THE THIRD WIFE – movie review

THE THIRD WIFE
Film Movement
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Ash Mayfair
Screenwriter: Ash Mayfair
Cast: Nguyen Phuong Tra My, Tran Nu Yen Khe, Mai Thu Huong, Nguyen Nhu Quynh, Pham Thi Kim Ngan
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 4/5/19
Opens: May 15, 2019 at New York’s Film Forum

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Fortune magazine states that in a survey involving one thousand asking Americans what they simply could not do without, 65% said it was their smart phones. In fact 15% would give up sex all week rather than do without their phones for one weekend. The world today is as fast-paced as it ever was, making it difficult to believe how even rich people lived in the 19th century without electricity, radio, TVs, computers, phones, planes and the internet. In Ash Mayfair’s freshman debut as director (she had previously helmed shorts such as the eight-minute “Walking the Dead” about a man with a zombie pet), she takes a serious and quite lyrical look at life in a rural Vietnamese village, where a rich landowning family indulge in polygamous marriage. The chosen brides are taken from a youthful age against their will and bonded to older men who would naturally lean toward favoring the youngest of his wives. What’s more, it is possible for a younger woman to elevate her status and rise even to become First Mistress if she could give her husband a boy. This is the situation in which May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My), cast by the director at the age of twelve and shown here as a fourteen-year-old, was hitched up to middle-aged Hung (not necessarily a metaphoric name), as performed by Le Vu Long.

Instead of what we modern Americans would suspect, May is greeted warmly by wives two and three,Xuan (Mai Thu Huong May) and Ha (Tran Nu Yen Khe). Though May says barely one word to her husband, she apparently knows what is expected of her. Before her deflowering, she takes down her long, black hair and lies expectantly below her man, complaining later to the two older wives that all she feels is pain. Not to worry, they assured her; you will grow to like it. But May is rather advanced for a fourteen-year-old in a stratified culture, discovering that her heart and other parts belong to Xuan. At first Xuan is flattered and responds, but later, when May is pregnant, the older woman believes that a continuing lesbian relationship would bring down the ire of the gods.

The subplots hardly congeal and are jarring, particularly revolving around son named Son (Nguyen Thanh Tam) who does not likely take to being railroad into a marriage to someone he doesn’t know, and Tuyet (Pham Thi Kim Ngan) looks awfully young to be sent off for life to these rural grounds. For her part Lien (Lam Thanh My) goes almost as ballistic as Son, refusing in one scene to eat, contemptuous of her static life under a patriarchy.

From the human side, we see what life was like in a time not so far back and yet seemingly remote to current-day Vietnam with its stock market and its international sales of shoes and other clothing. Writer-director May makes sure that her pace remains placid. We see several lovely shots of the moon, in one case as the dark clouds cover it; of caterpillars and silkworms doing whatever turns them on; of the surrounding mountains that you might well have seen in the country’s current tourist brochures. Animal life comes front and center at times: the birth of a calf; the wishing a sad farewell to their aging cow too ill to rise from the ground; a rooster that does not go gentle into that dark night.

“The Third Wife” is strictly for the art-house crowd, the types of people who line up frequently for tickets outside New York’s Film Forum. Criticism if any will doubtless revolve around the old-fashioned nature of the form with no flashbacks, limited if any visual effects, and lacking in changes of pace. For the patient moviegoer interested in foreign cultures and the mores of times gone by, Ash Mayfair’s film is a potent symbol of what we might expect to come from the regisseur.

The movie was filmed in Vietnam, the English subtitles in splendid bold lettering.

