DVD/Stream of the Week: IDA – something to compare with this year’s best

Ida

The big Prestige Movies are arriving in theaters and Oscar campaigns are being launched, so this week I’m giving you a movie that you can compare to 2017’s Oscar Bait the recent Polish drama Ida.

The title character is a novice nun who has been raised in a convent orphanage. Just before she is to take her vows in the early 1960s, she is told for the first time that she has an aunt. She meets the aunt, and Ida learns that she is the survivor of a Jewish family killed in the Holocaust. The aunt takes the novice on an odd couple road trip to trace the fate of their family.

The chain-smoking aunt (Agata Kulesza) is a judge who consumes vast quantities of vodka to self-medicate her own searing memories. But the most profound difference isn’t that the aunt is a hard ass and that the nun is prim and devout. The most important contrast is between their comparative worldliness – the aunt has been around the block and the novice is utterly naive and inexperienced (both literally and figuratively virginal). The young woman must make the choice between a future that follows her upbringing or one which her biological heritage opens to her. As Ida unfolds, her family legacy makes her choice an informed one.

The novice Ida, played by newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska, is very quiet – but hardly fragile. Saying little, she takes in the world with a penetrating gaze and a just-under-the-surface magnetic strength.

Superbly photographed in black and white, each shot is exquisitely composed. Watching shot after shot in Ida is like walking through a museum gazing at masterpiece paintings one after the other. Ida was directed and co-written by Pawel Pawlikowski, who also recently directed the British coming of age story My Summer of Love (with Emily Blunt) and the French thriller The Woman in the Fifth (with Kristin Scott Thomas and Ethan Hawke). He is an effective and economic story-teller, packing textured characters and a compelling story into an 80 minute film.

Ida is also successful in avoiding grimness. Pawlikowski has crafted a story which addresses the pain of the characters without being painful to watch. There’s some pretty fun music from a touring pop/jazz combo and plenty of wicked sarcasm from the aunt.

Ida won 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Picture and the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Ida was my pick as the best film at Cinequest, where it won the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature.

Ida is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox Video.

DVD/Stream of the Week: IDA

IdaThe Polish drama Ida, which I first saw at this year’s Cinequest, is now available on video.  I currently rate it as (next to Boyhood) the best movie I’ve seen this year.

The title character is a novice nun who has been raised in a convent orphanage. Just before she is to take her vows in the early 1960s, she is told for the first time that she has an aunt. She meets the aunt, and Ida learns that she is the survivor of a Jewish family killed in the Holocaust. The aunt takes the novice on an odd couple road trip to trace the fate of their family.

The chain-smoking aunt (Agata Kulesza) is a judge who consumes vast quantities of vodka to self-medicate her own searing memories. But the most profound difference isn’t that the aunt is a hard ass and that the nun is prim and devout. The most important contrast is between their comparative worldliness – the aunt has been around the block and the novice is utterly naive and inexperienced (both literally and figuratively virginal). The young woman must make the choice between a future that follows her upbringing or one which her biological heritage opens to her. As Ida unfolds, her family legacy makes her choice an informed one.

The novice Ida, played by newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska, is very quiet – but hardly fragile. Saying little, she takes in the world with a penetrating gaze and a just-under-the-surface magnetic strength.

Superbly photographed in black and white, each shot is exquisitely composed. Watching shot after shot in Ida is like walking through a museum gazing at masterpiece paintings one after the other. Ida was directed and co-written by Pawel Pawlikowski, who also recently directed the British coming of age story My Summer of Love (with Emily Blunt) and the French thriller The Woman in the Fifth (with Kristin Scott Thomas and Ethan Hawke). He is an effective and economic story-teller, packing textured characters and a compelling story into an 80 minute film.

Ida is also successful in avoiding grimness. Pawlikowski has crafted a story which addresses the pain of the characters without being painful to watch. There’s some pretty fun music from a touring pop/jazz combo and plenty of wicked sarcasm from the aunt.

Ida won the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Ida was my pick as the best film at Cinequest, where it won the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature.

Ida is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox Video.

Ida: best movie of the year so far

IdaOpening more widely tomorrow, the Polish drama Ida, which I saw at this year’s Cinequest, is the best movie I’ve seen this year.

The title character is a novice nun who has been raised in a convent orphanage. Just before she is to take her vows in the early 1960s, she is told for the first time that she has an aunt. She meets the aunt, and Ida learns that she is the survivor of a Jewish family killed in the Holocaust. The aunt takes the novice on an odd couple road trip to trace the fate of their family.

The chain-smoking aunt (Agata Kulesza) is a judge who consumes vast quantities of vodka to self-medicate her own searing memories. But the most profound difference isn’t that the aunt is a hard ass and that the nun is prim and devout. The most important contrast is between their comparative worldliness – the aunt has been around the block and the novice is utterly naive and inexperienced (both literally and figuratively virginal).  The young woman must make the choice between a future that follows her upbringing or one which her biological heritage opens to her.  As Ida unfolds, her family legacy makes her choice an informed one.

The novice Ida, played by newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska, is very quiet – but hardly fragile. Saying little, she takes in the world with a penetrating gaze and a just-under-the-surface magnetic strength.

Superbly photographed in black and white, each shot is exquisitely composed. Watching shot after shot in Ida is like walking through a museum gazing at masterpiece paintings one after the other.  Ida was directed and co-written by Pawel Pawlikowski, who also recently directed the British coming of age story My Summer of Love (with Emily Blunt) and the French thriller The Woman in the Fifth (with Kristin Scott Thomas and Ethan Hawke).  He is an effective and economic story-teller, packing textured characters and a compelling story into an 80 minute film.

