Cinematheque – Two 2008 Academy Award winners

HANOI CINEMATHEQUE
22A Hai Ba Trung Street

THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS

THE COUNTERFEITERS

From the members email:

Dear Member:

From Thursday through Sunday we are pleased to present an exciting program of two 2008 Academy Award winning movies – both from Europe. The program will consist of the Oscar-winning Best Live-action Short, THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS from France, followed by the 2008 Best Foreign Language Film, THE COUNTERFEITERS from Austria.

SCHEDULE

17 Thursday
19:00 THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS
+ THE COUNTERFEITERS

18 Friday
19:00 THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS
+ THE COUNTERFEITERS

19 Saturday
19:00 THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS
+ THE COUNTERFEITERS

20 Sunday
19:00 THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS
+ THE COUNTERFEITERS

FILM NOTES

THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS

France, 2007 Directed by Philippe Pollet-Villard 30 minutes
French only. No English subtitles or Vietnamese translation
(But thoroughly enjoyable even without understanding the French dialog!)

2008 Academy Award winner: Best Short Live-action Film

This shambling Parisian street comedy is a delight from beginning to end, thanks largely to the adorable performance of young Matteo Razzouki-Safardi as the maybe deaf-mute, maybe foreign street-child who tumbles into the care of two hapless middle-aged criminals.

Philippe (played by director Pollet-Villard) and his pal Richard (Richard Morgiève) run a dangerous low-end scam, pretending to be cops as the final act of an elaborate pickpocketing maneuver. It all comes unglued -fro at least until they discover that the urchin they haven’t had the heart to throw out has a genius for thievery. The delights of THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS largely derive from Pollet-Villard and Morgiève’s deadpan Laurel & Hardy act, and from their irresistible little star.

THE COUNTERFEITERS

German with English subtitles. No Vietnamese translation
2008 Academy Award winner: Best Foreign Language Film

Austria, 2007 Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky 95 minutes

THE COUNTERFEITERS is the incredible true story of the largest counterfeiting operation in history, set up by the Nazis in 1936.

The film opens intriguingly in a bleak, rundown Monte Carlo days after the end of the Second World War. A weary, poorly dressed man carrying a small case full of money books into a smart hotel. He has a new suit of clothes made, goes in a dinner jacket to the casino, plays recklessly and picks up a high-priced whore. While having sex, she is shocked to see a concentration camp number tattooed on his arm. Why is he here and apparently bent on losing? The answer is given in flashback form, starting in 1936.

Review by Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times:
February 22, 2008

Cultures make movies about the wars that matter to them. In this country, the catastrophe in Iraq is currently on everyone’s mind, but in Europe, World War II remains the conflict of choice, and the engrossing THE COUNTERFEITERS is one result.

A film from Austria and winner of the Best Foreign-language Film Oscar, THE COUNTERFEITERS demonstrates that no matter how many Holocaust stories the movies tell, there are always new and unexpected ones waiting to be revealed.

Written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky and based loosely on real events, THE COUNTERFEITERS deals, as its title hints, with a Nazi plot to counterfeit British pounds and American dollars on such a massive scale that the economies of both countries would be destroyed.

The film’s style is mainstream and straight-ahead, but because the counterfeiting was done in the Nazi concentration camp at Sachsenhausen and the technicians involved were almost all Jews, THE COUNTERFEITERS raises some provocative moral dilemmas.

Also unexpected is the fact that the film’s protagonist is not some idealist or square-jawed heroic type but a furtive and ferret-faced habitual criminal called Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch, a.k.a. “the King of Counterfeiters,” and played with fine disgruntled panache by Karl Markovics.

We meet Sorowitsch in a brief prelude in Monte Carlo after the war is over, but the film soon flashes back to Berlin, 1936. The Nazis are already in power, but this Jewish scoundrel and a half, who believes anything and everything is for sale, is convinced that his infinite adaptability will save him from any harm.

What it doesn’t save him from is being arrested and sent to a camp at Mauthausen for five years, where his nerve and ability to work the angles keep him relatively safe. His job is camp artist, his mantra survival, his motto “one adapts or dies.”

The group of prisoners assembled in Block 19 at Sachsenhausen, which included experts in printing and banking, was kept separate from the rest of the camp. These prisoners were allowed special privileges, such as better beds and the use of classical music to drown out the noises of the horrors outside.

In return, they were expected to pitch in and help create perfect counterfeit copies, first of the pound and then the dollar. “We’re on the same side now,” the Nazi Herzog tells his team, and he means it.

THE COUNTERFEITERS’ look at the mechanics of currency duplication is fascinating, but the real drama of the film is the conflict that develops between Sorowitsch and another member of the team, printer Adolf Burger (August Diehl).

Burger is a political radical whose principles don’t allow him to cooperate in a project that, if successful, would incontestably help the Nazis win the war. For him, sabotage is the only answer, even if it means martyrdom.

Sorowitsch takes the opposite point of view. He feels with equal passion that “only by surviving can we defeat them” and that anything which risks death is a terrible mistake.

Writer-director Ruzowitzky, who falls into schematic moments from time to time, brings the film alive during these confrontations and their aftermath. One of the reasons World War II stories still fascinate Europeans is that the dilemmas presented continue to have challenging echoes into the present day.

“This is a fascinating, low-key movie about moral choices and life-and-death decisions made in terrible conditions. Few will emerge from it without considerable respect for its antihero and without asking how they themselves would have acted.”

—- Philip French, The Guardian (London)

This is an ambitious account of institutionalised evil, buttressed by a terrific central performance from Markovics as the sullen survivor type. Its dehumanising environment can be read as a kind of corrupted Schindler’s List in which the success of the few could indirectly lead to the death of countless others. Yes, the director is implicitly asking us to judge these men in their gilded cage. But he mercifully provides no pat answers or cheap moralising. The situation is too desperate and compromising for that.”

—- Xan Brooks, The Observer (London


HANOI CINEMATHEQUE, Hanoi’s unique ‘art-house cinema’, is a members-only film society.
Memberships are available at the box office for only 100,000VND per year.
Members receive regular emails with detailed schedules and reviews of the films.
Tickets to the films are by donation

HANOI CINEMATHEQUE
22A Hai Ba Trung Street (at the end of the alley leading to Artist’s Hotel)
RESERVATIONS:
Tel: 936 2648 (14:00 – 20:00) or email to: info2@hanoicinema.org
Fax: 936 2649
CAFE CINEMATHEQUE opens from 17:00 weekdays and from 13:30 weekends

One Response to Cinematheque – Two 2008 Academy Award winners

  1. […] FILM NOTES can be found in this previous post. HANOI CINEMATHEQUE, Hanoi’s unique ‘art-house cinema’, is a members-only film society. Memberships are available at the box office for only 100,000VND per year. Members receive regular emails with detailed schedules and reviews of the films. Tickets to the films are by donation. HANOI CINEMATHEQUE 22A Hai Ba Trung Street (at the end of the alley leading to Artist’s Hotel) RESERVATIONS: Tel: 936 2648 (14:00 – 20:00) or email to: info2@hanoicinema.org Fax: 936 2649 CAFE CINEMATHEQUE opens from 17:00 weekdays and from 13:30 weekends. […]

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