Monday, November 30, 2015

Victor Frankenstein [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (1 Star) (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (1 Star)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (R. Rodriguez) review (G. Krenny) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review 

Victor Frankenstein [2015] (directed by Paul Mc Guigan, screenplay and screen-story by Max Landis inspired-by / playing-on the truly ENORMOUS "canon" of Frankenstein films / stories that have been written / made in the 200 or so years since the publication of Mary Shelley's [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [IMDb] classic novel Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus (1818) [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn])

The current story, set largely around London of the mid-1800s, is told from the point-of-view of  "Igor" [wikip] [IMDb] (played in the current film by Daniel Radcliffe of "Harry Potter" fame), the hunchbacked assistant to the budding mad-scientist Victor Frankenstein's [wikip] [IMDb] (played in the film by James McAvoy). 

Note that the character of "Igor" did not appear in Mary Shelley's original novel [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] but appeared (though named "Fritz") in the first "modern" Frankenstein [1931] movie and became a regular fixture (as "Igor") in Frankenstein films/stories ever since.

Radcliffe's Igor is introduced to us in the current story as growing-up as a hunch-backed "circus freak" who since he was more than simply a deformed person turned out to have interests, notably in animal anatomy, that the young Victor Frankenstein found interesting / useful.  The two meet after a young trapeze artist, here named Lorelei (played by Jessica Brown Findlay) falls.  Both run out to try help revive her after her fall.  Though Victor was nominally studying medicine, it was Igor who actually saves her life. 

Well, Victor finds Igor's homespun anatomical knowledge (from cutting up dead circus animals) fascinating  He convinces Igor to escape the circus with him and ... much of the rest of the story ensues ...

It turns out that Victor Frankenstein (as actually in the original novel) is rather bored with the education that he's getting at the University, finding it quite pedestrian.  Instead, he really wants to "play God" convinced, among other things, that "electricity," properly applied, can give "life" to previously "lifeless flesh." 

Together with Igor, he first stitches-together a thoroughly unholy-looking beast out of seemingly random animal parts, the collection of which arouses the attention of a particularly ardent (and Christian) agent of Scotland Yard (played by Andrew Scott).  Then animating his monstrous construct at some semi-secret society student forum, Victor catches the attention of a deep-pocketed fellow student named Rafferty (played by Bronson Webb) who decides to use his father's money to underwrite Victor / Igor's "next project" to reanimate a human corpse.  [It turns out that Victor pines to reanimate his dead older brother Henry for whose death he feels responsible (there's also a Henry, related to Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's original novel who also had died a tragic death)]. 

As Victor and Igor stitch together a new and monstrously large body (8ft tall with two hearts) to ultimately attach Henry's head to (not unlike Steve Jobs / Steve Wozniak initially soldered together the first clumsy looking circuit boards for their Apple-2 computer), Victor's disapproving father (played by Charles Dance) passes through for a visit.  In CERTAINLY THE MOST AMUSING SCENE in the entire film, Victor's father _sternly_ warns his son to "just go back to his normal studies" (the studies that Victor's father WAS PAYING FOR) and ABOVE ALL  to "NOT SULLY THE GOOD NAME of FRANKENSTEIN."  Well ... ;-) ;-)

With Henry's head stitched to still perhaps a "beta form" body, Victor and Igor transport it/him to Rafferty's family's appropriately creepy castle "by the sea" (In Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein's final experiments take place on the far flung Orkney Islands).  An electrical storm comes, and ...

It's NOT a bad story ... it certainly has it's moments.  And I've recommended the film to our Servite Seminarians here in Chicago who're currently studying a "bio-ethics" class ;-).  For in this film, Victor Frankenstein certainly (and imaginatively) "pushes the envelope" of what conceivably will become possible in the future: hybrid creatures "spliced together" in all sorts of shocking / ghastly ways ...

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Creed [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (4 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review

"For most of us life is in some way a fight" -- Jim Lampley, HBO Sports (cf. Genesis 32:23ff)

Creed [2015] (directed and story by / screenplay co-written by Ryan Coogler along with Aaron Covington based on the characters [wikip] [IMDb] by Silvester Stallone [wikip] [IMDb]) continues, arguably even reboots (if in a somewhat different way) the wildly successful / legendary Rocky franchise [wikip] with which Silvester Stallone [wikip] [IMDb] famously made his mark the Hollywood scene:

Plugging the first Rocky movie, which he himself wrote, Stallone told the producers that he would not sell them the rights to the script unless he was allowed to play the lead role.  A gutsy move, the producers conceded though Stallone was initially paid LESS than he would have been if he had just sold them the script.  HOWEVER, the film won three Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated for seven others including two for Stallone himself, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role.  The rest is, of course, screen / Hollywood history ;-).

The current film concerns Adonis Johnson [IMDb-Ch] (played by Michael B. Jordan) an illegitimate son of (fictionalized) boxer Apollo Creed [IMDb-Ch] / first opponent then friend to Rocky Balboa [IMDb-Ch] (played in this film as always by Silvester Stallone) in the early Rocky films [wikip]Apollo was killed (in Rocky IV [1985]) before Adonis (or Donny) was born.  Thus Donny never knew his dad, though he spent his early years in Los Angeles (where Apollo and _his wife_ had lived) both angry and fighting. 

In an early scene in the film, set in 1992, Apollo's widow Mary Anne Creed [IMDb-Ch] (played by Phylicia Rashad) searches out Adonis / Donny in a L.A. Juvenile Detention Center and adopts him, raising him as her own (apparently because boy's mother had died as well).  

Flashing forward to the present day, despite being given all the possibilities of growing-up in the mansion, neighborhood and going to the schools / colleges afforded by his boxing legend father's, that is Apollo Creed's, money, he still leaves everything behind to seek his destiny by following in his father's footsteps ... as a boxer.

