they last had an outing together, back in college. Toward them staggers a disheveled man in a business suit, and they recognize him as their old friend Yong-Ho. He joins them in their picnic, but seems somehow different, transformed by the loss and disappointment suffered during the years after college. He disgraces himself by doing a grotesque karaoke performance before running off to flail in the water. He then gravely, resolutely, stalks over to the nearby train tracks and stands on them. As one of the friends pleads with him to come down, the rest of them sing merrily, oblivious to what is about to happen. And then a beam of light rushes forth from the tunnel and it is all over. Read the rest of this entry »