Netflix throttling and three from queue
At the beginning of the year, our Netflix DVD turnover rate was so prolific (we were watching ~3-4 films per week), they started throttling us (oh yes that is an official policy!). That rate, however, has dropped off significantly over the last month or so, allowing the company to be profitable again!
Anyway, here are accounts, one not so short and two short, of films we have recently seen on DVD. In no particular order.
Walk on Water: This Israeli film by Etyan Fox tells the story of a hard-nailed Mossad agent, Eyal and his gradual befriending of a German brother and sister. The friendship is also Eyal’s journey towards coming to terms with his inner feelings and prejudices. Underneath this story, however, the film has several layers which attempt to tackle a number of issues including homophobia, Arab-Israel conflict and Israel’s closure with respect to Nazi atrocities.
At the beginning, we see Eyal as a cool and calculating agent who successfully assassinates an Islamic terrorist in Istanbul. His coolness is, however, somewhat ruffled by the image of the terrorist’s small child who sees his father being killed. To make it worse, he comes home to find that his wife has committed suicide. Several months later, even though he himself feels fine, Eyal’s boss puts him on a less challenging assignment. He is to pretend to be a tour guide and befriend a young German, Knut Bergen, coming to Israel to visit his sister, Caroline, who works in a kibbutz. The goal is to find out about a known Nazi war criminal, who happens to be the sibling’s grandfather and is suspected of being harbored in Germany by their father. Eyal is not totally convinced of the usefulness of this work, especially since the grandfather is already on the deathbed. For him, it is clearly time to move on from the holocaust-victimization attitude and concentrate only on Palestinian terrorist. However, for his boss, who has personally suffered under this particular Nazi, it is a matter of closure.
The German siblings, meanwhile, are unaware of their grandfather and like much of modern Germany, deeply apologetic of their Nazi past. So the story progresses with the interaction between the hard-liner Eyal and the very liberal Knut (who wants to try and ‘understand the terrorist motives’) as they traverse (and we catch a glimpse of) the beautiful Israeli countryside, including the shore of the Dead Sea. While well-crafted, the film’s message is diluted by trying to tackle too many issues simultaneously and an altogether too convenient ending. Overall, it is unexceptional, but eminently watchable.
Worth mentioning is the film’s soundtrack – apart from songs by Bruce Springsteen and Buffalo Springfield, it has some very nice tracks by Israeli, Arab and German singers whom I have not heard before (unfortunately, I could not find a CD either on Amazon or on iTunes). Also worth mentioning: while I have seen only half a dozen or so films, I am quite impressed by Israeli cinema. Even if the story lines are simple, or as in this film, much too complicated, the films are technically very well made. That makes it quite enjoyable to watch. One film I will definitely recommend is Late Marriage – a hilarious, yet poignant take on love, societal expectations and marriage. Indian males should be able to somewhat identify with the hero (played by Lior Ashkenazi, who plays Eyal in Walk on Water), who is being forced by his mother to get married to a suitable girl.
Oldboy: South Korean director Chan-wook Park‘s dark and disturbing, yet riveting thriller generated much critical acclaim and was compared to Tarantino’s Kill Bill (Interestingly, Tarantino was part of the jury that awarded this film the Grand Prize at Canne in 2004). However, other than the revenge angle and the scenes of ultra-violence, this film is quite different. The acclaim is too is well deserved, even though at times I felt the narrative was being stretched, especially at the end. I will not go into the details of the storyline but the film is highly recommended. Also, keep an open mind while watching. (Btw, this film was shameless copied by Sanjay Gupta into a Hindi version, Zinda. While I have not seen the latter, I will refer you to GreatBong’s sarcastic take on it).
Confidentially Yours (Vivement dimanche!): Film critic turned filmmaker and arguably the leading French ‘new wave’ director, François Truffaut’s last film is a charming homage to Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollwyood noir genre (it was made in 1984 but shot in Black and White for the effects). The film does have some sort of a murder mystery story, involving multiple dead bodies, each brutally down away with. But the plot is secondary and exists simply as a frame, allowing the director to drape his cinematic style around it; much like Kill Bill (okay that will be the last mention of this film in this post) or Sin City in recent times. If you are a fan of Hitchcock, do keep an eye out for some scenes that were definitely constructed as tributes. As for me, the opening credit sequence itself, featuring the gorgeous Fanny Ardant walking seductively down a Parisian street, makes the film worthwhile.