So ... after breaking his adoptive mother's heart, he packs up his bags and heads to Philadelphia, to look-up the legendary Rocky Balboa (again, played by Silvester Stallone) his legendary dad's former rival then best friend, to ask him to train him.  The rest of the film ensues ... ;-)

Of course, initially Rocky doesn't want to do this.  After all, he's "retired" from fighting, runs a lovely restaurant named Adrian's after his beloved wife [IMDb-ch], who had died of cancer sometime between Rocky V [1990] and Rocky Balboa [2006].  But, for his long-deceased friend Apollo he decides to do so anyway.

There are other fairly predictable yet crowd-pleasing characters / plot-twists in the story.  Notably there's a young, still not-yet-famous urban-contemporary singer named Bianca (played by Tessa Thompson) who lives in the same building as Adonis while he's training in Philly.  The two "become close" as the story progresses.  She also "has a story" ... Though a talented singer, like a surprising number of talented musicians, she's also suffering from Progressive Hearing Loss, which will of course effect and perhaps even end her music career at some future date.  That, of course, is being saved for development in a future episode in the story ...

Of course, much still happens.  And of course, it all ends (more or less) well and ... in a way that leaves the story open for future installments ;-)

SOOO ... Why do we like films _like this one_ that are, after all, quite predictable / formulaic?

My sense is because of the quote by sportscaster Jim Lampley with which I began this review -- Life is often a struggle, a fight.  Hence, despite the objective (concussion) dangers of boxing, the figure of the Fighter / Boxer is a Jungian Archetype, a figure that we can understand, empathize / identify with.  Thus we watch boxing matches (and movies about boxers) as if we ourselves were the boxers / fighters in the fight. 

Indeed, that life is often a struggle, is symbolized in the Bible in the character of Jacob in the Book of Genesis: After many years of struggle, Jacob spends a night wrestling with an Angel and at the end of the Night he receives a particular blessing: He's renamed Isra-el, meaning "One Who Wrestles with God" (Genesis 32:23ff).  Of course, the whole people of Israel come to take on that name, and it's really a name intended for all.  Why?  Because we all wrestle with / struggle in life.

And IMHO, that's why we enjoy movies like this.  And indeed, it's always a joy to watch film that, even as it acknowledges the struggles of life, lifts us up as well ;-)

Great job!

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Monday, November 23, 2015

What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy [2015]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing

ChiTribune/Variety (J. Chang) review (N. Allen) review
AVClub (N. Murray) review  

Times of Israel (U. Heilmann) review

Eye For Film (O. Van Spall) review
Slant Magazine (C. Dillard) review

What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy [2015] (directed by David Evans, written by Phillipe Sands) a documentary that recently at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago is one honestly disturbed me more than I expected and then on more than one level.

The initial premise of the film was simple enough: Phillipe Sands, a human rights lawyer and son of Holocaust survivors, decided to do a documentary about two men -- Niklas Frank and Horst von Wächter -- who were children of "upper management" though to some extent still second tier Nazis, Hans Frank and Otto von Wächter:

Hans Frank was "Governor General" of the "General Government" portion of Nazi Occupied Poland (which included the parts of Poland that were occupied by Nazi Germany after its 1939 invasion of the country that were NOT directly annexed into the German Reich.  After the Nazi 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union this region expanded to include the parts of Poland that were annexed in 1939 by the Soviet Union, which entered WW II as arguably AN ALLY of Nazi Germany, and after the War became part of Soviet Ukraine). 

Otto von Wächter became Governor of Galicia a section of the Ukrainian portion of the above "General Government" which he came to rule, briefly, from 1942-1944, as something of a personal SS fiefdom.

It becomes clear fairly early in the documentary, which first presents Sands meeting the two sons of these two Nazi war criminals and then through old family photographs / b&w home movies gives viewers a sense of their rather unusual childhood circumstances, that the two had very different opinions of their notorious / infamous dads: Niklas Frank had long accepted the reality that his father was largely responsible for the the deaths of millions (most if not all of the Nazi extermination camps were constructed and operated in the above mentioned General Government" portion of Nazi Occupied Poland of which the older Frank was "Governor"), while Horst von Wächter HAD NOT come to terms with the mass murdering legacy of his dad.

So MUCH OF THE FILM involves Sands, a human rights lawyer today but ALSO the CHILD OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVERS trying _increasingly hard_ TO CONVINCE Horst von Wächter of the guilt of his dad.  This proved to be increasingly difficult to watch, EVEN THOUGH SANDS WAS RIGHT.  Yes Horst's father was guilty of participating in ORGANIZED even INDUSTRIALIZED Mass Murder, but he was also Horst's father.  So not entirely surprisingly, the son was trying, even now 70 years after the fact, to find excuses for him.  And yet, Sands' own family was largely murdered by men answering, in good part, to Horst's father.

What becomes EVEN MORE DISTURBING IS THAT _AT LEAST IN PART_ Horst was NOT _completely_ wrong about his dad:  His dad ran that part of Western Ukraine, Galicia, largely _as his own SS fiefdom_  during the Nazi occupation.

Today this Galicia is certainly the most "west oriented" part of the Ukraine (it would have almost certainly seceded from Ukraine if its central government in Kiev had not more-or-less decisively oriented itself toward the EU / West in 2014 (at the subsequent loss of ethnic-Russian dominated Crimea and then some of the more ethnic-Russian dominated provinces Eastern Ukraine...).

And the legacy of Otto von Wächter's "War Time Governate" of Galicia IS COMPLICATED.  AS THE DOCUMENTARY SHOWS, HE is ACTUALLY QUITE FONDLY REMEMBERED IN SOME QUARTERS in WESTERN UKRAINE as one who _defended_ / PROMOTED Ukrainian identity (against others ... notably Jews / Poles and eventually as the Soviet Army approached the Russians).   His most notorious legacy was in his championing of the formation of an SS Division "Galicia" which though still directed by Germans, was composed LARGELY of  _UKRAINIANS_ that is SLAVS.  This unit, though remembered all over central Europe as having been quite Evil -- it was deployed, for instance, to help crush the anti-Nazi 1944 Slovakian National Uprising -- is, again remembered quite fondly in certain quarters in Western Ukraine as a symbol of Ukrainian nationalism (some of the most disturbing moments of this documentary featured a group of young Ukrainians smiling ear-to-ear dressed in Nazi-era SS garb...).

