Wadjda is the first feature from award-winning director Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first woman from Saudi Arabia to direct a feature-length film. It follows the story of a Saudi girl who enters her school’s Koran-reciting competition because she wants to use the prize money to buy herself a bicycle. However, this is a country where bicycle riding is frowned upon for girls. Since premiering last year at the Venice Film Festival, Wadjda has been winning awards at film festivals all over the world, including the Audience Award for Best International Feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Although Wadjda is the first feature film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, it won’t be playing there any time soon. Movie theaters are banned in the country.
Sound of My Voice is a science fiction-suspense tale about a beautiful young woman from the future who returns to the past where, sick and dying, she assembles younger versions of the people she loves to prepare them to survive the coming apocalypse.
At least, that may be what this film is about. On the other hand, it may be a psychological thriller about a pleasantly-crazy lady living in a basement in the San Fernando Valley, teaching a bunch of gullible idiots to eat worms and kidnap schoolgirls.
Either way, it’s a good movie.
Aspiring journalist Peter (Christopher Denham) is at the end of his rope. Determined to avoid a mediocre existence as a substitute schoolteacher, he must do something big with his life. He and girlfriend Lorna (Nicole Vicius) plan to make their names filming an undercover documentary about a mysterious Los Angeles cult leader. The two are initiated into the cautious circle of followers. They smuggle in a camera and learn the secret handshake. Peter and Lorna are set to expose the cult, but almost immediately things get real, and the two lovers find themselves divided over whether to get out or fall ever deeper in.
Brit Marling plays the clan’s leader, Maggie, whom we first meet as she assembles her devotees in the basement of a vacant home. She points to a tattoo on her ankle: “The number 54 refers to where I come from . . . 2054. Your future.” This Maggie is no raving mad Charles Manson-type. Instead she’s a sweetly soft-spoken muse draped in white, a blonde goddess surrounded by a toga-party of misfit adults. She doesn’t claim to be a returned Christ or ask her followers to give up their life-savings. She wants only to be with the ones she loves and teach them to survive the dark days she knows are coming.
Marling co-wrote the script with Zal Batmanglij, who directed the film. She also co-wrote and starred in Another Earth(directed by Mike Cahill), and both films premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
Overall, the film intrigues as it moves ominously along. Some unforeseen movements in the plot keep viewers on their toes, and the aspects of the cult that at first seem most ridiculous pay off in the end in a satisfying way. The brilliant thing is that the film keeps us guessing. Is Maggie a meticulous fake or a bonafide, legitimate time traveler? The film gives just enough information to leave its audience hungry for more, and thankfully, more may be on its way, as the writers have promised that Sound of My Voice is just the first in a trilogy that will open up a much wider world.
Now, off to practice that handshake.
Final Verdict: Significantly better-looking than your average basement cult leader, Brit Marling gives an ethereal performance in a film that will leave you thinking about faith, skepticism, and the many alternative forms of sustenance that may be required to survive futuristic world crises.
“Markus? Mais, pourquoi?”
Most women have been crazy for a guy about whom their friends just shrug and say . . . “Him?” But love is blind, fortunately for Markus (Francois Damiens), who aims to win the heart of his co-worker Nathalie (Audrey Tautou) in what looks like a feel-good film about the ups and downs of love.
After losing her gorgeous husband to tragedy, Nathalie seems to have closed herself off emotionally, diving into her work. She spends several years overcoming her grief and then meets . . . Markus? A guy with a bald spot, a big head, and some . . . interesting teeth. When Nathalie pays a bit of attention to her adoring co-worker, he goes all-out to court her. In one scene we see him running down the street carrying what has to be the largest bouquet of flowers with which man has ever courted woman. And truly, is there any bouquet too large for the raven-haired bundle of sunshine that is Audrey Tautou?
Brothers David and Stephane Foenkinos directed the film, which is based on David’s novel, La delicatesse. Released in France and Belgium late last year, Delicacy will grace U.S. theaters on March 16th and UK theaters on April 13th.
Whitney Houston died yesterday at the age of 48. More than a crooner, Houston wowed fans with her acting ability as well. Here is a look back at her film career:
The Bodyguard (1992):
In her film debut, Houston stars as a pop diva who has been receiving death threats. When her handlers call in a former Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) to protect her, their uneasy relationship soon turns into love. The film’s title song, Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” went platinum, winning the Grammy for Record of the Year. The music video features The Bodyguard heavily, showing Houston sitting on a stage watching images from the movie:
Waiting to Exhale (1995):
In this film based on Terry McMillan’s best-selling novel about four women and their relationships with men, Houston plays Savannah, a woman in love with another woman’s husband. The film, directed by Forest Whitaker, opened at # 1 at the Box Office, and Houston was nominated for an Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for the performance. Her soundtrack single, “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” hit # 1 on the charts.
The Preacher’s Wife (1996):
Here Houston plays Julia, the wife of a preacher whose struggling church is threatened when a real estate developer wants to tear down the property and put up condos. The preacher prays to God for a miracle, and his prayer is answered as all prayers should be — in the form of Denzel Washington, who plays a guardian angel. Things get interesting when he falls in love with Houston’s character. Directed by Penny Marshall, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music, and Houston won the Image Award for Best Actress.
Houston was to make her comeback in this year’s film, Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 film inspired by The Supremes. Houston stars as the mother of three daughters pursuing singing careers in the 1950s. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks takes the title role in the film, which was originally to be performed by Aaliyah, before her death in a plane crash in 2001. There’s no trailer yet for this film, but recently Houston spoke about the project with The Insider:
Sony has said that the film will be released on August 17th, as scheduled. As Houston’s fans mourn her passing, they can take comfort in the fact that soon, they will be able to see her on the big screen one more time.