Film Notes: Rams (2015) directed by Grímur Hákonarson

IS / 93 minutes / color / Netop Films, Profile Pictures, Film Farm, Aeroplan Films / Dir: Grímur Hákonarson  Pro: Grimar Jonsson Scr: Grímur Hákonarson Cine: Sturla Brandth Grovlen Film Editor: Kristjan Lodmfjord Mus: Atli Orvarsson Cast: Sigurdur Sigurjonsson, Theodor Juliusson, Charlotte Boving, Gunnar Jonsson, Porleifur Einarsson, Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson, Jon Benonysson Release Date: 15 May 2015 (Cannes Film Festival) 13 November 2015 (Spain) Original title: Hrútar Spanish title: Rams (El valle de los carneros)

Rams (Icelandic: Hrútar) is a 2015 Icelandic drama film directed by Grímur Hákonarson. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it won the top prize. It was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. It was selected as the Icelandic entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. (Source Wikipedia)

Rams_2015_film_poster Synopsis: Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at this year’s Cannes festival, Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams — a warm, compassionate drama laced with moments of beautifully deadpan comedy — tells the tale of two rival sheep farmers whose decades-long feud is interrupted by an unforeseen event that threatens to destroy centuries of tradition. Despite the fact that they live on neighbouring farms, Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) have not spoken to one another in forty years, their intermittent and grudging communications carried out via letters carried by Kiddi’s dog. Their rivalry reaches its height in the valley’s annual competition for best ram, which Kiddi has won several times. After once again losing the prize to the boastful, hard-living Kiddi, the stern and solitary Gummi spots a dead sheep in Kiddi’s field, and soon begins to notice symptoms of the lethal and highly contagious disease scrapie in his neighbour’s flock. Veterinary authorities quickly arrive in the valley and decree drastic measures that may mean disaster for the entire region, and that the two men determine to resist, each in his distinctive way. With keen observation and gently sardonic humour, Hákonarson offers an understanding yet incisively satirical take on the Icelandic championing of independence and self-reliance, and how those otherwise admirable qualities can turn into isolationism, short-sightedness, and unyielding recalcitrance. Driven by the stellar performances of its two leads, Ramsmasterfully mixes comedy and heartbreak in its portrait of an ancient, and endangered, way of life. (Source: Toronto International Film Festival)

Grímur Hákonarson was born in Iceland and graduated from the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. His graduate film Slavek the Shit (04) was selected in the Cinefoundation section of Cannes, and his following short Wrestling (07) won twenty-five festival prizes around the world. He made his feature debut with Summerland (10), and followed it with the documentary A Pure Heart (12). Rams (15) is his latest film. (Source: TIFF)

A couple of weeks ago Begoña and I went to see Rams (El valle de los carneros). I very much enjoyed watching Rams, the story is very well narrated and the film captures wonderfully the rural environment in which it unfolds. To round it off, the actors’ performance is indeed excellent. Films like this one are those who makes us love the seventh art. Highly recommended.

Un Certain Regard – Hrútar (Rams), interview with Grímur Hákonarson

Rams review at The Hollywood Reporter

Review: The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Orion Books, 2014. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1645KB. Print Length: 401 pages. First published in the US in 3 November, 2014 by Little, Brown and Company. First published in Great Britain in 6 November, 2014 by Orion Books. ASIN: B00JOM7SKA. ISBN: 978 1 4091 4564 6.

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The Burning Room tells us the story of the relationship which is going to develop between Harry Bosch and Lucía Soto, his new teammate in the Open-Unsolved Unit. Soto is new not only to the unit but to homicide work as well. Captain George Crowder, the new commander of the unit, has decided the best way to handle the influx of new blood is to split up all the existing partnerships, and pair every detective with experience on this field with a new detective who has none. Bosch is the elder man in the unit, has the most years on the job and is entering in his last year with the Department under the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) and, as such, he has been paired with the youngest, Soto.

Soto and Bosch have a new assignment, the recent death of Orlando Merced. Merced had passed the last ten years of his life confined in a wheelchair as a consequence of an unintended shot at Mariachi Plaza. At the time, Merced was a member of a mariachi band that was in the plaza looking for jobs. The bullet that seemingly came from nowhere ended up lodged in his spine. He survived but became paraplegic. The perpetrator of the shooting was never found. But now that the bullet has been recovered, if it can be proved that the cause of his death is related to the shooting, it becomes a murder investigation and, as such, it can be reopened in view of the new evidence.