This legacy then actually PLAYS INTO THE HANDS of the Putin Government back in Russia WHOSE PROPAGANDA DISMISSES THE WHOLE UKRAINIAN NATIONALIST PROJECT TODAY as being largely FASCIST / NAZI in orientation ... 

And yet if we've fled here from the deeply personal of the past to the larger geo-political of even today, we're brought back down to earth with a truly wrenching scene filmed somewhere in the countryside outside of Lviv, Ukraine (Lemberg during Otto von Wächter's "governate" of the region) in which Sands and Horst von Wächter STAND ON TOP OF THE MASS GRAVE where most of Sand's murdered Jewish relatives were buried after being shot (by men answering at least in part to Horst's father Otto von Wächter) and _even there_ Sands can not get Horst to admit that his dad was _at least partly responsible_ for that.

To the last, Horst von Wächter kept maintaining that his father's focus was not on _killing Jews_ but on "lifting-up Ukrainians" ...

Ah the "burdens" of "serving" as a random Imperial Satrap:  You randomly curse one people to death and randomly bless another ... and then go play soccer with your kid ...

One tough film to watch ... 

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Brooklyn [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (4 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (3 3/4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McCarthy) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (Noel Murray) review  

Brooklyn [2015] (directed by John Crowley, screenplay by Nick Hornby based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] by Colm Tóibín [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is an excellent, well crafted (Irish/Italian/American 1950s-era) immigrant story that certainly deserves Oscar consideration (best picture, best adapted screenplay, even best actress in a leading role) and it's one of those stories that would fit well at an inter-generational family gathering.

Nice, soft-spoken, late-teen / early-20-something Eilis (played wonderfully by Saoirse Ronan) probably destined grow-up and live-out her life pretty much invisibly in rural County Wexford in Ireland, is offered a break conceived by her older sister Rose (played by Fiona Gascott) that, one guesses, she probably would not have come-up-with on her own: Recognizing that one of them is probably going to have to take care of their widowed mother and as the older sister, that would perhaps be best done by herself, Rose writes a priest friend, Fr. Flood (played again wonderfully by Jim Broadbent) in Brooklyn, New York, to sponsor Eilis, give her a chance to emigrate to the United States and thus "make something of her life."  It's an act of self-sacrifice that many of us today would perhaps not completely understand.  It was Rose who came up with the idea, so why didn't Rose herself ask to be sponsored / "jump on the boat" to flee in hopes of a better life?  Well, that's _how people were_ "back in the day" and _perhaps_ we express self-sacrifice in analogous ways today.

So Eilis leaves Ireland to live, to a certain extent, Rose's dream.  This means, of course, that at least initially, Eilis is not necessarily ready for the whole big, wide world that awaited her as she stepped on the ship that took her across the ocean to the United States and then especially when she arrived in New York.  Yes the kindly, indeed, honestly angelic Fr. Flood, helps her, setting her up with a job in a department store and with a place to stay at a 50s-era young single women's boarding house (the boarding house scenes are _priceless_) run by a no-nonsense church-going matron Mrs. Konoe (played again magnificently by Julie Walters) who's not about to let the young women staying in her house "go bad" due to "giddiness" / temptation under her watch ;-).  Today, a good deal of younger viewers would perhaps "roll their eyes" as they listened to some of Mrs. Kehoe's advice to the 50s-era young women, all basically in their early to mid-20s staying in her house.  On the other hand, today's young people might also note (and with some jealousy) that Mrs. Kehoe _cared_ about "her girls" while today the "landlord / tenant relationship" generally ends (after the background check and deposits have been made...) at simply the question of the rent being paid.

So after some six months of some fairly desperate homesickness (and the passing of her first winter in New York ;-), Eilis finds herself "quite on her feet."  Part of what makes her time more pleasant is that she "finds a guy" AT A CHURCH DANCE ... who, despite it being AN IRISH CHURCH DANCE, turns out to be ITALIAN ;-) ... "AMERICA" ;-) ;-).

Her surprising, Italian beau, Tony (played again magnificently by Emory Cohen) is a soft-spoken, similarly early 20-something plumber, who came to the dance, because ... he simply "liked Irish girls," and it turns out that Eilis, kinda liked him ;-).  Tony had a whole family (parents, brothers and sisters) living in another section of Brooklyn and soon enough she gets to meet them.  Another priceless scene in the film is when Tony's precocious 10-12 year old brother proudly proclaims to Eilis that "We here, in this family, DON'T like 'the Irish'" whereupon rest of the aghast family quickly/loudly tells him to "SHUT UP" ;-), but SMILING, he stands his ground: "NO, IT'S A WELL KNOWN FACT, WE'VE NEVER LIKED THE IRISH ..." well UNTIL NOW ... Eilis' mere gentle smiling presence (at the invitation of now smiling-from-ear-to-ear Tony) "changed things" now and forevermore in that household and TRULY, NOW, THE PROMISED NEW LIFE OPENED UP FOR EILIS...

... 'Cept (this _is_ at least in part "an Irish story" ;-) ... just as Eilis is becoming happy in New York, word comes that older sister Rose ... died, quite suddenly, back in Ireland.

The rest of the movie follows, as much now still has to ensue ... ;-)

Folks, this is honestly a great and largely gentle 1950s-era immigrant story. 

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Warsaw by Night [2015]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* (M. Kuprowski) review* (A. Mitrowska) review* (M. Steciak) review* (M. Piatkowska) review* (I. Kociełkiewicz) review* (J. Wróblewski) review* (M. Sielska) review* (K. Krajewska) review* (I. Szymańska) review*

Warsaw at Night [2015] [IMDb] []*[]* (directed by Natalia Koryncka-Gruz [IMDb] []*[]*, screenplay Marek Modzelewski [IMDb] []*[]*) is a cross between Sex in the City [wikip] [IMDb] and Crash [2004] [wikip] [IMDb] / The Polish Film School [wikip] [] [MSPresents] that played recently at the 2015 (27th annual) Polish Film Festival in America here in Chicago.

