Once in a while a small film from far away comes along packing an unexpected punch. Such is In Order of Disappearance (dir. Hans Petter Moland) a Swedish film that falls with the Nordic Noir nomenclature. The genre is relatively new, and features minimalist films of a certain moody, mental and physical landscape and temperament. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Wallander, and even one of the earliest examples, the wonderful Smilla’s Sense of Snow. The sense of dread seems to waft up from the barren landscapes and are often shot under darkening skies. The psychological darkness makes it no surprise that the leading character feels isolated. Even so he or she carries on with a mission, usually inspired by or connected to a crime. In Order of Disappearance follows the genre with one exception. It is noir as can be, but it is shot in bright, stinging daylight of blue skies and searing hot white snow. Stellan Skarsgård stars as a mountain snow blower whose adult son is murdered by a local organised crime. He plots his revenge silently, methodically as he goes about everyday business and domestic life. We’re not sure he’s going to unleash that rage until he does…again and again. His vengeance is epic, the Shakespearean kind that spares no one, no generation and he manages to keep it on track, on his terms. The film is endlessly snowbound, galvanizing and violent, and especially good. And it has some wickedly funny moments.
Natalie Portman write directed and stars in the Hebrew language drama A Tale of Love and Darkness based on the memoir by Amos Oz. It’s a major accomplishment for Portman, and a passion project. Unfortunately, the film is unbalanced and undermined by its relentless grimness. Set during the early years of the State of Israel British Mandate for Palestine, it concerns a boy whose mother (Portman) suffers from mental illness brought on in part by her experiences at the hands of the Nazis. They live away from danger now, but she is never safe from nightmares and dark visions; her vivid stories of deprivation and fear are his bedtime stories. He deals with her and early death struggles in a bets selling memoir. It’s earnest and well-meaning but makes its unwavering focus on suffering numbing rather than moving. There needs to be a spark of life to bring it out of its flatness. There’s an interesting story somewhere in there, but we just don’t get to connect with it.
India’s first female buddy movie has landed! Angry Indian Goddesses (writer director Pan Nalin) is strikingly similar to The Hangover, in which a group of Indian girls from across the country get together for a weekend at a beach house in Goa, party central. It’s partay time, and these gals like to get crazy and break away from their conservative families and lives. They like drinking, raw language, dancing and asking the tough questions and challenging one another. No eyebrows are raised when one of the girls announces that she is engaged to the women visiting the house. The party continues into the second day but that night, one of them goes for a walk at night along a beach and is approached by a group of men. Then the movie makes a massive and pre-emptive shift just as The Hangover did. Things get serious fast. This is a provocative, powerful and extraordinary film.
Manhattan Night also known as Manhattan Nocturne (written and directed by Brian DeCubellis)stars Oscar winning actor Adrien Brody. This “noir” crime drama has the feathers of a noir but no flesh or bone. He’s a tabloid newspaper reporter (plenty of barbs about the dying newspaper industry) whose style of yellow journalism borders in indecent. He will do just about anything to get a scoop. His work principles don’t quite jive with his comfortable, sweet domestic life with his wife and children in their old fashioned, walled and tree covered home in the centre of Manhattan. He’s warm and fuzzy on that front. But through a combination of stick-to-it-iveness and a fluke, he manages to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a child and redeems himself. Soon along comes a seductive minx asking him to find her husband’s murderer. Then she seduces him. So what part of him is fake? He starts digging into her “case” and gets caught in a dangerous situation and realises he’s been had. It’s hilariously inept, and raw and answers the question – can bad things happen to Oscar winners and their careers?