Initially Bosch has no trust in Soto but, gradually, she will win his confidence, to the point that Bosch will be willing to help her in a case on which she has a particular interest, something which she is not allowed to do. An incident that took place some twenty years ago. A fire which was later on classified as intentional, killed several children and their teacher in a kindergarten. Soto was among the survivors and, now, she’s determined to find out who or whom were behind a fire that marked her life forever.

Both investigations are going to unfold in parallel.     

As often the case with Michael Connelly books, the story is structured in such a way that the reader is hooked from the very first pages, the reading turns out to be highly compelling, the plot unfolds at a right pace and both cases are equally attractive. It also deals with some interesting issues such as political corruption, greed, and revenge. The relationship between the two main characters is very appealing, and their difference in age is being used well. The character of Lucia Soto has the enough entity as to be developed in a series of its own, which will not surprise me if it happens. Having said that, despite its great ending which has left me anxious to read the next instalment, there are some aspects in one of the investigations that, in my view, leaves some stones unturned, although one can argue that it’s nothing unusual in reality.     

My rating: A (I loved it)

The Burning Room is the 27th novel by Michael Connelly, and his seventeenth novel featuring Los Angeles Police Department detective Harry Bosch. The book series in chronological order according to its year of publication is: The Black Echo (1992); The Black Ice (1993); The Concrete Blonde (1994); The Last Coyote (1995); Trunk Music (1997); Angels Flight (1999); A Darkness More Than Night (2001); City Of Bones (2002); Lost Light (2003); The Narrows (2004); The Closers (2005); Echo Park (2006); The Overlook  (2007); The Brass Verdict (2008); Nine Dragons (2009); The Reversal (2010); The Fifth Witness (2011) (one page brief appearance); The Drop (2011); The Black Box (2012); The Gods of Guilt (2013)  (one page brief appearance); The Burning Room (2014), and The Crossing (2015). Click on the book title to access my review.

The Burning Room has been reviewed at Crime Scraps Review (Norman) and at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan (Bill),

The Orion Publishing Group

Hachette Book Group

Michael Connelly Official Website

The Burning Room Audio book

El cuarto en llamas de Michael Connelly

El cuarto en llamas nos cuenta la historia de la relación que se va a establecer  entre Harry Bosch y Lucía Soto, su nuevo compañero de trabajo en la Unidad de Casos Abiertos. Soto es nueva no sólo a la unidad, sino también como investigadora de homicidios. El capitán George Crowder, el nuevo comandante de la unidad, ha decidido que la mejor manera de gestionar la llegada de sangre nueva es dividir todos los equipos existentes, y emparejar a todos los detectives con experiencia en este campo con un nuevo detective sin experiencia alguna. Bosch es el hombre de más edad en la unidad, es el que más tiempo lleva en el trabajo y está entrando en su último año en el Departamento en el marco del Plan de Opción de Jubilación Diferida (DROP) y, como tal, ha sido emparejado con la más joven, Soto.

Soto y Bosch tienen que hacer frente a un nuevo trabajo, la reciente muerte de Orlando Merced. Merced había pasado los últimos diez años de su vida confinado en una silla de ruedas como consecuencia de un disparo no intencionado en Plaza Mariachi. En aquell momento, Merced era miembro de una banda de mariachis que estaba en la plaza en busca de trabajo. La bala que aparentemente salió de la nada terminó alojada en su columna vertebral. Él sobrevivió, pero quedó parapléjico. El autor de los disparos nunca fue encontrado. Pero ahora que se ha podido recuperar la bala, si se puede demostrar que la causa de su muerte está relacionada con el tiroteo, se convierte en una investigación de asesinato y, como tal, puede ser reabierta en vista de las nuevas pruebas.

Inicialmente Bosch no tiene ninguna confianza en Soto pero, poco a poco, se va a ganar su confianza, hasta el punto de que Bosch estará dispuesto a ayudarla en un caso en el que ella tiene un interés particular, algo que no se le permite hacer. Un incidente que tuvo lugar hace unos veinte años. Un incendio que fue posteriormente clasificado como intencional, mató a varios niños y a su profesora en un jardín de infancia. Soto fue una de los supervivientes y, ahora, está decidida a averiguar quién o quienes estaban detrás de un fuego que marcó su vida para siempre.

Ambas investigaciones se van a desarrollar en paralelo.