The resulting mix certainly produced a better, more serious, and certainly inclusive product than Sex in the City [wikip] [IMDb] (which featured basically upper middle-class women in their 30s / 40s basically "living the dream" in NYC today).  In contrast, the current film tells the stories of four contemporary Polish women of varying ages, classes / backgrounds and expectations who happen to simply pass through the restroom of a quite trendy club in the center of Warsaw at roughly the same time one evening.  These include:

Iga (played by Izabela Kuna [IMDb] []*) an artist in her 30s-40s who's out with her sister who recently discovered that her husband has been cheating on her with a significantly younger woman;

Helena (played by Stanisława Celińska [IMDb] []*) in her 60s, who on her birthday, can not but recall (and this time search out) her perhaps amiable if certainly loutish ex-husband who left her 35 years before;

Then there is 20-something Maya (played by Roma Gąsiorowska [IMDb] []*) who does look the part in the trendy-club, perhaps _too much_, as the man she strikes-up a conversation with and eventually picks-up initially thinks she's a prostitute. It turns out that would have been "fine by him" as he wasn't looking for anything particularly "complicated" for the night, but which does, somewhat, confuse her.

Finally, there's a blue-haired teenager from the Provinces, Renata (played by Marta Mazurek [IMDb] []*), who's been dragged to Warsaw by her mother, in the midst of a divorce and who, in the spirit of Blue is the Warmest Color [2014] takes advantage of being stuck there with her mom (visiting her mom's friends) to sneak-out with her mom's friend's teenage son to seek-out some somewhat older teen or young adult with whom she apparently had a brief lesbian fling "out there in the Provinces" during the summer.

In each case, past love's proven to be a disappointment.  It was noted by some of the Polish critics above that while certainly the variety of protagonists in the story makes the film somewhat more compelling than it could been (again, think of the rich, mostly problem-free women of Sex in the City [wikip] [IMDb]) all the women in the story appeared to be focused on (and tormented by) "romantic love" as if there was no other means of fulfillment for the various women in the film.  One critic asked: "Have we entered the 21st century yet?"*

It's a good point, but then a film like Crash [2004] [wikip] [IMDb] was built around a single concern (race) as well.   Still, I would agree that it would have served the film better if the women's characters in the film were more developed aspirationally.  But, I do wish to commend the film for at least trying to widen the circle of women protagonists present in a story.

 * Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2 [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2 [2015] (directed by Francis Lawrence, screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong based on the novel by Suzanne Collins [IMDb]) is the final cinematic installment of Collins' Hunger Games [wikip] [Amzn] trilogy.  The first three installments The Hunger Games [2012], The Hunger Games: Catching Fire [2013] and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1 [2014] were reviewed on this blog earlier.

As with the previous cinematic adaptations of the Harry Potter and Twilight book series, the film-makers here have decided to split the final book in the series into two parts, making the cinematic adaptation of Collins' original trilogy comprise ... four films.  However, perhaps more than in the other adaptations the splitting of the series final book into two movies made more sense here, as the focus of this fourth installment was indeed "the final battle," the lead-up to it having been covered in the third.  "Armageddon," perhaps really deserves its own chapter.

The Regime of the Evil / Fascist President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland) whose reach was by the end of the third installment diminished to, barely, the outer suburbs of "The Capital," was not going to go down without a fight, its Army having been largely defeated but its Propaganda apparatus ever "Gloriously" still intact.

Most of the two hours that follow in this fourth installment portray a Battle that offers today's (perhaps thankfully) largely uninitiated teenagers / young adults the opportunity to learn / experience something of some of most Epic / Desperate battles of the recent, tragically already Modern, past: The 1942 Battle of Stalingrad (combat in the midst of a sea of _ever the same_ fortress-like / concrete apartment/tenement buildings, every last one of which having been booby-trapped), The 1944 Warsaw Uprising (the desperate fighting moving down into the tunnels and sewers of the city) and The 1945 Final Battle of Berlin (with the falling Regime, even in its final gasps, reporting on the Final Battle as "a contest" utilizing "sport terminology").   And even the final battle sequence at the the gate of the Presidential Palace evoked the 1989 final collapse of the Regime of Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu on the steps of his "Hunger Games for real" monstrous concrete Presidential Palace in Romania's capital Bucharest.

Indeed, Viewers leaving the film (and after watching the entire series) could leave with a greater appreciation of the complexities of getting rid of entrenched if certainly Evil Regimes like those of Saddam Hussein (or of Hosni Mubarak) of recent memory or today's Bashir Al-Assad (or perhaps even Vladimir Putin).  All these Regimes involve(d) more than "just one man" who benefit(ed) from the Regime, above all, in Status.  And then "the Rebellion(s)" against them are/were not necessarily led by people who are/were completely "honest and true."  In the story-at-hand, the intentions of the Rebellion's Leader, Alma Coin (played by Julianne Moore), are never entirely clear, and those of Snow's Regime's (former) Propaganda Chief / indeed "Hunger Games" DESIGNER turned at the end of the second installment REBEL Propaganda Chief, the Plutarch Heavensbee (played still by Phillip Seymour Hoffmann) are even more difficult to discern.

The series' heroine, the lowly, but destined/raised-up "to do great things," Mary-like (cf. Lk 1:26-38 and especially Lk. 1:46-56) Katniss Everdeen (played ever magnificently by Jennifer Lawrence) is constantly challenged throughout the series, to "do the right thing(s)" even as she becomes increasingly aware that she's being manipulated by everybody for presumably their own ends.

The result is, IMHO, an honestly well crafted teen / young-adult oriented story that can actually help today's teens / young adults navigate (and to be skeptical of) the bombardment of media (often propaganda) messaging that we're all subjected to today.

Overall, a very good, if somewhat depressing and certainly sobering job!

