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THE PIANO (1993)
Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill
It is the mid-nineteenth century and Ada (Holly Hunter), a thirty-something native of Scotland is sold by her father to a wealthy British land owner Stewart (Sam Neill), who has emigrated to New Zealand's South Island. When Ada arrives at the tempestuous gray beach she is accompanied by her young illegitimate daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), and her beloved piano.
Ada has not spoken a word since she was six years old, preferring communicating through her piano playing and sign language, which is interpreted by her daughter. When Stewart arrives at the beach, he declares that the piano is too bulky to fit into his house and abandons it on the beach despite Ada's objections.
As Ada and Flora settle into the diffident Stewart's household, Ada remains betrothed to her music and shares no intimacy with her legal husband. On one occasion, while she is engrossed in playing her piano on the beach, her neighbour Baines (Harvey Keitel), enjoys the melody so much so that he trades Stewart land for the piano. Baines offers her a strange bargain- her piano for intimacy. Jane Campion's artful direction makes The Piano a subtle and unusual film, surprising and haunting at once.
The performances by Keitel and Hunter add nuance to an otherwise crude bargain. This story of repression, tradition, isolation and passion is where Victorian Gothic meets colonial civilization.
Director: Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani
Cast: Fouad Habash, Nisrine Rihan, Elias Saba
One of this year's Oscar nominees for best foreign film Ajami, is co-written and co-directed by a Jewish Israeli Yaron Shani and Palestinian Israeli Scandar Copti. Watching the movie, one is immersed into the very particular and complex subculture of Ajami, a neighbourhood in Jaffa which the movie is named for. The ethnically and religiously intermingled community of Muslims, Christians, Arabs and Jews combined with the high rates of unemployment make for a precarious environment.
The five intertwined sub-plots merge gangsters, cops, drug dealers, religious conflict and family pride escalating into a carnival of violence. An Israeli Arab, Omar is struggling to save his family from a gang of extortionists while his love affair with Hadir, an attractive Christian girl is doomed at the start in true Romeo and Juliet fashion. Dando, a policeman of Israeli descent fights tooth and nail to trace his missing brother who is rumored to have been killed by Palestinians. Malek is an illegal Palestinian worker who is attempting to collect money to pay for his mother's operation. Malek and Omar's best friend Binj is ostracized from his community for his relationship with an Israeli girl. Though often verging on the documentary, and occasionally bogged down by the extemporaneous dialogue, the movie is full of scenes that go off in unexpected directions. The most fascinating thing about Ajami, is that at the end it could be anywhere that diverse peoples live in tight spaces and band together in factions - the South side of Chicago, East End in London, or Mumbai.
OUT ON DVD
SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (2010)
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin
Scott Pilgrim follows the narrative strain of the oldest story in the book - boy meets girl and must fight for her affection. The boy in this case is an unemployed 23-year old bass guitarist in a garage rock band which is going to, well, stay in their garage for the most part. Scott Pilgrim (Micheal Cera) is a stunted man-child dating high school girl Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). While he hasn't quite gotten over being dumped by his former girl friend who now has a successful band of her own, Scott's life is going quite smoothly in Toronto. Then comes along the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who has moved to Toronto from New York in order to leave her past behind. But the past never lets go quite that easily, Scott learns when he tries to woo Ramona. While playing a battle of the bands to win a contract with a record label, Scott is accosted by Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), the first of Ramona's evil exes. When Scott heroically defeats Patel, he discovers that in order to date Ramona he must defeat all of her evil exes.
Adapted from Bryan Lee O'Malley's six-volume comic book series, the movie retains the feel of comic book panels complete with stylized video game imagery and juxtaposition of puppy dog romance with rock and roll references and larger-thanlife action words frequently cross the screen. Writer/director Edgar Write merges the medium of comic book and film to make a movie that is ambitious and absurd at the same time.
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