Batang West Side (Lav Diaz)
A Filipino teenager is shot in the head in a sidewalk in New Jersey. A Filipino police detective is given the task to uncover the truth about the murder. The film is comprised mostly of flashbacks of family members, friends, witnesses and suspects. First released in 2001, this is one of the more recent Filipino masterpieces. Despite its infamous 5-hour running time and relatively slow pace, it never feels dragging or boring. It's a compelling, dense thought-provoking drama. It's GORGEOUSLY shot, a real work from a master filmmaker and with a fine ensemble of actors too. Word is that producers begged director Diaz to cut it down to three hours to make it more commercially viable but he refuses and frankly, it was a good call. I can't imagine cutting out a single hour from this magnificent piece of work. (A-)
Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki)
This is from Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. It's about shoe shiner who finds himself the guardian of an escaped young illegal immigrant from Nigeria and he tries to help him evade authorities and get himself to London to get reunited with his mother. It's a serious issue but the film is given a decidedly light whimsical touch but never goes too broad or too serious. It kind of reminds me a bit for the Theo Angelopolous film Eternity and a Day but this is far more light-hearted. It's not my favorite but it's a very pleasant film. (B).