Tag Archives: Romance

SIFF: The Heist of the Century, SanRemo, and This Town

Every so often we get movies that try to capture the magic of Sidney Lumet’s A Dog Day Afternoon but wind up looking either like artificial constructs like Now You See Me, or rehashed versions of other, better crime capers dating back to the 1950s. Ariel Winograd’s The Heist of the Century (El robo del siglo) treads a middle ground between crowd-pleasing and rehash but is mainly a solid two hours of entertainment. Its story, like Dog Day, is based on true events. On a hot summer day in 2006, a group of thieves led by Fernando Araujo (Diego Peretti)_and Luis Mario Vetetti Sellanes (Guillermo Francella, last seen in 2015’s The Clan) execute one of the greatest heists ever in Argentinean history. How they orchestrate such a massive break-in I’ll leave you to see for yourself, because it is as insane as it is audacious and often times flat-out funny. Winograd keeps the action constantly pumping with little time for contemplation and draws his pack of conspirators in enough of a sympathetical light to keep some focus on the men instead of rooting for the cops to eventually bring their shenanigans to a halt. If the story itself falters, it’s that once you realize that everyone involved will eventually meet their moment of justice, you start to forget the movie altogether. I had a hard time truly relating to the events of the film shortly afterward, which is probably due to having seen so many movies of the same kind over the years. It says something when the only movie I can recall almost scene-by-scene is Lumets, but then, Dog Day is a classic all its own. [C]

poster for SanRemo

When we meet Bruno (Sandi Pavlin), he’s trying to borrow a bike from a woman minding her own business because he is trying to get home to his dog. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that Bruno has escaped the senior-citizen home, and judging from the faces of the attendants coming in to take Bruno back, he’s done this thing before.

Later on we see him again, observing an. elegant older woman as she enjoys some exercise that ends when the sprinkler system goes off and she, instead of leaving, lets the water rain down on her as if in a blessing. Duša (Silvia Gušin) and Bruno start a tentative friendship although at times she seems a bit prickly, as if she wouldn’t remember him but does. A shared bond over a song develops, but they continue to meet over and over again for the first time.

Shades of Away from Her and The Mole Agent are all over Sanremo, and I mean that in a good way instead of looking for a cheap comparison. Sanremo establishes rather firmly that Bruno suffering from dementia and his repeated attempts at escape only make matters worse for him. He has a loving but strained relationship with his visiting daughter, who is conflicted with the sale of a house that contains so many memories. And of course, there is the presence of Duša, who gives Bruno a fleeting sense of hope.

Miroslav Mandic’s movie is one of great compassion for its characters. While we get that they have to be treated with a somewhat firm hand by the staff members of the home, it never deviates into potential cruelty. The look of the movie is desaturated, with dense fog opening the story. The fog may be an on-the-nose symbol of the state of Bruno’s mind, but an increased clarity in scenes and a gorgeous but somewhat surrealistic finale indicate that Bruno may have reached a sense of closure, even when his character winds up in a rather odd place. [B]

Arriving from New Zealand is a mockumentary in the style of Taika Waititi and Christopher Guest movies called This Town. Written and directed by David White, This Town tells the story of Sean (White again), a young man wanting to find true love and settle down. It’s just that he’s got a little bit of baggage which might be a deal-breaker. Several years ago he was not found guilty of slaughtering his entire family; however, just because a judge ruled in favor, it still doesn’t clear you of the crime. Or so Pam (Robyn Malcolm) thinks. She’s the former sheriff hot on his trail who’s turned her entire house into a network of clues and news clippings and recordings on 8-track in a last-ditch effort to nab Sean for good.

While Pam slowly manages to tie up the knots on her boundary-pushing investigation, Sean finds love with Casey (Alice Connolly). However, the town doesn’t do much to stand in between Sean and his rebuilding his life. This somewhat amounts to a bit of a problem in a movie that is often funny but not laugh-out-loud hilarious. Midway through, the movie loses a bit of steam and it seems as though perhaps it might be stretching itself a bit thin in order to meet a runtime. Even the comedic presence of Rima te Wiata — always welcome — feels a bit misguided and forced. By the end, once the end credits roll, I was having a bit of a time remembering White’s movie mainly because after a strong beginning it just didn’t know where to take itself and kept relying on too much of Malcolm to keep the conflict up. That in itself makes me rate This Town a C.

Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time: A Review

Natasa Stork, in Lili Horvát’s Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time

Careful what you wish for; you may or may not get it. This is more or less the premise of the rather improbably titled Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, Hungary’s entry to Best International Feature Film for the 93rd Academy Awards and Lili Horvát’s second feature film. Horvát’s story centers on Marta (Natasa Stork), a neurosurgeon returning to her home country for a visit. At the start of the film, she is seen in abstract, apparently naked from the waist up, seemingly relaxing after what may seem a night of passion, and later on, discussing her return with a therapist (Péter Tóth). Such disjointed scenes indicate that we may be witnessing something that has happened already, especially when Marta herself states that, “I wanted something so bad I forgot I dreamed up the entire thing.”

As Marta’s story unfolds, we learn that some time ago she and a colleague, Dr. János Drexler (Viktor Bodo) met at a symposium in New Jersey. Both seemed to have fallen hard for each other and made a pact to meet at a certain location in Budapest. When Marta abruptly leaves her life in the USA — which on the surface seems already out of character for her — she actually shows up at the meeting location. Alone. Soon after, she desperately tracks Drexler down to the hospital where he works. To her dismay, he claims to have never met her. Undone, she faints dead away in the middle of the street.

However, Marta, instead of returning back to the US, decides to stay. We don’t exactly know why — certainly this could have been a fluke, which as embarrassing as it is, would grant her the chance to pick herself up and move on. Marta rents an apartment near to the hospital where Drexler works and even lands a job there. If all this seems a bit too creepy and “fatal attraction-like”, it is, and it’s not. Horvát takes the story elsewhere, although not too far from Drexler. Marta initiates a tentative affair with a much younger man (Benett Vilmányi), which manages to bring a spark of interest in Drexler.

Preparations is a bit ambiguous in what it decides to reveal and conceal about Marta, which is just how I like my cinema. Perhaps all this did happen or was a figment of Marta’s own mental state — which would be ironic, being that she is a neurosurgeon. However, a final minute turn of the screw muddles up whatever aspirations Horvát was attempting to portray, and this leaves the movie a bit flat. Even so, Horvát has crafted a layered character study of a woman who perhaps should know better than to follow her folly, and who may or may not be herself re-creating the same scenario with an unsuspecting bystander who also falls for her.

Preparations is still playing in virtual platforms and if you are in New York, Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the Film Forum.

Grade: B