We’ve now reached the last days of 2011, so why not finish out the year with a quick cinematic trip to Europe? This week Fandor has selected four Feature Films set in various European locales, and whether you’re pining for a breezy and sexy romantic romp on the sunshiny Mediterranean or prefer your dissections of love a bit darker and more complex, Fandor has something for you!
What It’s About: In the days leading up to Christmas, a married man forces himself to choose between his wife and his mistress. A sharply observed, deeply felt drama from director Radu Muntean showcasing the strengths of current Romanian cinema in its beautifully calibrated performances, expert craftsmanship and dazzling technical mastery.
Despite placing #34 on Indiewire’s prestigious Critics Survey of the Best Films of 2011, Anthony Kaufman still declares the film is underrated, calling it “The Best Film of the Year that Critics Forgot:”
“The slow-burning masterpiece takes the exacting long-take style of 2009’s totalitarian-era critique 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days, and effectively transplants it to a more intimate tale of modern infidelity. Tuesday is what adult movies should be, from its subtle, revealing dialogue to its powerfully alive performances, lead by Mimi Branesco, as the almost callous husband, and Mirela Oprisor, as the fierce, wounded wife who lays into her spouse in arguably the best dramatic scene of the year.”
“In his fourth feature film, Romanian filmmaker Radu Muntean again fastens his attention on the question of intimacy and loneliness, crafting a frank, tightly constructed three-character drama that speaks volumes about marriage, desire, and how we negotiate the varieties of attachment we have to other people.”
–Damon Smith interviews Muntean for Filmmaker Magazine
“…it may take a second viewing to appreciate the flawlessness of this film.”
–A.O. Scott for The New York Times
What It’s About: The legendary Michelangelo Antonioni’s debut feature, Story of a Love Affair is a powerful statement on the delusions and violence sparked by a passionate love. A wealthy industrialist becomes curious about his trophy wife Paola’s (Lucia Bosé) past and hires a private investigator. The detective discovers that she had fallen desperately in love with the handsome Guido (Massimo Girotti) as a young girl and may have participated in a crime to win his hand. After years apart, Paola and Guido reunite to deflect the investigation and rekindle their attraction in the process. As events spiral out of their control, a murder may blaze their only path to freedom.
“The unsurpassed beauty of Antonioni’s visual art lifts his two-penny story and hollow people into the exalted realm of the senses; it’s a noir dissolved and re-made into existential poetry.”
–Dan Callahan for Slant Magazine
“Already in this first feature, Antonioni is making confident and assured use of space and setting, and the composition of figures within a setting, in order to comment on his characters’ psychology and motivation.”
–Ian Johnston for Bright Lights Film Journal
“What makes Story of a Love Affair so fascinating, and ultimately essential to the Antonioni canon, is that it demonstrates that even at the beginning of his career Antonioni was breaking with convention and forging his own signature style.”
–Jesse Ataide for DVD Verdict
What It’s About: Four legendary filmmakers direct some of Europe’s biggest stars in Boccacio ’70, a landmark omnibus film. Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita), Luchino Visconti (The Leopard), Vittorio De Sica (The Bicycle Thief), and Mario Monicelli (Big Deal on Madonna Street), direct Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, Romy Schneider and more through four stories of unashamed eros. Modeled on Boccaccio‘s Decameron, they are comic moral tales about the hypocrisies surrounding sex in 1960s Italy. Bursting with passion and sly satire, is a glittering showcase for some of the greatest talents in movie history.
Boccaccio ’70 “is an entertaining sampler of the best that Italian cinema had to offer. Boccaccio ’70 is alternately serious and fun–literally, two of the movies are dramatic, the other two comedic, though all are poignant and have something to say. Each segment clocks in at around 50 minutes, making Boccaccio ’70 over three hours in total. The filmmaking styles are different, but somehow cohesive. Despite each director putting his signature on his effort, Boccaccio ’70 still looks like it was spawned from the same impulse.”
–Jamie S. Rich for DVD Talk
For auteurists out there, a bit of trivia! In his pioneering essay “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962,” Andrew Sarris uses Boccaccio ’70 to demonstrate the auteur theory:
“Two recent ominous films—Boccaccio ’70 and The Seven Capital Sins—unwitting reinforced the auteur theory by confirming the relative standing of the many directors involved. If I had not seen either film I would have anticipated that the order of merit in Boccaccio ’70 would be Visconti, Fellini and De Sica… the directors ran true to form by almost any objective criterion of value. However, the main point here is that even in these frothy, ultracommercial servings of entertainment, the contribution of each director had less in common stylistically with the work of other directors on the project than with his own previous work.”
What It’s About: Forgotten for a half-century, My Grandmother is a delightful example of the Soviet Eccentric Cinema movement as well as a scathing satire of Soviet bureaucracy. Noted for its anarchic styles, stop-motion puppetry, exaggerated camera angles, animation and constructivist sets, the film unspools the foibles and follies that abound when a Georgian paper pusher, modeled after American silent comic Harold Lloyd, loses his job. After being fired, he learns the value of a “grandmother,” a slang term for the boodle that moves the table ’round.
“My Grandmother was so blunt in its mockery of communist bureaucracy and rigidity that it was suppressed soon after its completion.”
–Edward Guthmann for The San Francisco Chronicle
The Grandmother is a notable example of several “early Georgian revolutionary classics… known for their irony, subtle social characterization, fresh technique and ingenuity, satirical pathos, and bold, grotesque strokes in the depiction of antiheroes.”
–Andrew Horton, Inside Soviet Film Satire
A very Happy New Year to all Fandor users and Keyframe readers, and see you in 2012!