Big River Man / Café de los Maestros / Broken English / Flammen & Citronen / Separation City

Big River Man
Slovenian Martin Strel weighs 200 pounds, eats countless fast food meals—including horse-meat burgers—and drinks two bottles of wine a day. He is also the only person to have ever swum both the Mississippi River and the Yangtze. This doc, shot by his son, tracks his progress as he attempts, at age 53, to swim the length of the Amazon. Crocodiles, piranha and other deadly creatures confront him every league of the way, and there is an interesting—though predictably inchoate—environmental message that crops up toward the end. Aside from the necessarily amateur camerawork, this is an interesting observation of a man intent on making an intrepid journey.

Café de Los Maestros
Doc in which a group of Argentinean tango players assembles for a concert in Buenos Aires. Treated almost as national treasures, many of the musicians have been playing for upwards of six decades and are symbolic of an old, now nearly extinct way of life and musical tradition. Similar to Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club, though lacking the historical contextualisation and research which made that film so enjoyable.

Broken English
Zoë Cassavetes, daughter of actor-director John Cassavetes, directs Parker Posey in this depressingly grey, meagre NYC-set rom-com. Posey plays an unlucky-in-love thirty-something who instantly falls for a smarmy Frenchman (Melvil Poupaud, Un conte de Noël) she meets at a party. Drea de Matteo (TV’s The Sopranos) and Justin Theroux (Mulholland Drive, HBO’s John Adams) are terrific in supporting roles but there is only so much even big-name actors such as these can do to attempt to elevate a bland seen-it-all-before story like this above the mundane.

Flammen & Citronen
Writer-director Ole Christian Madsen, whose last film Prag was a dark drama about a relationship on the brink of dying, returns with this beautifully choreographed noirish drama-thriller set in the twilight of World War II and centred on the two titular fighters, members of the Holger Danske resistance group. Madsen brings together Thure Lindhart and Stine Stengade alongside his regular collaborator Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale).

Separation City
Danielle Cormack stars, alongside Australian Joel Edgerton (TV’s The Secret Life of Us) and a supporting cast of the usual (Kiwi-Aussie) suspects—Michelle Langston, Jodie Rimmer, and Jeannette McDonald—in this romantic dramedy in which a cellist travels from Berlin to our citadel and promptly breaks up with her fiancé upon arrival. Ostensibly about crossed relationships and swapped partners, cartoonist Tom Scott’s script—apparently some 20 years in the writing and drawn from real life—is so full of gratuitous expletives and peopled by such vulgar caricatures that the film becomes an exercise in soap-opera trash of the lowest order. Rammed into the first six minutes are introductions to all the main characters through an absurd overreliance on voiceover that borders on farcical. Perhaps, had the script not been so pre-emptively ejaculatory in its ambition to please the audience at every turn, some interesting performances and characters might have emerged and made the film seem less like an overlong TV sitcom.


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