Ali & Nino – DVD Review

A love that transcends two differing cultures. A time of war determined to keep them apart. A life both are desperate to have together despite the obstacles. Ali & Nino is an enchanting and thought-provoking love story that shows that love can sometimes overcome anything. Even in a time of cultural unrest, with countries choosing sides for both political and financial gain, the attraction between two young lovers can never be diminished.

Set against the backdrop of the early stages of World War I, Ali & Nino introduces us to our young couple: the headstrong and confident Nino (Maria Valverde) and Ali (Adam Bakri). It is clear that they are a pair that truly have designs on a future together in spite of their religious and cultural differences (Nino is Christian, Ali is Muslim). Both are welcomed and accepted by the parents of the other, and all seems well.

Until the war begins.

The sudden change in the political climate throws Ali and Nino’s plans to marry into upheaval. It is the overriding conflict itself that threatens to rip their future together apart and tear their love asunder. Will Ali and Nino find love once again and rekindle the flames of passion the war threatens to snuff out for good?

Religion is a key factor in the narrative of the film, and what screenwriter Christopher Hampton executes so beautifully is showing both Muslims and Christians as people instead of ideologues and caricatures of the cultures they represent. These are real people with real issues, loves, hopes, and dreams. He shows that even with differences it’s our similarities that matter most in the long run and allow us to live together in peace.

This is an extraordinary film. Superb acting. A great story. Beautiful cinematography. It’s a period piece set in a time that is rarely explored in film, which makes the narrative all the more intriguing. I was also delighted to see a few familiar faces with Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Homeland) and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) co-starring as Nino’s parents.

I highly recommend Ali & Nino!

Ali & Nino is available now on DVD.

Cohen Media Group: Come What May – Blu-ray Review

When it comes to stories about war and conflicts around the world, too often we forget about the citizens that are many times permanently affected by the violence that has come to their front door. Too often the story is about the militaries and their strategies rather than they men, women, and children whose lives are disrupted and destroyed without their consent or even knowledge.

Come What May explores humanity among the chaos as Germany invades France during the early days of World War II. Hans is a dedicated father who lives in Germany with his young son, Max. While they may be German, Hans is against the Nazi regime and the evil it stands for. Fleeing to Germany, he’s eventually arrested and thrown in jail for lying about his nationality to French officials, leaving his son under the care of the locals of the town they had fled to.

As the Nazis begin their invasion, Hans and the other prisoners are released and his mission becomes to do whatever it takes to get back to his son. Teamed up with a Scottish soldier, Hans follows clues left by his son to find him and the other villagers who have left their small town behind out of fear for their lives. As Hans dodges the threat of Nazis as he travels toward where he hopes his son and the villagers have gone, it becomes less of a quest for a reunion and more a quest of survival.

What I found most intriguing about the film was its intermixing of the German, French, and English languages throughout the narrative. As people from myriad countries merge together, you can see how it was imperative that knowing at least one other language could mean the difference between life and death, especially in the throes of war.

Come What May is a beautifully shot, expertly acted film that respects its subject and explores part of the German invasion that I haven’t seen covered that often in film form. The Blu-ray includes a variety of special features, which include:

Making of Come What May

Behind-the-Scenes with Ennio Morricone

Audio Commentary with Director Christian Carrion

Interview with Director Christian Carion and Richard Pena, former program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center

I highly recommend Come What May. It’s an impactful film that resonates with you long after it’s ended.

Come What May is available now on Blu-ray.

11 Minutes – DVD Review

11 Minutes

A lot can happen in the span of eleven minutes and in the film, 11 Minutes, a lot definitely happens. Eleven minutes at first glance appears to be a short period of time, and yet so much activity and life-changing events can take place over the course of an eleven-
minute time frame that the thought of it is pretty intense.

In the film, 11 Minutes, we are presented with a broad array of seemingly innocuous and unrelated events happening all across the city. Some are mundane activities, while others are in themselves compelling and alter the lives of those directly involved. However, the film’s chronology is encapsulated all within the same eleven minutes, which leads to a collusion of events at the climax of the film.

11 Minutes is a clever metaphor for life as we know it. While what we’re doing, thinking, working for, and reacting to is uniquely from our perspective there are millions of other people living life and doing the exact same things in any given time frame. Sometimes our lives intertwine with others around us, other times we pass them by as nameless, faceless beings sharing the same space.

Whatever happens, we are collectively connected by one singularity: Time. And when our lives within that shared time connect, intersect, or clash is when we realize that we are never truly alone in this human experience.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for the number “11” in its various incarnations throughout the film. Can you spot them all?

For a unique narrative experience, check out 11 Minutes on DVD today.

Cohen Media Group: Going Away – DVD Review

Going Away

Sometimes love can find you even when you’re not looking for it. It can be an awesome force that drives two people together, that merges their hearts, souls, and minds; love can endure despite the odds stacked against it. The journey of Baptiste and Sandra in Going Away, an enjoyable French romantic drama, is one fraught with many roadblocks and barriers that they traverse despite the odds.

When Baptiste (Pierre Rochefort), a young teacher suddenly finds himself having to take care of one of his students, Mathias (Mathias Brezot), over a holiday weekend, he and the Mathias end up traveling to a beach resort where Mathias’s mother, Sandra (Louise Bourgoin) works. But all is not well with Sandra’s or Baptiste’s pasts, and Baptiste and Sandra soon discover that in order for them to have a future together they must find closure in pasts they’ve struggled so long to forget.

I really got drawn into Going Away rather quickly. I liked the three primary characters – Baptiste, Sandra, and Mathias – and I was intrigued by their journey as a makeshift family unit. While it may seem like a by-the-numbers romantic film at first, there are plenty of twists that I did not see coming that made the film all the more compelling as a dramatic narrative.

Director and co-screenwriter Nicole Garcia has created a multi-faceted environment in which her characters and their problems seem real and their journey together is realistic and evokes empathy from viewers.

I highly recommend Going Away, which is available now on DVD.

Cohen Media Group: Under the Sun of Satan – Blu-ray Review

Under the Sun of Satan

Can one who perceives themselves as a failure in the eyes of God find redemption in the end? This and many more intriguing questions are posed in the religious drama, Under the Sun of Satan, a 1987 French film that explores one priest’s journey to find his true purpose within the Church.

Gérard Depardieu is Donissan, a priest who sees himself as an abject failure, socially awkward, and disliked by the parishioners of the church he works at. His desperation to be a true man of God leads him to torture himself both mentally and physically. A walking journey to another church leads him both literally and figuratively down a path that will forever change his perception of himself and his relationship with both the Church and God.

Gérard Depardieu

It his through this journey that Donissan comes to realize his true destiny, his true spiritual powers, and how temptation from Satan can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. As he grows as a priest, his trials and tribulations enrage some, baffle others, and cause him to pay the ultimate price as he realizes his true purpose.

Under the Sun of Satan is a thought-provoking piece of cinema directed and co-written by French filmmaker Maurice Pialat. The performances are understated yet powerful, and Depardieu delivers a strong, multi-layered character.

Along with the restored version of the film, the Blu-ray edition includes a number of special features: a 2012 Interview with star Gérard Depardieu; a 2012 Interview with cinematographer Willy Kurant; a 2012 Interview with production designer Katia Wyszkop; Deleted Scenes; Behind the Scenes Footage; and the Original and 2015 Re-release Trailer.

While French cinema may not be to everyone’s liking (it is subtitled in English so if you don’t speak French you will have to read), Under the Sun of Satan is a powerful film that resonates long after viewing.

Under the Sun of Satan is available NOW on Blu-Ray!