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Night Before [2015]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (0 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review  

The Night Before [2015] (directed by screenplay cowritten by Jonathan Levine along with Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir and Evan Goldberg) features a stoned Seth Rogan playing a Jewish character named "Isaac" going to the Christmas Midnight Mass after dropping LSD with his Catholic girlfriend and throwing up in the main aisle during the Mass.  Perhaps in the sequel, he can come stoned and vomit during a nephew / niece's Bar/Bat Mitzvah as well ... or perhaps at a cousin's graduation or at a beloved grandma's 80th birthday.  The possibilities for an attention craving narcissist really are quite endless ...  Zero stars.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The 33 [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C) Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing (I. Passalacqua) review* (H. Bilbao) review* (J. Parra) review* (W. Venagas) review* (L.A. Ramiro-Reyes) review* review* coverage* coverage*

CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (B. Mercer) review 

The 33 [2015] (directed by Patricia Riggen, screenplay by Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten and Michael Thomas, screenstory by José Rivera, based on the book [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Héctor Tobar [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) tells the story of the 2010 mining accident at the San José Mine out in the Altacama Desert near Copiapó, Chile.

On Aug 5, 2010, the 120 year old mine, perhaps weakened by a earthquake in the region some months back, suffered a major collapse with a rock twice the size of the Empire State Building crashing through its center trapping 33 miners in "a safety room" 2300 ft below the surface but now with communications severed and no way out.

What to do?   Well the clearly previously not particularly "safety concerned" (only ONE exit out of the mine???) / financially strapped company running the mine had no serious resources for mounting a serious rescue attempt.  It would have probably settled for feeling TERRIBLY EMBARRASSED and POSSIBLY ASHAMED over the loss of the miners, but ... "mining's a dangerous occupation, right?"

What happened IMHO recalls Jesus' saying about our responsibility to "the least among us" in  Matthew 25 "when did we see you ...?" That is, the young Chilean Mining Minister Lawrence Golborne (played in the film by Rodrigo Santoro) decided to go the mine a few days after the accident.  Then _having seen_ the families, notably María Segovia (played in the film by Juliette Binoche) one of the miners' wives, he _simply couldn't bring himself_ to just "walk away" and let their loved ones die.  He calls the Chilean President Piñera (played in the film by Bob Gunton) who perhaps with initial reluctance (perhaps _nothing_ really could be done) _decides to risk_ a good portion of his political capital to make it A CHILEAN NATIONAL PRIORITY to get to the miners.

President Piñera then recruits André Sougarret (played in the film by Gabriel Byrne) Chile's foremost drilling expert and gives him essentially carte blanche, ANYTHING HE NEEDS, to reach the miners, who, despite everything now beginning to happen above, _could have been dead_ anyway.   Soon there were nine drills boring down from the surface toward the "safety room" where the hope was that the miners, if they were still alive, would have congregated.  It took 16 days, from the mine's initial collapse for a drill to reach said room ... and ... the rest of the movie follows.

Obviously, since the story was an international phenomenon when it happened, it's not too much of a SPOILER to note that the 33 did, in fact, survive.  HOW, I'd rather not get into here (go see the movie...).  But it is certainly a remarkable story of both ENDURANCE and COOPERATION.  Those 33 MINERS HAD TO SHARE RATIONS THAT ASSUMED A RESCUE IN 3 DAYS, and they were down in that mine for 16 days before anybody knew that they were even still alive.  Even afterwards it still took much longer to get them out (though supplies could start to be sent down to them).       

Of course, among those 33 there were plenty of stories.   One of the miners had been about to retire.  In fact, the film begins a few days before the mining disaster at this miner's retirement party.  At the other end of the experience spectrum is a recently hired "Bolivian" whose initially picked-on (mostly out of jest) because, well, he's ... Bolivian (working in "more developed", "whiter...." Chile).  There was another miner who prior to finding himself trapped underground in the mine had been juggling a double-life between his wife and a mistress (and with him becoming an object of international attention had to start to come to grips with the reality that now truly "THE WHOLE WORLD" knew of his rather embarrassing "story" ...).  There was the charismatic leader of the group, "super" Mario Sepúlveda (played by Antonio Banderas) who did hold the "33 together" during those 16 days when honestly none of them could know (but everybody still hoped) that first a rescue was going to be mounted and then reach them.  Finally there are other colorful goofballs among the miners including one who, yes, was something of a Chilean "Elvis impersonator" ;-).

Some of the (North American) reviewers above complained that the cast of characters, was well, "too big."  BUT THEN THERE WERE THIRTY THREE MINERS in this story (plus their families above ground, and then various important figures in the rescue operation).  So, clearly ... this was not a "Lone Ranger" kind of tale ...

And yet it was a good one ... and, in fact, a celebration of the reality that everyone of those 33 who were saved (and their loved ones) had their stories too and not just "the important people."

So great job folks!  Great job!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Town Called Brzostek [2014]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
Official website

About the Town of Brzostek article about the town [EN] [PL]*
Wikipedia article about the town [EN] [PL]*

Related Articles on the Rededication of Brzostek's Jewish Cemetery
Times of Israel (C. Webber) article
New Jersey Jewish News (J. Ginsberg) article
Dziennik Polski (P. Franczak) article*

A Town Called Brzostek [2014] (written and directed by Simon Target) is a truly lovely English Language / Polish subtitled documentary that played recently at the 2015 (27th annual) Polish Film Festival in America here in Chicago.

The film's about the recent rededication of the Jewish cemetery in the town of Brzostek in south-eastern Poland largely on initiative of former Oxford University professor Jonathan Webber whose family, Jewish, had roots in the region.  Indeed, one of the main points of the film was that 85% of the world's Jewish families have roots in Poland and yet almost universally those roots are remembered very negatively.

Yet all three of the families, one from Australia, one from Paris, France and one from the States who came back to Brzostek found themselves surprised at the welcome that they received.  Some 80% of the town, since WW II, entirely Polish, came to the Jewish cemetery's rededication, including the town's parish priest, who participated in the ceremony.  

Prior to World War II, 1/3 of the town's residents were Jewish.  Jonathan Webber noted that when the town responded to an initiative of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw to celebrate the United States 150th Birthday, the giant "birthday card," signed by all the town's school children clearly indicated that the town's school was integrated with children with traditionally Polish and Jewish names thoroughly / randomly dispersed throughout the card.   The town at that time was thoroughly Polish / Jewish.

