washington d.c. – This month, we’ll spotlight some of the most exciting international films of the year. First: “Memoria” enhanced by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and another fascinating collaboration between Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz.
“Memoria” review: Tilda Swinton captivates, despite a disappointing twist
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films are a test of patience, and “Memoria” continues the Thai filmmaker’s penchant for unconventionality and immersion. His short film “Night Colonies” in the anthology film “The Year of the Everlasting Storm” involved only a few elements – a light, a swarm of insects and the camera filming their movements – but through his abstraction communicated the push-pull nature of attraction and repulsion. “Memoria” is a much larger effort, but the attempt it makes to understand an integral part of human behavior and a kind of shared universal history evokes this short film.
Tilda Swinton stars as Scottish expat Jessica, who lives in Medellin selling flowers, travels to Bogotá to visit her sick sister, and one night hears loud background noise. Jessica has never heard of anything like this before and pledges to research what it might be. His wandering quest takes him to refrigerator shops and public parks, a hospital morgue and skeleton excavation project, a recording studio, and the jungle.
“Memoria” demands attention as Swinton travels in real time through spaces, places and even time to find that sound that seems to come “from the core of the Earth”, and this role plays on stillness of the actress and her carefully controlled reactions. But as the last third of the film becomes a series of monologues that take place between Swinton and his stage partner Elkin Díaz, the explanation offered for the sound is so serious that it actually becomes quite silly.
The impact of the bond that Swinton and Díaz develop over the last half hour of the film might dampen the explanation for some, and there’s an argument to be made that the sound itself may not be relevant. But “Memoria” disappoints with this narrative twist, which threatens to overshadow the carefully controlled stillness and brutality of Swinton and the film’s other actors.
Unclassified. 136 minutes. Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Language: English, Spanish. With: Tilda Swinton, Elkin Diaz, Jeanne Balibar, Juan-Pablo Urrego, Daniel Gimenez Cacho. In limited theaters December 26.
‘Parallel Mothers’ review: Pedro Almodóvar’s latest staple embraces the complexity of the human heart
Pictured: Sony Pictures Classics.
Pedro Almodóvar always knows exactly what he is doing. Playing with tone and form, Almodóvar consistently manages to merge camp and melancholy in pointed explorations of the past and imaginings of the future. His eye for production design (those luxurious yet lived-in home interiors!) is as impeccable as his understanding of the emotional storms that rage within us as we navigate love, experience loss, grow old and honor ghosts. of our ancestors.
Repetitive collaborator Penelope Cruz stars in her latest must-see, “Parallel Mothers,” as Janis, a successful editorial photographer who becomes pregnant after a passionate date with forensic anthropologist Arturo (Israel Elejalde). While in the hospital giving birth, Janis befriends young Ana (Milena Smit), who has her child without much support from her own mother.
After Janis and Ana are released, they lose contact, but reconnect months later to forge a relationship that highlights the variability in women’s lives. Friend, sister, mother, daughter, lover, survivor, are all of our identities tied to our responsibilities to others, or is there something about individual identity that exists outside of those ties and boundaries?
“Parallel Mothers” takes us down a narrative path with deliberate melodrama and kitsch, generating an endless stream of heart-pounding shock, then incorporates a deliberate, human nod to the lingering and devastating impact of the Spanish Civil War. We all live with wounds, but “Parallel Mothers” makes it clear that they’re just part of a body, and Cruz leads a uniformly excellent ensemble that shows us the complexity of the human heart.
Rated R. 123 minutes. Dir: Pedro Almodovar. Spanish language. With: Penélope Cruz, Israel Elejalde, Milena Smit, Rossy de Palma, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon. In select theaters December 24.
“Memoria” and “Parallel Mothers” were reviewed during the 2021 Virginia Film Festival.
About the writer: Roxana Hadadi is a film, television and pop culture critic. She is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and the Online Film Critics Society, and is one of Tomatometer-approved top critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Celebrate subtitles with these great international films, streaming (free!) on Tubi
Love Perros (2000): Before winning back-to-back Best Director Oscars (for “Birdman” and “The Revenant”), the Mexican author Alejandro González Iñarritu burst onto the scene with this gripping psychological drama. Three independent stories – that of a young man in love and his dog, a model and his married lover and a hitman – are linked by a catastrophic car accident. Rated R. 154 minutes. Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu. Spanish language. With: Emilio Echevarria, Gael Garcia Bernal, Goya Toledo.
The beauty and the Beast (2014): French movie star Léa Seydoux (“No Time to Die”) shines in this lush adaptation of a familiar fairy tale. Rated PG-13. 112 minutes. Real: Christopher Gans. French language. With: Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel, Andre Dussollier, Eduardo Noriega.
The girl with the dragon tattoo (2010): Before Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig took the leading roles in David Fincherit is adaptation of Stieg Larsson’A sensational bestseller, this Swedish adaptation made an international star of Noomi Rapace. Rated R. 152 minutes. Real: Niels Arden Oplev. Language: Swedish. Starring: Noomi Rapace Michael Nyqvist, Ewa Fröling.
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