OSCAR-NOMINATED LIVE ACTION SHORTS Overall rating: B+
130 minutes | No MPAA rating
“SING” (Hungary, 25 minutes) B+
You’re never too young to fight for what you believe is right.
That’s the upshot of Kristof Deak’s “Sing,” a touching tale of a mini revolution in a Hungarian elementary school.
Zsofi (Dorka Gasparfalvi) is the new girl at a school famous for its award-winning children’s choir. Since it is school policy that any student can participate, she signs on.
But after the first rehearsal Zsofi is approached by the choirmaster, Miss Erika (Zsofia Szamosi), who advises her, ever so sweetly but firmly, that in the future she should only mouth the words.
Zsofi is crushed, so her new best friend, Lisa (Dorka Hais), one of the choir’s soloists, comes up with a sneaky plan to sabotage Miss Erika’s system and give everyone a chance to sing.
Terrific acting by the three principal players and an insightful screenplay add up to one deeply satisfying experience.
“SILENT NIGHTS” (Denmark, 30 minutes) B+
Set in frigid Copenhagen at Christmastime, Aske Bang’s “Silent Nights” is a heartbreaker about a brief love affair between a young woman volunteer at a soup kitchen and a homeless African immigrant.
Both of these flawed individuals has his and her own problems. Kwame (Prince Yaw Appiah) left Ghana to make money for his impoverished family. He finds that for all the liberality of Danish society, racism and prejudice are facts of life. Survival may mean stealing.
Inger (Malene Beltoft Olsen) is a quiet, unremarkable woman with an open heart and an alcoholic, racist mother.
Their relationship is simultaneously tragic and inspiring. Life changes, love comes and goes. Take it while you can.
“TIMECODE” (Spain, 15 minutes) B+
Filmmaker Juanjo Gimenez Pena sure knows how to breath life into a dead-end, life-sucking job.
Luna (Lali Ayguade) is a uniformed security guard working the 12-hour day shift in a Madrid parking garage. Hers is a boring gig. No wonder she never shows any emotion.
But then on video surveillance recordings she finds footage of her nighttime counterpart, Diego (Nicolas Ricchini), using the garage as his own private dance studio.
Leaving notes for each other indicating specific cameras and times, Luna and Diego initiate a romance that consists only of solo dances, recorded when nobody else is around, and meant only for each other.
It’s a delightful idea, done almost wordlessly, and the results are intoxicating.
“ENEMIES WITHIN” (France, 28 minutes) 3 1/2 stars
The calm surface of Selim Aazzazi’s film cannot hide an almost volcanic anger and angst.
The Petitioner (Hassam Ghancy), an Algerian teacher who has lived all his life in France, has come to a drab government office to apply for citizenship. The film consists almost entirely of his tense conversation with the Interrogator (Najib Oudghiri), a young man who will study his case and make a recommendation.
What at first seems like standard procedure soon turns dark as the utterly unemotional Interrogator asks ever more intrusive questions about the Petitioner: his religion, his family history, and any links to terrorism. He demands the names of the Petitioner’s friends from a mosque, threatening to reject the application and start deportation proceedings if they aren’t forthcoming.
“Enemies Within” delves deep into the Petitioner’s crisis of conscience. Should he inform on friends he believes are innocent? At the same time Aazzazi’s film lays bare the brute coercive power of the state.
Talk about timely.
“LA FEMME ET LA TGV” – (Switzerland, 30 minutes) 4 stars
Timo von Gunten’s late-in-life romance is a bittersweet triumph about a lonely woman, Elise (Jane Birkin, once one of the iconic faces of ‘60s “Swingin’ London”) who lives along a railway near a provincial Swiss town.
Elise runs a once-famous bakery that is now down to one customer. Her only friend is her parakeet. And her greatest joy is waving a Swiss flag at the TGV train that every morning zips past her house at nearly 200 miles per hour.
This gentle film chronicles a long-distance/high speed romance between Elise and the unseen driver of the TGV train, a fellow named Bruno who tosses notes and gifts (usually homemade cheese) onto Elise’s lawn as he passes.
At a time when her son wants to put her in a retirement home, her correspondence with Bruno gives Elise a new enthusiasm for life.
| Robert W. Butler