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Ida (2013) and Belle (2013)


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Those of you who have access to theaters that show foreign films might be interested in Ida (2013) and Belle (2013). I liked them both very much. If you live in an area where only Godzilla and X-Men will put in an appearance, no doubt these will soon be available on Netflix.


Ida, a Polish film directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, is set in the post-Stalinist Poland of 1962. Sister Anna, a novitiate nun about to take her vows, learns that her real name is Ida and that her parents were Jewish. She is sent by the mother superior to learn about her past. Her aunt is bitter, alcoholic, and depressed. The two women try to find out where Ida’s parents are buried. This is a black and white film with cinematography of extraordinary beauty which emphasizes shades of gray. The leads are perfectly cast, and the film is less than 90 minutes long.


Belle, directed by Amma Asante, is based on the true story of a young woman of mixed race who is taken in by her aristocratic relatives, even though this is shocking by eighteenth-century standards. The story of Belle and two unexpected suitors intertwines with the court case which her great-uncle, the Lord High Justice, must decide: should an insurer have to pay for slaves which the captain ordered to be thrown overboard because there was not enough water for everyone to drink? Lovely sets and costumes, a well-made script. The camera loves Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who stars as Belle. A great supporting cast includes Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Penelope Wilton, and Miranda Richardson.

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