Buena Vista Social Club (1999): The Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Wim Wenders’ ode to the music of Cuba and the Buena Vista Social Club is a brilliant and poetic documentary that depicts the art of music as something that’s soothing to the soul and can ease even the most tumultuous situations. Wenders’ documentary is very much about music with a lot of performances, but it’s also a thoughtful and deliberately paced meditation on the meaning of music. It defines something within the subjects we meet in “Buena Vista Social Club.” And even in spite of the economic turmoil, it’s kept people within the society of Cuba going forward and doing their best to show their love for the art form.

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Dearest Sister (2016) [Stranger With My Face International Film Festival 2017]

A young woman leaves home to go work for her cousin the city as this one is gradually going blind.  As the cousin’s sight leaves her, she get a gift of being able to see and communicate with the dead.  Her newly arrived cousin has difficulty adapting and may not be going about things the best way.

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Black Girl (La Noire de…) (1966): The Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Director Ousmane Sembéne’s drama is less an art house film and more of an observational drama that explores how one woman’s idyllic views of French life traps her in to a life of indentured servitude. Actress M’Bissine Thérese Diop is great as Diouana, a young woman stuck in an African village who finds that her options there are limited. She’s not very capable of doing much but servant work and longs to see the world. When she gets a job with a wealthy couple, she’s taken to the French Riviera for the season and asked to live with them to work as their live in nanny. Diouana comes to France expecting luxury, shopping, amazing adventures, and exploration of the beaches.

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45 Years (2015): The Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

It’s stunning how subtle and delicate “45 Years” introduces itself, only to end on such a heavy and gut wrenching final scene that leaves you with the weight of questions and uneasy answers. From beginning to end, director Andrew Haigh confronts many of life’s very difficult problems, including how easy it is for a relationship approaching a century, can be dismantled in only a week. Haigh almost seems to count down to the final day where couple Kate and Geoff celebrates their four and a half decades together as a married couple. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are stellar as a seemingly mundane husband and wife whose life is changed one day with a letter that arrives for Geoff.

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Channel Zero (2015)

John Nicol’s “Channel Zero” is an unusual but ambitious film that will inspire a lot of avid movie lovers to check out more than once. It’s packed with some heavy ideas and unique themes about reality, and the state of existence, all in the face of what is a pretty vicious prologue and epilogue. Director Nicol has a very striking directorial style that makes “Channel Zero” feel like an absolute nightmare. And though the movie is considerably low budget, director Nicol manages to evoke a world that feels very empty and barren. It’s not very easy to do, especially with independent filmmakers, but director Nicol is able to accomplish that task.

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Glimpse (2016)

I don’t know how many audiences will click with “Glimpse” but for folks that can appreciate film as an experimental form of art with no real narrative, John Nicol’s movie is solid. It has no story and no dialogue and often time feels like some kind of music video, but it’s well made. Director Nicol seems to know what kind of movie he’s making, even if it’s never quite clear throughout the eight minute run time.

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The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge) (2016)

This is one of the very few animated productions where Studio Ghibli’s fantastic storytelling is given a hint of European flavor. While “The Red Turtle” is branded a Studio Ghibli production it garners much of the same elements from Ghibli’s library including a wide open world, a menacing series of creatures and the overtones of the symbioses of nature and humanity. It’s best to think of “The Red Turtle” as a fairy tale, as the movie relies on a lot of inexplicability to tell its thin narrative. The narrative being thin is by no means a criticism as “The Red Turtle” is a lot about raw events, and simplicity at its finest.

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