Irving Wallach who came to the re-dedication ceremony from Australia met Taddeusz (a now man in his late 70s) who was the grandson of Maria Jałowiec who hid Wallach's mother (then a teenager) for 18 months in her barn after the SS, in 1942, came into town, called the town's Jewish community to assemble in the town's square and then led the all to a forest outside of town where they were all shot. (Wallach's mother had been able to break away from the group and run for her life away from where it was being led).  Taddeusz, who was only 8 at the time, knew that his grandmother was hiding her as well as another young Jewish woman (who had also managed to run away from her death) in their barn, and yet _kept the secret for the entire time that they were there_, this despite their own house having been used by the SS as a command center for several weeks at some point during the course of the war.

The French family was surprised to find the mill that their family how owned just outside of town, though no longer operating, still in good condition, one of the family members saying somewhat sadly, "I wish this place was closer to Paris" (where they now lived).

The re-dedication ceremonies did include a visit to the mass grave where the vast majority of the town's Jewish community had been murdered, the commemoration there attended again by the town's Catholic priest as well as another priest from a neighboring village.  The ceremonies concluded with a town potluck where the town's mothers basically cooked every single dish that was present in a recently published regional Jewish cookbook and the town's school kids (now all Catholic or at least non Jewish) put on a concert for the attendees playing Jewish regional folksongs including, of course, Hava Nagila.

This was a surprising (and honestly _very nice_) film.  The screening at the PFFA here in Chicago, attended by the film's director Simon Target, was again very well attended and was certainly one of the most interesting / compelling of this year's offerings at the ever excellent (and honestly ever surprising) Polish Film Festival of America.

Great job / congratulations to all! 

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Karbala [2015]

MPAA (UR would be R)

IMDb listing listing* listing*

DziennikLodzki (D. Pawłowski) review* (S. Płatek) review* (C. Łakomy) review* review* (J. Szczerba) review*

Karbala [2015] [IMDb] []* (written and co-directed by Krzysztof Łukaszewicz [IMDb] []*[]* along with Justyna Kapuścińska [IMDb] []* and Marcin Łomnicki [IMDb] []* accompanied by the recent memoirs Karbala [GR]* by Piotr Głuchowski [GR]* / Marcin Górka [GR]* and Karbala: Raport z Obrony City Hall [GR] by Grzegorz Kaliciak [GR]) is probably the most compelling film that played at the recent 2015 (27th annual) Polish Film Festival in America here in Chicago that I WAS UNABLE TO SEE.  Both screenings of the film rapidly sold-out and an added third screening proved to fall on an evening that I could not attend (sigh ... but that's life, one can't see _everything_ ;-).  Perhaps I'll see it sometime in the coming months  as the more popular films from the festival often replay during the year.  However, since the subject matter of the film is quite compelling (and one that most Readers here would probably not know about), I thought to write about the film here anyway.

My all accounts a Polish "Hollywood-esque" recent "war film," it's about a small detachment of about 80 Polish-Bulgarian soldiers assigned by the US/Coalition Forces after the 2003 Iraq War to the Shiite holy city of Karbala.  In April, 2004, this Polish-Bulgarian detachment successfully fended-off a three day attack / siege of Karbala's city hall* by some 5,000 Sadr's Mahdi Army militia fighters without losing a single anyone of its own.  Officially assigned to the city to "help train" its police officers, the actual circumstances of the battle that the soldiers of this detachment found themselves fighting was kept under wraps on official order of secrecy for ten years.  Only after the publication of the above mentioned memoirs has the story of this battle, the largest that Poland's army has participated in since World War II, become progressively known.

From technical and story-points of view, the film hasn't received universal acclaim from the Polish critics given above (as war films often suffer from a lack of development of characters, etc) but the consensus opinion is that the film was of a reasonably high quality "Not Riddley Scott's Black Hawk Down [2001], but then its budget was also not comparable," summarized one of the reviewers, "but certainly not to be ashamed of either.... and the tattered flag flying still over city hall at the end of the film was a Polish one, not an American one.  Something to be proud of."  Something to be proud of, indeed ;-).

Anyway, sounds like a very interesting film.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Call Me Marianna (orig. Mów mi Marianna) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* interview w. director* [M. Steciak] interview w. director* [B. Staszczyszyn] review
Krakow Movie [Franek] review* [D. Romanowska] review*

Call Me Mirianna (orig. Mów mi Marianna) [2015] [IMDb] []* []* (written and directed by Karolina Bielawska [IMDb] []*) is a moving Polish documentary about Marianna Klapczyńska who began life as Wojtek Klapczyński, was married, had children, and at 47 after many, many painful years of reflection underwent a sex-change / gender reassignment surgery (in Poland) to become Marianna.  The film screened recently at both the recent 51st Chicago International Film Festival and 27th Polish Film Festival in America held subsequently in Chicago (with the director attending both screenings at the latter festival and being able to talk about the experience of making the film and taking Q/A afterwards)

Mariana's story WAS NOT EASY, neither before nor AFTER the surgery.  Polish law requires that a person requesting gender reassignment surgery SUE ONE'S OWN PARENTS for "bad upbringing" apparently so that fault could be assigned in _some way_ to _someone_.   While the documentary did not dwell on the trial, it was clear that it proved to be a nightmare to Marianna, as even after her surgery her mother kept calling her Wojtek.   Marianna's daughters rejected her as well.  The only one in the family who seemed understand (with understandable inner conflict / difficulty) was Wojtek's / Marianna's former spouse, WHO ACTUALLY HELPED MARIANNA and the film maker MAKE THE DOCUMENTARY.

Then honestly, the "big twist" (it is a SPOILER of sorts, BUT IT CERTAINLY ADDS A WHOLE NEW DIMENSION TO THE STORY) is that TWO MONTHS AFTER THE SURGERY, Marianna HAD A STROKE (in good part because of all the hormones she was taking to make the gender reassignment possible).

