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September 17, 2009 Edition
Middle-aged Aviva has always wanted to become a writer and sheís got the talent, but not the time, to become famous. Sheís got a demanding job as a hotel cook, an unemployed husband, a suicidal mother, and three uncommunicative and uncooperative young adult children. When her sister introduces her to a famous author who offers to tutor her, Aviva is elated at first. Then Oded, who hasnít published anything new in years, makes her an offer: sheís got the talent, heís got the name Ė how badly does she want to get published? Itís an offer she canít refuse, though when she sees her book for sale with his name on it, she (and we) are crushed. In Hebrew, with English and Hebrew subtitles.
Since its release in 1971, this has been consistently listed as one of Canadaís best films, and this Criterion release, with its newly restored digital transfer and improved sound quality, may be the best way to see it. Set in wintery and rural 1940s Quebec, this is the story of 15 year-old Benoit who lives with his aunt Cecile and uncle Antoine in an apartment over their store, and also of Jos, father and husband, who quits his job as an asbestos miner and abandons his family for a job at a logging camp. Their stories separate almost immediately, but are brought back together in the end by tragedy and negligence. This is a dark coming of age story for Benoit, and also can be seen as a metaphor for Quebecís political history. In French with English subtitles.
Welcome to a day in the life of Wilby, an island off the coast of Nova Scotia, where the small year-round population is divided between those who believe that big development is about to ruin their lives and those who think their fortunes are about to be made. Where the small town politics are dirty and underhanded and the neighbors are too close for comfort. Where the air is fresh, the beach is (mostly) untainted by used needles, and everyone knows one another, so everyone stays put. But a scandal is about to break loose that will test the bonds of neighborliness in this quiet black comedy.
Duncan is in his mid-twenties and has been drifting through life, unable to focus, since his fatherís death ten years before. But now his grandfatherís health is worsening and Duncan steps up to the plate to help out. Besides an unhealthy fascination with guns, Ronald has Parkinsonís and dementia, and, soon, a nurse to ease the burden on his wife Ruth. As Duncan grows closer to Ronald, he also gets to know Kate, and soon, Duncan and Kate are dating. And when Ronald dies and Kate is offered a job across the country, Duncan must decide whether to battle his inertia and follow her, or sink back into life as he knew it.
Kenneth Branagh brings Swedish detective Kurt Wallander to life in the first three episodes of a new BBC series. Adapted from Henning Mankellís novels, the first episode opens with a young woman intent on committing suicide, the second with the murder of a taxi driver, and the third with the ambush and murders of several young picnickers. Wallander, the world-weary figure around whom events unfold, is portrayed to perfection by Branagh, and those who have read the novels will be happy to find that the series has been most ably adapted to the small screen. Filmed on location in southern Sweden, this is a treat for the eyes and mind alike.
This look into the world of a close-knit orthodox Jewish family in Israel is believable, intriguing, and harrowing. Abraham, a rabbi, tells his son that a good Jew does everything in the Torah without asking why, but this is not enough of an answer for young Menachem, who carries out small acts of rebellion that are hardly worth the name. His mother, Esther, understands Menachemís need to ask questions, but is a good Jewish wife and can do little more than shelter her son from his fatherís inflexibility. The varying reactions of Menachemís parents to the tragedy that occurs while father and son are on vacation at the Dead Sea are thought-provoking and moving. In Hebrew with English subtitles.