96 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

MY SON – movie review

MY SON (Mon garçon)
Cohen Media Group
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Christian Carion
Screenwriter: Christian Carion, Laure Irmann
Cast: Guillaume Canet, Mélanie Laurent, Olivier de Benoist, Antoine Hamel, Mohamed Brikat
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 4/25/19
Opens: May 10, 2019

Mon garçon Movie Poster

Have you noticed how critics and some normal moviegoers put a large emphasis on credibility? Do you believe this story? Look at all the plot holes! Of course if you’re talking about Marvel Studio outputs, nobody expects anything like real life. For me, an action movie—a kidnapping film such as “My Son”– may make you wonder about things like “How did the hero locate the bad guys? How does a father looking for his seven-year-old son manage to take on kidnappers with just a golf club when the villains are armed? There’s a lot in “Mon garçon,” as the French call the picture, to make you wonder about all this, and the movie risks unintentional audience laughter. But there are saving graces. First are the edge-of-the-seat action sequences. Second is the skill of Guillaume Cant in the role of Julien, the largely absentee father who is not “there” for his son, to the dismay of his ex-wife Marie (Mélanie Laurent).

This looks like an actor’s exercise, actor, singular, as Guillaume (pronounced GEE ahm) Canet, who is having a busy year, opening soon as a vindictive editor in Olivier Assaysas’ talky “Non-Fiction.”

Christian Carion may want it known that “My Son” was filmed in six days with his principal performer in the dark about the movie’s plot. Carion, who picked up an Oscar nomination for his “Joyeux Noel,” about how an unofficial Christmas truce allows soldiers on both sides of the trenches in World War 1 to socialize for a short time, in this film focuses not on large casts but really on one guy. Director Carion, who co-wrote the script with Laure Irmann in her sophomore writing project, hones in on Julien’s guilt. He had been abroad most of the year for dangerous assignments in the Middle East and Africa forgetting that he is a dad, and, as his ex tells him, “Mathys (Lino Papa) needs a father.”

So what does she do? She takes up with one Grégoire (Olivier de Benoist), who stupidly “rubs it in” to his girlfriend’s ex by talking all about how he will sell the house belonging to Julien and Marie and move together with little Mathys to a place in the sticks. Needless to say, when the seven-year-old disappears from camp, you can’t blame Julien for considering Greg to be the prime suspect.

Most of the picture finds Julien crying, overwhelmed by guilt, yelled at by his beautiful wife (who wants to go to the Middle East and Senegal when you have everything you need at home?), and heading off in search of the abductors. After knocking Grégoire out, he heads out to discover a man with an intermediate role in the abduction, burns his feet with a blowtorch and threatens to fix the guy’s face in a climactic moment of violence.

“My Son,” then, has a passable story, considerable action (as opposed to Canet’s performance in the “Non-Fiction” talkathon), and nice scenery caught by DP Eric Dumont as Julien races to find his boy.

In French, English subtitles.

86 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B-

ALL IS TRUE – movie review

ALL IS TRUE
Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Screenwriter: Ben Elton
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen
Screened at: Sony, NYC, 4/11/19
Opens: May 10, 2019

Shakespeare has been mutilating college students’ GPA for decades, maybe centuries, as English majors, perfectly fine at interpreting Byron, Shelley and Keats, are at a loss in parsing the Bard’s 17th century English. Still, the scholars do remember “to be or not to be” but what they would enjoy more is one of the quotes in Kenneth Branagh’s film “All is True.” When a radical Puritan (these were the Christian right types in England) razzes Shakespeare, condemning one of his daughters for alleged pre-marital pregnancy and his wife for illiteracy, he replies, “There is more wisdom in Anne’s shit than in your entire body.”

Branagh, who directs and takes on the principal role in “All is True,” is more acquainted with Shakespeare than any other actor, given especially his ability to memorize all the lines of the title characters in “Hamlet” and “Macbeth,” playing the key role Iago in “Othello,” Berowne in “Love’s Labour Lost,” and Benedick in “Much Ado about Nothing” among other treasures, and is the ideal person for this speculative treatment of Shakespeare’s final three years. As written by Ben Elton, known for TV episodes like “The Thin Blue Line” and “Upstart Crow,” William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagah) is demoralized when the Globe Theatre burns to the ground, the result of a misplaced cannon shot. Having spent most of his adult life in London, leaving his wife, Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench), his daughter Judith (Kathryn Wilder), and his young son Hamnet (Sam Ellis) to fend for themselves, he now returns to Stratford-upon-Avon as a retired man with no ambition to write further.

