The Best Offer (dir by Guiseppe Tornatore)
Virgil (Geoffrey Rush, giving a very Geoffrey Rush type of performance) is the owner of a prestigious auction house. He’s hired by the mysterious Claire (Sylvia Hoeks) to auction off all of her dead parent’s possessions. Virgil finds himself growing obsessed with Claire and, with the help of his assistant Robert (Jim Sturgess), finally manages to strike up a tentative relationship with her. However, it quickly turns out that there’s more to Claire and Robert than Virgil originally assumed.
The Best Offer is a disappointing film. It’s not terrible but it moves far too slowly for its own good and most of the cast seems to be going through the motions. The one exception is Donald Sutherland, who is a lot of fun as a sleazy con artist. Sutherland managed to partially redeem Fierce People, another bad film that I recently reviewed, and he comes close to doing the same for The Best Offer.
Borgman (dir by Alex van Warmerdam)
Borgman is a disturbing and dark film from the Netherlands that was released over here in U.S. by Drafthouse Films. This summer, Jeff and I saw it at our local Alamo Drafthouse with the usual group of self-styled cinema experts. Nobody quite knew what they were about to see and, after the film ended, an uneasy air descended over the theater as we all wondered what we had just watched.
Jan Bijvoet plays Camiel Borgman, a homeless man who is first seen living in the woods, hidden away in an underground cavern. When he’s chased out of the woods by a priest and two men, Borgman eventually finds himself at the home of the arrogant and wealthy Richard (Jeroen Perceval). Richard refuses Borgman’s request to enter the home for a bath and then physically attacks him. When Borgman returns to the house the next day, Richard’s wife, Marina (Hadewych Minis), allows him to stay in the garage. Though Borgman originally says he’s only going to stay a day, he is soon living in the garage. Everyone — Marina, her children, and the nanny — is aware that Borgman is now a part of their household. Everyone, except for Richard who remains blissfully unaware. Soon, Marina is having violent nightmares while Borgman crouches over her and more and more of Borgman’s followers are showing up at the house…
Borgman is a horrific fable with a dark sense of humor. (As frightening as Borgman is, it’s impossible not to be amused by just how clueless Richard turned out to be.) In the best tradition of Michael Haneke, it all leads to an inevitable and unsettling conclusion.
Illiterate (dir by Moisés Sepúlveda)
Now this is a special film.
In this Chilean film, Ximena (Paulina Garcia) is an angry and sarcastic woman who is secretly ashamed to be illiterate. When Jackeline (Valentina Muhr) volunteers to teach Ximena how to read, she has to deal with both Ximena’s stubborn nature and her own anger over the years that she’s lost, imprisoned by her inability to understand the written word. And while this may sound like the basis of a typical Lifetime movie, the story takes on a special significance if you know something about the history of Chile and you understand that Ximena is a part of the generation that was previously held prisoner by a military dictatorship. Ximena’s attempt to learn how to read mirror the attempt of a country to learn how to be free.
Garcia and Muhr both give excellent performances. The film is a bit stagey but ultimately, it’s very touching.
In Secret (dir by Charlie Stratton)
How do you not enjoy a film like In Secret? Taking place in 19th century Paris, In Secret tells the story of Therese (Elizabeth Olsen), who is forced by her haughty aunt (Jessica Lange) to marry her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton). However, Therese does not love Camille and, bored with life in general, she ends up having an affair with Camille’s friend, the libertine Laurent (Oscar Isaac). Soon, Camille has been murdered, Theresa and Laurent are married, and how can you not love all of this melodrama?
In Secret is over-the-top but enjoyable, like a Lifetime movie with explicit sex and costumes to die for. It’s just a lot of fun.
Scorpion In Love (dir by Santiago Zannou)
In this Spanish film, Julian (Alex Gonzalez) is a young Neo Nazi who attempts to achieve redemption through boxing but who fears that his violent past will catch up with him. It’s not, by any means, a bad film. It’s just an extremely predictable one. Javier Bardem shows up playing a Nazi leader and he’s just as dangerously charismatic as you might expect but, otherwise, the film doesn’t offer much insight into what exactly would lead someone like Julian to become a Nazi in the first place.
Tercera Llamada (dir by Francisco Franco Alba)
This comedy from Mexico tells the story of an attempt by a theater company to put on a production of Albert Camus’s Caligula. The film is full of the usual types — the dedicated director, the craven producer, the innocent ingenue, and the difficult diva. It’s predictable but likable. If you’ve ever been involved in a community theater production that you just knew was going to probably be a disaster, you’ll find a lot to appreciate in Tercera Llamada.