A Western woman, who’s taken on Japanese style and speaks Japanese very well, asks people in Tokyo what they envy in foreigners.
In Queen to Play, Hèléne (Sandrine Bonnaire), a cleaning woman in Corsica develops a keen interest in chess when she sees a romantic couple playing on the terrace at the hotel where she sometimes works. Eventually, she convinces a curmudgeon Dr. Kroger (Kevin Klein), whom she also works for, to teach her to play chess.
The plot may not sound like anything special, but the film is due largely to Bonnaire’s performance. The film is strong because it avoids the usual choices. Hèléne’s marriage and work suffer because she plays chess, yet she doesn’t burn any bridges. Her husband may not understand her, but he isn’t a jerk and her marriage remains valuable, worth saving. The film is filled with absorbing scenes like when Helene dances with her rebellious daughter.
Netflix has Queen to Play
Here are a few short films and YouKu discoveries my students have shared recently.
En route to China, I saw several films including English Vinglish, an Indian film about Shashi, a woman whose husband and children often tease her about her bad English. To make matters worse, they don’t appreciate her talents like her gift for making amazing Indian sweets called ladoos. When Manu, Shashi’s sister in America, needs her to visit to help plan her daughter’s wedding, Shashi’s nervous. How will she survive in New York with such bad English?
In the beginning it looks like Sashi won’t. She’s nervous and overwhelmed by the rude and fast paced society. Yet she takes action and secretly takes English lessons while her sister’s at work. Her classmates and goofy teacher provide a support system and her language improves. What’s more she’s caught the attention of Laurent, a French chef who’s smitten by her beauty and charm.
The film has a sweet and sentimental tone, that wouldn’t succeed in Hollywood. Shashi is innocent as are the other characters. Yet I got pulled in despite the treacle. I was intrigued that the film didn’t follow the typical path that a Hollywood film would. Instead we’re led to a final scene where Shashi gives a persuasive, touching speech in English on the virtue of remaining true to a spouse when a marriage is hit by inertia and overfamiliarity. I was surprised by how fresh that speech was. I think the innocent tone of the film, the color and the spontaneous dancing and singing worked for me.
- English Vinglish (lovelyseasonscomeandgo.wordpress.com)
- Sridevi: Ladies approach me after ‘English Vinglish’ (ibnlive.in.com)
- Can’t wait for TV premiere of ‘English Vinglish’: Gauri Shinde (vancouverdesi.com)
- Women tell me ‘English Vinglish’ changed their lives: Sridevi (dawn.com)
- English Vinglish….Tasted Wasted (wordcreatesplus.wordpress.com)
- My 2012 favourites in Hindi Cinema (mindbugged.wordpress.com)
- Sridevi, Anil Kapoor once more, in Mr India sequel (movies.ndtv.com)
- English Vinglish Movie Review (nidhivarshneya.wordpress.com)
A very black comedy from Denmark, Adam’s Apples follows a neo-Nazi ex con out to a small church in the countryside led by Ivan, a pastor who’s so optimistic and positive it’s both annoying and just very weird. Adam can’t figure out Ivan the weird priest or the other misfits at the church. He has no faith whatsoever and immediately replaces the cross in his room with a portrait of Hitler.
Ivan tells Adam he needs a goal, something to strive to complete his community service. As a sort of smart aleck response, Adam says his goal it to bake a pie. While most normal priests (or people) would say, “Make a real goal.” Ivan accepts this goal and shows Adam the apple tree out front. This simple goal soon becomes a big challenge.
Plague upon plague befalls Ivan, yet he never lets his faith slip or reason prevail. It drives Adam absolutely crazy, though everyone around him, misfits all, seems to accept Ivan.
The film gets darker and darker, yet ends boldly and on just the right note.
This film is different, fresh and engaging. You can stream it on Netflix.