Not a lot is known about Shakespeare the man much less how he spent his final three years, but we do get writer Ben Elton’s insights based on what we know of the customs and culture of England at the time. Shakespeare cannot understand why his allegedly beautiful daughter Judith is hanging around, a spinster, and pressures her to find a guy and get out of the house—which, by the way, is a spacious mansion, testament to the fact that Will did not have to wait for his own death to be a financial success. Most of all, though, he mourns Hamnet, who died at the age of eleven, and while Shakespeare is doing some gardening to provide his lost son with a respectable piece of land around his grave, he questions whether Hamnet died of the plague as his wife Anne repeatedly assures him. Yet there is some mystery surrounding the death. Hamnet’s twin sister Judith is aware that all is not what it seems, ultimately revealing the truth of the boy’s demise.

In the movie’s most memorable volley of talk, Shakespeare plays host to the Earl of Southampton (Ian McKellen), who looks foppish with long blond hair, as the two recount with more than a hint that there may be truth about Shakespeare’s sonnets: that they were written not to a woman or to women in general but to the playwright’s male lover. McKellen is in his element quoting his favorite lines from the sonnets.

There is more than a hint of feminism in this take of the writer’s final years. Daughter Judith, who finally does tie the knot, loses self-control, accusing her father of favoring the boy Hamnet, elaborating on the jealousy she feels, thinking that if one of the two children msut die, her father would prefer that it be Judith. Further, though Shakespeare proclaims that he’d had no problem if women played their parts in his plays, but the society would not condone such women’s liberation.

There are fine performances all around as you’d expect from Shakespearean actors like McKellen and Branagh, with interesting photography that takes advantage of the fact that electricity had not been harnessed. Zac Nicholson photographs indoor scenes in natural light from the fireplace, which makes you realize how difficult it must have been for the masses of people—those without Shakespeare’s financial as well as critical success—to function. This is art-house fare as you would expect from a studio with the integrity of Sony Pictures Classics, with little of the fireworks of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1953 “Julius Caesar” or Baz Luhrman’s modernized 1996 film “Romeo + Juliet.”

101 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM – movie review

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
Neon
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net by: Harvey Karten
Director: John Chester
Screenwriter: John Chester, Mark Monroe
Cast: John Chester, Molly Chester, Alan Young
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 4/4/19
Opens: May 10, 2019

click for larger (if applicable)

In “An Essay on Man” (1733) an optimistic Alexander Pope notes:
“All discord, harmony, not understood,
All partial evil, universal good”
He concludes: “Whatever is, is right.”

Pope believed that one God, all-wise and all-merciful, governs the world providentially for the best. While Pope is not invoked in John Chester’s movie “The Biggest Little Farm, “if Pope were alive today Chester could have been the model that helps to prove Pope’s wisdom. After all, when you are forced out of your cramped Santa Monica apartment because your dog Todd would bark all day when left alone, Chester must have believed that life is nothing more than one discord after another. However, being forced out of your flat turns out to be just what John Chester and his wife Molly needed to turn their lives around, to go from being just another anonymous pair of city people who turn all partial evil to universal good. What to any impartial observer looks like a land scam, since the farmland John and Molly purchase one hour’s drive from L.A. is dust-dry, turns out to be just the challenge that this creative couple needed to make themselves productive beyond their wildest imagination.

“The Biggest Little Farm” is an extraordinary documentary, not only because it was filmed over a period of ten years but because it is photographed with detailed attention to nature by John Chester himself with four other cinematographers and includes a few comical animations, courtesy of Jason Carpenter. All is augmented by Jeff Beale’s music. Like Israel, a country known during its founding to have “made the deserts bloom,” these incredibly hard-working, motivated Chesters take land ruined by a California drought and turne it into not just any old farm, certainly not the satanic factory farms that make life hell for animals, but an organic property filled with a huge diversity of crops and animals. By the time this movie ends, we note in a eight-year period they planted 10,000 orchard trees, 200 crops, and a variety of animals that would make Noah envious. To bring this animal menagerie down to human proportions, the Chesters have two pets. One is a large black dog, Todd, with human eyes that they saved before it was scheduled to be put down by a shelter. Another is Emma, a pig that provides entertainment for tourists who visit the farm, an attraction principally because it stands as a model of diversity, diversity, diversity. And Emma must have helped the farmers by producing one litter of 17—that’s 17—piglets. (Eventually they would be sent “to market” since you can’t have ideals without money.)

