France (2002)
Dir: Bertrand Tavernier

Cast: Jacques Gamblin, Denis Podalydes, Charlotte Kady, Marie Desgranges

Set in Nazi-occupied France in WWII, it revolves around two men's disparate lives as they "collaborate" with the Nazi occupiers by working in their film industry as a film director and scriptwriter respectively, while one of them (Jean Devaivre) risks his life for the French Resistance and the other shuttles between three women lovers in a classic "loveable cad" role. In the absence of a plot, it has to hold the viewer's attention with its underlying tension, the fear of the heroic Devaivre's discovery by the Germans and less importantly, how the rogueish Aurenche juggles his love lives. There are some marvellous bicycling scenes here, but sadly the only bits which weren't slow and lacklustre also smacked of Hollywood - there was a distinct lack of subtlety between the good and the bad, and even the jokes lacked originality. A mediocre effort - and the critic who described it as a film Francophile cinemagoers would love was in my opinion, badly mistaken. French cinema is capable of so much more.

Rating: 6.0

Late August Early September
(Fin Août, Début Septembre)

France (1998)
Dir: Olivier Assayas

Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Virginie Ledoyen, Francois Cluzet, Jeanne Balibar, Alex Descas

A typically "French" film about essentially, nothing. The story revolves around a group of friends of a writer who is dying of a terminal disease. It charts their own progress in life, breaking up relationships, committing to relationships, searching for homes and all the mundane 20,30-something preoccupations - with no real beginning or end. A real study in inconsequential boredom - for the filmgoer.

Rating: 4.0

Left Luggage

Belgium/The Netherlands/USA (1998)
Dir: Jeroen Krabbe

Cast: Laura Fraser, Adam Monty, Isabella Rossellini, Jeroen Krabbe, Topol, Marianne Sagebrecht, Maxmillian Schell

A young liberal Jewish woman Chaja works as a nanny for a strict Hasidic Jewish family and is at first put off by their strict and seemingly inhuman customs and rules. However, she falls for the charming little boy in her charge and starts to open her mind to the more stringent aspects of her own culture. Meanwhile, her own father searches for two suitcases that he had hidden during the war. Over-laden with sentimentality and unlikely turns of events, this tepid movie is quite banal in failing to achieve its (banal) objectives.

Rating: 4.5

Like Water For Chocolate

Mexico (1992)
Dir: Alfonso Arau

Cast: Marco Leonardi, Lumi Cavazos, Regina Torne

A piece of romantic pap that has few saving graces, well apart from the lavish displays of food which seem to serve as a recurring motif here. Tita and Pedro are in love but her domineering family offer Pedro another daughter's hand in marriage instead, which he accepts in order to be closer to Tita. She on the other hand, is expected to serve her filial role as younger daughter, but seems to be able to psychically convey her dissatisfactions through her cooking. Boring, tedious and laughable, it is a chore to sit through this pseudo-romantic offering.

Rating: 4.0

Lola Rennt
(Run Lola Run)

Germany (1998)
Dir: Tom Tykwer

Cast: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu

An innovative and fresh movie about a girl whose boyfriend unexpectedly phones her - he is in a spot of serious trouble and relies on her to save his skin. He had lost a large amount of money he was smuggling into the country, and it is up to Lola to help him recoup the amount and avoid getting killed by the cops or gangsters. Luckily, Lola is blessed with a great pair of running legs and more than one life to resolve this situation where every split-second counts! Terrifically entertaining, never a dull moment.

Rating: 7.0

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