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CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: PART TWO

THE POWER OF THE DOG

Director Jane Campion (“The Piano”, 1993) scores radiantly, intelligently with her adaptation of Thomas Savage’s novel of the same name: Benedict Cumberbatch soars as erudite, brutal, misanthropic rancher “Phil Burbank”; his brother “George” depicted with refined docility by Jesse Plemons, valiantly strives to soften Phil’s grotesque persona; Kristen Dunst, simmers as George’s wife “Rose”, a Bourbon boozer; waiflike Kodi Smit-McPhee’s performance as “Peter”, Rose’s son from a prior marriage, is a nascent phenom. Psalms 22:20: “Deliver me from the sword, my precious life, from the power of the dog.” Campion delivers in spades. FIVE STARS!!!!!

“ONE SECOND” (CHINESE: ENGLISH SUBTITLES)

Enchanting, revelatory tale of two disparate characters, with separate agendas, vying for a stolen film reel during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), pulsates with all the ingredients that make a film “watch worthy”: plot, fascinating characters, over the top acting, stunning cinematography, pivotally in this age of “darkness”, humor. FIVE STARS!!!!!

“THE HAND OF GOD” (ITALIAN: ENGLISH SUBTITLES)

Director Paolo Sorrentino’s brave, overly ambitious attempt at autobiographical, life-altering angst, experienced at sixteen-years of age; at fifty-two, receives applause for his efforts, but is unsatisfying in its execution: length, vastly abused the “coming of age” syndrome, soccer metaphor could have been more defined; in essence “the hand of God” should have been firmer. THREE STARS!!!

“BABI YAR. CONTEXT”

A prodigious documentary, using shattering, archival footage of Nazis annihilation of over thirty thousand Jews in Babi Yar, near Kiev, Ukraine, 1941; director Sergey Loznitsa’s lengthy chronicled history of Nazi atrocities should be part of the educational system worldwide. FOUR STARS!!!!

“BROTHER’S KEEPER” (TURKISH: ENGLISH SUBTITLES)

Director Ferit Karahan’s taunt, intense scenario, focuses on a snow- suffused day, in a remote boys boarding school; a young lad in a desperate fight/plight to save the life of a stricken friend; human nature displayed in grey, flawed tones. THREE STARS!!!

“PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN” (SPANISH: ENGLISH SUBTITLES)

Raw reality is the theme of director Tatiana Huezo’s film; vivisecting the atrocity of Mexico’s drug cartels; breathtaking, lush landscapes mask the horror of young women being “stolen” from their families; unprotected from those who operate without impunity or accountability. FOUR STARS!!!!

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