John and Molly see first-hand that there is a balance in nature. For example, coyotes had a tendency to sneak around at night to kill the farm’s chickens, though why they don’t eat the bodies is a mystery to me. John has to take his rifle to kill the pesky creatures. But then he discovers that coyotes are actually needed to balance nature because they eat gophers, another pest which left on their own would help destroy the farm. As for the tens of thousands of snails that eat leaves, they’re taken care of by ducks who would eat the French delicacy without bothering to get a thank-you from their human friends.

The Chesters are lucky to get the expert help of one Alan Young who had vast experience in natural farming, though since nature can be cruel, this mentor died or a particularly aggressive cancer. They were helped as well by a crew of workers, all collaborating to make this a dream farm, a paradise borne from a land that could have been the site of a dystopian movie. All of this takes place despite nature’s other cruelties: a drought thought to be the worst in 1200 years and a series of wildfires that we have all seen on recent news reports.

This sumptuous drama whose photography, including close-up, slow-motion shots of bees, hummingbirds and other critters could rival any nature drama shot by National Geographic and Disney. This is how a doc should be made: no interviews, not talking heads; in other words make it indistinguishable from a clever and vastly entertaining narrative drama.

91 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A
Acting – B-
Technical – A
Overall – A-

TOLKIEN – movie review

TOLKIEN
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Dome Karukoski
Screenwriter: David Gleeson, Stephen Beresford
Cast: Lily Collins, Nicholas Hoult, Patrick Gibson, Pam Ferris, Genevieve O’Reilly, Colm Meaney, Derek Jacobi
Screened at: Dolby24, NYC, 4/10/19
Opens: May 10, 2019

Tolkien Movie Poster

The biopic of J.R.R. Tolkien is as dull and stodgy as the title of the film. The Finnish-born, Dome Karukoski, whose“Tom of Finland,” about the artist Touko Valio Laaksonen, projects the director’s interest in biopics, this time deals with Tolkien’s youth from the time he was about twelve (played by Harry Gilby) through his experience in World War One, marriage and fatherhood. Tolkien could have been one of the those writers whose parents typically advise “continue with pen and paper as a hobby if you like, but be sure to have a career to earn a living.” But we know little of his parents’ wishes as his father had died in South Africa, his mother of diabetes, making the lad an orphan who is lucky to come under the wing of Father Francis Morgan (Colm Meaney). From Father Morgan’s strict management of his charge, Tolkien winds up under the wing of a rich woman, Mrs. Faulkner (Pam Ferris), his studies bringing him up to entrance to Oxford University.

Much is made of the influence of young Tolkien by friends of his own age who form a brotherhood, horsing around, teasing one another, and helping to mold the young man into a scholar whose interest in philology, the study of language, brings him into the world of Europe’s most celebrated linguist and writer (Derek Jacobi). Scenes of his years in high school, where male students wear jacket, vest and tie to classes, alternate with cuts from World War One, where we find Tokien submerged in a trench as was the custom of the time, until the unit is ordered on what looks like a suicidal charge of the German lines reminiscent of a similar devastation in the Battle of Gallipoli. Central to his life is his courtship of Edith Bratt (Lily Collins), the on-again, off-again woman who will become his wife and give him four children. Bratt plays her part wonderfully, flirtatious at first, showing her increasing enthusiasm of her bond with Tolkien, a woman who Father Morgan tries to drive away from Tolkien because she is “not Catholic,” and might prevent his success at Oxford.