FORTUNATELY, in those two months, Marianna did actually FIND A BOYFRIEND who since the stroke has _continued to take care of her_.

It's truly a remarkable story and like THE OTHER FILM on transgenderism that I've reviewed here, the recent Finnish film Open Up to Me (orig. Kerron sinulle kaiken) [2014]  that played at this year's 18th Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival, this film reminds ALL VIEWERS that gender reassignment is NOT in ANY WAY a "light matter" (most of all for the person asking for it) and that it is full of ALL KINDS OF CONSEQUENCES that are ALL DIFFICULT and EMOTIONALLY WRENCHING.  And yet there are people who after _many years_ of reflecting on the matter / those consequences, _still_ choose gender reassignment as the _better_ of the available options.  Wow.

Those of us looking and all necessarily judging from outside, are reminded here (and in the case of the Finnish film as well) that we need to take the person's inner struggle to get to the point of requesting such reassignment into our own reflecting on the matter as well.  Again, NO ONE requests this kind of surgery without a great deal of reflection / struggle.

In any case, AN EXCELLENT and very thought provoking film.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Spotlight [2015]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (4 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing (Sr. R. Pacatte) review

CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

Spotlight [2015] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Tom McCarthy along with Josh Singer) is a testament to the value of "Checks and Balances" and then specifically of a Free / Independent Press.

Writing out of Chicago, with its decades-long history of corruption scandals big and small, I've long valued the scrappy reputation of Chicago's "second paper" The Chicago SunTimes.  Obviously, it's not as if corruption has come to an end in my fair city as a result of the SunTimes' screaming tabloid- format front page, but I can't help but feel that it has had at least SOME deterrent value: "NO ONE wants to be pictured on the front page of the Sun Times," I've joked over the years to friends.

In this regard, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has had a similar paper, a well-written if ever screaming _independent weekly_ called the National Catholic Reporter, which the U.S. Bishops have chosen to try to ignore for the last 20-30 years rather than recognize it for what it's always been: A PAPER WRITTEN BY / OF THE LOYAL and STILL BELIEVING "Church-going opposition/dissent."   AND WE HAVE CERTAINLY PAID FOR THIS WITH THE SEXUAL ABUSE SCANDALS which were being ROUTINELY REPORTED THERE _FOR YEARS_ prior (!!!) to the Boston Globe's exposes celebrated in this film.



Yes, there are things to criticize in the film.  Its own statistics -- 50% of priests supposedly violating their vows or even 6% of priests being pedophiles (presumably defined in the more general sense of being attracted to minors rather than more strictly to prepubescent children) -- actually make the Catholic priesthood sound very much like a "cross-section of society" -- After all, we live in a society where over half of marriages end in divorce USUALLY BECAUSE OF INFIDELITY and half of all children molested appear to have been molested by their own parents (and this actually fits my own pastoral experience: In each of the three parishes where I've served since my diaconate, I've known at least one adult woman who had been molested as a minor by her own biological father).  A fairly extensive survey of statistics on the matter of child molestation has been collected here.

Still, the film BEAUTIFULLY PRESENTS HOW "SOFT POWER" within _A CLOSED SYSTEM_ works to suppress (and frustrate action on...) embarrassing / "inconvenient" information EVEN TO THE POINT OF DAMAGING / DESTROYING LIVES ... But WHAT LIVES?  Well those "outside the loop ..."

Anyway, it took an "outsider," a Jewish editor named Marty Baron (played by Liev Schrieber), coming to the Boston Globe from Miami to shake things up in largely Catholic Boston enough to break the story open.

Can we listen to our still loyal opposition now as well?

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Love the Coopers [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) ()  AVClub (C-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (K. Walsh) review () review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review  

Love the Coopers [2015] (directed by Jessie Nelson, screenplay by Steven Rogers) is truly a "different kind" of "family Holiday movie" that I'm not surprised irritated a fair number of the critics above.  Why?  Well, it's IMHO _not intended to be cheerful_.  Instead, again, IMHO, it's intended to be a reality check and then on _multiple levels_.

For while this is a movie nominally about Christmas:

(1) GOD / CHRISTIANITY IS NOT MENTIONED AT ALL, NOT ONCE, IN THE FILM (Honestly, on the surface "What else is new?"  This would seem like "standard Hollywood fare" of the past generation or two).  Instead, the story is about a fairly large (by Anglo/US standards of today) multi-generational family (starring a remarkable all star cast) many of whose members are really focused primarily on their particular hurts, slights and issues.

Yet (2) IN THE BACKGROUND of this multidimensional story in which A LOT of the characters are trying to get their lives together (if only for the day) and "to have a decent enough holiday this time around," PLAYS A RELENTLESS (and GENTLE) SOUND TRACK THAT HAS MORE RELIGIOUS CHRISTMAS CAROLS IN IT THAN I'VE HEARD (in an American movie) IN MY 52 YEAR LIFETIME -- Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High, We Three Kings, Good King Wenceslas, Little Drummer Boy.  (What's going on? ...)

AND (3) the story is largely set up / told THROUGH A KINDLY, EVER-PRESENT NARRATOR FIGURE WHO SEEMS TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT ALL THE CHARACTERS (including ALL THEIR PAST FAILINGS, HURTS and DISAPPOINTMENTS) and when AT THE END OF THE FILM it's revealed WHO that NARRATOR is, I certainly chuckled, smiling-from-ear-to-ear in recognition.  Very, very clever ;-)

Yes, this is NOT a movie to play on Christmas Day (or even Thanksgiving Day).  BUT IT'S NOT A BAD MOVIE TO WATCH IN THE LEAD-UP TO THESE GREAT LARGELY FAMILY HOLIDAYS:  What are we doing?  Why?  And can we at least open ourselves TO THE POSSIBILITY that "Someone out there" (call it "The Force" if you have to ...) wants us / ALL OF US to be happy.

Excellent and surprisingly good / thoughtful film!

