It’s often said that film is the most collaborative of arts. It takes a village, so to speak, to create ninety minutes of story and visuals that move us, inspire us, scare us, entertain us. When everything comes together seamlessly, no one aspect of the film overshadows any other.
There are those cases, of course, where a certain element of the production trumps all others. Sometimes it’s the score that soars over every scene, or the cinematography that breathtakingly captures a world on screen.
In the case of A Fantastic Woman, an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film from Chile, it’s one performance that sends an already wonderful film into greatness. Daniela Vega is Marina Vidal, a trans woman scraping by with a waitressing job and dreams of being a singer. When her older boyfriend, Orlando, dies suddenly after celebrating her birthday, she faces her own grief and the prejudices of a family who want nothing to do with her.
Every year, after the Oscar nominations are announced, the dust settles and a few titles rise to the top as head-scratchers. How the heck did that get nominated for an Academy Award? There’s one such movie in this year’s Best Animated Feature category, although mercifully it is not The Breadwinner. (I’ll give you three guesses which it is…it starts with a B and ends in …oss Baby.)
From the studio that created The Secret of the Kells and Song of the Sea, both masterpieces in their own right and both also nominated for Oscars, The Breadwinner is a universally stirring drama about a young girl in Kabul, Afghanistan in the shadow of September 11. As war looms, her father is unjustly imprisoned and she’s forced to get creative about how to support her mother, older sister and toddler brother under an oppressive regime.
Full disclosure: this is a cross-post with Third Coast Review, where my review also appears.
If you’re a film nerd like me, you follow the various film festivals during the first half of the year (Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Cannes) with one ear to the cinematic ground, just waiting to hear what everyone’s going to be talking about come awards season.
If you’re a film nerd like me, you heard all kinds of buzz out of Cannes about something called Faces Places (Visages Villages), by someone named Agnès (said: Ahn-yes) Varda, an octogenarian filmmaker well known by everyone who knows anything about international cinema.
If you’re a (lacking) film nerd like me and you’d never heard of this Agnès Varda (!) but were immediately intrigued, you set off for your local library and spent the summer with this grande dame of French New Wave cinema, taking in Daguerréotypes from 1976, Mur Murs from 1981 and anything else you could get your hands on.
No? Just me?
No matter. Whether you’ve seen none of her 50+ directing efforts or all of them, get thee to the cinema to see Faces Places. Thank me later.