As you already know, Tolkien’s first published work, “The Hobbit” in 1937, brought the author fame and elevates him to perhaps the world’s foremost scribe of mythological subjects. If you have seen “The Hobbit” and Peter Jackson’s 2001 hit “Lord of the Rings” which won a boatload of Oscars and critics’ awards, you might expect the film “Tolkien” to throw in scenes—not necessarily from the movies, but at least of some of the dramatic personae of the man’s creations. Yet we see a fire-eating dragon just twice, and for a scant few seconds, and some vague scenes of warriors on horseback. Without the special effects that would have brought the audience the full measure of the man, “Tolkien” becomes a biopic that’s stodgy, lacking in imagination and the creativity that could have come with an array of visual effects.

112 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C
Acting – B
Technical – B-
Overall – C+

THE INTRUDER – movie review

THE INTRUDER
Screen Gems
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Deon Taylor
Screenwriter: David Loughery
Cast: Meagan Good, Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy, Joseph Sikora, Slvina August, Debs Howard
Screened at: AMC Empire, NYC, 4/30/19
Opens: May 3, 2019

The Intruder Movie Poster

It’s difficult to believe that anyone who read Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” about the murder of four people of the Herbert Cutler family in Holcomb, Kansas, would think of buying a house in the country. The house shown in Deon Taylor’s “The Intruder,” filmed by Daniel Pearl in British Columbia standing in for California’s Napa Valley, is a spacious estate with a large acreage of grass framed by a forest, just the kind of quarters that demands the presence of either a couple of Doberman Pinchers or an army of guards from the Secret Service. There are more rooms than can be explored in a single trip guided by a real estate agent, and some of those rooms will turn up at a surprising moment in the suspense-filled plot.

Director Taylor, whose “Traffik” considers the plight of a romantic couple who are invaded by a group of bikers, is right in his métier here, though you don’t need more than one psycho to allow its likewise romantic duo to regret their move from a beautiful apartment complex in the city to the dangers of the sticks.

If Scott Howard (Michael Ealy) and his wife Annie (Meagan Good) are a well-suited, upper-middle-class couple with a happy marriage bound to produce a beautiful family in a year or two, then Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid) can be considered a guy married to a house. After his wife died, allegedly from cancer, his daughters living elsewhere, Charlie needs to sell his quarters, but the problem is that while he needs the $3.5 million, or the $3.2 million he settles on, throwing in his furniture because he really wants these two lovebirds to settle there, he has no intention of giving up the place. He’s the neighborly guy that you can’t get rid of, though Annie, who feels sympathy for the man and has a vague attraction to him, is making it difficult for her husband to throw the guy out.

One day Charlie is mowing the lawn, which is no longer his, but try to tell him that. Another day he is helping with the hanging up of ornaments. When Scott is in the hospital, injured by a car on the rural road, Charlie comes over with a pizza for Annie, which just happens to be large enough for the young woman to invite the guy in to share it with her. When Scott and Annie’s friend Mike (Joseph Sikora) stubs out his cigarette on a decaying statue obviously beloved by the former owner, and when the guy urinates on the lawn, you can see the almost perpetual smile on Charlie’s face disappear, replaced by a sickly scowl.

“The Intruder” is a psychological thriller, sometimes passing itself off as a horror movie though it does not have the accoutrements of the genre, one in which the villain takes on the kind of role that so many actors would love, given that many Hollywood performers have regularly said that the villain usually has the juiciest role versus the blandness of the good guys. That’s certainly true here, as Quaid can charm those he is with given his broad, toothy smile and hale-fellow image,while Ealy and Good (the latter with a pixie-ish hair style resembling a young Nia Long) are in the roles of people who have made it at a relatively young age, acting the part of people who can afford to lay out several million on their abode with the promise of another million in fixing-up.

The major part of the movie balances humor with scares, the big attraction being the give-and-take of friendly dialogue among the three, their screenplay afforded by David Loughery whose script for “Penthouse North” considers the fate of a reclusive, blind photojournalist who lives quietly in a New York penthouse, until a smooth but sadistic criminal looking for a hidden fortune enters her life. When the physical stuff begins during the final third of the story, the action is predictable, following the playbook of so many other film that portray violence.

Ealy, Good and Quaid’s dialogue bounces merrily back and forth, with Scott Howard’s becoming increasingly suspicious about the congenial former homeowner and Annie Howard’s leaning on Charlie when her husband is away at work or in the hospital. This is for the most part a solid psychological thriller, the tension ratcheted up by Geoff Zanelli’s music, the country mansion furnished elaborately by production designer Andrew Neskoromny.