Como suele ocurrir con los libros de Michael Connelly, la historia está estructurada de tal manera que el lector queda enganchado desde las primeras páginas, la lectura resulta ser altamente convincente, la trama se desarrolla a un ritmo adecuado y ambos casos resultan ser igualmente atractivos. También trata algunas cuestiones interesantes, como la corrupción política, la codicia y la venganza. La relación entre los dos personajes principales es muy atractiva, y su diferencia de edad está bien utilizada. El personaje de Lucía Soto tiene la entidad suficiente como para ser desarrollado en una serie propia, lo que no me sorprenderá si se produce. Dicho esto, a pesar de su gran final, que me ha dejado ansioso por leer la siguiente entrega, hay algunos aspectos en una de las investigaciones que, en mi opinión, deja algunas piedras sin remover, aunque se puede argumentar que ésto no es nada inusual en la realidad.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

El cuarto en llamas es la vigésimo séptima novela Michael Connelly,   y su décimo séptima novela protagonizada por el detective del Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles Harry Bosch. La serie de libros por orden cronológico según su año de publicación es: El eco negro (The Black Echo, 1992), El hielo negro (The Black Ice, 1993), La rubia de hormigón (The Concrete Blonde, 1994), El último coyote (The Last Coyote, 1995), Pasaje al paraíso (Trunk Music, 1997), El vuelo del ángel (Angels Flight ,1999), Más oscuro que la noche (A Darkness More Than Night, 2001), Ciudad de huesos (City of Bones, 2002), Luz perdida (Lost Light, 2003), Cauces de maldad (The Narrows, 2004), Último recurso (The Closers, 2005), Echo Park (Echo Park, 2006), El observatorio (The Overlook, 2007), Nueve dragones (Nine Dragons, 2009), Cuesta abajo (The Drop, 2011), La caja negra (The Black Box, 2012), The Burning Room (The Burning Room, 2014) and The Crossing (The Crossing, 2015). Haga clic en el título del libro para acceder a mi reseña.

Film Notes: The Clan (2015) directed by Pablo Trapero

ARG – ESP / 108 minutes / color / Kramer & Sigman, Matanza Cine, El Deseo / Dir: Pablo Trapero Pro: Hugo Sigman, Matias Mosteirin, Agustin Almodovar, Pedro Almodovar, Esther Garcia, Pablo Trapero Scr: Julián Loyola, Esteban Student, Pablo Trapero Cine: Julian Apezteguia Film Editor: Alejandro Carrillo Penovi, Pablo Trapero Mus: Sebastián Escofet Cast: Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, Lili Popovich, Gaston Cocchiarale, Giselle Motta, Franco Masini, Antonia Bengoechea, Stefania Koessl Release Date: 13 August 2015 (Argentina) 13 November 2015 (Spain) Original title: El Clan

The Clan (El Clan) is a 2015 Argentine crime film directed by Pablo Trapero. It was selected to be screened in the main competition section of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival where director Pablo Trapero won the Silver Lion. The film was selected as the Argentine entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. (Source: Wikipedia)

The_Clan_(2015_film) Synopsis: The disappeared — los desaparecidos — are words that carry special resonance in Argentina. Long associated with the crimes of the military junta of the 1970s, the term takes on a different, but no less chilling, meaning in the hands of filmmaker Pablo Trapero. Based on a true story that rocked Argentina, The Clan tells the almost unbelievable tale of the Clan Puccio, a seemingly normal middle-class family who kidnapped wealthy people off the street, held the victims for ransom, and, once paid, killed them. On the surface the Puccios look like most other families. Steely-eyed patriarch Arquimedes (Guillermo Francella) presides over a household where his wife, sons, and daughters gather for evening meals and discuss their days. Alejandro (Peter Lanzani), the eldest son, is a famed rugby player on Argentina’s national team, and the film turns on his relationship with his father. Arquimedes is coolly efficient, his “hits” meticulously planned, but he relies above all on his son’s complicity. Alex shares in the ransom money; his mother and other siblings seem blissfully unaware, or they choose to ignore what is happening right under their noses. Trapero details the ordinariness of the Puccios’ domestic life while not sparing us the brutality of the kidnappings. But, as the times change, Arquimedes, a product of the dictatorship that led to the disappearances of political enemies, finds that those who once protected him can no longer do so. Family tensions increase, Alex begins to question things, and a long-lost son returns from Australia. (Source: TIFF)