Ida is also successful in avoiding grimness. Pawlikowski has crafted a story which addresses the pain of the characters without being painful to watch. There’s some pretty fun music from a touring pop/jazz combo and plenty of wicked sarcasm from the aunt.

Ida won the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Ida was my pick as the best film at Cinequest, where it won the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature.

Cinequest: Ida

IdaThe Polish drama Ida is a gem – one of the best movies at this year’s Cinequest.  The title character is a novice nun who has been raised in a convent orphanage. Just before she is to take her vows in the early 1960s, she is told for the first time that she has an aunt.  She meets the aunt, and Ida learns that she is the survivor of a Jewish family killed in the Holocaust.  The aunt takes the novice on an odd couple road trip to trace the fate of their family.

The chain-smoking aunt (Agata Kulesza) is a judge and consumes vast quantities of vodka to self-medicate her own searing memories. But the most profound difference isn’t that the aunt is a hard ass and that the nun is prim and devout.  The most important contrast is between the worldly aunt (who has been around the block) and the utterly naive and inexperienced novice.  The young woman must make the choice between a future that follows her upbringing or one which her biological heritage opens to her.  As Ida unfolds, her family legacy makes her choice an informed one.

The novice Ida, played by newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska, is very quiet but anything but fragile.  Saying little, she takes in the world with a penetrating gaze and a just-under-the-surface magnetic strength.

Superbly photographed in black and white, each shot is exquisitely composed.  Watching shot after shot in Ida is like walking through a museum gazing at masterpiece paintings one after the other.  Ida was directed and co-written by Pawel Pawlikowski, who also recently directed the British coming of age story My Summer of Love (with Emily Blunt) and the French thriller The Woman in the Fifth (with Kristin Scott Thomas and Ethan Hawke).  He is an effective and economic story-teller, packing textured characters and a compelling story into an 80 minute film.

Ida is also successful in avoiding grimness. Pawlikowski has crafted a story which addresses the pain of the characters without being painful to watch.  There’s some pretty fun music from a touring pop/jazz combo and plenty of wicked sarcasm from the aunt.

Ida won the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Ida plays just one more time at Cinequest (unless it makes the Encore Day program) – on this Sunday, March 9, at noon.

Cinequest’s Charlie Cockey: The Man Who Goes to Film Festivals

Charlie Cockey (photo courtesy Around the World in 14 Films)
Charlie Cockey (photo courtesy Around the World in 14 Films)

Charlie Cockey is at a film festival.  (Actually, right now he’s probably traveling between the Berlin International Film Festival and Cinequest.)   But, whenever you read this, the odds are that he’s sampling cinema at a film fest somewhere.

Cockey, the international film programmer for San Jose’s Cinequest, attends twelve or more international film festivals each year.  He never misses the great Berlin and Venice fests, and also makes the rounds of the European national film showcases in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and other countries.

Cockey is Cinequest’s film scout extraordinaire and responsible for the most singular films on Cinequest’s program, the movies unlike any you have seen before.   In my recent Why Cinequest is essential, I highlighted three of his gems from last year’s Cinequest:  the German dark comedy Oh Boy (the debut from talented writer-director Jan Ole Gerster), the absurdist Czech comedy Polski Film and the offbeat The Dead Man and Being Happy, with its gloriously wacky road trip through the backwaters of Argentina.  (My favorite Charlie Cockey selection is the unsettling 2011 Slovak Visible World – which is creepy even for a voyeur film.)  Cockey found 12 of the films in last year’s Cinequest, and has brought as many as 17.

Cockey, who lives in the Czech Republic’s second city Brno, speaks English, Czech, German, French, Italian and Romanian.  That’s helpful, but the national film festivals usually have English-subtitled “festival version” screenings for distributors and festival programmers (plus non-subtitled screenings for the local public).

How did an American guy come to live in Brno?  “A Czech woman tied my shoelaces together,” Cockey replies.  Before he had acquired his Czech language fluency, he was sitting in a darkened Czech theater and was surprised to see no subtitles on the film.  Needing to ask the woman next to him for help with the translation, he touched her hand and sparks flew, or at least one literal spark from static electricity.  Fourteen years later, the two are still partners.

What are Charlie Cockey’s tips for sampling movies at a festival? Like any festival-goer, he chooses screenings based on the buzz, the director and sometimes a gut feeling.  He doesn’t mind bad movies because “if a film’s not working, I leave”.  He adds, “The mediocre ones are tough because you need to stick it out”.

First and foremost, Charlie Cockey is a man who devours culture in any form – books, music, cinema, food – with a voracious but discerning appetite.  Cockey’s journey brought him from the East Coast and Idaho to 1960s San Francisco as a musician and as a road manager for a band.  He opened San Francisco’s first science fiction bookstore (Fantasy, Etc) and ran it for the last quarter of the 20th Century.  “There are no accidents,” he says.  “Only surprises.”

Extremely generous with his knowledge and taste, Cockey loves to share the most precisely individual recommendations of books and movies.  He relishes the memory of helping a boy – dragged into Fantasy, Etc by his parents – discover a genre of literature (in this case fantasy) that spawned a new love of reading.  And he couldn’t resist quizzing me about my interests and then recommending an extremely obscure collection of letters from a German intelligence official in WWII – a book that I NEVER would have otherwise considered but which turned out to be a great read.

Here’s how to experience Cinequest the Charlie Cockey way: “Find films as you live life – by being open, prepared, ready, flexible and friendly”.

Follow The Movie Gourmet on Twitter for my continuing coverage of the 2014 Cinequest.