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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Gangs > Urban > Murder > Flemish > Comedy > Relationships > Friendship > Art > Literature > Myth > The Ardenennes (2015/Film Movement DVD)/Lonely Boys (2016/Candy Factory DVD)/Phaedra (1962/MGM/Olive Blu-ray)/Tharlo (2015/Icarus DVD)/37 (2016/Film Movement DVD)/Worlds Apart (2015/Cinema Libre DVD)

The Ardenennes (2015/Film Movement DVD)/Lonely Boys (2016/Candy Factory DVD)/Phaedra (1962/MGM/Olive Blu-ray)/Tharlo (2015/Icarus DVD)/37 (2016/Film Movement DVD)/Worlds Apart (2015/Cinema Libre DVD)

Picture: C+/C/B-/C+/C+/C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C+/D/C-/C+/D/C Films: C+/C+/C+/C+/C-/C+

Now for a slate of foreign and foreign-based films, all independent productions that all have their ambitions, but land up with varied results...

Robin Pront's The Ardenennes (2015) is a crime drama from the producers of the highly underrated Bullhead (see my Blu-ray review elsewhere on this site) about two Flemish brothers (Jeroen Perceval, Kevin Janssens) involved in robberies (one goes to jail for the other) and how they deal with the aftermath in a life they are trapped in by past actions, ineptness, people they are stuck knowing and their socio-economic class.

This tends to be as realistic and bold as Bullhead, but also uneven in many parts and when it tries to be like a Scorsese or Tarantino film, it trips over itself too often. When the brothers get involved in murder, only the worse can happen. Still, it is worth a look despite its flaws and Film Movement rightly picked it up because it would be at least a curio for serious film fans.

Extras include text on the film on the back of the cover's paper sleeve, while the DVD adds a feature length audio commentary track by Director Pront & Actor Kevin Janssens, an on-camera interview with both of them, a Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurette on the film without any kind of narration and the short film (shot on film) that was the basis of this film by Pront: Injury Time.

Dan Simon's Lonely Boys (2016) has a title that suggests it might be about young boys, gay males or both, but instead is a comedy/drama bout two old friends (Dan Simon, Gregory Lay) dealing with their friendship as they also deal with girlfriends and what their future might or might not be. Some of this might be depression, some of it not growing up in parts and some of it isolationism despite being social. Either way, I give the makers credit for a decent script that is not as predictable as it could be. The supporting cast is not bad either.

However, there was not much new or different here, so it does not stand out or stayed with me. At least the makers were trying to deal with friendship honestly and we don't see that as much as you might think in this 'mumblecore' era of indie productions. However, you might want to see it if interested.

There are oddly no extras.

Jules Dassin's Phaedra (1962) is a mixed bag of an artsy drama with Melina Mercouri as a married older woman who lands up getting involved with a young eccentric Anthony Perkins despite being married to the rich shipping magnate Raf Vallone. Inspired by the Euripides writings and myth that was becoming popular in the counterculture of the time, the film has many beautiful shots, internal references to the writing (plus some explicit ones) and is never dull, but when Perkins shows up, it gets bizarre (he and Mercouri have odd chemistry and without knowing anything about either actor in real life, their love affair is only half convincing, especially when he is fixated on an Aston Martin sportscar) so Perkins is slightly connected to his Norman Bates/Psycho persona and it should be added this film would later be referenced in Berry Gordy's Mahogany (1976, reviewed elsewhere on this site) of all things with Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams and Perkins, so this film has several reasons it is a curio.

Olive has issued this on Blu-ray in a near-basic edition, though it has reasons for always being in print, even if it is not. I had not seen it for a very long time and it was as choppy to me then as now, but you should see it for yourself just to see what they did. It is interesting if nothing else.

A trailer is the only extra.

Pema Tseden's Tharlo (2015) is about the title character (Shide Nyima) who is a sheep herder coming into the city and having trouble integrating into a society that has fractures and issues of its own in this Chinese Underground production that is very smart (note that the subtitles are too small, something I rarely complain about) and you might have trouble keeping up with the talking (not because its fast or the print is small, but because this is smart) and deals with his drifting from place to place without a place to truly settle including the idea (subversive to the government perhaps?) that no such space exists.

Icarus has picked this one up for DVD and it makes for a very interesting viewing. At first, I did not know if we were getting a comedy or drama (it is a natural mix of both leaning on drama), but it may also be the first signs of a new cinematic discourse. Though I think it could have gone into other directions (limited budget notwithstanding), it is not bad, if limited in my experience in what it shows, says and does. However, I think this is the way the director wanted it and that at least makes sense in this case.

A 32-page booklet with the short story this is based on, plus a Music Video and after-screening Q&A at the Museum of Modern Art are the extras.

Puk Grasten's 37 (2016) wants to be a new look at the awful real-life story of how a young woman named Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered in New York City and despite several dozen people allegedly seeing the killing, they did nothing to stop it. Turns out that has been proven a myth by no less than her brother in the great, recent documentary The Witness reviewed on Blu-ray at this link...


Film Movement, a new label usually tending to pick up classy independent fare, et al, has picked this version up based on the now disproven myth that so many people saw it, but that does not stop the film from recreating the period, introducing us to characters that might be people that did or did not exist when she was killed and bills itself as a 're-imagining' of the incident, which is a red alert you are about to see a disaster. This is awful and though some of the acting unknowns here are not bad and the look has its moments, this is a pure exploitation film that is borderline offensive, bad and should have never really been made.

If we put that all aside, the film never even makes its supposed point(s), which is the idea of this pseudo-cinematic exercise to begin with, so know it is a mess and you're best skipping it for the real thing already noted at the link. Disaster!

There are no extras.

Christopher Papakaliatis' Worlds Apart (2015) attempts a multi-layered storyline juggling several romance relationships with J.K. Simmons turning up in bookending parts for his relationship story. Supposedly a big hit in Greece (fair enough) and at least mature and ambitious in what it tries to do, my problems here included seeing things we've seen already, some of the relationship stories not having the impact they could have and the 'people of the world' sense that is more empty than a Robert Altman film or even Academy Award-winning Best Picture Crash.

Cinema Libre has picked this up for DVD release, among other rights and at least there are enough moments here that my intelligence was not insulted, but the script plays it too safe too often and I was a bit disappointed in the end. You'll have to see for yourself on this one.

A Director Interview, 15-minutes Making Of featurette and Trailers are the extras.

The 1080p 1.66 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Phaedra can show the age of the materials used, which looks like several prints from some too-dark shots, though all originated on 35mm film (likely Ferrania film stocks from Italy) and it is still the best performer on the list despite its flaws. Some shots do look great, but detail is not always there.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Boys (color), Tharlo (surprisingly consistent black & white), anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on 37 and anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on both Ardennes and Apart are all digital shoots, but Boys comes up a bit short. Otherwise, these look as good as they are going to in this format.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Phaedra is obviously dubbed and has more than its share of post-production recording, holding it back. I cannot imagine it sounding much better here because this is just the way it was recorded at the time, optical monophonic sound. Thus, the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Ardennes, 37 and Apart, plus lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Boys, Tharlo (and as alternate tracks on) 37 and Apart can more than compete with the older sound. The 5.1 is better than the 2.0 in the case where both are offered, but only by so much. None of these have great soundfields, but are just well-recorded enough to enjoy.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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