Pablo Trapero was born in San Justo, Argentina, and studied filmmaking at the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires. He wrote, directed, and edited the shorts Mocoso Malcriado (93) and Negocios(95). Many of his features have played the Festival, including his debut, Crane World (99), El Bonaerense (02), Rolling Family (04), Born and Bred (06), Lion’s Den (08), Carancho (10), White Elephant (12), and The Clan (15). (Source: TIFF)

Begoña and I went to see El Clan a couple of weeks ago. Maybe due to my expectations, it has somewhat disappointed me. In a nutshell, it’s an overrated film. Besides I must admit that I got bored. Apparently, the film follows truthfully the events narrated, but it is too slow on the development of the facts which, undoubtedly, are well known by the Argentine audience, but unfortunately it has nothing new to offer. The cinematographic narrative is highly fragmented and this, in my view, does not help much to follow the storyline to those, like me, are not familiar with the events. The film is sustained thanks to the excellent performance of  Guillermo Francella in the role of Arquimedes Puccio and Peter Lanzani as his son Alejandro. But, please, do take my view with a pinch of salt, I’m in a minority, El Clan has received many favourable reviews in the Internet and has won several awards in film festivals.

The Clan review at The Hollywood Reporter

Pablo Trapero wins La Mostra’s Best Director for El clan

“The Clan (2015 film)” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

The Bobby Owen Mystery Series by E. R. Punshon

To participate in the #1941book sign-up page hosted by Rich Westwood at Past Offences I’ve pre-order Ten Star Clues (Bobby Owen Mystery # 15) by E.R. Punshon. It was first published in 1941 and, if my information is corrects, was out of print.  The Kindle edition by Dean Street Press will go on sale on 7 December.

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“I’ll have breakfast ready before you’re dressed,” Olive said, her mind full of bacon and eggs, tea, toast.

“Can’t stop,” Bobby told her. “I’ve to be at Castle Wych at once.”

“What’s happened there?”

“Murder,” Bobby answered as he made for the door.

Bobby Owen has left London and is now a policeman in the bucolic county of Wychshire. The local community is stunned when a missing heir returns to Castle Wych, determined to claim his inheritance. But following the ensuing dispute over his identity, Castle Wych plays host to murder. There are ten “star clues” investigated by the resourceful Bobby, with help from his wife Olive, in this delightful and classic example of the golden age mystery novel.

Ten Star Clues, originally published in 1941, is the fifteenth novel in the Bobby Owen mystery series. This new edition features an introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans. (Source: Dean Street Press)

E.R. Punshon (Ernest Robertson Punshon) was born in London in 1872. At the age of fourteen he started life in an office. His employers soon informed him that he would never make a really satisfactory clerk, and he, agreeing, spent the next few years wandering about Canada and the United States, endeavouring without great success to earn a living in any occupation that offered. Returning home by way of working a passage on a cattle boat, he began to write. He contributed to many magazines and periodicals, wrote plays, and published nearly fifty novels, among which his detective stories proved the most popular and enduring. He died in 1956. (Source: Amazon)

Read more at The Passing Tramp

November Reading Round-Up

I read and reviewed last month at A Crime is Afoot:

The Hound of the Baskervilles 1922. Included at The Complete Sherlock Holmes and The Complete Tales of Terror and Mystery. Signature Edition. The Complete Works Collection, 2011. Format: Kindle Edition (A+)

The Crimson Circle 1922. Delphi Classics, 2014. Format: Kindle Edition, within Delphi Complete Works of Edgar Wallace (C)

The problem of Thor Bridge 1922 (Included in The Complete Sherlock Holmes and The Complete Tales of Terror and Mystery. Signature Edition. The Complete Works Collection, 2011. Format: Kindle Edition (B)

The Defenceless (Orenda Books, 2015) Format: Kindle edition. Translated into English by David Hackston, 2015. Originally published by Otava, Finland, as Suojattomat, 2014 by Kati Hiekkapelto (A)

Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle (Purple Panda Press, 2015) Format: Kindle Edition by J.A. Lang (B)

Knock, Murderer, Knock! (Dean Street Press, 2015) Format: Kindle Edition. First published in 1938 by Harriet Rutland (A)

Sorry if from now on, I can’t choose only one book. I don’t think it’s fair, given the different background of each title.

Besides, I’ve also finished reading The Burning Room (Orion, 2014) Format: Kindle Edition by Michael Connelly, my review will be available shortly. Stay tuned.