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Grain of Truth (orig. Ziarno prawdy) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* (D. Sobolewski) review (K. Siwoń) review* (Ł. Rogojsz) review* (Z. Pietrasik) review* review* (M. Fijołek) review*

A Grain of Truth (orig. Ziarno prawdy) [2015] [IMDb] []* (directed and screenplay co-written by Borys Lankosz [IMDb] []* along with Zygmunt Miłoszewski [IMDb] []* based on Miłoszewski's [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] novel by the same name [GR-Eng] [WCat-Eng] [Amzn-Eng] [GR-Pol]*[WCat-Pol]*[Amzn-Pol]*) is a Polish Angels and Demons [2009]-like thriller that several of the (younger) reviewers (Polish) listed above have _enthusiastically_ declared "the best film of its kind made in Poland since (the fall of the Communists in) 1989."  The film played at the 2015 (27th Annual) Polish Film Festival in America held here in Chicago.

As in Dan Brown's [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] novels, so to in Miłoszewski's [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] []*, at the center of the story is an investigator.  In this case, he's a brash, no nonsense (some reviewers above would add "arrogant," "piggish" / "misogynistic") Warsaw based prosecutor named Teodor Szacki (played in the film by Robert Więckiewicz [IMDb] []*). There's an entire Entanglement [GR-Eng] [WCat-Eng] [Amzn-Eng] series of books that Miłoszewski [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] []* has created around him.

In the current story while in a process of a divorce (presumably deserved because he is something of a male chauvinist when it comes to women) back in Warsaw, Szacki decides to take a case "out in the Provinces" in a "sleepy little provincial town" named Sandomierz [wikip].  And, oh my, what a shocking mess he walks into ...

A woman has been murdered.  But murdered in a spectacularly bizarre way.  Her body, her throat having been slit, was found dumped, clean, on the steps of the local historical archives, and had been drained (prior to her dumping) of all of her blood.  It was as if she had been slaughtered rather than simply murdered.

The single gash at her throat and the bizarre draining of her blood _immediately suggested_ THE WORST.  She was killed in a way that resembled the way that the Jewish community slaughters animals to fulfill its kosher laws and this IMMEDIATELY EVOKED the MOST EVIL / LIBELOUS accusations made against the Jewish Community (back in Medieval times), that is, that the Jewish community would somehow capture and slaughter Christian innocents and use their blood to make their matzo bread for Passover.

And it turns out that in THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH in Sandomierz [wikip] _actually_ HANGS A GHASTLY PAINTING by Karol de Prevot [pl.wilip]* (now thankfully covered by red velvet veil and a pious picture of St. John Paul II, though significantly, the painting has NOT been destroyed) DEPICTING these horrendous practices of which the Jews of the time were -- EVER IN THE DARKEST OF RUMOR / CONSPIRACY -- accused.  

Note to the Reader here, OF COURSE, THE MURDER (and A STRING OF SIMILAR MURDERS SOON FOLLOWS) was NOT committed by someone who was Jewish, but RATHER as a Rabbi from Lublin named Zykmunt (played excellently by Zohar Strauss [IMDb] []*) who Szacki consults in the case, by someone fascinated by and thus eventually "self-schooled in" this dark legend.

Szacki's investigation then uncovers ALL KINDS of "dirty laundry" hanging about this previously seeming "sleepy little provincial town."

There's a wierdo "medieval implements" collector who "runs a blog / YouTube channel" on said topic living in the town.  And after enthusiastically first explaining to inspector Szacki the ritual-like nature of the woman's murder even asks him: "After you find the murder weapon, oh yes, after you're done with it, can I have it?"

There's a rich guy living at the edge of town, who turns out to be a "Polish Patriot" (meaning POLISH FASCIST ... yes, these people EXISTED and EXIST TODAY) who had no love for either Jews (wrong nationality) OR for the "Pedophile Church" (again, too "universalist" for his ideology's liking ...).

Then there's the media, as well as local idiots, demanding that said media "declare the obvious" that there's "a grain of truth" to the ritualistic nature of the murders (and _presumably_ to the libelous myth that seemed to inspire them ...)

And of course, there's even the story of a Jewish family that had moved into the town in the years after WW II (after the town's previous / indigenous Jewish population having been wiped out by the NAZIS _and_ with POLISH LOCALS HAVING HAD MOVED INTO THEIR PREVIOUS HOUSES).  It wasn't entirely clear "what happened" to that Jewish family that had strayed into the town after the war, but it was suggested that _perhaps_ "a relative of theirs" could now be "wreaking vengeance" on the local Polish populace.

Anyway, in the midst of this _truly_ TOXIC SOUP of previously repressed history, the hard-nosed / no nonsense Warsaw-ite procurator Szacki has to do his investigation.

What does he find?  I'm not going to tell you ;-)  But obviously NO ONE JEWISH was involved, and even the "Conspiracy" was not "great."  Sometimes / OFTEN ... EVIL IS ... QUITE ... BANAL.

Still one heck of a nerve-wracking if well-crafted / jittery tale.


I have to say that the _continued existence_ of the shockingly anti-Semitic painting (albeit perhaps covered) by Karol de Prevot [pl.wilip]* in Sandomierz's [en.wikip] Cathedral Church [pl.wikip]* has certainly surprised / shocked me.

Normally, I do oppose art / artifacts being destroyed.  I've considered the Taliban's 2001 destruction of the GIANT statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan or more recently ISIL's razing of the ruins at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud to be shocking crimes against history / humanity.  But a good part of me would honestly want this painting by Karol de Prevot [pl.wilip]* destroyed.

I do understand the dilemma (it is history) and that the Catholic Church has that picture, for the most part, covered with a big red drape and the above mentioned pious portrait of St. John Paul II.  I also wonder if destroying the picture could _perhaps_ give it more power (provoking all sorts of conspiracy theories surrounding its destruction).

HOWEVER, if there exists such a thing of an object that would be truly _possessed_ or _evil_ -- I think here of the "Storage Room," kept by the American / Catholic paranormal / anti-demonic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and portrayed in the film The Conjuring [2013] -- I would DEFINITELY consider this painting to be one such object ... as it can not but produce profound unease in people and "lead them to Evil." 

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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