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Movies

‘Ida’

Anna, a young woman training to be a nun in 1960s Poland is on the verge of taking her vows when she meets her only living relative for the first time and learns that she is Jewish and that her real name is Ida Lebenstein. Together they discover what happened to Anna/Ida’s family.

This compact masterpiece has the curt definition and the finality of a reckoning—a reckoning in which anger and mourning blend together.

David Denby, The New Yorker

This jewel is only 82 minutes long and every moment makes good use of the viewer’s time. The story is one example of the decimation of Poland’s Jews during World War II. But in the end, this is not a film about Poland or the Holocaust – but about life.

The film, which came out in 2013, is in black and white. The places photographed are ordinary yet the cinematography is stunning. Each scene looks like a black and white photograph made by a Magnum photographer using a Leica camera. Łukasz Żal is a superb, young cinemaphotographer born in Koszalin, Poland.

Ida is played by Agata Trzebuchowska. Her character is sweet, innocent and beautiful. Her aunt Wanda – Agata Kulesza – is also a fine actress.

Pawel Pawlikowski directed the film. He was born in Warsaw in 1957. At the age of 14, Pawlikowski left Poland to live in Germany and Italy, before settling in Britain. In 2004, he directed My Summer of Love with Emily Blunt and Natalie Press.

This film touched me deeply and left me thinking for a long time about what’s important and what’s not. It is among the best films I have seen.

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Movies

‘The Art Dealer (L’antiquaire)’

The Art Dealer (L’antiquaire) is a beautiful 2015 French film about a young Parisian woman portrayed by Anna Sigalevitch. She’s searching for paintings stolen from her Jewish family during WWII.

Louis-Do de Lencquesaing who is in the hit French series Spiral does a nice job portraying the woman’s husband.

The cinema-photography is excellent and the slow uncovering of unflattering facts reveals what war brings out in human nature even among those not in power.

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Movies Podcasts

‘White Noise’: A Poignant Look at the Alt-Right

This chilling documentary offers an inside look at white nationalism in the United States (the alt-right), including Richard Spencer, Lauren Southern, and Mike Cernovich:

The documentary was directed by Daniel Lombroso. Lombroso was interviewed on this episode of People of the Pod podcast, which is produced by AJC.

Facts matter.

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Movies

‘Möbius’

I loved the French TV series “The Bureau” (“Le Bureau des Légendes”) created by Éric Rochant. I’ve started exploring Rochant’s other work hoping for similar entertainment.

Rochant wrote and directed a 2013 spy film called “Möbius” starring Jean Dujardin and the stunningly beautiful Belgian actress Cécile de France.

Dujardin portrayed George Valentin in the 2011 award-winning silent movie “The Artist”. Dujardin won numerous awards for that work including the Academy Award for Best Actor. That was the first time a French actor won that award.

Rochant relies on familiar actors in both “The Bureau” and “Möbius.” Brad Leland portrays a senior CIA official both in both pieces. And the wonderful Ukrainian actor Aleksey Gorbunov, who plays Karlov in seasons 4 and 5 of “The Bureau,” plays a similar role in “Möbius.”

So if you can’t get enough of “The Bureau”, check out Möbius. “Möbius” isn’t in the same league as “The Bureau” but it’s an enjoyable spy story filled with intrigue and romance.

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Movies

‘The Intern’

I enjoyed The Intern (2015).

Robert De Niro plays a healthy but lonely 70-year-old retired widower named Ben Whittaker. Ben worked as an accomplished executive who ran a company selling telephone books. Ben wants to connect and be useful to other people. He starts by going to Starbucks each day but that doesn’t get him the human interaction he craves. One day, Ben sees an ad from an online women’s clothing vendor seeking to hire “senior interns.” The firm is loosely based on Google. Ben applies by uploading a video and gets the job. He’s assigned to work directly for the CEO Jules Ostin played by Anne Hathaway. The interaction between the two characters is charming.

The film was written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who also wrote and directed Something’s Gotta Give, a 2003 film starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. That film is about a man (Jack Nicholson) approaching senior citizen status who has a taste for younger women. I also enjoyed that film so I guess I have a taste for Meyers’s work.

Manolhla Dargis, writing for The New York Times explains in magnificent prose that:

The director Nancy Meyers doesn’t just make movies, she makes the kind of lifestyle fantasies you sink into like eiderdown. Her movies are frothy, playful, homogeneous, routinely maddening and generally pretty irresistible even when they’re not all that good. Her most notable visual signature is the immaculate, luxuriously appointed interiors she’s known to fuss over personally – they inevitably feature throw pillows that look as if they’ve been arranged with a measuring tape. These interiors are fetishized by moviegoers and Architectural Digest alike, ready-made for Pinterest and comment threads peppered with questions like, “Where do I get that hat?”

Although I wish I could write the way Ms. Dargis writes, I think the film has something meaningful to say about the way older and younger people can relate to one another in the workplace and elsewhere.

It seems that the film was a hit in South Korea for just this reason (WSJ). South Korean viewers appreciated the healthy and positive energy emanating from Ben, the character ably played by Robert DeNiro. I did too. And besides, what’s wrong with some eiderdown in one’s life?

The film has a 60% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.