White man at a microphone belting out a song wearing a dark suit and shirt unbuttoned with a guitar strapped around him

I'm a little bored with American movies lately so I've decided to go the foreign films route. Barely knowing my Bertolucci from Benigni and my Kurosawa from my Kawasaki, I've decided to just start with the letter A.

Thus from the Grandview Public library I've taken on About Elly, The Admiral, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and The Attack.

Here goes, my fellow amateur auteurs...

About Elly (2009) comes dramatically from modern and traditional Iran: a weekend at the beach for three couples, their children and guests turns from lightheartedness into catastrophe in an instant when the title character disappears and the mystery of why gets pretty darn sticky – I was riveted. the title character disappears. Director Asghar Farhadi pits the well-meaning, gorgeous matchmaker Goldshifteh Farahani against timeless Persian/religious gender rules in literally the best movie of surprise twists I've seen in years. This turns into an adult drama the likes of which make you realize we're a silly fantasy-addicted culture. Very highly recommended.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents (2014) is a South Korean recreation of the pivotal 1597 naval battle of Myeongnyang with Japan where a dozen ships fought the Rising Sun's hundreds of vessels and won. Unfortunately I found myself longing for a MSTK3000 treatment with appearances by the giant mutated turtle Gamera as well as Godzilla. That would've been way cool. Good chance there will never be peace on the peninsula as no one speaks to each other, they only bark, growl and grunt. Sad, really.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), a silly Bollywood (is that redundant?) “drama” where pretty people pursue other pretty people while living like the J.R. Ewing clan in Dallas. Nobody works, the men are wimps, the women catty, hot and empty and yet somehow in real life there was a bit of a Pakistan connection in the flick and that is what mattered most off-screen. Does Bollywood ever make good or great movies? Maybe by the middle of the foreign film alphabet. Title is Urdu for “life can be tough for the heart.” OK.

The Attack (2013), an assimilated successful Israeli Palestinian surgeon goes on an odyssey into the darkness of the region's conflict when his secretly radicalized wife commits an act of murderous suicide terrorism. There is no resolution here, only pain of a marriage destroyed and 19 innocents killed, and only some of his questions answered – but not the important ones. If you had any hope Jared Kushner was going to bring peace to the Middle East, forget it. If you already knew that, I actually recommend this movie, though the doctor is portrayed as a little bit of a naif when it comes to the political realities.

Hmmm, maybe I'll get back to American movies, this stuff is mostly depressing.

***

The best musical news I've seen in a coon dawg's age is the vinyl issue of Cachaito, one of my absolute favorite albums of all time. Orlando Cachaito Lopez was the stalwart stand-up bassist for the legendary Buena Vista Social Club, the Cuban jazz/folk collective “discovered” and exported from Havana to the world in 2002 musicologist Ry Cooder. His only solo album is a gorgeously textured Afro-Cubano extension of Buena Vista's folk-textured beauty but entirely instrumental. Close yet unlike anything the tradition-bound Club adhered to, he morphs languidly from classic American jazz in an acoustic way to Cuban-flavored ballads rhythmically tempered in such a way I'm sure the majority of the tracks will break new ground to your ears. That so much will be mood and style new to the BVSC audience yet so unerringly musical in ways the old masters would've approved, I promise to reimburse you in full if you don't like this lilting, heartfelt Cachaito thing.

“Thing” – huh? Try masterpiece and now on vinyl. What more could you ask for from life?

***

If you've ever wondered who the greatest living white soul singer is after Van Morrison you should also consult your thesaurus and take very seriously every synonym in it for “electrifying” to understand England's James Hunter who killed it at Natalie's Coal Fired Pizza on July 6.

The 55-year-old Coldchester native takes traditional black American vocal group R'n'B and adds a jolt of his own galvanizing energy that'll shock you out of your shell of modernity and stress and magnetizes you to his power as a live-wire sparking with crackling flashes of voice, guitar and powerhouse quintet backing him.

How'd I do? Ready Freddy Kilowatt at your service.

This wiry, craggy Englishman electrified a sold-out house with his terrific band – collectively known as The James Hunter 6 – and I swear I can't believe it was the first time I've ever seen him. Call it blue-eyed soul, Anglo R'n'B or just plain ol' kick-ass pre-funk Stax-Volt galaxy rock and groove, this cat is like nobody you've ever seen before. Or not lately, anyway.

Culling from his two decades of albums like Minute By Minute, The Hard Way and People Gonna Talk, the original material was so close to his beloved version of The 5 Royales' Baby Don't Do It in quality you'll understand why Van Morrison picked him out of the choir for years of working collaboration.

James Hunter – my new favorite source of clean energy.

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