101 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

MEETING GORBACHEV – movie review

MEETING GORBACHEV
The Orchard
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Werner Herzog, André Singer
Screenwriter: Werner Herzog
Cast: Mikhail Gorbachev, Werner Herzog
Screened at: Dolby 24, NYC, 4/1/19
Opens: May 3, 2019

Meeting Gorbachev Movie Poster

When Mikhail Gorbachev gave a talk during a visit in December 1988 with President Reagan, a member of the press asked whether he would consider running for President of the United States. “Thanks,” said the Soviet leader with a wide grin, “But I already have a job.” The exchange could be a humorous criticism of Ronald Reagan but was more likely motivated by Gorbachev’s charm. Even aside from Gorby’s wonderful personality, he would almost certainly be considered one of the one hundred major figures of the 20th Century.

There’s no doubt that Werner Herzog, perhaps the world’s most prolific documentarian, thinks highly of Mikhail Gorbachev. If they somehow met in 1944 with battles raging in Europe, they would presumably try to kill each other. Russia had no love for Germany at that time, perhaps because Hitler was responsible for killing some twenty million Soviets, mostly civilians. Some time after the war the two countries bonded, at least as friendly as are the U.S. and Vietnam today despite the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Vietnamese killed by 1975 largely with the aid of Dow Chemical. In fact Gorbachev and Herzog, representing the former Soviet Union and Germany respectively, seem like such buddies on the screen during the ninety-five minutes of the documentary “Meeting Gorbachev,” that you’d scarcely know that a great many people in Russia today probably consider Gorbachev, one of the towering figures of the last century, to be guilty of treason.

Werner Herzog, whose “Fitzcarraldo” about a man determined to build an opera house in the jungle, lies among a wealth of features, full length and shorts, on film and on TV. Announcing himself with a heavy Teutonic action that is unique enough to identify its owner, the 76-year-old Herzog sits across from the 87-year-old former Soviet leader whose principal source of identification at least in the U.S. is the birthmark on his mostly bald head. The three interviews are interspersed with a wealth of archival films, some never seen before in these parts, in both color and black and white. At this point in his long life, Gorbachev, pausing before answering each question perhaps to listen to the earphone-adapted voice of an interpreter, looks as though he has had his share of blinis as he appears relaxed in sports shirts and open jackets exuding fondness for his interviewer. As the film unwinds we learn that his accomplishments stagger the imagination, especially considering the Cold War that was raging between the U.S. and the Soviets from 1917 to 1991, with a temporary truce during World War 2. History will honor the subject for his ability to negotiate with President Reagan for a reduction of nuclear weapons; the pulling out of Eastern Europe with (to Herzog’s joy) the reunification of Germany; and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin made no attempt to combat. In fact in a world in which major differences take decades or centuries to accomplish, these changes boggle the mind with their suddenness.

During a three years’ interval in the USSR, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko meet their makers (not God, because Communists are atheists), and through bizarre Soviet arrangements Gorbachev is elevated to the post of General Secretary, the highest office in the vast land. Archival films hone in on George Shultz, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan; Horst Teltschik, who advised German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the latter noted for directing German reunification; Margaret Thatcher, the reactionary British PM who opposed limiting nukes because they “deter war;” and Ronald Reagan, particularly during his meeting with Gorbachev in Iceland to deal with reducing the nasty weapon.

Looking back at a country now led by authoritarian, anti-Communist Vladimir Putin, we wonder whether all of Gorbachev’s reforms will be for naught given that both the Russian leader and the POTUS are leading their countries away from democratic reforms. Not everything in the movie is political. In a sentimental break, Gorbachev is seen shedding tears in memory of his departed wife Raisa, who died in 1999, twenty years ago, but still fondly in the former Soviet leader’s memory.

Herzog is a stunning interviewer, eliciting sustained responses to his questions, and the entire production staff should be complimented for its wealth of rarely seen archival films.

Running Time: 95 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, NY Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B+