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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Winter Watches

Dutch winters, while starting off cozy, might end up feeling like a hug with someone you don’t know too well that takes just a bit too long. Do as the Dutch do and embrace it by enjoying your dark evenings watching a movie, with a cup of tea & stroopwafels. Or by taking a break from studying by going to Lumière or Pathé and watching the scenes unfold on the big screen. Below, a list of movies new and old, for your enjoyment and those dark winter evenings


Triangle of Sadness

Being invited to go on a luxury cruise just to look pretty on board seems quite far-fetched for most of us. For the protagonists of Triangle of Sadness, an influencer and model couple, it is simply the norm. They spend the first part of the movie bored, lethargic even, while surrounded by lobster and champagne. They meet a variety of wealthy characters, all portrayed as equally insufferable. But can a yacht, no matter how expensive the cargo, withstand the might of an open sea storm? And can the brats on board survive a life sans luxury? Louis Vuitton does not produce life vests, after all.


This winner of the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at the Cannes film festival, is a dark comedy providing the viewer both a good laugh and a critical look at the world we live in. 


Concrete utopia

Finding a disaster movie with a somewhat realistic plot is a real challenge. And while Seoul being destroyed in its entirety save one apartment building isn’t what I would call believable, that’s only where the movie starts. Concrete Utopia imagines what happens next. When victims flock to the only building left, its residents are forced to make a choice. The distinction between utopia and dystopia slowly blurs, and brings the viewer face to face with dilemma’s one rather does not think about. 


This movie is South Korea’s 2023 nomination to the Academy awards, and is not by any means a fun or cozy watch. That doesn’t mean however, that it will not absorb your attention and keep it for its full run time.


Past Lives

Past Lives is a reflection of our globalized world, depicting a revival of a childhood love, spanning across two continents. Innocently, the protagonists find each other on Facebook after losing touch when one of them moved abroad from South Korea at a young age. One has to get used to talking to someone with a language she only uses with her mom. The other reminisces about better days long gone, now working far too hard. When they meet again, decades later, they are two different people, raised in different places and cultures, and yet, there’s unmistakably something between them


This movie touches upon the many different paths our lives offer, true love, and the individual goals and dreams we each harbor. 


The Maastricht Diplomat has published an expansive review of this movie on January 27th, in the Corner Cafe


Mimino

Movies produced in the Soviet Union have left behind a cultural legacy in ex-SSRs that stays largely unknown elsewhere. A prime example is the movie Mimino, a comedy about a Georgian and an Armenian and their misadventures together in Moscow and elsewhere. It was released in 1977, which falls between the period of liberalization after Stalin’s death, and before the freedoms provided to movie directors in after the glasnost reforms, in which artists were given much more freedom to create. As a result, the movie did not need to promote socialist values over all else, but simultaneously could not openly criticize them either. 


Mimino is a great look into Soviet Union cinema, as well as giving a viewer an idea of what a Russian grandmother or grandfather might find hilarious. 


Anatomy of a Fall

After her husband dies in suspicious circumstances, the protagonist of Anatomy of a Fall is sucked into what seems an endless and painful criminal trial. As investigations progress, details about her life are laid bare, casting shadows on her version of the truth. That she lives in an isolated chalet high in the French Alps, and that the only witness is her nearly blind son, makes the case even more difficult to solve for the prosecutor.


Not only does this movie keep you in the dark for most of its 150 minutes whether or not the protagonist is innocent or guilty, it also explores the suffering that comes with a lengthy trial, and what it does to a person and their family. Winner of the Palme d’Or in 2023. 


Banshees of Inisherin

In 1923, as the Irish civil war is raging on the mainland, nothing of note is happening on the Isle of Inisherin. Two best friends, Colm and Pádraic, meet every day in the only pub on their side of the island, and share a beer. Until one day, out of the blue, Colm doesn’t want to be friends with Pádraic anymore. What follows is an attempt by Pádraic to understand what has motivated him to reject his friendship in such a way, as he is unable to accept the loss. 


Not only is the story of Colm and Pádraic a relatable tale, but also does it reflect the painful reality of an island, a nation and people at war, in which stakes are driven between every relationship. 


Chunking Express

Wong Kar-Wai is one of the best-known directors from Hong Kong, and Chungking Express might just be his best work. It depicts two separate love stories, both quite messy, mean, and dirty, which makes them good stories. The main characters cannot easily find peace, not within themselves or with others, and their struggles are depicted very centrally by Kar-Wai. Finally, sprinkle in a murder here and there, and you are left with a great movie to watch while shaking your head at the things people do for love. 


Planet of the Apes

This classic piece of film history was made just a year before the moon landing, and reflects the fantasies many people had about outer space and the future of humanity. It follows four astronauts who crash on a planet many light years from Earth, where it is civilized apes that reign supreme. The astronauts are ambushed, captured, and try to establish that they, too, are civilized and can communicate. This doesn’t go very smoothly, however. 


Watching this movie transports you to a time where science-fiction was extremely popular and where SFX were still made without computers. Simultaneously, it reflects the American society of the 60s and therefore is a great relic of its time.



Arrival

If you were the minister of defense of your country, and aliens invaded, who would you call first? A linguist is probably not your first answer. In Arrival, a professor of language is brought to an extraterrestrial ship to try and decipher what the aliens are trying to communicate to humanity. While at first, the nations of the world unify to study this other civilization together, cooperation soon breaks down, and a race for exclusive knowledge ensues. As a result, our protagonist is faced with bureaucratic and political blockades in trying to implement what she has discovered.  Follow her while she tries to communicate with these extraterrestrials in this mind-bending movie. 


The boy and the Heron

The boy and the Heron is the newest movie by Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio known for movies such as Spirited Away or Princess Monoke. An air of mystery surrounds this movie, which for a long time was not released outside Japan. It was released without any marketing whatsoever, except for a single poster. The movie follows a boy growing up in post-war Japan, who befriends a heron. No surprises there. Already worth watching for the beauty of the animation alone, which is described as visually stunning. 


The movie has seen great acclaim and success in Japan and abroad, and will be released in the Netherlands on December 27th.

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